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Review: Kudos Audio Cardea Super 20 Floorstanding loudspeaker

Review: Kudos Audio Cardea Super 20 Floorstanding loudspeaker are extremely coherent, light-footed and fluid reproduction

Review: Kudos Audio Cardea Super 20 – When I was a guest at importer Latham Audio at the beginning of 2020 for the festive introduction of the beautiful Kudos Audio Titan loudspeaker series, I also became very curious about the lower-priced but internationally highly appreciated Cardea series from this less well-known British loudspeaker manufacturer in the Netherlands. So it’s no wonder that the news that I would be receiving a pair of Cardea Super 20A put me in a humble but heartfelt jubilation mood. It would be a get-together in which it was constantly difficult to keep my attention on my electronic notepad. The music claimed a prominent leading role for itself. Or have I already given away the punch line?

Kudos Audio has been based in Willington, Durham, England since its founding in 1991. Founder and chief designer Derek Gilligan takes his mission to build the best loudspeakers possible. He is an avid follower of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) principle. His design philosophy rests on three pillars: only first-class materials, the best possible loudspeaker units and the simplest possible crossover filter based on the best components. Gilligan uses another remarkable premise. Relying on the vast experience of himself and his design team, music plays a greater role than measurement in every step of the design process. Kudos’ loudspeakers are therefore largely designed ‘on the ear’,

Technic of Kudos Audio Cardea Super 20

The Kudos Audio Cardea Super 20A is the top model of the Cardea series, which starts with the C10 monitor, which is also available in a Super 10A version. Then the C20 floorstander with the Super 20A as superlative, and also the top model of the series. The main difference between the regular models and their Super A versions is that the latter can also be actively controlled. For this purpose, the connection panel is provided with separate and unfiltered inputs for tweeter and woofer/midrange driver. For such an active setup you can use specialized systems such as Linn, Naim, Exposure or Devialet, which provide the loudspeaker units only with the frequency range for which they are intended via active filters between preamps and power amplifiers or refined DSP software. But that’s not the only difference. In the Super versions, our own KS-1 speaker cable is also used and the filters are hardwired and equipped with better – say top class – components. High-end air coils and Supreme resistors from the German brand Mundorf are matched per speaker pair and a sublime Clarity Cap CMR foil capacitor (with CopperConnect technology) from the Wales-based ICW. So even if you want to control them passively (in that case you leave the bridges on the connection panel), you will get a better speaker with the Super 20A that is central in this review than with the C20. The connection panel can only handle banana plugs, so no spades or bare wire. High-end air coils and Supreme resistors from the German brand Mundorf are matched per speaker pair and a sublime Clarity Cap CMR foil capacitor (with CopperConnect technology) from the Wales-based ICW. So even if you want to control them passively (in that case you leave the bridges on the connection panel), you will get a better speaker with the Super 20A that is central in this review than with the C20. The connection panel can only handle banana plugs, so no spades or bare wire. High-end air coils and Supreme resistors from the German brand Mundorf are matched per speaker pair and a sublime Clarity Cap CMR foil capacitor (with CopperConnect technology) from the Wales-based ICW. So even if you want to control them passively (in that case you leave the bridges on the connection panel), you will get a better speaker with the Super 20A that is central in this review than with the C20. The connection panel can only handle banana plugs, so no spades or bare wire. So even if you want to control them passively (in that case you leave the bridges on the connection panel), you will get a better speaker with the Super 20A that is central in this review than with the C20. The connection panel can only handle banana plugs, so no spades or bare wire. So even if you want to control them passively (in that case you leave the bridges on the connection panel), you will get a better speaker with the Super 20A that is central in this review than with the C20. The connection panel can only handle banana plugs, so no spades or bare wire.

The drivers used by Kudos Audio have been made at (and in collaboration with) Norwegian loudspeaker developer SEAS since its inception. The tweeter is a SEAS Crescendo K2 ‘textile soft dome’ tweeter from the brand’s top series Excel, manufactured to Kudos’ specifications, and the woofer is an 18-centimeter ‘long throw’ model with a hand-coated paper cone and a phase plug specially made for Kudos. placed on the copper clad pole piece. just like the filter components, the drivers are matched within the smallest possible tolerances to obtain the purest possible time and phase behavior. This is usually expressed in a rock-solid placement, a large spatial image and a compelling rhythmic representation. The nominal impedance of the Kudos Audio Cardea Super 20 is according to Kudos 8 Ohms, a minimum impedance is not specified. The sensitivity is 88 dB at 1W/1m. The ‘Average In Room Response’, as Kudos describes the frequency range, is 30 Hz to 30 kHz and they recommend an amplifier of a minimum of 25 and a maximum of 300 Watts. If there’s one thing that isn’t remarkable about these speakers, it’s these specs, and that’s exactly how I like it. Driving shouldn’t be a big problem, even for my tube amp, so the reproduction quality of these speakers will mainly be determined by what you put in front of them. and that’s exactly how I like it. Driving shouldn’t be a big problem, even for my tube amp, so the reproduction quality of these speakers will mainly be determined by what you put in front of them. and that’s exactly how I like it. Driving shouldn’t be a big problem, even for my tube amp, so the reproduction quality of these speakers will mainly be determined by what you put in front of them.

The housing

The cabinets measure 92.5 by 20 by 27 centimeters (H x W x D) and are made of two-sided veneered 18 millimeters thick HDF. Carefully placed damping mats and acoustic foam are used internally. The choice for HDF is not as obvious as you might think. The softer MDF is a lot cheaper and much easier to work with. However, HDF has a much greater consistency in density. Not only in the panels themselves, but also between different production batches. That also fits in with the choice to build every Kudos loudspeaker according to the highest standards. Although Kudos Audio is known as an expert in the field of Isobaric bass reproduction – in which two woofers are placed in phase behind each other so that a deeper and more powerful bass reproduction can be achieved with a smaller housing – this principle has not been applied in the production due to the higher costs. Cardea series. The small C10 and Super 10A feature a carefully tuned bass reflex, but the floorstanding C20 and Super 20A use what Kudos calls ‘fixed boundary bass reflex loading’. The bass reflex pipe is placed in the bottom of the loudspeaker housing, which in turn is fixed ‘floating’ on thin feet above a sturdy foot. Because the bass reflex opening always ‘sees’ the same outflow in this way, it functions the same under all circumstances. This eliminates an important disadvantage of bass reflex. Most manufacturers place the reflex opening at the rear of the cabinet for aesthetic reasons, but then the distance to the wall behind determines to a large extent the quality of the low reproduction. The Cardea Super 20A comes with height-adjustable spikes that you can screw into the foot from below, but you could also opt for the popular IsoAcoustics instead.

Kudos Audio Cardea Super 20

Gaia can choose decoupling feet. For reviews, however, I always prefer to listen to the speakers as supplied by the manufacturer. The short fronts, rounded at the bottom, are held in place with magnets. My better half doesn’t mind looking at speaker drivers, so I left the fronts in the box. The speakers should in any case be listened to without during serious listening sessions, because the speaker cloth is never completely acoustically transparent.

Set up and connect

Because I did not expect any problems with the bass reproduction due to the fixed boundary bass reflex loading principle, I initially placed the Kudos Audio Cardea Super 20As exactly where my prototype Kharma Ceramic loudspeakers with closed bass cabinets are normally located. After some shifting, it turned out to be the ideal place in my living room annex listening room. About forty centimeters from the back wall, two meters apart and slightly turned in. They were connected via AudioQuest Willam Tell Zero speaker cables to the 8 Ohm terminals of my PrimaLuna EVO400i amplifier. The 4 Ohm clamps gave a somewhat claustrophobic reproduction with less spaciousness and a somewhat stiffer ‘flow’. This indicates that the minimum impedance does not deviate very much from the nominal, and that the loudspeakers, as Kudos Audio themselves indicate, are indeed not a complicated burden for a tube amplifier. The sources used were an AURALiC ALTAIR G1 streamer and my Thorens TD 125 record player with Jelco arm and HA-103C cartridge and an AudioCreative PhonoDude tube phono stage. The interlinks, network cables and power cables were all from AudioQuest and an English Electric 8Switch with iFi iPower supply took care of the distribution of the Ethernet signal.

Importer Latham Audio told me that while the speakers had been playing for a few hours, they could use some more play-in. Briefly about that response: as far as I’m concerned – in terms of audible effect and therefore in usefulness – there are major differences between electrical response of, for example, cables and equipment, and mechanical response of, for example, loudspeakers and phono elements. In my firm belief, mechanical response is many times more important and sometimes really makes a difference between a mediocre and a (very) good rendering. But the head was already off with the Super 20As. As a result, I did not have to endure those first hours of introverted reproduction with restrained bass and hardly any sparkle and spaciousness – which characterize almost all brand new dynamic loudspeakers.

Kudos Audio Cardea Super 20

Listen

The very first music I seriously listened to was the fantastic psychedelic jazz of De Beren Gieren, the Ghent wonder combo led by the Dutch multi-instrumentalist Fulco Ottervanger. Their new album Less is Endless only came out last September 10, but it has been one of my contenders for the 2021 year list since the day of its release. What I immediately heard in the exciting track Guggenheim House was the speed of the reproduction and the beautiful, very generous spaciousness. The light paper woofer/midrange driver and the matched components certainly contributed to this. The layer displayed by the Cardea Super 20As is clean and contoured and has no ‘overhang’. By that I mean that the layer view doesn’t dominate and seems to come after the view. On the one hand this gives the impression that the bass is a bit slim, but on the other hand it also provides a lot of overview in the musical picture, especially during busy musical passages. And if it really has to go deep, it goes pretty deep. Not stone-crushing, but I don’t think you can expect that from one 18-centimeter woofer per side.

Another recent favorite is the 14-CD box set Das Orgelwerk, containing all the works Johann Sebastian Bach wrote for organ. Bach specialist Simon Preston recorded them over the years and played them on various European church organs, where the differences in acoustics and timbre are clearly audible. Preston’s performance of Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier (1757, BWV 731) on the organ of the Klosterkirke in Sorø, Denmark, gives a beautifully transparent impression of the space, with the reverberation of the music on the left and right far beyond the loudspeakers and even a fairly convincing illusion of height is displayed.

Kudos Audio Cardea Super 20

Speaking of the illusion of ‘being there’: recently, after years of searching, I finally got hold of the recording of a concert that I attended myself in 2006. The classical electronic music of Brendan Pollard falls into the category of Berliner Schule (a ‘Cosmic’ music genre with Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream as pioneers) and the special thing about this performance was that Pollard had two Mellotrons with him that once belonged to Edgar Froese, one of the founders of Tangerine Dream, had been. And which also contain the original ‘tape samples’ of, among other things, a choir and a flute. The display via the Cardea Super 20As transported me effortlessly back in time to the Auditorium of Eindhoven University of Technology, on that late summer-like Saturday afternoon in October. The long tracks full of sequencers and spatial effects had an almost intoxicating effect, it took me no effort at all to completely forget the playback chain and go deep into the music. Which also turned out to sound fantastic at concert volume. The distortion these speakers add to the music is inaudibly low, allowing you to spin quite loudly without the slightest trace of strain on the ears. This was also noticeable in the fact that I could still discuss the memory of that concert with my wife in a fairly normal tone while the music was playing.

Pat Metheny’s new album Side-Eye NYC (V1.IV) is a beautiful, integral live recording of a concert he gave in New York in 2019, in which he played a mix of new songs and music with two young and talented jazz musicians. classics from his extensive oeuvre. The performance on this Better Days Ahead album (originally on 1989’s Letter From Home) is groovy and smoky, and the atmospheric role played by keyboardist James Francies almost forgot the great loss of Metheny’s close friend and long-term musical partner Lyle Mays. The recording sounded warm and intimate, with a delightful flow through the Kudos speakers. The correct timing and phase I mentioned earlier played a very big part in the credibility of the musical reproduction.

Conclusion – Kudos Audio Cardea Super 20

The Kudos Audio Cardea Super 20A is a loudspeaker that I saw leave with some regret. Although they just missed the very lowest sub-layer that I sometimes enjoy so much, their extremely coherent, light-footed and fluid reproduction – which also held up convincingly at low volume – had convinced me early in the listening process. This is a speaker that lets you listen to music and easily cuts itself out of the playback. What you put in comes out with playful ease, without coloring and without noticeable deviations in the tonal spectrum. And also beautifully spatial and catchy, with a high credibility. Where the more expensive Titan series might sound a bit too high-end for some listeners due to the even further implemented neutrality and speed, the Cardea Super 20A is more of a friend to everyone. In the most loving sense of the word. The simple placement and the problem-free controllability – whereby the following applies: the better the front-end, the better the reproduction – make it a loudspeaker that deserves more attention in its price range. Add to that the simple yet special technology, the modest dimensions and the choice of four colors (walnut, natural oak and black oak wood veneer or satin white lacquer) and you have a very suitable loudspeaker for an environment where listening is also alive. must be.

Price 

  • Kudos Audio Cardea Super 20A: € 5,995

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