07 July, 2017

Updated pic of system during evaluation. The Kondo system is connected to the KEF LS3/5A's on top, whereas the Pioneer's below are driven by Flying Mole CA-S10 digital amp stacked vertically to the left of the M7. The Pioneer's have since been displaced by the Dayton's.

Kondo System Bookshelf Loudspeaker Matching, Part II: Yamaha NS-10, Pioneer SP-BS21-LR, Dayton Audio B652, KEF LS3/5A
My Kondo System, Part VI
Review: Yamaha NS-10M, Part II
Review: Pioneer SP-BS21-LR, Part IV
Review: Dayton Audio B652, Part IV

Article finished in the UK.

This is Part II of Kondo Loudspeaker Matching. For links to My Kondo System, Part I (background info on Kondo and Ongaku); Part II (all about M7); Part III (the most important one, detailing set up and listening experience); Part IV (largely phono related, and Kondo preamp/amp were not used; skip if you are digital only). Most importantly, readers should read Part V, which is Part I of loudspeaker matching and where several loudspeakers were tested.

Please note that, aside from the KEF LS3/5A, the loudspeakers used in this report are much less mainstream than even those tested in Part I. The Pioneer and Dayton are also ridiculously cheap. No one should ever complain about the mantra of cheaptubeaudio again.

As per the evaluation done in Part V, the subwoofer is always used, and the loudspeakers are inverted, with woofers upward.

Equipment used in Evaluation:

Digital: 47 Lab Shigaraki Transport/DAC
Analog: Pro-ject RPM1.3/Clearaudio Concept MM
Preamp: Audio Note (Kondo) M7
Amp: Kondo Ongaku
Loudspeakers: as titled
Subwoofer: old JBL active subwoofer

Yamaha NS-10M
As mentioned previously, these legendary speakers need no long-winded review on my part. They have long been cherished by all the who's who's in the recording industry, and even has an informative wikipedia entryAnother must-read article is this one at soundonsound. Come to think of it, I'd not be surprised if some of the albums I mentioned below were originally mastered on the Yamaha! :-) See my previous experience (Part I) in my old house.

Pioneer SP-BS21-LR
For basic info on this ridiculously cheap Andrew Jones creation, see Part I of my previous report. It is discontinued, but similar products are still around.

Dayton Audio B652
This even more ridiculously cheap offering from Parts Express is a personal favorite of mine, and has been treated extensively in this Blog (see here).

Sonic Impressions
  • Yamaha NS-10M True to its monitor origin, the sound is very neutral and revealing. In terms of truth of timber and midrange transparency, they are very similar to the TAD TSM-2201 (here), and preferable to any of the other non-monitors, including the LS3/5A. Although the NS-10M's are easier to drive in comparison to the TAD, when the volume is cranked up, the sound inevitably shows some constriction, hampering replay of symphonic music. Perhaps ultimately these also need more power.

  • Pioneer SP-BS21-LR This is a very even performer, quite neutral and dynamic. The midrange is slightly recessed. These can play louder than the NS-10M, but the sound lacks just a little in involvement.
  • Dayton Audio B652 Belying the price, at low and medium playback volume these delivered a truly sparkling sound. No surprise. The midrange is more projected than the Pioneer and the sound is definitely more involving. However, not for lack of power, these cheap jewels are simply not meant to be played loud.
  • LS3/5A What I said before needs only minor modification: "...The real surprise (actually not) is that the Kondo system drove them very well (contrast this to the 86 db TAD). Neutrality is as good as any in the midband, less so in the treble and midbass (the famous hump). They resolve a little more than the Pioneer's and Dayton's, but less than the NS-10M's. Rhythm and pace is good but transient response is a trifle slower. Dynamically it is surprisingly adept. But what really catapults it to the top is a hard to define engaging quality, an ability to involve the listener..."
Outside the Kondo System
  • Quick Listening, with the Flying Mole CA-S10 Amp The Yamaha NS-10M is too large to go into the shelf below, so cannot be used in this configuration. Both the Pioneer's and Dayton's do an excellent job here. With the Digital amp, the Pioneer's can pay symphonic music quite well, and hence earned a permanent spot in this setup. As with the main system, I invert the speakers. Thus enclosed, the rear port surprisingly does not cause trouble and indeed augments the bass significantly. One is almost tricked into thinking a subwoofer is at play.
  • At the Desktop I installed the Yamaha's in my desktop system, now using Meridian Explorer and 47 Lab Gaincard. The sound is irreproachable and the best I have ever had in this station.
  • Yamaha NS-10M If not for the fact that I could not get it to play at high volume, this would be my choice for the Kondo System. If only I only play chamber music or simple vocals! Although at high volume it doesn't turn strident like the TSM-2201, the still-evident constriction may still very well be a power/impedance issue. 
  • Pioneer SP-BS21-LR and Dayton B652 These two neutral sounding loudspeakers offered similar performances. The Pioneer can play louder but the Dayton wins out by being livelier. In the vital midrange, both do not quite reach the richness and transparency of the Yamaha NS-10M.
  • LS3/5A Again, minor editing of what I siad previously would do: "...More than any of its rivals, the virtues of the LS3/5A are many and more evenly distributed, and its faults are minor. As mentioned, the real surprise is that the Kondo system drove them very well (not the case with even more flea powered SET's). Its 82 db sensitivity is the lowest in the group, but it is audibly just as efficient as the others. Although it needs enough watts, the impedance curve of the LS3/5A is benign and it is not a current-hungry transducer (see JA's measurements in this mega-article in Stereophile)..." While the NS-10M is superior in some aspects, ultimately it could not displace the 3/5A.

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