On first acquaintance the Kudos Audio Cardea Super 10A seem like pretty conventional speakers. They’re medium-sized, two-way standmounters with a rectangular wooden box and rear-firing reflex port. Nothing special there, right? Except there is, and it's built on a foundation of obsessive engineering and careful sonic tuning rather than ground-breaking technology, flamboyant industrial design or innovative materials.
For example, the Cardea Super 10A tweeter’s fabric dome or the paper of its mid/bass driver aren’t as attention grabbing as Beryllium, Kevlar or Diamond, but that doesn’t mean that the drivers they’re part of aren’t excellent.
Kudos Audio is a relatively small company, so it’s no surprise that it buys-in drive units rather than making them in-house. Those used in the Super 10A are some of the best that OEM specialist SEAS can produce, and are custom made to Kudos’ requirements.
That 18cm mid/bass unit is highly developed with a fashionably open but rigid chassis giving a sturdy structure. There’s a large 39mm voice coil for good power handling and a great deal of work done on the motor system to maximise heat dissipation and reduce overall distortion levels.
Moving to the higher frequencies, the tweeter is a modified version of the highly regarded 29mm Crescendo K2 fabric dome; the kind of unit more usually seen at far higher price levels than this. The two drivers are knitted together with a high quality but relatively simple crossover that uses a gentle first order slope for the mid/bass and a second order filter for the tweeter.
Unusually, the crossover components are hardwired to each other rather than mounted on a printed circuit board (in order to get the purest signal path) and glued directly onto a HDF (high-density fibreboard) board. This piece is then bolted to the speaker’s back panel helping to keep it rigid, whereas a conventional thin plastic terminal panel would compromise structural integrity. It’s these kinds of details that add together to lift the Cardea’s performance above the norm.
Type Two way
Reflex port Rear
Nominal Impedance 8 ohms
Dimensions (hwd) 35 x 20 x 27cm
The Super 10As are a relatively easy electrical load with a nominal impedance of 8 ohms that stays above 7 ohms at its minimum. The sensitivity of 87dB/W/m is broadly par for the course, so it should be possible to get decent volume levels with any good price compatible amplifier bar rare ultra-low output designs.
While things are mostly conventional so far, these standmounts do offer a slight twist to the usual speaker formula. It’s possible to bypass their crossover – by removing a set of links – and convert them to be used actively. You’ll need to add an external active crossover of the likes that Naim, Linn and Devialet make and a pair of power amplifiers for each channel, of course. Such an upgrade isn’t cheap but the performance upgrade can be significant.
Overall the 10A’s build quality is as good as the price point demands. Their cabinets feel suitably solid, being made of HDF rather than the more common MDF (medium-density fibreboard) used by most rivals. The panels are balanced veneered to ensure long term consistency and the overall quality of fit and finish is excellent. There are four finish options – walnut, black oak, natural oak and satin white.
The Kudos, like any capable speakers at this level, positively demand a top class system. While the likes of Naim’s SuperNait 3 (with a suitably capable source, of course) would be a decent starting point, such is the speaker’s ability that it’s well worth pushing the boat out in this respect. We connect our usual reference set-up of Naim ND555/555 PS DR music streamer with Burmester 088/911 Mk III amplifier and never get the impression that the 10As are holding things back unduly. Given the huge price differential between the electronics and speakers, that’s impressive.
We settle on placing the Kudos well out into our test room, around a metre from the side walls. In our set-up it’s not necessary to angle them towards the listening position to any great degree to get a stable and solid stereo image. Once they are positioned properly, their soundstage is expansive and sharply focused. We’re pleased with the depth of the presentation and the way the Cardeas layer the imaging with such conviction.
These speakers are balanced a little on the lean side tonally, lacking some of the overt richness of some of the competition, but it’s nicely judged and simply helps them sound more responsive. We’re used to getting some pretty meaty bass from high-end standmounters, so the pleasing amount of low-end the Super 10As produce doesn’t particularly stand out among their rivals, but the tautness and definition of the bass certainly does.
We play a range of demanding recordings from old favourites such as Massive Attack’s Heligoland and Bob Marley’s Catch A Fire to larger-scale classical pieces such as The Battle from Hans Zimmer’s Gladiator OST, and the Kudos come out shining. There’s a good amount of low-end grunt but it's the speaker’s ability to paint bass textures that impresses most. Lows are agile and articulate, yet never overstated. That’s a pleasing and rather rare combination of qualities.
They’re expressive performers too, delivering wide-ranging dynamic swings with confidence while communicating nuances with skill. This quality allows them to convey the emotional content of a recording well, be it the easy-going and playful charm of Marley’s Stir It Up or the more insistent beat of the immaculately-produced Atlas Air from Massive Attack.
We have no complaints when it comes to information retrieval and outright transparency. These boxes are terrific in these respects, but it’s the way they knit all that detail together to produce a cohesive and musical presentation that really sticks in the mind. It’s the kind of thing that encourages listeners to focus on the music rather than nit-pick aspects of the recording.
Transparency can often be a double-edged sword. Products that chase it often end-up highlighting flaws in the recordings or partnering setup at the expense of musical entertainment. The Kudos don’t make that mistake. They’re revealing, and certainly don’t hide issues further up the signal chain, but they don’t go out of their way to emphasise any such shortcomings. That SEAS tweeter has plenty of bite but never sounds less than refined even when provoked.
We’re happy with the way these speakers deliver rhythmic drive too. They sound surefooted and communicate the energy and momentum of the music well. They’re not as exuberant sounding as rivals such as Fyne Audio’s F701s nor do they have the outright sonic authority of Dynaudio’s Contour 20i, but they still strike a convincing balance.
The Super 10As are hardly short of competition, but they are good enough to go toe-to-toe with any rival without worry. Their blend of transparency, expressiveness and rhythmic precision is hugely appealing and means they fully deserve a place on the shortlist.
- Sound 5
- Build 5
- Compatibility 5
Read our review of the Dynaudio Contour 20i
Read our Fyne Audio F701 review
Also consider the ProAc K1
These are the best budget to premium stereo speakers