Lejonklou Entity phono preamplifier

Sometime around 483 BCE, in Kushinagar, the capital of the Malla Republic in what today is the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, an aristocrat named Siddhārtha Gautama—known better to us as the Buddha, or the Awakened One—passed away. For 45 years, he had wandered the North Indian River Plain teaching a method of overcoming ignorance, craving, and the cycle of death and rebirth to a growing community of followers. As he lay dying, the 80-year-old teacher was surrounded by disciples, many of them crying. Gautama was by no account a sentimental man, and several times he told the monks to cut it out. According to a Pali scripture called the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta, the Buddha's last piece of advice to his disciples was "appo dipo bhava," most commonly translated into English as "Be a light unto yourself."

This teaching was radical for a South Asian spiritual teacher living in the 5th century BCE. It is also easily misunderstood. To be a light unto yourself does not mean to dispense with teachers or received knowledge; instead, the Buddha was encouraging us not to follow teachers blindly or turn knowledge into dogma. The value of every parcel of wisdom, every precept, every conviction, he told us, must be borne out in personal experience. Otherwise, it is useless. Ultimately our own experience is the only teacher. Really, how can it be otherwise?

More than many other pastimes, perfectionist audio is rife with dogma, pet theories, rival camps, and oversimplifications. Many among us swear that tube amps are "more musical" than transistor ones, others that tube amps are hopelessly colored, or that horn speakers are more dynamic than conventional ones, or that horn speakers are an incoherent mess, or that measurements are crucial to musical enjoyment, or that they are entirely irrelevant to it, and so on. Most equipment manufacturers align themselves with some of these positions and eventually double down in overinflated marketing claims.

Once in a while, however, an obsessive appears who questions every assumption about what makes listening to recordings at home enjoyable and moving. Usually, or hopefully, the questioning involves 1) a recognition of how genuinely complex this process is, and 2) tens of thousands of hours of experimentation and listening (footnote 1).

These obsessives embody the Buddha's final teaching. They also tend to be uncompromising, eccentric, and on occasion, pains in the ass. One who springs to mind is the late Ken Shindo of Japan's Shindo Laboratory, a man known for showing up at listening events with priceless magnums of rare burgundy. His amplification designs rely on tubes not used since the dawn of electrical recording, unexpected circuit designs, field coil speaker drivers, decades-old capacitors and resistors, and exacting and sometimes peculiar choices regarding every aspect of his products: the cases, wiring, connectors, feet, even the colors. Shindo believed that they all affected the listening experience and were worth investigating carefully.

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The subject of this review—a moving coil phono stage called the Lejonklou Entity—comes from the mind and hands of another obsessive, one Fredrik Lejonklou (pronounced Lay-YON-clue) of Uppsala, Sweden. Compared to Shindo's, his amplification components rely on solid state devices instead of tubes, tend to be utilitarian in appearance, and (with one notable exception) are somewhat more affordable than Shindo's components. A cursory scan of his company's website showed me that Lejonklou is not interested in flattering anyone's assumptions or playing nice with the measurements crowd. "I don't really care whether it sounds 'correct'," he has written about his design process. "I care about how it feels. I want to be moved." Many of Lejonklou's US dealers also sell Shindo equipment. Perhaps they specialize in weirdos and free spirits.

With further clicking, I learned that Lejonklou designs using the Tune Method, popularized by Ivor Tiefenbrun of Linn. In brief, it entails comparing two components by listening to 10–20 seconds of the same song and determining which makes the melody more tuneful and easier to follow. Lejonklou suggests that this is best accomplished with mediocre recordings heard while standing outside the listening room, a technique that obscures sonic differences and makes it easier to focus on the musical ones. A pdf on the Lejonklou website offers more detail about this process.

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According to Thomas O'Keefe of Nokturne Audio, Lejonklou's US importer, Fredrik Lejonklou learned the method while working as a Linn retailer and applies it during hundreds of comparative listening tests, which he relies on to select everything: transistors, wire, solder, even the washers used in his components' casework. He seems to embody Linn's motto "If it sounds better, it is better" but takes it to singular extremes. Here's one: He suggests that his digital streamer, the Källa, is best used for streaming music from Spotify, which Lejonklou believes sounds better than lossless streaming services like Tidal and Qobuz.

After learning about this rather daring opinion, I knew I wanted to hear Lejonklou's components. His question-everything approach reminded me of another Buddhist proverb about the dangers of dogma and assumptions, this one from the Zen tradition: "In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert's, there are few." I called O'Keefe and asked to borrow the Entity, a phono stage designed for low-output moving coil cartridges that retails for $2695. The Entity uses the same basic circuit as the Lejonklou SINGularity, although the latter has four power supplies, a pure dual-mono configuration with two independent, annealed-copper chassis, and several other differences, including a retail price of $55,000.


Footnote 1: Of course, speaking broadly, positioning yourself as a maverick can itself be an effective marketing strategy.—Jim Austin
COMPANY INFO
Lejonklou HiFi AB
US distributor: Nokturne Audio
8259 Hugh St.
Westland, MI 48185
(734) 612-4009
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Glyn davis's picture

More and more Reviewers seem to want to give some sort of preamble to the review, Art could do thia for the simple reason that he was a Writer.He could have written about plumbing and still have held the readers interest.The present generation of Reviewers , with maybe 3 exceptions, cannot.
If you're not a gifted writer, you can still make sure your work is factually accurate. Buddhas Country of birth?????

michaelavorgna's picture

...you want to get your facts straight.

The writing you're referring to here was written by a Writer. Educate yourself with a simple search. I recommend Alex's pieces on butter and Rodney Dangerfield.

And re. Buddha, the piece references his place of death, not birth.

Michael Lavorgna
Editor, Twittering Machines

johnnythunder1's picture

The constant negativity of commenters here is getting tiring. If they only knew how much work goes into writing for consumer publications. Not publishing white papers or technical posts on blogs. That's writing too but it's academic or amateur hour and not consumer facing. And I would love one of them that wants to discuss how a particular piece of equipment makes one feel more connected to the music. Not to nitpick measurements, comparisons or costs. I enjoy your site btw.

Jim Austin's picture

Thanks for your comment Michael. You could also have mentioned the two books he has written, both of which were reviewed in the New York Times:

Speak, Memory?.

Or we could mention books he himself has reviewed in The NY Times:

Zoo Animals and Their Discontents.

Or maybe one's tastes turn more toward The New Yorker:

October's Child

Or, in pedagogical terms, we could mention that he teaches writing at NYU.

We can all agree that Art Dudley was an uncommonly gifted writer. But there are other gifted writers, and some of them write for Stereophile.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

Mars2k's picture

Points off for improper capitalization
Points off for punctuation
Points off for poor spelling
Negative 100 points for negative.
If you don’t like the narrative skip to the factual parts.
After all who put you in charge?

Glotz's picture

and I'd rather not insult writers that I enjoy.

volvic's picture

Thoroughly enjoyed reading this review including the opening paragraph, god I so want to own Shindo gear.

ken mac's picture

If this doesn't move you you're already dead.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/26/magazine/letter-of-recommendation-rodney-dangerfield.html

johnnythunder1's picture

That piece on Rodney is truly great. And the link to the clip of Rodney D on the Carson show he references:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrFgD9-l390

teched58's picture

. . . but not much of an engineer: "The cable swap changed the sound of the Entity to a degree I was unprepared for."

johnnythunder1's picture

writing about stereo equipment. I'll take the word of someone who "feels" music and can describe it in a smart and enjoyable way over one that can only base their perceptions on measurements. I find nothing wrong with that sentence. I know exactly what he means by it (as did the editor of Stereophile) and you don't need an engineers degree to understand that. You don't like it. Tough.

Jack L's picture

Hi

How come we NEED an engineer here to review "the cable swap" ? You think an engineer would get better ears than anybody else to tell the sonic difference ???

I happened to be an electrical engineer with substantial involvement in audio cables & wires, incidentally. FYI, I design/built 99.99% pure silver interconnects & power cords for many years now.

So please tell what can I help you technically ??

Listening to music is believing

Jack L

Why don't

teched58's picture

Hi, Jack-

You can't use an argument from authority ("I happen to be an electrical engineering. . . ") if the discipline which you're invoking avers that cables don't have any effect on baseband audio unless they comprise an RLC network which changes the FR of said cable.

BTW, I see you've changed your tagline. You used to write that you need your own ears to listen to believe. Now, you've made the path more direct: just listening and music, but no ears. The unnecessary, in-line distortion applied by that $63k switch box to line level signals which don't need a preamp anyway must have driven you to seek another path, which I applaud. Are we talking bone conduction, maybe?

Jack L's picture

Hi

Please don't put yr words in my mouth. Thanks. I never said so.

In fact, any insulated electrical conductor is a RLC circuit with dielectric loss along the entire cable run. The sending end & the receiving end are also RLC circuits. So we are talking a complex combination of 3 LCR AC circuits.

Therefore any bench test on a cable alone only provides cable data with reference to the testing equipment conditions, not the same resultant LCR impedances interconnecting the sending & receiving audio components.

That explains why same cable sounds different to many skeptical ears, including your truly's, when interconnecting different components. This is physics.

"you've made the path more direct: just listening and music, but no ears." qtd teched58

That is your strawman proposition, pal. We are born with a pair of ears which are used to hear as a matter of course. What made you fancy about bone conduction?

Likewise, when we go to dine, do you need to remind the waiter to serve with knife & fork ???

Listening is believing

Jack L

teched58's picture

. . . I can't fault you for your sense of humor, since apparently you don't have one. (My comments were intended to be lighthearted in nature, not a criticism of your "Wistening is beweiving" ethos.)

Jack L's picture

Hi

In fact "bone conduction" is always involved in hearing. But not the same "bone conduction" you have had in mind.

Soundwaves from the sources, e.g. L & R loudspeakers, hit BOTH our L & R ears. Soundwavs from L channel hit the R ears for some microscopic time slower than R channel soundwaves hitting the same R ear. Vise versa for the L ears. A minute part of the soundwaves received by the L ear also goes to the R ear via "bone conduction" & vise vera for the R ear.

Such soundwaves 'cross-talks' give our brain the spatial perspectives of the live performance reproduced by the loudspeakers.

But headphone music does not provide such abundant spatial luxury as L channel music only goes to the L ear & same for the R ear.

Listening with both ears is believing

Jack L

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