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I was lucky enough late last year to score a very well looked-after Kinki EX-M1 integrated amp from SNA’s integrated amplifier doyen @Cafad.

 

I call it "precision chi-if" It’s exceptionally good.

 

Endlessly, effortlessly powerful and very detailed, which I love. My general preference is for a more neutral sound without being bright. I prefer my system to be a large clear window onto my music, as it were, rather than being either a magnifying glass or a beautiful stained glass masterpiece to look through. My Scandinavian Amphion speakers, with their titanium dome tweeters are neutral and unromantic and can be unforgiving of lesser amplification. The Kinki controls them beautifully and only on the odd poor recording do I ever question my dedication to (what to my ears is) a neutral sound. Bass is tight and clean and prodigious when it needs to be but ruthlessly absent when it’s not required (I’d rather have no bass at all than for it to be where it shouldn’t).
 

John from Burson contacted me before Xmas to see if I would like to try a V6 Vivid op amp upgrade for the Kinki, something I had read about but was not really planning on doing anytime soon as I was a) pretty damn happy with how the amp sounded and b) a bit nervous about digging around inside my new toy. Still, never one to pass up a free lunch I accepted the offer and received the package soon after. I didn’t fit it straight away because I was still getting the measure of the amp, plus work got busy, but I eventually got around to it in the couple of quiet days after Xmas, using the very good illustrated instructions John sent me and after all that it could hardly have been easier. 
 

Was it as if a veil had lifted? Did I hear new details in recordings I’d heard hundreds of times? Did my wife come in from the other room and ask what I’d changed?

 

No.

 

But, a month later, do I like the Kinki better with the V6 op amp in than I did without it? Absolutely, yes. 
 

The times when I hear that slightly hard edge, even on recordings that I know are not great, has dropped to almost never (I have some really rough 90s stuff I still listen to which is probably never going to sound great) with no apparent loss of detail on better recordings. It’s not "warmth" - which makes me cringe as a descriptor for hifi - but more a lack of grain that has made the difference. It has also had the effect of opening and deepening the soundstage noticeably and giving a bit more substance or "meat" to the midrange, which I wouldn’t have asked for - I like a lean sound - but I quite like, now that I have it. 

 

I would liken the difference to moving from a "good" interconnect or speaker cable to an "excellent" one. The sort of change that won’t make a bad system good but will enhance the listenability and help shape the character of an already-pretty good system. The important difference here is that, to go from a good interconnect to an excellent one would normally involve expenditure of several hundreds of dollars - my experience of that change happened going from products worth a couple of hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars - whereas the V6 Vivid op amp upgrade for the Kinki is under a hundred bucks, which pretty much makes it a no-brainer.

 

If you have a compatible Kinki Studios product, you should absolutely consider doing this upgrade. It makes a great product better. If you have another product which is compatible with an op amp upgrade, it’s a very low-risk experiment to see if you like it. I suspect you will. 
 

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PS holy crap look at the guts of that amp. It’s obscenely gorgeous. 

Edited by RankStranger
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Op amp rolling where you have a DIP turned pin socket installed, and know the difference between single and dual , and know how to orientate the op amp correctly, can be revelatory. Some equipment though will have surface mount op amps which makes changing somewhat harder but not impossible. The DIP type though has many fine examples to try like the opa2107 dual , opa627 single LM4562 dual , LME49710 single.  

 

You will find op amps of the DIP type, in Cd players up until about 1999, you can see what is in each by referring to Hifi engine schematics

https://www.hifiengine.com/

 

Many standard op amps are average to just on good, encouraging to try much better types, as we see in this thread.

 

The Burson product is their expression of a opamp internally using discrete parts, so an interesting take on what is possible.

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