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Re: Kenwood L- 01T

Todd, hello meant to post this review some time ago, but I have'nt discovered how to get a 'password' without being forced to be part of the institution... oh well, freedom is in the mind;

I’m not sure the hi fi marketing name “Trio” is still used. Certainly in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s I believe it was the trading style Kenwood used to market their hi-fi range of products. I still remember listening to some Trio monobloc amps in mandatory gold livery. Over the years I’ve heard infrequent and passing reference to the L-01T. Enthusiasts (who I now know, knew their onions) were sad to have let this tuner go and ruefully acknowledged that it is rarely seen for sale on the 2/H market over here (UK).

The Trio L-01T FM tuner is different from the norm. As a styling exercise, it has a hint of, ahem, monolithic intrigue. To me, it looks very 90’s, a standard 19 inch box, but I suspect it was born of the early 80’s. The front panel is a darkly tinted (to all intents and purposes black) plain perspex sheet with a polished black tuning knob which is ‘lost’ on the perspex – that’s it.

Switched off, the tuner is an example of Extreme minimalism (all the more remarkable for a Japanese tuner of its era). The tuner appears to sit on a separate plinth – (it doesn’nt) but once again the design is 'trick'. The low count, dual function, minimal, slim-line push in switches for power, muting/mono, wide/narrow selection and direct/normal sensitivity are ‘let in’ between panel and plinth. The tuner is disappointingly lightweight, the casework quality almost seems a pre-production mock-up, at best a prototype from plywood that by some oversight made it into final production… but it appears solid. When the four side panel retaining thumb screws are removed and the case is lifted-off… the guts of the tuner are revealed… and it is clear where the money went. A huge shielded tuning section (reminiscent of US Marantz), separate transformers and ‘copper’ base plate shielding and a ridiculously high component count are evident. This has to be a tuner of the 70’s? Have you ever looked inside a modern (NAD) tuner, a box of air greets you in much the same way as an emperor from that well known childhood tale… but of course, this is the C21 and “less is still more”.

Switch on the tuner, and subdued indictor lights and FM scale pointer glow beneath the perspex. Merely touch the tuning knob and the back-lit longitudinal FM scale and signal strength and centre tune meters light up; it’s a lovely touch. So much for the design, but it would all be for nought, if it were not equalled by the sound quality – and thankfully, this tuner delivers.

For the past year I’ve returned to my old fav Revox B260S (digital tuner) as my reference which allows easy assessment of the competition. The Trio L-01T is beautifully analogue, it is just so open and (to quote another tuner-geek chum who also owns an L-01T) “involving”. The upper range is still Japanese in character (sibilance is emphasised) yet is extended and provides detail and dynamics. The sound stage is wide and deep and stereo imaging pin-point and solid. Bass is well defined and the lower midrange warm sounding, BBC Radio 3 & 4 presenters once again have that conforting traditionally ‘chesty’ colouration in my otherwise analytical and lean sounding system (The L-01T reminds me of the character of the Naim NAT01 – minus the BOP). In wide band mode, the Trio has good FM sensitivity but is prone to saturation with a high quality strong signal.

For me the cost of this tuner was high… I had to sacrifice (and trade) my absolutely mint, freshly serviced, boxed and beloved Yamaha T2 for this well used L-10T, but it was worth it. It would be nice to find out a little bit more about this tuner: the date it was first introduced, its cost new, lineage and designer (who was he, where did he go?). Regrettable a web search hasn’t brought up any information. If anyone out there is a Trio fan/owner then please do e-mail me (frank@stonehouse.demon.co.uk). Unfortunately I did not get the owner’s manual with this vintage tuner and would happily pay the cost of getting an original copied and mailed – thanks.

Enjoy the journey.


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