Quand Shozo Kinoshita se hisse au sommet de son art

This document is a translation of the article published in the French magazine ヤRevue du Sonユ #313H, December 2006, about Rey Audio and Shozo Kinoshita.
The article was shown in the メRemarkable installationsモ section.
This section shows every month a remarkable installation, most of the time at private individualsユ.

Intended for Shozo Kinoshita, Rey Audio, Japan.
Translated by Laurent Fusilier, JMF Audio, France, on 07 Jan. 2007.

(short intro) Like at the concert

(title) When Shozo Kinoshita reaches the pinnacle of audio art

(intro in bold) Shozo Kinoshita (Rey Audio), designer of the first TAD speakers, left the northern suburb of Tokyo to establish far from noise in a wooden house, on the side of a hill, at Hakone, a nice town for tourism located at the foot of the lakes of Mont Fuji.

We went to see this emblematic character of audio in October 1998, for a visit of the auditorium at his company, Rey Audio, a known name by sound recording professionals for its high-end monitors. How could we forget the listening tests that were among the most impressive in the world regarding dynamics capacity.

Letユs remind that Mr. Kinoshita, a former TAD member, has got passion for high fidelity music diffusion since his early age. A way that lead him soon interest in high sensitivity speakers, especially the ones from JBL. The good relations between Pioneer and JBL helping, especially during the AES congresses, allowed him to get in contact with Bart Locanthi, one of the presidents of this association, who was renowned as a great genius in speakers design. Indeed, we owe Bartholomew Nicolas Locanthi (1919-1994) the design of mythic speakers at JBL, among which the 375 compression chamber, the 075 membrane tweeter and all the LE series models, like the famous LE8T and the LE15. Bart Locanthi invented the メTモ style circuit used in several amplifiers like the SE400S.

In 1975, the Pioneer group diversified its activities and took on the professional audio field. From this initiative taken by Takeo Yamamoto was born in the end of 1975 the Pioneer North America subsidiary and then Technical Audio Devices or TAD. This conducted Shozo Kinoshita, an engineer of the Pioneer group to be involved in that project. We already owed him the design of the superb one inch Pioneer ED911 compression chamber, a driver that showed excellent know how. Letユs remind that he was one of the best (and last) student of Bart Locanthi. Letユs also remind that between 1976 and 1986, Bart Locanthi was vice president of the R&D department of Pioneer North America, which lead him take part in the TAD research and development department. It is on the bases of Bart Locanthiユs know how and precious advices that Shozo Kinoshita designed, in the end of 1978, the TD4001 compression chamber, a very advanced model over its generation. This model was soon followed by the famous one inch TD2001, the ET 703 tweeter and the 1600 series of 16モ low frequency speakers that started with the TL1601a. In 1984, he quitted the Pioneer group and founded Rey Audio to better focus on the high-end monitoring loudspeakers, without the constraints of a big group, while still using TAD speakers. We should not forget to mention that the Rey Audio loudspeakers use selected TAD speakers, which already have the advantage of featuring low dispersions in magnitude response and resonance frequency specifications. Limited in the beginning to several models close to the 2401 and 2404 from TAD (recently put out of catalog), the Rey Audio product line of monitors expanded to a tens of models spread among the RM, V4 WARP, K-Monitor and Micro Monitor series.
We invite the interested readers to have a look at the web site which is partly available in English.

We already had the opportunity to listen, in the former Rey Audio building, to the massive RM7VC equipped with two low frequency speakers placed below and under a central way based on a horn, and also the compact KM1V proximity monitors. Talking about these last loudspeakers, we canユt remember hearing such a high bass level coming out of such a small volume, while retaining such a coherence and fidelity in tones.
On the massive RM7VC (nearly 700 Liters of usable charge for a weight of 250kg, plus the weight of the dedicated stand), with the advantage of a high sensitivity (96dB/2.8V/1m) completed by a very high power handling (1000W RMS), it is impossible to forget such a brilliant demonstration to which we were invited in 1998. In the reported article, published in Nr. 230, we mentioned the importance that Shozo Kinoshita paid to the acoustic phase setting of this model, the two way filter with a 500Hz cross over containing a good fourties components. It is on this aspect that the researches went on at Rey Audio with the precious help of Tom Hideley, a American sound engineer. Their common work base was focused on obtaining the best possible 3D effect determined by the cone of visual attention (cone shape, but larger than high), an important detail that help understand the next steps.

(chapter title) From high tech monitors to art in all its splendor

Rey Audio established two years ago in Hakone, on the side of a hill, far from the stressing noise of cities. A bus allowing to get there in just two hours, from Shinjuku, one of the Tokyo station, surrounded by the highest skyscrapers in town.
The new Rey Audio headquarters donユt look like a classic Japanese company, with a car park close to a large building. Here one gets into an almost wild site, half mountain. A small rocky way drives, in the end of an blind alley, to a big wooden house measuring not less than 200m? to the ground.
The welcome is warm. One enters, right after the entrance, in a superb room of 10m long by 8m wide. Musicians, neighbors who appreciate living music lend this room for small concerts, but Shozo Kinoshita wants to precise things : visitors of the メaudiophileモ kind are rare. As soon as an interested person begins the conversation with something like : メhello, I have heard much good of you and of your loudspeakers. I would like to compare them to my loudspeakers, Tannoy, ヤXユ or JBL ヤYユ or Stuff Audio ヤZユ, my amps are ヤXユ, ヤYユ or ヤZユ or personal designs sort of Super Parafeedモ, it is the best way of being refused a visit. If the conversation begins on another aspect, the one of music, of musical frustration, leading to the desire to go well further in this way, a rendez-vous has more chance to be accepted. If we did not know the serious and the reputation of Shozo Kinoshita, this kind of approach could have been the one that some charlatan of audio adopt.
They start the conversation by diving the guest in an incoherent talk yet powdered by some lightly more plausible words to try and disconnect him from reality, some customers finally thinking that all they are being told surpasses the capacity of comprehension of their poor brain.
Although this is not the case here, far from that, we are anyway surprised to hear from the mouth of Shozo Kinoshita that we are going to assist to a very unusual listening session.
He explains that after having spent long years on improving his studio monitors, made in a good many times under special demands, he now works in a different field, the one of a more three-dimensional transcription, an idea that lead to the メVertical Twinモ geometry adopted on most Rey Audio monitors.
A whole optimization, very advanced, that finally lead to a result that is closer to art than related to classical parameters like bandwidth, dynamics, micro dynamics variations, distortion or acoustic phase.
Such words seem well presumptuous, even from such a master of audio.
We are even more skeptical when Shozo Kinoshita persists when talking about a quasi as true as natural transcription, without the need to cover a wide bandwidth like 16Hz to 100kHz.
He invites us to listen. He chooses, among numerous discs albums, not one of his test CD known for its blowing dynamics effects, but an old 78 turns disc, a very rare and which is doubtless very regarded, of a violoncello solo (suites of Bach) interpreted by Pablo Casals. The play back will be done on two turn tables equipped with an old cell arm coupled to a Western Electric WE4A cell.
The preamplifier used is a special version of the MSP-1, of which the prototype was seen in the end of 1998. The big fans of 78 turns know how the best high end phonograms can surprise, one of the most regarded being the Victrola 4/23 with double bent horns.
Shozo Kinoshita persists in his convictions with メyou will see, this is not just well balanced, well defined or well toned. Here it is different. You will really feel that Pablo Casals is in this room, that he plays in front of you.モ
He finally invites us to sit and listen. We are excited and impatient. Shozo Kinoshita said right. It is really amazing: it surpasses by far the best we could have imagined. We go out of concepts like メsuperb listeningモ, notions like メsuperb tonesモ, of メemotion that passes throughモ. Like on one of the most beautiful holographic images made by ヤhigh techユ laser, Pablo Casals seems to be here, in the center, sitting on his chair, expressing the best of his talent. The most paradoxical is not to be annoyed by the very advanced exploitation capacities of the system, the hot and sharp trace of the steel needle in the disc track is like located in another plane, without ever disturbing the interpretation or the pleasure of listening. In comparison, the same disc played on a best phonogram from Victrola listened right after gives a much more メdullモ, far, impregnated of some sort of fake rounding, of this メwoodenモ sounding produced by the bent horn made of thin and varnished plywood panels. Without paying attention to the effect of the first listening on his guests, Shozo Kinoshita chooses another disc among his 78 turns. This time we get a Romeo & Juliet of Prokofieff, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra directed by Serge Koussevitsky. Although this is in monoral on a narrow band, we are once more amazed by the sensation of spreading in depth, by the illusion of obtained relief. Whereas an usual listening on a high definition stereo equipment systematically leads to the impression of hearing 95% of noise powdered with 5% of music, the all degraded by the sensation of masking between the sound scenes.
After listening to some other discs bringing the same surprising feelings and competing with natural, Shozo Kinoshita invites us to listen to stereo vinyl discs and CDs, to better show the point up to which the best sound recordings can go. Up to now the listenings were done on the massive RM7VC monitors. To surprise us even more, he suggests to listen to the micro monitors, the tiny PM10, active versions of the MM10, measuring 13cm wide, 23cm high and 25,3cm deep. These two way versions are equipped with a 10cm medium-bass loudspeaker hold in the treble, over 3.3kHz, by a dome tweeter coupled by a beginning of horn of an eye shape. Here again we are astonished by the general amplitude, by the precision of localization of the sound scenes in width and depth. We are filled with wonder at the settlement of the low frequencies, with respect to the size of the loudspeakers and of the ridiculous diameter of the low-mid speakers.
We come to ask a question that could disturb: メand if such good results were due to the room acoustics?モ. Shozo Kinoshita answers and admits that, despite the absence of apparent acoustic treatment, the acoustics is actually excellent while staying clear, the loudspeakers and electronics located all around the room serving at eliminating the stationary waves by taking place just right where needed. He reassures us citing skeptical clients that finally felt comfortable when these mini or micro monitors where installed at home. For the big models, a vast space is required, and this, all the more that the large KM-7VC (mistake on ref.) can be hold by the dedicated RIS-1C bass enclosure. One of the most beautiful studios, located in South Africa, uses it. It is renowned for being the only studio in the world to be able to transcribe infra bass as low as 9Hz without attenuation or distortion.

The Rey Audio electronics

After having used for years the French JMF electronics designed by Jean-Marc Fuselier (!), Rey Audio has continued to work in partnership with this company in the same time as producing some メmade in Japanモ assorted of an ultra finished manufacturing quality. The product line, unchanged since 1999, is composed of the HQS amplifier series (2500UPM, 2800UPM, mono block 4200UPM) these last delivering 1000W/4 Ohms with uncommon current and dynamics capacities. The associated preamplifiers are referenced MSP-1 and MSP-1LP, the version with 78 turns inputs being out of catalog and made on specific demand. These preamplifiers are characterized by the absence of serigraphy, in front or back, the selected input being indicated by a tiny light point (the end of an optical fiber) located at the back, next to the corresponding input.
In front of listening results of such a level, the description of the elements of the chain does not seem to bring anything really interesting. In the old Rey Audio building, in the end of 1998, the listening sessions were mainly done on CD discs while being sometimes accompanied with vinyl discs played on the famous Thorens Prestige table. Since, Shozo Kinoshita has turned toward listenings that are essentially centered on classical music, especially mono and stereo vinyl discs as well as 78 turns discs as it was the case above. The other sources are DAT and two track 38cm master tapes played on professional equipment. Shozo Kinoshita is currently working on a stereophonic microphone of his invention, characterized by unique メ3Dモ possibilities. We do not know much more, the commercial availability is planned for 2007.
All our thanks to Mr. Shozo Kinoshita for his warm welcome as well to Mr. Takakazu O布umi of the ヤproユ Japanese journal FDI for allowing us to make this reporting, unique in its kind.

Original text by Jean Hiraga.

Comments on photos

p.112. A superb Steinway piano increased in value by its sculpted parts. This Steinway and Sons manufactured in 1927 has the merit of being kept in perfect condition.

p.113. (up) The listening room on the RM-7VC side. The room measures 8m wide and 10m long. Its height is about 8m in the middle and 2.5m behind the speakers. All the walls are in wood, the assembly was made without screws or nails.
(down) The back of the room, the seats are moved to allow listening to the WARP-7 in quasi similar conditions as for the front side. In the middle, an eventual central channel is actually a great wood stove.

p. 114. From the massive professional monitors RM-7VC and WARP-7 to the tiny but very surprising Micro Monitor MM-10 and PM-10 monitors.

p. 115. Listening results absolutely impressive while definitely placed outside of the usual notions of defined sound, well toned. Shozo Kinoshita holds his promise when talking about his move to the technique of art of sound.

p. 116. A building entirely made of wood, without screws or nails. Not acoustic treatment but studied dimensions, Rey Audio being the dealer in Japan of the CAD software and Linear X real time analyzers.


                     REVUE DU SON DEC 2006より転載しました         


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