Kronos Pro Limited Production turntable review

The name of the Titan

Kronos or Cronus is the name of the supreme god in Greek mythology. I asked Louis Desjardins why chose it for his brand. His simple answer was that Kronos was the god of time, and he felt that with this turntable he could travel back to the moment and place when the recording was first made. Because classical opera story lines where inspired from mythology, there are many audio products employing the Greek names. TriangleArt for instance named their cartridges, Zeus and Apollo.

Kronos is thy name

The Kronos suspended turntable is the first to employ two platters rotating in opposite directions to achieve a 'balance' of forces, eliminating torque induces vibrations. While discussing with the designer and founder of the Kronos turntable regarding his design and concept, he revealed that originally he was looking for a name that would relate to 'balance'. He shared with me that his initial impression after hearing the first note played from his turntable was "how balanced the whole presentation was from a single tone to the whole picture".

My first session with the Kronos Pro Limited Production (hereinafter referred to as Kronos Pro Ltd) turntable in my set up was a limited one. Thus a full review was not possible. I do not enjoy the idea of penning down my experience of a component's performance after only two weeks with it. I prefer at least two months to write a full review. The malaysian distributor, Hifi Creations was not in a position to loan me their flagship turntable for a prolonged period to complete a full review. So, I asked myself whether I should purchase another turntable at that time and if so, was this the turntable to have? I already owned an extra Graham Phantom 2 tonearm and 11 cartridges that I wished to play or hear from time to time. I knew that I would get another turntable to accommodate my collection above. To be frank, I wanted a bigger and better turntable than the ones I owned; the TechDas Air Force One, the Clearaudio Statement and the Linn LP12 Lingo-ed. Earlier I sold my SME 30/2 and TWA AC-1 with the Night Raven three (3) motors system so as to purchase the TechDas. That decision does not haunt me.

I was not ready to buy the Kronos when I called our local distributor to collect it. Why not? I already knew that the Kronos Pro Ltd turntable was special and to my ears, definitely much better than the SME 30/2 and the TWA AC-1, but was it better than all the rest? 

Then I realized that all the other turntables in that league would cost several times the price of the Kronos Pro Ltd turntable. Two weeks later, I placed my order for the Kronos Pro Ltd turntable with the arm board adaptor for my Vertere Reference tonearm.

Possibly the most expensive Kronos Pro Ltd turntable combo?

I contacted Touraj Moghaddam, the founder and chief designer of Vertere Acoustics with my intention to place his prized design, the Vertere Reference tonearm on the Kronos Pro Ltd. He sent me an SME adapter for the Vertere arm board for easy installation on the Kronos.

Louis Desjardins was on hand to assist in the transfer of the Vertere Reference tonearm together with the attached TriangleArt Apollo MC cartridge from my TechDas Air Force One to the Kronos Pro Ltd turntable. I wanted the listening of the Kronos Pro Ltd to be on equal footing with that of the TechDas Air Force One. After the installation and some adjustments of the tonearm and cartridge, I mentioned to Louis the price of the Vertere Reference tonearm , almost equal to the price of the Kronos Pro. I added that this combination of the Kronos Pro Ltd turntable with the Vertere Reference tonearm is possibly the most expensive for his set up. Louis did not argue with me on that point.

The Canadian's first response.

Louis was in my listening room a few months before when he installed the Kronos Pro Ltd resulting in my first impression of it (written up in Mono & Stereo). He knows his turntable well and what it is capable of. At his second visit, new elements were the Vertere Reference tonearm, TriangleArt Apollo MC cartridge and the Telos Audio Ground Noise Reducers. I knew from Louis' facial expressions that he was listening to his Kronos Pro Ltd turntable performing and singing very differently. After some tracks played, the designer asked what I changed in my system and how the sound had so much improved from his first encounter! I knew how great the Vertere Reference tonearm was (see my review in Mono & Stereo) and how it can elevate the performance of an analogue set up, especially given when paired with a great cartridge like the TriangleArt Apollo MC (also reviewed in Mono & Stereo) and an ultra quiet and stable turntable. Then and there I knew what the Kronos Pro Ltd was: not just special ... but much more.

Every designer for his own?

Every audio component(s) designer needs to be a music lover to begin with. He’s had an audio system at home and spent some times with it enjoying the music he loves. Then he realizes something is not right with a certain component but that better components out there may be beyond his reach or that nothing his simply good enough. Then, in his free time, the mission begins : to design a component that will sound the way he would like or that will meet his ideal. After some months or years, the creation births forth (I am sure that was how Victor Frankenstein made his monster). At first, that creation is purely for the disigner’s own listening... but then some friends come over and hear it. The encouragements come and courage builds up. Thus, it becomes a business. I have heard and read that story many times and it is the beginning of almost every designer. I have an immense respect for that. Hence, when a designer comes to my listening room and claims his creation to be the best et all, I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt. But then, they are some that go further and claim that other products are just wrong in design or sound.... As we say,' the proof is in the pudding '.

Louis Desjardins is of no different than others, he is confident in his design and in the way he perceives musical playback. He has been an audiophile for many years, a collector of fine records, of vintage loudspeakers and has had exposure to reel to reel playback. Thus, he believes it vital that the energy stored in the music, may it be emotion, artistry, or soul, be projected out through the audio system and this has to start at its source, the turntable. He wants the musical playback experience to be as native and raw as the actual performance captured on the master tape. The list of what Louis seeks in an audio system can go on and on. I can assure you it's not a short list. I can assure you that my list is not short either, being an audiophile traveling on this high end journey for so many years. I think you know where I am going with this ... we are both fanatical about our hobby.

Vision, design and reality meet...the man When you listen to the Kronos Pro Ltd, you are listening to Louis Desjardins' vision of what musical presentation through a turntable and in turn through an audio system should be. Every designer will tell you his vision, but is it also yours? Thus are born the colors in presentation and the beauty thereof.

The Kronos Pro Ltd was designed to be the most "balanced" turntable that its designer was able to conceive. The counter rotation concept, the suspension, the bearings, the motor system, the materials used, the selection of belts, the electronics, the power supply and the clamp (I hope I am not missing anything) are well thought out to provide this balance.

The counter rotation of the platters by itself is a fascination to behold. I can testify to you it is even more impressive when you test the effectiveness of this design. Louis told me that his aim was to achieve the lowest noise noise floor in the turntable market. You just have to land your stylus in the groove of a rotating vinyl record on the Kronos to know how quiet it is. You will hear almost nothing, it is that quiet! Before this, I have always thought the TechDas Air Force One turntable to be the quietest turntable in this regard but it is quiet to the extent of a very slight 'thumb noise' as the stylus lands into the groove. I have to qualify that the above results are attainable only with proper alignment and set up of the cartridge with the tone arm et al.

The suspension in this turntable is another equally impressive feature. Have the Kronos Pro Ltd sit on a stable platform without any 'active and aggressive' resonance or vibration control, this is to allow only the suspension of the turntable to work all by itself. Then knock on the platform or the entire rack for that matter and you will not hear anything through the loudspeakers. It's dead quiet here! I am sure many well designed turntables will give you a quite similar effect, but not to that extent. (Please do not knock the turntable off the platform to [dis]prove this point - your money.)

I have had the TechDas Air Force One turntable for more than a year and have played it for most of my audiophile friends. They are always impressed with its performance (there is no question there). There is a 'but' here. The time that is required to wait for the platter to rotate to speed is a test of patience. I have to say that I am mightily impressed with the stability and accuracy of the speed of the TechDas turntables even in situation of irregular voltage. I love to use the Sutherland Timeline to prove the accuracy and stability of the turntable's speed. Here, I will have you know that my champion turntable in speed and stability, the TechDas Air Force One, is challenged by the Kronos Pro Ltd, where it will get the same result in much (much) lesser time.

Further testing the quietness of the Kronos

I am sure that many believe in the importance of the turntable and maybe more in the sound characteristics of a cartridge, but few do emphasize the game changing effect of a tone arm in the ultimate result of an analogue system. I believe, only fairly recently, that prominent and profound design efforts are spent in designing tonearms. We have some new found gems here, ie; the Vertere Reference, the Swedish Analogue Technologies (SAT) {both of which I have reviewed for Mono & Stereo}, the Thales, Schroeder, Acoustical System Germany, and etc. Among these greats, I have the pleasure to try out three (3), namely, the Vertere Reference, SAT and The Aquilar of Acoustical System Germany on the TechDas Air Force One. All the tonearms used similar selection of cartridges, notably, the TriangleArt Apollo MC and the Koetsu Blue Lace Platinum. I could not believe the differences that each tonearm was able to provide to the end result [The Aquilar tonearm's review is in the works]. I have heard the differences a tonearm could contribute to other turntables set ups such as the Linn Sondek, Michel GryoDec, TWAs, SME 30/2, VPIs, and etc, with tonearms such as SME V, Graham(s), Triplaner, Breuer, Reeds, Linn(s), Rega(s), Kuzma and etc. The differences were notable here, but not at the level the TechDas Air Force One was able to allow each combination of tonearm to soar (up high or low). As I went through the combinations, I could easily pick up the characteristics of each component within it. Thus, I believe it is the quietness or lack of noise of the turntable that allowed such differences to be clearly audible and felt.

At a much (much) lower price point to the TechDas Air Force One, the Kronos Pro Ltd is similar in that it will allow the listener to experience the differences in each tonearm and cartridge combination clearly.

Kronos will give you more

I remembered the first note I wrote about the Kronos. It stated that it seemed to be playing louder than the TechDas. How could this be using the same tonearm, cartridge and audio system? Louis explained that the counter rotation of the platters coupled with other properties in the design of Kronos produced a lower noise floor, thus more dynamics and louder peaks. Also, the lowering of vibrations in the turntable allowed the cartridge to extract more information and delivered an extended frequency range. He believed that it may not have been louder in term of average volume but that each note had been given a "fuller being" or completeness. I played a simple vocal and piano track from the album, "Fairy Tales" (Odin LP03). Here, each piano note was fuller and more detailed than I had previously heard in my audio system. It felt as if I had been handed the full key strokes and notes with all their intended strength, energy and with the full bandwidth, from the very low end to the very top. In addition, there were sub harmonics to each key stoke as if it was given a 'full stop' at the bottom. I have shared in a previous review that if piano notes were being given their full frequency range then each note would be given a leg to stand on. The Kronos Pro Ltd will further give you a "foot" to the 'leg' of each and every piano note in the presentation. Of course, it is not the actual bass line that most high end turntables miss, but the actual tail end of each notes that are not fully delivered.

"Any additional information that I can hear from a recording, I would treat so as additional resolution. But any addition or exaggeration of a particular frequency, I would treat it as coloration".

Still with this piece of music, the humane and seductive voice of Ms. Toneff further enlightens us. Before Kronos, I had heard fluid, natural, detailed and textured voices in my system, as if I had listened directly from a microphone feed. The Kronos Pro Ltd reproduced these same elements hence, at a few notches higher ...or more. I could clearly hear the singer with greater depth and width as if she was drawing more breath and was able to sing with more energy. The transients and dynamics of her voice were both vivid and palpable. It was far more emotional. In addition, each sentence tapered off naturally, its full stop being clearly fleshed out. The reader might notice I am repeating this same point over and over. It is because I wish to indicate the magnitude of how impressed I was with this.

 The detailing of the vocal track also contained an audible echo-like quality to each words sung, representing the acoustics of the venue where the recording took place. (I am not pointing at the duplicity effect of the recording at the studio). It was the natural reverberation of her voice in its environment that was clearly felt. If other top notch turntables have the ability to draw out some of these spatial information details, the whole of it remains incomplete and is not enough for me to draw up a definite conclusion as to where the sound originated from. In other words, the recorded space feels more real through the Kronos.

Next, from Sarah McLachlan's Mirrorball (45 rpm from Analogue Productions APP 053-45), the live track 'Angel' is one of my new found favorites. Listening again, I found her singing to be particularly touching. Her voice kept me wanting for more. The sense of emotions flowing through those lyrics kept me entangled, to say the very least. The Kronos Pro Ltd has a greater ability to capture and render the human voice than the other turntables in my arsenal, They others will make you feel that human vocal quality but may lack slightly in intimacy. I felt the energy contained in that recording of her voice. I even,heard an additional low frequency foundation that being extracted gave her voice a certain rawness. Other turntables I have heard will give you the texture, artistry and emotionality of the vocalist but I find the Kronos Pro Ltd will make the vocalist feel real. It is as if you can feel life and essence in the performance. That is where I believe analogue is superior to digital. Similarly, I find a good reel to reel tape superior to vinyl... but i would also say this quality sets the Kronos Pro Ltd apart from all other vinyl playback I have heard.

"In my opinion, the Kronos Pro Ltd is similar in character and energy to the playback of 1/4" reel to reel tapes".

Louis shared with me that his turntable was used as a guide at H2x high resolution mastering to evaluate and optimize the transfers of master tapes. Depending on the quality and generation of the supplied master tapes, their sound is not always superior to their vinyl counterparts. H2x has chosen Kronos over a number of other turntables available to them. I believe there is a good reason for this. Comparatively, it is THE turntable that is able to present that extra octave at the low end and this ultimately affects the energy level, the rawness and directness of a presentation. When I listen to 1/4" reel to reel tape, I always expect an additional level of detail, energy, low bass from the recording. I can hear similarities with the Kronos Pro Ltd. I emphasize 'similarities' here as I have no reel to reel tape player in my possession to compare Kronos with and as such my experience is limited to listening to tape players in friends’ setups and at shows.

This extra low frequency retrieval could be further put to the test using the Opus 3 Test Record 1 Depth of Image (Opus 3 79-00). I realized that the soundstage depth, its width and, to a certain extent, its height benefitted from the retrieval of an extra low octave. Here, I could hear and experience the soundstage at a higher level. It is as if the performers were given more space to perform in. Their respective size and musical instrument(s) did not grow bigger but the space they occupied and my listening room had been enlarged. Thus, there was more separation between the performers and their respective musical instruments. This also allowed me to hear more into each player’s performance. As I have said above, notes had a certain completeness that I accredited to lower frequency retrieval. Here, I could hear the respective timbre of the musical instruments played. It's not just the performance but the actual material from which each instrument is made that I could hear. If this phenomenon is merely the result of the retrieval of extra low frequency information then I would sum up that the design properties of this turntable have succeeded where others have partly failed. It can be said, that through the Kronos Pro Ltd, you can hear more into the whole performance. Ultimately, you may feel closer to the music.

Enter the Titans

To be frank, I thought I had heard it all with my collection of turntables, particularly with the TechDas Air Force One and the Clearaudio Statement. Both of them are considered amongst "the Best (!)" in the market place. I am sure there will be some who may not agree with their reputation and that is fine. I own them and I’ve heard them over time. These turntables (and others) in this category of Titans strive to do one thing: to bring out every last ounce of details buried in the grooves of the vinyl records we love and cherish. How much detail is still buried there... It seems there is always a new Titan emerging and offering more detail. I’ve realized at this level of playback quality that the so called details are not about a new tonal rendition of the music, especially among these Titans. It is more about presenting the energy of the music stored into the grooves. The Clearaudio Statement and Transrotor Artus are great examples in this regard. A listen with them will immediately display the amount of energy contained in any music. "We did not really know all the recording had to offer" was my thought when I first hear the Clearaudio Statement. I sacrificed much to put in my order for one. The TechDas Air Force One was not in the same league as the Statement where energy is concerned. The TechDas has its other titanic properties in a low noise floor and a transparency to the source from above the true subsonic low to the extreme high frequencies. Don't get me wrong, the TechDas is no slouch in the attack department and its low bass is very articulated, defined, controlled and rich in details. In many audio system, especially with mid size loudspeakers, the TechDas will do impressively. Most listeners will not miss or notice the loss of subsonic low frequencies.

Try to play big band or big orchestra such as Count Basie and his orchestra, "Me and You" (Pablo 2310-891). The Clearaudio Statement will be truly majestic when it comes to presenting the foundation of a grand musical presentation. I am not emphasizing the subsonic low bass alone but there are many other elements in the recorded music that must be retrieved in order to bear such fruit. I am thrilled and surprised that the Kronos Pro Ltd is definitely doing this task right in order to bear similar fruit to the Clearaudio Statement. It definitely allows the retrieval of the subsonic lows as well as the Clearaudio Statement, but there is still a difference between the Kronos and the Clearaudio. If pushed to compare, I find and prefer the Kronos in its presentation of the 'wholeness' of musical instruments and the 'completeness' of the tone. I believe that the Kronos has a lower noise floor than the Clearaudio and thus I has gained my preference amongst the two. My conviction is further reinforced now that I’ve heard that the musical instruments in the background enjoy the same 'wholeness' as those in the foreground and with the same 'completeness' of tone.

A Titan's task

A turntable Titan must be great a source at both low and high volume playback. I must qualify that high volume playback is not just a matter of loudness. In actuality, in my book anyway, the high volume playback will highlight many crucial areas that hold the music together and maintain its essence and meaning. I love to pick up the Manger Production vinyl album, "Musik wei von einem anderen Stern" (AMGR 2010) and have it play loud, especially the following tracks; 'Walking on the Moon' and 'Jazz Variants'. Many think that playing loudly and without any distortion or breakdown is the true test of a high end system. I wish it was that simple. I’ve noticed that many systems (even very expensive ones) start losing integrity and their solidity of imaging. Even the space between the musicians starts to fill up as the soundstage is actually shrinking. The imaging bloats as the volume increases. This occurs all too often. Here, the Kronos Pro Ltd will allow you to listen at high volumes while maintaining the imaging. The musicians remain stable within the soundstage and proportional to it. In addition, each instrument maintains its own wholeness, palpability, solidity and density.

All in all, the recording venue maintains its realism. I believe this quality is even more important when listening to big bands. Some will credit this quality to the low noise floor of a turntable, but I wish to point that the Kronos Pro Ltd gave a presentation with more solidity, strength and energy respective each musician's performance and with more naturalness of timbre respective to each instrument played than the other top turntable Titans in my arsenal.

A true Titan!

I have had the Kronos Pro Ltd turntable in my audio system for the last two months. It has been playing almost on a daily basis, and more than my other turntables. I admit that this has been one tough review to write. Not because it is difficult to point out differences between the turntables I own, but because emotionally comparing them is a bit like comparing my children. I paid a great deal for each and every one of them and a lot of time and energy were spent to tweak them to perform at their highest level.

In term of sonics, the Kronos Pro Ltd is not only in the league of the very best turntables available today, but in actual comparison, it is a few notches above the TechDas Air Force One and the Clearaudio Statement. If one wishes to prefer one turntable's character over another’s, then there isn't much to argue, but it remains a fact that the Kronos Pro Ltd is able to retrieve an extra level of detail at low frequencies, and has a much lower noise floor. It provides a more solid foundation for the "wholeness and completeness" of the musical presentation, and a soundstage that better represents the venue of the recording. As it stands, I have yet to hear a better turntable than the Kronos Pro Ltd.

As for its price of admission, I would say that purchasing a Kronos Pro Ltd, is really a "No Brainer", even if you have more money to spend. I own some of its competitors. They cost several times more but they do not provide a higher performance level.

In conclusion, I think Louis Desjardins justly named the Kronos after the supreme god in Greek mythology. You should offer it your ears.

Dato' Danon Han