By dint of fate, and the long evaluation periods to which all of Audiophilia’s writers subscribe, publication of my previous review of Antipodes Audio’s Komako interconnects coincided exactly with the release of a substantially revised model. While the original cable’s blend of innovative technology, fine materials, complex construction, startling performance and excellent value had left me no choice but to recognise it as an Audiophilia Star Component, the practical and (to a much lesser extent) sonic concerns I’d identified were already well known to designer Mark Jenkins, who had set about addressing them. The result is what you see; a thoroughly revised Komako, claimed to build significantly upon the strengths of the old. Fortunately, Mark was just as keen for me to sample them as I was!
I will not repeat the in-depth examination from that earlier review; if you have yet to encounter this New Zealand company and their unique cable technology, you may wish to familiarise yourself with it as a precursor to what follows. Suffice to say that the company’s self-produced (and completely unparalleled) silver wire, infused with gold and platinum and coated in a protective film of organic oil, remains unchanged in the new cable, as does the use of unbleached cotton for the dielectric. The most obvious difference is the RCA plugs; a brand new, proprietary design comprising gold-plated, high copper content conductors and an impeccably-finished barrel made from anodised, aerospace-grade aluminium rod. They replace the oversized silver Xhadow connectors previously used, which allowed the bulky cable to be properly terminated but were blamed for compromising its performance in the bass. They also mean that every single component employed in the cable’s construction (except the solder, presumably!) is entirely proprietary, and found nowhere else. Note that a new XLR plug, designed along similar lines, graces the balanced option.
Also changed are facets of the cable’s unique ‘Antipodal’ geometry; the product of some innovative science and credited as the foundation of the Komako’s supreme phase-coherence, inherently high level of noise rejection and system-to-system consistency. Mark is able to exert such precise control over the cable’s sonic properties (treble extension, soundstaging, transient attack and so on) by manipulating specific aspects of this geometry, that he is placed in a position similar to a loudspeaker designer; that of needing to ‘tune’ the cable’s capabilities to achieve a balance favourable to the majority of likely customers and their systems. Early versions of the original Komako were, as I understand it, somewhat detuned to a level thought appropriate for its target market – but adoption in ever more upmarket systems saw its geometry moved closer to the company’s flagship Reference model in the version I reviewed. With this latest revision, both cables now effectively share the same geometry.
Upon removing the cables from their robust protective packaging, the new version is noticeably more slender of girth than the old, and also a little more flexible. With the increased length of the plug and strain relief assembly, though, you’ll still need 6 or 7 inches of clearance behind components. The attractive new RCA plugs slide on easily, grip different socket styles snugly, and their lithe profile addresses the problem with those oversized Xhadow plugs; the limiting factor, if space is tight, becomes the thickness of the cable itself.
The original Komako’s aggravated behaviour during burn-in, and the lengthy period it took to settle down (in my system, close to a month to achieve a measure of stability, and almost four months for the bass to come good), was another area to receive Mark’s attention. Unspecified changes to the intensive ten-day, multi-stage preconditioning process to which he subjects all of his interconnects had, according to early feedback, radically improved the situation. Sure enough, the new cables sounded very listenable right from the off, with little sign of the marked (though temporary) aberrations of the originals. In a complete turnaround, the bass was remarkably tight and well balanced almost from Day 1; over the next ten days or so it shed a slightly ‘wooden’ quality, while the treble filled out and a representative measure of transparency and resolution was achieved. Subsequently, though, the new Komakos entered a ‘dull’ phase where the treble became recessed, so it took a total of three to four weeks of normal listening before they attained their ultimate equilibrium (if not quite their ultimate performance, which has continued to improve subtly week by week). This time, the whole burn-in process had been undramatic and entirely stress-free.
Despite the disorienting effect of the burn-in period, I felt I had a good handle on the differences between old and new versions … but careful and extended comparative listening (once I was comfortable that the new cables had fully settled down) caused some re-evaluation, and is the source for what follows. For simplicity’s sake, I shall borrow inspiration from a reader of the first review and use ‘K1’ to signify my first set of Komakos, ‘K2’ representing this revised design.
First up, nobody likes to look a fool so I can say with some relief that the K1 remains worthy of the praise lavished upon it – it is, by any measure, a remarkable cable. Very little needed to be changed, and fans of the original can be reassured that the K1’s astonishing resolution, transparency, energy, coherence and huge soundstage have found their way in full measure into the successor. The K1 is still very much a model of neutrality and tonal evenness, yet its bass now reveals a slightly leaden quality, appearing a fraction heavy and slow next to the more dynamic, supple, focussed and expressive bottom end of the K2. I detected, too, the merest hint of sweetness in the K2’s treble that was lacking in the K1 and, while hardly a departure from neutrality, this would likely help its balance in most systems. These improvements are credited directly to the new RCA plugs; the change from silver to copper connectors should also, according to conventional wisdom, result in a marginally smoother and less overtly detailed sound … which is indeed the case, though Mark attributes it more to the optimisation of other aspects of the plug’s construction than to the conductor material itself.
Otherwise, I think any owner of K1s will be thoroughly surprised at the scope for improvement that has been found in the K2; I certainly was. Readily apparent is that the K2 has a ‘bouncier’, more rhythmically engaging quality and an improved sense of flow. Along with still greater microdynamic prowess – directly audible in music of particular transient richness, though generally perceived as a nimbler, more precise quality to the presentation – the K1’s vibrant sense of musical energy is undiminished, yet the feel is more relaxed and refined, more spacious and effortless, more dynamically assured. The K2’s increased smoothness is implicit and natural, the result of a complete absence of electronic glare or grain. Resolution of tonal/timbral/ambient information is increased and, together with a still more coherent solidity to the soundstage and improved layering of depth perspectives, the firm impression is given of a more nuanced and complex picture of the same musical event, yet one that is assimilated by the subconscious brain with even greater ease.
While these various improvements were inevitably highlighted by the intense nature of comparative auditioning, few in isolation were particularly large – after all, it was not weaknesses of the original design that were being addressed. In combination, though, they became very significant. There is an even more profound organic wholeness to the K2’s sound, allied to a transporting sense of purity and unflustered ease that renders music hugely communicative, intelligible and – to revive a theme from the first review – authentically natural. Indeed, I found myself relating to the sound of my system differently when the K2s were installed. Where the K1 delivered music with an exhilarating directness and clarity, the K2’s more refined presentation and potent rhythmic integrity adds an irresistible sonic honeypot, luring the listener ever further into the music before drowning you in the sheer pleasure of it!
What Mark Jenkins has achieved with this new, revised version of the Komako interconnect is a testimony to the technology underpinning Antipodes Audio’s cable range. By relatively minor adjustments to the basic elements of the cable’s construction and geometry, a sonic balance has been achieved that is both distinctively different and recognisably the same! Owners of the original can be reassured that nothing they love about it has been lost; instead, those same elements have been refined, rebalanced and surpassed, into a sonic whole still more intoxicatingly reminiscent of live sound. Keen to look after these customers, many of whom will not have owned their cables for very long, Antipodes is offering a generous trade-in allowance – the terms of which I shan’t detail here in case they change, so check with the company. My experience indicates unequivocally that it is an offer well worth taking up.
There’s one more item of good news. Cost savings stemming from the proprietary plugs and improved production techniques have seen the cost of both RCA and balanced XLR variants dropped to US$550 for a one meter pair; a 40% reduction in the latter case. An unconditional 45-day refund policy offers a safety net, though I gather it is a long time since anything found its way back. Already offering conspicuous value at the original price, to my mind this cable has just put a bullet through the heart of the competitive $500 market sector.
I remain convinced that the Komako is a genuinely important, not to say ground-breaking product. That it now sounds significantly better, and costs substantially less, just makes the lustre on its Audiophilia Star shine all the brighter!
[It is with great pleasure that we re award The Audiophilia Star Component Award to the Antipodes Audio Revised Komako Interconnects. Congratulations! - Ed]
Price: US$550 for a one metre pair (RCA or XLR)
Source of review sample: Manufacturer loan
Analogue: Linn LP12 / Lingo PS / Ittok LVII / Audio Technica OC30
Digital: Meridian 507, Audia Flight CD Three
Amplification: Custom-built AC Magnum dual mono P200 pre and power
Speakers: Acoustat Spectra 1100 hybrid electrostatics
Cables: MAC Reference & Mystic, Antipodes Audio Komako interconnects / MAC Shotgun speaker cable / MAC Burly, HC amp; Digital power cords
Accessories: Sound Mechanics Performance isolation platforms (on each source component) / Target & Sound Organisation stands / Aerolam & RATA Torlyte shelves / Herbie’s Audio Labs isolation products / Eichmann Toppers / Caig ProGold /Belkin PF40 power conditioner
Thanks to Andy and Audiophilia for taking the time to audition the latest Komako. This is the third iteration of the Komako, but in reality the current version is simply the Komako I originally designed. Several aspects of our cable manufacture are not done by any of the large cable manufacturers, such as the application of gold and platinum damping to the wire, and the use of cotton insulation, and so when we design a cable the key problems emerge when we have to shift from prototyping to commercial manufacture. At last the Komako is where we intended it to be, and in our view it is more neutral and more accurate in the time domain than the previous iterations. Improvements in time domain accuracy provide liveliness and fine detail resolution at the same time as greater smoothness and naturalness, and Andy’s comments bear out this improvement in the latest Komako. We don’t expect to make any further updates to the Komako for some time.
Antipodes Audio Limited
16 Bingley Ave
Ph +64 9 6244244 or +64 27 4545004