: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 2.04, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1, Metrum Hex, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi La Scala MkII, Vinnie Rossi Lio, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20
Preamps: COS Engineering D1, Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C'03, Vinnie Rossi Lio
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8, FirstWatt S1, F6; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Gato Audio DIA-250; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Vinnie Rossi Lio, AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Loudspeakers: EnigmAcoustics M1; Eversound Essence; Albedo Audio Aptica; soundkaos Wave 40; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Submission; German Physiks HRS-120, Gallo Strada II w. TR-3D subwoofer; Trenner & Friedl Pharoah [on review]
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt double-header USB; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Arkana Research XLR/RCA and speaker cables [on loan]
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Krion amp stand
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: Irregularly shaped 9.5 x 10m open floor plan with additional 2nd-floor loft; wood-paneled sloping ceiling; parquet flooring; lots of non-parallel surfaces (pictorial tour here)
Review component retail: €19'990 with VAT

Like more general news, the reviewing business is a fickle mistress. Her attention span is Napoleonic. Whilst particularly on the web nothing ever really goes away, the actual shelf life of reviews is quite short. The majority of people read them when fresh; and the greatest interest and relevance accompanies current product that's not been reviewed before or perhaps only once or twice. Hence publications have little interest in writing up stuff that's a few years old. In a climate where novelty is synonymous with improvement, age becomes synonymous with passé. Which doesn't begin to explain why, when Kiuchi-San of the Combak/Harmonix umbrella solicited me for a review during the Munich HighEnd 2015 show, I spontaneously pointed at his hulking Reimyo KAP-777 power amplifier to accept.

My reasons were simple. With Reimyo, the Japanese sound tuner and referee over a select team of hand-picked collaborators has not only digital separates. He also has a valve preamp; and had an 8wpc 300B power amp which the KAP-777 had unceremoniously replaced. This 200/400wpc into 8/4Ω transistor version thus had to have been schooled in the university of triode sensibilities as applied to solid state. Its propaganda even mentioned a single Mosfet. That, quite falsely as it turned out, pointed at a rare high-power SET aka single-ended transistor amp. Mentioning the quickly unfolding review plan to German importer Jan Sieveking, the only minor hurdle proved the power cord. Not only do I run US-style 3-prong power rather than EU-flavour two-pole Schuko, I need five meters for my amp/s and sub. With Reimyo, special power cords are part of the delivery, albeit of the 1.5m persuasion. Yet Jan was insistent that I test Kiuchi's amp with its intended leash. His boss didn't have anything suitably long for the Harmonix X-DC350M2R cord in question either. But then Kiuchi remembered. For his XRCD mastering sessions, he does own a 5m specimen. It simply does not match the cosmetics of the standard KAP-777 companion. I obviously could care less about the colours of a power cord sleeve hiding behind equipment racks. Thus the assignment became a go, Jan in charge of an amp loaner from his German inventory, Kiuchi of the special power cable from Japan, me of writing about it all.

Which still fails to fully explain why I was all fixed to romance a review subject introduced in 2011 when I barely keep up with requests of very current stuff. Here one calls poppycock on the notion that each year's bumper crop of new amplifiers represents significant advances of the art. Mostly it's the same old circuits with the same old transistors stuck in prettier housings. That's why savvy 2nd-hand shoppers can play it shockingly current by picking up for example an 'outdated' Mark Levinson or 'ancient' Krell. It's a matter of pursuing the right model and vintage. Of course that conflicts with the keen novelty pushers. To survive, they must insist that their new kit is far superior. It might be. Often it's not. Or just marginally so. Back to the KAP-777. How many 200-watt single-ended transistor amps can you list? My point precisely. Thorens have high-power monos with single Mosfets. Yet their Circlotron circuit isn't single-ended. Vandersteen's new amp might be single-ended. Just so, it's high-passed to exclude the self-powered bass section of his Model 7.

In his FirstWatt stable, Nelson Pass has bona-fide single-stage SETs. They simply aren't high power. Gamut* and Constellation might have. Just so, I'd be surprised if even the most industrious of readers could come up with a single handful, much less a baker's dozen. Hence those were the heady images spinning in my noggin whilst I signed off in that Munich exhibit. Reality would "bite" only later.

* Gamut's D200i 240wpc amp limits itself to one transistor per phase, i.e. four total for the stereo amp. While Gamut refer to that as a single Mosfet circuit, it’s not single-ended but rather, the minimum way to create two push-pull halves per side. The idea is to avoid paralleled devices. To get such a stripped-down p/p output stage to generate sufficient power relies on butcher semiconductors. Gamut's Motorola Mosfets are claimed to be good for a constant 100 amperes and 300A peaks (they were originally designed for welding applications). The Constellation output stage uses a "balanced bridged topology, combining multiple small single-ended amplifier modules into a large fully balanced design."