Country of Origin


System N°4

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: iMac 27" fully loaded, Audirvana 3, Soundaware D300Ref, Denafrips Terminator with 32 x upsampler
Integrated amplifier: Bakoon AMP-13R
Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3, Simon Audio M3, Kroma Audio Mimí
Cables: Allnic Audio ZL3000/5000
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra 
Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc & amp stands
Room: 5 x 10m continuing into open space
Review component retail: $6'200 for the amp, speakers starting at €4'500/pr

Systematically. It's how we'd like to assemble a satisfying hifi. The actual route to it is often more haphazard. Even reviewers can chance upon an unexpectedly winning combination well after a review first published. So these short features grouped under the same constellation logo are about the grace of hindsight, occasionally from sheer dumb luck when certain items just so happened to be on hand and produced unexpected sparks. In all cases, our archives will already have published feature reviews on the main components. But those reviews are about parts. Today's report is about proven combinations. Often the key players will be the amp+speaker pairing. After the room, that's the biggest variable. Adding a particular digital source (I don't do vinyl) won't markedly tip the balance or wipe out the winning bits. Neither will cables past a base level of competence. So don't expect complete itineraries. This is about locking in a particular sonic flavor or presentation with the most important determinants. Sorting out the secondary and tertiary players remains at your own discretion.

Wrap bananas in streaky bacon. Drizzle chili-infused honey atop. Put in oven. Yum. Now transcribe bacon to Bakoon. Wrap your mind around the firm's very smallest 25wpc integrated called AMP-13R which very recently won the 2020 Red Dot design award. Season with sound|kaos Vox 3, Kroma Audio Mimí or Aurai Audio M3 monitors. Heat up your steamiest tunes to drizzle over. Yum.

Today's recipe is for those whose inner Bonaparte delights in achieving more with visibly less; a lot less. It puts in the driver's seat a diminutive amp with adaptive amplification factor to behave as a remote-controlled integrated. It revises designer Akira Nagai's original current-gain Satri circuit with the new Jet bias controller. That thermally optimizes the Exicon lateral output Mosfets for instant perfection. Warm up is a thing of the past. No bigger than a paperback on its side, this ultra-wide bandwidth direct-coupled class A/B circuit is a marvel of miniaturization and extreme sonic sophistication.

Aurally it sits at the apex of a specific ascent whose first base camp is a Goldmund Job 225, intermediate camp a Crayon CFA-1.2. That route then gets the LinnenberG Liszt monos into the death zone where oxygen is rare, still below the peak but within sight of the Bakoon flag.

With its speed and crystalline clarity, the AMP-13 won't pad its dance partners or perform collagen injections. Not being a muscle amp, it also won't provide the kind of extra oomph certain small speakers like Sven Boenicke's W5 need for full lift-off. Those prefer Simon Audio's 100wpc AIO or Denafrips' Hestia/Hyperion combo. What the Bakoon provides is a most linear, resolved and unfettered pure signal of high bandwidth and speed. Speakers with inherently developed tone; with bass that needs no extra fat; with premium tweeters that hope to show off all they can do… those will be perfect dance partners as long as 25 watts hit them out of your park.

My three options are ideally suited for our smaller 4x6m upstairs room and even the bigger downstairs. Contrary to expectations, the smallest model of the Spanish Kroma catalogue in solid Krion is voiced to be darker and more voluptuous. Its small ¾" Hiquphone tweeter is tuned to be mellow and suave. The front-ported bass is aligned for bodacious power. All of it loves an amp that's lit up all over. 1:0 for the Bakoon.

The French M3 of Alain Pratali's Aurai Audio uses his proprietary perfectly unknown but truly extraordinary tweeter of just 0.12g moving mass with a Western Electric 555 type motor and Altec Lansing style 2-inch floating dome set into a precision-machined ellipsoidal Delrin horn. The mid/woofer is a 6½" ceramic Accuton on stacked 1st-order filters. The rear port isn't the usual floating tube but part of the 21mm Finnish Birch ply cabinet and considered "a near Kozumi 'Onken' Hodge alignment". The entire design prioritizes the impulse response and proper timing but also excellent tonality. Its dance with the Bakoon is très très chic and very beautiful. 2:0 for the AMP-13R's fancy foot work.

Smallest of this wild bunch of exotic monitors yet with twice the raw driver number is the sound|kaos Vox 3 in its solid walnut or cherry cabinet with slot rear port. A 4" TangBand tweeter/midrange occupies its sloping front, horizontally opposing Boxer-engine 5" carbon-fiber woofers the sides. A custom Raal ribbon super tweeter aims up at the ceiling to make for the most compact 4-driver 3-way of my acquaintance in 20 years on the beat. It and the Bakoon were my joint Product Of The Year finds for 201. Most prior trade show appearances of the Vox 3 had it on the AMP-13. This is a proven combination in a variety of very different rooms, with all manner of front ends and cables. 3:0 for the Bakoon.

If you don't worship at domestic altars to hifi, any of today's amp/speaker propositions will have you covered at a very high level. If it's the visually very smallest that'll have your vote, it's the sound|kaos Vox 3. Just so, any of these three speakers will make for a career-ending apartment system. From here one begins a happy and hopefully very early retirement from those exhausting audiophile gear hunts. Be done with the hardware puzzle. Focus exclusively on new software now. Doesn't that sound real good?

Bakoon website | Kroma Audio website | Aurai Audio website | sound|kaos website