Country of Origin
Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Denafrips Terminator+ clock-synced to Soundaware D300Ref SD transport/USB reclocker; Preamp: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with WE VT52/300B or Elrog 50/300B; Power amps: LinnenberG Liszt monos; Headamps: Questyle CMA-800r monos; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Aurai Audio M1 [on loan]; Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, LessLoss C-MARC Entropic cords between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía 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 so no wall behind the listening chairs
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D100Pro SD transport; DAC/pre: Denafrips Terminator or COS Engineering D1; Amplifier: Bakoon AMP-13R or Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model 1 w. Franck Tchang magnesium super tweeters, Zu Submission subwoofer, LessLoss Firewall for Loudspeakers; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Room: ~4x6m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win7/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: Kinki Studio Vision THR-1; Phones: Audeze LCD-XC on Forza Audio Lab cable; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 120
Upstairs headfi system: Source: Soundaware A280 SD transport; Integrated amplifiers: Schiit Jotunheim R or Bakoon AMP-13R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a, Audeze LCD-2, Final Sonorous X & D8000, HifiMan HE-1000
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; DAC: Kinki Studio; Preamp: Wyred4Sound STP-SE II; Power amp: Pass Labs XA-30.8; Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120; Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: TBA
Prologue. When synchronicity met Bakoon's AMP-11R in our 2012 review pages [below], it marked the approximate time when an obscure Japanese underground brand took on the world. Korean enthusiast Soo-In Chae had joined Akira Nagai's firm in 2009. The express intent was to establish broader market share. He pursued this by modernizing Akira's cosmetics and build. Soo-In's sleek dual-chassis AMP-11R became a hit. Under now Bakoon International, more models followed. This branding was to distinguish his emerging export line from ongoing Japan-only models. Akira's sole export market then was South Korea with a few sales to Australia. In Korea then, two lines under nearly the same name were perhaps bound to create eventual conflict.
Eight years later, this peaked. Akira's Korean importer Bakoon Mania had become VP of Bakoon Japan. He decided that for Korea, Bakoon Int. was unnecessary competition. Besides calling their products inferior copies, he filed a de-registration lawsuit* against the brand/logo trademarks which Soo-In had secured upon launch of Bakoon Int. at the Korean trademark and patent office. The court case would be over name rights. Outside Korea they'd never been registered. Foreseeing an untenable situation regardless of outcome, Soo-In opted to finally separate. He wanted to formally and fully extricate his own design team. Ever since their year 2015 100wpc AMP-51R, his engineers had worked autonomously. Their ongoing R&D to the original Satri circuit had culminated in the patented Jet Satri refinement premiered in the AMP-13R. Over 11 years, their marketing and engineering efforts had made Bakoon famous outside Japan then Korea. Yet the time had come to break with a now 70-year old inventor and his combative new VP. Give up the name. Hoist a new flag.
* On November 19th, Soo In updated this legal status. "I just got a call from my attorney that we won the trademark lawsuits in Korea. The judges decided that in 2009 when I registered them with Nagai-San's full blessings, it had been an unknown brand without any meaningful revenues or adverts. Bakoon Mania may still pursue this through the higher courts but it should be very difficult to challenge the judges' decision. Bakoon Japan never registered trademarks anywhere in the world. This was a terrible idea so when I joined, I properly registered all the necessary trademarks in Korea, the US and the EU. We still own them."
AMP-13R & AMP-41 in production.
Apart from solicitors, does anyone really win in a divorce? Simon Lee in Seoul had undergone his own with April Music. It led to today's Simon Audio. Now Bakoon Int. would renew. How?
By late August 2020, "I can't reveal the new name yet. It's undergoing trademark registrations in many countries. Off the record, I can say that we're presently working on two amplifiers, one the AMP-23 at 20wcp, the other the AMP-43R at 75wpc. The matching DAC will take more time. So it looks likely that we'll relaunch with the entry-level amp. That should be great for those who've wanted an AMP-13R but didn't have the budget."
AMP-13R on the test bench.
Award-winning circuitry. Repackaged for less. It sounded like a solid plan to make a bit of a splash. Of course it would still aim at an audience with the right speakers and intelligence to know that they never listen at anywhere near 20 watts. Fanciers of low-power SET are well aware. Transistor lovers not so much. Still, that's the target audience for the first non-Bakoon Jet Satri integrated. About the model names, "we're sticking with our established system and certain other legacies. We carefully thought about model names from the very beginning to be good for years to come. The first number shows the series based on physical size from 0-5. The second number signifies circuit generation. A final 'R' is for 'reference', 'M' for 'mini'. So on size the new AMP-43R belongs to the 4 Series like the AMP-41 precursor. 3 reflects a 3rd-gen circuit, 'R' indicates reference parts and other enhancements throughout. The AMP-23 sizes like the discontinued HPA-21/DAC-21. Unlike them it contains the very latest circuitry, just not the costlier reference enhancements to secure its competitive price point. Either way, both of the new amplifiers incorporate new cosmetics for which I already submitted another Red Dot application. It's really a very interesting industrial design!"
… to be continued…
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