Note: The Bakoon 11R was replaced in 2013 with an updated version, the 12R. The newer model uses updated circuit boards, but retains the same enclosure, shelf and feartures as the 11R.
The Bakoon Amp 11R integrated amp recently knocked our hot rodded F5 clone out of the top spot as our reference amplifier. I first learned about this product a few months ago in a 6Moons review. The break in period was longer than I was expecting and for a while I was wondering if 6Moons might have blown it, but after about 300hrs I found the 6Moons review to be extremely accurate. It’s a very quiet amp with an additional layer of micro detail that I haven’t heard from any other amp.
The Bakoon is also the smallest reference quality product I’ve ever seen. One would think an amplifier in this price range ($5,000) should take up more real estate than 10 square inches by 7 inches high. However, the Bakoon includes an awesome headphone amplifier, a stepped-attenuator volume control that allows you to use the unit as an integrated or just control the level of gain and a specially designed 2-shelf rack with internal cereballs encased under the shelves. Those features and an amp would cost more than $5k separately.
Right now I’m still using the Druid Mk4 speakers and waiting for the Mk5 to arrive. The new speakers will have a much more advanced tweeter. These speakers sound great with the Bakoon, but the performance of the new ones above 10KHz will release a lot of magic…all those directional cues and things hanging in the air that send shivers up your spine. The same goes for the new speaker cables I have on the way from Klee Acoustics. My ASI Liveline have been in place for almost two years and they’re still excellent cables, having fantastic speed and transient detail. However, the Klee are much more expensive, but they do operate on another level and I know the additional capability will be important to hearing what’s going on inside the Bakoon.
I mentioned the Volume Control, Headphone Amp and Isolation Rack with the Bakoon. I use a Modwright 36.5 preamp with the Bakoon, so the attenuator is not a requirement with my system, but I do use it to blend the Modwright and Bakoon volume to get the best balance; the difference is not major, but it’s fine tuning. When it comes to headphone listening I’m careful with my hearing and I really don’t care to listen to a headamp that I have to crank the volume to get the music into the groove. The headamp in the Bakoon is able to deliver high performance at low volume and that’s the only kind of listening I will do with headphones. I can listen with headphones for a few hours and not be at all fatigued. The rack is quite remarkable as well. I was expecting each shelf to come in pieces with loose cereballs, but the top layer of each shelf is interlocked with the bottom layer, such that when it lays flat the top and bottom layers are isolated from each other between the cereballs. You can add a third tier to the rack for the Bakoon Phono Preamp and I expect they will soon develop a USB DAC.
The character of the amp is very neutral, so if you want to inject a little color into the sound you might pair it with a tube preamp or DAC. My Modwright 36.5 preamp and Wyred 4 Sound DAC are also very neutral, but the Zu Druids have a bit of a dark and warm character, which doesn’t give the sound much color, but does keep the treble from ever venturing into harsh territory. The Bakoon sound is very lit up, much like the F5. I think that’s part of the recipe for a hyper detailed amplifier…start by lowering the noise floor far beyond the norm, then light up the transients and other spatial information deep into the music until it sounds like you can hear miles deep into it. I switched out the stock fuse for a 1A Synergy HiFi, slo-blow to add a touch of further refinement.
You’re going to want to pair the Bakoon with the right speakers. At fifteen watts I’d want at least 95dB sensitivity or if you’re using a dedicated preamp with it, to add some gain, you can probably get by with 92dB. The impedance curve of the speaker is an important factor. Ask the manufacturer if there’s a big swing in impedance from top to bottom; the smaller the curve, the easier it will be to drive the speaker. Any speaker that will work with a powerful SET amplifier in the 20 watt range will work fine. I really don’t care for low sensitivity, hard to drive speakers for this reason. These speakers severely limit your options with amplification and if you need 200 watts to drive them, I just don’t believe you can get the kind of nuance that’s possible with the best amps in the 2-20 watt range.
The Bakoon is the ultimate ticket for anyone who, like me, wants to put a microscope on the music and see miles deep into it. The frequency response is very linear, with no emphasis on the treble or the bass and the true blackness of the background is so breathtaking the dynamics take on a real life scale. Of the two camps of sound, with the first being where you feel the music around you and the second being where you close your eyes and see into it, the Bakoon falls into the upper extreme of the second. I’m loving this amp.
Be sure to read the review; you’ll find it to be informative.