Roksan Kandy K2 BT integrated amplifier Page 2

The Roksan K2 BT played this song perfectly—not too rough, not too soft, but just the way I needed it to be. These Columbia recordings were made between 1927 and 1930; I doubt anyone could record Johnson's guitar more vividly today, and the 1993 CD remastering was done with taste and restraint. The K2 BT played the attitude and vibrato of Johnson's slide guitar with a vibrant, satisfying realism. Carl Sagan chose "Dark Was the Night" to be included on the "Golden Record" carried by both Voyager space probes because "It properly encapsulated the essence of loneliness that mankind often faces."

The K2 BT showed consistently good tone and scale, but music often felt a tad soft and round—especially at the edges of string plucks and keystrokes. To examine this more closely, I tried some hot live recordings of solo piano, beginning with the great Art Tatum. Tatum was way more than a legendary jazz pianist in the Fats Waller–Earl Hines tradition. He was a complete artist, a musician whose lively but wistful improvisations are capable of generating deep reverie. Like Blind Willie Johnson, Tatum was also a handsome lady's man who didn't need fashion tips. I played all of his Solo Piano (LP, Capitol Jazz Classics Vol.3, M11028), but it was "Dancing in the Dark" that really grabbed my attention. Capitol did an exceptional job on this track—the piano tone and pedal work were very well recorded—and the Roksan conveyed the recording's essence as well as Tatum's art, especially the beauty of his quick small notes. However, through the K2 BT, the piano appeared sounded diffused and farther from the mikes than it did with either the Naim NAIT 5si or my Line Magnetics integrated.

Gigolo fashion tips
If what I said before is true—great artists seldom need fashion tips—then my man Sun Ra wins all prizes for art and fashion. If you don't get his wardrobe, I can't help you. But if you doubt his talent or the scale of his creative ambitions, you must listen to his live recording St. Louis Blues: Solo Piano (CD, Improvising Artists 123858-2). Sun Ra's performance is sprawling, deep, agitated, and often overwhelming in its ability to take the listener to scary places. "I Am We Are I" mixes beauty and horror in a way I never thought possible from solo piano. Left hand, right hand, pedal—all came exploding out of the speakers. All of the fire and feeling of this piece were re-created in my living room. "Thoughts on Thoth" was equally fierce. Were his piano's notes a bit less distinct than they might have been with some other amps? Was the sound of this ADD recording less transparent than it should be? I have no idea—and who the hell cares? This was probably the most flat-out mind-bending music I have ever experienced in my Bed Sty monk's cell. All I know for sure is: The Roksan K2 BT driving the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 speakers left me shaking on the sofa.


BT phone home
All my friends say mean things about Bluetooth but I always defend it because I hate wires! Therefore I was excited to try the K2 BT's Bluetooth capability and discover what my impressions would be. First, I streamed some Internet radio from my iPhone 5c and I was beyond surprised. The sound was naturally toned, lively, and fun to listen to. Then I "paired" my Mac mini with the K2 BT and played "Some things you don't know about me," recorded by John Atkinson (While You Are Alive, Cantus CTS-1208) that I had stored in iTunes. Again, the detail, life and naturalness exceeded my expectations but I was disappointed by the amount of low-level fuzz and blur I was noticing. For comparison, I played the original CD of this Cantus recording, whereupon focus and detail increased dramatically, the soundstage opened up and the beautiful tone and texture of nine male voices reappeared.

For the final test, I used my iPad mini playing David Chesky's The Zephyrtine: A Ballet Story (HDtracks 24/192k). This beautiful composition has fantastic dynamic contrasts. Quiet is only a mouse hair above silent and crescendos can be room-destroying. This piece quickly brought the K2 BT's Bluetooth input to its limits. Compression was obvious from the start. Low-level passages were thick and muddy. Bass was dull. Music sounded okay during average levels, but when the full orchestra kicked in it was like the sound hit a metal wall—the words; hard, opaque, and toneless came to mind.

Headphone Jack
When I first tried the headphone output a combination of wrong music and wrong headphones left me underwhelmed. But at the end, I did what I assured Steve Guttenberg I would do—I played Chesky's monumental Zephyrtine (a true binaural recording) through the Audio-Technica M50x headphones and what I heard was more dynamic and detailed and fun than I have heard from any other integrated amp's headphone stage.

When I was reviewing the Rogue Audio Sphinx, I kept talking about bass slam, drive, and pianists' left hands. It was impossible not to notice the Sphinx's propensity toward forward momentum. It was exceptionally liquid and transparent, especially through its line stage. Likewise with the Naim NAIT 5si, which did jump, swing, texture, and rhythm with the best amps ever. The NAIT 5si was very precise about the start, middle, and end of notes. Music never sounded boring or wrong through it.


The Roksan K2 BT was a different kind of animal altogether. It did all of those things well enough to make me never wonder about them. Its phono stage was the best I've heard in a moderately priced integrated—it played LPs in living color. The headphone amp rocked. Compared to the Rogue or Naim NAIT 5si, the Roksan sounded more relaxed and natural. In my silly way, I kept calling the K2 BT the yoga amp—music seemed so stretched out and quietly centered. Individual notes, from a piano or plucked strings, were indeed a bit softer, but they were also bigger, and gave the impression of expanding into infinite space. This "expanding" was the exact effect that made the Art Tatum and Sun Ra recordings so wondrous.

I find that whatever stereo system I'm using directs, usually unconsciously, my choices of which records I play. I wasn't listening to any of this American blues-jazz heritage music before the Roksan appeared, but I slid into it very quickly after installing the K2 BT. This was no coincidence. This 140Wpc integrated played those recordings extremely well, and encouraged me to play my boxed sets of Leadbelly and the Memphis Jug Band all the way through. But before I moved on to the next exotic integrated amplifier, I decided to play From the Ashes, with Dr. L. Subramaniam on violin and Larry Coryell on guitar (SACD/CD, Water Lily Acoustics WLA-CS-59-SACD). These compositions were written in one day and recorded the next, by Kavichandran Alexander, in a single session, using an all-analog recording chain with custom-built microphones in a classic Blumlein configuration. No noise reduction, equalization, compression, or limiting of any kind was applied. There was no recording studio, no sliders or mixing board, no editing. The 1" tape recorder was a custom-built, two-track, tubed design by Tim de Paravicini, of E.A.R. Digital mastering was done from the analog masters direct to the Sony Direct Stream Digital (DSD) recording system by Chris Rice, using a custom-built DSD A/D converter designed by Ed Meitner. (I told you not to worry about me. This ain't no mountain-goat windup grammyfone recording!)

One problem, though: When the music is this beautiful and mystical, it's difficult for me to assess imaging and soundstage. However, I can say, with absolute certainty, that the Roksan K2 BT played this high-pedigree SACD with precise enough imaging, a big enough soundstage, and convincing enough instrumental timbres to make this cabbage-plantin', Midwestern hillbilly very happy!

Highly recommended!

Roksan Audio Limited
US distributor: Rutherford Audio
12649 E. Caley Avenue, #116
Centennial, CO 80111
(303) 845-0773

ccfk's picture

Congratulations. You've found someone even worse than Corey Greenberg. This review is a trainwreck.

John Atkinson's picture
Congratulations. You've found someone even worse than Corey Greenberg.

As Corey Greenberg was one of the most talented writers we have published, I will take your comment as a compliment to Herb Reichert. :-)

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

SpinMark3313's picture

I don't read all the equipment reviews in Stereophile. When I do, it's for one of three reasons:

1) I'm in the market for that particular category of gear
2) I like the reviewer's taste in music and am on the lookout for new suggestions from the music referenced in the evaluation
3) I really enjoy the engaging writing, regardless of topic(s)

Herb, in his short Stereophile tenure, is firmly in the 3rd category for me and I look forward to hearing more from him. Our beloved hobby is so much more than just a hobby… it is an integral part of life and writers capturing that reality are rare. Herb clearly gets it.

Good hire.

volvic's picture

I enjoyed this review and Reichert's writing style, look forward to more.

Jeff Curry's picture

I'm also in the yay camp. I also enjoyed this review and appreciate Reichert's writing style. I'm a proud owner of a Roksan Kandy KA-1 integrated and look forward to seeing more Roksan reviews in the future. Thank you!

corrective_unconscious's picture

Mentions of Corey Greenberg are now the audiophile version of Godwin's Law.

GeeVee's picture

I'm glad to see Herb Reichert as one of your new reviewers. I've followed his audio viewpoint since first reading his articles in Sound Practices many years ago.

He seems to like the Rogue Sphinx amp, and if I read between the lines, he seems to have traded his famous 47 Labs chip amp for a classic Thorens TT.

Does that mean that he prefers the Rogue Sphinx to the chip amp, which he once thought so highly of?

Jeff Curry's picture

Would Herb Reichert consider comparing the original Roksan K2 to the new K2 BT? I'm very interested in knowing the sonic differences from his point of view as no one to date has compared these two amps before.

corrective_unconscious's picture

A worthwhile reply to a published letter about S'phile's measurements on the Kandy KT BT in the Feb. 2015 issue. The reply gives a nice rundown of different emphases found in their measurements of the same component versus S'phile's, with a conclusion that discussions of measurements should not overwhelm the publication.

Hi-Fi World found much the same results, with one exception concerning a roll-off at 15k, if I have that right. They apparently would have considered that (S'phile measurement?) result indicative of a sample defect.

Jeff Curry's picture


I want to share some good news for those interested in purchasing a Roksan K2, K2 BT or K2 amplifier as Roksan recently reduced their prices on all of these models. "Now, with the birth of the K3 series, Roksan are re-aligning the K2 range to appeal to a wider pool of hi-fi enthusiasts than ever before."

korisnik777's picture


I just bought the Roksan Kandy K2 BT and so far I'm really satisfied, but I got (hopefully not) an issue when streaming over bluetooh, and I'm wondering if anybody has the same issue.

1. Connect a device via BT (mobile phone or laptop)
2. Start playing a song
3. Pause the song
4. Turn the volume knob to 60-80%
5. Do you hear a high pitchec hissing sound from the speakers?

Much appreciated for the help