As our review of its debut K135 integrated highlighted, Kleio Audio is a recently established hifi brand that’s proud to be British and evolve its product range at its own pace.
We sat down with company founder and managing director Garry Wise to find out more.
What led you to launch Kleio Audio?
Garry replies: “It all started when my wife decided to go to uni as a mature student and I was left with plenty of spare time on my hands. I’d been into hifi since I was a teenager and purchased my first ‘proper’ system when I moved into my first house in 2005. The original plan was to build a headphone amplifier to go with my existing system and maybe sell a few as a hobby business.
“Things soon progressed and with my background in IT project management, my plan quickly evolved to go all in by starting a brand and bringing in the right people o make things happen so we could design a fully fledged integrated amplifier.”
Which brands and products have inspired your journey into hifi?
“I’ve always liked things which are a bit more unusual and my initial hifi consisted of a Musical Fidelity X-80 and Inca Design Katana SE CD Player. They sounded great and looked good on my rack, being non-standard width components, people always commented on their unusual style.
“In fact, these two products inspired some of the design for Kleio’s range. Other brands I’ve always liked and took inspiration from are Bel Canto and Jeff Rowland Design Group.”
What are you most proud of about Kleio Audio?
“Put simply, that our products are designed and made in the UK.
“Following some good contacts in the industry we’ve been able to get our products into retailers which stock some of the brands I have aspired to own at various points which feels fantastic, given where we come from in a relatively short space of time.”
What are the challenges you’ve faced and expect to face as a relatively new British hifi start up?
“We’ve experienced the normal business issues numerous times (cash, supplier issues, quality concerns) which we’ve worked through but we are still an unknown quantity and we are asking customers to part with a not insignificant sums of money.
“I believe we offer good value and quality, but we’re up against some well established names which means we need to work hard for someone to choose us over a more recognised brands, which is why we’ve put so much into Keio.”
Why have you favoured a Class D approach to amplification?
“Amplification classes have always been hot topics in hifi circles, and everyone seems to have a preference. But if you break it down, it’s about sound, and customers know instinctively what sound they like.
“When I started this business, the plan was to develop our own Class AB power amplifier, but the footprint of power supplies and heatsinks to keep things cool means that the design vision for the enclosure is always going to be compromised. We really wanted a design without heatsinks and dust traps, which led us to Class D which allowed greater investment in the preamp stage which subsequently became its own standalone product. We don’t advertise that we use Class D simply because we don’t feel that it should define the product.”
Where are you Class D modules sourced from?
“We currently use modules from ICEpower due to their overall quality and reliability. From a manufacturer’s perspective we look at what a company offers including how easy they are to work with, their warranty period, product lifecycle and other factors.
“The support from ICEpower has been excellent and numerous hours were spent with theirs and our teams ironing out queries, which was invaluable.”
What makes Kleio Audio stand out from the crowd?
“The core values of the business are to make quality musical products made in the UK. My absolute passion is that we produce a product that sounds twice its price and isn’t made overseas.
“We try and offer the right margin for retailers and sales agents, and I firmly believe that there is more to value than price, so we don’t haggle with suppliers for every last penny as it strips good will and ruins good working relationships”
Looking ahead, what’s next for Kleio Audio?
“Our next priority is to get our power amplifiers to market as retailers have been asking for these to sit alongside the K105 pre. They will be known as the K115 (monoblock) K125 (dual mono). The specs are already on the website and we hope to have these out by the end of 2023, if not sooner.
“We have a DAC module developed too, plus headphone amplifier and phono stage in development. These will complete the K1 series and we have plans for other ranges at various price points.
“Finally we have recently moved some of our assembly to larger facilities, enabling us to build quicker as and grow our team.”