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Using the Pass Labs XA30.8 as my most reasonable in-house comparator, here is how Dagogo scribe Jack Roberts explained his reason for buying one: "The XA30.8 was the first amp I had found in ten years that bettered my $30'000 Wavac EC300B. It was the best amp I have heard at any price including some that cost five times as much. This also makes it the most cost-effective amp I have run across in the very high-end." Whilst I've seen no statement from Nelson Pass that his amp pursues tube sonics, he did single out the XA30.8 to me when, based on my fondness for his FirstWatt efforts which do cater to SET-like speakers, I asked what Pass Labs amp he'd recommend. Because I no longer own valve amps for direct A/Bs—I had Yamamoto 45 and 300B specimens, 130-watt Octave push/pull monos and Trafomatic pentodes—Mr. Roberts' comment makes for a useful stand-in. Let's hold it to mean that a diehard 300B lover could be happy with the Pass. This segues back at the KAP-777's 300B-fitted precursor. It gives us two transistor amps which might fit the bill of "I would love some general 300B sound but need far more power and drive". To my ears, what this should foremost mean is a heavier darker gestalt with a richly padded harmonic envelope and some sweetness, not the top-down modern take of treble-first sizzle, transient knife's edge and subjective speed. Going beyond that 300B SET gestalt should be bass power, depth and articulation. And I'd have to sort out just what contribution Kazuo's special power cord would make. I'd thus use it on both the Pass and Reimyo amps to contrast against my customary Zu Event.


Starting in the bass using Apertura Audio's Adamante above and German Physiks' HRS-120 below, I found the Reimyo's low end to be riper* than the Pass. This played to high-impedance SET action. Was it also a function of just two if very beefy zero-feedback Mosfets per side versus a stocked cadre of 20 with feedback in the XA30.8? Given how the French speakers' tall ribbon tweeter injected the proverbial cubits of air and light to veer into the slightly bright with in-room energy distribution and upper-harmonic presence, I favoured the Reimyo amp's darker countenance. To shorten its bass reigns, I simply lowered the speakers' downfire port floor gap to increase control whilst diminishing output. With the Pass amp, I could set the spikes to their final stops for a taller gap and more LF power. Just so, the ribbon's sonic modernity was better enfolded with the Reimyo to make it the superior amp match.
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*A bit of that can be diluted by foregoing the Harmonix power cord. That too is voiced for richness and mass over speed and incision.


With the white fully omnipolar towers, I had the same bass offset. The XA30.8 got more punch and extension from the downfiring 10-inch woofers and sounded balanced with the treble contour jumpers in the neutral position. The Reimyo preferred the +4dB jumper. This confirmed the prior Apertura reading. Kazuo's voicing of our presumed 'transistorized 300B' includes the breed's darker slightly hooded rather than exploded treble. I also tried Trenner & Friedl's broad-shouldered Pharoah 8-inch two-way with horn-loaded tweeter on the Pass and Reimyo. With this load, I ended up favouring the Goldmund/Job225 for its leaner quicker more lit-up demeanour when driven directly off the COS Engineering D1 DAC/preamp.


With three such very different speakers to sort out my scenario, I had plenty of triangulation intelligence on the Reimyo's contributions. For its final review companions, I thus returned to the Albedo Audio Aptica with Sopranino addition. I felt this most played to the KAP-777's specific strengths.


By now you'll have already appreciated the truth of today's advertising. This is a very deliberately voiced/tuned amplifier. As such, consensus between you and its voice becomes paramount. You must agree with it. This isn't just in general to remain philosophically abstract. This becomes very specific. It's about how its behaviour interacts with your loudspeakers of choice. Will it dovetail? Will it enhance their voicing? Be assured that by design or not, admitted or not, all speakers are 'voiced'. Its a basic and unavoidable function of dispersion, room interaction and acoustical imperfections and nonlinearities. You might prefer calling it personality instead. Speakers tend to have the most. Hence they also become the most personal choice to make. Their distortion and interactive unpredictability is an order of magnitude larger than standard electronics and cables. Will something between them and our strategically voiced amp clash, subtract or otherwise go against the grain? You wouldn't stroke a cat against the fur or in the wrong spot to be clawed. But once you know the right direction and most responsive areas, the animal purrs.


So did this final configuration. Without any desire for the Zu Submission subwoofer, bass extension and weight clearly wanted no help. With the super tweeters in play, air and hall sound didn't either. Though Accuton's ceramic drivers generally sound leaner and crisper than ScanSpeak or Audio Technoloy paper equivalents, with the Reimyo mine exhibited the tonal heaviness and more elaborate harmonics many pin on valves alone. However, it's not the output device but implementation which determines that. If tonal balance were a see-saw hinged at middle C, the KAP-777 put a slightly lighter rider on the bass end. Its side was up, treble was down a bit. With my strategic choice of speakers and add-on Sopranino electrostatic super tweeter, I opposed that general trend. Just so, in the domain of tone where leading and trailing edges bracket bloom, I clearly wasn't on Goldmund/Spectral or Red Bull turf. These qualities were a tad lazier and portlier. They created some warmth, some back not edge of seat body posture. Thus the overall sense of damping too felt a bit lighter. It made for a bit more give than an ultra taut grip would allow. As such, separation, layering and focus weren't maximally intense. These attributes exhibited a soft degree of life-sound blending with its more feathery transitions.


If none of this really meshes with your expectations for transistor sound, we'd be back at implementation over parts choices, over circuit topologies, over operational classes. Given popular beliefs, the KAP-777 sounds more class A than A/B, more push/pull triode than transistor. Certainly all of that's major nonsense when we're faced with far too many rule-breaking exceptions. Still, preconceptions create recognizable forms and patterns which one may appropriate to gain shared understanding. Where the KAP-777 diverges from top-class 300B SETs is their weird 'artificial intelligence'. Of course that's far from intelligent but most assuredly entirely artificial. It describes a peculiar though oft-observed effect whereby such triode amps seem to hone in on vocals and peel them out from their surroundings to create extra contrast and sculpting. The AI designation is a result of not understanding how such amplifiers could possibly distinguish vocals from other signal to treat it differently. Since it is an observable real effect with solid consensus, 'artificial intelligence' is a perfectly adequate if unreasonable term. When uttered, those with experience know exactly whereof one speaks. So it serves a good purpose. Here the transistorized Reimyo plays a different more linear game. If AI is what you hone in on because you know and treasure it, you'd never call the KAP-777 a 300B stand-in, much less a 45 or 50 replacement. That said, its many other qualities certainly come close to suggesting a typical 300B or perhaps even better, an 845 amp than any of those very low-powered triodes, PX45 and 10Y included. Which hasn't yet factored load invariance of which standard SETs are incapable.


Once we apply real intelligence to peel out from the discussion those mighty 200/400wpc into 8/4Ω, the KAP-777 ascends into its higher octave. Now it takes up its proper place in the upper amp echelon. Speakers whose sensitivity or impedance/phase/EMF reactivity would shut them out of Club 300B like a leper suddenly find themselves not only de-stygmatized but actively romanced and pursued. That's the campaign bumper sticker. Honesty merely requires another mention that the quite similar Pass Labs XA30.8 gets 75% less coin but would mimic the Reimyo's power rating were it also biased in class A/B. On raw value then, the KAP-777 wouldn't make anyone's Top Twenty list. Here it's an exclusive club with limited membership just like the 300B SETs it emulates to a very good extent. The everyman invite isn't on affordability. It's on similar sound with nearly unlimited speaker options. Unlike class A competitors, the Reimyo doesn't double as space heater. Its power draw and utility bill impact are normal, not excessive. It's finished to look the part. It's perfectly noise free and comes on song quickly. Its slightly fulsome sonics major on weight, mass, colour intensity, bass presence and a more robust than speedy delivery. And it gets all that in DAC-direct mode from hard speaker diaphragms like metal or ceramic. If such a beast had marked your short list—but perhaps you found said list rather too short on actual options—here's a definitive choice to add. It's in the same general sonic class as the Pass Labs XA30.8 but still a bit richer or 'wealthier' in the midrange and upper bass and a bit portlier below 60Hz. And it's a lot more powerful. For the right shopper where value isn't the priority but the right sonic profile very much is, that should be very welcome news indeed. This really isn't your everyday solid-state amp!
 

Reimyo website