ONLINE - ISSUE 23
Hiroyasu Kondo - Founder of Audio Note and often referred to as
Mr. Japanese Audio
Mr. Kondo, the second son of a Buddhist priest was an artist, and a professor of electronic engineering and molecular metallurgy. He had previously worked for Teac developing digital recording and later for Sony as a recording engineer. His first product, a microphone preamplifier, was a result of his research growing out of his dissatisfaction with the recording equipment he had to use. Color, texture, and proportion became the central elements of his search for a higher level of audio fidelity.
Early Sunday morning at The Home Entertainment Show in Las Vegas, I was asked to go the Audio Note room at the International Section and represent the audio press by interviewing officials of that famous company. I quickly found out that Mr. Kondo had passed away in his sleep just a few hours before that. The first interview with Audio Note factory manager, Hirokawa Katsura did not go well and that is an understatement. His English was poor and my Japanese was limited to "Sake and Sushi". I was able to talk to Takuji Sudo, Asia Representative for T.H.E. SHOW and he had reasonable command of the English language. We spoke briefly, and he made it clear that he did not want to talk to anyone else about Mr. Kondo's passing or any sort of obituary information. He believed that he should keep the somber fact confidential for "quite a long time", though why that was important, was not made clear to me. I told him I thought this would be almost impossible here in the United States, but he was going to try. I promised complete secrecy, and that I would immediately convey his wishes to Mike Maloney and Richard Beers, promoters of T.H.E. Show at Las Vegas. I went directly to their office and found that he had gotten there before I did. Mike and Richard handled everything perfectly with great care and diplomacy.
Facts from the official obituary mentioned the date of Kondo's passing away peacefully in his sleep while attending T.H.E. SHOW in Las Vegas, as January 8th 2006. His wife, Kazuko, son Yuji and daughter, Hisae, survive him. He had suffered ill health for some time. Six months ago he had appointed his close colleague of sixteen years, Masaki Ashizawa, as President of Audio Note to ensure the Kondo standard would continue and flourish.
The obituary stated that the Kondo ONGAKU amplifier will forever be a symbol of his success. Of particular interest to me was mention that he was often referred to as the "silver smith" for his revolutionary use of aged-annealed silver in his audio equipment (components). Many months ago while doing background research for my review articles on Kimber's cables, specifically silver models, I remember finding remarks made by Mr. Kondo that simply stuck in my memory (I should be so fortunate more often!).
After designing his new mic-preamplifier (around 1975) he decided that since silver a 7% better conductor than copper, it should make at least that much improvement in sound quality. Unfortunately, when he first drew the silver wire for the transformer, microscopically he discovered that the surface was very rough. As a result, Mr. Kondo designed a set of diamond-edge dies that allowed the silver wire to be cold drawn, and have a smoother surface. The use of silver in the mic preamplifier seemed to make a huge improvement far greater than the expected 7%. He further determined that there was a wide variety of inherently unique properties of silver when used as wire, making it far superior, and particularly so, when used in smaller gauges. I have simplified/condensed Mr. Kondo's findings and found that Ray Kimber's studies and findings over the years have basically paralleled and confirmed Hiroyasu Kondo's groundbreaking research and development, done more than thirty years ago, on using silver.