Useful dynamic range was aided and abetted by running an autoformer volume control into deep attenuation. Rather than burn up signal voltage into resistive heat like a car's disk brakes whose thinning pads require eventual replacement, it simply converts voltage to current. It's another mechanism which delays winter from coming with its monochromatic blanket of whites and greys. But the rest of a system must embrace a passive-magnetic pre's refusal to add fat and quicken instead. As stated already, the leaner more lit-up Crayon into these speakers doesn't like the icOn 4Pro the same. Hence my usual fallback on the direct-heated 'super' 45s when I color with the Crayon. Meanwhile Emei and this icOn got on like strawberries and cream. Or seeing that I'm in Ireland, should that be goats cheese and pickled beets; or salmon and baby potatoes? Yum either way. Another tasty ingredient was the treble. Fully extended as tracked with sundry cymbal shots, triangle strikes and top-most panflute shrieks, it also had lovely weight. This captured not just platinum overtone spray but more burnished and sustained action. Emei's HF weren't just keen but substantial. It's an area where she exceeded the thinner more quickly expiring Crayon. I wondered whether that had anything to do with her linear supply vs. the Austrian's SMPS.
Whilst the desktop had shown superior bass power/reach over the Enleum, evaluating upstairs bass demands bypassing the sub. Given the tiny speaker's limited response, that's simply not very telling. Downstairs too I run a sub, now with twin 15-inchers. There the sub's primary benefit is much reduced room involvement from cardioid/Ripol radiation. A smart active xover can bypass it via remote; and the speakers solo are good to ~25Hz. With their amps 250-watt EX-B7 Kinki monos, Emei would have a tough day at the office. But first, more upstairs comments. With Mark Fenlon's small metallic drivers used deep into the treble, textural dryness can become a factor. It's where the direct-heated direct-coupled power triodes inject some connective tissue with the Crayon. Not only did Emei not require their assist hence the AVC; her textures were still more satisfying because they didn't incur subtle drag. By that I mean a rhythmic softening which shifts propulsive communicative energies from the front foot to the rear. Emei sailed through potential turbulences of massed strings, angular solo fiddles à la Nedim Nalbantoglu, upper right-hand piano and high power vocals without triggering my puny widebanders. To my mind this was down to tonal substance. It wasn't held back by any heaviness to feel ponderous, chubby or rhythmically lazy. This was particularly impressive across the wider presence region. In the simplest language we'd call it great tone. That's not necessarily the first thing to mind when discussing transistor amps. Now saying that it's probably the first thing you'll notice with Emei should be a telling pointer. If you're like me, you'll now quickly canvas all the areas this potentially steals from. I didn't find any. That's not the same as being without character. To suggest the latter, two tracks will make a distinction. There's "U Stambolu" from Loulou Djine's Fragments album by Dragan Urlic; and "Bossa Orpheum" from the John Jorgenson Quintet's Ultraspontane collection. If you did your homework to hear both; and more mellow x more lit-up/wiry made sense as textural differentiator; the first is my stand-in for Emei's tuning; the second for Kinki's EX-M1. Versus Emei, Simon Lee's i5 mentioned earlier as another resident desktopper leans rather deeper into the soft, warm and fat. Time to check on the CHoco sound in the big downstairs system.
Mayday, Mayday, right channel down? After inverting input and outputs cables, I ascertained that I had proper incoming signal; and two channels outputting to left not right speaker. Bad speaker cable? Returning to my EX-B7 monos, I was instantly back in stereo. All good on all cables. Stumped for a minute, I finally realized the difference. Upstairs I'd used banana-terminated speaker cables. On Kinki's Earth specimens presently downstairs, I had spades. Did Emei's right-channel terminal/s not make proper contact in spade mode? Falling back on my Allnic ZL8000 cables with banana plugs, Mayday turned to late June day. Instantly sunny stereo sound. Weird but efficacious like the Ayre break-in CD. Needless to say, my following Emei/EX-B7 swaps ran just Allnic to eliminate the decisive cable variable I knew from my Earth loom review.
These comparisons—elder brothers, younger sister—confirmed prior comments by emphatic exclamation mark. They reiterated why a separate brand; and why 'Aimee'. The EX-B7 sounded more lit up all over. It's my phrase for what Nelson Pass calls a dominant 3rd harmonic like in his FirstWatt F5. In those terms Emei prioritizes the 2nd harmonic instead; what I call octave doubling when the 2nd harmonic occurs an octave above the fundamental, not the octave plus open fifth of the 3rd. Valve fanciers talk pentode vs triode; solid statesmen and ladies bipolars and Mosfets. All point at the same. The monos separated harder, were more edge limned, inside-out illuminated and energetically forward. Emei was energetically slightly hooded and distanced then sweeter and lusher. To diminish said offset, Emei would want the Kinki Earth speaker cable, the monos stick to direct-heated triode designer Kang-Su Park's ZL8000. Toggling the remote 'bypass' of my smart active crossover showed Emei to have zero issue (wo)manhandling the IQ's 9½" Satori woofer. Where the bigger power supplies of the monaural amps pushed ahead wasn't bass control per se but overall dynamic range. They were more boisterous, Emei more streamlined.
If we anthropomorphize—a long word for attaching human traits or behaviors to an object—the EX-B7 are very fit male athletes. Emei is a curvier still hardbody female. Woke? Whatever terminology most speaks to you, it explains why Mr. Ivan Liu launched a new brand. It neatly allocates a different sonic signature as the distinguishing mark from Kinki Studio.
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