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K-ESS by L.P. Dalby - The Strive for Speed

edited December 2023

Max Verstappen’s potential is perhaps the greatest in F1 history ever.  Comprehension of his rare driving talent requires looking beyond statistics and hardware.  Most drivers work with engineers to tune the car so as to turn aggressively into corners, and willingly sacrifice some control to stop the back of the car from spinning. What sets Max apart is his ability to deal with a very loose rear end, and be able to feel when the rear of the car is at its limit before bringing it under control.  That yields him the extra pointy front end chucking into corners faster than opponents.  It is all about balance and the ability to maintain it consistently under ever changing conditions and unforeseen circumstances. Ultimate speed thus arises from consistent balance. Isn’t it true for high end audio reproduction too? 

Salvatore Accardo, the famous Italian violinist, was playing Paganini at the background via APL-GR DAC when I was watching Max racing at AE Sheung Wan.  How to achieve a sacred balance? Be it in economics, F1 racing, sports, and even art, the challenges are tremendous.  In the realm of high-end audio, L.P. Dalby is a unique person that always delivers consistent avantgarde astonishments because of this thorough understanding of “balance” exemplified by his colossal undertakings on the Akasu turntable.  My confidence on his latest creation, K-ESS, is thus sky high.  They are likely to be the fastest isolation feet system ever in the world to drain unwanted mechanical energy anything atop.

An Unconventional Open Frame Structure 

The K-ESS abbreviation stands for ‘Kyoku - Equipment Support Standard’.  They are a skeletal, multi-layer, low mass design using a variety of materials to achieve a highspeed transfer of unwanted energy. The principal role of them is to drain unwanted energy away from the equipment they support, and fend off external influences. The unique construction allows the equipment atop to “float mechanically” by rejecting any stored energy within the foot itself and the platform surface it stood above. The reduced oscillation within the K-ESS system due to the weight reduction stops parasitic energy from returning back into the equipment. This is accomplished by a deliberate layering of stiff, fibrous and viscoelastic materials to nullify the sound characteristics of each other.

The materials used in the K-ESS feet are specifically chosen for their inherent qualities and to minimize excitement caused by unwanted electrical and mechanical energy. The staggering result will not be achieved if these materials are used separately or arranged differently in sequence.  The K-ESS are exquisitely crafted instruments engineered to support preamps, phono-stage, DACS, streamers, analog turntables and power supplies. The max load for 3 feet is 70kg.  There is a forthcoming flagship version called K-ESG which is used for loudspeakers, power amplifiers and high mass turntables.

I am not dazzled by Paganini, but moved by Accardo

The unprecedented neutrality of the Akasu turntable stuns me every time I spin any vinyl on it.  Neutrality means I cannot hear what material it is made of.  There is no sound of steel, alu, wood, carbon and whatsoever.  This is a crowning achievement.  That makes me wonder whether the goal of achieving mechanical neutrality is different from minimization of mechanical vibrations.  If the K-ESS belongs to the clan of Akasu, should I expect mechanical resonance signature of any electronics chassis atop them would magically disappear? I deployed them underneath JMF Audio’s flagship preamplifier PRS 1.5 (revision G).  

I was speechless immediately.  Spatial resolution opens up tremendously at the macro level.  The concert hall is filled with so much ambience.  Accardo projected discerning energy at tremendous speed playing Paganini’s La Campanella.  Before using the K-ESS, I was captivated by his technical mastery.  After the installation of them, I could now see him displaying with fun-loving spirit of Italian opera effortlessly.  Elasticity of different strings could now be felt defining character.  He carried the madness of Paganini’s spirit within, never too mellow like Perlman or too bold like Fracescatti.  I have probably never heard an up-bow staccato as elegant and clean from anyone else, other than Accardo.  

The excitement further drew me into other works by Paganini. His caprices consist of 24 fiendishly demanding pieces packed with double stops, left-hand pizzicato and spiccato bowing aplenty. The presence of K-ESS allows my mind to naturally correspond the dexterity of Accardo to his soul.  Indeed, listening to famous violinists has become very addictive ever since.  I could “see” how quickly violinist moves the first finger all the way to the pinky, alternates up-bows and down-bows with one another (detache skill), and constructs a crescendo/diminuendo.  

The dramatic improvement of transient resolution reveals the character of the following legends in totality:  Ricci is the ultimate "go-for-broke" virtuoso; Rabin is enthusiastic, articulate, and full of inner fire; Kogan carries overwhelming intensity and mastery; Heifetz concerned perfection and precision at an otherworldly level, and Milstein personified elegance with a penetrating voice. The transient resolution of K-ESS is staggeringly vivid as though I went back in time listening to them live. 

The ear-observation on piano is the same.  The presence of K-ESS quickly turns the Transcendental Étude No. 8 performed by Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin into a formidable piece.  The challenging Liszt composition began with a furious quick main theme.  I see so clearly wide jumps in the beginning span about three octaves in the right hand. The lyrical middle section involves difficult left-hand jumps swiftly spanning over two octaves. The ending also involves a difficult section of octave jumps in the right hand traversing three octaves. The piece ends in a flurry of descending chords.  Without the K-ESS, the vibrancy is gone because transient is nullified.  The openness also disappeared because projection of energy weakens.  

Then I went to another extreme to test “It’s a sin” by Pet Shop Boys.  The song began with an enormous clap of thunder and horns winking in the distance, before a disco-like drama starts unfolding in a histrionic manner. I felt like teleported to church for a moment before being dragged into the world of Tron.  It is an immersive kaleidoscopic experience that I had never experienced before hitherto.    


The K-ESS is unique.  I simply cannot detect the chassis resonance of the JMF Audio preamp.  The phenomenon resembles somewhat to the neutrality of the Akasu turntable.  When mechanical resonance character of a specific material is neutralized in such manner, transient resolution of the preamp in this case leapfrogs to an uncharted terrain.  Yet the perspective never loses sight of the holistic picture in totality.  

There are 10 teams in Forumla 1 and 20 hyper performance cars with 20 exquisitely talent drivers. Construction of racing car all began with the same materials.  That’s where the similarities end.  No two teams are the same.  Through knowledge, creative thinking, and teamwork, only a few teams foray into genius mode.  There are rules and regulations disciplining them in various domains too.  So, how can Redbull be 20 seconds quicker after a 58-lap race than their closest rival?

It’s simple. It is “Knowhow”.  

Kudo to L.P. Dalby. 

Chris Leung

Dec 4th, 2023

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