Reimyo KAP-777 is the first solid state power amplifier made by the company Reimyo. This is something nobody could expect. For as far as I remember, Mr. Kiuchi was a tube and K2 processor guru. The first thing is clear: his phenomenal power amplifier PAT-777 and preamplifier CAT-777 (test of the system HERE) now in the MKII version (test HERE), were the masters of a certain level of knowledge, abilities and technologies related to this. On the other hand, Mr. Kiuchi is co-owner of the XRCD patent, the producer of many albums in that technology and Reimyo is one of very few companies (except Phase Tech), which uses the K2 processor in their CD players, the basis for the XRCD patent (test HERE). You do probably remember the meeting with Mr. Kiuchi in Krakow, organized by the Krakow Sonic Society (HERE). A transistor would be the last thing to be associated with that company.
But something must have happened, some kind of need had to exist, to have the KAP-777 constructed. What was it – I do not know. But when the Polish distributor called me and told me, that Mr. Kiuchi prepared a solid state amplifier one thing was certain – this had to be something different than most other amplifiers on the market.
And yes, the materials send shortly afterwards to our news section confirmed my first hunch. The most important information is the fact, that in the current section there is only one, single MOSFET transistor employed (one per channel). This means, that this is a single-ended circuit, with a polar capacitor. And this is the best approximation of the SET.
This is of course not the first project of that kind – let me just mention the projects ZEN from Nelson Pass and their production versions in the amplifiers from Pass Laboratories and First Watt. But also Gamut proposed amplifiers with such topology for some time (for example the D200), but in contrast to the Pass projects – with a very high output power. Lately a variation on the topic, a very costly one, was proposed by Constellation Audio, an electronics spin-off from the Australian turntable manufacturer Continuum Audio Labs (125 W per channel!). What is all this about? Well, in standard amplifiers, especially solid state ones, push-pull settings are employed. This results in high power, low harmonic distortion, but results also in cross-zero distortion and problems in matching the halves of the signal. The solution for that problem are single-ended circuits. They get enormously hot, have a rather low output power and a lot of issues with the stability of the circuit. But the problem of driving loudspeakers can be circumvented using many of the power elements in parallel (tubes, transistors). This is however another trap – if we want to do it right, we have to pair all of the transistors together very tightly. And although bipolar ones can be paired quite well, polar ones (MOSFETs, HEXFETs, etc) are much more troublesome. And it gets even worse – even well paired elements do not guarantee good matching. This is the reason, that a single element on the output is a most noble, most uncompromised solution. As you can see from the example of the amplifier Hercules from Constellation Audio, this can be done quite nicely, and high output power can be achieved.
I mention this company on purpose. It has its location in California, US, but in fact is a constellation of stars – it employs the lead constructors (mostly American, but not only them) of the audio world, specialized in individual parts of it. For example John Curl takes care of the analog circuits, Keith Allsop the digital ones and Neal Feay the external design. The company has also many other constructors, but also investors, which decided to sponsor the company.
That an attractive business model, can maybe be the future of hi-end, is also confirmed by the case of Combak Corporation and the tested amplifier. Completely independently from the US initiative, Mr. Kiuchi gathered his own team and institutionalized it. Because I am quite sure, that all his products were made that way, but he did not brag with that.
Because the KAP-777 was created using the concept called “High Tech Fusion”. This is a program of technological cooperation, where four leaders of audio and recording technology shared their solution to create together a highest level power amplifier. This idea was employed by Mr. T. Kuwaoka, the chair of the company, also known as the creator of the K2 technology and Mr. Michael Edinger, the sound engineer. They used also the technology “Harmonix Resonance Control” created by Mr. Kazuo Kiuchi and T. Iseki. What is important, the “head” of this project was one man – Mr. Kiuchi, and he had the decisive word.
Like I said, the amplifier KAP-777 is based on a topology using a single MOSFET in the power stage. The amplifier was designed to have a high current output, also in impulse, and should be able to produce full power, without any restrictions, to impedances from 2 to 8Ω. The description of the amplifier tells us two things about the power stage – one, that the this is a “Solid State Single MOSFET” amplifier, but a moment later that in “each half of the signal a single MOSFET is working”. Probably this is a single-ended circuit, but working in a balanced setting, bridged. This allowed to squeeze 200W at 8Ω and 400W at 4Ω out of it. The package also encompasses the top Harmonix power cable and special pads to be placed under the amplifier feet – the model TU-505EX MkII Harmonix.
To date we tested:
- Line preamplifier Reimyo CAT-777 MkII – test HERE
- Line preamplifier CAT-777 + power amplifier PAT-777 – test HERE
- Transport CDT-777 + DAC DAP-999EX – test HERE
- System Reimyo + Harmonix + Bravo! – test HERE
- Krakow Sonic Society: Ancient Audio Grand Mono vs Reimyo PAT-777 – reportage HERE
- Krakow Sonic Society: Kazuo Kiuchi (Combak Corporation) in Krakow – reportage HERE
A selection of discs used during the test:
- Brian Eno, Craft On A Milk Sea, Warp Records, FLAC 24/44,1.
- Bruze Katz Band, Mississippi Moan, Master Music/Combak Corporation, NT006, XRCD24.
- Chet Baker, Chet Baker Sings and Plays, Pacific Jazz/EMI Music Japan, TOCJ-90028, HQCD.
- Clifford Brown and Max Roach, Study In Brown, EmArcy/Universal Music Japan, UCJU-9072, 180 g LP (mono).
- Danielsson/Dell/Landgren, Salzau Music On The Water, Act Music+Vision, ACT 9445-2, CD;
- Deep Purple, Perfect Stranger, Polygram Records/Polydor K.K. Japan, 25MM 0401, LP.
- Ella Fitzgerald & Joe Pass, Take Love Easy, Pablo/JVC, JVCXR-0031-2, XRCD.
- Frank Sinatra, The Voice, Columbia/Speakers Corner, CL 743, Quiex SV-P, 180 g LP (mono).
- Frédéric Chopin, The Complete Nocturnes, piano: Gergely Bogányi, Stockfisch, SFR 357.4051.2, 2 x SACD/CD;
- J.S. Bach, Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin, Pavlo Beznosiuk, Linn Records, CKD 366, HDCD/SACD.
- Jim Hall Trio, Blues On The Rocks, gambit Records, 69207, CD.
- King Crimson, In The Wake of Poseidon, 21st Century Complete Edition, Universal Music Japan, UICE-9052, HDCD.
- Laurie Anderson, Homeland, Nonesuch, 524055-2, CD+DVD;
- Pat Martino, East!, Prestige/Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD 2018, SACD/CD.
- Radiohead, The King of Limbs, Ticker Tape Ltd., TICK-001CDJ, Blu-spec CD.
- Suzanne Vega, Close-Up. Vol 1, Love Songs, Amanuensis Productions/Cooking Vinyl, COOKCD521, CD.
Japanese versions of the discs available on CD Japan.
Like every product also Reimyo deserves the best designed, and tested, testing methodology. I think, that such methodology is already worked out and works well. In the first step the tested product is compared to a reference product from my system. So the KAP-777 replaced the Soulution 710 amplifier. However the Japanese amplifier is something more than just a power amplifier: it was designed to work with a certain preamplifier – the CAP-777 – and should be a replacement for a tube power amplifier. This is the reason, that in the second step I listened to it with the company preamp and in the third step in Janusz’s system, one of the hosts of the Krakow Sonic Society. So the test is split in the three parts corresponding to those steps.
Step 1: Reimyo KAP-777 vs Soulution 710
Comparing those two, very expensive power amplifiers was a fascinating proof of how circulative categorizations and descriptions do not really fit to hi-end, how on its top things happen, that are completely against those common “beliefs” and “truths”.
The Japanese amplifier has a sound with a different timbre than the Soulution. At first sight it is much warmer than in my amplifier and repeats to a large extent what could have been heard from the equally costly Tenor Audio 175S, which I used for over half a year. And this is really a sound, that repeats to a large extent the timbre of the PAT-777. I say “really”, because I confirm with that, what the Polish distributor said about the device. The KAP-777 should be the direct “replacement” of the tube Reimyo and should differ from it as little as possible, and avoid the problems of an amplifier with only 8W output power. And although the information about sound provided about the distributors are not always true – the distributor is finally a seller – but this time he was not wrong.
This is a very concentrated, very palpable sound. It reminds very much the PAT and the Tenor. Going from the Soulution to Reimyo is like pushing the microphones closer to the instruments and the vocalist closer to his “mike”. Even when we correct timbre, so that it is the same in both positions of the microphones, then the position closer to the sound source will result in a more palpable, stronger and concise picture. That was the case here. The voices of Fitzgerald, Baker, Anderson, etc, guitars of Pass, Hall and Fripp – everything was stronger, more “present”. The sound becomes more intimate, almost “sensible”. This awards individual elements (instruments, etc), which are “extracted” from the mix, a little boosted. This makes the first plane become most important. Not that the stage is flat – I am talking about something else here: with good holography, deep stage, the accent is placed on the attack, on some kind of fullness of the sound. Much less attention is given to decay of the sound, but about that in a moment. Because now it is important, how the event is portrayed.
Because it is always that – an event. The amplifier tries to repeat some phenomenon of the tubes, especially 300B, which make everything played with them, in a good system, become something like a “celebration”, an event which is local and limited to the listening time.
Everything to this moment seems to confirm the circulating opinions about single-ended circuits. But after a closer look at the timbre of the KAP we come to the conclusion, that not everything is in line with the “warm” trail from previous paragraph. As it seems, the Japanese amplifier has a clearly stronger upper midrange and a part of the treble than the Tenor, but also than the Soulution. The latter seems to build deeper, slightly warmer vocals. This is a paradox, because I just told you about the palpability of the KAP, but this is how you hear it.
Due to that, but also due to a slightly better resolution of that subrange (actually only the tube Ancient Audio Silver Grand Mono goes a step further) the KAP-777 enters deep into the recording and shows it not only as an integrated, inseparable event, but also split it in individual parts – all at the same time.
Despite that, I repeat, the midrange seems most important in this amplifier. I am not sure why, because for example the Soulution, which shows bigger, and fuller, vocals seems to have a more even frequency response. Anyway the Reimyo seems to sound more with the midrange during the first minutes of listening. Maybe this is the result of accenting the attack, the bringing closer of the perspective.
That not only the midrange is important here can be seen on one hand by the upper midrange, we just described, as well as by the bass. It is strong, full and brilliantly articulated. We can hear, that there is power available, and that even difficult loads, like the Ascendo System ZF3 SE did not make any impression on the amplifier. Low passages from the disc *Homeland** Laurie Anderson were exactly that – low and full. The mid and upper part of the bass is fantastically differentiated, much better than in the Tenor, or – staying with expensive amplifiers – in the Accuphase P-7100. Even the Soulution seems a hair behind the KAP. However the Swiss poweramp handles lower bass better. Below – let’s say – 80, or maybe 100Hz, the Reimyo sounds with a more unified sound, slightly averaged, without such a good differentiation as above that. It is still better than the Tenor, but in contrast, the Soulution plays with a more leveled sound until the very bottom, to the limit of the loudspeakers. I do not think, that the KAP-777 will have any problems in driving any loudspeakers, but it will impose its character on them, also in terms of bass.
The KAP-777 sounds different to the Soulution 710, what – I hope – I was able to show. On first sight it is a tube sound. But it is not true. Although it seems, that the midrange is most important, yet the treble, upper midrange and upper bass are better differentiated than in any tube amplifier I know, regardless its price and power. Especially impressive is the medium part of the bass, which does not enforce itself, and is the complement of what is happening in the midrange and treble. But is so good, that no tube can repeat that, not even one.
Step 2: KAP-777 + CAT-777 MkII
The vocals are presented by the KAP thoroughly, with a very good resolution. They are closer than from my Soulution, similar to what I knew from the Tenor and Reimyo PAT-777. And at the same time they are smaller than from my amplifier. A paradox. Suzanne Vega played by the 710 almost materializes in front of us, but not close to us, a little further away, as if she would be on stage. With the KAP she is more palpable, she is closer, but her volume is lower. A paradox.
Because this is a very full and palpable sound. On one hand it really reminds what the best 300B can do, of course not fully, because some things cannot be emulated with transistors, and at the same time it adds elements, which those will never ever be able to do. Unless physics will change. Or different kinds of transducers will be invented. But this will probably not happen in the near future. The tonal balance is not so leveled as in the Soulution, which seems – another paradox – to be the warmer amplifier. At least after longer listening sessions.
The sound stage is deep, but the accents are placed on the attacks and closer elements, that is why a part of the acoustics of the room, especially with recordings from churches, is melted into the main sound. The stage width is very good, but mostly with recordings, where the elements are placed wide apart. On discs, where everything is happening close to the middle, the central region is underlined. Maybe I am teasing a little, because we are talking about absolute hi-end here, but we should have a healthy distance to each product, even such a good one…
The character of that system is of course a combination of the character of both components. Coming from the Ayon Polaris III to the Reimyo CAT-777 MkII shows clearly, that the final cut is given by the preamplifier. I hope, that you have read the review of the Japanese preamplifier first (in Polish HERE), because it will help to understand the whole.
Reimyo KAP-777 vs Ancient Audio Silver Grand Mono
The CAT-777 MkII limits the resolution of the system, diminishes precision and bass control and “closes” a little the treble. It does the same thing as any other preamplifier does, placing the accents according to its own character. More important was for me was how the sound changes with it. And it gets more solid, in a way of speaking. The midrange gets more saturated, the whole gets a little to the front and becomes more palpable. As I said, the treble closes a little, but not by being cut, but by bringing the gravity point lower and rounding off the attack. Because I know this preamplifier from the combination with the PAT-777 I think I know, what it is all about, and what Mr. Kiuchi wanted to achieve.
Visibly the palpability of the sound was the most important thing. This is above average, regardless the price and technology used. The vocals are close, are nice, smooth and three dimensional. Plugging in the preamplifier improves all that, extracts depth and shape. It was not bad earlier, but in the system this is one of the priorities and that is why it is so clear.
The second thing is related to something, what can be called “presence”. The system sounds nicer than the KAP-777 with another preamplifier. I do not say better, because this will also depend on the loudspeakers, but it sounds just nicer. The upper midrange is still clear, resolved. I think, that this system was auditioned using the company’s own Bravo! loudspeakers equipped with the bass module (see HERE), which have a slightly warm timbre and with which such – very resolved an strong – upper midrange works best.
Changing the preamplifier to the company one brings a significant change in the character of the sound. It is less resolved than before, but it finishes some processes, which were audible with the KAP before – like solidity of the first plane, its palpability and naturalness. This isn’t of course an universal sound, or a natural one – there is nothing like that in the audio world. All systems only interpret what they get from the recording. But it is very refined and has a clear agenda – HERE and NOW.
This test was done during the 77th meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society. I encourage you to read it. However to make this text complete, I will just shortly say, that the comparison brought some elements, I did not catch earlier and which completed my previous observations.
The KAP-777 will not replace a good 300B tube for 100%. Let us forget, for now, that a transistor can reproduce the microdynamics and palpability of the sound of a good tube. Despite that, the Reimyo confirmed splendid frequency response leveling, smoothness and macro dynamics. In those aspects it was better than the Ancient Audio. It also turned out, that it was the same class of sound, only a different character of it. In the system it was attached to, it was perceived better in classical music recordings – it was again confirmed, that they need splendid transmission of energy, which is not assured by low power. With small ensembles it varied – but in general the better palpability of the sound from the tube, better exposition of the individual elements made most listeners prefer the tube amplifier, as the one more engaging.
But the differences were not qualitative, but rather systemic – this is not a “better” or “worse” amplifier, but just a different one. It is a splendid result for a solid state amplifier, isn’t it? We did compare it to one of the best tube amplifiers we know.
KAP-777 is a beautifully made device. It is not as big as my Soulution 710, it is more the size of the Luxman M-800A, which I used for three years. It weighs 33kg. The front panel is made from brushed aluminum 10mm thick and is cut on the whole height with a convex element. It houses two blue LEDs – power and mute. The latter changes color to red in case there is a short-circuit, when the amplifier overheats, when there is DC on the output, etc. The power switch is on the bottom plate in the middle.
The device is positioned on the isolator feet Harmonix TU-505EX-MKII and is equipped with the X-DC15SM-350 (or 390 Schuko) power cable. The whole construction was designed to control, dampen and remove resonances – something, that Combak Corporation has enormous experience with.
On the back there are brilliant RCA sockets, identical to those in the CAT-777 MkII – those are elements made from PCOCC copper to the company specification. Above them we see XLR sockets and, one pair per channel, very solid loudspeaker terminals, similar to those used in Mark Levinson amplifiers. Those were bought from the German company Mundorf – this is the model TPCU870C, chosen after many listening tests. It is made entirely from copper – and it has the characteristic, natural color of that metal. There is also an IEC socket, with an integrated fuse. On the sides there are big heat sinks. Each of them was custom made, is 7mm thick, similar to the top cover, with the embossed company logo and device name.
As it turns out, the amplifier has a dual-mono, balanced circuitry. The left and right channel have separate, custom made toroidal transformers with a power of 400W each. Those have separate windings for the power section, buffer and amplification sections and for the control circuitry. Voltage ripples are damped by special versions of RIFA capacitors, with 33000μF capacity, rectifiers for the individual channels and Harmonix cabling. According to the company materials the unit has four stages: input buffer, voltage amplification, driver and power stage.
The inside is divided into two parts – the front one, with two toroidal transformers, logic circuitry and the back one with the rest of the electronics. The transformers were made by the company Brando. I mentioned the capacitors – those are four, big units, with bolted connectors, paralleled by small, polypropylene capacitors from the same company. The same capacitors were also used to decouple each of the diodes in the integrated rectifier bridge. Let me just add, that on the cable leading from the IEC socket we have also an Enacom filter. The socket itself features also a TDK filter.
As it turns out, the signal from the RCA is led parallel to the XLR – this is just one of the branches of the latter. We can clearly see, that the ground in the individual sections is lead in a star setting.
The whole power section is placed on a small PCB bolted to the heat sink and from top covered by a small, metal shield. The power transistors are placed wide apart – those are huge (I see this type for the first time in my life) elements with bolted connectors – they have 400W power and that means a big current!
Technical data (according to manufacturer):
Frequency response: 5Hz-100kHz
SNR: > 100dB
THD: < 0.05%
Input impedance: 40kΩ (balanced input)
XLR polarity: Hot pin – 2, Cold pin – 3, Gnd. – 1
Recommended loudspeaker impedance: > 1.5Ω
Output power: 200W/8Ω | 400W/4Ω
Input sensitivity: 0.77V
Power consumption (idle): 95W
Dimensions: 200mm (H)ｘ430mm (W)ｘ460mm (D)
Dimensions (including feet and terminals): 215mm (H) x 430mm (W) x 492mm(D)
Distribution in Poland:
Powstańców Śląskich 118
tel./fax: (71) 336 52 67
tel. kom.: 606 276 001 | 790 425 142