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Up to this point everything seemed to confirm underlying assumptions about single-ended circuitry. But after a closer look at the timbre of the KAP I concluded that not everything was really in line with the 'warm' trail the previous paragraph had taken. The Japanese amplifier did have a clearly stronger upper midrange and lower treble than either Tenor or Soulution. The latter however seemed to build up deeper slightly warmer vocals. This was a paradox given the KAP’s superior palpability but that’s how I experienced it. Due to that but also a slightly better resolution of that sub range—only the Ancient Audio Silver Grand monos go a step further—the KAP-777 entered deep into the recordings and showed them simultaneously as an integrated inseparable event and as split asunder into individual parts.

Even so the midrange seemed the most important focus of this amplifier. While the Soulution’s vocals were even bigger and fuller, its frequency response seemed to be the more linear. Regardless, at first audition the Reimyo led with the midrange perhaps also because of how it accented the attacks and made the global perspective more intimate.

That it was about more than just midrange was clear by how the upper midrange is handled and by how strong, full and brilliantly articulated the bass is. Real-world output power here translates audibly and even difficult loads like Ascendo’s System ZF3 made no dent in the Reimyo amp. Low passages from Laurie Anderson’s Homeland were exactly that – low and potent. The mid and upper bass had fantastic differentiation, far superior to the Tenor or (to remain with expensive amplifiers) the Accuphase P-7100. Even the Soulution lagged a hair behind but then turned tables with its low bass. Below 80 or 100Hz the Reimyo became slightly more homogenized, still better than the Tenor but the Soulution was the more clearly drawn way down to the very limits of the speaker. I doubt the KAP-777 would be fazed by any load but it will impose its own character even in the bass.

How the KAP-777 differed from the Soulution 710 was at first sight its cloning of valve sound. This ultimately was untrue of course. Whilst the midrange did seem the primary or initial focus, treble, upper midrange and upper bass were better differentiated than any tube amp I know of regardless of price or power. The center section of the bass range was particularly impressive as it didn’t draw specific attention to itself but simply complemented the midrange and treble whilst exceeding what any valve amp can deliver.

The KAP handled vocals with very high resolution, apparently in closer proximity than the Soulution and as such similar to what I was familiar with from the Tenor and Reimyo PAT-777. Paradoxically vocals were also smaller than over the Soulution. Suzanne Vega over the 710 almost materialized in front of me but a bit farther away as though on stage. With the KAP she was more tacit and up closer but in amplitude apparently lower.

This again was a peculiar observation since the sound was clearly very saturated and palpable. Parts reminded me of what the best 300Bs can do. Other elements would have tubes always come in second if that. Unless Physics change or different transducers are invented (both unlikely). The tonal balance wasn’t as linear as the Soulution which despite its greater evenness seemed to ultimately be the warmer amplifier at least after longer auditioning. With the Reimyo the soundstage was deep but its focus on transients and nearer elements melted/melded parts of the hall sound—particularly noticeable with church recordings—into the foreground. Stage width was very good but mostly so on material already recorded with a broad spread. Discs with tight center fill underlined the midrange. Perhaps nitpicking is somewhat of a tease with regard to the very top of the high-end but it’s important to retain a healthy distance no matter how brilliant a product might be.

Step 2 - KAP-777 + CAT-777 MkII: This combination obviously showed sonic traits of either component. Replacing my usual Ayon Polaris III preamp with the Reimyo CAT-777 MkII nonetheless showed how the preamp had the final word. The CAT-777 MkII reduced the resolution of the system, diminished precision and bass control and closed down the treble a tad. Shaping the sound with its own personality is what any preamp does of course. Here the primary effect was one of solidification. Midrange saturation increased and the overall perspective moved more forward. The upper end shaded a bit because the center of gravity dropped and attacks softened. Because I’d heard the Reimyo preamp with its matching tube amp before, I felt I knew what Mr. Kiuchi was primarily after – the palpability of the overall sound. And that is clearly well above average regardless of price or applied technology.