K2 Integrated Amplifier
K2 CD Player
K2 TR5 Loudspeaker
$2,699 each or $7,199 for the three as a system
Roksan’s Kandy K2 components combine to deliver musicality in spades
I’d be a touch corny if I started this review quoting a famous Police tune, so at least this time I’m not going to bore everyone with a useless cliché. To be honest, after over 30 years of listening to it I’m sick of the song, even though Stewart Copeland set the standard for my lousy attempts at drumming.
Coincidentally, just as The Police began their musical life with a great album, Roksan began their foray into the world of hi-fi manufacturing with a classic component: the Xerxes turntable.
The Xerxes wasn’t a revolution in terms of turntable design; in fact, if you didn’t know you’d probably mistake it for a Linn or Systemdek, but it had a different take on the reproduction of analogue vinyl.
Roksan has been busy since the emergence of the Xerxes: the Attessa/XXX was one of the very first DAC/transport combos available, and it set a standard in terms of component styling as well as excellent sound quality.
In recent years the company has created some very competent amplifiers and CD players, while the superbly crafted Radius 5 turntable I salivated over a few months back (here) offered real quality both in terms of SQ and aesthetics. Roksan’s Kandy range as reviewed here comprises an integrated amplifier/CD spinner and stand-mount loudspeakers.
Local importer Harmonic Audio entrusted me with the complete system (sans turntable) for review, and luckily for me I had a few months to play with the gear and get a handle on how it performed.
One obvious aspect of the Kandy separates upon unpacking was their strong aesthetic – both amp and CD player have the conventional rectangular pressed steel casework, but their mirror-finish fascia detailing is quite different from the majority of the competition. It does take a bit of getting used to, but it does demonstrate a company trying to escape the boring black box mentality of just about every other manufacturer at this price point.
Personally, I liked the look and when I stacked the components above each other on my rack (different shelves, of course) it made quite a statement in style.
The K2 TR5 loudspeakers aren’t quite so controversial, but definitely have a house style that blends well with the electronics.
K2 CD Player:
Although the K2 CD player is a minimalist affair in terms of button count (six small buttons for play/tray open/pause, etc), the silk-screened mirror fascia is a busy affair with nine printed vertical stripes directly below the slim disc tray. Directly below these is the Roksan badge, while the right hand side of the fascia contains both the operation buttons and LCD display. The rear panel comprises a set of gold plated single-ended RCA and AES/EBU stereo outputs, while the digital out connectivity is via XLR/Toslink and coaxial digital outputs.
The K2 CD uses a single PCM1730E DAC that upsamples to 24/192, and Roksan have no fewer than six separate power supply rails for the analogue/digital sections and transport.
The literature for the K2 CD also mentions the use of a precision custom-made master clock, so I’d expect very low jitter specs. That’s a good thing as the player can be upgraded with an external D/A converter in the future if one so desired.
The power on/off button is located on the left-front side underneath the player, and a removeable IEC mains socket allows for power cable upgrades.
Rounding out the facilities is a rather funky touch-screen system remote control. This will also control other Kandy components such as the matching amplifier, which also came with an identical remote. The K2 CD is a fairly hefty 9kg, so those looking for a CD player based on its landed weight should be pretty happy here.
Identical in looks to the K2 CD, the front fascia is once again a button ‘desert’ with the usual source select/volume buttons along with the chrome plated rounded volume knob. The rear panel is somewhat more interesting with a decent on-board MM phono stage and HT bypass RCA’s, along with a single set of preamplifier outputs for those who want to either bi-amp (using an external power amplifier) or even use the K2 as a preamp. All in all, five analogue components can be attached along with a turntable – it’s very flexible, and quite refreshing as I’ve noticed the number of inputs on most modern amplifiers reducing over the last few years.
A single pair of stereo banana-plug speaker terminals make up the compliment along with the aforementioned system touchscreen remote control.
At 14kg’s the beefy 120wpc Kandy K2 amplifier is reassuringly heavy without being a physiotherapist’s dream.
K2 TR5 Loudspeakers:
Rounding off the Roksan trio is the K2 TR5 stand-mount loudspeaker, a medium sized rear-ported box in a high gloss piano black lacquer. These are beautifully styled and constructed, the black paint finish contrasting well with the chrome T-Nuts attaching both drivers to the cabinet. Speaking of drivers, the TR5′s use a ribbon HF unit for an extended and wide dispersion top end, while bass duties are handled by a nicely finished 130mm coated paper main driver. This bass/midrange unit uses a cast chassis for rigidity and heat distribution along with a dual magnet assembly – presumably affording some sort of shielding for those old fogies with CRT televisions as well as extra control over the cone during high workloads (high volume bass transients, for instance).
Two sets of high quality binding post terminals allow bi-wiring or bi-amping, while moderate impedance of 6ohms and sensitivity suggests the majority of amps on the market should mate well with the TR5′s.
The overall impression was one of high quality in looks and build. The only task in front of me was to connect everything up and give myself some quality listening time.
Quality Listening Time:
Listening tests were conducted in my moderately furnished 5 x 6m room – this has generous heavy curtains at the far end (behind the seating position) and has very good acoustics. The Kandy K2 TR5 speakers were Blu-tacked on heavyweight Sound Creation 600mm high stands and sited about 750mm clear of rear and side walls, toed in slightly towards the hot seat. After a bit of experimentation I decided that around 3m apart gave great stereo and imaging/soundstaging, and listening began almost immediately (I had to make a cuppa and grab a few Gingernuts). Cables were Nordost Blue Heaven interconnects/Super Flatline Mk2 Bi-wire speaker, while my Soul to Sole system support kept the electronics away from my pesky carpet-patrolling moggy.
What became immediately apparent was the ability of the Kandy system to ‘disappear’ into the listening room. I put this down mainly to the TR5 speakers and their ribbon tweeter, because it didn’t seem as if they had a tweeter at all – just one driver. It’s as close as I have come to a single driver sound from a multi-driver box; the ribbon just effortlessly blended in with the bass-mid unit to present a cohesive pinpoint sound. Not surprisingly the other two Kandy components complemented the TR5′s well – the amplifier had terrific control during bass transients while listening to my plethora of Dub CDs from the likes of King Tubby and Little Axe, while delicate stuff such as Joanna Newsome’s Have One On Me portrayed her voice in an explicit and intimate way.
I rather think Roksan have slightly rolled off the upper frequencies in the TR5′s, not enough to ‘dull’ the sound but enough to remove any glare or brightness except for albums that exhibit these traits overtly (Buzzcocks/Iggy and The Stooges – that sort of stuff).
Classical music was also a delight. I decided to transplant my Pink Triangle LPT from vinyl ripping detail in my computer room and insert it into the Roksan system – here it was fed a constant diet of superb East German recordings of Beethoven, Ravel and Tchaikovsky along with my small collection of faded New Romantic pop, and the results were extremely listenable. My Supraphon recording of Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Scherezade’ proved an enjoyable and emotional experience.
The absence of seismic foundation-threatening bass would be my only sticking point. The size of the TR5s does provide a very satisfactory explanation for this though, and as a scribe once said, ‘you can’t get a quart out of a pint pot’.
Roksan’s Kandy system is blessed with a most easy music-making ability. Some would wish for a touch more attack and dynamism, but the designers have embellished the components with real involvement DNA. It was easy for this reviewer to lose track of time while listening – isn’t that the hallmark of a great audio system? GARY PEARCE