Kenwood KA-5010 Amplifier
The front panel is hewn from a satin black alloy, punctuated with a series of large controls catering for volume, input and record-out selection. Both MM and MC cartridges are accommodated, plus three tape, CD, tuner and auxiliary inputs. A source/direct option permits bypassing unnecessary functions such as the tone controls and 'bass intensifier'. Balance, speaker switching and a subsonic filter complete a facilities line up which is adequate rather than excessive for the price.
The internal design is essentially that of a lower-powered KA-7010 clone, featuring a star-earth system and common disc, line, tone and protection circuitry, but with a single mains transformer and just two 10,000μF reservoir capacitors. The output stage uses two pairs of Sanken bipolar transistors; compared to the 7010 these are lower-rated 2SA1215/2SC2921 devices.
Interestingly, there was some disagreement over the relative merits of this amp and the costlier KA-7010. However, the impressions of two listeners who preferred the KA-7010 were in direct conflict. One thought the KA-5010 sounded bright and sibilant, while the other considered it bland and devoid of HF; such are the vagaries of subjective evaluation.
Subsequent listening tests were more enlightening, the consensus coming down wholeheartedly in favour of the '5010. The CD input certainly errs on the lean side of neutral, but remains both pleasantly smooth and integrated with a good sense of pitch and tempo. Vocals sound fresh and alive without appearing falsely impressive, adding to the generally open and relaxed demeanour. In fact only some lack of deep bass impact detracted from an otherwise fine performance.
This ability to draw attention away from the amplifier and towards the music itself was maintained using the lush and fluid-sounding MM vinyl input. The MC alternative certainly sounded slower and thicker than either MM or CD, but avoided becoming muddled or treacly and gave a fair result overall.
Kenwood has clearly succeeded in engineering a classy product in both technical and subjective fields. The suppression of RF IMD must play a role in a smooth and unfatiguing sound which, but for a slight loss of bass weight and impetus. As it stands a hearty recommendation seems most appropriate.