Kudos Cardea C1

This review was written by Malcolm Steward for the Hi-Fi Journal in 2009


I knew to expect something good from this little 2-way speaker. It was designed by Derek Gilligan who used to be half of the team  at NEAT Acoustics before setting out on his own with Kudos, and he contributed greatly to the performance of many outstanding NEAT speakers. The latter are intensely musical designs so I anticipated hearing much the same from the £1450 Kudos Cardea C1s.


Even un-boxing the speakers bade well for their performance: for their bijou dimensions they are inordinately heavy, suggesting their drivers benefit from having generous magnetic structures. The single pair of binding posts further suggested a zero-BS approach to the design. I have yet to hear a properly designed pair of loudspeakers benefit from bi-wiring. (Please note the emphasis. As far as I am concerned the only beneficiaries of bi-wiring are the manufacturers of loudspeaker cables.) A pair of magnetically attachable grille covers is supplied but I left them in the box as it is customary with speakers in my house to be auditioned. I prefer to listen to them with their drivers exposed as nature intended.

I listened to the C 1 powered by a 50W Naim SuperNAIT integrated  amplifier, which proved mor e than adequately powerful  to drive these compact designs to hearty listening levels with ease. Connection to the amplifier came courtesy of the Chord  Company Signature  cable. MY sources were a Naim HDX hard disk player and CDS CD player, and a Well Tempered Amadeus /Dynavector  XX-2 record player.

The C1 needs stands and I opted to use Kudos’ single-pillar S50,which retails at £199.With its large footprint triangular base,  the S50 provides a particularly firm and  stable support for the C1 or any similarly proportioned loudspeaker.

I followed Kudos’ instructions regarding set up and found  they performed best in my  room  when positioned  about 1 metre clear  of the rear wall and about 1.5metres away from the side walls and toed-in toward s the listening position  by about 20 – 25 degrees . When so arranged the C1 sounded evenly and  naturally balanced on instruments and voices, the bass  delivering  appropriate weight and impact in this arrangement. Moving them a shade further towards the lstening seat enhanced the soundstage but lightened the spectral balance, which left operatic sopranos sounding rather artificial.. and orchestral horns seemed to blared unnaturally

Once the positioning was  finalized, the C1 sounded delightfully musical, with a fine recreation of pitch and timing on a variety of musical styles, predominantly guitar-based rock.

The C1 proves to be  a more than respectable unraveller of  mixes. It did a fine job, for example,  of exposing  all the layers of Beck tracks such as Que Onda Guero? and Go It Alone. While doing all its digging around for  detail – such as deftly  rendering the individual backing voices on the latter – the C1 never lost sight of the big picture and the music maintained its flow and rhythmic impetus. The rhythmic structure was rendered as insistently asi have heard it conveyed by any small loudspeaker: by which  I mean  one that is not actively driven  and uses 15-inch bass units.

The C1 is also dynamically very adept as was demonstrated by its delicate portrayal of the finely gradated acoustic guitar playing and percussion on Blues de La Frontera from the album Los Jovenos Flamencos. This dynamic precision was maintained even at very quiet playback levels, which can be a worthwhile facility for music fans with families that perhaps do not share their enthusiasm for playback at realistic SPLs.

Listenin to the Richard AshCroft album Human Conditions, I realised that my notes contained nothing about the HF performance of the C1. I reckon because the tweeter delivered the goods without drawing attention to itself, it had effectively disappeared off the radar. Concentrated listening showed that this was indeed what was happening. The sound from this unit is wonderfully crisp and detailed yet never intrusive, This was confirmed with a little energetically bowed violin and viola playing courtesy of the Naim label recording of the Allegri Quartet playing  Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131 – the Presto.

The C1 can also create a respectably deep and wide soundstage given an appropriate recording and it captures venue acoustics well, too. However, its musical performance is its primary forte and main claim to fame. Anyone with a penchant for small speakers that can perform like much bigger enclosures certainly needs to hear the Kudos Cardea C1. It might not have cavernous bass but what it delivers should satisfy all but   those h-fi fans who revel in listening to organ test discs

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