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High End 2017: The tea ceremony of recorded playback with Kondo of Japan

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Kondo Kagura 211 monobloc.

High End at Munich in the MOC is an A-List affair with thousands of people swarming everywhere constantly, and millions of dollars in ne plus ultra gear oozing cabling as thick as my thigh out of every nook, and cranny for the masses to ogle, and touch with sweaty hands.

Not so in the Kondo Audio Note room.

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Ginga Turntable.

Here an air of genteel tranquility reigned, and everyone who came in the room seemed to bow their heads ever-so-slightly in recognition that they had entered a slow zone of sorts: A place where certain properties of time, and space had become suspended in order for the music to be presented with an air of deference.

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Kaiser Classic loudspeakers.


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Coverage of High End from Munich brought to you by VPI Industries.

To be sure, the Kondo room was not alone in its ability to instil awe, respect, and actual silence from the often over-talkative Europeans in the bulk of rooms, but it did seem to possess an air of the religious about it, a temple-like quality if you will.

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The aural temple altar.

The system consisted of a pair of Kagura 211 Power Amplifiers, the new GE-10 Phono Amplifier with/matching GE-10 Power Supply (which debuted at High End 2016), a G-1000 Preamplifier with/matching G-1000 Power Supply, SFz Step-Up Transformer (SUT) the Ginga Turntable, with matching SME/Kondo V-12 tonearm, and the aged-silver wired IO-M cartridge. Cabling throughout was also Kondo. The loudspeakers were the gorgeous Kaiser Kawero Classic from Germany.

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A slow zone of music worship.

Let there be no doubt this was a room of rarified high fidelity with the craftsmanship, attention to detail in circuit design, construction, and materials used commiserate with the six-figure price tag hanging on this system. The sound for the room was deliciously ripe, with more focus on tone, and timbre than absolute transparency to source, but the rich, timbral hues the system painted through the Kaiser Classics was unmistakably, and supremely dedicated to portraying musicality in its delivery. This is the sound of romantic aural homage to my ears, and instilled a passion, and a yearning in me to spend as many uninterrupted  hours playing records through it as possible.

–Rafe Arnott

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2 Comments on High End 2017: The tea ceremony of recorded playback with Kondo of Japan

  1. The panel tweeters (either planar or true ribbon) are toed out, best I can tell. Such tweeters tend toward a hyper elliptical horizontal radiation pattern, or said less politely, they beam on their horizontal axis, and the higher the frequency the more severe do they beam. Toeing the tweeters as pictured tends to minimize if not eliminate beaming for listeners in the seats shown.

    Also, and just as critical, the pictured toe-in tends to increase reverberant field in the treble (side wall reflection). Such reverberant field tends to have several beneficial effects, and no downside. Per Dr. Floyd Toole, among other benefits is a “second look” at pitch, thus increasing the listener’s pitch acuity. I can personally verify Toole’s claim on this point. The more dense and complex the music, the more does one appreciate improved pitch acuity. Take two otherwise identical music systems A and B, the sum total difference being that B has higher magnitude of reverberant field. (Our definition of reverberant field is all signals other than line of site meeting all of Toole’s and Geddes’ ideal requirements for reverberant field: spectrally correct, full range, high in magnitude, maximally uncorrelated from line of sight signal). Music which is so complex that it tends to make listeners bored on system A, the same listener may find enlightening and pleasurable on system B.

    In many domestic rooms, early side wall reflection harms more than helps, because the side wall is too close to achieve Dr. Earl Geddes 10ms delay target (11.3 feet) for reverberant field signal relative to on-axis. In the pictured room, for listeners in the intended seats, reverberant field delay is much closer to Dr. Geddes’ above defined delay target, due to distance relationships between the speakers, side wall, and listeners in the seats shown. (The larger the room the greater is the ratio of reverberant field. In a concert hall, almost all perceived music signal is reverberant field.)

    Here again, the tweeter toe-in shown tends to increase reverberant field, especially because the tweeter’s horizontal axis is outside the seated listening area.

    The last reason I can think of for the toe-in shown: in their pass band (shared overlap range), the tweeter radiation pattern is at its widest, and conversely, the mid bass radiation pattern is most narrow. The ear tends to “lock on” to such disparity, thus increasing one’s unconscious perception of sound emanating from two distinct drivers in the pass band.

    Again, panel tweeters tend to exaggerate the above described disparity v. a dome tweeter. The tweeter toe-in shown tends to counter or minimize the above described disparity, again, by pointing the tweeter’s “beam” away from all listeners in the seated listening area.

  2. Solomon Major // May 31, 2017 at 10:54 AM // Reply

    … are the tweeter modules towed OUT? It looks that way from the pictures. I’m not criticizing, I am 110% sure they know a hell of a lot more about how to get good sound out of their speakers/room then do I. It’s just odd, that’s all.

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