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Chris Redmond
Financial Interests: click here
Source: AMR CD-77.1
Preamp: Music First silver TVC, Music First copper TVC
Amplifier: E.A.R. 509 100wpc monos, Plinius SA Reference
Cables: Kimber Select KS-1030 silver ICs, Kimber Select KS-3035 silver/copper speaker cable, Artisan Silver Dream ICs, Kimber High Current power cord, JPS Kaptovator power cords
Equipment supports: Finite Elemente Spider Rack for components, Townsend isolation platform for AMR CD77.1
Power delivery: PS Audio P600 multi-wave, separate Kimber high current mains spur
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System Resonators and sugar cubes, AMR audiophile fuses
Room size: 70 cubic meters
Review component retail: $12,000/pr

I believe it was at the Heathrow Show in 2007. I came across the Podium Sound Model 1 flat panel speaker by designer Shelley Katz. His enthusiasm was infectious [his staying power in the industry less so - Ed]. My overriding memory from that demonstration is of being extremely impressed and surprised to hear flat panels belting out real bass with a snap and depth I'd never experienced during numerous encounters with Quad electrostatics; or the odd soiree with MartinLogans despite the latter being augmented with not insubstantial bass units. What also impressed was the 15kg weight and 10cm depth. Those facts had me play the idea of mounting two against the bedroom wall, landscape aspect opposite the bed, wall-mounted shelf in the center for the CDP and integrated amp. The speaker cable would of course run behind a plasterboard false panel. So would the power cords. The possibilities were very interesting. WAF would be at an all time high especially if the acoustically transparent cloth grill could have something nice printed on it to match the d├ęcor. This is where memory fails. Although I remember trying to elicit a pair of Model 1s for review, it ultimately proved fruitless. After cursing Podium Sound under my breath it was time to move on. Still the concept of a flat panel without the most obvious weakness of a flat panel remained attractive, specifically if the panel was standing on its own and didn't cheat by recruiting cones for the heavy work. Nothing against cones. Flapping paper is my own transducer of choice. Yet strictly speaking a flat panel should surely be a panel which is flat, i.e. not the equivalent of a size 8 super model with an elephant's bum.

One friend whose opinion I hold in high regard suggested a pair of Maggies. Those could be had for reasonable coin used to experience what this approach had to offer in my room. There was no suggestion that any Magneplanar could realistically approach full range. It was more a case of sampling the lauded midrange transparency of flat panels without breaking the bank. After serious consideration and much research I decided to give Maggies a miss. Problems with reliability involving deterioration of the glue holding the voice coils to the mylar sheet had me wary of bidding on any eBay auction. Once again my interest started to slide as the mesmerising midrange of my reference Audio Note AN/Es had me dismiss any notion of worthwhile magic elsewhere.

Then word of mouth reached my door about a flat panel speaker which did bass, was as transparent as a politician's promise and an honest-to-goodness genuine flat panel. No elephant bum, no flapping paper, no sub. As luck would have it I'd just managed to complete the Rosso Fiorentino Volterra review and sent them packing back to Italy (the installation of a central heating system during their period meant a very protracted stay for the Volterras). With the AN/Es still upstairs there was a vacancy on either side of the equipment rack just begging to be filled. Recalling the unsuccessful courtship with Podium Sound and associated feelings of inadequacy, would Kingsound be more open to a review solicit for their King III?

Now fate intervened. The Volterra review had tested my 100wpc E.A.R 509 amps to their limits. What I needed was something akin to the SS muscle amp I'd recommended. For high-sensitivity speakers my 14wpc Mono Max SETS are ideal. But here I'd need quality which could drive any speaker regardless of sensitivity or impedance. In practical terms that meant buying used. Now my eBay watch list quickly accumulated numerous meaty power amps such as a Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 300, Levinson 335, Bryston 2B SST2, Krell FPB-600 and many others. Those came and went over the next few weeks.

As anyone who has carefully researched equipment before buying knows, opinions differ wildly. Although a home audition is the only sensible way to proceed, lack of time and presence of competing bidders can make this impractical. Buy used at a good price. If a component doesn't hit the spot, you don't usually lose much if any when you resell. The risk is usually worth it. To all manufacturers and dealers cringing at the prospect of potential customers buying used, I'd suggest that a great many cannot upgrade to that shiny new box until they sell their existing gear. The used market complements rather than competes with the market for new components. This of course is why many dealers accept trade-ins. With this in mind I contacted a few without success before ringing distributor Stephen Riddick of Select Audio. I anticipated he could direct me at retailers who'd be more likely to bear fruit. Whilst chatting I informed him how I was hoping to review the Kingsound King IIIs which at 83dB demonstrated why I needed a drive-all amp. At this point Stephen casually informed me that he had a pair of Kingsounds which he believed were indeed the latest King III. He'd have to check as they were still in the shipping crate. How convenient!

Kingsound at Munich HighEnd 2013 premiering... electrostatic headphones.

Location wasn't. Cumbria is an almost two hour's drive north. A great deal of it are winding roads which would have to be negotiated in my workhorse diesel VW Transporter. Stephen was adamant. The shipping crate would not fit into the back of my Passat estate. On arrival at his home late one evening he was proven right. At 1.9m tall (6ft 3"), 0.77m wide (2ft 6") and 0.24m deep (9.5"), this was a monster. The only saving grace was not being as heavy as size suggested. This was to be a relief for my neighbour—frequently plagued by a bad back as he is—who helped me carry it into the house around midnight bribed by the chance to watch his beloved Manchester City play in glorious HD on the projector the coming weekend.