Kinki EX-M1?

Discussion in 'Power Amps' started by ufospls2, Apr 17, 2019.

  1. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    Hey Guys!

    Has anyone heard this amplifier? All the reviews I can find seem to say it possesses superb sound for the money. Of course, this could be complete bullshit, and it sounds like ass. Not sure. Maybe Alvin @ Vinshine Audio @alvin1118 could chime in. From what I have read, it aims to go for a "swiss" sound signature, whatever that means. I've never heard anything swiss, goldmund etc...so I have no idea what that means. FWIW it looks well built, but that doesn't = good sound qualities.

    https://www.kinki-studio.com/ex-m1

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  2. k4rstar

    k4rstar On a journey... somewhere

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    I owned one for a few months. It's a great amp if you need a high power integrated. I can only describe its sound as clean and authoritative, which is the most I would rate any high power solid state amp. There's a lot more discussion of this unit on various Audiogon threads.

    If you don't need 200W RMS, there are better choices for less money. If you do, or feel that you do, you could do a lot worse for ~$2.2K USD.
     
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  3. zonto

    zonto Friend

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  4. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    Definitely like how much of the inside they show off of all their available models. Good parts throughout, very cleanly laid out.

    Headphone amp is interesting...
     
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  5. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    I’ve got some impressions of this amp about 80% done, will post in the next day or so. Will have lots of detail on the sound signature.
     
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  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Good price. Neat looking build. Would like to have seen power into 4-ohms. Many nominal 8-ohms speakers do dip down in some spots.
     
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  7. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Yeah definitely hero-ish build quality. Thick aluminum all around. Bloody heavy for the dimensions -like 55lbs.
     
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  8. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    I've found this frustrating as well, and have seen both 280W and 400W at 4 ohms thrown around in the various Audiogon threads. This USAM ad says 400W, also supported here. I believe there has also been a change in the US distributor; can't remember who it used to be, but it's now Mike Powell Audio Design, who gives hardly any information/specs about the amp: https://www.mikepowellaudio.com/shop/kinki-studio-ex-m1-200wpc-integrated-amplifier. Doesn't inspire confidence.
     
  9. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    Thanks for the info man

    awesome thanks man!

    This is all I could find regarding 4 ohms. No clue if it is accurate

    [​IMG]
     
  10. k4rstar

    k4rstar On a journey... somewhere

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    I would avoid dealing with Mike Powell if you can. I purchased from him and while nothing went bad per say, he totally rubbed me the wrong way. He seems more interested in pushing his own method of system building than selling you the product you actually want, and he has raised the price since I bought one to further his mark-up. He's also gotten into pissing matches on Audiogon with other users who called him out on his antics which have resulted in locked/deleted threads. It makes sense that he does not care much about making sales on these products since his cut is probably shit as-is but I would still expect better professionalism. I can't really stand dealers like that.

    Unfortunately your other prospect is dealing with China directly, since when I tried to buy from Vinshine he said he couldn't sell to me due to an agreement with Mike. That being said, you also need to be careful about buying from taobao/aliexpress as certain manufacturers like Jay's Audio consider these to be grey market items and do not provide warranty for them. Not sure if it's the same case for Kinki.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019
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  11. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    Stuff coming out of China lately has been really intriguing. Still very, very interested to hear a Denafrips Terminator, despite the brand being poo-poo'd here on the forum.
     
  12. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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  13. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Kinki Studio EX-M1 Integrated amp – Impressions and comparison to Vidar + Freya


    63AC930C-12D9-4112-A66E-FBFA8DE36772.jpeg

    6moons, Hifi Knights and other sites seem to have nothing but glowing impressions of this amp, calling it the next value amplifier messiah, etc. I thought it might be helpful to others considering this amp to share some thoughts on it and compare it to Vidar + Freya, which a number of people would have some experience with.

    That’s not because I think this amp is bad. Spoiler alert: I think it’s actually pretty awesome in many aspects, which I’ll get into. But no single piece of audio equipment is the perfect match for everyone or every system, and the overly hyped-up, unbalanced reviews from some of these sites can get people to spend a lot of money on equipment without getting a full/balanced picture of it.

    In the end, I didn’t keep this amp for a few reasons I’ll outline below. But I would be curious to hear other impressions of this amp, if you own it, or have listened to it in a controlled setting, because I know that some people will love it big time. Like the way that some people seem to love the LS50s, but I don’t. Or it may simply match up with some systems better than mine. Anyhow, enough pre-ramble.

    Why did I buy this amp?
    I’ve been searching for an amp that could potentially overtake Vidar + Freya in my system within a similar price bracket (really, I’ve been looking up to 2x the retail price bracket of the Schiit duo). This is amp #6 I’ve tried, and up to this point I haven’t found anything I’ve preferred over the Schiit pairing.

    A couple of Friends had posted that the Kinki was a next-level integrated amp that might be able to take out the Schiit duo. The retail price is $2400 USD, which puts it at almost 1K more expensive than the Schiit duo, but still within my price bracket. I purchased it used, so obviously paid quite a bit less than retail.

    Features / Build / Use
    I like the fact that this integrated amp is ONLY an analog preamp + power amp. That’s it. No DAC or other digital transport etc thrown in. I have a great DAC already (Yggdrasil A2) and I don’t want to pay for another one that I won’t use - I just want a great amp. Also, the DACs in most of these integrateds are crap, and are easily beaten by a cheap Schiit DAC. I’m talking to you Hegel and almost every other integrated amp maker out there currently - stop doing this (or at least offer the option without a DAC/Network connection).

    Regarding the build quality of the Kinki - it’s definitely on the heroic side. Thick solid aluminum casing, dual mono design including dual toroids, thick blocks of aluminum for heatsinks, huge machined knobs on a solid silvery (and classy designed IMO) front panel. An impressive looking and very weighty piece for it’s size (~55 lbs).

    2B6331E6-1D35-48CE-8240-09A1598726A9.jpeg

    Usage wise, it works fairly well but has a few quirks. First, using the knobs on the front were not very precise. Turning the input knob would frequently skip forward 2 steps or even backward a step as I was turning the knob to the next input. Same with the volume knob. Also, using the volume knob on the unit was WAY too slow to increase volume - I needed to turn it over and over and over just to move it like 30 positions (out of 256). The remote is far better for both of these functions, and the volume moves very quick with it. The remote is a solid aluminum deal that feels quality.

    Another oddity is that when you bring the unit out of standby, the volume resets to 10 (again, out of 256) and the lighting of the front display resets to maximum (even though I lowered it before putting it into standby). Both of these were a bit annoying but easily/quickly corrected using the remote after startup.

    Back to the front panel knobs - although they are impressive to look at, I think they might actually be too heavy for the way they’re mounted - they feel a bit wobbly when you put pressure around the edges of them, and I would be concerned about their long-term reliability if you planned on using them regularly. Beware of this.

    Going back to the volume control again, although there are 256 steps to allow you to get very precise levels in most cases, there are actually some steps that are larger or smaller than others. For instance, in many cases moving it a single position would only raise the volume level by around 1/4 dB, and in other cases it would jump by a full dB or ½ dB or some other variation. A bit weird.

    So although the case work and internal design are very impressive, other aspects were a bit quirky and maybe slightly concerning relative to the overall quality and reliability. I guess maybe they had to cut corners somewhere considering the price of this unit compared to anything similar from a specs or build perspective.

    My setup

    I fed the Kinki and the Freya with my Yggdrasil A2 using the balanced outs (same cables for both), which was itself fed from a Sotm SMS-200Ultra streamer. The Freya used 2 Sylvania VT-231 tubes + 2 LISST. The amps were level-balanced to within 0.2dB and tested on 3 sets of monitor speakers: ATC SCM19, Dynaudio Special Forty and Graham Chartwell LS6. Plus, a Rel subwoofer.

    The sound

    The technicalities of this amp are the first thing that catch your attention:
    • Ultra-fast, almost instantaneous dynamic response and power delivery. Just really quick and effortless sounding. A PRAT master. Makes Naim gear sound like how your gramps drives around on a Sunday.
    • Inky, abyss black background. A super clean, non-existent noise floor. I’ve not heard this low level of noise and cleanliness from an amp before.
    • Very highly resolving - I can hear more micro-detail on the Kinki that are masked or diffused by the Schiit duo. I assume this is contributed by the super low noise floor.
    • Although extremely detailed, it’s also quite smooth. Really no etch or nasties at any frequency, unless they’re in the recording (more on this later).
    • This thing is a low volume champ too - it sounds almost the same at low volumes as high volume – but just softer. I’ve not heard this before in an amp either. Is this again due to the really low noise floor? High damping factor (2000 according to the specs)? Both?
    • Dynamics from this thing are killer. Tons of slam and authority. It hits hard and fast at all frequencies and at all volume levels. Tiny macrodynamic shifts come through easily as well.
    • A pretty wide soundstage, but where it really shines is with great depth and layering. Maybe not quite as good as Vidar + Freya in tube mode, but clearly better than Saga or Sys paired with Vidar (or even Yggdrasil direct into Vidar). Stage is also a bit more set back behind the speakers compared to Vidar + Freya.
    • Imaging is super precise and pinpoint. It’s just so easy to pick out the location of instruments and vocals on the stage. But in some cases, it sounds too pinpoint and lacks the proper scale and size of vocals and instruments. Images seem much larger and more properly scaled and more diffuse with Vidar by comparison.
    • On great recordings - wow, wow with resolution and dynamics. Really spectacular. On the other hand, poorer recordings can be a bit too raw and rough sounding – transparency I suppose.
    • Stage is not as tall as Vidar + Freya (or even SYS + Vidar). Actually less vertical staging both high and low compared to the Schiit Duo
    • Zero veil, zero mud, zero bloat. No romance from this amp at all - straight to business. Less “natural/organic”/flowing/euphonic sounding than Vidar + Freya, which I’ve never really found had an emphasis on euphony previously.
    • Related to this, because of the high damping, it sounds somewhat dry, mainly in the bass and mids. By that I mean, it attacks really fast, but it also decays just as quick. It sounds a bit unnatural in this way. Vidar + Freya sounds wetter overall with a slower attack, but with a more natural decay. Luckily the highs on the Kinki don’t seem really dry or wet, they seem better balanced with good decay and also good bite and sparkle.

    Tonality
    • A bit lean through the mids and upper bass. Definitely less warm than Vidar. I don’t know if I’d call it cool. Maybe. But not warm at all really.
    • The mids, in addition to lacking some body and density, are slightly recessed in the mix as well.
    • Bass is pretty neutral, but delivered ultra fast and taut – it pops you quick and hard like a shot from Manny Pacquiao. Not as deep or rumbling as Vidar. Vidar is George Forman bass - a bit slower, but more thundering.
    • Treble seems slightly tipped up, but this may be due to the lack of warmth/body in the mids/bass.
    • On certain tracks, the pitch almost seems shifted up slightly - voices sound ever so slightly higher than they normally do. Some piano sounds like it’s pitched just slightly higher than it should (Pink Floyd - The Final Cut). Maybe this is again because it’s a bit tipped up in treble and/or due to the lack of warmth in the lower mids.

    In comparison, when switching over to Vidar + Freya, what I found was:
    • Warmer, fuller sounding
    • More expansive and open sounding
    • Vocals are more clear in the mix, more forward, less recessed
    • A bit more mid bass.
    • Richer mids with more body and tonal density, especially on vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, violins, etc.
    • Deeper bass. More rounded and bouncy. Less squared off (dry) than the Kinki.
    • More laid back and relaxed sounding. Bloomier and more euphonic, but in a good way, not overly done
    • A more sweeping, open and taller soundstage - fills the front of my room way better. With the Kinki, the height of the stage is mostly at the level of the speakers. The Kinki leaves area where there’s no sound emanating from, but the Schiit duo doesn’t.
    • Less tipped up treble, but not dark in comparison. More neutral on the top end. The Kinki is slightly more tipped up, but is still very smooth and a bit more articulate and clean than the Schiit duo.
    • Easier to listen to over a wider range of recordings – less harsh and fatiguing on poor recordings.
    • More natural image sizes – on A Charlie Brown Christmas ‘Skating’, you get the full height, body and weight of each of the 3 instruments performing. Everything seems larger and more like real life. The Kinki narrows the performers into a vertical plane, the same height as the speakers. The slightly tipped up treble nature of Kinki gives a bit more airy/atmospheric feel on this jazz album, but the soundstage and instrument size doesn’t just match it.
    • Vidar + Freya has WEIGHT. Kinki has agility.
    • Vidar + Freya bass throws low rumbling bombs. Kinki throws lightning fast punches and jabs.
    • Vidar + Freya just has more body and a “thereness” to vocals and instruments than the Kinki.
    So although I was initially blown away by some of the technicalities, I sold the Kinki, and kept the Schiit duo, mainly for these reasons:

    • Lack of body, density and warmth through the mids – this is a deal breaker for me with all gear. Vocals and acoustic instruments don’t sound natural/real to me without this.
    • Fatigue with some of my favorite albums - I need to be able to listen to all my favorite music at decent volume levels without wanting to move on to something else. I’m not the kind of audio geek who only listens to perfect recordings (I am an audio geek, just not that kind) – some of the stuff I love was recorded like crap. My system needs to support this and not deter me from wanting to hear it. The Kinki wasn’t so bad in this aspect (I’ve heard much worse), but the Schiit duo was much better. Maybe with different speakers I would like the Kinki better in this aspect – something slightly warmer, wetter and darker that’s a bit underdamped maybe.
    • Dry bass – I seem to be sensitive to this. This bothered me with Gungnir Multibit A2 as well. I absolutely do not want soft, mushy bass, but I do want natural attack and decay, otherwise it sounds weird and forced and unnatural.
    • Lack of soundstage height and image size – images are too precise and small with the Kinki and mostly stay within the vertical plane of the speakers. They don’t sound real and corporeal to me.
    In the end, the Kinki engaged my brain, and made me go “wow” over and over with some incredible technicalities. Tonally I was less enthusiastic about it because of the lack of body and richness in the mids and bass, and the dry delivery. The Schiit duo may not be as technically or intellectually impressive, but they’re more emotionally involving and expressive for me. The Kinki has impact and wow factor. But the Schiit duo has more beauty, naturalness and weight, and lets me listen to all my favorite albums without being turned off. That’s it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2019
  14. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    Thanks for this! The amp sounds Swiss (Goldmund) in description. Pair it with lazy drivers for synergy.
     
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  15. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    Awesome dude. Thanks for sharing. I've got a hold of the Canadian distributor and he said he might be able to loan me their EX-M1 for a week for review purposes. I am definitely considering this as a future amp for my BMR Philharmonitors, but it might work well with the Susvara from what you have written. Not sure. Will report back!
     
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  16. 9suns

    9suns [insert unearned title here]

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    This is one of the reasons why I love this forum, straight to the point, no bs review, excellent :)

    I was quite interested in this amp too, and reading comments from Audiogon and other forums was quite confusing when trying to get an idea of the sound of the amp, not going to mention the useless commercial reviews.
    The only useful write up I could find was a review of a Bakoon amp at Hifiknights (yes, the Kinki one is useless), where the reviewer, very subtly, insinuating instead of affirming wrote something among the lines of: "the Kinki amp is somewhat fatiguing sounding compared to the Bakoon".

    Thanks for posting such a nice write up :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2019
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  17. Hooncake

    Hooncake Mid-Fi Purgatory Redemption

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    Do you have Aegir?
     
  18. Sonorus

    Sonorus Facebook Friend

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    I have reviewed the amplifier for the Greek printed magazine hxos+soundvision.
    If it is allowed i can post the review google translated from original Greek.
    In a summary this is a great amp with insight , detail , a bit warm sound , great dynamics and power to spare.
    It works better at high gain as low gain softens a little the overall sound presentation so it is better suited
    to bigger hard to drive speakers.
    It's bare bones no bells and whistles and build quality is great.
    In my opinion it's a must try , but consider warranty and service issues.
     
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  19. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Not yet. I almost pulled the trigger on launch day, but the lower gain made me pause for now. I need to weigh a few things before deciding to go ahead. My current speakers are all very low sensitivity around 83dB (although they’re rated around 87, some sites that do measurements show they are a fair bit less), although on the plus side, my room and listenening distance are fairly small, so they might still work. But I am looking for some higher sensitivity speakers as well that might pair a bit better with Aegir.

    The other factor with Aegir is cost - the Canadian dollar is crap right now compared to the USD, and shipping those amps is not cheap. So if for some reason they didn’t work out, the shipping both ways plus the restocking fee would cost me almost $500 CAD, so that’s not too attractive a proposition.

    Coincidentally, after I sold the Kinki, I stumbled upon a used set of Vidar monoblocks that were around a year old, but were basically like new and hadn’t even been broken in yet. So I decided to get pick them up just to see if two Vidars would be better than one. I’m not sure if I have them fully burned in yet, but will probably post some thoughts over in the Vidar thread at some point on the differences between the single Vidar vs monoblocks.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2019
  20. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Oho, so you have 3 Vidars, at least one of which might be surplus to requirements? Enquiring Canadian minds want to know...
     
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