Kudos Cardea C20 wins 5 stars from HiFi Pig again!
by HiFi Pig
Kudos C20s are a relatively compact floorstanding loudspeaker made in the United Kingdom and costing CHF 5’100.- a pair. Ian Ringstead takes a listen.
I have known about Kudos since they formed and I’ve seen and heard them at many shows, but this is the first time I have had a chance to hear them in my home. The word Kudos means (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) “Praise and honour received for an achievement”. Derek Gilligan who owns Kudos and designs the loudspeakers achieves his goals in a slightly different way to the normal approach of speaker design. Derek uses music as his main tool in his designs – a bold approach that requires confidence and not a little experience. All designers have to have a real belief in their ideas and confidence to see them come to fruition, but most will rely on measurements and then tuning by ear.
Kudos are based in County Durham and work closely with some of Europe’s top suppliers in order to obtain the best possible components, connections, and excellent craftmanship.
The C20 I was sent for audition is an upgrade from the original design with the improvements being to the crossover. Derek is a big advocate of the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) which means he uses top-quality drive units, a good choice of materials, and a crossover that is kept as simple as possible for the drive units to work together to the very best of their ability.
The cabinets of both the C10 and C20 are precision manufactured from balanced veneered High-Density Fibreboard (HDF). Unlike the standard and almost ubiquitous ‘kitchen cupboard’ Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF), HDF is of a more consistent consistency both throughout the product itself and from batch to batch.
Kudos have always worked very closely with Norwegian specialist drive unit supplier SEAS. The C20 uses a custom 180mm mid-bass unit with a die-cast chassis that has large open areas. It has a coated paper cone with a 26mm voice coil and a phase plug to aid directivity. The drive unit are bang up to date having low distortion, high linearity, and low crossover modulation. The tweeter is a custom version of the famous SEAS Crescendo K2 29mm fabric dome. The K2 is normally reserved for much more expensive designs as it is a very natural sounding and musical performer – and costs more.
To marry the drive units together Derek has designed a very simple crossover that he believes conveys as much as possible of the music. The crossover is a first-order electrical circuit for the bass using a zero-distortion, low resistance Mundorf air-core inductor whilst the tweeter is filtered by a second-order electrical circuit using an ICW capacitor, another Mundorf air-core inductor, and a Mundorf MOX resistor. The components are mounted, hard-wired and well-spaced onto an HDF panel that is then torqued to the cabinets rear to maintain rigidity rather than using a plastic terminal plate that could potentially weaken the structure of the cabinets.
Internal wiring is all Kudos KS-1 cable. The KS-1’s conductors are 19 strands of silver-plated Oxygen-Free Copper (OFC) insulated with Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene (FEP) run with a slow twist and all surrounded by a hard PVC outer for protection, physical damping and simplicity of use. FEP shares PTFE’s low dielectric constant but is a little softer for claimed improved mechanical damping. The choice of 19 strands is not random and Kudos claim there were multiple listening tests carried out to identify sonic differences between the number of strands changing whilst keeping the overall conductor diameter the same. Nineteen proved to be the ideal number of strands.
The C20 has a fixed boundary bass-reflex loading design which is meant to aid low-end reproduction and it vents from the bottom of the cabinet making positioning far easier than with rear-ported speakers. Four spikes and locking nuts finished off the pedestal.
The external appearance of the C20 was clean and simple, and very well finished.
My audition pair were finished in black and had already had some use and running in and so that helped save some time. From the get-go, they impressed me with their open top end, clear mid-range, and powerful bass.
My listening room isn’t huge so I am always wary when I try floor standing speakers out – many have worked, but a few failed to impress. The C20’s definitely worked well. My room is well damped but not overly so with furnishings and a rug on the solid oak floor. I have experimented with sound panels etc. but generally speaking, the room furnished as it is works very well to my ears. The bass of the C20’s packed a punch, but it was tight and controlled whilst not dominating the overall sound or booming at all. I loathe boomy bass and prefer to have less rather than more. I put Donald Fagen’s album “Morph the Cat” in my Luxman D-05 SACD player and reveled in the clarity the C20’s emitted. The tracks all have complex arrangements but the C20’s unraveled them with aplomb as each musician played their part. The tweeter on the C20’s was excellent showing dexterity and clarity to highlight the treble (much as a good ribbon tweeter does) and spatially place the percussion perfectly. SEAS has done a great job on this design and it is no doubt aided by the quality and simplicity of the crossover design. There was no artificial sheen or taint to the treble on any of the albums I played.
Vocals flowed beautifully and I particularly enjoyed the new (to me) artist Amy Wadge, a prolific songwriter, whose had collaborations with many world-famous artists and she sings and wrote all the music on the BBC series “Keeping Faith”. The C20’s caressed my ears with her music, my only criticism being that the album is only 30 minutes long. All the vocals I tried were equally spot-on, proving that the simple crossover design had really paid off. Derek Gilligan has certainly shown his prowess here because what appears to be a simple design to a layman is far from it when it comes to the final result. Many hours of experimenting have been spent perfecting this design and it shows with the final sonic results.
Porcupine Tree can shake a system up and so I tried the album “Dead Wing” which certainly blew the cobwebs off and tested the bass units and their power handling capabilities. I didn’t go to 11 on my Luxman and my ears would have given up by then anyway but played this album at a decent level as it deserves to be. Prog Rock is not to everyone’s taste, but I grew up with it and still listen to many of the classic bands from the 70’s, and 80’s. The grungy guitar sound and the pounding bass of Dead Wing was portrayed in all its glory and the C20’s were tight and controlled on the bass allowing me to hear the complexity of Steve Wilson’s musicianship and the other band members. Sometimes you come away from listening to an album like this and you wonder what it was all about or lose interest in the music, but the C20’s kept me hooked as they communicated so well, especially when the volume was turned up.
Blue Nile is a blast from the past and I listened to their second album “Hats” and loved how Paul Buchanan’s vocals hauntingly drew me in. A warmer and smoother sound to their first album the C20’s lapped “Hats” up. The synths and strings were clearly spread out in the sound stage and the emotions the writer wanted to convey about love and relationships worked for me, meaning the C20’s could keep me interested for a long time. There is a balanced approach and sound to these loudspeakers that really satisfied.
If a system works well in synergy as the C20’s did with my Luxman amp, SACD player, and turntable then listening is a pleasure not a chore – as it should be. Every time I switched the system on I got the same buzz as I do with my Jern loudspeakers – not something that can be said of every speaker I get sent for review. The C20’s (30Hz) certainly have more bass extension than my Jerns (45Hz) so the tracks that reached down to that sort of level had more wallop, but the fixed boundary system really controlled the lower frequencies as intended in my listening room meaning nothing was overpowering or overblown.
As you can tell I really loved these speakers and if I didn’t already have my Jerns I would happily have a pair in natural oak or walnut. They are easy to drive and as such they will be compatible with many amplifiers. They have an excellent build and as such represent a stylish compact floor stander that many homes would welcome.
AT A GLANCE
Excellent as they should be for the asking price. Solid, very well finished and look smart in the natural wood finishes. The plinth makes for a stable placement but the supplied spikes could have been more substantial.
Really communicative and addictive with top to bottom consistency being tight and fluid. Lovely treble that was very classy.
Value for Money:
Not cheap and with a lot of competition. However, I feel they hold up very well because fit and finish are very good, as is their sonic performance.
Solid and tight bass and very smooth and open mid-band
Upper frequencies never became over-bearing having excellent clarity and spatiality
We Didn’t Love So Much:
The speaker connections are fine but my spades didn’t fit as well as I would have liked. Chunkier binding posts preferred
The Black Ash finish was very good but I prefer natural wood finishes, purely personal of course
The C20 is available in Walnut, Natural Oak and Black Oak.
Elevator Pitch Review: Kudos aim high with their designs and have succeeded admirably with the C20 which many enthusiasts would be very happy. They are consistent throughout the frequency range and as such they are well worth hunting out for an audition.
Price: End of Life