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Role Audio Kayak Bookshelf Speakers Review  Print E-mail
Home Theater Loudspeakers Bookshelf/Monitor Loudspeakers
Written by Todd Whitesel   
Monday, 23 November 2009
Article Index
Role Audio Kayak Bookshelf Speakers Review 
Listening Cont.

In a sealed-cabinet speaker – and one of this size - bass is necessarily limited, but pair the Kayaks with a subwoofer and you've got a power trio that can rock the house or drop back for late-night jazz. Played alone, the Kayaks excel at stereo imaging and produce a soundstage with lots of air and oomph. You'll miss some low-end information but the speakers are balanced and don't veer into shrieking highs, even when the volume is turned long right.

Dmitri Shostakovich's moody “String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, opus 110” receives a darkly beautiful and languid performance from the Fitzwilliam String Quartet on its set of complete recordings of the Russian master's quartets. The Kayaks brought out the Quartet's precise articulations and let the sonorities of each instrument emerge in stunning detail while keeping the music's drama and pathos intact.

Noble Beast Album Andrew Bird's Noble Beast is a playground of exotic eclectica, where backwoods Americana, bossa nova, playful pop, spaghetti Western and swing jazz become one. The mutant genetic offspring of Jack Johnson, Vic Chesnutt, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jeff Buckley and Calexico. A classically trained violinist, Bird is a master of manipulation, turning his instrument into a saw, whistle or sad moan at will. The Kayaks painted a clear picture of Bird's 4-string musings with excellent detail and color.

Beach Boys Album The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds: 40th Anniversary (CD/DVD) reissue couples the album's original mono mix with a stereo program. I guessed the Kayaks would do the mono takes justice and they do. I can't imagine a more detailed “Let's Go Away For Awhile” or crystalline presentation of “Sloop John B.” Pet Sounds' mastermind Brian Wilson always championed the mono mix and there's little to challenge his assertion listening to both versions through the Kayaks, although stereo tracks such as “That's Not Me” have a warmer glaze than their mono counterparts. Too much of a good thing can still be a good thing.

Elton John Album My favorite moment with the Kayaks came while listening to Elton John's alternate take of “Madman Across The Water,” found on the remastered Tumbleweed Connection. Where the track on its namesake album is a lush, brooding affair tricked out by strings, the Tumbleweed take is biting and features savage playing from guitarist Davey Johnstone and drummer Nigel Olsson, whose kit has never sounded bigger in the mix. Cymbals and other transients were laser-quick through the Kayaks; imaging was mesmerizing. If you like Bob Dylan's “thin, wild mercury” sound, this cup of scalding tea be yours, too.

In a sealed-cabinet speaker – and one of this size - bass is necessarily limited, but pair the Kayaks with a subwoofer and you've got a power trio that can rock the house or drop back for late-night jazz. Played alone, the Kayaks excel at stereo imaging and produce a soundstage with lots of air and oomph. You'll miss some low-end information but the speakers are balanced and don't veer into shrieking highs, even when the volume is turned long right.

Final Thoughts


Barely bigger than a pair of computer speakers, the Kayaks nevertheless perform at a big level. Don't let the humble appearance fool you, these mini-monitors can serve as the speakers in a small- to medium-sized listening room. Feed them watts, sit back and prepare to be amazed. They sound great and look great; that the Kayaks are better for the environment than their predecessors ices the cake. As a famous frog often said, “It's not easy being green.” Kermit, meet Kayak.

System Setup

  • Grant Fidelity A-348 Integrated Tube Amplifier
  • Grant Fidelity CD-327 A CD Player
  • Better Cables Premium Anniversary Edition Speaker Cables (3m)
  • Better Cables Silver Serpent Anniversary Edition Interconnects
  • Role Audio Kayaks
  • Plateau STS-30 Speaker Stands
  • Valhalla Technology VT Feet 25 speaker feet





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