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Newport 2016: King Sound whispers in my ear, then rocks my brain

 

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I’m an electrostatic guy. I own three pairs of floorstanding panel speakers (that could increase to four soon but don’t mention it to my wife just yet). And I even have an old pair of Koss ‘stat headphones.

Most everyone in this hobby is familiar with Martin Logan, Sound Lab and Quad, but one of the lesser-known players is King Sound, a brand owned by Hong Kong-based King’s Audio Ltd. The company has been around since 2002.

 

Lately, King Sound has been a regular exhibitor at the major audio shows. That’s where I’ve run into its products. It seems like every time I’ve heard their large panel speakers, I’ve come away seriously impressed. I still have memories of a demo at AXPONA 2014 in Chicago where I could swear Boz Scaggs actually was just behind the back curtain.

So, I was excited to see King Sound listed in my press guide for T.H.E. Show in Newport. I sought out the second-floor room early during my first day. On entering, however, I didn’t see any large speakers.

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Instead, it seems Kind Sound decided instead to put the full spotlight on its headphones. This turned out to be fortunate, since I tend to get so engrossed listening to King’s big models that I completely gloss over the cans that usually are tucked back on a side table.

DSC_0299 (Copy)I remembered that Part-Time Audiophile publisher/editor Scot Hull had praised the manufacturer’s headphones in his own report from AXPONA 2014, and he tends to be pretty hard to please as far as ‘phones go (and in other areas as well, but let’s not go there right now). Anyway, I’ve been thinking about upgrading from my ancient (but once Stereophile Class A rated) Koss model, so I allotted a good bit of time to demo the Kings.

A King Sound representative recommended the KS-H04 ($1,000). I sat down and wrapped the large, over-the-ear cans around my head. Just touching them was cool. They had finely machined metalwork, and the ear cushion was the thickest and most comfortable I’ve ever experienced. The weight was substantial enough (0.3 kg.) to give the feel of a high-end product, but light enough to encourage extended listening sessions.

King Sound says the KS-H04 has a frequency range of 5 Hz-42 Khz, so that should answer any doubts about high frequency performance: no ‘stat roll-off here. Sensitivity is 106 decibels and maximum output, if you are completely nuts, is 116 db.

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Nice specs. What really was startling, though, was the sound. “Midrange magic” doesn’t do justice to how the KS-H04 performed. Spooky would be a better term. The immediacy, texture and resolution of both male and female voices was jaw-dropping.

In addition, drums and percussion were nicely rendered, and instruments were realistically portrayed in the headphone’s deep soundstage. The KS-H04 also excelled at recovering the room sound of a recording, with long decays on plucked notes. Detail retrieval and microdynamics were off the charts.

I tried the KS-H04 first with King Sound’s M-10 solid-state amplifier ($400). Bass, for an electrostat, appeared to go surprising low and was fairly tight. Switching to King’a tube amp, the M-20 ($1,500), added a touch of warmth, but at the expense of some bass control. The KS-H04s were so lush anyway, I slightly preferred the transistor amp.

Overall, the King Sound headphones really stood out on jazz and pop recordings with minimal instrumentation. But they did a pretty good job on rock, too. I could easily envision buyers spending evenings working through their Who, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin catalogs to see what they’ve been missing on conventional transducers.

Even if you are not an electrostat fiend like me, a pair of King Sound headphones could be the perfect complement to your big-rig cone speakers. Or, if you’re already into stats, you may want to move up to something that’s close to state of the art. Either way, the KS-H04s are a must-listen.

 

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About John Stancavage (185 Articles)

Contributing Editor for Part-Time Audiophile