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When I first saw these Bakoon products in my home, I could hardly believe just how well finished they were, how well thought-out their every detail. I'm aware of the incredible challenges any audio maker faces who strives for perfection and how many years it takes to develop a solid infrastructure mainly related to subcontractors and parts supplier. I thus began my auditioning with deep respect. However it soon became apparent that my initial awe was not misplaced on just impressive packaging. This machine stood up perfectly well on its own sonic merit. Even had it been packed into a shoe box, its designers would deserve to be bowed down to.

The obvious question is whether it actually could sound as splendid if it were housed in a shoe box—not really—but that's a discussion for another article.

AMR-11R + speakers. When driving properly matched speakers—more on that anon-—what spreads out in front of us is a large intense soundstage with substantial almost life-size images. This is particularly important with mono recordings which usually suffer the most from low-powered amps where a thinned-out midrange might couple to a soundstage that's been compressed through a keyhole. It happens too often where even the best product focused only on accuracy, attack or punch fails to satisfy by showing merely a general framework or scaffolding but not the song or composition itself.

The Korean mini—twins actually as it's a two-box affair—sounded remarkably big. This will catch by surprise not only diehard skeptics but those who've heard plenty of amplifiers already even with something like my potent Harbeth M40.1 which do require loads of power and reach very low. With the smaller M30.1 that impression was even more intense. It struck me hard right with the first album, Nat King Cole's Love is the Thing and then nearly floored me (despite sitting on the couch) with the not particularly well-recorded 1954 mono album Max Roach and Clifford Brown in Concert! (By the way, I look forward to the day when I can put in front of my audio system a dedicated chair such as the Ballerina Sweetspot from Bakoon's Scandinavian importer Klutz Design).

Everything was simply extensively spacious. It couldn't be called anything else. For a while I worried if it wasn’t a kind of pumped-up effect whose spell would soon break to leave me with an exaggeratedly monotonous sound. But no, the differentiation of the Korean amplifier was sensational on many levels. There could be no question of boredom or feeling overburdened. It felt relaxed yet alert like a kind of easeful readiness. Despite sounding like a far-fetched oxymoron by now, music had true kick. This was due to a few traits which by themselves are rare and almost unique once combined. I’ve already mentioned one: large images. The other two were an incredible purity across the entire audible band and surprising bass. All this had general sonic consequences as nothing is free. But let me take the liberty of stressing first that this is what I look for in reproduced sound. It's exactly what gets (to) me.

Triple decker with phono stage at bottom, amp power supply in the middle and amp on top

First about purity which is usually described as freedom from coloration or distortion. For me it's more complex. Lack of distortion and coloration are true also for machines which sound clinically clean, i.e. devoid of emotion as though internally frozen or frigid. It's not enough not to add anything (or as little as possible). It's equally important not to take anything away.

The purity I speak of with this amplifier is a more direct and genuine experience. It doesn't result from thinning out the sound or emphasizing its transients but reducing distortion to such level that the advantages of that other type of sound are unveiled as flaw. This a full and deep sound with powerful saturated bass and large images – pure and vibrant yet also accurate. The bass is an integral part . If I mention it separately it’s because it’s perhaps the most surprising element. Its lowest part is not very strong and more emphasized by higher harmonics than real presence.

You hear that especially on tracks where all other instruments build upon the bass foundation such as Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, the rock of the Depeche Mode maxi singles or the powerful drum of Anabasis from Dead Can Dance. No wonder as here we have just 15 watts per channel which probably don't fully double into 4 ohms. That's but a shadow of what the Accuphase A-200 and Soulution 710 can do to which the AMP-11R was compared. Nevertheless listening with the Bakoon to such infrasonically intense trance music whose entire climate depends on this low bass was surprisingly even refreshingly honest. It simply was great sound.

It seems that what’s behind it is some form intentional sound shaping. We get sound that is exciting and compelling rather than boring even if it were the boredom of correctness. It's not entirely accurate then even though its clarity is brilliant and its tone and response apart from the obvious low-bass roll off are very balanced. One hears something added to the midrange and treble which renders the sound very energetic and active. It happens each and every time with all recordings. After careful audition it’s impossible to think of this presentation as 'well behaved'. Each aural aspect of the Bakoon matches its surroundings ideally to blend in and not draw attention. Because the very extensive rich and active treble will show more musical information than the vast majority of amplifiers (except perhaps for the already mentioned references as well as the best of SETs based on the 2A3 or 300B), you will for some time follow everything intently not just because it’s absorbing by itself but because for most listeners it will be utterly new as something they've never experienced before. After getting used to the fact that our previous listening clearly was crippled in the treble, we let go and everything is restored to balance.