In one of those lucid early-morning moments, I just looked at my setup. Suddenly I saw it: direct-coupled amp of ultra bandwidth; extra-dynamic Mundorf air-motion transformers; omni magnesium super tweeters on a 1st-order high pass; a D/D reclocker upsampling Redbook to DXD. Hello? Did I not have an unnecessary magnifying glass on my top end and upper harmonics? I already knew that the EX-M7 caused no apparent phase shift by how incredibly laser-locked it imaged even in the outermost regions. This I could hear because our 2-way speakers need no high-pass on the mid/woofer and just put a minimum-phase stacked 1st-order filter between it and the tweeter. Additionally, their rubber-bonded thick aluminium chassis was deliberately designed for quietness to improve time-domain behavior. What if I eliminated the super tweeters and additionally set the clock generator of the JAVS DDC to resample all PCM to DSD as indicated by its receiving DAC's yellow lights?

In an instant, much of what I'd called greater temporal rigidity versus the Bakoon had up and left. Where the AMP-13R benefited from the subtle enhancements of the super tweeter in the two top octaves, the Kinki accomplished the same without it. With the super tweeter, it overplayed its own speed. For fractional extra elegance, PCM⇒DSD conversion on the fly added the final bow to my new package. Whilst Bakoon's advantage remained, it had shrunk. Meanwhile Kinki's advantage remained unchanged. So the overall difference had diminished yet within in, EX-M7's coverage grown; for half the coin but one full magnitude of extra power.

This was a basic reminder. Anyone into hifi for a sufficiently long time has, by chance or careful strategy, performed endless plastic surgery. It's been nip 'n' tuck, of new gear improving things yet also causing gaps. Those gaps triggered more hardware adjustments. Eventually we arrived at a personally pleasing system. If we're honest and informed, we are cognizant that for all its strengths and charms, certain aspects remain weaker. To us and our music, they just don't matter as much as all else we've gotten right. Inserting into any groomed setup anything new now ought to carry an equal chance of success and failure. In fact, failure is far more likely. The happier we are with our system, the less it takes to throw off our ideal balance. Now whatever gets us ahead must be far more similar than not. It must only and exclusively focus on refining our weaker traits whilst touching naught else. That's a tall order. Reviewers in particular must be mindful so we don't blame review items for mismatches within systems that have grown far too personalized (tweaked, curated) over a very long time. The longer that time, the more likely false blame.

In the same vein, I primarily enjoy my upstairs system at lower SPL on less driven/complex music. The bigger downstairs rig is the day-time worker of pomp and circumstance. Its ceiling is of double height, I sit farther away, there's copious space behind the chair. It's all conducive to going loud and convoluted. The smaller upstairs number is a more intimate night-time affair so music gets naturally matched to purpose. The upshot is obvious. Kinki's advantages all played to downstairs. Bakoon's favored the upstairs. Making just two small adjustments—eliminating super tweeters, changing digital filters—had already moved the EX-M7 unreasonably close to my upstairs ideal. Long-term ownership might well make further small changes, likely swapping its silver/gold Crystal interconnects for copper LessLoss C-MARC. Or I might make a bigger one of changing the Acelec speakers for sound|kaos Vox 3a. Either way, I'd end up with my familiar upstairs 'sound' but bolt to it new downstairs abilities…

… so Govinda-type downtempo Psydub with its slamming bass-heavy elements would be perfectly served as well. Ditto Jamshied Sharifi's cinematic "Di'vaneh" with it pounding poly-rhythmic African drums from his One album. For such fare I usually hog the big system. With the Kinki, I now could stay aristocratic and upstairs.

But the inverse wouldn't be true. The Bakoon hardly ever takes to the stairs. Its 25 watts aren't ideal for our Audio Physic Codex or other more complex loads of standard efficiency. So it stays tethered to the smaller system. Using Warsaw contributor Dawid Grzyb's word for that, it's a far more situational product. By implication, the Kinki becomes rather more universal. Being slightly less refined within a deliberately intimate context then is a very small price to pay for big gains elsewhere.