For those with special preamplifiers, the AMP-13R's non-lossy variable gain welcomes them. Unlike convention, it doesn't first generate gain only to subsequently burn it off again. It only produces whatever gain you set. I could insert our Nagra Classic preamp set to zero gain with its attenuator wide open. That acted as a unity-gain tube buffer to inject mild signal conditioning over running the Denafrips Terminator DAC direct. I could run the Bakoon wide open and trim all excess gain with the Nagra. I could set the Bakoon to '25' and let the preamp handle the balance. I could set the Nagra to 12dB of voltage gain to use less negative feedback, then decide which pot to close by how much. Allocating gain between two variable stages can become a subtle tweaking game. So don't view the AMP-13R as an integrated amp just because of its volume controller. It's an amplifier with sliding gain which comes with an input selector. Run it source direct, season with a preamp… it's entirely up to you and all perfectly legit.
At about half gain off a 4.6V max source—Denafrips balanced into the Nagra set to zero voltage gain—the Bakoon filled our bigger room on the open floor to capacity. Speakers were our Kroma Audio Mimí topped by Avantages Audio's magnesium-alloy super tweeters. As a warm and generously chunky transducer in the Harbeth vein, this combination dovetailed as an opposites-attract affair rather than exploiting the AMP-13R's reflexes and resolution to the fullest. Just so, the soundstage of good recordings was spookily tactile and immersive. Densely populated outer quadrants could wrap around the outsides of the speakers. Depth layering was expansive and specific. Softly plucked guitar strings conveyed an obvious sensation of fleshy finger tips to register distinctly different from nails or plectrum. Tonality was fulsome but not ponderous. This showed Bakoon's expert steering away from what happens when these monitors are fronted by our bottom-up gently trebled Pass Labs XA-30.8 class A behemoth. With the actual pairing behaving just as anticipated to tick off 'perfectly sufficient power for the job', our ~93dB Cube Audio Nenuphar widebanders were next to see whether like meets like would be a love fest or too much of a mosh.
Most definitely the love fest. This became an alliance of most attractive wet/glossy textures which played key differentiator to the 37wpc Grandinote Shinai integrated also on review. Its solid-state output transformers did things more dry and damped without the virtual mister the Bakoon used. With the Nagra Classic in standby to tame any overt directness just in case, there was no need to diminish such stunning immediacy when nothing in the frequency response misbehaved with undue forwardness. Bass was exceptionally articulate and grippy, demonstrating that Bakoon's output impedance for this type transducer was still just right.
In the mood for some Arabian vocals just then, I cued up some youthful Hiba Tawaji followed by…
… the very seasoned Ilham Al Madfei with a simple but superbly evocative love song to the city of Baghdad. With the thematic sparseness of the arrangement, the little that's there has to carry itself with no big effects – just a voice dropping pebbles into big space, a plaintive guitar, some standing pedals and a darkly hued crying violin which at times flutters like a wounded bird or sighs like a ghost. The AMP-13R/Nenuphar pairing turned up the chicken-pimples slider and the poetic atmospherics from a desert country manifested under a cloud-covered misty sky in Western Ireland.
That transference of a mood which, somehow, is encoded on a proper recording is what one hopes for from a classy hifi but doesn't get too often. Good sound actually operates on a still lower level. To open up this domain where one's feelings change as though one were transparent and a strange wind with unfamiliar scents passed through one to rewrite the blood chemistry… that's something not in the rule book of perfect response graphs and shallow waterfall plots. Of all the speakers I would saloon around on the Bakoon, Nenuphar was that hostess with the mostest. By inference, this also explained why the Bakoon + sound|kaos association has been this longstanding. With their Enviéé widebanders of only moderate sensitivity just like Cube, it's a very similar concept. On the same subject, the new Audio Physic Midex is very similar to our resident Codex. In the Midex feature review, I'd written that…
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