I consider myself as the average Audiophile guy : I listen a wide range of different music types , always looking for a way to improve this or that , and always think that there is better product somewhere else that I have not discovered yet , this could translate as : endless quest for perfection ( and to make it even more complex we all have a different definition of perfection when it comes to sound taste )
A few word about my system : I have a pair of 4 way DIY speakers inspired by a Visaton Atlas MKV kit and a revisited filter mainly built with Jantzen Audio and Mundorf components with crossovers specifically designed to take into consideration the acoustic behavior of my room ( which took me about a year and half to accomplish ) I would define them as super transparent with a huge bandwidth but very difficult to match with the proper amplifier… As a matter of fact I have owned theses speakers for about 4 years , and in the meantime I have changed my main amp 5 times … not transparent enough , lack of dynamics when music was played at very low levels , to much bass or not enough , every time I was showing up at my audio dealers place , the sales guy was smiling ( like a kid in front of an ice cream store on a hot summer day ) because he knew he was going to make spend another 4 or 5K€ , and he knew It was a matter of time before I get rid of it and try something else. His rhetoric speech was always the same : you will never get what you want unless you accept to spend 10 or 15k€. Tired of trying the same brands again and again I decided to give a chance to the outsider : The Kinki Studio EXM1+
What convinced me to give it a try : Instead of stuffing the turkey (and the price ) with things I don’t need (BT, Wifi, Alexa, heart rate monitor, daily horoscope etc ) their philosophy seemed to be : let’s make it as simple and efficient as possible !
Two days later , Ding Dong … Ups was delivering what was going to become over the next weeks literally a crush !
Yes the amp is beautiful, gorgeous, perfectly crafted etc , but what really mattered to me was the sound.
The first thing that literally blew me away was his transparent sound ! listening at Vanishing Act from Loud Reed live session was full of micro details such as someone coughing in the public , listening to Tin Pan Alley from Stevie Ray Vaughan was revealing the noise of something that seemed to be some kind of tape recorder noise that the sound engineers probably didn’t notice.
The other surprise ( and I should say the other unexpected surprise ) is the huge leaps in dynamics that this amp is able to take without putting one knee to the ground ! Listening to Rodrigo y Gabriela live concert in Japan was feeling the same as ridding a rollercoaster! ( I swear I’m not exaggerating ) and this something I have never experienced in my entire hifi life. You have that huge sound pressure in the room ( I was probably approaching 90 or 92 db ) with a clarity that let you distinguish every nuance of the string they hit on their guitar with a extreme finesse, and suddenly it all becomes dead silent in one fraction second , this is a truly shocking experience !
That was so good , clean , and dynamic that I was unable to stop the album.
It is something that I may have not realized in the past , but the EXM1+ is almost as fast as a light photon !, and yes it does a big difference … because the tempo of the music seems so real , especially on pianos , violins, guitars . I cannot really explain why, but it seems to be about coherence. And the EXM1+ is exceling in this area.
There is one downside thought: when you get used to high quality recordings I’m not talking about the digital format itself such as DSD vs 16/44 but the way that the sound was captured , the job made by the sound engineer when he was trying to transpose the ambiance on the recording etc , makes it extremely difficult to switch back to normal recording , because you know that this amp is able to take you so much further…
Something that is also very important is its neutral sound signature , not only it’s important with music , but it is mandatory if like me you use the EXM1+ as an amplifier for your home theater , and I have always been disappointed with my previous choices in the past. Because let’s face it : if you hear gunshot in the movie , or if someone slam a door or even break a glass , you don’t want that sound to be “ harsh” , “soft” , “round” etc , you want it to be neutral because otherwise it will not sound real, even in Atmos Soundtrack the Front Left and Right channel carry a lot of information… and again the Kinki Studio is perfectly tailored for the job !
Finally and I think this also important: this amplifier is extremely sensible to the power source quality, the RCA or XLR cable , and the furniture where it stand to…
I’m the kind of person that was convinced that a cable is cable , and even if I have always bought very decent cable I have to admit that taking very seriously these 3 criteria will turn the Kinki studio from very good to exceptional.
Again it not my first amplifier and I did notice in the past some small differences when swapping the cables , but in this case “ slight” is definitively not the proper word … I have no rational explanations , maybe the fact that it is super transparent emphases all the small details , or maybe it’s due to something else I don’t know but yes you can clearly hear the difference !
Although : in my case it took about 100 hours of burn in time for this amp to reveal the full potential of its subtlety especially on voices ( male or female ) so be patient…
The last word : I have waited 30 days to write this review , because sometimes the first listening sounds so great but slowly but surely you get bored of it or even sometimes disappointed. This is why I don’t like first impressions.
30 days after the initial setup , and I’m’ even more enthusiastic about the EXM+ that I was at first !
This is indisputably the best piece of equipment I have acquired over the last 4 years! And no need to say that my Kinki Studio will stay here for a long time a very long time…
All my respect to the engineers, technicians, testers etc. who contributed to this project , you can be really really proud…
Credit: Rémy.D@ France
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