Kudos Super 20A Floorstanding Speaker Review
- A joyous sonic blend of realism and enjoyment.
- Unfussy about placement
- Can be used in an active system
- Slight lack of absolute detail in comparison to some rivals
- Some people might want their Super version of a speaker to have more visual differentiation from the normal version.
Introduction - What Is the Kudos Super 20A?
The Kudos Super 20A is a two way floorstanding loudspeaker. Kudos has recently updated their Cardea models and we took a look at the C10 as the entry to the range. The Super models take the design principles as the Cardeas but then proceed to tweak and modify the components they use to extract more performance.
As with so many things in the audio industry, there are pros and cons to this approach. If the basics of a speaker are sound, there’s plenty of very strong arguments for exploiting the basic potential and creating a better model without having to tool up for something completely new. The most remarkable example of this is Audio Note, who takes a range of speaker designs and proceeds to build them in versions that cover a spread of thousands of pounds. If your clientele is on board with the idea, it’s a very pragmatic one.
Of course, there’s an equally significant number of people who don’t really see their purchases this way. If they’re being asked to spend out on a better speaker (or, in fact, a better anything), they would like it to look different to the range below. Kudos is off to a strong start in terms of walking this balancing act. The Super 20A is £1,000 more than a Cardea C20 so we’re not talking about an order of magnitude difference. It goes up against some seriously talented purpose built competition though; not least the Spendor D7.2. Can the Super 20A’s beefed up internals get the job done?
Specification and Design
The Super 20A is the ‘supered’ version of the C20 rather than the C10 (there is a Super 10A as well) that we looked at before but there are some key similarities even so. This is a two way floorstander built around a 29mm soft dome tweeter and a 180mm mid bass driver. This tweeter is the same adapted version of the SEAS Crescendo that the Cardea models use (and that, in further evolved form, makes it into the Titans too). This is as much a reflection of how respectable the performance of the tweeter is that it sees use here too rather than any intent of cost cutting.
The midbass driver sees some interesting revisions though. It is still 180mm across and also derived from a SEAS design (but again differs from the ‘off the peg’ items). The cone is coated paper and this is attached to a 26mm voice coil (which, as in the standard Cardea is smaller than the 39mm one in the standmount in order to better match the characteristics of the cabinet) and mounted in a die cast chassis that has as much open space as possible in it. There is now a copper ring added to this assembly to reduce distortion and the driver is finished with a metal phase plug which is designed to improve dispersion (and offer a great place to put the Kudos logo).
The other area of substantial revision concerns the crossover. Over the course of the last year or so, I would hope that we’ve now seen enough instances of revised crossovers to know that this is a fruitful area for manufacturers to do some tinkering. Kudos hasn’t changed the fundamentals of how the crossover works; it is first order for the low frequency section and second order for high freuquency. It now makes use of a low resistance Mundorf air core inductor for LF and uses a smaller pairing of a Mundorf inductor and resistor and an ICW CMR capacitor for the HF modes. The Super models are internally wired with the company’s own KS-1 cabling. Crossover between the two drivers is 3.2kHz.
A significant revision for the Super 20A is that all these enhanced crossover sections can be bypassed altogether. Unlike the Cardea models which are solely fitted for conventional connection, the Super 20A is equipped with direct inputs (and looped outputs) for use with active systems. We’ve looked at this in the Titans and it has to be said that the potential performance on offer is extremely high. It is only balanced to point out though that, at the £5,000 asking price of the Super 20A, all of the active options that I’m aware of are going to exceed the cost the speakers to get up and running.
Something that the Super 20A also shares with the C20 but is new in terms of things we’ve seen is that it removes the rear port of the standmounts and moves to a lower port with integral plinth which means that the port is always acting on a surface a fixed distance away. This does seem to result in the floorstander actually being happier nearer walls than the smaller speaker is. With rear walls in particular, there’s little to no effect beyond a slight boundary reinforcement and side walls are barely more of an influence.
The cabinet that houses everything works to the same principles as the standard models, reflecting that it is still an impressive piece of engineering in its own right. Kudos uses sections of high density fibreboard to construct the cabinet itself and, to ensure that there is no weakened section where the crossover is placed, this is mounted on its own section of board and firmly bolted into place on the rear panel. You can buy more visually spectacular looking devices for the price of the Super 20A - the white finish of the review samples in particular is not really my thing - but rather fewer of them feel more solidly bolted together.
The good news is that the Super 20A does grow on you. It’s clean, modern and elegant. Black oak, natural oak and walnut are also available and across those options, there should be something to work in most spaces. In comparison to the slimmer and deeper Spendor D7.2, the Kudos looks simpler and perhaps less ‘serious’ but there’s a pleasing sense of proportion to it. I also like the element of ‘if you know, you know’ about the Super models. Only that phase plug really serves to differentiate them from the Cardeas and the effect is pleasantly understated; a ‘yes I take this seriously but I don’t need to shout about it’ aesthetic that appeals to me across most manufactured goods. Your mileage of course, may vary.
A significant revision for the Super 20A is that all these enhanced crossover sections can be bypassed altogether
How Was the Super 20A Tested?
The Kudos did its early running on the end of a Naim Supernait 3 and Chord Electronics Hugo2 and 2Go combination before moving to being used with a Chord Electronics Hugo TT2 and Mscaler combination using an SOtM SMS-200 Neo as a Roon endpoint and LG55 B7 OLED TV, running into a Chord Electronics CPM2800 MkII integrated amp. Some additional running was undertaken with a Michell GyroDec turntable with Vertere SG-1 arm and Mystic cartridge. Material used has been FLAC, AIFF, DSD, on demand and broadcast TV and some vinyl.
More: Audio Formats
It likely doesn’t take a genius to work out that there are underlying similarities between the Super 20A and the Cardea C10. There’s enough parts, process and intent in common between them that it could hardly be anything but the case. Given how accomplished the Cardeas are though, this is hardly likely to be a bad thing. What the Super 20A does very effectively is build on the basics of the Cardeas.
Be under no doubt though, those basics are phenomenal. There is a fluency to how the Kudos performs that is simply outstanding. The relationship between the two drivers is utterly seamless and it effectively leaves your ear and subconscious happy with the idea that you’re listening to a single point of sound. Even with the bombast of the Mammoth_WVH album, the Super 20A is together in a way that you only truly appreciate when you listen to something else.
This is aided by the top end of the Kudos (unsurprisingly, given it’s the same unit in both speakers) having that same wonderful balance of no ‘edge’ without ever tipping over into being soft or dull. The Chord/Supernait combination here is a world away from historical combinations of those two brands but it can still have a bit of extra energy to the top end. With the Super 20A completing the system, it’s sublimely refined.
It is huge fun at the same time though. ‘Synergy’ is a catch all phrase that covers half a hundred variables (more if a vinyl front end is involved) but I can’t imagine many people hearing that trio and not feeling there wasn’t plenty of it at work here though. The Kudos feeds off the superb drive and timing of the Naim and ensures that everything you play on it has a snap and immediacy that is positively grin inducing. There’s never any forcing of slower material, just a fundamental rightness to what the Super 20A does that not very much else gets near.
This is helped by the bass response too. As noted, the Kudos is usefully unfussy about positioning and it then leverages this unfussiness to hit that little bit harder than the standmount can. In terms of outright depth, the Super 20A has to give a little ground to the Spendor D7.2 but there is always enough low end to be absolutely convincing. Perhaps more importantly, this is a fast sounding speaker. It starts and stops with an urgency that ensures you are engaged by what it does. A word that crops up repeatedly in my notes is ‘tuneful’ and it genuinely applies here. You can kick off an evening with the slow but flowing magnificence of The Olympians and end with the whistles and glowsticks friendly sound of Vitalic and the Kudos won’t miss a beat.
The real advance that the Super 20A shows over the Cardeas is in terms of space and soundstage. Where the C10 could sound a little constrained with some things you played on it, the revisions here are enough to ensure that this is a bigger and more confident sounding speaker. It is another reminder that crossovers are instrumental in what speakers do. It is enough to ensure that the Super 20A has moments where behaviourally, it feels closer to the Titan 505 than it does the C10 which, in terms of price difference alone is an impressive achievement.
There is a fluency to how the Kudos performs that is simply outstanding
Kudos Super 20A Floorstanding Speaker Review
The review of the Super 20A came about in part because the question was a raised in the comments for the Spendor D7.2 review about which one of these speakers is better. Having now spent time with both, the conclusion is going to infuriate a few people because it isn’t clear cut. This is in part because the two speakers are rather different. The Spendor never forces itself on you. It’s a device that, the more time you spend with it, the more endlessly convincing it becomes. It’s a supremely accurate yet entertaining speaker that’s able to reveal endless talent across an bewildering variety of music.
The Kudos is a more immediate and charming device. There’s fewer layers to pick away in what it does than the Spendor and it needs less time to be completely at peace with what it does. If - as is a common desire for members of AVForums - you are looking for the speaker that does a finer job of recreating what the mastering engineer was shooting for, it will have to concede a small amount of ground to the Spendor; that long tradition of broadcast monitors shines through in the D7.2 even if it isn’t quite the same end result here. Splitting hairs though, if you are after a speaker that better captures what the artist was shooting for, the Super 20A starts to make more sense. It’s maddeningly hard to get into words but there are moments where the Kudos simply delivers a musicality that the Spendor - and pretty much anything else at the price - cannot match.
Which one would I choose? I don’t know. I can’t tell you if it was my money (because I don’t generally have any) how much the £300 saving of the Spendor might matter or that I think that it is proportionally perfect - it's honestly one of the best looking speakers money can buy, or whether I would be unable to resist that sheer ‘come on, just one more album’ musicality of the Super 20A. It’s Liverpool versus Man City, Delta Integrale vs Escort Cosworth or Whopper vs Big Mac. I do know that someone getting to choose between them is going to have a riot and because the Super 20A fights a speaker that was the recipient of a Best Buy award to a standstill, it has to be seen as a Best Buy in itself. This is a very good time to be shopping for a world class floorstanding speaker.
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