by Rafe Arnott
The look was modern and the sound was fast, powerful, with great tonality and timing.
When I say modern… I mean striking. The stand-mounted Acoustique Quality Passion Orca ($5,990 USD) kept my eyes lingering on it’s angular, folded lines throughout the listening session. Ditto for the big floor standing, three-way Passion ($19,990 USD).
This Czech company had paired up with fellow countrymen KR Audio for amplification courtesy of their single-ended 300B VA 340 MK II power amp with an Arcam A49 running as a pre-amp. A Pro-Ject Xtension 9 was pressed into service for analog duties via a Pro-Ject RS phono stage, but while I was in the room we heard Redbook files being fed into a Schitt Gungnir. All cabling was courtesy of AudioQuest. When loudspeakers look as good as these do, it’s icing on the cake when the sound is a standout, and deep, taut bass, and incredible imaging coupled with outstanding room pressurization made for some high-SPL listening. KR Audio has been around since 1992 when they started manufacturing tubes, and that legacy of high-quality valve production culminated at CES with the 340 MK II sporting a fresh pair of KR 300BXLS power tubes. With the 340 MK II rated at 20 watts per channel, these valves were giving new meaning to space around instruments and decay on piano notes. I kept having to reminding myself that this was only Redbook that I was hearing. Having spent a not inconsiderable amount of time in the last several months getting to know another 300B amp in my home, I was startled at just how far KR was taking this venerable valve in their zero-feedback, pure Class-A configuration. The big bass-reflex Passions come in at 89 dB, and are a three-way design that features all-AudioQuest internal cabling, along with a frequency response of 20 Hz ~ 45 kHz, so upper registers had tremendous headroom, and a testament that a 20-watt power amp could drive speakers of this moderate efficiency to such satisfying playback levels. Not a system that I’d heard of previously in any way, shape or form, but one that I’ll be looking forward to hopefully hearing again when I hit Axpona in April.