Country of Origin


Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, COS Engineering D1, Denafrips Terminator, Soundaware D300Ref,  AURALiC Vega 
Preamplifier: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with WE VT52/300B or Elrog 50/300B, Nagra Classic, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module)
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1 monos, SIT3, F5, F6, F7; Goldmund/Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos; LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Kroma Audio Mimí; Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & VI & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence; Fram Midi 150 & 120; Acelec Model One
Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL3000 and Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps/sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands 
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: €800/4, €1'500/8 ex VAT

Have amp, need DAC. If you're Soo In Chae of Bakoon, you'd gotten the memo. "For new products, we considered three by year's end. Hopefully we'll have at least one during this difficult time." The time was early 2020 and the giant brake which the covid-19 pandemic had stepped on globally. It forced Soo In to remain in self isolation in Silicon Valley. He couldn't safely travel to Japan to join his other engineers on R&D. What were those three planned products? "A DAC-13R and, under new branding, a DAC+HPA with current drive and a 50wpc amp perhaps with DAC option."

Why a new brand? Akira Nagai had started Bakoon in Japan and exclusively sold to his domestic market. His brand remained a small underground affair barely known outside the nation of islands. When Soo-In joined him, he took the company global to spearhead R&D on models redesigned for export. This eventually led to new engineers joining his team. "We’ve been completely on our own with the AMP-41 and all products since are differentiating themselves further from Nagai-san. He is 70 years old now and retirement seems imminent. Also, there's been far too much confusion in Korea where he now sells ~90% of his output. So the time seems right to end two parallel lines—our global models, his Japan-built production—and break away with a new identity."

It's difficult to balance respect/loyalty and the need for change/renewal. When Kondo-San passed away, his successor took sonics in a new direction. It soon led the UK's longstanding importer Definitive Audio to part ways. Considering history, where it continues to be made and who trained him, calling the product Kondo remains perfectly legitimate. It builds on a decades-old reputation and infrastructure. At the same time, if an iconic name no longer delivers the same sound, something essential has changed. Even the new sound doesn't fully stand on its own. It remains tethered to and confused with older expectations. Now making a clean break can be the right thing to do even if it entails restarting a brand and building a new reputation from scratch. Why carry old karma if you can make new one?