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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
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Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac late 2020 with Ventura 13.3, 40GB RAM, Audirvana Origin, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 network switch, Sonnet Pasithea DAC; Active filter: icOn Gradient Box at 80Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos, Goldmund Job 225; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Qualio Audio IQ w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Shanling M3 Ultra, Soundaware D300Ref; DAC: Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Preamp/filter: Vinnie Rossi Signature L2 + icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/40Hz hi-low pass; Amplifier: Enleum AMP-23R; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini, Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF + Akiko Audio Corelli; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: iFi iDSD Pro Signature; Headphones: Final D-8000; Active speakers: DMAX SC5
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: $3'698/pr
Over two years and two rentals I've now lived nonstop with Kinki's 250-watt 2.5MHz EX-B7 monos. In that time only two amplifiers pipped them sonically: LinnenberG's class A Georg Friedrich Händel monos at €23'000; and Electrocompaniet's class AB 'Nemo 2' aka AW800M at £19'500. Being 1/6th by contrast, that's pretty-please praise for the Chinese. It's precisely why I see no justification to swap 'em. To exceed where they play simply costs. Disproportionally. Too much. Even designer Ivan Liu appears in agreement. To better himself, he demands €25'000/pr for his new 600-watt 571 monos. How much farther can those push our rolling stone up Mount No Compromise? I'd love to find out. I'm just not holding my breath. Think weight, import fees and costly two-way shipping. Curiosity can kill both cat and sender.
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Also in our crib are an Enleum AMP-23R and Crayon CFA-1.2 on occasional rotation whilst each half of a Goldmund/Job 225 powers one 15" woofer of our sound|kaos cardioid Ripol sub. Sundry class A FirstWatt specimens and a hulking Pass Labs XA-30.8 are currently mostly benched. So are Nord Acoustics and Purifi class D amps. You could rightly extrapolate that my allegiances lie with class AB gain circuits of exploded bandwidth and DC coupling to eliminate signal-path capacitors. It's also true that my favorite in-house amps all use the same Exicon lateral Mosfets. It's just how that cookie crumbled. A Gold Note integrated in the 2.0 video system runs bipolars. So did the LinnenberG and Electrocompaniet loaners. I'm not bullish on the how, just the what.
So what do I love about my Kinki monos? It'll have to be their particular mix of solid tone, speed, clarity and lit-up-all-over demeanour which strips away the cobwebs of indecisive timing, fuzzy treble, blurry bass and inebriated tone colors. The only resident transducers troubled by this mix in direct-to-amp DAC mode with lossless volume are Accuton's older ceramic membranes in Albedo Audio's Aptica. Unlike the far more generous Raidho X2t below which add to the ceramic recipe a sputtered tantalum layer, the Albedos lean out and into the chalky. To correct their course requires Vinnie Rossi's L2 Signature linestage from upstairs with Elrog ER50 direct-heated/coupled triodes. That injects the perfect dose of textural pliancy. But the Qualio IQ, sound|kaos Vox 3a, Audio Physics Codex, German Physik omnis or Zu Soul VI are all served ideally by the simpler quicker signal path. And I prefer fewer components.
If you've circled the square to know your gain circuits, peg the EX-B7 as Goldmund's Asian brothers. Theirs is a very similar sonic aesthetic simply executed without Geneva swissitude. Yet having looked inside each Goldmund I reviewed, I'll add that beneath the bonnet, Kinki Studio actually take the lead. At currently 1/10th the power—at Munich HighEnd 2023 that may level to roughly half with their new range topper—Enleum beckon with minorly more sophisticated tone textures; while smoking nearly twice the cashish. It's why my AMP-23R plays upstairs on 80Hz-highpass'd micro monitors. It's why the EX-B7 monos doing nearly 500 watts into 4Ω hold downstairs court to drive all comers without fail.
Right-channel Kinki speaker amp, Goldmund/Job 225 beneath driving the passive subwoofer.
Until lightning strikes twice to dispatch contenders which categorically overshadow our EX-B7 at the ~€4K mark—most skinny a chance I predict—they'll remain my racetrack muscle amplifiers of choice. Looking back over two years of most satisfied service driving all manner of speakers, I thought this deserved today's brief follow-up. Forget greener grass over yonder. Patrick the local lawn mover man cuts ours weekly between April and September. There's nothing greener across the lane, just horses and cows and their – um, compost…
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