I’ve asked Louis Desjardins from Kronos Audio to answer quite few questions regarding the Kronos, ultimate vinyl reproduction, high-end audio etc. Enjoy…
First and foremost. Kindly let us know what ignite you to move into the high-end audio and what is your background?
I come from a family of musicians. My father was an audiophile...so music has always been important to me. I studied physics of waves at the University. I also rebuilt vintage racing motorcycles and electric guitars as a hobby. This all came together when I got interested in turntables.
Do you consider yourself an audiophile?
Of course! An audiophile is a music lover first. Secondly it is someone who listens to recoded music and its reproduction in an audio system. I qualify on both counts.
What inspired you move into creating turntables?
Like many audiophiles, I bought in the “perfect sound forever” lie of cd palyback in the early 80’s, and got rid of my records a few years later. I bought a used turntable in 2002 just to see what the rebirth of analogue fuss was all about. I instantly realized I had been missing the sound of “real” music. I started tinkering with many turntables and tonearms. I would modify them, improving upon their design. One day I thought about testing test idea of counter-rotation. I wanted to see if we could eliminate torque force induced parasitic vibrations in suspended turntables. I had to build a prototype.
It took me 2 years to build the prototype. Amazingly, the sonics were superior to everything I had heard before. Rene Laflamme (sound engineer and owner of the FIDELIO label) heard it and wanted to use it to showcase his recordings at the Montreal Audio Show 2011... the response was great and the rest is history.
Yes we do, except a few parts, such as Swiss dc motors and encoders...It is impossible to develop an innovative high end product with parts off the shelf.
Where is the borderline between hi-fi, high-end and ultimate high-end audio?
It is a question of degree. Systems at various price points can sound really good (or not). The High End is at the edge ... it tries to advance the reproductive arts...push the boundaries. The borderline changes everyday, month by month, year by year.
What/who were your inspirations and might still be?
Too many to say... the world is full of great minds and inventions. With a bit of culture, we can everyday appreciate the work of so many. To name a few close to my heart, I would say Newton, Einstein and Tesla ... all 3 found simplified laws of the universe that translated into incredible inventions.
Kindly list your products?
We currently build 3 different turntables : SPARTA 0.5, SPARTA and PRO. We offer 2 tonearms: the 10.5 inch HELENA and the 12 inch BLACK BEAUTY. We just introduced the SCPS-1 power supply for PRO.
What would you say its the difference between your entry level and flagship turntable?
0.5 is a one-platter turntable that can be converted to a full two- platter SPARTA.... The difference between SPARTA and PRO is one of higher implementation of the same principles. We use the same bearings, similar dc motors, same suspension design and same bearings. Material are different, lowering SPARTA production costs, but yielding slightly less resolution.
How do you see other manufacturer of turntables?
We are in a different game. Kronos is a true innovation in turntable design.
Belt driven platters?
The best sounding drive system will use belts. It is the only way to decouple vibrations from the motors.
They cannot work for high end audio as stated above... but are great for DJs because they instantly get to speed.
What are the benefits of longer tonearms?
The minimum acceptable length for a tonearm is 10.5 inches. The tracking error (and ensuing distortion) with shorter tonearms is easily audible through current high end systems.
VTA adjustment. An ongoing discussion and what it seems an endless quest. What is your take?
There is one position where the cartridge/ tonearm set up will be optimized. With high end moving coil cartridges we need to be very precise to reach this “sweet spot”. VTA must be tuned by ear, as every single cartridge is slightly different than another...they are hand built, after all. There is no need adjust VTA relative to varying record thicknesses... some want to do this, but it is a silly idea.
Matching a tonearm to the turntable is always a sensitive thing. Do you strictly recommend your tonearms for perfect synergy or you’re leaving the doors open to some other tonearms?
Kronos has won numerous awards and best sound of shows all over the world. I will only show with the Black Beauty and Helena tonearms. because they sound the best. If a customer wants to install a different tonearm, we have adaptors for this, but I strongly advise using our solution for best results.
You once told me that you’re clearly not a fan of tangential tonearms. Can you elaborate?
While tracking error is theoretically zero with tangential tonearms, the pressure on the stylus and cantilever to move the tonearm along (linear bearing) are too high. This creates a huge problem for playback displacing the coil from the magnetic field sweet spot within the cartridge. The use of an air bearing is not a solution to this problem...as air bearings are inherently noisy.
Well we have to do this. Analog vs digital? Of course on the upper plane where state of the art of both worlds meet.
I am sorry to say I cannot listen to digital playback, no matter the format. Surprisingly, high quality digital recordings of new music will sound better on vinyl than in the highest digital file format. Alternatively, digital remastering of analogue tapes are always a disaster...some vinyl records are sold today where the analogue masters were transferred into the digital format before the lacquer was cut; this should never happen.
Tell us what do you see as utmost design challenges with turntable design?
For us, most of the main issues have been solved...I only see details being improved in the future. But I could be wrong... I do not have a crystal ball...
What would you say makes Kronos different the competition?
Above all, our suspended counter-rotation design. This is protected by a patent and therefore unique to Kronos.
Please, do not make me laugh/cry...
What reference music material do you use for “voicing”?
I am comfortable with all types of music, as long as it is issued from a purist recording process...ie, acoustic instruments is a “real” venue. We have used original master tapes and their respective test pressings to insure our turntable designs are closest to sounding like an original master.
How would you describe Kronos customers?
Audiophiles that truly love music and demand the truest reproduction.
High performance turntable these days cost as much as a great car. How its justified?
Our turntables are high precision hand built devices. They are expensive and time consuming to build. Manufacturing quantities are relatively small... it is impossible they will cost as little as smart phones that are built in the millions. In addition, distributors need to show/explain/install/ service the product...and make a living at it. This is a very niche market. There are easier ways to make money than sell turntables...but no better way to make friends.
Are we already in the luxury market?
Of course...any equipped turntable that costs over 50,000$ is a luxury product by definition.
What is your view of high-end audio industry?
It is a big circus, with some great acrobats and also a few clowns. At its best, it tries to accomplish the ultimate magical illusion of transporting the listener to another time and place.
Best system every heard?
There are so many great systems and great audio rooms out there...
Power supply. Your latest creation (SCPS-1) is addressing this particularly. Please tell us more about the importance and what makes your new gem so special?
SCPS-1 does 3 things: It isolates the turntable drive system from noise/fluctuations in the electrical grid (providing pure constant DC power); it isolates the rest of the system from electrical noise emanating from the turntable motors (virtually disconnecting the turntable from the grid); and it provides perfect impedance matching to the motors, maximizing stability in the drive system (controlling back EMF). We have now an ideal drive system and the playback is drastically improved to a level we did not know could be achieved. Simply stated, there is less jitter in the drive, hence less flutter. This improves phase , frequency timing, reduces intermodulation distortion, lowers the noise level, improves dynamics.
Pitch stability? What is the level possible to maintain?
Pitch stability is only one part of a much bigger problem. At a certain point, low flutter (minute vibrations in the drive) is more important for ultimate playback quality. This vibration is unmeasurable, but its negative effects on playback quality is easily heard in a Hi Res system.
Esoteric and exotic parts found in Kronos products or only well engineered solutions?
Kronos uses a design approach that maximizes simplicity, using proven engineering solutions and with aerospace based manufacturing precision and materials where needed... so a little bit of both.
Form follows function (or vice versa)?
Usually a design that aims at achieving a function efficiently, in the simplest manner, is always a beautiful thing.
What would you say is the secret of Kronos success?
The only objective for Kronos is to offer the highest level of true reproduction fidelity at a rational price point. I think our product achieve this goal. They are awarded by the world’s best reviewers. They are adopted by some of the best high end manufacturers. They are represented by knowledgeable and honest distributors. Most importantly, they procure lasting enjoyment to our customers.
You’ve managed to impress and convince both the most demanding customers and even four of the most renowned speaker manufacturers to use Kronos Pro as their reference turntable. Care to share some insights?
Magico, Shunyata Research. Kubala Sosna, YG Acoustics, Absolare, Nagra, Fidelio, 2xHD, Von Sweickert, Joseph Audio, Triode of Japan, Silbatone and Vitus Audio have chosen Kronos because a neutral, high resolution source is a necessity in developing and presenting high end audio products.
What’s your view on printed and online high end audio magazines and their importance/impact?
There are so many audio products available today, and so many claims made about them. Audiophiles look towards the press for some guidance. Thankfully, there are many great sources of information available today. It is easy to read about most products. The internet has made this possible.
Vinyl sales are on the rise, so no fear for the future?
Vinyl is here to stay...it is the best sounding and most stable archiving medium for music.
What can expect in future from the House of Kronos?
We will add complementary products to the product line that relate to analogue reproduction.
Are we reaching the point where concert and life like emotional experiences are coming closer to the listening rooms?
Definitely... there was never a better time to be an audiophile.
Any last thought for our readers?
Take time for music everyday!
Questions: Matej Isak