CES 2103: KR Audio and King Sound

Can you blame me if my first thought is “Kronzilla!” every time I see a KR Audio logo? Would it be better or worse if I tell you that I always say that word in my head in a faux-Japanese accent and append the phrase: “Oh no, a monsta!” Hmm. Yeah. Now you know how I spent my weekends as a kid.

Anyway … yes, I did see a big Kronzilla amp at CES, but I also saw a whole lot of KR Audio at the two audio shows that didn’t sport monster tubes. In the King Sound, room, I found the KR VA910, a new monoblock amp that carries a quartet of KT120 tubes. For $18,000 a pair, these ultralinear/push-pull amps do crank out 160wpc, so while we’re talking serious money, at least that money is buying some serious power. Add $4,950 and you can pair them with a new KR Audio KR P-130, a preamp that uses some custom tubes in the input stage. Want to tidy things up, you can opt for the $5,790 KR VA880 integrated that leverage KT88 tubes for 50wpc in a ultralinear push-pull configuration. Aesthetically, all three of these KR Audio pieces are cut from the same cloth as the lust-inspiring Kronzilla amps, by which I mean they’re a bit on the understated side. The KR Audio gear was matched here with loudspeakers from King Sound, including the big King III electrostat panels ($12,000/pair) and the smaller, stand-mount Princess IIA ESL-hybrids ($1,600/pair).

I got a chance to hear both systems here. The big panels are more my cuppa and the pairing with the KR Audio tubes made for a rather tactile, 3-D immersion in the sound field. Voices have a rich reality to them that is very hard to sketch without words that wander off into the hyperbolic. Bass reach is very satisfying and may take pipe organs or perhaps electronica to kerfluffle. I have to confess something — this is a great loudspeaker, but one that tends to wander out of my imagination for no good reason whatever and that’s my bad. This quality of sound is generally unavailable under $20k, and while it may not have the last word, here or there, it was thoroughly enjoyable — and “big tubes” seems to be a natural, satisfying pairing. Any Quad fans out there? You guys really need to check these out. Hell, if you’re a tube fan, you need to check out KR Audio. If you have tubes, King Sound ought to be on the audition list. No dealer local to you? Get thee to an audio show! I’ve been seeing a lot of King Sound of late.

Last note: the entire system was wired with cable from Clarity Cable. Not a surprise, given the texture they were getting in this room. Pardon me while I sound like I’m shilling, but, folks, these cable are outstanding and were the secret ingredient in a couple of dealer systems I heard a year or two back. $2,500 for speaker cables is a lot, no question, and the $1,800 they’re asking for single-ended interconnects is expensive, too. But … but …. [sigh]. Okay, fact is, I can’t afford them … but if could, I would.


    • No, had to pass those by — somebody’s head was stuffed into them when I came through!

  1. Hi,
    as yourself, I also own the Magnepan 3.7. How do these compare in your opinion with the King Sound design?

    More like the same class or are there any “class differences”?

    Many thanks!

    • That’s hard. ESL just sounds “different” from everything else. Maggies sound like “regular” dynamic speakers, taking away a bit of the dynamics and adding a bit of coherence. ESL does the same thing, but there’s a speed that’s unique to the design. It’s also a “love it/hate it” thing. Me, I appreciate it, but it’s not my cuppa.

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