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When you enter that particular zone, almost at once that precious check list starts looking a bit meaningless, like some kind of voyeuristic irrelevance which doesn't actually do that much to aid your appreciation of music. It's as if the things we have searched for all of our audiophile lives turn out to be subordinate to the really significant qualities. The real value lies somewhere else. It's like we've suddenly grown up. We've discarded the childish toys and now we have the means to begin a very serious appreciation of one of the great arts.

A lot of impressive systems draw one's attention to the hifi qualities but these qualities should not distract in any way from the heart and essence of the music. When it goes wrong, somehow the coordination, balance and holistic Zen don't quite gel in the same way. It's the oneness that is a key characteristic of the Kondo sound. A piece of music will be a single coordinated entity, not a collection of disparate semi coordinated bits.

The Gakuoh push pulls are 22 watt 300B valve-rectified monoblocks. They use 3 x 5687 input driver and phase splitter valves, 2 x 300B Western Electrics in cathode-biased class A and 1 x GZ 34 valve rectifier on two copper chassis, each with volume control and an on/off switch, using a lot of hand-made silver Kondo gubbins inside. 23 kilos each net.

They use proprietary hand-made silver foil and mica coupling capacitors and twin differentially balanced Tango mains transformers. The power supply choke is Tango again. The proprietary hand-wound output transformers use age-annealed pure silver primary and secondary windings. The amps are fully hardwired with KSL age-annealed silver wire and a look inside reveals a work of real passion and diligence, in the most beautiful hand-made, non-shortcut, fabulously executed way. Not a circuit board in sight. The quality of layout and soldering is very very attractive to the electrically educated eye.

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What about the topology? Kondo is interesting here. Many valve amp manufacturers or designers bang on about some aspect of amplifier design that they think is especially important, like no negative feedback. This then becomes the company mantra. Others say an amp must be single-ended or not use cathode follower configuration or mustn't use shunt regulated push-pull input topology.

However, when you listen to Kondo products, you immediately find there is a common DNA, a common way the sound hits you. This presentation of experience comes across in the cartridge, the step up, the preamps, power amps and cables. They all share a set of qualities that can be recognized a mile off, that are in my experience unique. But the secret to this sound does not lie in their much vaunted and copied circuit topology. Kondo makes amplifiers which are push-pull or single-ended or parallel single-ended. Some have negative feedback. Some don't. The fact is, they are not precious about this aspect of their work and yet there is an incredible consistency to their house sound. The only tech aspects that are consistent across the range are that they always use triode valves, class A and copper chassis. And that's basically it.

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There are designers and courageous DIYers who imagine that the way to achieve a great sound is like designing a car from the parts catalogue or wanting to write Moby Dick by copying the structure of the novel. Sorry, it doesn't happen that way. The great Chinese strategist Sun-Tsu (4th century B.C.) wrote in the Art of War that to defeat the enemy, you don't attack his army, you attack his strategy. To achieve the same standards as Kondo, rather than copying the topology and circuitry, it is his strategy that must be absorbed, fully understood and truly lived in a lifetime of simple aesthetic choices.