The Audio Note Kondo room at High End 2023 in Munich was one of the strangest exhibit rooms I’ve ever visited. If you don’t know, Audio Note Kondo from Japan is one of those rare and lofty brands that you won’t see at very many shows–especially in the US. But this is the second time I’ve been lucky enough to hear Kondo. The first time, of course, was at my first Munich show in 2019, where the brands was paired with Kawero! loudspeakers. This time, this awesome system was paired with a pair of Graham Audio monitors–maybe the LS5/9s–and a very old and beautiful pair of vintage Jensens.
Words and Photos by Marc Phillips
Why was the Kondo room so strange? Well, it was the sound quality. I like a warm, soft sound, but this system, with the massive Jensens hooked up, was probably too warm. I liked it, but I can imagine your average audiophile walking into this room and immediately walking right back out.
I didn’t walk right out of the Kondo room. I managed to sit down in the sweet spot, and there I stayed for a good half-hour. The exhibitors were playing a series of Japanese jazz albums that I didn’t know, but the overall tone was a swinging one. It was a toe-tappin’, head bobbing kind of sound, albeit it very warm. Almost tropical.
Here’s the strange part. I couldn’t get up to leave. I didn’t want to.
The longer I stayed in the Kondo room, the more I settled into a completely mesmerized state. This sound was warm and soft, but it wasn’t rolled off in the usual ways. Where there was treble, I heard treble. It was clean and clear and crisp. The bass was deep, but it wasn’t muddy. I looked around the room, and I noticed that everyone else was transfixed by this sound. I don’t usually notice the body language from the others in an exhibit room, except when they get up to leave mere seconds after they entered. That’s not the body language you want.
Nope, everyone was as happy as I was. I could have stayed and requested that they switched to the Graham Audio monitors, and that probably would have been more to my taste. But I also learned something about myself in the Kondo room, that too much warmth is not a bad thing as long as you’re in it for the music. I’ll remember the sound of this system for a long time.
If you would like to hear even more coverage from Munich 2023, check out our recap report and highlights from our audiophile-oriented show The Occasional Podcast. You can stream the episode direct from the embed below, or from your favorite podcast platform including iTunes, Android, Google, Deezer, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more.
Also don’t forget to check out our latest collaboration – a solid bronze record weight available only for a limited run. This 800g of solid bronze features the PTA roundel on the top which also acts as a 45 adapter. You can purchase direct from the PTA Approved Store here on the site.
thank you for the article
You pretty much described my first experience listening to Kondo. Bewitched , transfixed, mesmerized. All apt descriptions. Front end was a Brinkmann Turntable (can’t remember the arm or cartridge ) but that went into a Kondo Step Up, into a GE-1 phono amplifier and then to the Overture II integrated amp driving a pair of Harbeth Super SHL-5. I’m pretty sure that is going to be my retirement system. Done. No more upgrading.