Kralk Audio is owned by Alan Clark and located in the Yorkshire town of Wakefield. Ian Ringstead takes a listen to the company’s BC30 loudspeakers (£429) and matching PAW stand (£350). 

Alan Clark who owns Kralk Audio is a relative new comer to the quality hifi scene, but he has been a passionate audiophile since his youth. At the age of 12 he made his first speaker by putting some EMI 6×9 drive units inside a shoe box with rock wool nicked from his dad’s loft and which he thought sounded great. From there Alan experimented and his music teacher at school showed him how to build simple crossovers to add multiple drive units enabling him to build better speakers. KRALKBC30_S

The name Kralk comes from his school days when a friend used to turn people’s names backwards and call them by their new name. So Kralk Audio was begun when in 2012 Alan was told by friends that the speakers he had been making for friends to use in studios were so good that he ought to make a business out of his hobby.

CONSTRUCTION

The BC30’s (Black Cat) were named after Alan was building a pair in his workshop and a black cat walked in curious to see him at work and so the name stuck. The 30 is from the fact the speakers are 30cm high. Essentially they are a classic small bookshelf design hand crafted and are finished in real wood veneers of which there are several options. They are felt lined for natural damping of the cabinet and Sonarflex acoustic foam padding is used. Drive units are a 130 mm bass mid doped paper cone which has a flat response. The tweeter is 25mm fluid cooled design with Alan’s own 6mm solid aluminium face plate, which offers excellent dispersion and maintains cabinet rigidity through the 6 hole mounting to the front baffle. Each speaker has matched components and the crossovers are hand built using hand wound inductors and audiophile MKP capacitors whilst internal wiring is Van Damme. The back panel has a very smart aluminium terminal plate with very good quality gold plated binding posts. BC30S

The grilles are black cloth covered frames that are slim and elegant with magnets built in to make attaching to the front baffle a cinch (a nice touch I have seen in a few designs and far nicer than the usual peg and socket arrangement). The front baffle comes in either a natural wood veneer finish matching the rest of the cabinet, or a smart black acrylic finish that I felt was quite eye catching.

SOUND

Because the BC30 is an infinite baffle design and very compact it is meant to be positioned on a bookshelf or close to a wall to work optimally. I found it they were moved out into my room on the stands then the bass reinforcement was diminished and they then sounded bass light. In close proximity to a wall or on a shelf they sound great as they were designed to do. Alan was conscious though that not everyone had an ideal spot to place the BC30’s in or they wished to have them further into their room on stands so he developed the PAW stand (Passive Audio Woofer). Inside the PAW is the same 130mm bass driver which is on a 12db 200hz resin cast crossover, it’s an equal part bandpass design with the drive unit firing downwards into a heavy damped foam and long fibre wool chamber, the top part is damped with foam and outputs through the 50mm port. The stands are 70cm tall and finished in black ash but any other veneer finish can be made to order to match the speakers or room furniture finish. paw_standS

The PAW is an interesting concept and although not a new idea, it makes for a neat solution in order to add extra bass without having a separate active sub in your room taking up valuable space. As they are passive all you have to do is link the PAW’s pair of terminals to the main speakers with the wire links provided and away you go. I have found in the past that subwoofers can be problematical, especially passive designs where you are totally reliant on them matching your main speakers perfectly. Gladly I was pleasantly surprised how well the PAW did match the BC30’s and spent the vast majority of my reviewing time with them in use. They integrated very well with good control and didn’t boom like a lot of subs can. I would say that they are an essential add on if you buy a pair of BC30’s and want the extra bass on offer. It wasn’t just more bass though that the PAW provided. Like all good subwoofer designs, if integrated properly they gel with the main speakers and add air and space to the sound field giving a far more believable sonic picture and focussing of the sound.

The sound quality of the BC30’s is very natural and clear with great depth when there in the recording and the clarity is excellent. All types of music faired well from rock to classical, solo acoustic and vocal. There was a lovely 3D sound stage which made the speakers disappear and they could be driven hard without fear of blowing them up, unlike older designs I fondly remember back in the 80’s. They are not power hungry and are sensitive at 90dB 1w. Low powered amps can be used, whether valve or transistor. Dynamically they are very good for the size and didn’t baulk at loud levels when pushed sensibly to test them out.

As they produce a very clear open sound they might take a bit of getting used to if you aren’t familiar with that type of presentation. Personally I love an open sound as long as it is accurate and musical (i.e. I can listen to it for hours without switching the system off). This is what greeted me when I first heard the BC 30’s at Whittlebury this year and made me want to review them. They are unlike any other small monitor I’ve heard from my long experience in the business and I recommend you don’t try and compare them with old designs like LS 3/5 a’s or Linn Kans which are classic designs from the 80’s and have great attributes in their own rights, but are also unique and have their own fan base.

What I love about the BC30’s is their honest approach to the sound which Alan has honed from many hours of experimentation in his workshop and listening room. He has lovingly created a cracking little speaker that is beautifully made by himself and utilised excellent drive units and components to produce a superb addition to the classic British mini speaker range. In a small room on shelves the BC30 will shine especially if, like me, you have a spare room where I do all my hobbies or you have a man cave  to get away from it all (or your other half occasionally !!). Used in a standard living room you will probably want the PAW stands for the added bass.

Now to price. The BC30’s are £429 a pair in the standard range of finishes which are light oak, sapelle, walnut, black ash or cherry. As stated earlier, Alan can finish them in any veneer you wish such as bird’s eye maple or piano finishes, but with a commensurate increase to cover additional costs. The PAW stand can also be finished in any finish to suit and cost £350 in black ash as standard with special finishes at an additional cost.

Frequency response:  20Hz to 200Hz , Rear ported (only on powered PAW)

Impedance: 8 ohms. Dimensions: 720mm x 280mm x 280mm (hwd)

Column size: 180mm x 180mm .Connectors: 2 high quality gold plated connectors with anti-shred washers.

The PAW can also be bought just as a stand without the bass units and are £150, so you can use them with other speakers such as Kralk Audio’s DTLSP speakers which are a larger stand mount.

CONCLUSION

So here we have a lovely little speaker that is easy to drive and has a very musical sound. You could try them on their own first if the budget is tight, but I really liked them with the PAW and feel the extra money is well spent.

So for £780 you get an excellent set up that won’t dominate your room and will sound fabulous.

With the PAW you’ll be amazed how deep they go for such a small design and they will go pretty loud. I have to say I was rather taken by the BC30’s and for the money are well worth trying out. Alan will gladly let you call at his home to hear them in his extension or try them in your own home. Being made to order Alan keeps his costs down and sells direct to the public from his website which is very informative and a useful guide to his product range. Compared to like for like products these are a seriously good buy for less than £800 as a combination, or just a great book shelf speaker in a study.

BC30’s RECOMMENDED LOGO NEW

Sound Quality: 8.6/10 

Build Quality: 8.6/10 

Value for money: 8.7/10 

BC30 With PAW Stand 

Sound Quality: 8.8/10 

Build Quality: 8.6/10 

Value for money: 8.8/10

 

Pros  

Very well made neat design

Great value for money

Clear open sound that is detailed and lively

With the PAW added bass is very welcome when used out into the room 

Cons

Not everyone will like the openness of the sound if not matched with decent electronics and cabling

Bass freaks will want a bigger design altogether

Ian Ringstead

 

Designer’s Notes

I make all the cabinets and crossovers myself in the workshop and assemble everything up, there is no workforce, just me and the wife Christine, she has the design eye and the typing skills.

The BC-30 design came about when a friend had asked me to make a small bookshelf speaker that would actually fit on a bookshelf without sounding “boomy” and coloured, as all the other speakers he had tried had suffered from this problem. The design brief was a speaker under a foot tall that still could do room filling sound from a bookshelf position. The BC-30 was born.

The BC stands for Battened Cabinet and the 30 is cm tall. For the bass driver I chose a 1.8kg 110mm Doped paper unit well known for being almost indestructible and a 25mm 160watt silk dome tweeter. The crossover is a 12dB Bessel design crossing over at 3khz, with an engineered presence peak at 1300hz to counteract the bookshelf positioning. The cabinet was originally made from 9mm birch ply, but was later changed to heavily damped 9mm MDF – I just found the ply too inconsistent to work with and it caused all sorts of problems. The speaker was a hit with my friend and others who heard it.

The BC-30 was launched at the Whittlebury Audio Show September 2013 and sold alongside our popular DTLPS-1 monitors. I kept the price as low as I could so everybody could enjoy the little speaker and it was an instant success packing out the room and getting a great reception on the show blogs.  Over the coming years the speaker sold well and overtook sales of the DTLPS-1.

In 2014 I made a few changes to the crossover using even better quality Capacitors and this time I used hand wound air core inductors instead of the ferrite rod ones I used in the previous versions. I found every little tweak just made them sound better and better.

In 2014 the BC-30 was upgraded to Black Cat status and I upgraded the speaker with new terminals and now with a nice new Alloy terminal plate and black acrylic face plate to make the speaker look even better. I made a dedicated stand for the Black Cat for the 2015 show called the PAW (Passive Audio Woofer) – the reasoning behind this was people were wanting to use them on stands into the room and the design simply didn’t work in that situation as it needs the rear wall and the bookshelf to get the right bass extension from the tiny box. The PAW stand features the same bass driver as the speaker but mounted in an equal part ported band pass cabinet working below 200 Hz and it allows the Black Cats to come down off the bookshelf and play with the big boys. The stand worked really well and was a hit with the public at the show and I feel it has taken the little Black Cats to another level and given them a wider appeal to the buying public.

For the time being I think this version of the BC-30 will run for quite a while although I do have plans to make an over the top version with an external crossover like our DTLPS-1 Elite, but for now orders are coming in for them and I’m happy with the steady flow. I’ve tried over the years to get away from the LS3/5 look, but people still love that, so now I manufacture the Classic and the Face Lift versions of the Black Cats side by side to give more choice. With each pair being hand crafted from scratch it also make it easy for each individual pair to be customized to the customers’ needs with regards to cabinet finish and colour…and all done for the same price, unless it’s an exotic veneer finish and then I have to charge extra according to cost. And that’s about it, thanks.

Alan Clark

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