Audio Note UK

Audio Note UK's David Cope always does good dems at shows, and AXPONA was no exception. With the K/SPe two-way, sealed-box speakers ($3700/pair plus $650/pair for stands) placed in the room corners, and driven by the OTO SE Signature parallel singled-ended integrated amplifier ($5500; $6300 with phono stage), Lukas Foss's Time Cycle, a 1960s recording from Leonard Bernstein conducing the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, sounded rich yet detailed, with percussion instruments nicely delineated in space. David then played a familiar CD, Cantus singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," which I had recorded 10 years ago. This revealed the system to sound a little too lush and warm, but who could complain about that!

The OTO SE uses EL84 output tubes was developed from the OTO, using AN tantalum and foil caps in strategic places and replacing the original output transformers with double-C-core types wound in-house. Source at AXPONA was the CDT Three CD transport ($12,000) and the DAC3.1x/II Balanced ($10,000), a non-oversampling design using the AD1865N DAC chip.

Ariel Bitran's picture

My mind and ears yearn for accuracy. Cold cold air and starkness.


but then, i hear a system with warmth. with pillowy and supple bass and my heart enjoys it.

hope to have a system someday that meets it somewhere in the middle.

JasonVSerinus's picture

Ariel, since when does accuracy = cold cold air and starkness? Starkness is only accurate if the music is stark. And since when is warmth the opposite of accuracy? Can't a great violinst or singer, even a great and supple bassist, radiate natural warmth?

Ariel Bitran's picture

I'm sorry, I may have been a little general in the previous post.

the comparison between warmth/accuracy really depends on the venue / and / or / how the recording is made for the resulting sound. how the system then replicates it is another story, but the source of the sound (the real thing -- the acoustic instrument) is the heart and what I search for/enjoy when i listen.

an acoustic guitar on its own is not warm. (unless you put a mic right inside the sound hole) but then you lose some of the attack / accuracy, which is essential to hearing the movement and action that happens on a guitar.

a violin, a trumpet, a flute -- these things are all pretty dry to my ears. even shrill at times.

recordings that sound very warm do so because the microphones are accenting those overtones and harmonic distortions to bring out the warmth.

a well designed venue/orchestra space will bring out some warmth but i really think acoustic instruments are naturally less inviting than we believe them to be.

it's nice when a system can do its best at replicating both sides of the coin.

Ariel Bitran's picture

I realize I didn't really answer your questions.

So here we go:

 since when does accuracy = cold cold air and starkness? 

I'm talking about how in my experience so far I have found that the air which surrounds live music is not to the billowy luscious thing that hi-fi can sometimes create, but rather something a little dryer, a little colder, a little more punishing. Excuse me if I'm misusing the term accuracy, but I'm talking about how close I feel it gets to sounding like "the real thing".

Starkness is only accurate if the music is stark. 

you are correct about this.

And since when is warmth the opposite of accuracy?

It's not. It's just not often that you see the two go hand in hand (in my experience so far). I know it's possible because I've heard it done before ( 

Can't a great violinst or singer, even a great and supple bassist, radiate natural warmth?

Yes. .

Richard Austen's picture

Ariel - I owned these speakers for a time (upgraded to bigger AN's) is that these little beasties are quite chameleon like.  I was at a fellow audiophile's home and he was running these speakers with some SS amplifiers and everyone in the room found the sound shockingly thin, dry and bright.  In other words "accurate" har har.  Certainly no one on the planet would have described the sound as warm.

Tube amplifier makers often like to say they're after accuracy - but they have more of an uphill battle in this regard because most tube amp makers make amplifiers using very different tube designs and tubes.  Audio Note has the EL84 based OTO, but they make 2A3, 211, 300b, EL34, 45 based amplifiers and probably numerous others.  So there is a flavour.

SS amps generally don't have these flavours - at least not to a large enough degree that anyone can tell a $70,000 Krell from a $2,000 Rotel in a blind level matched listening session. I am not pro DBT but for $68,000 difference someone on the planet should be able to tell them apart 9/10 times.  And because no one has ever been able to I kind of find spending the $68k to be a worthless venture to get into.  Tubes on the other hand do have variations.  The OTO (I own one) is arguably the most "tubey" sounding (ie warm and lush) amp they make (along with the ridiculously good for the money I Zero push pull amp).  Now if you connect the SORO integrated amp up instead of the OTO then you get that tigheter and brighter presentation and it would be doubtful that it would be described as warm.  That flavour is there because some people simply wanted the lush while others want perhaps more attack than decay.  Unfortunately, who has the time to be able to try 5 amplifiers with a bunch of recordings at an Audio Show or take into account the room.

It is nice to see the old AN K again though - I miss those speakers.  

volvic's picture

This debate between more incisive/detail vs organic is something that I keep dabbling with in my system. Let me explain, a few years ago I decided against all the upgrades Linn offered for the LP12, they were too expensive.  Sold the LP12 and got a used VPI HW-19 MKIII for peanuts in pristine shape and plopped on a new SME IV.  Sound with the SMS installed is clearly better than what Linn offered, bigger soundstage, more detail, etc, etc.  But that same magic I heard when listening to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Mahler songs conducted by Karl Bohm on the Linn cannot be replicated on the VPI, oh sure it's all there but there was something moving about the performance when it came through that colored, tubby, less detailed Linn.  Was I just in the right frame of mind and the music at that moment moved me?  I can't tell but if I can sneak it past the wife I am eager to get another pre-cirkus Linn and put it next to my VPI.  Love this hobby. 


SET Man's picture


     So, the old Lin was more "emotionally correct" than the more modern VPI. Read my reply below.

    I think you should get the Lin back. One think I learned from observing others is that don't sell your old one until you sure the new one clearly better.... I know it is hard to do financially wise. 

volvic's picture

Yes, should never have sold the Linn, going to try and get one back before the baby comes.  

SET Man's picture


    I've been been in AN's rooms on several occasions at audio show held here in NYC. And I've alway ps enjoyed them. 

    I'm pretty sure those stuffs don't measure well.  But do I care? my early days of my so called audiophile's life I dreamed of having the best measured, high power and many drivers on speakers. Well, over the years i grew out if it.

    Now when I listen to a system or a component the first thing I asked myself is "It is emotionally correct?" Move me like it would be live. Than other things come later. It is very rare for me to come across system that supposedly measured well and emotionally correct also. 

      A little note I do own AN M1 Phono pre since 1997. I walked out of the store with it instead of the similar priced Conrad-Johnson. 

       I know we can argue about this until the cow comes home. Well it is a good thing that Sterophile reviews are done by listening first than measure later.