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This Korean amplifier creates its own reality. It encloses the listener inside a kind of dome into which the entirety of the recording gets transferred, not merely the performers. Our room disappears and is replaced with the air, ambiance and emotions captured during the recording session. Granted, this I can’t know for a fact since I wasn’t present during those recording sessions.

It’s only my assumption but a baseline from which to start and one which might evolve over time and with more experience. My assumption is that I know how it should sound and how I should  recognize the sound engineer’s and producer’s intentions. Of course I fully appreciate that recorded reality is different from what any audio system can thus far reproduce. I’m not alone in this. Take an editorial from Stereophile’s October issue: “…the experience of a live acoustic event is not the same kind of experience as listening to a recording of such event at home […] If you want a convincing illusion, bend over forward and look through your legs at the rising moon.” (Michael Lavorgna, Why Music Matters Most: Enjoyment, Illusion, and The Audiophile - Vol. 33, N°. 10, page 3). My assumption is thus not based on real knowledge having been present in the studio but how things generally sound with high-class amplifiers—some of them very expensive—and secondly it is based on the sound of particular instruments during concerts I attend.

Against this preamble I must say that Emillé’s amplifier offered an extremely rich coherent presentation. It somehow affected the input signal such as to always get this ‘preprogrammed effect’ of apparently recreating with ease the atmosphere of each recording. The critical foundation for this recreation was embedding the listener inside its sonic dome. The Emillé amplifier does not create a soundstage somewhere behind the speakers no matter how coherent that stage might seem. It does more. Yet the sound doesn’t appear in front of the speakers’ baseline either. Although textures are slightly warm and the midrange is slightly emphasized, nothing is moved toward the listener. All virtual images appear precisely placed on a large soundfield which could seem far away or close. That depends entirely on the recording.

The chief point is that the atmosphere, air and space of the recorded venue engulf us in a way that’s defined differently than with the usual hifi. I first noticed this with some acoustical instruments on Depeche Mode’s maxi single Fragile Tension/Hole To Feed. Its out-of-phase elements literally surrounded me. Powerful sudden transients from the “Laidback Luke Remix” of Fragile Tension seemed specifically focused and beamed straight at my ears. When I tried harder I realized how these sounds were directed not into my ears but right behind them. Still, I felt certain that the sound engineer's intention was to have these sounds end up in very particular locations in space. Another electronic roulette— Tonight by Savage—delivered very similar sensations.

I finally got to an ultra-purist Naim recording, Heartplay between Charlie Haden and Antonio Forcione cut in True Stereo. I'd call it a typical recording for this label, i.e. containing very many out-of-phase elements which were captured by only two microphones. The sheer coherence of space and timbres was patently obvious. Instruments seemed quite large and appeared right behind the loudspeakers. Yet well behind them there was this deep dense continuous space. I had the strange feeling of being over there with the musicians. It was not as though I had instruments in front of me but rather that I shared their original time and space continuum with an amazing sound quality that was actually better than real life.

Such a presentation is typically built upon at least partially slight overall warmth though here not to the extent of a Leben CS-660P or Emitter II ASR-a. Here it was closer to what I hear from my Tenor Audio 175S rather than previous Luxman M-800A. Each of these amps has its strengths and weaknesses. Every potential buyer has to make a choice. With the KI-40L this seems to be easier. The sound feels slightly warm without being warmed up per se and the lower midrange is somehow emphasized - yet one cannot point at anything being inherently ‘massaged’.