Kudos Cardea Super 10A

Hardware Review

Kudos Cardea Super 10A
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
standmount loudspeaker
Chris Kelly

Back in April of this year The Ear published my review of the Kudos Cardea C20 floorstanding loudspeakers. To save you the trouble of trawling that far back, I’ll summarise my findings - I loved them. Fast forward to September and I was offered the chance to hear the smallest of the current Cardea family, the Super 10A. I was hardly going to decline. The review pair are among the first of the Super10As to benefit from designer Derek Gilligan’s most recent revision of this model and I was very keen to hear how they compared with their floor standing siblings (which have also undergone some reworking.)

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Mr. Gilligan’s design philosophy is built on the KISS principle - Keep It Simple S…. (insert your own choice of word here). He starts by selecting good materials, first class drive units and a crossover that’s kept as uncomplicated as it can be to blend those drive units together as seamlessly as possible. All this is enclosed in elegant cabinetry precision manufactured from high density fibreboard (HDF) with the choice of four different finishes. The review pair came in a walnut veneer and met with approval from Mrs K. Sonically transparent grilles are supplied and attach magnetically to the front baffle. There is a single pair of sockets with only banana (4mm) plug compatibility, so those of you who use spade connectors or even just bare wire to connect are not catered for.

The drive units, which are custom made for Kudos by SEAS, comprise a 180mm mid-bass unit with a die-cast chassis and a coated paper cone, while the high frequency driver is a version of SEAS’ highly regarded Crescendo K2 29mm fabric dome. Bass is reinforced via a rear-firing flared port. Frequency response for these modest sized enclosures is quoted as going from 40Hz to 30kHz.

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One of the key features of the Super 10As is that they are ‘active-ready’, so for users with, for example, Linn, Devialet and Naim systems, the internal crossover can be disengaged allowing the use of the external crossovers offered by those brands.

The Super 10A measures 35cm high and I opted to stand them on my HiFi Racks oak stands which proved to be a very good match. I used four StillPoints UltraSS isolation devices on the top plate of the stand and then stood the loudspeakers on top. They are a little deeper than the stands so I made sure that both speakers had the same amount of overhang fore and aft, I positioned them with sufficient toe in to see a little of the inside face of each cabinet from my listening position. I attached Kudos’ own KS-1 cable to the single pair of inputs and then into my Lyngdorf TDAI3400 integrated amplifier, in passive mode using the internal crossover of the Super 10As. The review pair had been well run in before they were shipped to me, so I was able to settle down to serious listening right away.

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Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of Lyngdorf’s RoomPerfect software, but I started my initial listening with this turned off and the amplifier in its bypass mode. To get things going, I selected half a dozen SACDs to play through the Yamaha CD-S3000. Leading off with Shelby Lynne’s 2007 recording of Dusty Springfield song Just a Little Lovin’ (Analogue Productions 2012). This is a low key, intimate recording produced by Phil Ramone, which has been a favourite in this house since its release, and which gave us the first dance song at our wedding the following year. (I Only Want to be With You, in case you are wondering). Through the Super 10As although the intimacy, all the emotion and all the detail came through in an irresistible way. The realism was astonishing. From there a change of genre, Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos by the Dunedin Consort directed from the harpsichord by John Butt (Linn Records CKD430). This baroque masterpiece flowed from the Super 10As in a masterful way, the excellent recording allowing each of the six concertos to shine, with ensemble playing of the highest quality. Both discs were played and the 90 minutes or so of playing time seemed to fly past. Absolutely enthralling. After a short break the mood changed to blues and rock. BB King and Eric Clapton’s collaboration Riding With The King was remastered for SACD by Steve Hoffman for the Audio Fidelity label in 2015. Another totally involving listening experience. What impressed was the tremendous balance of the sound. The guitars are clearly differentiated and the rhythm section of Nathan East on bass and Steve Gadd on drums very well depicted. Bass reproduction is exceptional through the Super 10As, with the rear port supporting things really well without ever sounding monotonal. I finished the session with  the 2002 hybrid SACD of the Rolling Stones Let It Bleed. The sleeve states in bold type ‘This Record Should Be Played Loud’. Always keen to follow instruction, I duly obliged. I can report that the Super 10As will play loud very well indeed. There was no hardening of the sound at all, just lots more of it.

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That evening, the system took on its super-soundbar duties for our television viewing, and once again the Kudos pair did a fine job, with spoken word dialogue being extremely easy to follow and action scenes thundering around the room. Although I have a REL subwoofer I left it switched off for the review period because it wasn’t required. The bass response for such a small enclosure really is that good.

The next morning I spent half an hour running the RoomPerfect software through the Super 10As, and afterwards replayed the first two SACDs mentioned above. There was a slight increase in the ease of realism and the soundstage seem to gain an extra sense of three dimensionality, but it was not a night and day change. As I remarked about the Cardea C20s, where I had a similar result, this to me indicates that Mr Gilligan has done a very fine job in his design. The Super 10As should work really well in a variety of rooms and with any amplifier which can deliver anything between 25 and 200 watts and a decent amount of current. I know that a lot of Naim users have found Kudos loudspeakers to be a fine match for their electronics, and I am sure the Super 10As will carry on that synergy, but with a smaller footprint.

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Subsequent ‘serious’ listening with my LP12 and Gold Note PH10 phono stage as the source simply helped to confirm those initial impressions. All those hi-fi things we enjoy, such as a credible soundstage, detail and musical cohesion, were always present. The Super 10As handled everything I threw at them without missing a beat. My penchant for the double bass, both in classical and jazz recordings, has cropped up in these pages before. Now you might think that a small stand mount loudspeaker is hardly the best way to hear the giant of the string section, but you would be mistaken in this case. Whether it was Gary Karr, Paul Chambers, Ray Brown or Christian McBride playing, the richness of the instrument, the sense of those big wooden bodies and the horse hair of bow on string, or finger plucking string, was lifelike and life sized through the Super 10As.

I played rock, jazz, blues, classical, female vocals, male vocals, choral music and pop through the Super 10As and I found no genre which they did not deliver with verve and panache, or with subtlety and delicacy if required. I tried listening to the Super 10As with and without the grilles attached. The difference was negligible, but I rather liked the look of them with the drive units visible - the badged metal phase plug on the main driver does look rather good, so that’s how the review was conducted.

I found the floorstanding Cardea C20s to be a delightful listen, and if anything I like the Super 10As even more. I guess I am a stand mount kind of guy, since both my own pairs of loudspeakers are of that nature. I think what one may lose in scale versus a floorstander, a standmount adds in speed and agility without, at least in the case of the Kudos Cardea Super 10A, any sacrifice of musicality, tuneful but fast bass, rhythm or timing. You will have to budget for an appropriate pair of stands of course, but even so as a long term ownership proposition these loudspeakers, proudly conceived and built in the North East, make a compelling case for themselves. Chalk up another success for Derek Gilligan and his team.

Specifications: 

Type: bass reflex two-way standmount loudspeaker, active ready
Crossover frequency: not specified
Drive units:
Mid/bass – Kudos 180mm with paper cone with 39mm voice coil
Tweeter – Kudos K2 29mm fabric dome
Nominal frequency response: 40 – 30,000 Hz (average in-room response)
Nominal impedance: 8 Ohms
Connectors: 4mm sockets
Sensitivity: 87dB 1w/1m
Dimensions HxWxD: 350 x 200 x 270mm
Weight: 10.5kg
Finishes: walnut, natural oak, black oak, satin white
Warranty: 5 years if warranty registered

Price: 
£4,000
Manufacturer Details: 

Kudos Audio
T +44 (0) 845 458 6698
kudosaudio.com