Visit to Kenrick Sound in Japan

Our senior contributing writer Ron Resnick visited Kenrick Sound in Japan today. Here is the full story and photos from this renowned Japanese venture...

From the New York Bar on the 41st floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo Hotel, featured in the movie Lost in Translation, I see below me the seemingly infinite expanse of the urban sprawl of Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo-Yokohama covers 3,300 square miles. In every direction there is dense city for as far as the eye can see.

My wife is doing a photojournalism project in Tokyo, and while I am visiting her I wanted to do some audio-related activity.  A.J. Conti, of Basis Audio, suggested that if I do only one audio-related activity in Tokyo I should visit Kenrick Sound.

Kenrick Sound is world famous for restoring and modifying legendary loudspeakers. The firm specializes in JBL speakers.  Kenrick Sound is located in Otaku, Tokyo, about a 35 minute taxi ride away from Harajuku, where we are staying.

We were greeted warmly by Kenji Hosoi, the proprietor of Kenrick Sound. Kenrick Sound occupies several offices on two different floors.  Kenji showed us his workshop areas with numerous pairs of JBLs undergoing careful restorations and lovingly - handcrafted improvements.

Kenrick Sound has one showroom/demo room with a variety of JBL speakers closely packed together.  At the front wall of the listening room I saw Rey Audio RM-7s -- the speakers I was hoping I would be able to audition.  I brought a couple of my standard LP audition records.

Stock JBL Model 4345 speakers were set-up in a near-field listening configuration.  Kenji has big McIntosh amplifiers as well as a big solid-state monoblock amplifiers and a Triode stereo amplifier.  The Triode stereo amplifier was driving the JBLs today.

Kenji’s turntable on a rack on the other side of the room was not connected, and so we listened to music through his hard-drive based digital music playing system controlled by an iPad.

We listened to Bill Evans’ Waltz for Debby, Dave Brubeck’s Take Five, the Eagles’ Take it to the Limit, Dido’s Thank you and Sarah McLachlan’s Angel.

I was hoping to hear the Rey Audio RM-7s, photos of which I saw on the internet, but Kenji was working on their cross-overs and the speakers could not be made to speak today.

The JBLs were the only speakers Kenji had set up for demonstration. These JBLs are impressively large but conventional studio monitors with a 15 inch woofer, a midrange dynamic driver midrange and a horn tweeter.  The speaker has potentiometers labeled “ultra-high frequency,” “high-frequency" and “mid-frequency” to adjust levels.

The sound from the JBLs did not sound like anything special. They did not have the transparency we have come to expect from high-end loudspeakers.  The PMC MB2S monitor speakers I heard on Touraj Moghaddam’s Vertere office system were much more transparent and detailed.  But the JBLs did sound warm and natural.

My wife agreed that the JBLs did not sound like anything special. She said that their sound did not draw her in or “hug her” in the the way the sound from the Gryphon Pendragons enveloped her.

Neither of us found the JBLs emotionally engaging. Their lack of sound-staging may well have been due to how crowded with other speakers is the Kenrick showroom.  The JBLs were right in front of other speakers, and they were flanked on the left side and the right side by other speakers as well.

I am certain that the Rey Audio RM-7s, onto which Kenji has grafted super-tweeters to extend the the frequency response of the Rey Audio horn drivers above 12 kHz, and improved the cross-overs with the highest quality components, would have sounded natural, dynamic, transparent and engaging.  Unfortunately, we could not hear Kenji’s RM-7s today.

Kenji told us that Rey Audio used to be located in Tokyo, but the owner of Rey Audio relocated the firm quite far from Tokyo.  I asked Kenji if people purchase Rey Audio rate speakers brand-new and send them to him to retrofit with the super-tweeter and to replace components in the cross-overs with higher-quality parts.  Kenji said that no one has sent to him for modification brand new Rey Audio speakers, but that he finds used Rey Audio speakers and modifies them according to customer requests.

Kenrick has a wonderful reputation in the USA and in Europe.  Kenji is extremely knowledgeable about horn speakers in general and about JBL and Rey Audio speakers in particular.  I am confident the reconditioning work Kenrick performs on speakers elevates them to a sound quality and a fit and finish quality they did not possess when brand new.  If you find yourself in Tokyo do yourself an audio favor and visit Kenrick Sound.

Text and photos: Ron Resnick - Senior contributing writer