Roksan Kandy K2 integrated amplifier Page 2
With every loudspeaker I had on hand, the Kandy K2 distinguished itself as a clear, big-sounding, rhythmically accomplished amp with a slightlya darn near imperceptiblyrounded-off top end. That bit of softness, coupled with its nearly complete lack of timing distortion, distinguished the K2 as one of the most listenable entry-level components I've had in my home.
The K2 also performed impressively in various audiophile categories. Spatially, with stereo recordings, it offered better-than-average stage width, and generally good depth and image wholeness. When I first installed it in the larger of my two listening spaces, the K2 seemed to have less center-fill and image specificity than the tube amps to which I'm accustomed. But with my Quad ESLs, at least, that was easy to adjust with slight changes in the speakers' toe-in angle.
Bass performance was fine, with notes in the bottom three octaves sounding full but fast. Except for a lack of texture in the sounds of well-recorded strings and reeds, the K2's timbral character was on a par with some of my favorite perfectionist amplifiers: It didn't always give as much as I wanted, but what it did supply was always convincingly musical.
Although the Kandy K2 performed well with a wide range of music styles, its combination of sonic smoothness and good musical timing seemed especially well suited to modern pop recordings. It allowed the intentionally compressed strings in "Cosmia," from Joanna Newsom's Ys (CD, Drag City DC303CD), to sound appropriately buttery, while its apparent lacks of pitch and timing distortion suited the sinewy lines of notes quite well. Compared with other solid-state integrated amps, the smooth-sounding Kandy emphasized upper-bass notes a little more, but in a pleasant way that enhanced the string-bass accents used in that recording to underline the lowest notes of Newsom's concert harp.
Classical CDs, too, fared well. A strikingly rich and dramatic new recording by René LaFlamme, of Enrico O. Dastous's arrangement for brass quintet and organ of Gustav Holst's The Planets (CD, Fidelio Musique FACD028, footnote 1), sounded magnificent through the Roksan amp. Exotic and unexpected sonoritiesof which this recording has no shortageshone through clearly, with convincing color and rightness: The words organic clarity seemed appropriate. As for smaller-scale classical pieces, the Roksan was explicit enough to reveal subtle details of technique and tone without sounding overly mechanical. Early music sounded good as wellalthough, again, there were times when I wished for more texture, as on the sheer, wonderful stringiness of Marianne Rônez's baroque violin or Jordi Savall's viola da gamba.
The Kandy's phono section deserves special mention, not just for its freedom from hum and noise but for echoingand, if anything, compoundingthe slight and pleasant roundness that the K2 imparted to line-level sources. Used with an Ortofon SPU 90th Anniversary MC cartridge, and preceded by an Hommage T1 step-up transformer, the K2 sounded appropriately big and dramatic with some of my favorite orchestral recordings from the early days of stereo, including the definitive Delius Requiem with Meredith Davies conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Choral Society (LP, EMI ED29 00271), and that Vaughan Williams Job to which I keep returning, by Sir Adrian Boult and the London Symphony Orchestra (LP, EMI ASD 2673). And to the extent that a piece of electronic gear can influence one's perception of LP surface noise, the Roksan was pleasantly imperturbable.
A few comparisons are in order: Notwithstanding its slight softness, the Roksan Kandy K2 didn't sound as rolled-offas chunky, if you willas the Naim Uniti, which I reviewed in March, but instead gave a more open if less tactile and fleshy sound. Given that the integrated-amp section of the Naim Uniti is, essentially, a Nait 5i ($1500), and given that the latter can assume phono capabilities with the addition of a purpose-built Naim Stage ($450), a comparison between that package and the $1925 Roksan strikes me as especially interesting: horses for courses, as they say around those mushy peas . . .
Held up to a more expensive integrated amp, such as the Ayre Acoustics AX-7e ($3500), the Roksan wasn't the least embarrassed, though the Ayre did give more texture and top-end sparkle. Of course, it's also a safe assumption that the buyer of a more expensive amp will have one or more source components that will live up to its timbral scrutiny. The point being: The Roksan's sound would probably well suit most partnering products of lower cost.
The Kandy K2 also strikes me as the sort of amp one can grow into for quite some time before wanting more: a neat balancing act, carried off here with rare success. The Roksan, which also happens to be built like a Schick Brithouse, offers very good value for the money, and I enjoyed every minute spent listening with itespecially after I put away the somewhat frustrating remote handset. Highly recommended.
Footnote 1: You can purchase this CD direct from www.fideliomusic.com. I recommend that you do so at once.