The Audio Geek!

Kyron Audio Kronos System Review

The Opportunity

I had the good fortune to attend the Melbourne Hi-Fi show in the late summer of 2012. The star of the show was an outrageously engineered (and looking) dipole speaker system from a ] Melbourne based audio design company, Kyron Audio. Again, as luck would have it I must have been in the room at one of the quiet times of the day and was able to get a decent listen to their flagship (and then only) product, the Gaia. The professionalism of the set-up of the room, the engaging team members led by co-founder Lee Gray and the superb quality of the system were all most impressive. I subsequently stayed in touch with Lee and was able to briefly catch up again at this year’s show and see and hear their new product release, the Kronos. The room was packed as the word was well and truly out about Kyron Audio and I didn’t get the chance to have as good a listen as I would have liked. Welcome to the world of hi-fi shows. Some months passed and I made a mental note to contact Lee to see if I could arrange to have a listen to the Kronos in a more relaxed environment. Coincidently, within a week and totally out-of-the-blue, Lee contacted me to see if I would like them to bring the Kronos to my place for a weeks audition. It didn’t take long for me to say yes please!

The Kronos System

Kronos Speaker
Kronos is Kyron Audio's smaller room friendly system. Where the much larger Gaia needs some room to breath to show it's best, the Kronos is happy in small to medium sized (i.e. normal) sized listening / lounge / family rooms. In terms of number of pieces, the Kronos is dead simple. Two speakers and a Control Unit joined by speaker cable. That is it. Add source and stir. Done. While that is all true, it does not do justice to the system components that you see and some that you can't.

Starting with the speakers themselves, they consist of two 1" tweeters (one forward one rear firing), one 7" mid-range driver, and two 12" bass drivers per side. Designed in a dipole array, with sound emanating both froward and rearward, with no surrounding box or enclosure to resonate or 'drive' the sound. The Control Unit contains amplification which runs to in excess of 1.6kW of Hypex digital amplifiers. This staggering power is required to produce the SPL's required of the dipole arrangement. These are tied together with a DEQX preamp, room correction, active speaker calibration unit all enclosed in a hefty but impressive black metal and chrome chassis that sits on it's own (optional) stand or on a sturdy shelf or rack..

I am technically challenged at this level, so for much more detail on the Kronos components and specifications, please click here.







Arrival & Set-Up

Kronos
The set-up of the Kronos in my existing lounge / listening room was a smooth and structured affair. From the outrageously over-engineered flight case that each speaker unit was cradled in, to the cute lime green ‘booties’ to protect the base and to facilitate sliding into the best position before out-rigger spiking. The central 45 kg Control Unit is then placed on a (sturdy) shelf or on an optional spiked stand. Connecting the speakers to the Control Unit is via custom built speaker cables of considerable heft, and I am sure commensurate engineering to take the DEQX signal and allocate it to the appropriate driver. Connectors on each speaker end are custom, self locking alloy blocks.

Once the principal pieces are roughly in place, co-founder Leon Suter gets to work with the DEQX software and laptop to measure the room. The supplied microphone and stand is placed at the preferred listening position, then the DEQX software does it’s thing to identify the baseline room attributes. From there Leon is able to ‘tune’ the response to play with the room rather than fight it. I should also add that the set up process was a customer inclusive effort. No ‘go away and leave us alone’ attitude from the Kyron Audio team. Chatting easily as they went through each step of the process, the only silence required was for the DEQX to do it’s sweeps of the room.

Installation and configuration is included in the purchase of the Kronos to ensure that the system performs to it's maximum immediately.

Finally swapping from Leon’s laptop to mine and connecting my CD player was a straight forward plug and play job.

Listening

Listening tests were conducted via the trusty Wadia 861SE CD transport/DAC (over S/PDIF), and a mid 2012 Apple MacBook Pro (with SSD) running OSX Mavericks 10.9.4 with Bit Perfect V2.0.1 and Fidelia V1.5.3 as digital music players via USB. In addition to RedBook CDs, a combination of 44/16 and higher resolution FLAC and AIFF files were driven from the Mac.

It should not be a surprise that from the very first track it was obvious that something special was going on with the Kronos system.

OK, let’s start the listening impressions discussion with the foundation, the noise floor. The Kronos is for all intents and purposes silent. The music rises from and falls back into the blackest of backgrounds. Compared to my valve amps and high efficiency speakers, it is indeed a revelation. Also immediately I noticed a taller and wider centre image giving the impression that a real-life sized performer was in front of you, not a smaller replica in a rectangular 'visual' envelope.

Bass - The dual 12” bass drivers driven via the DEQX to work with the room deliver the deepest and most nuanced bass I have ever heard in my room. No artificial thump, no added boost to insert depth where it doesn’t exist on the recoding. I have two ‘go to’ tracks for bass. One is Harry Connick Jnr ‘Follow the Music’ from the 1994 ‘She’ album. I am not an HC Jnr fan normally but I was introduced to this track by the Asia Pacific distributor for Wadia many years ago and it gives the drivers a real work out. The second is ‘Rubberband Man’ by Yello from their ‘Baby’ album. Both sounded spectacular.

Mid Range / Male - Female vocals - A few examples to sample here. ‘Fields of Gold’ by Eva Cassidy’s ‘Live at Blues Alley’, Leon and Eric Bibb’s ‘Praising Peace’ from the 2006 album of the same name, and ‘Cherokee River’ by Walela from their self-titled 1997 debut album. I particularly enjoyed the harmonies of Walela underpinned by the hypnotic synth & percussion.

Highs - The Kronos speaker has two 1” tweeters per side one forward and one rear firing. I found the highs to be well controlled, by no means ‘hot’ or over-emphasised. I am big fan of acoustic blues and in addition to the mid range tone of steel string acoustic guitars I look for ringing and sustained decay of the strings particularly finger picking styles. I enjoyed listening to local acoustic blues artists Phil Manning, Jeff Lang and Geoff Achison doing their stuff through the Kronos. Very lifelike, live sounding and most satisfying.

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Your humble correspondent with the Kronos in situ - 2014

So, to my ears in my room, the individual components of the sound are excellent in isolation. In terms of detail retrieval and presentation, yes, you can get your jollies from hearing a stool knocked over in the back corner of the studio at the 4.55 mark of your favourite track. But what really impresses is the way every track comes together as a whole. You can hear the individual instruments in detail laid out across the sound field, but if you just pull back your attention more broadly the entire presentation morphs into focus as a gloriously reproduced seamless piece of music.

I have heard some high end systems which 'blow you away' with their sonic fireworks and you start to consider 'could anything be better?' Then by track three or five or some period of time, you find yourself needing a rest, to get away from that alleged greatness. Too much of a good thing? I didn't have this problem with the Kronos. The sound was simply brilliant and enjoyable at any volume level, and totally non-fatiguing. You will need to sleep, fill your glass or have to eat before the sound will force you to leave your favourite listening chair.

Dynamics are excellent. Notes start and stop. Musical signatures are preserved. In my preferred genres of rock and blues, the rhythm section in particular is extremely well served by the bass reproduction and the ability and speed of the Kronos to sound rhythmically correct giving energy to the performance.

The resolution of the Kronos reproduction chain is particularly evident when listening at lower than concert levels. Instrument separation, imaging, detail and dynamics are all present at near background levels and above.

One attribute we find critically important for a home system is that of engagement. It needs to draw the listener into the music and make you want to continue listening. And here is the clincher. With the Kronos, the quality set-up and reproduction transcends the sweet-spot. Sitting well off-axis in one of the sofas either side of 'the chair', you are still involved with the entire presentation, not just parts of it. Furthermore, if you can engage with your music from another room at modest listening levels, you have a winning system. The Kronos did that for us. Partaking in a lovely Sunday morning breakfast some distance away from the listening room, the music just flowed through the house and I caught myself nodding along and following the bass line of some track that I was barely familiar with. Apart from being fun, this extends the utility of the system as you can be doing other things and still be getting enjoyment and value from your ‘investment’ in the system and your music.

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Quality abounds - 2014

There is often an assumption that with high-end equipment everything sounds good, as if somehow by magic. That is of course a myth. After a couple of days and 50 or so discs of various genres and ages, I can confidently state that poorly recorded and mastered discs are spectacularly and accurately reproduced as poorly recorded and mastered discs!

As for the Wadia as a transport using S/PDIF and the Mac using ALAC rips of Redbook CDs via USB, the victory was a pretty clear win to the computer based files. To my ears the entire presentation was enhanced to the point where I stopped playing discs and copied all of my listening material to the laptop for the week.

For all of the reasons discussed above, it would come as no surprise that the Kyron Audio Kronos delivers the best sound I have ever heard in my room by a very, very large margin. Given the complexities of my room, I would never have thought the level of reproduction attained by the Kronos would be possible. Not even close. I am staggered with the sonics the Kronos achieved.

So how does the Kronos System differ from my current Supratek / Zu Audio Definition setup? The Kronos was clearly superior in the quality of the noise floor, the top-to-bottom balance, deeper and more tuneful bass, right-sized imaging and it simply made more music, more enjoyable, more easily, more often. On the flip side, when dialled in, the Supratek pre-power combination delivers superb mid-range tone and engagement (inaccuracies according to Leon!) and the 101dB efficient Zus are the ‘fastest’ speaker that I have heard and anything played through them seriously hustles along.

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This is how the Kronos speaker looks on arrival, and sadly, just before departure... - 2014

Ease of Use

Once set up, the simplicity of the plug and play / add a source approach completely disguises the depth of acoustic and technical engineering of the delivered solution. Just wake the system from sleep, cue up a track and hit 'Play'. No intricate turn-on procedures, no extended warm-up period required. Almost too easy!

Three listening profiles can be setup at installation time to present different flavours of sound although I forgot to sample the other two in the week I had the Kronos. I didn't feel the need. Or I forgot... Although I connected my laptop with a decent Kimber USB cable, I don't think the Kronos is cable fussy. I know that Kyron Audio's usual go-to USB cable is a very basic, three of four metre run of Belkin wire with standard USB Type A and B connectors at each end, and the system still sounds superb.

My listening room has either plenty of glass or heavy curtains and my current system sounds overly bright (reflective) with the curtains open, and controlled (or a little over-damped) with the curtains shut. With the Kronos and it's active electronics, there was minimal difference in sound signature and balance with the curtains open or closed. A clever trick and a very big tick for the DEQX I would say.

Like all elements of Kyron Audio products, the remote control is a beautifully crafted all metal affair controlling on/off, source, volume and muting functions and is simplicity itself.

Conclusion & Summary

I cannot overstate the stunning level of detail and quality of the Kronos. From the heavy dust covers, to the build quality of the footers and integrated spikes on the speakers and control unit, the fit and finish of the speakers (almost impossible to capture the details with my photographic skills) and of the supplied USB stick, microphone and stand and accessories hard case made me feel proud to have the Kronos in my home for a week. The fact that it is Australian designed and built makes it even more special.

The Kronos System is undoubtedly a destination product. It is one that will get you off the treadmill of upgrades and tweaks and into your existing, and I would hasten to bet, ever expanding music collection. It is a significant investment suited to individuals and families who are committed to the pleasure and joy that their preferred musical choices give them and to those who are able to exercise those choices often.

Sonically the Kronos System is world class, aesthetically it is off the charts, and operationally is barely more complicated that an iDevice. And as a destination product, you may find that the ultimate destination is the listening room in your home.

If you can, you must. We can't but we still might!

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Thanks to Lee Gray (left) and Leon Suter (right) of Kyron Audio for the unique opportunity to enjoy the stunning Kronos System in house


Postscript: I knew that Edgar Kramer of Esoteric Audio had reviewed the Kronos system, and in fact the Kyron guys left me with a copy of his review. However I intentionally didn't read Ed's comments until after I had conducted my own listening sessions and formed my views. Edgar's words and commentary are certainly much more eloquent than mine but it is interesting that our listening and visual impressions are pretty similar, which perhaps says less about us, and more about the consistency, quality and fidelity of Kyron Audio's Kronos system.