May
2021

Country of Origin

Korea

Enleum AMP-23R

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 Gaia/Avatar, Soundaware D100Pro SD card transport; Preamp: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with Elrog ER50; Power amps: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos; Headamp: Kinki Studio Vision THR-1; Headphones: 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, Furutech DPS-4.1 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, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; 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 D300Ref SD transport; DAC: Denafrips Terminator; Preamp/filter: Passive Preamplifier icOn 4Pro SE w. custom 4th-order/40Hz hi-low pass;
Amplifiers: LinnenberG Liszt; Loudspeakers:sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan];  Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~4x6m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win7/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: COS Engineering H1; Headphones: Final D8000; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 125
Upstairs 2nd system: Source: Soundaware A280 SD transport; Integrated amplifiers: Schiit Jotunheim R, Bakoon AMP-13R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model 1
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; DAC: Kinki Studio Vision DAC-1; Preamp: Wyred4Sound STP-SE II; Power amp: Pass Labs XA-30.8; Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120; Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: $5'000, + $500 for optional isolation footers

Prologue. Synchronicity. It met Bakoon's below AMP-11R in our pages in 2012. That marked the approximate time when an obscure Japanese brand took on the world. Korean enthusiast Soo-In Chae had joined Akira Nagai's firm in 2009. His 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 distinguished an emerging export line from ongoing Japan-only models. Akira's sole export market then was South Korea, with just a few sales to Australia. In South Korea, having two related though different catalogues sell under nearly the same name was perhaps bound to cause confusion. When it did, conflict followed.

Eight years later, it peaked. Akira's Korean importer Bakoon Mania had become VP of Bakoon Japan. He was bullish that for South Korea, Bakoon International was unnecessary competition. Besides calling their products inferior copies, he filed a de-registration lawsuit against their brand/logo trademarks. Those Soo-In had secured upon launch of Bakoon Int. at the Korean trademark and patent office. The court case would dispute them. Foreseeing an untenable situation regardless of outcome, Soo-In opted to separate. He wanted to extricate his own design team. Ever since their 2015 AMP-51R of 100wpc, his engineers had worked autonomously. Their ongoing R&D to the original Satri circuit had culminated in the Jet Satri refinement of the AMP-13R. Over 11 years, their marketing and engineering efforts had made Bakoon famous outside Japan and Korea. Yet despite winning the trademark lawsuit, the time had come to break with a now 70-year old inventor and his combative new VP.

AMP-13R & AMP-41 in production.

Apart from solicitors, attorneys and lawyers, who really wins 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 follow. Here is that story as it unfolded.

Late August 2020: "I can't reveal our new name yet. It's undergoing trademark registration in many countries. I can say that we're working on two amplifiers, the AMP-23 at 20wcp, the AMP-43R at 75wpc. A matching DAC will take more time. So it looks like we'll relaunch with the entry-level amp. That should be great for those who 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. Splash? It of course still aims at an audience with the right speakers and intelligence to know that they never max out 20 watts. Fanciers of low-power SET are well aware, transistor fans not so much. Alas, that's the target audience of the first Jet Satri circuit for this new brand. About nomenclatures, "we're sticking with our established system and certain other legacies. We carefully thought about model names from the very beginning. 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. The AMP-23 will size like the discontinued HPA-21/DAC-21. Unlike them it has the latest circuit just no costlier reference enhancements to secure its price point. Either way, both new amplifiers incorporate new cosmetics for which I already submitted another Red Dot application. It's really a very interesting industrial design!"