Single-brandedness—Kinki preamp+monos—added about half the difference atop what the Wyred preamp had mapped between Liszt and EX-B7 monos. The EX-P7 was a touch warmer, heavier, gentler and slower than the leaner, more keyed-up quicksilvery Wyred4Sound Stage 2. I operated the Wyred far below unity gain. That worked it in pure passive mode. Unlike a classic passive however, it remains actively buffered on the i/o. Still, the mild sonic change mirrored typical passive/active combat. It just did so by a slim margin.

Once again, this spoke most highly to Liu's expert circuit tuning and stunning value which his Guangzhou operation plus Vinshine Audio's direct sales build into his Kinki Studio brand. To leave things for the EX-P7's review, suffice it here to say that strategic cross dressing—Kinki preamp+LinnenberG amps against Wyred preamp+Kinki amps—equalized things to virtually on par. Now remaining differences were small personality traits, no longer about quantities like resolution. How about the EX-M1 for just one box?

The EX-M1 positioned itself somewhere between the Liszt's showing with the Wyred and Kinki preamps. Our gain needs kept both the Kinki preamp driving its mates and the Kinki integrated below 50 on their 256=max dials. That limited discussion to mostly the tonal domain where the Kinki separates produced higher mass and density, the integrated more air and speed. Into the apparently friendly Audio Physic, any extra low-Ω oomph from the monos didn't really translate in audibly obvious ways such as superior bass control, slam or heightened dynamic contrast.

On TJ Rehmi's ambient/techno with its drum machines and synth bass, I thought that the integrated's harder-hitting speed and crisper edging better suited its embedded robotic elements, industrial samples and synthetic beats. On Diego El Cigala's duet with Mercedes Sosa on Romance de la Luna Tucumana, the integrated focused deeper on the hoarse glitter inside his high register and the peculiar hollowness of Diego García el Twanguero's signature guitar work. The separates retaliated with deeper tone colours, gentler edging and a chunkier demeanour of enhanced gravitas. But this juxtaposition called out no clear victor. This was about differently weighted sonorities for different ears. To move the separates to clear victory should mean rather bigger rooms with seriously more challenging loads. Already the integrated does about 400wpc/4Ω. With our kit, that stubbornly refused to come in second. This added to its well-deserved award. Had the monos shown up first and I'd never known the EX-M1, the award would have gone to the monos. They hit just as hard on the value meter. Katchinnng. They're built to the same high standards. In my book, the EX-M1 is simply too much the overachiever. For the vast majority of shoppers, it's all they'll ever need. And for those more into the 'Swiss' sound à la Job 225 but with more suavity, it could even match better than the burlier slightly more 'American' monos.

In many ways, the EX-M1/B7 match was a rerun on the recent Linnenberg Liszt/Widor battle. In each case, the costlier model put out essentially the same power as its lesser cousin, albeit with twice the number of transistors on concomitantly scaled-up support circuitry. In each case my ears said that with our gear, the 'smaller' model was preferred. To different ears, the verdict could inverse. The point is that with these, price, separates/integrated and stereo/mono don't mean what they could. With these particular components, it's only the personal audition—or knowing a given reviewer's tastes to match your own—that can determine what's best. Business strategists should grumble and whine that either brand's 'lesser' model is just too bloody good. The smart money will love all the way to the bank and laugh. Some buyers and installations will of course demand mono amps. That asks what challengers produce an equal 200wpc into 8Ω from class A/B not D, demand the same and compete on build and finish? If we subtract those last two qualifiers, the $1'695/ea. Job monos suggest themselves. But they no longer show on their website to perhaps be discontinued. A bridged pair of Schiit Vidar would double power and halve the price. Not having heard them, would they perform in the same league? That question remains unanswered for anything else too since from what I've actually reviewed, nothing comes up as a direct alternative. It's the type stalemate which jaded reviewers live for.

Time to sit back and enjoy. If you don't and keep shopping even though you've bought, you're missing the whole point. Many are. For the pure self gratification at the very centre of this hobby, I thought on what speaker in inventory might cotton the very best to the EX-B7's "halfway between Liszt and XA-30.8" balance. It'd bring to the game its own maximally elucidated top end as a bonus to model year 1962 ears; and in turn benefit from the amp's help in the lower half given the room's high ceiling and 10m rear wall. The obvious answer was the EnigmAcoustics Mythology monitor with Sopranino super tweeter gracing my wife's studio. From all the super monitors we'd auditioned up to that point—Kaiser Chiara, Crystal Minissimo, Gryphon Mojo—it'd been our favourite to become the resident example for the breed. Today I'd add the Kroma Mimí to that list. At €6'000/pr, it's still a luxury monitor but shaves off 50% or more from the alternate options. Assumption, hope and deliverance overlaid perfectly and the M1 took pride of place for the remainder of the gig. Or as a visiting mate from Ivette's advanced photography class put it, "unless you heard this for yourself, you wouldn't understand. And once you do, you want it." Which about sums up the essence of audiophilia.

Completely in their element with a €14'700 pair of uncompromised monitors, the EX-P7/B7 trio fronted by the Denafrips Terminator DAC flattered the music in ways Sonus faber did in the era of Franco Serblin. Things were supple, slightly voluptuous, elastic, elegant, sonorous or, in one word, gorgeous. The effect was like swirling red wine vs crème de cassis in a crystal decanter. Whilst they might share the same colour if you try hard enough, the wine will never show off the viscosity, oiliness and depth which the liqueur made from black currants does. In musical terms, it meant a stately progression through time; slightly rounded leading edges; stronger overall gravity; and rich half shadows like a gamma-corrected display.

Applying audiophile vivisection, one would still mention perfect control of the monitor's rear port. Insufficient control can masquerade as room boom which appropriate amps will eliminate (and yes, ports also can aggravate actual room issues). The Kinki amps never raised that issue in the first place. Neither did they resurrect overcooked treble with its close-mic'd spittle or whitish pi

xilation. It's where the leaner more front-heavy fellow wide-bandwidth Job 225 will go when prompted by a recording. It's a direction the more suave Liszt can still look at. Unlike Lot's wife, the EX-B7 didn't even bother to look. To get perfect treble exposure in this space merely meant opening the curtains to increase rather than damp HF reflections. With true wall-to-wall spread in best monitor fashion, the sound was absolutely massive.

Ivette's visitor was screwed for life. I'd done a proper job of it.

Unlike our equivalent Germans, the Kinki amps even with 20% VAT added were something a good wedding photographer in Ireland could still pay for with one classy engagement. As had the EX-M1 Kinki integrated before them, the EX-B7 monos offered a very big slice of hi-end luxury for a steeply competitive ask.

Within my 5-strong hand of Kinki dates—DAC, headphone amp, preamp, integrated, power amps—the EX-M1 at this point continued to top my personal enthusiast's list followed very strongly by today's monaural amps. Anyone continuing to hold on to Chinese hifi as MidFi really hasn't paid any attention of late!