Introduction - what is the Cardea C10?
The Kudos Cardea C10 is a two way standmount speaker. The Cardea range of speakers sit below the Titan range from which the 505 and 606 have visited us and proceeded to lay waste to the competition. Magnificent though they are, there’s no escaping that the Titan range is a fairly high end offering. I think that, judged by the competition, the 505 and 606 are still some of the very best speakers I’ve ever heard under ten thousand pounds but I’m not so deranged as to pretend that isn’t a lot of money.
The C10 is instead £3,500. To be clear, that’s still a fair amount of money but it’s a more meaningfully terrestrial sum than the Titans. This is in fact the smallest and most affordable speaker that Kudos makes. It has existed since the very founding of the company but has recently been refreshed and updated to take into account design lessons from the Titans. As well as the C10 and the C20 floorstander, there are also the Super 10 and Super 20 that take the same design and upgrade critical components. That you can do this though, points to the basic design of the C10 being rather sound.
How does that work in reality though? Can this relatively simple and compact speaker cut it in a price category that includes some rather more sophisticated (and supremely capable) speakers? Kudos says that simplicity is a virtue but how far can you take that in practice? Finally, where does the egg sandwich come in to this? We need to *looks straight at the camera* get cracking.
Specification and Design
Something that should be covered early on in the technical description of the C10 is that, unlike the larger Titans, this is not an isobaric design. The two way arrangement in this case refers to two drivers so there’s no hidden driver or other cleverness at work here. Furthermore, the drivers themselves, at first glance at least, appear to be rather conventional too. The C10 makes use of a 29mm soft dome tweeter and a 180mm doped paper driver.
With this (and a fair bit else in the C10 in fairness), the devil is in the detail. Kudos has a longstanding relationship with SEAS, the Norwegian driver manufacturer that allows them to order slightly tweaked versions of existing SEAS designs to suit their specific requirements. The tweeter is an adaptation of the SEAS Crescendo K2; a drive unit that finds its way into some very high quality speakers indeed, including- in a further evolved form- every member of the Titan range. This widespread use across the range means that this is one of the most affordable speakers you’ll find such a device in.
The mid bass driver is also bespoke. At 180mm it is relatively large for the cabinet and to add emphasis to that, the voice coil that powers it is a fairly hefty 39mm unit. Interestingly, the C20 floorstander has a driver that is materially identical on the outside but that uses a smaller 26mm coil as Kudos has found that this works better in the larger cabinet. Unlike the Titan and Super models, this driver features a fairly conventional domed phase plug in the middle rather than the branded metal one of the more expensive models.
The crossover that links the two drivers also works on the conventional but high quality theme. Kudos ignores the recent trend for sub 2k crossover points between midbass and tweeter, with the handover between the two drivers taking place at 2.6kHz, the crossover itself is intended to be as simple as possible. Low frequencies are controlled by a first order arrangement using a zero-distortion low-resistance Mundorf air-core inductor. The high frequency section is filtered by a second-order electrical circuit using an ICW capacitor and another Mundorf air-core inductor and a Mundorf MOX resistor. The idea is that the number of components in the signal path is as low as practical and those that are included deliver the highest performance possible.
One key difference in the design is that unlike the Super and Titan models, the C10 does not have direct driver inputs for active speaker use. This not only helps simplicity but reflects that creating an active setup around a £3,500 standmount is fairly unlikely (none of the active options that the Titans make use of could be done for an equivalent price to the C10). Instead, connection is via a single pair of simple but sturdy terminals.
The cabinet of the C10 is fairly compact at 35cm tall but it feels extremely sturdy. Kudos has used high density fibreboard rather than medium density (to be clear, to the best of my knowledge, there’s no authoritative scale for fibreboard density but the C10 does feel very stout). The argument is not simply that ‘denser = better’ but that the consistency of the denser board from batch to batch is more consistent with commensurate benefits to production consistency. One design feature that is rather clever is how the crossover integrates into the cabinet. Kudos places it on its own section of board and then firmly (four big bolts firmly) attaches it to the cabinet. The idea is that the result is like an uninterrupted single section for the rear cabinet wall but one you can still service the crossover with.
All of this is solid but notionally conventional in terms of design and implementation. Compared to the Titan with its isobaric drivers, striking cabinet and general sense of wizardry, the C10 feels conventional. This though is where that egg sandwich comes in. In principle, an egg sandwich is four ingredients; bread, butter, mayonnaise and eggs. Within this deceptive simplicity though lies the gulf in result between a sub £1 supermarket egg sandwich and one comprised of those four same ingredients but each one chosen to be as good as possible. What you see here is an egg sandwich executed at the highest level. You can buy a more ornate sandwich for the same price but each extra ingredient has to be costed in and the price spread over more things.
Putting the sandwich to one side for a moment, the other advantage that the C10 has is that it feels worth the asking price. Haul each cabinet out of the box and you become aware of how solid they are. The natural oak veneer is subtle but beautifully applied (walnut, black oak and satin white are also available) and they help to emphasise the elegant proportions and clean lines. You can put this speaker in most rooms, almost regardless of décor and it will look entirely at home there. Grilles are provided should you want them and Kudos has ensured that the C10 will sit happily on the Titan 505 stand (£1,000) or work on a variety of other designs.
The cabinet of the C10 is fairly compact at 35cm tall but it feels extremely sturdy
How was the C10 tested?
The Kudos has spent time being tested with a Naim Supernait 3 running with a Chord Hugo2 and 2Go being used as a Roon Endpoint. It then moved to a Cyrus i7 XR before finishing with the Cambridge Audio Edge A being used with both a Chord Electronics Hugo Mscaler and Hugo TT2 taking a feed from an SOtM SMS-200 Neo, again running as a Roon Endpoint with everything taking power from an IsoTek Evo 3 Sigmas and Aquarius mains conditioner. Some testing also took place with a Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M running into the Edge A and a Rega Planar 10 being used with a Cyrus Phono Signature. Test material has been FLAC, AIFF, DSD, Qobuz and Tidal as well as some vinyl.
More: Audio Formats
OK, let’s briefly return to that sandwich. I maintain for anyone who stands still long enough for me to utter it that, for the relative cost of the foodstuffs required to make it, very little is as satisfying as an egg sandwich. The Cardea C10 is rather more expensive and rather more sophisticated but from the moment I got them running, they have proved consistently satisfying. A key indicator of this is that it has taken a comparatively long time to get meaningful listening notes together for them because, rather than sit there intently studying what they are doing, I’ve been listening to the music instead.
The effect of the considered simplicity of the C10’s design is that it largely demonstrates the qualities of the electronics it is connected to with a slight, but entirely welcome, tendency to flatter them. Connected to the fast and invigorating Cyrus, they deliver on the speed, detail and impressive togetherness of the i7 XR without troubling the (relatively) limited power output. So long as the C10 is a reasonable distance from a rear wall, there is no audible interference from the rear port and the claimed typical in-room low end roll off of 40Hz is entirely believable in use. When combined with the speed and dexterity of the Cyrus, it’s a fine combination.
At the other end of the scale, the news is arguably even better. That soft dome tweeter might not have the technical wizardry of a beryllium device or some other lively end of the periodic table but, just as it is in the Titan 505, it delivers a truly magnificent performance. The key to this greatness is the balance struck between energy, detail and refinement. The C10 never feels smoothed off or dull but it’s almost impossible to provoke into misbehaviour. It gives a direct behavioural link to the Titan and one that is likely to win it many friends.
Moving the Kudos to the bigger, more authoritative and more potent Cambridge Audio Edge A sees the character of the larger amp make itself felt in the performance. The live performance of Sputnik from Public Service Broadcasting’s Live at Brixton album has a muscularity and drive that immerses you in the performance. The only real limitation to this is that, even with the comparatively spacious Mscaler and TT2 running into the Cambridge Audio, the Kudos produces a soundstage that, while never small or congested, is something that is never quite as spacious as the Titan 505 or indeed more closely priced rivals. I’ve never found it to be hugely problematic but if you live for orchestras being unfolded in front of you, this might not be the perfect candidate.
If, on the other hand, you have a Naim Supernait 3 (or for that matter an XS3 or even a Rega Aethos), and you are looking around for a new pair of standmounts, stop reading, find your local Kudos dealer and get a demonstration. On the way, ensure your credit is sufficient to secure a pair because I can’t really envisage you hearing the combination and not being utterly smitten. Kudos and Naim has historically worked well but the changes for this generation of integrated amps and that sublime balance walked by that tweeter is something that combines to be greater than the sum of its (already rather great) parts. I don’t want to pretend that the seven thousand pound total cost is anything other than pretty significant but I’d be very surprised if you weren’t bowled over by the result.
While this is a high point in what the Kudos can do, it’s important to stress that there are precious few low points to counter it. Barring that slight (and to an extent, subjective) critique about the soundstage, the C10 has served to be an effective partner for everything I’ve used it with. In part, this comes down to that throwaway comment earlier about flattery. I would never describe the Kudos as anything other than an accurate and believable speaker but it isn’t a warts and all style monitor and more to the point, I don’t believe it was intended to be. The result is a speaker that tends to ‘just work’ when connected to all but the most leftfield of amplification. If you’re reading this and you know in your heart of hearts that unless you have a fully transparent studio refugee in the system, you won’t be content, this might not be what you want to hear but I promise you that you’ll spend more time listening to music rather than finding the faults with it.
If, on the other hand, you have a Naim Supernait 3 (or for that matter an XS3 or even a Rega Aethos), and you are looking around for a new pair of standmounts, stop reading, find your local Kudos dealer and get a demonstration
- A superb performance balance of realism, fun and refinement
- Unfussy about partnership and placement
- Attractive and well made
- Slight limitations to the soundstage
- Can feel prosaic next to more technically exotic rivals
Kudos Cardea C10 Standmount Speaker Review
Once again (and for the final time in this piece), I don’t want to claim that £3,500 is anything other than a fair chunk of money, so describing the C10 as ‘good value’ has to be done with me making clear that I appreciate that there is a degree of relativity to that statement. Nevertheless, what you see here is good value. This is less than half the price of the Titan 505. It cannot reach the transcendent heights of the bigger speaker but it bottles the same magic and delivers the same grin inducing performance. What’s more, it does this while being usefully undemanding about partnering equipment. This is Kudos’ smallest, simplest and most affordable speaker but it still makes good on everything that the company feels matters and the result is a joy that is unquestionably a Best Buy.
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