Because of the somewhat contentious and complex history between Audio Note UK and Kondo Audio Note of Japan, we Americans don’t see a lot of the Kondo equipment in the US. At High End 2019, however, I saw a room filled with Kondo, two full systems of it, and it was breathtaking to witness. Or as Scot Hull said, “That might be the biggest collection of Kondo in one room, ever.” From the woman in the kimono at the entrance to the room who was handing out Kondo tote bags (I kept forgetting to grab one), to the actual physical works of art that were also producing music, to the German-made Kawero! loudspeakers from Kaiser that were a perfect aesthetic match, this room had a hush to it, a reverence one seldom encounters at high-end audio shows.
How do I begin? First of all, don’t expect prices since Kondo Audio Note is well-known for not publishing them. If you’re at a Kondo dealer elsewhere in the world, the actual prices are probably delivered with the utmost discretion–possibly scribbled on a piece of paper that has been pushed surreptitiously across a desk. I heard several people in the High End 2019 room ask how much, and I never heard an answer. If you have to ask, well, you know.
That aside, there were two distinct systems in two different High End 2019 rooms–one appeared to be more modest in scope and the other was the Big Statement. The smaller system used the precious and beautifully finished 2-way Kawero! Chiara monitors, while the big system featured the brand new Kawero! Grandes, which featured a 15″ woofer mounted on the back. The smaller system had an uncommon delicacy to it that stressed inner detail and tonality. The larger system, on the other hand, was one of absolute strength and unlimited possibilities. The Grandes delivered a pure and unfettered sense of infinite dynamics, a feeling that no sound could rattle its confidence and authority. I’m not talking about face-peeling power, but rather an effortless ability to produce sound without compromise.
I’ll give you an example. At this point, every audiophile knows the Hugh Masakela song “Stimela (the Coal Train).” You know, whooooo whooooooooo! I heard it three times in a row in three separate rooms in less than a half hour. In the Kondo Audio Note and Kawero! room, it was different. Even with a fairly modest system this song can produce goosebumps as Masakela imitates the sound of that infamous train, but with this system I heard something else, the unbridled pain and the suffering of those traveling on that train, the primal cry for a better life. This system preserved those emotions in a way seldom heard.
My first experience with Kondo Audio Note at High End 2019 was a doozy, one that I won’t soon forget. If you have a chance to hear a system like this, don’t hesitate for a second.