CAS 2013: Audio Note UK

CAS4It was nice to see some Audio Note UK gear that I had not previously seen at other shows. This room featured the E/SEC Signature loudspeakers ($73,000/pair), M9 phono preamp ($146,000), and fully balanced Ongaku Kensei amplifier ($127,000), with music provided by the CDT Three top-loading CD transport ($12,000), 24/96 DAC5 Signature ($98,000), and what I believe was an Audio Note TT-2 (this was not included in the cut sheet, so I’ve drawn conclusions based on my photos).

I usually try to stay away from the, “Yeah, it’s good, but is it X Amount of Dollars good?” question, but ignoring cost in this context is a bit like ignoring the elephant in the room. Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure how to answer that question. This room was good. Very, VERY good. The whole sound was inviting and delicate, the room a bit of an oasis. The system as a whole seemed to excel at extracting a great deal of detail from the music, without sounding overly analytical or soulless. To me, the speakers seemed the tiniest bit lacking in bass clarity and authority, which could easily be chalked up to the room.

So, is it worth it? Let’s face it, the number of people who can even afford to entertain the notion of purchasing a system like this is vanishingly small. But manufacturers know that! In cases like this, where everything is hotrodded with the best components available, wired in silver, and practically breathed on by unicorns, I tend to think it’s usually the manufacturer saying, “Ok, how far can we take this?” In this case, they’ve taken it somewhere quite lovely, and I’m sure in the process learned new things that will trickle down to their less pricey components. Is it “worth it”? I have no idea. Am I pleased it exists and I got to hear it? You betcha.


  1. Sorry, the vinyl front end was removed from the demo list once it was determined that UPS had damaged it too severely to use at this show. It includes:

    – TT Two Deluxe with optional external Power supply
    – Arm Three V2
    – IOI low output moving coil cart
    – S4L step-up transformer

  2. It’s not a joke at all. Everything here is, in fact, one step short of the very best Audio Note makes. This was an opportunity to show a part of the range seldom heard at shows and we took it.

    Very few people can afford this level of gear, it’s true. I can’t, for one, but I feel no need to apologize considering that Audio Note also offers a system, (CD player, integrated amp and speakers) from under $7k. Variety is the spice of life, no?

    The E/SPe HE *is* at a much more popular price point and will have been shown at 6 Shows in North America this year by the time RMAF and TAVES are done. (The K/SPe was shown once – at AXPONA Chicago.)

  3. Maybe this is Peter Q’s idea of a bit of a joke, but who knows? Sell one or three of these kits in a year, and the bottom line starts looking better. Personally, I would prefer a more modest AN-E/SPe, sounds as good, looks better too in my estimation, and costs a whole lot less (maybe that’s part of the logic: everything downrange starts looking like a bargain).

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