Robert Koda Takumi K-15 EX preamp joins Absolute Sounds' lavish Ten hi-fi series

Robert Koda Takumi K15-EX preamplifier
(Image credit: Robert Koda (Absolute Sounds))

How do you get your aspirational audio fix when High End Munich is cancelled (again)? Absolute Sounds has the answer. Having brought some of the world’s finest audio equipment to the UK for over 40 years, the firm launched a new distribution concept called Ten at the end of 2020 – a hand-selected collection of "extraordinary sonic creations" curated by Ricardo Franassovici, Absolute Sounds’ founder and MD.

The first maker to join Ten was DeVore Fidelity, creator of specialised high-sensitivity loudspeakers fashioned in Brooklyn, New York. And now, the second maker has been revealed as Robert Koda of Tokyo, Japan.

Franassovici has selected one particular piece from the small and specialised Robert Koda range to join the Ten collection: the Takumi K-15 EX preamp. Absolute Sounds considers it "unquestionably one of the world’s finest line preamplifiers" and one that "exudes extraordinary engineering of a kind more commonly associated with the finest timepieces or hyper-performance motorcars".

Robert Koda Takumi K15-EX preamplifier

(Image credit: Robert Koda (Absolute Sounds))

Robert Koda was founded in 2008 and born from the passion of Robert Koch, a music lover and audio enthusiast who worked for Audio Note Japan (Kondo) for many years. After the death of Mr. Hiroyasu Kondo in 2006, Koch decided to work independently and called his new company Robert Koda, a combination of his first name and his wife’s maiden name. (Also a nod to a musical term: the concluding passage of a piece or movement.)

At the Takumi K-15 EX preamplifier’s heart is Robert Koda’s ITC (Inverted Transconductance Coupling) design, an arrangement of semi-conductors pioneered in the preceding K-10 preamp and supposedly taken to the next level in the K-15 EX. 

Robert Koda promises that the circuit is totally effective over a dynamic range in excess of 145dB, too – although we feel duty bound to mention that this is somewhere in the region of a shotgun blast directly beside your ear, and we do not recommend listening at anywhere near those sorts of volumes.

Robert Koda Takumi K15-EX preamplifier

(Image credit: Robert Koda (Absolute Sounds))

While we're on the subject of volume control – a critical part of any preamplifier – the K-15 EX sports one of the most extravagantly designed balanced-mode volume control we've encountered in some time. At its core, says the firm, is a massive, custom-built eight-channel switch incorporating 256 nude, made-for-purpose resistors of the finest audio grade. Furthermore, only two resistors are used per channel phase at any one time in this ‘L-pad’ configuration.

All inputs are hand-wired and mechanically switched, in order to eliminate the use of circuit boards, relays and solid-state switches, with the RCA sockets milled from high-purity copper and rhodium-plated to ensure optimal signal transmission.

To deliver an exterior as exquisite as the interior, a graded aluminium finish is applied to the copper chassis, with gold-plated inserts and a ruby lens adding to the elegance. Hand crafted and packed in a sturdy flight case, the Takumi K-15 EX is certainly billed as a preamplifier of the very highest order.

Ready for the damage? It is available in the UK this spring, priced at £60,000.

Robert Koda Takumi K-15 EX preamplifier

(Image credit: Robert Koda (Absolute Sounds))


Want more high-end hi-fi products? See 12 of the world's most expensive loudspeakers

Want to know how we test products? Done. You can now watch all the sessions from the What Hi-Fi? Virtual Show

Need a best friend for your turntable? See best phono preamps 2021: budget to high-end

Becky has been a full-time staff writer at What Hi-Fi? since March 2019. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, she freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 20-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance is of course tethered to a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo, This is Cabaret and The Stage. When not writing, she dances, spins in the air, drinks coffee, watches football or surfs in Cornwall with her other half – a football writer whose talent knows no bounds.