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2014 Midwest Audiofest Tent Sale & Vintage Audio Swap
Kudos Super 10 Standmount Loudspeaker Review
There are more than a few great rivalries in audio- this is as much down to the fact that as a twitching bowl of personality disorders, this is a fairly combative industry. There are times when being a fan of one manufacturer seem to have put you firmly on one side of an argument in the eyes of another. I make no secret of the fact I like Neat products very much which means that I am aware of a little ‘history’ between them and fellow British speaker brand Kudos. In reality, this doesn’t seem to be Durham’s answer to the Montagues and Capulets. Everyone I’ve spoken to at both companies is far too lovely for any of that silliness.
There is also the more prosaic nature that you like what you like. At the first Whittlebury Show, I wandered into a room to be confronted by a very early pair of Kudos Super 10 speakers. While it is possible that a little too much lift music played too quietly on too many systems had left me vulnerable to a speaker doing anything else, I really liked them. They were gutsy, well balanced and fun. I listened for a while, made a mental note of them and vowed to get a proper listen at some point. It’s taken a mere four years or so but here I am writing up the results of two weeks with the Super 10.
So what is the Super 10? In essence, it is a tuned and tweaked version of the company’s C10 standmount. The C10 is a two way design with a 180mm doped paper cone mated to a 29mm SEAS Crescendo K2 tweeter developed for Kudos. This is a pretty spectacular high frequency tweeter with six magnets and an alloy back chamber and imbues the C10 with a rather splendid top end. The Super 10 takes the tweeter and cabinet layout of the C10 and runs with it.
To this end, the existing 180mm mid bass driver is removed and an all new unit substituted. This is still a doped paper unit as seen in the C10 but instead uses a copper shorting ring and an aluminium phase plug that acts as a heatsink and a seriously cool place to put the company logo. As the drivers were designed from the outset to work with one another, the crossover is a minimalist affair but gets a healthy dose of Mundorf inductors and capacitors in the pursuit of further performance gains. This driver partnership is then placed in a cabinet made of 18mm MDF and internally braced and damped.
Everything is wired internally with Chord cable and the Super 10 does without terminals, instead allowing banana plugs to be connected directly. The terminal panel isn’t completely straightforward though. As well as the ‘normal’ inputs, there are additional direct connections that bypass the crossover. Recent Kudos demonstrations have shown the company working with the fearsomely complex Linn Exakt active speaker system that works almost entirely in the digital domain and while this has focussed on the flagship Titan at shows, the Super 10 can also be used with the system. All Super 10s henceforth will ship with this facility in place and should mate seamlessly with Exakt equipment.
Aesthetically, the Super 10 is quintessentially British. It does without rounded edges, curved cabinets or any other niceties but the result is arguably better looking for it. The proportions are pretty much perfect with a healthy dose of golden rectangle to them which leaves the Super 10 looking suitably elegannt. The detailing is also top notch. I’m quite happy to accept that the aluminium phase plug has performance advantages but it really sets the speaker off visually. The impression of the brightwork in that otherwise dark driver is effective at making the Super 10 look more interesting than its little brother and a similar effect is achieved by the splash of brightwork around the tweeter. This particular pair is finished in the ‘Tineo’ finish which is a £250 cost option. Were it my money, I’d save £250 to spend on beer and go with the walnut finish which looks absolutely lovely on the Super 10. Grilles are available but didn’t ship with the sample meaning it has been an exciting two weeks ensuring that the tweeters don’t get ‘modified’ by a toddler’s finger.
At £3,645 for the standard finishes, there is no question that the Super 10 is a fair amount of money. There are plenty of rival options available in the same standmount form factor as well as floorstanding options. This being said, unbox the Kudos and you can feel where the money has gone. The fit and finish is immaculate and it feels like a great deal of care and attention has been lavished on them.
Testing was largely carried out with my resident Naim Supernait 2 integrated amp with ND5XS Streamer with XP5XS power supply connected to a Melco N1A NAS drive and Isotek Evo 3 Sigmas Mains conditioner. Additionally, the Kudos spent some time connected to a Cambridge Audio 851A integrated amp overseeing a grouptest of £700 DACs. While, Kudos makes a £250 for the Super 10 and recommends a spectacular pair from another company, shipping these around is murderously expensive so the review pair had to slum it on a pair of Soundstyle ZT60 stands with a judicious quantity of blu tack to keep them in situ and avoid scratching that lovely veneer.
In positioning terms, the Kudos is sensitive to placement but not irrationally so. Best results are achieved with the Super 10 at least 45cm from side walls and at least 2 metres apart. The curious layout of my listening room these days, incorporating as it does, a whacking great Quadraspire rack, means that every speaker winds up more than two metres apart but relatively close to side walls. The good news is that if you can give them the stated 45cm the Kudos is genuinely happy used in this way. As they make use of a large rear port, some distance is needed from the rear wall but again, 50cm seems to be fine. With the Super 10 placed wide and relatively flat to my listening position, they benefit from a small amount of toe in but not more than ten or fifteen degrees from straight ahead.
With these relatively simple setup tweaks applied, the Super 10 makes a compelling case for itself. Kudos is a brand generally acknowledged to ‘play nice’ with Naim and there is no question that the Super 10 is well suited to use with the Supernait 2. The Naim trait of delivering a hefty low end with plenty of grip allows the Kudos to gently bend your understanding of what standmount speaker is going to do with this low end information. The Super 10 is never going to be the sort of speaker that exerts palpable force on your sternum but it manages to feel full range when you listen to most material on it.
This happiness with Salisbury’s finest doesn’t tell the whole story though. For starters, the Super 10 is genuinely easy to drive. The sensitivity of 87db/w isn’t going to have the horn fraternity beating a path to Kudos’ door but when you consider that the claimed 8 ohm impedance of the Super 10 does genuinely seem to be the impedance of the speaker all of the time rather than at various freak blips on the frequency response, you have a transducer that manages to have a more effortless sense to the presentation than many rivals. The Kudos has plenty of control to its bass response but does without the feeling of being artificially damped and the slightly leaden sensation that can result from this.
This also helps the Super 10 to deliver a very lively and believable midrange. The integration between the drivers is seamless and utterly unfazed by any material I’ve tested them with. Voices and instruments sound convincing and the Kudos does a fine job of opening out tracks to extend into a believable and realistic soundstage. With both the Supernait 2 and the 851A, the Kudos gives you a soundstage that places musicians and instruments in a context that makes sense without doing anything patently artificial.
Crowning this is a top end that is one of the best balances of detail, energy and refinement I have heard in quite a while. The Kudos is an extremely difficult speaker to tip over into aggression or harshness but it still manages to deliver detail and sheer energy in a way that can be lost if a speaker is overly forgiving. A ballistic rendition of Leftfield’s Alternative Light Source has the Super 10 in its element. Digital shrieks and chirrups are unpicked from vocals and the underpinning bass with effortless accuracy and the Super 10 stays thrilling without moving to fatiguing.
The more time, I’ve spent listening to the Kudos, the more sense it has made. The eureka moment is when I realised that this is in fact the perfect speaker for my old listening room. Sat downstairs on a concrete floor, the Super 10 has to give ground to the sheer heft of my Neat Momentums. In my old upstairs room, the Momentum was usually too much of a good thing though. Downward firing drivers and hammer like impact don’t win you many friends in this context and all of a sudden that convincingly deep but utterly controlled low end of the Super 10 begins to sound even more appealing than it does in the new room.
Of course if you do have the room and the floor, the Super 10 finds itself at a disadvantage (although it isn’t as if Kudos doesn’t have a healthy range of floorstanders to compete in this situation). Pushed hard (antisocially hard in my, possibly puritanical, view), the top end stays as wondrously controlled as ever but some of the cohesion top to bottom starts to suffer. The Kudos is happiest making a relatively sane volume level sound bigger than it should do rather than trying to boil the fluid in your inner ear.
This isn’t a cheap solution to small or awkward listening rooms but it is a tremendously satisfying one. I’m a sucker for a well sorted standmount speaker and this is a particularly fine example of the breed. What I find most admirable about the Super 10 is that at a point where we are once again as an industry experimenting with lively ends of the periodic table and trying to reinvent the wheel, the Super 10 is conventional engineering that has been executed with the right combination of determination, experience and flair to result in a great speaker.
Sometimes when I have review speakers in, I find myself reconnecting either the Neats or the Audio Notes or simply reaching for headphones when I want to listen to music rather than the product. That hasn’t been the case here. The Super 10 is a speaker that delivers accuracy, detail and above any of these things, fun. Even in more benign spaces, the cohesion and sheer joy that the Super 10 possesses is wonderfully addictive and their benign impedance means that huge amounts of power don’t need to be on the menu for them to work. This is a sublimely talented speaker and if you are trying to make system sing- particularly if you are in a less than ideal space, you need to listen to them.
Price £3,645 (Finish shown, an additional £250)
Contact Kudos Audio
Tel; 0845 458 6698
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