Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

Have You Seen?


I took a seat in one of the Playback Distribution rooms (the company had several), with the intent of listening to the flagship Krypton3X speakers from Amphion. “Anyone here seen Barbie?” asked Rob Standley, president and cofounder of Playback.


Blank stares all around. The young couple in the front row looked like they might be the target audience, and you can’t blame a guy for trying. Standley hit Play, and a breathy young lady started up with some highly emotive singing.

“Who might this be?” I asked.

“Billie Eilish,” Standley responded.

“Ah. I see.”

From there, we morphed over into a couple of audiophile favorites, but I did my best to clear the room by asking for a John Zorn track. That seemed to do the trick. Really though, The Gift is about as approachable as Zorn gets, so I wasn’t being that much of an asshole.

If you didn’t know differently, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Amphion Krypton3X retails for significantly more than $24,000 per pair (all prices in USD). There’s a lot of speaker here, with two 8″ midranges, a 1″ tweeter, and a side-firing 10″ woofer, all in an attractive, matte-white cabinet with drilled dots on the sides that form swooshy racing stripes and also function as cardioid vents for the midrange drivers.


Apparently, these guys are 3dB down at 21Hz, and I wanted to test that out. Since the room was fairly empty on this rainy Sunday, I asked Standley to play “Lord I Just Can’t Keep from Crying Sometimes” by Colin Stetson. This is a track that makes you sweat, with a wispy spiritual sung over Stetson’s ominous bass saxophone grinding away on the low end. As I turned up the volume, the Amphions loaded up the room with deep, pressurized bass. I felt my pulse rise as the track progressed, acutely aware that Standley was probably wondering what the hell I was doing in his room, and when I would leave. He didn’t show any concern, though, so he’s a good sport.

The Krypton3X loudspeakers sounded really extended in the highs but also disconcertingly smooth, even at high volumes. The sound was easy on the ears—no sharp edges, but high frequencies that went to the moon. Another big plus was that the sound was remarkably consistent when sitting off-axis.

“Fight,” from The Tragically Hip’s Road Apples, isn’t an audiophile track by any means, but through the Amphions, Gord Downie’s voice rang out with wonderful punch, and maybe just a touch of richness on the lower registers, likely because this is a big, honking speaker in a small room. Still, what a wonderful and enveloping sound.


Over the course of the show, I’ve noted a bunch of rooms using Esoteric gear, and they’ve been getting consistently good sound. There’s an understated elegance to the Esoteric F-02 integrated amp ($18,000), combined with a feeling of quiet competence. It sure sounded great driving the Amphions. Providing the signal was Esoteric’s N-05XD network DAC ($11,000), which rounded out a simple but highly overachieving system, with what looks like a bargain of a speaker at its center.

Jason Thorpe
Senior Editor, SoundStage!