Kenwood Supreme

1 9 7 3 1973
1 9 7 9 1979

preliminary

It is difficult to review Trio/Kenwood's high-end series because Trio itself seems to have had difficulties marketing and selling them.

While all other japanese brands had fairly constant methods and coherent lineup successions, Trio/Kenwood never managed that too well.
This is, in my opinion, due to the fact that the brand was sort of decapitated from the very start of its high-fidelity adventure, when Jiro Kasuga left to found Kensonic Labs and its very successful Accuphase series.

If Trio had made one of the earliest solid-state hi-fi amplifiers in 1962, its first "modern" component appeared only in 1967 : the Supreme 1.
It was however more of a showpiece and wasn't accompanied by a dedicated power-amplifier or dedicated 'speakers or dedicated sources but for the unproduced Supreme 10 tuner (with 'scope) and the vaguely advertised Supreme 20 futuristic cartridge. It wasn't a series and it didn't sell, at all.

After Jiro Kasuga had left, the development of the future Supreme series was resumed (...five years after the original element !) and became Trio's first set of separates :

> Model 700C : preamplifier,
> Model 700M : power-amp,
> Model 700T : fm tuner.

Despite their name, these components came too late : Victor, Sony, Technics or Pioneer all had separates since almost forever and were well set in the audiophile high-end segment.
Kenwood until 1974 just was not present and the Supreme were to address that problem.

Added later on for the export markets were less expensive components (Model 500, Model 600 and Model 600T) plus two extra-rare versions with grey/bronze faceplates : Model 650 (= Model 600) and Model 650T (= Model 600T).

Added to this overall lateness were, as for all of Kenwood's high-end series, many indecisions regarding marketing and distribution.

And it starts with the name itself : engraved on the front of the first japanese production batch, "Supreme" was however not kept afterward except on the two sole catalogs published. "Supreme" never made it outside Japan.

Difficult to sell a (pricey) series with no uniting name or tag : if Sony had ES, Onkyo had Integra and Pioneer had Exclusive, Kenwood had Supreme... but didn't use it.

Advertising-wise, Japan saw a few ads in 1974/75 then nothing at all.
Stereo Technic (MJ) made an elaborate cover with the Model 700M and Model 700C in august 1974 (both sans Supreme tag) and that's it.
The two japanese catalogs were published a year to two years after the ads (december 1976), at the time Kenwood had just started to distribute the Supremes outside Japan, probably to get rid of its japanese overstocks.
Strange moves.

Outside Japan, the name wasn't used, the beautiful wood enclosures weren't available and advertising was scarce and always made of ugly b/w quickie shots.

The one market where both Supreme series (700s and 600s) sold the most in the USA : advertising was limited to a very pretty 700s single-page ad (named "the Classic", with enclosures) but ended with one ugly as hell catalog.

Kenwood in France made some visual efforts but always kept the Supremes-that-aren't-named-as-such buried within general low-end catalogs. Kenwood in Germany made the best and even published one proper dedicated catalog in 1976, the cover of which you can see here.

Generally rather blunt in looks and finish, design-wise, Kenwood made little (big) gems of understatement and fine-tuned details which got to be partly carried over lesser components such as the rare 1974/75 KA-x006 series.

After reminder appearances in 1977 general catalogs, the Supremes-that-never-were-named-Supreme vanished.
Kenwood was then already on the 07 series (L-07C, L-07T, L-07M), that brand's only series which was properly marketed, worldwide, and which came in with the right pricing and features at the right time and the right design.

Thanks to this website, the Supreme series regained the (discrete) following they had when new in 1974/76, with many new owners convinced this on/off name, "SUPREME", fits to perfection these three big components.


ps.
The Kenwood Supreme tag resurfaced in 2006 (shortly before the merger with Victor), as a car-audio "magical" recovery algorithm for low-bitrate compressed sources. Not the same story - different world.

Kenwood Supreme, image 1 Kenwood Supreme, image 2 Kenwood Supreme, image 3 Kenwood Supreme, image 4
Kenwood Supreme : 0 topic
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page online since : august 2005
page updated : june 2011
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