Audio Note UK Ongaku Kensei 211 valve Single Ended Triode balanced amplifier now up & running!

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Steve Hoffman, Jul 22, 2017.

  1. swvahokie

    swvahokie Forum Resident

    I'm going to have to wait until its closer to 500 bucks. Being poor sucks.
  2. John Mee

    John Mee Active Member

    they were fitted by a guy who does all my work here in the US-Nick Gowan at True Sound
  3. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Hong Kong
    Melody Valve Audio advertises that they make the Ongaku for 5% of the price. It does use silver and it is a 211. That's basically where the comparison ends. Still a nice sounding amp though.
  4. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Kondo published the original Ongaku circuit in Sound Practices magazine back in 1992. We were invited to make one. All it took was a lot of silver wire.
  5. finn

    finn Member

    Borrow a Sootto mains cable from Peter, it's a significant step up from the Sogon and very much worth the grief.
  6. harby

    harby Forum Resident

    Portland, OR, USA
    If Bob Carver was still doing his thing to dispel magic, it would be interesting to see the transfer function of this "holy grail" amp emulated perfectly (again), in solid state. Which was done 30 years ago (if you want to re-read the Stereophile article) and turned into the production Carver m1.0t - a Conrad Johnson Premier Four for the masses.
    RhodesSupremacy likes this.
  7. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog

    Boston MA
    Thanks to Warren Jarrett. He is an interesting person and a nice guy. Steve, it was nice of you to tell me this.
  8. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    No problem. He's a great guy, likes you.
  9. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Fullerton, CA
    Let's not go TOO far with this "like" thing; I do have a wife, you know. I don't even know Tullman's name. But we have had some audiophile PM communication that made it obvious we share the same enthusiasm for Jethro Tull, Thiel speakers, CAT electronics, and sound preferences in general. I have two CAT preamps, that I have used with my various "3-series" Thiels, but I have never heard big Thiels with Tullman's pair of CAT preamp and big CAT amplifier. So, next time I go to Boston (no forseeable plans to), I definitely want to hear his audio system.

    If Tullman ever comes to Los Angeles, I would really like him to hear the Thiel/CAT system in my home, the Audio Note systems in my "Audio Home", and Steve's AN reference system. There is something special about "the designers' ears" reflected in every CAT and AN product, in my opinion, that defines "the magic of recorded instruments and voices coming alive in our listening rooms".

    I use the words "designer's ears" and "magic" to describe Steve's AN system because you just have to hear it to believe it. Audiophile terms and technical explanations cannot touch the emotional experience of reproduced music sounding so vivid, and yet so smooth and natural. I suspect Tullman's Thiel/CAT system provides a similar "magic".

    And what better album to start with, at the inevitable listening session with Tullman and me, than "Songs from the Wood", "War Child" or "A Passion Play"?
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2017
    timztunz and shaizada like this.
  10. mneveux

    mneveux Forum Resident

    Simi Valley, CA
    Don't forget Thick As A Brick :)
    Warren Jarrett likes this.
  11. triple

    triple Forum Resident

    Zagreb, Croatia
  12. Otlset

    Otlset Forum Resident

    Temecula, CA
    I get where you're coming from. One truly does have to hear great, even magical music reproduction to understand what's possible. But there are others on this forum who want...proof...

    "Dude, that's all just like your subjective opinion man. And is your hearing perfect? Cause if it isn't, your opinion on sound is no good -- how could it be? I have to see some objective measures or evidence that indicate this over-priced amplifier is all that, otherwise it's all just opinion dude."
  13. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Hong Kong
    Proof is in the listening. And if you don't trust your ears or you are worried about being unduly biased by name brand, looks, price, design, etc then conduct a blind level matched audition and see (err hear) what happens.

    I personally get why people want proof especially when they spend this kind of money. It's why I am not religious because they all ask me for money and none give me proof of the omnipotent dream watcher in the sky.

    But proof is not reading about a test done 30 years ago between any two given items and saying - hey no one passed the test so everything since then sounds exactly the same.

    Audio Note has been subjected to a lot of level matched blind auditions over the years. Speaking to Peter Qvortrup he has brought these tests up rather positively.

    Addressing the Carver situation - can a very gifted designer make an amp sound like another more expensive amp - yes - BUT pay attention to this very important paragraph posted by harby:

    Secondly, Bob had never before had a chance to listen critically to a "world-class" amplifier like the one we chose as our reference, and ended up admitting that there were things about its sound that he preferred to his own amp. He might, he averred, "do some things differently in future designs."
    Read more at The Carver Challenge Page 4

    Bob Carver can't emulate every amplifier and his admission and indeed the very test implies that many amplifiers sound very different. He emulated one amp but maybe he can't in fact emulate others.

    Lastly, Bob must have felt himself that his device in fact was not the perfect emulator at all - Bob currently designs and manufactures - drum roll please....TUBE AMPLIFIERS!

    And holy cow they approach Audio Note price points too.

    saturdayboy likes this.
  14. harby

    harby Forum Resident

    Portland, OR, USA
    Interestingly, audiophiles have discovered, and the article documents that Bob seems to have been open to and conceded, that an amp that perfectly reproduces its input signal as it is asked to do, and as an ideal amplifier should do, can sound less appealing than one that colors the sound with its own characteristics.

    The caveat I see, is when you use the same "sounds better" criteria individually with your turntable cartridge, phono stage, preamp, speakers, you then start needing to come up with words like synergy, because your system is no longer guided on faithfully reproducing what the recording engineers heard (or if you are a mastering engineer, making a recording only a few can hear).

    We do have to wonder, if it would somehow less pure and audiophile to use our technical ability to put a low level "magic box" in front of an amp, if it accomplishes the same goal. If I were able to make a vanilla amp that has an "Audio Note" button (along with "Rotel", "Dynaudio", "Krell" buttons...) , and neither you nor instrumentation can tell which is which, does it really matter how much real silver or glowing tubes are inside?

    The handcrafted and esoteric fills a niche for the 1% (or 0.01%) with 1% equipment, and Bob's previous designs I've already recognized in Chinese-branded knock-offs, so he's probably going where he needs to go. The appreciation of Hi-Fi among the public is probably at an all-time low, with Beats headphones alone bringing in more revenue than many prominent audio companies, and architectural speakers outselling floorstanders and bookshelf speakers, so that small-scale and expensive is about the only place to expect great equipment these days.
  15. MisterBritt

    MisterBritt Forum Resident

    Santa Fe, NM, USA
    More listening impressions, less ideology for me please. "Silver is the new gold," SH. That's a classic.
  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Too late, I've shaved my head and carved an AN on my scalp.
    timztunz, klonk and MisterBritt like this.
  17. klonk

    klonk Forum Resident

    Any pictures of your scalp?:D
  18. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Only wearing my Gucci cap.
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  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Peter of Symposium Acoustics is making a custom amp stand for the Ongaku:

    The Symposium Acoustics Ultra Pro Ampstand Stealth edition.

    Has a neat custom black top. Since crazy amp is made out of COPPER the black will look spiffy. Might help with the WAF a bit.. The thing is going to be 15" by 29" so maybe not...
    MisterBritt likes this.
  20. John Mee

    John Mee Active Member

    Then there's the guy with the AN bedspread... :)
  21. Don Parkhurst

    Don Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Vancouver, BC
    Sorry, did someone call me?
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Audio Note UK Ongaku update.

    The ONGAKU is now fully broken in and is making heavenly music. It really is a magic machine, ghastly expensive but for those who have the money, it is the last amplifier you will ever need. I am truly enjoying playing everything on it. It makes my work more fun and every listening experience memorable.
    timztunz and Encore like this.
  23. klonk

    klonk Forum Resident

    Ongaku = Music (jap.-eng.) :righton:
  24. finn

    finn Member

    It's a terrible thing to say but I only switched on my Kensei for the first time in about a year the other day and I have to admit I had forgotten how good it is and a sense of why I bought it came flooding back. I just sat and listened to Arve Henriksen's "Cartography" on cd and it was late in the evening and the lights down low and complete immersion is the best description for the experience. Sounds just pop in mid space, the envelope of noises and notes hang in the air, decaying in harmonics.
    There has been a trend develop with AN dealers exhibiting at hifi shows using cheaper gear simply because at the end of the day it's about the dollar and what turns over. I know I have done it for exactly that reason and probably will do so in the future but I have to admit, playing components like this is just wishing everyone could hear what recordings really sound like. Having them playing at the shows will rarely achieve a sale and most likely derision and sour grapes mentality in scoffing at the price. It's a shame so few people will ever hear components like these, they truly are unique.
  25. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Hong Kong
    finn - I hate to say it but most shows are pretty terrible places to audition.

    1) Walk in to a room 3 people are yacking over the music.
    2) idiot company next door is playing at 120 dB and bass boom can be heard from other room(s).
    3) People walking in and out of the room - even if they're quiet it is still a distraction that draws your attention
    4) rooms with horrible construction quality and or electrical systems - for corner loaded speakers like the E this can be more problematic than free standing speakers which are "supposedly" designed free standing so they are less affected by boundaries.
    5) Music played.

    The last one can't be ignored - many rooms that I have seen at shows play the same supposed "elite" recordings over and over and over because they have found the right disc to make their speaker sound the best. Usually a none too challenging Diana Krall sort of thing. And not to dump on girl at a piano - I love Eva Cassidy and all and female vocal warrants attention too but when Peter Q plays Nightwish or Rage Against the Machine or a fairly noise1930 LP of mediocre recording quality and the other rooms are playing this week's uber IsoMike recording of totally banal music but which sounds spectacular - it's not generally the best place to make comparisons. In other words bringing a level 2 systems for most people in such a place will be the same as a level 5 system.

    And what is worse just since 2010 CES is that many rooms do not even have a CD player or a turntable - so you are largely forced to listen to systems from a laptop. Uggh. Automatically glorified loud telephone quality territory IME.

    I still go back to Wes Philips's experience at CES in a very good hotel room and a very good AN set-up. CED 2010 for me and Fred Crowder were virtually identical. Top of the Line AN properly done is phenomenal. In my town in Canada I got a chance to audition a top AN system (with the older TT3 (Voyd Reference) and it was something else.

    People say I go overboard with Audio Note - but this Wes Philips commentary for Stereophile is about as strongly worded rave as it gets.
    "After the Audio Note demo. the rest was noise,"

    But reviewers often have the ability to book a dedicated listening sessions which takes out 3 of the problems above.

    PS it is a problem having it sit for a year - Audio Note should run a rental plan or a lease option - better than having it sit for a year! :)

    Ongaku Means Ecstasy

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