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Reimyo KAP-777 Amplifier and CAT-777 MK II Preamplifier

Best I've Heard!

 

April 2012

 

 

 


I consider myself fortunate to attend Munich's High End show last spring. Of all the shows now available, I regard Munich's as the grandest of them all. In addition to all the new toys that become available each May, it's also the perfect to travel and reconnect with old friends. Of the many rooms that really intrigue me each time I visit is the Combak/Reimyo room. I was always a great fan and a onetime owner of their CDP-777 CD player.

At last year's event, Reimyo Chief Mr. Kazuo Kiuchi demonstrated some outstanding sound using all Combak/Reimyo products. However, I was shocked to see a solid-state amplifier in his set-up rather than the usual 300B tube amplifier. Apparently, Kiuchi felt that given the difficulty of getting NOS tubes, he could produce more power and better sound with a solid-state design. The new KAP-777 stereo power amplifier powered the system effortlessly with great authority and delicacy. I really enjoyed the sound of the KAP-777 and wanted to explore it more fully in my own listening environment. I kept in touch with Kiuchi in hopes of possibly doing a review in the near future. In August of 2011, I finally received an email from Kiuchi  requesting I review his newest offerings in the Reimyo KAP-777 amplifier and CAT-777 MKII preamp - as a system. My response, of course, was an enthusiastic “Yes!”

Sometime in late last fall, a FedEx delivery arrived with two big boxes. The KAP-777 and CAT-777 MKII arrived neatly tucked inside double corrugated boxes. The Reimyo KAP-777 and CAT-777 MKII would mainly go up against my long-time reference Karan Acoustics KSA 450 and reference dual mono MKII preamplifier. For cabling, I used Jorma Design Unity speaker and interconnects throughout the review process.

The KAP-777 is Kiuchi's newest design and the first solid-state power amplifier to hail from the Combak Corporation. In previous discussions, Kiuchi was always a strong advocate of tube designs. Obviously, to see a transistor amp coming out of his camp was entirely off the radar for me. His acclaimed PAT-777 300B power amp is a remarkable product but was a low-power design, producing only 8-watts per channel. Coupled to efficient loudspeakers such as horns, it was magic. But for real-world acceptance, I think more power was required. The KAP-777 was designed and manufactured in a process Kiuchi calls “High Tech Fusion.” This was a collaboration of four audio and recording studio technology leaders. The players involved were Mr. T. Kuwaoke, president and inventor of the K2 technology; Mr. Michael Edinger, recording studio engineer; Kiuchi and T. Iseki, are both the co-inventors of the Harmonix resonance control technology (Kiuchi san, in addition to heading the Combak Corporation also runs Harmonix Corp. which produces cables and resonance control devices).

I had reviewed the Reimyo CDP-777 back in 2005 and it later became my reference CD player. As I reminisced over its impeccable feel and performance I'm reminded the quality and detail of the new KAP-777 is no different. It is smartly crafted and of modest weight (72. lbs compared to my monstrous 200 lbs-plus Karan KSA 450 amplifier). The front chassis is made from 10mm brushed anodized aluminum with a convex vertical center detail and two blue LEDs for power and mute. The ON/OFF switch is smartly hidden below the center of the chassis. The “Reimyo” logo, engraved in a slick script font is on the top chassis offers up great curb appeal to this solid-state device. An unusual feature is both the heat sink and the chassis are constructed with resonance control and are also made of anodized aluminum. The custom made 7mm thick heat sink is machined from a solid aluminum block to help not only cooling elements but to ensure greater stability of amplification. The chassis employees a 7mm thick cover and a 10mm front chassis is used. The back panel is elegantly laid out with custom made RCA and XLR connectors for high purity. After an extended listening test Kiuchi san chose the Mundorf speaker terminals. The amp sits on Harmonix TU-505EX-MKII isolation footers and it comes with the Studio Master power cord (model X-DC15SM-350). The Harmonix resonance technologies have been employed into the KAP-777 to ensure - mechanically and electronically - it unleashes its maximum performance. Needless to say, the KAP-777’s build quality is simply superb.

Power-wise, the KAP-777 is a 200-watt stereo power amplifier but it utilizes true monaural construction for best sound quality and performance with no channel interference. The unique and innovative technology of the KAP-777 lies in its high output design. "It can output its peak power without any difficulty, driving loads from 8 all the way down to 2 Ohms!. It’s very stable and perfectly balanced over the entire frequency range," boasts Kiuchi. A single MOSFET output transistor handles the positive, and another handles the negative, "seeking to remain true to the original sound quality of any recording" says Kiuchi. Lastly, all internal wiring is by Harmonix.
 

 

   


The CAT-777 MKII is a second generation vacuum tube preamplifier replacing the CAT-777. Here, Kiuchi claims to have taken the already revered CAT-777 to another level of performance. Again, overall build quality is exceptional. The chassis is finished in high quality, satin polished aluminum with a very thick 10mm faceplate and 5mm thick chassis. The layout of the front panel is simple. On the right is the beautifully hand crafted 60mm diameter rotary volume control. To the left is the power indicator light; the power switch is hidden below it and in the middle are the input source selector buttons: there are 4 selectors; phone, CD, tuner and line. The back panel is nicely laid out. There are RCA inputs and outputs, three custom designed RCA output terminals and four custom designed RCA input terminals (no XLR connections). The CAT-777 comes with the Harmonix X-DC15SM350R power cord and is supplied with the Harmonix TU-505EX-MKII tuning feet. The layout of the inside of the box is well executed. It’s divided into three compartments. A total of six tubes are used in the CAT-777 MKII. The pre-amplification circuitry for left and right channels are respectively placed in individual left and right internal compartments and utilize 12AU7 tubes. The power supply is located in the center compartment and each channel features an R Core transformer and Philips 6X4WA tubes are utilized for a rectifier. Kiuchi san chooses every component with almost eccentric meticulousness. Nothing is ever rushed, and some of his designs are years in the making. Weighing in at 30 lbs, and meticulously built employing the Harmonix resonance technology. One very small caveat: I was mystified that no remote control was provided.

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

Literally, right out of the box, I have to admit I was very impressed. The sound was absolutely superb. I knew right away from that first encounter that the KAP/CAT-777 MKII combo was very special indeed. This was very different from my first encounter with a Reimyo product. When I first reviewed the CDP-777 CD player, it took a long time for it to break in and it went through its stages from sounding merely okay to great sounding. I had to be very patient with the CDP-777 to get the full potential of the product. I had anticipated this would happen again, but with the new KAP-777 and CAT-777 MKII, things were surprisingly different. Moreover, Kiuchi assured me no burn-in was done at the factory and recommended I let the system play for a week before any serious listening was started. If this system sounds this good right out of the box, what was it going to sound like after burn-in?


The first song I played was one of my favorites, Cassandra Wilson’s Love Is Blindness from her CD entitled "Blue Moon Daughter" [Blue Note CDP 7243 8 32861 26]. The only way I could describe hearing this magnificent voice through the Reimyo KAP-777/CAT-777 would be mesmerizing. In the many times I've played this over the years, I never got the full translation or meaning to the degree felt with the Reimyo combination. As great as my Karan’s interpretation of this recording is, the Reimyo KAP-777/CAT-777 sounds more convincing and closer to what I call "the real thing." This captivating combo seems to elicit tones and harmonics that sound more authentic and thus closer to the live event than I would have ever thought possible having now heard it up close and personal. Though, this recording is done quite well, it's not an audiophile quality disc per say. Yet, Cassandra's voice was rendered with so much soul and emotion that it appeared to distant me further from the recording but got me closer in touch to the artistry of each song and musician. This was one of those true magical moments that prove to be memorable. What can I say?

The Reimyos handling of classical music was equally outstanding. I stayed up late listening to small ensemble recordings into the wee hours of the night. Strings and woodwinds were rendered in a startling natural and organic way I was not accustomed to. Listening to Mozart’s Divertimento in B flat, K287, with maestro Neville Marriner conducting the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields [Philips box set 464 790-2] was compelling and moved me in a very emotional way. Again, through the Reimyo KAP-777/CAT-777 , the performers, the stage and the acoustic space were there and quite distinct on stage. Individual instruments were much more finely drawn than I was used to hearing. Finally, I had to put on the finest among Mozart’s works with wind instruments: the Clarinet Quintet in A, K. 581 (composed in September 1789, the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields’ Chamber Ensemble) [Philips 422-833-2]. The second movement, Larghetto is one of the Mozart’s most beautiful slow movements. I couldn’t stop listening. The quality of the clarinets blending in with the strings amid the huge acoustic space in this recording literally took my breath away. I was in audio heaven.

Similarly, listening to concertos was very compelling. One evening, I put on the Beethoven Piano Concerto No.1, performed by the master, Murray Perahia and the maestro Bernard Haitink conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra [CBS MK 42177], lowered the lights, and sat back. Once I’d settled in and begun listening and enjoying - rather than analyzing. For the first time this was easy to do because the Reimyo KAP-777/CAT-777 appears to disarm the critical side of my brain with its intensity of rich harmonics flooding into my room. Notes seem to flow effortlessly and with such bloom and complex tonal nuances. Both piano and fully orchestrated passages simply displayed more color and added dimensionality. In my listening room, the Reimyos created a deeply layered and holographic soundstage that was easily the best I had experienced.

In Closing

As they say, “The proof is in the pudding.” First of all, the soulful synergy between the Reimyo combo KAP-777 and the CAT-777 MKII was apparent from the get go: the KAP-777’s sound is very reminiscent of a SET on steroids and this complimented the very natural sonic character of its tubed sibling, the CAT-777 MKII preamplifier. The Reimyo KAP-777/CAT-777 powered my reference Consensus Audio Conspiracy loudspeakers like I never experienced prior to their arrival. No matter the song or genre, I remained in awe at how easily the Reimyo KAP-777/CAT-777 could infuse life into every recording with special attention to the human voice. Its remarkable sense of ease, harmonic integrity and bloom will become legendary I think, and were the sonic attributes that most impressed this listener. I cannot understate the sensation of listening to voices was truly an amazing experience through the Reimyo KAP-777/CAT-777 . More than ever before, I got the sense as though my listening room would morph into the recording studio.


The Reimyo KAP-777 amp lists for $27,650.00 while the CAT-777 MK II preamp sells for $22,500.00. This, unfortunately makes them obtainable to the few lucky souls who can afford to drop fifty grand whenever they choose. I've heard far more expensive components impact me less, so in that regard, I would qualify these absolutely gorgeous sounding components a affordably priced (never a bargain). Combined, they possess a sonic soulfulness and such a powerful synergy they transformed my system from very good sounding to magical. Together, in my humble Manhattan apartment, they have easily become the best I’ve heard! My hat goes off to Kiuchi san for creating these extraordinary components. I’m really going to miss the Reimyos when FedEx picks them up because unfortunately, I too cannot afford them. In the final analysis, I hope everyone gets the opportunity to hear these Reimyo products. I trust they can be set the benchmark for true reference caliber performance in the here and now.



Specifications
KAP-777 Amplifier:
Frequency response: 5Hz to 100kHz
SNR: >100dB
THD: < 0.05%
Input impedance: 40Ω balanced input
XLR polarity: Hot pin 2, cold pin 3, ground 1
Recommended loudspeaker impedance: >1.5Ω
Output power: 200W/8Ω | 400W/4Ω
Input sensitivity: 0.77V
Power consumption at idle: 95W
Dimensions: 200mm (H) x 430mm (W)x460mm (D)
Dimensions including feet and terminals: 215mm (H) x 430mm (W) x 492mm (D)
Weight: 33kg

Price $27,650.00 USA

CAT-777 MK II Premplifier:
Gain: 17dB (maximum volume)
Reference Input levels: Input 0.2Vrms, Max. output 1.42Vrms
Max. transient level: Approx. 30Vrms (85Vp-p); sine wave, Approx. 120Vp-p; clip wave
Frequency response: 5Hz ~ 200kHz
Noise level: -86dBm/38.8μVrms (IHF-A)
Cross talk: Better than 100dB (1kHz), 90dB (20kHz)
Input Impedance: 50k ohms
Output Impedance: 560 ohms
Power requirements: 117 or 230V, 50/60Hz
Power consumption: 45W
Dimensions: 430(W) x 116(H) x 365(D) mm (excluding protrusions)
+29mm (volume controls on front panel)
+17mm (RCA pins on rear panel)
+25mm (legs on bottom panel)
Max. dimensions: 430(W) x 141(H) x 411(D) mm
Weight: 13kg

Price $22,500.00 USA

USA and Canadian Importer:

Wynn Audio
69-315 Village Green Sq.
Scarborough, ON, M1S0L2
Canada
Email: info@wynnaudio.com

Reimyo Combak Corp:

COMBAK CORPORATION
4-20, Ikego 2-chome, Zushi-shi, Kanagawa 249-0003, Japan
Tel: 046-872-1119 Fax: 046-872-1125
Email: harmonix@combak.net
Website: www.combak.net