Robert Koda’s ground breaking amplifier - 匠心 Takumi K160 mono amplifier/K15EX/K10



  • Any first impression to share? Who had listened to this amp? 
  • My friends are seriously interested after staying in the German/Swiss camp for a very long time. 
  • Piano Tuner
    edited October 2019
    Guys, please wait a bit for a more comprehensive report of the Takumi K160. At this level, we don’t want to do quick AB and conclude.  This is not our way. The Divin Lab is optimised by Stirling Trayle based on the existing set of amps driving the Goebel Divin.  Merely swapping them without Stirling coming again to seek the perfect speaker positioning only tells so much.  As a result, I can only describe what are the differences I hear under such contextual background.    

  • Wow, happy Halloween guys!
  • Piano Tuner
    edited November 2019

    I am trying hard to depart from the conventional evaluation of any audio related gears.  What exactly is the meaning of a wider soundstage?  What is the meaning of excellent transient response?  The description of a warmer/cooler tonality applies almost to all electronics/system/cables of any price.  How could anyone distinguish the extraordinary from the best? 

    Scientific measurements safeguard signal integrity.  But does it also mean perfect measurement results warrant genuine musicality?  That is a much more difficult question.  Luca of Riviera Labs discussed extensively with me on this topic when he was in Hong Kong earlier this year.  Measurement instrument is a linear system.  However, the human ear is a non-linear system  

    Robert Koch of Robert Koda LLC also belongs to this approach - musicality first, technical specifications second.  His firm belief of utilising single-ended circuitry for the best conveyance of musicality is a key development criteria of the K160 mono amplifiers.  There are no shortages of high power solid state amplification solutions in balanced operation out there.  

    How does Robert harness 150 watt of pure Class A at 8 ohm by a single ended circuitry?  Under high power mode, power goes up to Class A 230 watt at 4 ohm.  

    This is a daunting technical challenge.  Another breakthrough is his decision to get rid of tube given the inherent electro-mechanical distortions, BUT not until he successfully discovered a way to use transistors equally exhibiting the merits of tubes, in the area of airiness, coherence, full body mid-range and transparency of the top end, etc.   

    I would like to begin the sharing of my initial understanding of the K160 by introducing Nathan Milsten, the durable violin virtuoso who favored intimacy and eloquence over histrionics.  This explained why he chose to use a Stradivarius, which is a more subtle instrument with a smaller sound than the Guarnerius del Jesu, favored by more exhibitionistic players.  This is fact that can be verified by many literatures.  

    Under the command of K160 driving the Goebel Divin Majestic, the profound rapport between his left and right hands is vividly revealed.  His highly articulate fingering hand allowed bowing with relatively low pressure.   To avoid impeding the violin’s natural voice and to maximise physical contact with the instrument’s resonances, Milstein never used shoulder rests or pads, which explains why there was an extra brightness to the sound.

    If I don’t study some of these facts before listening, my comments would likely be - “the mid range of the violin is a tad thinner” than the Zanden KAUN.  Under the K160, Milstein sound was always radiantly pure, which is consistent with descriptions of his critics in history.  Warmth is not a characteristic of his unblemished tone.

    Up to this juncture, many are interested to know how does the K160 different from the Zanden KAUN in driving the Goebel Divin Majestic.  First of all, we must understand there are huge contextual differentials at the background.  The Divin Lab is optimised by Stirling Trayle based on a full suite of Zanden super electronics from phono, preamp and power amp.  The speaker positions were determined by the Zanden suite.  What I had done in the past two days was to swap the Zanden KAUN with Takumi K160 using the same power cables, ground cables, and speaker cables without any adjustments to the speaker positions.  

    The Takumi K160 was set at high power mode during my audition.  The low power mode was not the right click as the output gain of K160 is 26db, which is 10% lower than Zanden KAUN’s 29db.  The input sensitivity of Takumi K160 is likely to be much lower than Zanden as well.  My listening tests were primarily vinyl recordings using Zanden JINPU phono stage.  The preamp is Zanden Chukoh.

    The K160 dives deeply into the mechanics of Milstein’s supple and almost boneless hands orchestrating on a small Stradivarius.  The Zanden KAUN, on the other hand, defines the composure of Milstein’s haughty serenity.  It portraits the same virtuoso by elimination of sentimental trickery to unveil his rock solid technique.  The Zanden is a more indirect interpretation of Milstein, relative to Robert’s Takumi K160. 

    I have a lot more to say about Takumi K160 in the coming weeks.  Robert has done a tremendous job in crafting this artisanal piece of amplification instrument.  There is so much depth resolution of each single musical note, in addition to the phenomenal depth of sound field.   It is the very depth resolution of each musical note that constitute a new definition of “palpability”.  

    Some members of the AE community received a few video clips recorded by IPhone 11 exemplifying my written claims here.  My son’s violin teacher listened to this video clip from a distance when I was playing it on my phone.  He asked me, “Who is this guy playing so well? It does not sound like any performer of our time.  But it is so vividly vibrant and the tone is so pure.”  I showed him it was played by an audio system, not by any living person.  He was speechless.  I have invited him to Divin Lab to teach me how to listen more critically to violin.

    Meanwhile, it also elevates my respect for Zanden as the driving capability of KAUN is truly awesome in driving the Goebel Divin Majestic.  The double push pull circuitry of KAUN exemplifies the driving capability of the beast.

    I will not write casual comments from now on.  I will always reference to facts before sharing.  The next sharing could well be a few orchestral pieces.  But I need to read and research more before listening deeper again.  Stay tuned.

  • Many thanks for sharing your impressions. Very interested in the orchestral pieces you are planning to share. Will everyone have access to them and if not, what does one have to do to gain access? May I ask which interconnect and speaker cables you are using? Enjoy this masterpiece. Thanks
  • PT, your writing and approach taken has always been so out of the box and inspiring!  At this level of evaluation on such a high end component going into a perhaps perfect set of electronics lends itself a big challenge.  If one does not go so deep, the review will not do any justice to the new joiner as well as the host team!  Please continue with your great work!

  • I would like to provide a little clarification on the technical side of 匠心 K-160.

    Single ended operation alone cannot meet Robert Koda design goals. It is rather a unique permutation of TWO independently functioning Single ended class A circuits. This combination yields tremendous benefits. And it is this topology that lies at the core of K-10,K-15,K-70 and of course 匠心 K-160.

    One key benefit is this topology, particularly when coupled to our reactor power supply is the effective removal of power supply “sound”. We talk about “Dynamic Simplicity” as a principle design strategy and this is just one illustration of it in play.

    Push Pull amplifiers, even the Class A models, exhibit a phenomena of “contention” and another of dissimilarity. The dissimilarity results from the use of so called complimentary transistors (P type and N type) which by definition cannot be similar while “contention” is caused by the fact that two amplifier elements (the push and the pull) are in fact connected to one node, namely the speaker terminal. If one of those (push pull) elements was not to receive a perfect but opposite signal, the other element would in fact veer toward “communication” break down! Contention and dissimilarity co-exits and can be heard to some extent in virtually all amplifiers. Except single ended amplifiers! Except K-70 and except K-160!

    As you listen you will begin to understand how our technical advantages translate so vividly into sonic advantages.



  • 睇PT 文章就是一份樂事,每次去完AE showroom 試聽一些新嘅產品,總是好難用文字去形容感覺,坦白講,坊間用於形容聽感嘅音嚮詞彙,已經再唔足夠解釋聽後感,往往經PT 在旁解說後,頓時覺得「係呀!就係尼份感覺嘞!」好期待聽聽這部呼之欲出嘅 product of the year 後級!

  • Just can’t wait to hear them so I was daydreaming the whole day, then I decided to take a taxi home and fell asleep in the taxi. When I woke up I found myself in front of the Divin lab for some reason...
  • Hi Ma, Maybe you be the first owner of K-160 !
  • Piano Tuner
    edited November 2019
    I will likely use Beethoven’s Pastoral conducted by Karl Bohm as one of the references. 

    You can send you phone number to [email protected] I share video by WhatsApp 
  • Will do and looking forward to the video/s.