Up to 37% in savings when you subscribe to Hi-Fi+

Begin typing your search above and press return to search. Press Esc to cancel.

Kudos X2 floorstanding loudspeaker

Kudos X2 floorstanding loudspeaker

Kudos’ avowed aim is to bring many of the qualities of its high-end Cardea range to a lower price point, and the firm has created a new series to that end. The X2 is the first model in that range.

The Cardea range of loudspeakers all use 180mm nominal diameter mid woofers.. However, the X2 is designed around a smaller mid-woofer, and its cabinet has been scaled down to suit.

The X2’s 18mm thick MDF cabinets are nicely made and neatly veneered in lacquered real oak (with other veneers also available). The loudspeaker stands just 780mm high, 166mm wide, and 206mm deep, and so is quite small for a floorstander.  There is an internal cross-brace, mounted just below the woofer, which stiffens the front, sides and back of the cabinet. To deal with internal sound reflections a 25mm thick layer of sculpted white acoustic foam is positioned behind the woofer and tweeter, with a separate piece down inside the lower front panel. Apart from the internal bracing, there are no other methods employed to reduce cabinet panel vibrations.

Drive units are both custom made for Kudos by Norwegian high-quality driver specialists SEAS. The woofer is based on a 150mm nominal diameter cast aluminium alloy chassis. It comprises a doped-paper cone and dust cap, and a 26mm diameter voice coil,  with blackened  former to improve heat dissipation. The tweeter has a 25mm diameter soft-fabric dome and voice coil, with ferrofluid cooling for improved power handling. Both are made to SEAS’ usual high standards

To cover and protect the drive units, there are two chunky MDF framed black cloth grilles, held to the woofer by three magnets which snap onto three cheese-headed steel woofer fixing bolts (the other retaining bolts are dome headed and not used for grille retention). This neat and simple method means that there is no need for ugly plastic or rubber grill-retaining holes in the front panel, giving a much cleaner appearance when the grilles are absent. Considering that the sound quality is greatly improved when these grilles are removed, they are likely to be off for much of the time.

 

The acoustic outputs of the two drivers are blended by second-order low and high-pass crossover networks mounted in the upper rear section of the cabinet, behind the woofer and  tweeter. The crossover’s passive components comprise Clarity Cap polypropylene film capacitors, Volt manufactured air-cored inductors, (wound with heavy gauge copper wire), and what look like Mundorf metal-oxide resistors. All are hand soldered, component to component, and glued to the MDF panel. Elimination of the printed circuit board used by most manufacturers minimises metal-to-metal junctions and avoids the extra resistance of copper tracks. This can result in improved sound quality, at the expense of more labour time required in manufacture.

Internal wiring from the twin-terminal input panel to the crossover networks and between the crossover and drivers, is taken care of by high quality Chord Sarsen loudspeaker cable. This cable features stranded copper conductors and FEP (Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene) insulation, (a softer and more easily formed variant of Teflon than PTFE). All the internal connections are soldered, with no push-on connectors to be seen.

The woofer is reflex loaded at low frequencies by a 50mm diameter internal port mounted in the bottom of the enclosure. It vents into a gap between the cabinet and the plinth, which is defined by 20mm  long spacers, retained by long bolts. Unlike rear mounted ports, there is no need to worry about the port being blocked by curtains or furniture, because the low frequencies effectively emerge from all around the base of the speaker. Each loudspeaker has a black-painted MDF plinth, provided with adjustable carpet-penetrating spikes and locking nuts.

The larger and more expensive Kudos Super-20 is characterised by a big, lively, detailed, and musically communicative nature, so I wondered whether this entry level model would share some of those qualities. Frankly, I initially doubted whether such a small speaker as the X2 would be able to reproduce a satisfying sense of scale but, in the event, I was pleasantly surprised.

I connected the speakers up to a Creek Destiny integrated amplifier, which I felt would be representative of real world partnering amplifiers – not super high-end and certainly not bottom rung. The main signal source was the remarkable Sony HAP-Z1ES hard drive storage/DAC unit, delivering a smooth yet very detailed rendition of Red Book CD (as well as higher resolution material, up to double DSD).

Unlike some speakers that try too hard by thrusting the midrange at the listener in a vain attempt to impress, these little speakers set up a wide and deep soundstage, assisted by a slightly recessed midrange, and (like the Super-20) a degree of treble lift. They provided a surprisingly big sound from such modest loudspeakers.

While playing Morcheba’s ‘The Sea’ from Big Calm [Indochina], Skye’s voice was clear, well focussed, and nicely textured. Low frequencies were surprisingly rich and, while not so deep and powerful as can be heard from larger loudspeakers, were quite tuneful enough for me to be able to enjoy this track.

Swapping musical styles completely, was Brahms’ ‘Sonata for Piano and Violoncello in E minor Op 38’ played by Mstislav Rostropovich and Rudolf Serkin (Johannes Brahms The Cello Concertos [DGG 410 510-2]).  In the ‘Allegro non troppo’ and ‘Allegretto quasi Menuetto’, the interplay between the Rostropovich’s cello and Serkin’s piano was delightfully revealed. The sounds of both instruments in the recorded acoustic were rich, full, and surprisingly convincing. If I closed my eyes I could easily believe I was listening to a larger and more expensive pair of loudspeakers.

This last factor is important, because, at a cursory glance, the X20 might appear to be rather expensive for such a small loudspeaker, but I quickly gained the impression that its innately transparent qualities help it to punch somewhat over its apparent weight.

 

Changing musical styles yet again, playing ‘I’ll be your baby tonight’ from Barb Jungr’s CD Every Grain of Sand: Barb Jungr Sings Bob Dylan [Linn Records] showed again how well the X2 reproduced piano and string bass, but also how capably they handled her husky, richly sensual, and intimately recorded voice.  The piano presented enough clarity to reveal complex inner harmonics. From this reproduction it was very clear that the microphone had been placed close to the the piano’s strings. Surprisingly, the instrument was reproduced with a solidity and impact that is quite rare, especially at this price level. Also, the string bass was rich, powerful, and tuneful.

As for detail, the X20’s brought it all out, but not always in a kind way. For instance, in the track, ‘If Not for You’, the lively reproduction of high frequencies was possibly highlighted a little too much.

The track ‘Alborado’ from Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Cappriccio Espagnol’ from Espana!, [Argenta/LSO/Decca] revealed the X2’s ability to set up a big clear soundstage, with dazzling frenetic violin, and tempestuous  tambourines. The tuned tympani and sonorous horns resonated realistically from the rear of the orchestra. Rapid changes from lyrical and poetic flow to manic exhibitionism of this exotically orchestrated piece came across with all the vitality one could hope for and, yes, the Kingsway rumble (background sound of underground  trains and traffic) captured in this recording was very clearly audible.

As suits the music, this recording is quite lively and brightly lit and that is exactly how it came across via the X2, with maybe an extra degree of brightness thrown into the mix. I had been listening with the speakers firing either straight down the room, or directly at me, but angling the speakers in slightly, so that their axes crossed in front of me helped by feathering off the treble and shifting the tonal balance more toward neutrality.

I knew this was only a recording and for all that reproduced through a couple of wooden boxes, but somehow they enabled me to close my eyes and lose myself in the performance. Not perfect reproduction, by any means, but nonetheless a presentation that transported me to the musical event. I am not quite sure how they pulled off this trick, but there was a lot of low level information and detail transmitted. My guess is that the loudspeakers presented sufficient musical information and cues to the ears to fool them –  just enough.

Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns [Asylum] may not be the obvious choice for a review disc, but I have found this CD a good test of  equipment’s ability to keep musical strands separate and un-muddled. The track ‘Jungle Line’ is very complex and densely recorded. In short, it trips up less able equipment. The X2 fared pretty well, all things considered. The loudspeaker’s treble character did not flatter the the recording’s high frequencies, sounding slightly scratchy and rough at times. However, the X2’s allowed the track’s dark, complex, and dirty rhythms to be conveyed clearly, keeping them separate and distinctly audible. Bass reproduction was not particularly powerful, but never boomed and kept good time.

 

I then played the ‘Adagio molto’ and ‘Allegro con brio’ from ‘Beethoven’s Second Symphony’ on Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 2&5 with the Gewandhaus orchestra conducted by Kurt Mazur, [Pentatone Classics 5186 143]. Using the ripped Red Book layer, the speakers again set up a convincingly large sound stage in the Gewandhaus’ reverberant acoustic. This recording has the orchestra set quite distant from the microphone and this can sometimes sound too distant and recessed, but this was not the case with the X2. The instruments were all reproduced with a fresh clarity and the double basses had a good degree of richness. All in all a very enjoyable performance.

I hate to categorise loudspeakers into being particularly suitable for one type of music than another and the X2 is no exception.  However, the fine resolving power of these speakers seems suited to well recorded music. Classical, and other music recorded in a natural acoustic, fared particularly well because the X2 pulls out so many tiny details, clues, subtle harmonics, and musical strands.

With over-produced, or otherwise compromised recordings, or harsh sounding electronics, the X2’s may fare less well, so this quality can be a double-edged sword.  At times, when listening to the X2, I felt I could do with a tweeter level control, but at others the speakers were like a breath of fresh air. So, on balance, the musical benefits seemed to outweigh any potential pitfalls. However, partnering with with auxiliaries that deliver the musical details and qualities that they need will be the key to extracting the best results from these speakers.

So, if you care about hearing what’s in your recordings, you owe it to yourself to audition the X2 and make up your own mind, not based on size, but on the end results. They may be small, but they are capable of great music making.

Technical Specifications

  • Type: Two-way, two-driver floor standing loudspeaker with bass reflex port loading
  • Driver complement: One 25mm soft dome ferro-fluid cooled tweeter, one 150mm woofer with cast chassis, 26mm diameter voice coil, treated paper cone and dust cap
  • Crossover frequency: Not stated
  • Frequency response: 30Hz – 25kHz AIRR (Average In Room Response)
  • Impedance: 8 ohms nominal
  • Sensitivity: 86.5dB
  • Dimensions: (HxWxD) 780mm x 166mm x 206mm
  • Weight: Not stated
  • Finishes: Oak, black, cherry, rosenut and walnut real wood veneers, and plain white.
  • Price: £1,495/pair

Manufacturer: Kudos Audio

Tel: +44 (0) 845 458 6698

URL: www.kudosaudio.com

Tags: FEATURED

Read Next From Review

See all
AURALiC ALTAIR G2.1 Front
REVIEW

AURALiC ALTAIR G2.1

AURALiC calls its ALTAIR G2.1 a 'streaming DAC preamplifier'. The terminology of 'post physical' digital formats can be confusing, but Jason Kennedy thinks it doesn't matter when the product's this good!

GutWire Synchrony3
REVIEW

GutWire Synchrony3

GutWire Synchrony3 cables are part of GutWire's 'Cubed' series. The Canadian cable brand that underplays its presence might just be one of the best cable brands out there, according to Alan Sircom

Titanic Audio Model S
REVIEW

Titanic Audio Model S

Calling a cartridge brand 'Titanic Audio' might not seem like the best choice, but the company's HQ is close to where the Titanic was built and the cartridge borrows its style from the doomed liner, according to Alan Sircom

Magico A5
REVIEW

Magico A5

The A5 floorstanding loudspeaker is the largest model in Magico's 'entry' A-Series. Alan Sircom wonders how much of Magico's top-end performance does this bring to a more attainable price point.

Sign Up To Our Newsletter