Kenwood KA-4010 Amplifier
The Kenwood KA-4010 effectively replaces the earlier KA-660D and joins the hierarchy alongside the KA-5010 and KA-7010. Like its companions, the KA-4010 features a satin-black alloy fascia, in this case dominated by a dual-concentric volume control. To the right lie two identical function selectors, one for tape monitoring and the other to select the three main line inputs. Moving magnet and moving coil vinyl disc cartridges may also be accommodated.
Other features include a 'bass intensifier', A/B speaker switching, a gold-plated head phone socket and bass and treble tone controls. This tone control circuitry is completely bypassed when the unit is used in 'source direct' mode.
Inside, the amplifier is well built, and features Kenwood's 'star' grounding layout. The power supply uses two damped 10,000 μF Elna reservoir capacitors, and a separate PCB isolates the B1162/D1717 output transistors from vibration. A solidly clamped alloy heatsink follows the same rationale, and even the output muting relays are damped with a rubber pad!
Despite a slightly lean and dry CD sound, this new budget contender still managed to capture the vividness and conviction of most forms of music. The resolution of stringed and brass instruments was very good for an amplifier of this price - pleasantly detailed and fairly true to the timbre of the instruments. Certainly not as transparent as some of its peers, it is still considerably more refined than much of its mass market competition.
The MM vinyl disc input retained much of this smooth and cultured style, though the leanness noted via CD was now that much more obvious, regardless of whether or not 'source direct' was brought into play. Consequently, the weight and confidence of strong bass lines was occasionally undermined, imparting a slightly directionless feel to the overall sound. Compared to the relatively open and unfettered character of the line input, the disc stage also seemed slightly more packaged or compressed, introducing a little extra strain into the music.
Compared to other semi-specialist amplifiers, the KA-4010 is neither as potent nor as invigorating in its approach to reproducing music. Nevertheless, with good flexibility, very fair price and reserves of power in hand, coupled with a very balanced and comfortably detailed sound, it still warrants cautious recommendation.