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Kudos Titan 505 Standmount Speaker Review

The 505 might not be a titan in size but it is in capability.

by Ed Selley
Hi-Fi Review

21

Best In Class
Kudos Titan 505 Standmount Speaker Review
SRP: £7,000.00

Introduction

The Kudos Titan 505 is a two way standmount loudspeaker. More than a few people are going to stop reading the copy at this point briefly and return to the little price tag on the review that says ‘£7,000’ because, let’s face it, that is quite a lot of money for a standmount speaker. You can have the best part of three pairs of Dynaudio Special Fortys for that or buy a pair of Focal Kanta No1s and then have a chunky two and a half grand to throw at driving them. I have not disappeared so far up my own fundament as to suggest that this is not a lot of money because it is.

The two speakers I’ve mentioned though are not accidental. The Dynaudio is to all intents and purposes, a perfect speaker - at £2,500 I cannot think of a single more compelling option to buy. The Focal - at an additional £2,000 - is the first speaker where its virtues make it a decisively better (if not quite as subjectively perfect) option. The Kudos is a possible answer to what you might need to spend to decisively better the Focal.

There are two further wrinkles to this. The first is that the Titan 505 has a feature we’ve never seen before on a speaker at any price, which may or may not be rather appealing, which we’ll need to discuss, test and take into account. The second is a question of scale. Both Dynaudio and Focal are (in audio terms at least) quite large companies. Dynaudio has a measurement system that looks like Professor X’s Cerebro while Focal uses metal formed by dying stars to make tweeters. Kudos, by contrast, is a company in County Durham that operates out of a small industrial unit. The thing is though, some of the things made by Brits in small industrial units turn out to be world beaters, so don’t write the Titan off just yet.

Specification and Design

Kudos Titan 505
The Titan uses edges and angles to great effect

The 505 is a two way speaker but the first break from the norm in the design is that this is a three driver design. The reason for this is that behind the 180mm driver you can see, is another 180mm driver you can’t. These operate together in an isobaric arrangement. This allows the Titan 505 to have the radiating area of two drivers in the frontal space of one. Neither is this something that Kudos has randomly started doing for the 505. They have a vast amount of experience at making this system work in domestic speakers. The drivers themselves are treated paper units with an aluminium phase plug and are developed for Kudos by driver manufacturer SEAS.

This duo is partnered with a 29mm fabric dome tweeter that is also an adaptation of a SEAS unit, in this case the Crescendo. In marketing excitement terms, fabric and paper don’t sound terribly exciting, certainly not compared to Beryllium, Composites and ‘Secret Recipe’ treatment chemicals. The thing is though, as I have noted on more than a few occasions, the combination of paper and silk, while lacking in the scope to use the word ‘spallation’, are superb materials for drivers.

Kudos Titan 505
The kicked up lower edge helps to hide the mass of the speaker 

These drivers are placed in a cabinet that is made from high density fibreboard that uses sections of different thickness to control the resonance points. It is heavily damped and braced internally with a view to creating an inert enclosure that is relatively agnostic about its placement in room. Also aiding in this is the bass port. Kudos calls it a ‘fixed boundary gap’ port which refers to the fact that, thanks to how the cabinet is designed, the required distance to be free of interference is built into the speaker itself.

 

This allows the Titan 505 to have the radiating area of two drivers in the frontal space of one

All of this is rigorous rather than radical engineering but one detail of the 505 - and indeed the rest of the Titan family - is rather different to the vast majority of other speakers on sale. The terminal panel of the 505 has a pair of 4mm sockets that are connected to the drivers in a wholly conventional fashion via a minimalist, low order crossover. In addition to this though is an extra group of eight 4mm sockets at the top of the panel, connected with bridging links. Remove the links and you can bypass the internal crossover and connect directly to tweeter and mid bass.

Kudos Titan 505
Connection via crossover or direct to driver is possible 

On the face of it, this sounds a bit crazy. The crossover is there in part to ensure that your tweeter isn’t shredded by attempting to stick 100Hz through it. Crucially though, Kudos isn’t encouraging you to not use a crossover, simply have the crossover outside the speaker. At the time of writing (January 2020), a few systems allow you to do this. The Linn Exakt and Devialet approach is digital in nature and includes the scope for room correction while the newly launched Exposure VXN active crossover is analogue rather than digital… but does allow you turn the 505 into an active speaker that can powered by any amplifiers that take your fancy because it simply outputs over RCA. This ensures that the Kudos is rather more flexible than almost any other speaker on the market.

In a more subjective area, it’s one of the best looking too. The styling of the Titan series is in part necessitated by how the drivers and port are accommodated but Kudos has managed to build a cabinet that allows for this and still comes across as a great piece of industrial design. I love the kicked up rear haunch of the side veneered section and the absence of curves. It abounds with lovely details too like the Kudos logo on the phase plug and the stamped 505 on the front strip. It’s a truly handsome speaker that manages to convey that it is clearly quite pricey without coming across as gaudy.

Kudos Titan 505
The port is built into the bass to operate at a fixed distance regardless of proximity to walls

As you might expect for the price, it’s a well made one too. In many regards, the 505 doesn’t move the game on any further than the Focal Kanta which really is an absurdly over engineered device, even at £4,500. There are visible fastenings and other aspects to the 505 that feel more terrestrial than some of the cleverness we’ve seen over the years but the Kudos is up to the standard of speakers at the price but this is perhaps the area where the small size of the company that builds it is more apparent than anywhere else. I can’t really call it as to how much this will mean to different people. I’ve had them sat in my lounge for two weeks and felt they’ve looked outstanding but if you want auto industry grade paint finishes or 15 coats of lacquer, you might need to look elsewhere.

 

It’s a truly handsome speaker that manages to convey that it is clearly quite pricey without coming across as gaudy

How was the Titan 505 tested?

The Kudos has been used as a conventional passive speaker connected to a Cambridge Audio Edge A integrated amp with a SOtM SMS-200 Neo running as a Roon Endpoint, Chord Electronics Mscaler and Hugo TT2 acting as a digital source and a Rega Planar 10 and Cyrus Phono Signature acting as an analogue one. It has then been used as an active speaker with a full Exposure system comprising XM7 preamp, VXN active crossover and PSU and four XM9 80 watt monoblocks, making use of the same sources. Material used has included, FLAC, AIFF some DSD, Qobuz and Tidal and vinyl.

More info: Audio Formats - What does what and what it all means

Performance

Kudos Titan 505

OK then, crunch time. We’ve established that the 505 has some clever thinking, good quality materials and careful engineering in it but, on account of living on Earth, we’ve also established that seven thousand pounds is a lot of money. Initially running as a passive speaker, the Kudos generated a bald number that may or not be illuminating. Kudos quotes an average in room response of 40Hz-30kHz for the 505 but some in room sweeps with it suggested that I got down to 34Hz before I exceeded a +/- 3dB figure. This isn’t quite as extraordinary as the 29Hz I obtained from the Special Forty but that was in my old room that was providing a little augmentation at this point which this new space does not seem to do. However you want to break it down though, the 505 has exceptional bass for a standmount speaker, even one that costs seven grand (and was sat on its own bespoke stand which is another £500 for a pair).

What is more impressive still is how this low end is delivered. I will freely admit that I’ve been a fan of isobaric bass for over a decade now but the 505 is a gold plated demonstration of how good it can be. Beyond the depth is a speed and control that ensures that you hear the bass on the recording as intended without a trace of boom or overhang. There are plenty of floorstanders that can go as low as this (and many of them cost rather less) and all but a tiny number of them are left feeling slightly lethargic by comparison to this singular standmount.

 

However you want to break it down though, the 505 has exceptional bass for a standmount speaker, even one that costs seven grand

Neither is this some freak swelling at the bottom reach of the frequency response. The Kudos is beautifully integrated from top to bottom, coming across as exceptionally even handed and free of emphasis of any particular element of the music. The 30kHz upper register figure is something that I’ve no means of testing but all the way to the edges of my hearing, it feels natural and effortless but absolutely confident in what it is delivering. The unplugged version of Emily King’s Can’t Hold Me on her newly released Sides is utterly and entirely believable (and lyrically a lot racier than I’d picked up on the standard album version).

Kudos Titan 505

Material like this reveals that the Isobaric drivers of the 505 have the ability to deliver the point where ‘lower midrange’ becomes ‘upper bass’ with an ease that, in terms of speakers tested here, is rivalled only by the Tannoy Legacy Eaton (an altogether different stylistic proposition) because both of these speakers have the radiating area to get the job done. Everything that happens in this threshold has a natural weight and scale to it that makes even the Focal - still present as a test device - sound a little synthetic with. In underpinning the midrange so well, it helps that to sound richer and more believable too.  

All the technical ability is there but, crucially, there’s something else too. Without sacrificing this exceptional range of talents, the Kudos is fun. Actually, scratch that. The Titan 505 is capable of such moments of unbridled joy with music I know and love as to border on being classed as a narcotic. I’m still vicariously living my anime Mad Max fantasies via Sturgill Simpson’s Sound & Fury and the Kudos takes this album and goes to places I didn’t believe it could go. Remember to Breathe is laden with swagger and menace and the moment that the track lurches straight into Sing Along complete with radical tempo change, the 505 steps up a gear and simply gets stuck in. Every ballistic note is delivered with crunching weight and electrifying speed. There are occasions when I test ‘proper’ high end where it feels that what I’m playing is ‘beneath’ the gear, that it’s designed to play highbrow things in a highbrow way. The Kudos isn’t like that - it’ll give anything a fair crack of the whip.

Kudos Titan 505

This is not to say that you can simply attach it to anything and feed it a diet of MP3s. The 505 isn’t a hard speaker to drive - Kudos gives measurements of 6 ohms sensitivity and a sensitivity of 87dB/w - but it is a revealing one and you’re going to need some respectable hardware to see what it can really do. The Edge A did a fine job though and there are many capable amps out there for around the same price that will deliver the goods.

It is only fair to point out though that if you can hear them running as active speakers behind Exposure’s active crossover system, I would urge you to do so. What is already a tremendously fast and potent speaker somehow manages to get faster and more urgent. The feeling of ‘slam’ (a concept almost as definably vague as ‘timing’) is something that becomes tangible in this configuration. Roon suggested I revisit John Powell’s score for The Bourne Identity during testing and this modern classical routine abounds with it, usually to emphasise some unfortunate soul having the stuffing knocked out of them by Bourne. It’s electrifying to experience and there are very few combinations of electronics and speakers I’ve heard at any price that gel like this does.

 

The Titan 505 is capable of such moments of unbridled joy with music I know and love as to border on being classed as a narcotic

Verdict

Pros

  • Utterly sublime performance
  • Impressively flexible
  • Handsome and well made

Cons

  • Needs decent partnering equipment
  • I don't have £7,000

Kudos Titan 505 Standmount Speaker Review

Let’s do some sober reckoning up first. For £2,500 more than the Focal Kanta, the Kudos Titan 505 is a demonstration of the laws of diminishing returns in action. It’s better but by smaller proportional margins that you will find than by, say, adding 50% to a £1,000 budget. It is also only fair to point out that if you crane your neck even further up the pricing ladder, there are standmounts I have tested, the Magico A1 (£10,000) and Wilson Audio TuneTot (£11,000) to name two, that have specific technical attributes beyond even the Titan 505. What I feel is important to stress though is that across the whole gamut of build, design, flexibility of placement and partnering equipment and sound quality, the 505 holds its own against even these American exotics. Objectively, this is an exceptionally viceless loudspeaker.

Objectivity be damned though. I’ve tested and enjoyed those and other speakers at higher prices but this one is the speaker I covet more than any other and I’ve felt that way since I heard the prototypes at the Bristol show a few years ago. I love the way it looks and feels, I love how it dials into the sort of UK lounge that most of us are saddled with in a way that convinces utterly without dominating it visually or overdriving it. More than anything else though, I love its unwavering ability to deliver joy across everything you ask it to play. At a price point where some of its competitors are starting to suggest you leave the less than pristine musical artefacts of your teenage years behind you, the Titan 505 is there almost willing you to yell “INHALE, INHALE, YOU ARE THE VICTIM” along to Breathe by The Prodigy. This speaker is a masterpiece, a nigh on perfect blend of engineering and soul that makes everything you play an event. As there isn’t a speaker I’ve heard at pretty much any price below a Euromillions win I’d rather own, it has to be seen as the current Best in Class.

Best In Class

Scores

Build Quality

.
9

Connectivity

10

Sound Quality

10

Ease of Use

.
9

Features

10

Value for Money

.
9

Verdict

10
10
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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