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KECES S4 Stereo

22.01.2024 // Carsten Bussler

With its spanking new S4, KECES is launching an affordable high-tech preamplifier with a special feature: an optical input for DS Audio cartridges. In addition, it impresses with its consistent overall concept from A to Z, which even a tube afficionado like me is entirely enthusiastic about.

Are you familiar with KECES? Probably you already are, but unlike you I really didn't know anything about this brand until now. An unforgivable lack of knowledge on my part, as I finally had to realize in the course of my intensive studies of this device. The KECES brand was founded in 2002 and belongs to the Huikang Electronic Co, Ltd., which is based in New Taipei City in Taiwan. On their website, the individual letters of the brand name are assigned the attributes Key Components, Elegant Design, Cutting-edge technology, Excellent Acoustics and Superb Quality. However, I was unable to find out whether this is the official derivation of the brand name or rather a marketing effort, as most manufacturers would surely consider these characteristics to be appropriate for their products. However, very few hi-fi manufacturers on the market have the ability to produce the essential key components of their devices themselves - unlike KECES. Those who understand what they are doing naturally have great advantages with a high level of vertical range of manufacture and the associated ability to customize components to their own requirements.

To my taste, the KECES S4 comes up with an almost perfect industrial design, both visually and haptically, paired to an outstanding build quality
To my taste, the KECES S4 comes up with an almost perfect industrial design, both visually and haptically, paired to an outstanding build quality

KECES' claim is to produce high-end hi-fi devices that are "value for money" in the best sense of the word. The KECES S4 retails for 4000 euros, for which the buyer is actually offered quality and features that are the exception rather than the rule among competitors at this price level. The power supply is externalized and housed in a separate enclosure, which technically makes perfect sense in order not to expose the sensitive phono section to any stray fields emitted from the power supply. Both enclosures have identical dimensions and can easily be stacked on top of each other, which is visually very well-done. The three-and-a-half millimetre thick aluminum sheet metal of the front panel and the side panels is made from a single piece. To the left and right of the front, the aluminum plate bends with a radius of around one centimetre and continues as a side panel to the rear edge of the housing. The tactile appeal of the two housings and their general workmanship are of vault quality! There is no rattling at all and the housings are torsionally very stiff. You could almost think that mechanical engineers, not electrical engineers, were at work here. And visually, these thirty centimetre narrow enclosures with their elegant design (sic!) are exactly to my taste. Hats off! Incidentally, the KECES S4 is still so new that the S4 is not yet listed on the website of the German distributor (kecesaudio.de) at the time of publication of this review. Anyone looking for more background information should therefore visit the company’s own website (kecesaudio.com).

Headphone fans are offered a high-quality 4-PIN XLR output. The regular preamp output can be switched on or off using a toggle switch
Headphone fans are offered a high-quality 4-PIN XLR output. The regular preamp output can be switched on or off using a toggle switch

I'm not exactly a nitpicker, but if I could make one wish, it would be this one: I would like the housing feet and the volume control to be gold-coloured instead of silver, to match the gold KECES logos in the centre of the front panels. And the LEDs and the volume display on the preamp would be red instead of blue, like the power light on the power supply housing. But that's the only fly in the ointment. I promise.


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