• Kinki

EX-M1 | Nonoise

I’ve always wanted something simple and not a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to my stereo. KISS (keep it simple, stupid) is something I use in my approach to most things in life. Why overcomplicate? The Kinki EX-M1 is just an integrated, and that’s not meant as a pejorative. There’s no DAC or streaming capabilities, or room correction algorithms built in, and it won’t fold you laundry. There are 4 inputs out back, three unbalanced (RCA) and one balanced (XLR) which I’ve read is a simple and not a true balanced. Either way, it adds another type of input which can come in handy. The binding post are copies of WBT versions and are a joy to work with.

It has a frequency response of 10-150kHz (+/- 3db) and outputs 215W into 8ohms. It retails for approx. $2,200. Here is a link to more specs:

Because of it’s silvery finish it has an imposing appearance but compared to my black Marantz PM-15S2b, it’s about the same size. Personally, I love the look. When they say it’s built like a vault, this is the vault they refer to. The weight is imposing as well (55.12 lbs.) so take care when maneuvering it. You can turn it on with the remote or by pressing in the selector knob on the left. Turning it off is done by pressing and holding the same knob for 5 seconds, or by remote. The default volume setting when turned on is set at 10 so make sure to turn it down to 0 before playing anything unless your speakers are of low sensitivity. A well made manual is supplied but alas, it’s only in Chinese, but Alvin told me they’re making one in English.

Having 255 steps of attenuation gives one extraordinary range to get to exactly where you like to listen. You can go up 10 to 15 steps and not notice much of a change, at first, until something dynamic asserts itself or when you realize that in general, it’s now more impactful. Using the remote allows you to quickly go through the steps and adjust on the fly. I find this most handy and now use it to tailor the song or piece of music to my tastes.

As an integrated, it simply excels in it’s purpose. As verbose as I can tend to be, it leaves me speechless in describing it. It does nothing to detract. It does everything to commend. It’s incredibly fast and yet so utterly smooth. Musical presence is immediate but not etched, hyped or shrill. It’s light on it’s feet but can pounce and stomp when called for.

Liu, the amp’s designer, does not believe in exaggerated bass and yet this amp goes lower, tighter and simply growls tone, details and ambience that I haven’t heard before. Lower registers of the piano left me slack jawed as I basked in the reverberations of the soundboard. The same goes for cello, guitar, percussion and massed strings. Imaging is the best I’ve heard in my system. Nothing wavers (unless done in post production) and separation is tops. With The Milk Carton Kids, the two of them finally are completely separated and at a greater distance apart than what I’ve been used to or thought they’d be. Small chamber music pieces have me scanning the soundstage as different pieces play distinctly in their own space. Back up vocals are distinct as well with no smearing. They may harmonize but they are clearly different.

Highs are fully extended, again, beyond what I’m accustomed to hearing. They can go on well into a piece and you can hear the decay even when some bigger play takes center stage. Bells and chimes can tickle like the real thing. And speaking of stage, it’s of one piece, the same no matter where you care to go. All the way left, right, up or down, even as far back as you care to look. The strength of the music lies everywhere you care to listen. The only limits are what was done in the recording.

It has no noise floor that I can detect. On Abdullah Ibrahim’s The Song Is My Story, he’s not up on stage, as usual, but I’m sitting next to him while he plays (I listen in the near field so that helps). The piano is the full width of the soundstage, steady as a rock, and the notes flow out around, up, and beneath me (great mike placement). Notes can and do come out of a completely black background unless the recording is done with less tricks and then you easily hear the venue, the room, the stage, the setting. And, I never thought I’d say this but FM now sounds pretty fantastic, considering it’s limits.

The sound is so pure that it’s reoriented the way I listen to music. I no longer listen analytically but for the sheer pleasure. It’s so rewarding and relaxing. Listening to favorites, I’ve noticed that some sound different enough for me to notice that there was some exaggeration or emphasis of certain parts of the frequency with my older set up. Whether it was the house sound that some say certain brands have or just the limits of the design I can’t rightly say. Maybe it’s all the extra circuitry added to accommodate all the extra features I have no use for. No matter. I’m content. Happy as a puppy with two pee pees.

Also, I have to give thanks to Alvin for his great customer service. He’s the most attentive distributor I’ve dealt with. His response to any question I had were immediate and thorough, as long as one is mindful of the time differences (just check your clock on your smartphone to coordinate appropriate time zones). 👍 He even followed up with shipping notices, delivery times, and any question I had with the unit’s operation or features, which reminds me, since it draws about 30-40 watts when on, make sure to leave it in standby when not is use. It can get very warm to kind of hot, but not hot enough for me to lay my hand on it for any length of time. If I had more space it wouldn’t be a concern (it cools off quickly). That leads me to believe that maybe since my JBL 4319 monitors are 92db, and that it doesn’t take much to make them sing, that the EX-M1, which is a Class A/B design, operates in Class A for the first several watts, which could account for the warmth of the unit along with the wonderful tonal density and texture. Someone with more know how can look into that.

All in all, it’s the best money I’ve spent and now I have no desire to upgrade to some PC based system. My CDs and SACDs sound fantastic, even the old ones along with the reissues. To think you’re getting a real taste of what the well heeled have been enjoying for a fraction of the price makes this a true bargain if there ever was one. Let me also add that I received no consideration from the manufacturer or distributor and these are my views and opinions.

All the best, Nonoise

Credit: Nonoise