In another World exclusive to Hifi Pig review, Roksan has offered us a look at their new Kandy amplifier dubbed the Kandy K2 BT… BT you ask? Don’t you mean the Kandy IV? No we don’t. The BT stands for Bluetooth as the Roksan has the ability for users to stream uncompressed audio from their smartphones, tablets and home computers to the amplifier. This is a great idea as it enables friends and family to bring their playlists to parties and if the predecessor to the Kandy K2 BT is anything to go by, this is a party amplifier.
With its updated power output of 140wpc the BT remains visually in the style of the previous amplifiers, easily complimenting and upgrading a former Kandy system from Roksan. On the rear however is a small coaxial screw terminal for an aerial, much the same as the ones which you would see on a router or wifi card on a pc to allow for the transmission of those Bluetooth signals.
The amplifier has a good solid build and weighs in at a bit of a lump, from memory slightly more than the previous incarnation, most likely due to its larger more efficient power supplies which Roksan claim will give better bass response and a cleaner clearer top end. There are also other enhanced circuit revisions and tweaks over the K2 III which have been selected to enhance the amplifiers pace, power and precision whilst still retaining its signature sound.
We need to bear in mind that not all equipment is suited to all types of music and component selection is critical to our own tastes. We may listen to say 70% Rock and 30% Jazz and on selecting a system which does both of these very different types of music well is no mean accomplishment. There’s always a sacrifice to be made somewhere, I myself sacrifice the sheer volume of dance and trance music for the timbre of acoustic music and the cleanliness of beautiful vocals… but that doesn’t mean I don’t listen to the former anymore.
So to begin with, knowing from previous Kandy experience, I’m going to go for what I expect this amp to not cope with as well and then move on to what I predict to be its strengths.
After doing some preliminary listening (once I felt the amp had come on song after roughly 100 hours of play time) I had some initial issues with certain areas of the presentation with more delicate, vocal and acoustic work. So I began to tweak the cable compliments.
I would steer away from silver plated copper cables – even with the expensive Graditech Lumi 3’s ‘Silvered’ conductors in place the top end seared too much for my liking, the ‘Solid Copper’ was an excellent choice over the ‘Stranded Copper’ this time around, adding body and grunt to vocals, whilst displaying a more refined treble.
A similar scenario was true using the finely silvered copper interconnects from Graditech, they sound absolutely magnificent in my main rig, but I felt the solid core silver Audioquest Sky cables gave the Roksan that little bit of smoothness and refinement it required. There was still a bit of a bass hump which I was finding difficult to control, so next I swapped out power cables. Firstly I tried a Sablon Audio Gran Corona, which actually made the bass larger which is what I was trying to steer away from. The DH Labs Power Plus AC and Red Wave cables cleaned things up wonderfully but the top end began to sear a little again which I had just managed to control. the Oriton AC-3 was the last option or it was just make do time, the AC-3 has a great ability to clean up the sound and at the same time relaxing it, it gave the amp a better and darker background, calmed the humps and made the amp sound much more natural and balanced, allowing the system to really sing and sound (to my tastes) more palpable. The upper regions still retained sparkle and transparency, air and openness yet in a more defined manner.
Shelby Lynne’s performance of ‘Just A Little Lovin” has a very snappy treble line following the track which was clean and natural, there’s great ambience on the track and the Roksan conveyed this with an enveloping soundstage. Vocals were focused and a little on the warmer side of neutral with more of a full bodied richness to them. Bass had that wonderful slap and sharpness to it in the upper regions, crisp and extended with good roundness, a little heavy yet not bloated.
Caroline LoVelle’s ‘Spirit’ album produces a mixture of interesting points, deep powerful bass notes, waves of mid to high frequency tones and delicate treble artefacts which when all combined can very easily cause blur. The K2 BT does a pretty good job of layering these individual portions and I was very surprised to hear how free the vocal remained, a little too projected or forward, but clean and vibrant and true to the way the album is recorded. Some finer details can be a little subdued but this is really splitting hairs for an amplifier costing £895.
Carmel Gomez’ ‘Freewheel Blues’ showed fantastic vocal clarity from the K2 BT, accompanied with wondrous bass that although a tiny bit loose had timbre and naturalness to easily bounce the track through and underlining it with rhythmic musicality. Cymbals were clean and a little unrefined but retained a separate space in the soundstage, allowing for fantastic dynamics to come from an open and spatial soundstage. Whilst ‘Big City’ had good tone to the trumpet work , piano was a little forward and strangled in the higher notes and less refined than instruments within other frequencies. Faster Cymbal work in other parts of the album was very effective, showing that the Roksan can handle speed and complexity without blurring, piano is extremely difficult to communicate correctly, so we can forgive the BT here as even in some very high end system it can still be a struggle.
The top end on the Roksan K2 BT can sound a little excitable through my Ayons with their ceramic tweeters although through the Frugel3’s there was a more natural and controlled flavour, I also had the ability to have a little play of the amp on my partner’s Amphion Helium 520’s which are a little more forgiving by their very nature and they sounded, cohesive and expressive, showing great air and sparkle, with full bodied mids and tuneful bass, although this was not with my normal main system – I used her Teac Reference CD Player which was a great musical match for the Roksan in my opinion.
The Roksan amp really does come to life when playing dance music, it is nothing short of an absolute marvel! ‘Mikado’ DJ Tiesto was exhilarating and I’m inclined to think that the Roksan has perhaps been tuned by a raver! Music was huge, rhythmic, punchy and bouncy with treble artefacts that filled the entire room seamlessly, it was beyond a typical ‘speakers disappeared’ confrontation when blasting some dance and trance – it was completely euphoric power and got me moving instantly. I don’t listen to as much of this type of music anymore as Emilly, bless her with her valves overtones, can do a good job but not a great job like the Roksan can.
Likewise when listening to Def Leopards ‘Hysteria’ album it could be said that the amp was tuned by a rocker. There was that that edginess, grunt and live sounding flavour that Rock music needs to sound convincing.
I also listened to a vast amount of the very latest Pop music and the easiest way to do this was with Spotify through the Touch. There’s a category for the ‘Top 100 Tracks’ and this allowed me to give the lesser quality MP3 files a whirl. Well I must say I was impressed! The Roksan’s natural speed and dynamics lent its hand to this genre much the same as dance and rock, giving an engaging, fun and enjoyable listen, fantastic for parties. The quality and resolution of the files was excellent with the Kandy and even when turning up the wick and belting out some strong bass into the room the music remained controlled and enjoyable.
I made a comment on the Totaldac review that the dac doesn’t do dance or electronica but I’ll eat my words and say that when partnered with some transistors that know how to belt it out it certainly can do these genres.
I had begun to feel that the amp perhaps had a slight hump in the upper bass/lower mids and the same with the very lowest bass, along with a couple peaks around 10 and 15-16khz, but for this particular type of music I feel it has been tuned perfectly, giving a more dominating and exciting performance and reminding me of the Cyrus X Signature monoblocks with their attack and grip, pace and rhythm.
Using the Bluetooth feature on the Roksan is so easy I just laughed to myself. I was expecting a little bit of fiddling but there was none of it, I simply picked up my Android phone, turned on the Bluetooth (it found the amp named ‘Roksan K2’ immediately) clicked and I was connected instantly. The same scenario was true when connecting my iPad, although I did have to disconnect from the phone first
On both devices I was able to stream music from their onboard players using Spotify and YouTube, with playback starting the very moment the source track was started. There is no connection code to enter either and you are able to rename the device if you wish.
Sound-wise… well this ultimately depends on the source material, the likes of YouTube and lower quality mp3’s didn’t sound as good as lossless material which sounded pretty bloody good indeed. Obviously there is still a slight loss of quality through the wireless connection but it was not an awful lot with WAV and FLAC files, retaining the Kandy K2 BT’s character.
This feature is such a novelty and I had hours of fun flicking through different music and watching a lot of live stuff on YouTube through my iPad. The feature is the ultimate party companion – after alcohol and women of course!
I would suggest careful speaker and cable matching to be able obtain qualities from a lager range of music than those that the K2 BT really excels in – it’s far from impossible but it takes a little commitment to finely tune. In the price bracket of the amp along with speakers I have heard in this range I would suggest Monitor Audios Silver RX6 or 8 which have the newer C-CAM2 tweeter which is tamer than the previous incarnations, or possibly some Tannoy DCT6 which are also a smoother sound that would love the kick up the proverbial which the Roksan can offer with its 140wpc into 8 Ohms. For a second-hand purchase I adored the Amphion Helium 520’s but would definitely hunt down some Ruark Prologue II’s, which I feel would make for a match made in heaven.
There’s no denying that the K2 BT can do large dynamics, speed and attack, convey heavily weighted bass passages with ease and once suitable synergy has been obtained, the top end can sound refined and expressive leading down into the mids with great coherence.
If you’re after an amplifier which bridges the gap between a live PA sound and a Hi-fi setup then look no further.
In its price class the Roksan is an absolutely fantastic purchase and if I was building a system in the price range of the K2 BT I would have it as a serious contender on my demo list, along with an Audiolab CDQ and probably some Ruarks to get that balance for my tastes in music… and that Bluetooth feature is just brilliant!
Author – Dan