Country of Origin



Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, COS Engineering D1, Denafrips Terminator, Soundaware D300Ref as USB bridge/SD transport, Jay's Audio CDT2 MkII & DAC2-SE
Preamplifier: Nagra Classic, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, COS Engineering D1, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module)
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1 monos, SIT3. F5, F6, F7; Goldmund/Job 225; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos; LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos, Bakoon AMP-13R
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Kroma Audio Mimí; EnigmAcoustics M1; Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V, VI & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence; Fram Midi 150
Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL 3000; Zu Event; KingRex uArt double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps/sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: €5'490 [incl. 21% VAT]

The emailer was Tsutomu Banno from Japan's SPEC, an upscale class D house who do things differently. "We are preparing an RSA-777EX for your review. It sounds natural and responsive and with it, headphones have the same taste. They share the power supply and electronic volume of the main amplifier but are then driven by a dedicated headphone amplifier. Your sample will be shipped by Hontani-san of the MuSon Project Inc. as our export agent."

With this making six reviews for six moons, SPEC are no strangers to our long-term readers. In fact, our last review, of their flagship 300-watt RPA-MG1000 monos, had netted a Blue Moon Award from senior writers Marja & Henk. That was soon mirrored by Wojciech Pacula's Gold Fingerprint award from Poland's High Fidelity. Sonic greatness translates into all languages.

If you're a headphone and speaker listener with a smaller wallet meanwhile, already their RSA-777EX has you covered. That's the sand box we'll be playing in today.

One glance at Yoshi Hotani's portfolio—he has become the de-facto owner of Leben and also handles Takatsuki's 300B valves and amp as I learned at Munich HighEnd 2019—suggests rather exotic brands including major tube electronics from Air Tight and Triode Corp. That also describes SPEC whose sonics are modeled on, yes, vintage valve amps.

Tube sound from class D? Should that intrigue even irritate, read on. This is an altogether different addendum to the book of class D as written by Hypex, ICEpower, Ncore, Pascal and Purifi, the latter very recently profiled. SPEC don't pursue lowest measurable distortion or ultra-high feedback. They believe that in the natural evolution of sound, tubes were the beginning, traditional transistor circuits followed and class D is the logical next step which begins where tubes left off to virtually skip the intervening period. Yoshi's portfolio also includes headphones by way of Japan's Crosszone. So naturally, their €900 CZ-10 would become part of today's assignment.

… to be continued…