Issue 91


Old School:

Jeff Dorgay looks back at the PrimaLuna
ProLogue One, the component that launched
his career!


A Pioneer $295 Integrated!!
By Jerold O’Brien

Journeyman Audiophile:

The MOON by Simaudio 600iV2
By Eric Neff

Mine: It Should Be Yours

Game Boy Watch

AMMO NYC Car Detailing Foam

JBL Xtreme Two

Lennon Stamps

and more….


Playlists:  We share our readers choices from around the world

Can’t Get it Out of my Head
By Emily Duff

Future Tense

PS Audio P15

ML Dynamo

Roon Nucleus +

and more…

This Month’s Gear: Integrated Amplifiers!

Pass Labs INT-60

McIntosh MAC7200

Gold Note IS-1000

Octave V 110SE

Anthem AVR

and more…

The PrimaLuna HP Integrated Amplifier

Do any of you know someone that knows what you want, even before you know you want it? Kevin Deal of Upscale Audio and PrimaLuna US is that kind of guy.

Known the world over as a top purveyor of vacuum tubes, he and Herman Van den Dungen started PrimaLuna about 13 years ago with a humble integrated amplifier for $995 that changed what we could all expect from a small tube amplifier.

Unlike the Dynaco’s of the 60s, the PrimaLuna ProLogue 1 was robustly built, beautifully finished, and as I said in The Absolute Sound, it sounded bitchin. The product line has grown from there, and PrimaLuna has added a higher scale DiaLogue series along side of the ever evolving ProLogue series. Most of the two output tube per channel PrimaLuna integrated amplifiers produce about 40 watts per channel.

And now for something completely different

Kevin Deal knows that a lot of us love the lush, tonally saturated sound of the EL34 output tube and that’s what he sent me for review; the new DiaLogue HP Integrated with eight of them under the hood. Wow. Yes, you can (and I did) run the HP with KT-88s or even KT-120s for a bit more power and that may indeed be your cup of tea. Swapping the EL-34s for a set of KT-120s proves interesting, driving my Quad 2812s, changing the vibe.

Listening to more bass heavy tracks, the KT-120 tubes offer slightly more control down deep than the EL-34s. Swapping speakers from the Quads to the GamuT RS5is, which have more bass extension, this is more noticeable than through the Quads. Tracking through Yo Gotti’s Art of the Hustle went from a polite presentation with the EL-34s to hard hitting beats with the KT-120s in place.

A touch of midrange and upper high frequency delicacy is lost with the bigger tubes, but the extra power and control is tough to ignore. Again, it will depend on your speakers and listening tastes, but it’s so cool that you can fine tune this amplifier to this degree; especially considering how many of us fall in and out of love with certain speakers.

According to the spec sheet, the HP produces 70 watts per channel in ultralinear mode with EL-34s and 85 per channel with KT-120s. Deal says that the HP will even produce 96 watts per channel with KT-150 tubes, making it one of the world’s most powerful tube integrateds. Keep in mind, KT -150s about $100 each, so this will add a few bucks to either the retail price, or a casual retube. The HP stands for “high power” and “headphones” but we’ll address that later.

Deal advises me to “not even listen to the amp until it’s been on for at least five days,” but journalistic curiosity gets the best of me and I begin listening right after the photo session. Right out of the box it sounds seriously good, but as the tube master advises, at about the hundred hour mark, the HP openes up in a major way. Starting each day’s listening session with the same track, Jean-Michel Jarre’s “Diva” from the Zoolook album. This track sounds big and airy, with Laurie Anderson’s reverse tracked vocals bouncing back and forth between the Quads as it should, but on the sixth day, it sounds like she is sitting in my lap, whispering in one ear, then the other. The effect is cool, in a hallucogenic way, but almost scary at times. That’s what great sound is all about! Should you buy an HP for your room, take the advice; just let it play for a week and then prepare to be impressed.


Unlike the ProLogue Premium integrated, which only operates in ultralinear mode, the DiaLogue Premium HP can operate in both ultralinear and triode mode. Like a totally 80s dude’s mullet, the HP has two very distinct personalities. Choose triode to be mellow (business in the front) and ultralinear to rock the house (party in the back).

Triode mode is available at the flip of a switch, delivering 40 wpc and 50 wpc, respectfully, depending on your tube choice. If you haven’t experimented with triode mode yet, you’re in for a surprise, hopefully a pleasant one. While the lower bass notes have slightly less grip, the midrange takes on more luster, and you will either be seduced by it or not. Those loving smaller scale music, jazz and anything acoustic, will be in for a lovely experience in triode mode. It’s worth noting that triode mode has slightly less gain, but considering the 2-4 volt output of most modern DACs and phonostages, this will not be an issue for 99.99% of all users.

The extra power provided by eight power tubes is what really gives triode mode in the HP extra punch; 40-50 watts per channel is so much more useful than the 20-25 watts per channel that an amplifier with a single pair of output tubes per channel usually delivers, again making the HP so versatile. On many levels, the higher output of the KT120 tubes in triode mode to be a near perfect compromise, yet the EL34s in triode mode are closer to that vintage Marantz/McIntosh tube sound many tube lovers grew up with, it’s tough to choose. Just like all the other PrimaLuna amps I’ve used, if you really want to head down the vintage path further, you can swap the power tubes out for 6L6GTs. This gives the amp an even warmer sound, reminiscent of the Dynaco Stereo 70, so this might not be for everyone.

Thanks to the latest version of PrimaLuna’s Adaptive Auto Bias, swapping power tubes is a snap, and you don’t have to fiddle with anything. They’ve incorporated some other handy features over the years, including at “Bad Tube Circuit” that shuts the amp down in the event of tube failure, so no damage will come to the output transformers or other components. A few of my favorite amps from other manufacturers have required a service call due to a bad tube. The two times I have had output tubes fail in my own PrimaLuna amplifiers, the LED came on without drama. A quick tube replacement and the music was back in action. There are two other levels of protection to protect the valuable output transformers as well, so these amplifiers just don’t fail. Talking to a number of PrimaLuna owners over the years never turns to component failure. The only aspect of the company I can’t comment on is their service department; I don’t know of one that’s ever needed service!

Back to the listening chair

Dusty Springfield, Shelby Lynne and Ella Fitzgerald prove stunning through the Quads in Triode mode, coming through with a sultry, silkiness that embodies every romantic notion you could ever have about an amplifier full of glowing bottles. Dim, the lights, queue up your most beloved tracks and add a bit of whatever adult beverage you enjoy; this is your ticket to audio nirvana. In the context of a system using the Quads at $12k/pair and the $3,000 Simaudio Neo 260D CD player/DAC, the level of musicality the HP delivers is quite unbelievable. Everyone unfamiliar with PrimaLuna thought this was a much more expensive amplifier.

Swapping the Sim for the $30,000 dCS Rossini DAC, (though probably counterintuitive for someone building a system around a $4,300 integrated), the DiaLogue has the necessary resolution to allow this premium DAC to shine. Bottom line; the HP is either an amp you can really grow with, or for many people a destination product. After swapping multiple, mega expensive amp/preamp combinations, I never found myself feeling left out with the HP in place.

As the amplifier finishes breaking in, the aspects of its initial sound are only further reinforced. There are no compromises here. Both ends of the frequency spectrum are reproduced with uncanny realism, and this amplifier has some of the most realistic lower end control I’ve ever experienced with a tube amplifier, regardless of pedigree. While we don’t take the time to put our test subjects on the test bench, a few other editors that have gone to this length have all remarked on the incredibly accurate square wave response of the HP, which illustrates it’s ability to reproduce transients with incredible accuracy.

Techie stuff aside, the HP strikes (for me anyway) a perfect balance of providing the airiness, additional textural feel and tonal saturation that you would expect out of a fantastic tube amplifier, without any hint of coloration, transient smear or sluggishness. That’s a tall order indeed. This is an amplifier that begs to be listened to for hours on end.

The ins and outs of things

Around back, the HP has five line level RCA inputs, a complete home theater bypass and a variable level mono output for those wanting to integrate a powered sub. This proved helpful when evaluating the latest Dominion sub from JLAudio (which was a perfect match for the Quads, btw) and will make this amplifier a lot handier for someone pairing it up with speakers that could use a little extra help on the lower end.

Choosing ultralinear or triode mode couldn’t be easier, you merely push a button on the remote and it’s done. A pair of tiny LEDs on the front panel (green on the left, red on the right) keep you posted. Again, the constant refinement at PrimaLuna is at work here as well. Past models had a slight click during mode change, encouraging having the volume all the way down. This is a thing of the past with the HP; now only the volume changes because of the gain difference.

As mentioned earlier, this amplifier is made for tube rolling; input and output. Optimizing the HP for various output tubes is facilitated by the handy switch on the right side of the chassis. One setting for EL-34s, the other for the KT88/KT120 tubes. Right next to it is the headphone/speaker switch, again another thoughtful circuit design; rather than having headphone jack contacts oxidize and potentially collect noise over time, a gentle flip of the switch is all that needs to be done.

Head trip

Awesome as the HP is as an integrated amplifier, it’s pretty amazing as a headphone amplifier too. Rather than adding the headphone amplifier as an afterthought to cash in on the current craze, PrimaLuna merely attenuates the output of the amplifier via the switch, utilizing the whole amplifier to power your phones.

A quick throwback to the 70s with some Iron Butterfly and Pink Floyd along with the Flaming Lips to keep it in this century, all via the Audeze LCD-2s proves breathtaking. Sampling about ten different phones, it’s clear that the HP succeeds as a world class headphone amp as well. Everything in our headphone arsenal was driven with ease, so true head fi’ers can be confident that the HP will drive the full range of your can collection. This is grain free, tubey goodness at it’s best, providing a number of very long, non fatiguing headphone listening sessions.

Revisiting familiar headphone tracks underlines the HPs ability to paint a massive sonic landscape, that like some of the world’s finest headphone amplifiers simply makes the headphones disappear, getting you further into the music. Even with the tough to drive HiFiMan phones, and all of the planars in my collection, the HP has the same bass grip that it did driving my reference loudspeakers. Highs are equally liquid and tonally correct, with a very large sonic space rendered between my ears. With the Audeze phones, I almost felt if I were still listening to the Quads in my listening chair!

More to come

The PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium HP integrated amplifier not only dishes up some of the best sound we’ve heard at any price, it’s beautifully crafted and well thought out in terms of functionality. If you’ve ever been on the fence about trying a tube amplifier, look no further. PrimaLuna has eliminated any obstacles, making the HP a breeze to operate.

Like a software release, you have to draw a line in the sand and get the release out the door. But the HP is going to be sticking around here a while, perhaps permanently, so look forward to some more comments as I combine it with a wider range of speakers, cables and do a little more tube rolling.

If you need an integrated amp, or even have a pair of separates you’ve been thinking of upgrading, I can’t suggest the HP highly enough. You could pay $4,399 for a pair of interconnects to connect your amp and preamp together and you won’t need it with the HP. This is one of the most incredible bargains in high end audio today.

The PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium HP Integrated Amplifier



Analog Source            AVID Volvere SP table/SME V/Kiseki Purple Heart NS

Phonostage                Simaudio MOON 610LP

Digital Source            dCS Rossini w/Rossini clock

Speakers                    GamuT RS5is, Quad 2812, Rogers LS5/9

Cable                          Cardas Clear

The Pass Labs XA200.8 Monoblocks

Over the past 20 years, it remains exciting to review such a range of products from so many unique audio manufacturers. Each new component provides a narrative of where the designer is in their creative process. Changing out components from one manufacturer to another is like changing the channel from one show to another featuring a whole new cast and a whole new plot line. Following the career of Nelson Pass, and his unique outlook always makes for engaging listening.

Though my first experience with Mr. Pass’ channel as a reviewer was with the X2.5 preamplifier, followed by the X350, X600, X350.5, XA200.5 amplifiers, the XP20 preamp, and finally the subject of this review. The Threshold SA150 power amplifier and FET 9 preamplifier were the first true high-end components I wrote checks for back in the early 1990s.

A Man With a Plan

If you follow Pass’ timeline, you realize he does not slap a new face plate on a modestly tweaked amp, jack up the price and call it a new model. A true innovator; Nelson Pass does not create a new product or range of products until he and his team have produced substantial sonic improvement.

Unafraid to explore and embrace different designs and topologies, Pass created the popular  Aleph series in the late 1990’s to considerable acclaim. More recently the First Watt components, the X, XA and XS lines each offering keen insight into differing approaches, and sonic priorities. It was the introduction of the X series amplifiers, however, featuring the super-symmetry circuit in the X-1000 mono blocks in 1998 that launched Pass Labs into the forefront of modern amplifier design, hinting at what was yet to come.

The XA200.8 takes up a good deal of space. At 19” wide, 11” tall, 27.5” deep and weighing 157 lbs each, plan your system layout accordingly. Operating in class A up to 400 watts, the XA200.8s get warm but never blisteringly so. The new porthole style bias meter and simply beveled face plate have a clarity of design that escaped the fussier XA200.5. There are single-ended inputs which I have never used on any Pass amp and a pair of XLR inputs. There are two sets of great wing-nut style binding posts ideal for bi-wiring. The master power switch on the back brings the amp to life, and the large spring loaded button on the face plate brings the amp out of standby.

The Biggest .8

With the XA200.8s, the most powerful of the .8 series and right below the reference XS series, Nelson has reached a plateau occupied by those of the great classical sculptures. The ability to remove all the unnecessary material that surrounds the subject revealing the ideal hidden form defined the art of the day.  As Michelangelo said; “I saw the Angel in the stone and carved until I set it free.” With this principle in mind, the XA200.8s embody this ideal to a greater degree than any Pass amp I have yet heard. Distortion is removed to such an extent; music is effortlessly rendered. That’s not to say there is no personality whatsoever, and all great artists have a recognizable touch. The indelible hallmarks of Nelson Pass’s designs are so artfully integrated into the XA200.8s that they no longer stick out separately from the music. Control, definition, smoothness and a tinge of tonal color let you know in the best way possible this is a Pass amp through and through.

I’m not sure why but it seemed to take longer for the XA200.8s to come into full voice than past Pass amps I have lived with; we are talking months. Perhaps my day to day responsibilities has cut into listening time protracting the process. Once readied, the XA200.8s impart a confidence that whatever music thrown its way will be handled with great ease. You will never hear someone say this or that genre of music sounds better than another through the XA200.8. Everything sounds great, all forms of music are presented completely just as they should be with little lacking, added, or otherwise deviant in the reproduction. Steadfast composure with such low levels of distortion and a seemingly infinitely scaled dynamic range paints a masterpiece of music reproduction allowing the listener to completely sink into the performance, freeing the mind to soak in more musical meaning.

Like the Pass amplifiers that came before, control and composure are terms that keep coming to mind in defining the XA200.8s. I made a mistake early in the review process of not dialing back the volume knob of the D’agostino Master Audio preamp when I switched from the lower level of my Triangle Art turntable and my D’Agostino phono preamp to the higher output Macintosh MB50 Streamer. I hit play on Disturbed’s “The Infection, ” and a literal explosion of sound ripped through the Sonus Faber Lilium speakers. I freakin jumped out of my skin, like a cartoon skeleton popping through my flesh but quickly realized the sound remained coherent within the mayhem. The soundstage remained clearly defined as did the timbre and texture of the instruments. It was way louder than I should ever listen if I hope to hang on to what’s left of my hearing yet the XA200.8s showed no ceiling to their competence, no limit to what they could handle.

For me, this is the big difference between the older XA200.5s and the new .8 version. Bass is tighter, faster and more clearly defined when stressed with the XA200.8. The entire musical spectrum has more “pop” with greater dynamic control and more sparkle and contrast where the XA200.5 was softer, with slightly less focus. I could live with the XA200.5 happily, but there is no doubt, the XA200.8 is the better amp.

Difference in the Details

There are several modern high-powered amps that approach the level of speaker control the XA200.8s provide, but few can spin as many sonic plates at once as the XA200.8s. With all the fury the XA200.8 is capable of so comes grace and purity. Wonderfully rendered tonal color and subtly preserved transients particularly in the treble gives music the life and spontaneity of a lower powered single-ended tube amp. The cymbals on Tommy Flanagan’s’ Sea Changes are entirely grainless and complex as I have heard from a recording. Getting this right requires an extremely low noise floor and lack of electronic haze and glare. Pass amps have always been pretty good in this regard, particularly the XA.5 series. The XA200.8s seems to have taken the smoothness of the XA200.5s and add a degree of sparkle and openness allowing for greater detail, illumination, and air.

The same level of improvements carries through the mid-band. Grainless, smooth, yet naturally textured and focused. Vocals and mid-band rich instruments of all stripes are locked in and stable. Always presented in perfect size and proportion within the stage, images are not too broad, not too small. Of course, image size and shape is recording dependent, but with familiar source material I can attest, the XA200.8s get it spot on.

The mid-bass and low-bass balance is an area many amps either lean out in favor of definition and articulation or bloats in favor of a spreading warmth. This can be appealing at first but grows tiresome as an omnipresent coloration. Here the XA200.8s exude neutrality, never draining the baby with the bathwater. From Stanley Clark playing a variety of bass instruments on East Riverside Drive to George Mraz’ exquisite phrasing on another Tommy Flanagan chestnut, “Nights At the Vanguard,” the XA200.8s never gives themself away, never imparting any lack of confidence that the amplifier is getting in the way of the music.

So What Makes Them Special?

Everything described above goes a long way to defining greatness. Sitting in the sweet spot soaking it all up is a wonderful treat, indeed. However, a recent experience listening way off axis, at my drafting board, working on a creation of my own re-contextualized my expectations. “December 1963 (Oh What A Night)” by the Four Seasons came on via the McIntosh MB50 streamer catching me off guard. This has always been a real favorite of mine, so the fact that I would enjoy this classic is not news. But After the first couple of notes, I stopped dead, dropped my pen and started to choke up, my voice cracking as I began belting out the lyrics. No imaging, no soundstage, none of the audiophile checklist items to speak of, just….Music- Soul stirring music. Can I attribute this magic moment directly to the XA200.8s? Yes, I can. These amplifiers don’t care where you are sitting, standing, dancing or otherwise. Their superb tonal balance and ease with which they pass the signal and their ability to control the speakers is beyond reproach and offer an intense connection to music regardless of your proximity to the system.

Priced at $44K per pair, one should expect excellence in the XA200.8 amplifiers. There is excellence, and there is excellence. With all the wonderful attributes mentioned above comes the fact that not one Pass product in all the years of my ham-fisted ambivalence, have I been able to abuse one into failure. Those who know me can attest that if a component is not seriously over engineered, I will find a way to choke the life out of it. Reliability or the lack thereof is a point not driven home enough in reviews, particular reviews of components as expensive as this. Nothing is more frustrating than a costly component biting the dust. In this regard, Pass Labs’ steadfast reliability is without peer.

Without hesitation, I could go the rest of my life and never feel the need to upgrade from the Pass XA200.8 amplifiers. That’s not to say I will never review another amplifier; it is my job after all. And it’s also not to say that I will never find another amplifier enjoyable. But if I were to get out of the biz of swapping gear and had to lay down my hard earned cash for a forever amplifier? I could not imagine another manufacturer more deserving of my business and another component worthier of my respect.

Further Thoughts:  Jeff Dorgay

There’s not much more that I can add in sheer enthusiasm here. My ownership and enjoyment of Pass gear go back a bit further; I bought my first Threshold 400A power amplifier in 1982. I’ve been using Pass power amplifiers as reference components for about eight years now, but my experience has never been the same – I’ve yet to have a Pass component break on my watch. I don’t think I know anyone else that has either.

Having used the XS300 monos as my personal reference since they came on the scene, I must admit the new .8 series is beginning to close the gap; it’s not quite the chasm it used to be. For my money, if you have the dough, the XS300s are a lot better (as they should be) but where the XS300 left the 200.5s in the dust, There’s a lot more horsepower and finesse inside the .8 version. If you don’t have a world class everything, you won’t regret your decision to get a pair of XA200.8s. And Pass mentions their products having about a seven-year lifespan, so it wouldn’t surprise me in a couple of years if Mr. Pass comes up with something even more musical than the XS amplifiers to open that gap back up.

Comparing the 200.8s to the XS monos is one thing, comparing the 200.8s to everything else in their price category is another. You might dig that tiny extra bit of tubey-ness that a pair of tube monoblocks will give you, but it’s ever, ever so slight. I say this as a guy that has more than a few tube amplifiers here. I love the 200.8s because they give me all that lovely tonal saturation that I would get from a great tube amplifier, with all the grip and dynamics of a solid-state amp – without having to hunt down tubes. And for me, that will always be the awesomeness of Pass amplifiers, or as Nelson Pass has said more than once, “the sound of tubes without the hassle.”

It’s worth mentioning how well the 200.8s work with any source. I’ve used these monoblocks with about two dozen different sources, balanced and single ended with no problem. Using the Pass XS Pre and the Audio Research REF 6 (the only preamplifiers I have that sound equally good through the RCA and XLR outputs) with 20-foot runs of Cardas Clear cable, I could not notice any difference in sound quality. So rest assured, whatever your source it will partner up with these amps perfectly.

And it’s the same for the output. Whether using the most power hungry Magnepans, treacherous ESLs, etc., there was no speaker that the 200.8s had the least bit of difficulty with. I’ve never used an amplifier more benign in that sense than any of the Pass products. They are impervious to speaker and cable differences, making it all that much easier to hear said nuances. This is why I love using their amplifiers as a reference – they let everything else through.

The bottom line: another out of the ballpark hit for Pass Labs.

The Pass XA200.8 Monoblocks
MSRP: $44,000/pair

Focal’s Kanta No.3 Speakers

Unboxing a new pair of Focal speakers is always special.

It’s like getting handed the keys to a new car, a great car. That feeling. Their new Kanta No.3 has the same level of attention to detail that their Grande Utopia EM does. The execution of mechanical assembly, cabinet finish and signature glass top is flawless. These are speakers you will be proud to own.

We are pleased to introduce the Kanta No.3, the top of Focal’s Kanta lineup, with their unveling at CEDIA today. Daniel Jacques and his team at Audio Plus Services will have them on display, along with some other goodies that you shouldn’t miss if you are attending the show.

Fleshing out the Kanta lineup, and because of their $11,999/pair suggested retail price, there is definitely some overlap with the award winning Sopra. Yet Kanta is a completely different product. In the last generation of Focal speakers, technology from their flagship Grande Utopia EM filtered down the range, while the Kanta range has plenty of new technology that is fresh for Focal.

Primarily, their new IAL Beryllium tweeter and the current midrange using their latest flax cone material, which is lighter, stiffer, and even more natural sounding than their previous W cone material. Combining these new materials and Focal’s recent crossover updates, the Kanta range that feels slightly warmer than that of the Sopra range. The new Kantas are not intended to replace the Sopras, but as an alternative.

Kanta no.3 builds upon the success of the smaller Kanta No.2, which we reviewed nearly a year ago here. Everything we said about the Kanta No.2 is here in full effect with the No.3, but thanks to a pair of larger 8-inch woofers (where the No.2s have a pair of 6.5-inch units) and a more voluminous cabinet, No.3 goes deeper in the lowest bass notes and plays somewhat louder.

Are they for you?

Having used Sopra no.3s for over two years now as my personal reference, even in comparison to some speakers costing nearly five times as much, I’m still more than happy with them. When reviewing the Kanta No.2s, I enjoyed their slightly warmer tonal balance, but that is a personal bias. Serious side by side comparison between my Sopra No.3s and the Kanta No.2s, I was thrilled with the available resolution, but the Sopra’s ability to play louder and deeper in my 16 x 25 foot room, still leaves the Sopras the winner in my system, yet what Focal has achieved with a $10,000 pair of speakers leaves a major impression, as does the Sopras at $20,000/pair.

Where the Kanta no.2s took the lead, mainly in part to their front and rear firing ports, was their ability to deliver top performance in a smaller room than the Sopra no.3s. Again the Kanta no.3s build on this strength. While the Kanta No.3s extra dynamic ability makes for a speaker that plays bigger than the Kanta no.2s, they are also (as were the Kanta No.2s) slightly easier to optimize in the room than the Sopras are. I know we are splitting hairs here, and again, this is a great reason to visit your Focal dealer and let them help guide you through the process.

The Kanta No.3s deliver fantastic results even when not perfectly optimized, sounding great when merely plopped in the room, yet become spellbinding when a given an hour or two of concentrated effort.

Exquisite construction

Like every Focal speaker, the Kanta No.3s are simply beautiful to behold, and while you can get them in standard black and white, Focal also offers a fun palette of colors that will be at home in any environment. While I love the bright colors, the white finish on our review samples is very tastefully understated and will blend in to any environment. (Perhaps a little easier than my bright orange Sopras, but that’s me!)

Where the Focal speakers in the higher range have a monochromatic cabinet, the Kanta is a two piece design, with your choice of black or a wood finish, with eight color choices for the front baffle. This helps keep manufacturing cost down and provides more decor options. A definite win win.

Rounding out the package, there are black, magnetically attached grilles, but considering that the Kantas have no exposed screws, bolts, or fasteners, why not enjoy their industrial design sans grilles? (The grilles are always good for party time!)

The short answer

Being that this is a sneak peek at the Kanta No.3, we are listening intently and there will be an in-depth review shortly. For now, think of the Kanta No.3 as a bigger, better No.2 Everything we loved about the Kanta No.2s applies here as well and if you feel so inclined, please read our review on the Kanta No.2 here.

You can also read more about the Kanta line here on the Focal website.

Yet even after a day of listening, these are impressive speakers and go a long way to redefine what is possible in a $11,999 pair of speakers. As we felt with the Sopras and the Kanta No.2, for all but the most well-heeled audiophiles with the largest of rooms, you could buy a pair of Kanta No.3s, a few pieces of great electronics, and a source or two and be set for life. These are not speakers you will tire of.

However to make a long story short, if you are having trouble deciding between Kanta No.2 and Kanta No.3, I would distill it down to: how loud do you listen, how big is your room, and what is the overall bass character of the majority of your music collection? I think it’s very cool that Focal gives you the choice.

Please stay tuned and we will have further insights soon.