The Sound Kaos Vox 3a is probably a speaker many of you have not heard of before. I certainly had not heard of it until Soo In of Enleum and Bakoon fame offered me a taste of this Swiss brand’s smallest speaker. This offer came on the heels of my review of the Enleum Amp23r, and Soo In graciously allowed me to hold on to that unit for a little longer to see how it paired with the Sound Kaos, a combination he said he enjoys frequently in his own listening setup.
Words and Photos by Grover Neville
Sound Kaos started in 2010, the project of Martin Gateley, a long-time speaker builder and classical music lover. Sound Kaos’ unique forms arise from a desire to “to make gorgeous natural sounds from the chaos of the world around us. We don’t see a product – we see an artform.” Take a peak at the Sound Kaos website and you’ll see fascinating futuristic silhouettes and retro-minimalist woods. While everyone will have their own tastes, I find them beautiful and striking.
Inside the Sound Kaos Vox 3a
In person the speakers live up to the pictures on the website – these speakers catch photons in a very pleasing manner. The wood enclosures are extremely smooth and naturally finished, and have a more organic than industrial look to them that’s hard to describe. The driver complement is more robust than first appearances might suggest, with a ribbon tweeter placed on top and dual woofers on the side, in addition to the wideband midrange on the front.
The speaker is finished in a fetching mid-century wood, with attractive brass-colored rings around the drivers. The stands required some minor assembly, though if you’ve ever built an Ikea cabinet you’ll be more than equipped to handle this. I will mention at this point that between the two choices of stands – wood and metal – the wooden ones are decidedly not heavy. Though I had no issues with tipping, I would keep them away from rambunctious pets and toddlers.
Overall build quality is solid, though it does tend more towards the simple and spartan than the elaborately finished. After a slew of heavy speakers and equipment in my second-floor living room, I was happy to have the relatively light and easy to handle Sound Kaos Vox 3as. In person these are even smaller than I was expecting. The stands bring them just a bit above knee-height. Positively cute.
I fired up the Sound Kaos Vox 3a for the first time, driven by the Amp23r, and my first impression was that the sound was impressively wide, perhaps even wider than my reference Proac D30RS in my listening room. The other thing that stands out is the detail and clarity. Balancing a generally relaxed and organic sound with this detail is part of the Vox 3a’s most appealing character.
The Sound Kaos Vox 3a gives the impression of being a bigger speaker than it is. This is both a highlight and something of an Achilles’ Heel, depending on the size of room in which you’re using them. The day I had these delivered was quite cold, and on first firing them up the sound was quite small, boxy and sounded strained, as if it were struggling to fill my modestly sized but tall-ceilinged listening room. A few hours of play time and they were right as rain, sounding big, detailed and extremely sweet in the mid and upper ranges.
That Achilles’ Heel I mentioned, however, became apparent when I tried to play these speakers quite loudly (which is something I rarely do, admittedly). At the higher volumes, regardless of amp, the speakers began to struggle to maintain the illusion of great width, depth and low-mid fullness they had at lower to medium volumes. I also noticed a bit of forwardness to the very highest ranges that some may find a little hot.
The frequency of the response of the Sound Kaos Vox 3a is not exactly flat, and that I think is an intentional choice that plays into this characteristic. The top end is sparkly and slightly forward, the lower mids slightly scooped, and the bass a little elevated in the 70hz range to compensate for the small size and less than stygian extension. At low and medium volumes, the result is a speaker which gives an impression of being huge and involving, the soundstage wraps around the head and has texture, tone and auditory plankton for days.
By contrast, however, if you’re reckoning with Mahler or Megadeath in a room larger than 12 feet in both dimensions, you will likely be limited to more moderate listening levels. I want to note that I’m not recommending using them in huge rooms – these are speakers for the intimate, nearfield, tube-amp and low-power enthusiast. Ampsandsound, First Watt and yes, the Enleum are amps you might pair with DeVore, Klipsch or JBL are where I would look for power. I would even go so far as to say these speakers might work well in a larger desktop or space-constrained apartment setting.
When used in their happy place, though, these speakers sing, especially if you’re looking for the sort of intimate, colorful experience that fast paper drivers and low-power amps can bring. Compared to horn systems or some other extreme high efficiency speakers, the Sound Kaos Vox 3a presents more detail and sophistication, more refinement and much better imaging, with a generally less forward character than most horn speakers I’ve heard.
Sound Kaos and Enleum
A special shout-out to the Enleum Amp23r is appropriate here for its special synergy with this speaker. The slight contouring of the Enleum’s frequency response I detected in my review helped fill in and tailor elements of the Sound Kaos Vox 3a in a way that I found quite compelling. My Ampsandsound Black Pearl amplifier was likely the most “hi-fi” pairing, but the Enleum seemed to put a little magic into the mix that far exceeded my expectations for a solid state amp. There was a bit of excitement and dynamic energy that really brought the Vox 3a’s soundstage into the room. By contrast the Black Pearl was flatter in frequency response, and opened up the soundstage’s depth and width, with a truer-to-source tone and a subtler, richer presentation that had somewhat more detail.
I was not left wanting for tone or dynamics from either however, and of course the Black Pearl costs four times as much as the Enleum. Neither is an inappropriate match for the Vox 3a, however, which carries with it a fairly high price tag. The question, of course, becomes “who is the Sound Kaos Vox 3a is for?”
Sound Kaos Vox 3a Conclusions
For those who are self-professed music lovers who are less focused on the analytical elements of frequency response and absolute detail, who listen to what they like and are guided by an intuitive sense of their own taste and the feeling in the music, the Sound Kaos Vox 3a is the perfect speaker. With acoustic music like jazz and classical, the auditory illusion these speakers throw is sublime, and while perhaps not source-recording accurate, flatters more recordings than not.
Though an expensive proposition, this is also a speaker that has a lot of refinement and detail for the money, fitting firmly into the high-end in my mind. For someone who’s started with a less expensive Klipsch or horn speaker, and is looking for more of those audiophile intangibles, the Sound Kaos Vox 3a could be a music lover’s next and final love affair.
Prices for the Vox 3a start at $7,250/pr USD, with optional finishes, dedicated stands and other options that top out at $14,000/pr.