April
2024

Country of Origin

China

Flame loom

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (i5, 256GB SSD, 40GB RAM, Sonoma 14), 4TB external SSD with Thunderbolt 3, Audirvana Studio, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 & SW-6 switch, Laiv Audio Harmony and Sonnet Pasithea; Active filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box 2; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos & Gold Note monoa on subwoofer; Headamp: Kinki Studio THR-1; Phones: HifiMan Susvara, Meze 109 Pro; Loudspeakers: Qualio IQ [on loan] Cables: Kinki Studio Earth, Furutech; 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 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: FiiO R7 into Soundaware D300Ref SD transport to Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Preamp/filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box 2; Amplifier: Kinki Studio EX-M7; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox 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; DAC: iFi Pro iDSD Signature; Head/speaker amp: Enleum AMP-23R; Speakers: Acelec Model One
Headphones: Final D-8000 & Sonorous X, Audeze LCD-XC, Raal-Requisite SR1a on Schiit Jotunheim R
Upstairs headfi system: FiiO R7; Headphones: Meze 109 Pro, Fiio FT3

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: TBA

As does Hindu belief, the Taoist world view contains the five cosmic elements of earth, water, air, fire and ether or space (akasha in India). As a proudly Chinese brand, Kinki Studio called their first range of overachieving cables Earth. I reviewed and awarded a loom of it last year. Soon these thinner, quicker more lucid Shaolin wires replaced my former Allnic loom in the main system.

Despite costing a mere fraction, the silvery Chinese really did look classic Crystal Cable. By late January so a good half year forward in time, my CI at Kinki announced a pending studio-grade fuse, a 4-outlet DC blocker and a new cable range above Earth. Not all all anxious to admit, the latter had my undivided attention. To rout redundancy, read my Earth review for the genesis story and tech. Regular readers know of my fondness for Kinki Studio. As shown next, Mr. Liu's EX-B7 monos run our main speakers…

Wired with Kinki Earth.¹

…and his THR-1 follows Vinnie Rossi's L2 Signature direct-coupled DHT preamp fitted with Western Electric 300B into a pair of HifiMan Susvara. His EX-M7 stereo powers the upstairs monitors. The subtext is strong. My ears love Kinki Studio's house sound; and their gear's value quotient. In my book the brand belongs to the gang of three which includes Denafrips and Jay's/LHY. To my ears it's some of the best solid-state kit and since last year also cables which Westerners can conveniently acquire from the Middle Kingdom.
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¹ This room hosts more Chinese-made kit: 27" iMac, twin LHY network switches, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, Denafrips Terminator Plus & Avatar, Cen.Grand DSD1.0 Deluxe & Silver Fox, HifiMan Susvara. The loudspeakers are Polish, the sub is Swiss, the active electronic crossover is British, the sub amps are Italian, the DHT preamp is American. For an adventurous hifi assembler, the whole world really is our oyster.

What would Kinki Studio's cable division now do for an Earth encore? I hadn't the foggiest until this unconfirmed April 1st pic. Before I heard more, I sat pretty, primed and plain curious. Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop. The lull could broach the prickly topic of 'audiophile' fuses. As a sacrificial part, a fuse's task is to blow when its conducted current exceeds the rating. Now the conductive element overheats and breaks. Slow-blow fuses anticipate higher inrush currents whilst capacitors charge up right after turn-on before current draw returns to normal. Compare the conductive mass in a high-end garden-hose power cord to the tiny thin wire in a typical fuse. The word 'bottleneck' rather suggests itself. A fuse is in fact a mini resistor. The lower its rating, the higher the resistance. This conflicts with the goal of ultra-low power Ω to host max current flow. But our fuse protects our kit from abnormal conditions so it's all by design. Premium power distributors with built-in protection may opt for costly magnetic circuit breakers to avoid sacrificial or lesser parts. Now we see how performance-obsessed listeners could look at the fuse bottleneck with greedy dreams of opening it more without sacrificing the inherent protection mechanism. One such would-be bottle opener is the $494 Swiss Digital Fuse Box with pigtail sold by VeraFi. It replaces fuse with solid copper rod then offboards protection into an external box that receives our component's power cord. Now a microprocessor measures current flow to trip a high-power relay should abnormal conditions eclipse our safety value.

Back to premium fuses, our aftermarket has a variety of options, some darned dear. Hello Synergistic's $595 Master. At $200, even their Purple is bound to cause collective pushback. Entering this segment as a seller isn't for the faint of heart who lose their lunch over heckling online feedback. Even buyers may prefer to keep shtum and avoid the court of public opinion. Will Kinki Studio's no-nonsense rep take a hit for daring to foster freaky fuse ferment? Much if not all of it shall probably hinge on pricing.

On DC blocking I'm back on familiar ground. I first encountered it in Vibex power filters recommended by Nagra. They used it in their Swiss R&D lab for taking more precise and repeatable measurements farther down into the noise floor. It's well known that particularly large transformers of power amps and subs are susceptible to hum when direct current of less than 500mV that rides on an asymmetrically shifted AC sine wave saturates their cores. Less known are the benefits to low-level gear even in the absence of any hum. I'm not savvy enough to understand the technical reasons.

My ears simply told me years ago that the DC blocker half of Cliff Orman's then top Vibex twin-deck power distributor is more important to my source kit than its AC conditioner half. A small standalone Vibex DC blocker fronts our 2.1 video system where it banished hum in a tall Zu subwoofer. Some AC delivery kit like the UK's Puritan Audio Labs has optional DC blocking built in. Ditto Poland's GigaWatt. Audiolab and iFi make add-on blockers. With Kinki amplifiers of the direct-coupled type to eliminate signal-path capacitors, it was only a matter of time until Mr. Liu released a companion DC blocker for those of us without this feature. Here we see a teaser of its back panel. This unit will treat up to four power feeds.

… to be continued…