10 February, 2012

Review: Kondo Ongaku + KSL-M7 System Part II

R pic: my unit; click to enlarge; note the ALPS volume pot.
Review: My Kondo System Part II
Ongaku + KSL-M7 System Part II Introduction

Links to My Kondo System, Part I (background info on Kondo and Ongaku); 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); Part V (on old Audio Note M7 and use of Kondo with small bookshelves).

Yes, this is still the Introduction. This time, on the Kondo M7. Since the M7 went through myriad iterations, I think I shall spend some time on it.

Kondo M7 components
As famous as the Ongaku, the M7 preamp, as designed by Kondo san, is likely the most talked about and cloned preamp after another number 7, the venerable but very different Marantz 7. Kondo's M7 went through many iterations, and I am trying my best to list them here in chronological order. Much info is gleamed through Singapore's Soundscape website, which is NOT up to date; aa well as through a Taiwan website 臺灣的音響共和國 日本 Kondo KSL-M7 前級 (編者按:是個有水準的網頁, 有全面的介紹及寶貴的技術上的資料,但是網頁完全抹殺/略過 Kondo 和英國 Audio Note 合作的年代), which completely ignores the collaborative period between Japan and UK (yes, both sides try their best to re-write history). Correct me if I am wrong!
  • --Kondo san's M7 started as a solid-state (!) preamp. The "M" stood for German "Meister".
  • --The first tubed M7 preamps were marketed jointly with Peter Qvortrup as Audio Note, before the UK-Japan split. The line-only version employed 6X4 rectification and a single 5687 was used for signal amplification, and this is the circuit most often seen on the internet (an example here). Note that this was quite influential for its time, single-handedly reviving use of the 5687. (編者注:所引的臺灣網頁完全抹殺/略過這個 Kondo 和英國 Audio Note 合作的年代)
  • --The first tubed full-function preamps, also marketed as Audio Note, incorporated an MM phonostage and used 6072 in both the phono and line stages. Circuit of this is also ubiquitous on the internet (an example of a 1991 version here). It is interesting to note that that onto the next generation Kondo has largely maintained different topology in their line-only and full-function preamps. (編者注:所引的臺灣網頁完全抹殺/略過這個 Kondo 和英國 Audio Note 合作的年代)
  • --In 2000, the M7 line was revamped. The label now became M7 IIk. All retained the use of 6X4 as rectifier. But now the line-only version used 2x 5687 and 2x 12AT7; the full-function version used 2x 5751 and 2x 5687; a stand-alone phono preamp version was introduced, which used 2x 5751 and 2x 12AU7. A signature version offered better tubes and material. 第二代 (編者注:這個不準確,應是第三代;所引的臺灣網頁完全抹殺/略過 Kondo 和英國 Audio Note 合作的年代) 的M7前級在2000年推出,稱為M7 II K,外觀與今天的KSL-M7並無二致,僅是中間的英文編號有所不同。但從這時開始,M7前級改用電子管放大,並細分為四個不同的型號,分別是M7 Phono(只有唱頭放大,使用5751管2只,12Au7管2只,6X4整流管1只)、M7標準版(具備唱頭與高電乎輸入使用5751管2只,5687 管2只,6X4整流管1只)、M7 Line(只有高電平輸入,使用5687管2只,12AT7管2只,6X4整流管1只)、M7 Signature簽名版(也是有唱頭與高電平輸入,使用珍貴的古董真空管與更好的音量電位器)。
  • --The latest revision came some time after Kondo san's death in 2006 (and I think it is "current"; though there is talk of the discontinuation of the entire M7 line) . Use of the 6X4 as rectifier has been retained. But now, the line-only version uses only 2x 12AU7; the full-function version uses 2x 12AX7 and 2x 12AU7; the stand-alone phono preamp uses 2x 12AX7 and 2x 12AU7. Looking at the tube complements, personally I see simplification from previous generations. My own M7 phono and M7 linestage belong to this period. 最新的KSL-M7 ...自從蘆澤雅基接任社長後,Kondo展現了較年輕的活力,他推出重量級的黑膠唱盤,以4只西電300B放大的Kegon擴 大機、使用4只2A3輸出功率僅有10瓦的Souga擴大機等,第三代 (編者注:這個不準確,應是第四代;所引的臺灣網頁完全抹殺/略過 Kondo 和英國 Audio Note 合作的年代) 的KSL-M7前級就在這樣背景下誕生了。最大的改良部分是電子管,KSL-M7同 樣有Phono、Line、標準版三款,使用的電子管也有不同。KSL-M7 Phono唱頭放大使用12AX7管2只,12AU7管2只,6X4整流管1只;KSL-M7 Line使用12Au7管2只,6X4整流管1只;標準版使用12Au7管2只,12Ax7管2只,6X4整流管1只。
  • --Most interestingly, according to the Taiwan link, Kondo moved away from use of the 5687 because digital replay has improved vastly, and no longer needs the service of the mellower 5687. I am not sure I can agree here, as the 5687 can be quite a sharp tube. 第二代的M7前級上使用5687雙 三極管(E182CC)(編者注:這個不準確,應是第三代;所引的臺灣網頁完全抹殺/略過 Kondo 和英國 Audio Note 合作的年代; 而且 5687 和 E182CC/7119 就算可以代用也不是相同的管子 ) ,據Kondo的說法是5687管聲音沒有那麼清亮,配合CD訊源聽感上「數位聲」比較不明顯。但隨著SACD、藍光等新型數位載 體出現,Kondo不能再故步自封,所以換用更通用的新型電子管。
Although minimally equipped, the M7 does allow for level adjustment of the two non-direct line inputs. As we shall see in the next article, this not only allows for equalization of the volume of different inputs, but is a feature that can be useful in fine-tuning the sound of certain sources. The direct input bypasses this control but not the selector itself (unlike the Ongaku, you can still choose to listen to the 2 line inputs even if direct is connected).


  1. Hello DrJohn,
    What's your take on LCR phono stage? can you or any of your audiophile buddies share your thought? Thank you
    Wal from Canada

    1. The phono stage is very good (I also have the SUT), but the combo seems to be picky about what cartridge is used. From my limited experience, neither Denon DL-103 nor Ortofon Kontrapunkt C got optimized results. Perhaps they are yearning for the IO-M!!!