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

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Comments

  • edited November 2019

    My first impression of K160 was complete absence of an amplifier in the chain at Divin Lab.  I like the understated aesthetic with excellent craftsmanship.

    Goebel Divin Majestic is an excellent speaker but harnessing the true potential of it is difficult because of the presence of two 18” woofers per channel.  Zanden Chouku (長空) delivers single ended 40 watt Class A power with finesse but inadequate damping to control the bass of Divin Majestic. Zanden Kaun (火雲) with 100 watt (first 40 watt is class A, rest is class AB) has the flare, power and tremendous drive.  Yet I always feel Divin could be more disciplined better in the bass compartment.  Considering it is a tube amp, I have absolutely no complaints at all.  

    Takumi K160 could well be the perfect solution: fast, smooth, powerful, stable with excellent control of bass. Transient responses are snappy.  Imaging is palpable.  Tonality is neutral. Tone is pure.  Every single note has a distinct imaging regardless of instrument and vocal.  When the Goebel Divin partners with Takumi K160, every recording tells a story, particularly those symphonic scores selected for demonstrations by PT.  Marvel had brought some very good records there as well.  

    Zanden KAUN 火雲 is such an explosive tube amp championed by a novel double push pull circuit. My comprehension of its character is: power/energy stems from the ground (力從地起) with tremendous drivability.  In the case of K160, I couldn’t tell the source of energy whereabouts.  It just comes up from somewhere in the air without any hint of its origin when the music calls for it.  At the micro level, energy springs from every single note, rendering so much depth.  

    The purity of K160 is phenomenal with solid texture (trust me, you can’t find another SOLID solid state amp out there), I told PT after the first time listening to the Nathan Milstein video clip - the system is invisible beyond the usual description of transparency.  

    During the whole audition of the K160, I didn’t say a word because I was completely captivated by emotions.  

    P.S. I want to ask PT a technical question - Is transformer a major factor in determining the level of distortion in an amplifier?

  • What sound “are” you chasing for in AE?
  • I joined a bit late after Thomas on the audition session on last Friday.

    My thoughts were stagnated by the wonderful piece written by PT above, what should/could I supplement?

    Obviously this is not an excuse for me not to write after listening to this long awaited SE power amp which to my know how is a big technical breakthrough in solid state single end power amplification at a constant 150W classA delivery with an option of going into High Power mode to 230W.  

    Due to the matching with Divin Majestic speaker, we used High Power mode to fit the design purpose.  For higher efficiency speaker such as my Firebird, normal power mode should be used (I believe).  

    Imagine a virtuoso painter painting a picture using paint brushes.  When listening under K160, the tonal picture and minute variations are seemingly portraited by swapping among different sizes of paint brushes with painstaking skills and lightning speed.  The resulting painting bears extremely meticulous details even under the use of a ‘magnifying glass’ randomly spotting throughout the painting.  During the audition, the rhythm of the music seems to have more pauses allowing one to appreciate the snapshot details before moving on the next groups of musical notes.

    Push pull amplification design when contrast with SE would analogously like using only 1 size of paint brush and in the hands of maestro like Yamada san, would still gleam out the details without blunting out the harmonic details.  

    Marvel
  • I’d like to share a few thoughts after the initial audition of the mighty K-160. 

    As a proud Robert Koda owner (K15ex+K70) for more than 2 years, I’m pretty familiar with the house sound which is rich, full of color and a touch on the warm side. As a comparison, trinity is more neutral; Angstrom is faster and has more air, however the sheer balance of musicality and Hi-Fi elements that the Robert Koda combo provides has always been more than satisfying every time I sit down and play music. Therefore when I heard Robert was working on a new power amp, I was exited in the meantime curious about in what aspects the new flagship can improve over the already-sublime K70 in terms of performance.

    After the audition, I was literally speechless. I’ve never ever experienced soundstage/positioning and dynamics in any setup like this before. What struck me is not only the soundstage, but also the unlimited dynamics being delivered in the presentation, it was almost explosive with the four 18-inch subwoofers of the Divin speakers but in a natural way. 

    All I can say is, the performance of the divin lab has far surpassed that of the Sheung Wan show room which I was pretty familiar with(before tuning by Sterling). I’m not sure how much of this sort of extreme performance was contributed by Sterling, what I’m sure of is that the K-160 drives the humongous Divin speakers like a piece of cake, a benign puppy, there’s not even a single drop of sweat.

    Looking forward to the next listening session and, remotely likely, a home-demo :p

    Michael 

  • Hello Chris, many many thanks for forwarding the video to me. I am totally lost for words and this is just listening to the video recording!! What immediately struck me was the incredibly natural timbres and totally extraordinary micro dynamics and clarity that bring music to life in a way live music does but vast majority of high end systems fail to do especially SS amps. This is music reproduction at the highest level and phenomenally engaging. I have already played the video about 10 times and wife played it about 5 times. Just superb. One can really appreciate the delicate touches and the amazing musicianship of the players. I can't even begin to imagine what it sounds like in the Divin Lab. I think you need to invite Sterling and Roy back ASAP!!! I look forward to visiting the Divin Lab next year to hear this masterpiece in person along with all the other amazing components. May I ask what interconnects and speaker cables you are using at present including the phono cable? Thanks again for forwarding the video. Enjoy this amazing amp and system.
  • From Phono to Pre: Argento FMR EE XLR
    From Pre to Power: Skogrand Stravinsky
    Phono cable: Skogrand Beethoven
    Ground cable on phono: Argento FMR EE (latest arrival)
    Speaker cable: Skogrand Stravinsky and (La Sound custom made) 
    Power cable on Takumi K160: Argento FMR EE
    Power cable on phono: Skogrand Stravinsky 


  • Many thanks for the cables info PT! 
  • edited November 2019

    放低火雲的「棘」,今天匠心帶來是一種和諧、平衡、溫暖的感覺。試聽咗幾首靜態嘅曲目,展示咗匠心無限嘅細節後,我地將餘下嘅時間,都放在一些比較大形嘅音樂上,當中Ennio Morricone 嘅 The Mission  喺兩年前同一地方用全套Trinity 播放,至今都令我歷歷在目,我會用浩瀚、氣勢、權威來形容那時的表現。今天聽匠心嘅演繹,這份霸氣、張力不比當時低,但畫面嘅描述能力就遠勝從前 ,令人對大自然有一種敬畏之餘,更令人彷似在廣闊嘅草原上,一路步向晨曦,多了一份溫暖、希望、感動!

    在神曲工作室聽二十分鐘長嘅貝九第四樂章,確然係一種享受,起承轉合,從獨唱直到終結前,普世歡騰嘅大合唱,真正能感受到人類嘅大愛,喺大形嘅場面下,每位歌手,每件樂器嘅比例,立體感都去到一個難以形容嘅境界,完結時真係想企立鼓掌。

    匠心就是一部會講故事嘅一部後級,匠心嘅出現,就好似將神曲工作室內所有超級器材,從新回到一種由音樂作為起點嘅軌道,不放肆、不誇張,再複雜嘅曲目,都能聽到整體的「全」,而不是出眾的「一」。

    從PT 嘅笑容同眼神中,都流露住「我終於等到了!」

  • edited November 2019

    Beethoven once said, “I love trees more than a man.”  That set the philosophical foundation of him creating a new kind of symphonic rhetoric in the Pastoral.  It is an universe in which lulling repetition rather than teleological development defining the discourse of the Pastoral Symphony with 5 movements.   

    The fourth movement is about Storms that are unpredictable and powerful by nature.  The conflation of piccolo, timpani, and trombone generates new textural effects radiating electric currents.  Although the storm rages violently, Karl Böhm keeps the music moving along impulsively without losing the symphonic strength of Beethoven's musical argument. Just as suddenly as the storm arrives, this lacerating music subsides, and gives way, without a break, to the most deliriously music in the final movement: “Shepherd Songs.” The transition from the prowess of the 4th to the 5th movement requires tremendous transient resolution of the amplifiers alongside natural rendering of tonal colours to accurately convey the symphonic intention of Karl Bohm.  The lightning collapse of symphonic energy into temporal silence is fascinating as I can visually comprehend the unison state of the orchestra at split second.  Unlike the German/Swiss camp demonstrating clarity with a big spotlight on top of the stage, the purity of tone by Takumi K160 chimes by glowing with an inner light.  There are tremendous amount of tonal shades from each note coming from whatever instruments.  

    The Takumi K160 orchestrates the Gobel Divin as though it is Karl Bohm conducting the majestic score - portraying the state of mind when one is wandering the nature. 

    On the other hand, Otto Klemperer has a very clear and assertive vision of pastoral life.  The Pastoral movement number 4 under his baton is weightily structured in big and bold outlines, which is exemplified by Takumi K160 resolution capability.   He plans everything very deliberately.  Beethoven’s merrymaking peasants, as portrayed by Klemperer, are those very determined types without nostalgic glancing back. Klemperer, as always, divides his violins left and right, to open up the texture.  The Shepherd’s Hymn is a real Ode to Joy, both euphoric and strong. There is no noticeable slowing for the Coda.  The symphony’s spell is finally broken with a peremptory ‘Amen’ from the full orchestra.  This Coda section truly stresses the amplifier’s holistic abilities on all parameters.  And Robert’s Takumi K160 completely disappears in the chain as though it is Otto Klemperer directing the score.  In fact, the whole system in Divin lab completely disappear.  I wonder what will Stirling Trayle say next time.   

    To compare, Karl Bohm is more spontaneous focusing more on the state of mind rather than portraying the picturesque reality.   I am still amazed by how different the various interpretations of a classical work can be.   Pastoral under Bruno Walter is too ponderous to me.  On the other extreme, the version by Karajan was too fast throughout.

    Without researching into the Pastoral, I would not be able to tell the differences between Takumi K160 and other amps.  I will most likely comment that this amplifier has higher resolution than another one; the sound stage is seemingly wider and deeper; and the speed is faster than before.  Aren’t these comments apply to everything?  At the extreme level of performance at Divin Lab, I must study more before sharing my thoughts.  I have to say the Takumi allows me to easily distinguish the conducting style of different legendary batons by detailed facts.  

    This is the 2nd note of my thoughts on the Takumi K160.  Do not under-estimate the rest of components in the chain in delivering the true state of art.  They include Zanden JINPU phono stage, Zanden Chukoh preamp, Tripoint Troy ELITE NG, Wadax Atlantis Reference DAC, Hartvig Statement analog turntable, Thales Statement Arm, Destiny cartridge by Miyajima Lab, Skogrand Stravinsky Power/Interconnect/Speaker cable, Argento FMR EE power/ground/interconnects, SRA craze 3 rack and Virginia amp stand etc.  At this level, even the Argento FMR EE ground cable makes a tremendous improvement on the Zanden JINPU phono.  

  • Many thanks for sharing your thoughts PT. Seems like Takumi 160M gives access to music in way that very few amps do. Looking forward to further thoughts.
  • In less than 10 days, I went to visit Divin Lab again to listen to K160 together with Mr Dynamic.  Risking of using the conventional description that PT has implicitly expelled above, I would like to share more thoughts on this 2nd session.

    First and foremost I have to declare I seldom have goosebumps when listening to the music, not because I am not moved by the music, may be it is more because my skin is naturally less ‘reactive’ to such listening excitement except when my son is singing next to me when he is driving!  He is for sure not a good singer but he sings freely and fearlessly in the car.  

    Divin lab and PT’s home are 2 places where I had the most number of ‘goosebumps’ experience as the music there really ‘resonate’ through my body exciting every single pore of my skin!  With K160, music can at one moment be bouncing dynamically and violently up and down transiting in split second seamlessly into a controlled calmness and serenity.  It is really beyond my comprehension on how this could be technically achieved without causing any perceived compromise.  

    CD playback on Wadax Reference DAC under K160 rivals the best analogue playback that I have ever heard.  It becomes even more appealing and convincing to me that it is the ultimate digital source as K160 delivers more truthfully the musical details from the upstream.  Music is just like happening next to me, in front of me similar to my son singing next to me....how can I not have goosebumps!!  No joking, my gal bladder also felt excited by the music that I have to go and visit the toilet twice during the audition.  I was utterly thrilled by presence of the music seemingly bringing me back to the original venue of the recording thou the tunnel of time!  Using the Beethoven No.9 Symphony mentioned by Dynamic above, I were one of the audience watching how Karajan conducted the entire orchestra intertwined with the aria performers!  I could hear myself whispering a few times ‘wa’ during the over 10minutes performance!

    On my way home in the car of Dynamic, I told him it is getting more challenging to describe the level of performance of Divin lab with the advent of K160.  People really need to come and hear for themselves to avoid being accused of exaggerating the realism that we have just experienced.  

    My greatest salute to PT who has relentlessly heightened the hi-fidelity of Divin Lab and most importantly to Robert for a job extremely well done!  Among the other audio exotics, I have to vote unanimously without hesitation that K160 as the product of the year 2019!

    Marvel










  • edited November 2019
    When is another note on Takumi K160?
  • I will write this week.
  • edited November 2019

    I am writing my final note on Robert Koda’s Takumi K160 with a heavy heart.  What is happening now in Hong Kong is unprecedented in history.  At this time of my writing, the “fate” of my home is unknown.  Situation changes by hours.  The ponderous atmosphere drove me to the universe of Beethoven.  The first movement of the 5th Symphony – Fate (命運) – resembles the prevailing situation in Hong Kong.  I had chosen the Carlos Kleiber’s version (SACD, Esoteric) for serious evaluation playing through the Wadax Atlantis Reference DAC/Transport.     

    For this is one of the most glorious accounts of the Fifth Symphony ever conducted and recorded, the orchestral playing is rich and glowing, superbly articulated and dynamically acute. The first movement is taken quickly with tension and elegance.  The exposition of the finale was proudly plotted: brass broad and imposing, strings racing and exultant.  Differences amongst Carlos Kleiber, Klemperer and Karajan are primarily of emphasis.  Klemperer and Karajan direct the span of the finale, a shade more certainly, a shade less fervently than Carlos.  

    The Goebel Divin Majestic speakers under the command of Takumi K160 (fed by Argento FMR EE power cords and Skogrand Stravinsky Interconnect XLR from the Zanden Chuokoh preamp), I could comprehend some marginal quickening of pace in the coda in the first movement.  There was also a sense of urgency - a byproduct of the extraordinary tension the performance generated earlier on.  And the great trombone-led passage conducted by Carols was the most powerful amongst other great conductors.  The tonality of the trombone requires tremendous resolution and control of the amplifier to shimmer with adequate body. The horns were superb throughout, especially thrilling in the first movement motto and in the Scherzo.  Under his baton, the golden and serene sound of Vienna Philharmonic, was now blazing white with heat at the crescendo. 

    To compare, the Zanden Kaun mono amplifiers quickly directed my focus/attention to the molten intensity of the finale. My hands were sweating more.   The transition of the serene tonality of the Vienna Philharmonic to a blasting flame was relatively hushed in comparison to Takumi K160. Robert, on the other hand, demonstrates the ability of the Vienna Philharmonic to color and shade the rarest pianissimo, both before and after the crescendo.  To recap, even the melancholic second movement communicates a sense of balletic vitality.  This clearly manifests the extreme lyrical resolution of the Takumi.  Credit must also be given to the Tripoint Elite NG to recreate all those magical moments of inter-temporal silence between notes and all those special cues amongst different instrumental groups.    

    From the infallible line of its famous opening, crackling with excitement, to its celebratory ending, Carlos Kleiber’s interpretation of Symphony No 5 under the control of Takumi K160 sweeps the field.  The joyous energy of the music of the last movement championed my spirit in the infinite space of hope for the betterment of Hong Kong.

    Last comment:  There are no upper limits preset when one strives for excellence in arts. Hopefully, we have someone in each generation exemplify such merit. In my humble opinion, the Takumi K160 has reached the pinnacle of amplification arts. 

    Robert Koch, my sincerely thank you for your work. 


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