For first proof of life and as an upstairs break-in station, the EX-B7 hoofed it into a small bedroom system. That is fronted by Albedo Audio's compact Aptica, a two-way transmission line with Accuton ceramic drivers. Here the source is a Soundaware A280 SD card transport. That feeds S/PDIFits to a COS Engineering D1 which doubles as a DAC and analog preamp. The Kinki twins then replaced the usual Goldmund/Job 225, cabling by Black Cat Lupo.

Within an hour of warm-up, it already was plain how Kinki's silver challengers played in a rather more full-bodied, multi-hued, tonally deeper fashion than the Swiss. Instead of emphasizing the transient edge, they packed more substance and rise in the bloom portion of tones which doubled as the greater dynamic displacement. Also, the lower treble and beyond weren't as lit up to give cymbals, bells, gongs, triangles, singing bowls and other lazily decaying metals more sonority than uppermost harmonic fizz; and the low end was the more robust and hung. When time came to move downstairs, the 94dB single-driver Polish Nenuphar speakers from Cube Audio were still set up from a prior gig. For an hour, the Kinki monos drove those unexpectedly well when neither our Liszt nor Pass Labs XA-30.8 had come close to what the 10-watt FirstWatt SIT-1—a circuit tailor-made for such loads—get from them. The EX-B7 didn't equal the single-stage zero NFB Nelson Pass specialty amps either. What surprised was simply how they minimized the large gap our resident high-power amps suffer into these unusual speakers. Until now those—seemed to have—preferred single-ended triode type output impedance. On that count, the EX-B7's good showing didn't make sense. But then hifi is full of twists. One files those away as anecdotal evidence without really understanding it. To present the Kinkis with speakers which actual customers would/should use, our Audio Physic Codex 4-ways soon replaced the Polish exceptions.

To kick off the mandatory triangulation game, LinnenberG's Liszt played alternates whilst the Kinki EX-P7 preamp stood by to mix it up with our usual Wyred4Sound in round #2. In a nod to its balanced circuitry, the EX-B7 uses two green power LEDs when live, the central orange pilot light for standby. The triplicate scheme duplicates for the footers, with two in front, one in the rear. There's no switch to select between XLR or RCA inputs. Simply plug in what you want and go.

With the Denafrips and Wyred kit true balanced, XLR all the way through it was with Allnic's brilliant ZL3000 loom extending to the speaker cables and power cords. The LinnenberG swap was a quasi replay of the earlier Job 225 juxtaposition. The German amps were more lucid, lit up, obviously quick and relative to ambient retrieval, more avid to suggest an even lower noise floor. On fadista Dulce Pontes whose potent pipes can veer into the glassy, this produced associated interludes of the forward, bright and hardening. Switching over to the Kinkis shifted the reading halfway toward our warmer, softer bassier Pass Labs XA-30.8 which runs 20 transistors per channel in pure class A. This clearly was Liu's EX not Vision voicing in action. It toned down upper-frequency gloss to shift emphasis on a more burnished midband and slightly fatter upper bass. Where the Liszt's airier more translucent version leaned toward the "I'm there" perspective to have me feel more transported into the recorded venue, Kinki's fleshier take presented the more physical "they're here" counterpoint.

In terms of higher resolution by turning on the overhead lights like our actual spots surrounding the chandelier, the Liszt had it. In terms of weightiness, tone saturation and being less critical on less masterfully recorded fare—which, let's face it, is the norm not exception—the EX-B7 did. Once we factor cost, that balance of relative attributes teetered emphatically toward the bigger boxes with the rippled fascias. In fact, even with their companion preamp they'd come in at just €400 more than our Wyred preamp alone. Two complete Kinki pre/power sets cost less than a pair of Liszt. That's where the great equalizer of expense bears down like a sledge hammer and proudly from China ends the discussion by sheer submission in the first round.

Digital signal path: iMac, Audirvana 3, Soundaware D300R as USB bridge, Denafrips Terminator via I²S over AudioQuest Coffee HDMI.