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Amplifier Kenwood KA-5050R review

Take one Kenwood KA-5040R amplifier with remote control, tear out its bipolar power transistors and replace them with flavour-of-the-season MOSFETs and, hey presto, you’ve got yourself a brand new ?350 KA-5050R.

Of course, little of this internal jiggery-pokery is evident from the curvaceous facia of the 5050 which, along with its logic-controlled input selection, motorised volume control, tone, balance, loudness/subsonic contours, rec-out and MM/MC cartridge selection, is a format that has been culled directly from the KA-5040R. In practice, Kenwood’s new MOSFET Drive logo, which appears on the front of the facia, is almost the only clue to any actual change.

The other tell-tale difference is that the sleek remote control of the earlier model has been replaced by an altogether more prosaic handset (which also happens to be shared with the cheaper KA-4050R).

Sound quality

The Kenwood KA-5050R is a tricky amplifier to sum up. On the one hand its music sounded open and its sound staging pleasantly deep, yet the overall effect consistently failed to maintain the attention of our listeners. Sure enough, there was a thrill to the sound of classical strings and plenty of bite to percussion but there wasn’t the warmth or weight to complete the entire musical picture.

This is a real pity because its bass proved usefully extended despite lacking in drive and impact. The toppy balance remained more obvious with pop rather than classical material, emphasising the zing of cymbals which rang clear but out of step with the milder sound of bass guitar and drums.

To a degree, these grey colorations were blunted by the MM input which sounded somewhat milder and less astringent than the direct CD stage. Once again, the music bounced nonchalantly along, a carefree performance that was wasted on our listeners who were equally distracted by its slightly dry, bleak and even sterile outlook.

Conclusion

Strictly speaking, there is no reason why Kenwood shouldn’t have combined the versatility of its more recent amplifiers with the attention to sound quality offered by its distant predecessors.

Unfortunately, the KA-5050R continues a more recent trend for providing a very even, pleasantly smooth and self-effacing sound that left the listening panel unruffled but, at the same time, distinctly unmoved. As with the KA-5040R, Kenwood appears to have taken one step forward and two steps back

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