Saturday, 23 September 2017

ACTIVE SERVICE - Naim with Kudos T-707

Yesterday Acoustica Hifi in Chester had a Kudos open day.  T-808, T-707 and T-606 were on offer.  Thanks to Acoustica for the invitation.

I turned up towards the end of the day and all three pairs of speakers were crammed into the room.  A big sounding Deadmau5 track was pumping out and I assumed the T-707s were in action.  However, local Naimist R was sat there having a listen to the T-606s in passive mode - so a very impressive introduction.

There are quite a few reports on Audiophile Musings about the development of the Kudos Titan family, most of them are here:

Acoustica Show 2015

Acoustica Show 2017

Munich High End Show 2017

National Audio Show 2015

Indulgence Show 2016

The T-606s tonight were not ideally placed, in fact it was remarkable that they could sound anything like decent, given their position in the room.  Just enough to get a taster.  They did not disappoint and their performance here (being driven by an all Naim system, culminating in a 300DR amp and SuperLumina cables) just reinforced the view of their performance in Munich back in May.

T-606 in the centre flanked by T-707 and the T-808s on the outside


But the main course tonight were the T-707s, the mid-size speaker in the Titan range.  If you look at the above links, you'll find much praise for these speakers.  They don't have quite the finesse of the 808 and they don't go quite so deep, but boy do they boogie.  There's a real sense of fun in what they do - they party and let the music flow along very well.  Back at the Acoustica Chester show in March, they were driven actively by a development Naim SNAXO crossover.  Here they were in a similar set up, but the SNAXO has been back to Naim for some tweaks to the components and the box is now described as pre-production.  Hopefully Naim will find a slot to crack on with production soon.

The room was joining in quite a lot tonight, so conditions weren't perfect, and some tracks from Tidal sounded good (the Deadmau5, Kiasmos, for instance) and some sounded pretty ropey (for example, Eric Bibb).  So for proper listening we focused on locally stored rips on the NAS.  Daft Punk's "Georgio Moroder" and a Janis Ian track that I didn't get the name of were used for the focussed listening.  After enjoying the 707s active for a while, it was time to get down to a worthwhile comparison, despite the rather compromised room setting, at least the comparisons would be on a consistently inadequate set up and could therefore deliver a level playing field.

The speakers were switched back to passive.  As is usual with the Titan range, this just involves a few u-shaped metal links - with the links in place the internal passive crossover divides the signal between the drivers - remove the links, hook up 2 stereo power amps and the splitting of the signal needs to happen before the power amps - in this case a Naim SNAXO.  This SNAXO is now described as pre-production and will work with T-707 and T-808 with a small tweak to one of the internal potentiometers.

In passive form, the Janis Ian track was a pleasure to listen to.  The room was joining in to an extent but it was easy to hear that and ignore it to get to what was going on directly from the speakers.  The track is fairly funky by JI standards, which is to say its a not very funky track by funky standards, but there's some decent electric bass lines along the way.  The track starts quietly then adds extra instruments and complexity along the way.  The music was joined up and enjoyable in passive form, bass tuneful, imaging is good but not exceptional (but hey, look at the way they were set up on this occasion, that's no surprise), vocals nicely rendered - this is a very good pair of speakers in action.  We listen to the whole track, then go back and listen to the first 90 seconds or so to try and get the beginning of the track stuck in the memory.

Conversion to active takes a couple of minutes.  Understanding the magnitude of the difference it brings is a matter of seconds, then, as the track plays that understanding develops and deepens.  The active conversion brings much of what I'm used to hearing in equivalent changes in Linn active systems.  Its that clarity thing, the edges of notes are better defined, instruments start and stop with more conviction, the bass lines are crisper, tunes are easier to follow, the reverb on a guitar goes on that much longer but doesn't crash into the other instruments, there's a space between and around each instrument that wasn't there before.  Ian's vocals are better rendered, they've taken a step forward from the mix - there's subtelty in there that wasn't there before.  But all this is still joined up as a single musical message.  Back to that first few seconds of going active, and the thing that I really wasn't expecting but was quite a stunning change - the Ian track has a number of quiet elements right at the beginning of the track and that quietness was soooo much quieter than before.  With passive, I wasn't really concious of any background noise and hash in those quiet elements, but with active, the lack of that noise is very apparent (I'm sure there's still some there, but its notably less obvious).
I wish I'd made a note of this track - I've been trawling through the Janis Ian tracks on Tidal, but its a long list and I haven't found it yet!  I have discovered lots of tracks that I like along the way though, so that's a plus.

We then listened to the Georgio track and the way these active 707s can power through this piece of Daft Punk inventiveness is very impressive.  The intro clearly reveals the sounds of the 3 different mics used to record it, and the chatter in the background is easy to follow.  But the real test of this track is about 3/4 of the way through when the very complex bass lines play at tremendous speed and there majority of systems just can't do this bit very well - they end up playing monotone thumps rather than several complex and tuneful notes.  The active 707s do a great job on this not only maintaining the tune but revealling a really growly edge to the note, far better than some more expensive systems.  And playing loud doesn't phase them at all.

So, for me, an easy conclusion to reach.  But here's the sting in the tail, that will be of interest particularly to Naim system owners.  The passive system was using a single NAP300DR with Naim's expensive SuperLumina speaker cables.  The active system used 2 of the "lesser" NAP250DR power amps and the far more reasonably priced AudioQuest Rocket speaker cables.  Game set and match to active!  Get that SNAXO on the production line Naim!

Thanks to the gents from Kudos and Acoustica.

I look forward to giving the T-707 a listen in my Linn Exakt system - I think they could be on the Musings system roadmap.  Just need Kudos to finish up the Exakt crossovers in the next few weeks.

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