Ongaku Means Ecstasy

JA caught up with me at the Blue Light Audio room and suggested we saunter down to hear the 25Wpc Audio Note Ongaku integrated amplifier ($95,000) featured in his photograph above. Yes that's a jaw-dropping price, even after four days of CES. The Ongaku has five line level inputs. It employs two NOS VT4-C (211) tubes, an original NOS Telefunken 6463, and two NOS 5R4WGB rectifiers. Audio Note builds it own silver-wired driver transformer on a double AN-Perma nickel C-core. AN tantalum resistors, Black Gate electrolytics, and another silver wired transformer (output this time) complete the innards.

The system's source was the Audio Note CDT-Three transport ($9550) and DAC 4.1x Balanced DAC ($15,500). The speakers were Audio Note's AN-E SEC loudspeakers ($51,000/pair), which have a claimed sensitivity of 95dB. Cables were Audio Note Pallas digital cable ($4275), Sooto interconnect ($7050/m), and SogoN96 speaker cables ($9635). The power cable was the only non-Audio Note product: a Nordost Odin power cable.

I have to confess the system's price tag worried me—those are numbers that make even a high-end reviewer's head spin. And no, I didn't automatically assume I would like it because it was expensive. Those prices are scary. Here's the thnig, though: They system didn't sound expensive, it sounded right. No single element predominated, unless you count the complete sense of ease and the fabulous dynamic range.

I listened to one of Todd Garfinkle's M•A recordings, Sheila Jordon and Harve Swartz's "You Don't Know What Love Is." Wow. It was just an exceptional singer and an acoustic bassist in a reverberant hall, but the AN system gave me all of that—the room, the bass, and the woman, most of all the woman. Even at her current age, Jordan is a powerful singer and she almost pegged Todd's mikes on this one. My intellect tells me that there's no way a 25Wpc amplifier can control that, even on 95dB speakers, but the Audio Notes handled those passages better than any other system I'd heard at CES.

Next came Nina Simone's "Little Girl Blue" and I was practically in tears. Everything just sounded so right. I had goosebumps—and despite all evidence to the contrary, I'd have sworn my hair was standing on end,

Forget best sound of show, for sheer emotional delivery, timbral clarity, dynamic agility, and, yes, the highest fidelity, the Audio Note system may have been the best hi-fi I have ever heard. It was one of those magical moments that we audiophiles put up with all of the hassles for.

After the Audio Note demo. the rest was noise, so I quit on a winner. Not many people who come to Vegas can say that.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Wes, thanks for this beautiful write-up. Thanks in fact for every one of your beautiful write-ups. I continue to marvel at how much you were able to cover at the show.Someday, I hope you get the opportunity to play with Odin power cables. People flipped when, in my Nordost blog, I said that a single Nordost Odin power cable can transform the sound of a system. I have a hunch that's why they at least one was used in an otherwise exclusive Audio Note system.

Wes Phillips's picture

What really impressed me was that they bought iyt at retail.

tom collins's picture

i think it is a fine thing that there are such objects that create such good feelings in the world. just like an old master painting, i will never own that system either, but i am glad it is there just the same. i was very pleased to read about it. thanks for offering your opinion Wes.

Dave Richardson's picture

The Ongaku has been in production for over 20 years.I think it was around 60K when it first came out. The way things are going it looks like I'm never going to have one.

rvance's picture

Are those plywoody looking boxes the $51K Audio Notes? If so, wow! No fancy pretense here...Thanks for the great coverage everybody. Got my money's worth, fer sure.

Thomas Balmas's picture

Nina Simone's "Little Girl Blue", especially the original version from her 50's debut album, on a great system like this would definitely be a recipe to almost bring or bring tears to one's eyes.

Andy Mepham's picture

Thank you for the great write up Wes. I will pass it on to all the guys at the factory who put their heart and soul into making AN products.

DrovosekusDD's picture

! Очень интесно ;) По моему мало развернутая мысль, хотелось б более обширно почиатать.

DrovosekusDD's picture

! Очень интесно ;) По моему мало развернутая мысль, хотелось б более обширно почиатать.

DrovosekusDD's picture

! Очень интесно ;) По моему мало развернутая мысль, хотелось б более обширно почиатать.

DrovosekusDD's picture

! Очень интесно ;) По моему мало развернутая мысль, хотелось б более обширно почиатать.

mybiggirlass's picture

, т.к. хочу знать ваше отношение к женским попкам. Многие же мужчины заглядываются на женские попки, а как вы относитесь к этому.Для примера пару ссылок:,

zaykagirl's picture

. Если есть возможность, то настоящие и старые (лет 20-30 назад). Так как города застраиваются и меняются, то посмотреть старые фото советских времен очень интересно.У каждого свой город и пусть каждый скинет ссылку на фотоальбом или сайт своего города.Я, как на правах первой, даю ссылку на сайт моего города Йошкар-Ола, республика Марий Эл. На сайте как фотки советских времен, так и современные. Вот, например, фото йошкар олы Жду ваши линки

NachniZarabotai's picture

Зработок для общительных людейПредлагаю заработать, публикуя сообщение на форуме. Оплата 80 копеек за сообщениеЗаработанная сумма зависит только от вас и ваших возможностейВыплаты по требованию.Подробности только по этому мэйлу qazew@inbox.ruТема письма: Хочу начатьТекст письма: Имя, номер ICQ

Anonymous's picture

!Желаю Вам здоровья. Огромное спасибо за Ваши дела и подвиги. Хочется много сказать, но не могу подобрать слова. Спасибо Вам.

Arrerocix's picture

! А то сколько не лазишь по нету сплошное бла бла бла. Но не тут и это радует!

stereokit's picture

Very nice piece of kit I have to say.  Thanks for the write up it was very interesting to read. 


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