Kenwood KA-7010 Amplifier
Commanding a premium of £90 over the KA-5010, there appears to be little to distinguish this costlier KA-7010, which is fitted with the same satin-black fascia, indentical volume control, input and record-out selector knobs, tone, balance and source direct option. In fact only the - 20dB muting facility is an addition to the front panel of this amplifier, plus two sets of chunky 4mm speaker terminals on the rear.
Internally, a further strip of cast alloy heatsinking is added to the cooling fins used in the '5010, this extra metalwork being required to accommodate the higher power 2SA1216/2SC2922 output transistors. The KA-7010's power supply is bigger too, and featuring a couple of mains transformers together with four 7500μF ELNA electrolytic capacitors.
Kenwood's 'Pure Signal Ground Line' star-earthing topology helps minimise interference from circulating earth currents while the main output stage is mechanically decoupled from the mother PCB using a strip of circuit track and flying leads. Paralleling the cheaper KA-5010, the '7010 features an indentical FET headamp for the MC disc input, followed by series-feedback equalisation around a dual-channel NJM4560D op-amp. Such commonality must surely help keep production costs down.
This amplifier is more obviously detailed than the '5010, but is also less well balanced, the upper mid and treble appearing to stand out ahead of the lower mid and bass. All listeners commented upon restricted stereo depth, and the sound tends to be slightly bland or superficial via the RDM D/A convertor. Furthermore the resolution of bass instruments was described as softened, bloated and lumpy, though this latter blight was partially ameliorated when using the smoother and more consistent tone of the disc inputs.
Discrimination of musical dynamics is superior via the MM disc input, just as vocals often sound that much more articulate, benefiting from a slightly more 'airy' treble. A hint of extra sibilance and graininess was evident with the MC input.
However, perhaps the most worrying comments were that there was something rather 'odd' or 'peculiar' about its handling of the music itself. Superficially detailed and coherent, it nevertheless instilled a sense of unease in listeners.
On the face of it Kenwood must surely have expected the KA-7010 to sound like a more powerful, gutsy version of the KA-5010. Unfortunately this was not the case, the amplifier offering under a decibel more power for the price of a less well balanced and satisfying if fractionally more transparent sound. The cheaper model remains the better buy.