Kinki Studio EX-M1


I’ve always wanted something simple and not a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to my stereo. KISS (keep it simple, stupid) is something I use in my approach to most things in life. Why overcomplicate? The Kinki EX-M1 is just an integrated, and that’s not meant as a pejorative. There’s no DAC or streaming capabilities, or room correction algorithms built in, and it won’t fold you laundry. There are 4 inputs out back, three unbalanced (RCA) and one balanced (XLR) which I’ve read is a simple and not a true balanced. Either way, it adds another type of input which can come in handy. The binding post are copies of WBT versions and are a joy to work with.

It has a frequency response of 10-150kHz (+/- 3db) and outputs 215W into 8ohms. It retails for approx. $2,200. Here is a link to more specs:
https://www.vinshineaudio.com/product-page/kinki-studio-ex-m1

Because of it’s silvery finish it has an imposing appearance but compared to my black Marantz PM-15S2b, it’s about the same size. Personally, I love the look. When they say it’s built like a vault, this is the vault they refer to. The weight is imposing as well (55.12 lbs.) so take care when maneuvering it. You can turn it on with the remote or by pressing in the selector knob on the left. Turning it off is done by pressing and holding the same knob for 5 seconds, or by remote. The default volume setting when turned on is set at 10 so make sure to turn it down to 0 before playing anything unless your speakers are of low sensitivity. A well made manual is supplied but alas, it’s only in Chinese, but Alvin told me they’re making one in English.

Having 255 steps of attenuation gives one extraordinary range to get to exactly where you like to listen. You can go up 10 to 15 steps and not notice much of a change, at first, until something dynamic asserts itself or when you realize that in general, it’s now more impactful. Using the remote allows you to quickly go through the steps and adjust on the fly. I find this most handy and now use it to tailor the song or piece of music to my tastes.

As an integrated, it simply excels in it’s purpose. As verbose as I can tend to be, it leaves me speechless in describing it. It does nothing to detract. It does everything to commend. It’s incredibly fast and yet so utterly smooth. Musical presence is immediate but not etched, hyped or shrill. It’s light on it’s feet but can pounce and stomp when called for.

Liu, the amp’s designer, does not believe in exaggerated base and yet this amp goes lower, tighter and simply growls tone, details and ambience that I haven’t heard before. Lower registers of the piano left me slack jawed as I basked in the reverberations of the soundboard. The same goes for cello, guitar, percussion and massed strings. Imaging is the best I’ve heard in my system. Nothing wavers (unless done in post production) and separation is tops. With The Milk Carton Kids, the two of them finally are completely separated and at a greater distance apart than what I’ve been used to or thought they’d be. Small chamber music pieces have me scanning the soundstage as different pieces play distinctly in their own space. Back up vocals are distinct as well with no smearing. They may harmonize but they are clearly different.

Highs are fully extended, again, beyond what I’m accustomed to hearing. They can go on well into a piece and you can hear the decay even when some bigger play takes center stage. Bells and chimes can tickle like the real thing. And speaking of stage, it’s of one piece, the same no matter where you care to go. All the way left, right, up or down, even as far back as you care to look. The strength of the music lies everywhere you care to listen. The only limits are what was done in the recording.

It has no noise floor that I can detect. On Abdullah Ibrahim’s The Song Is My Story, he’s not up on stage, as usual, but I’m sitting next to him while he plays (I listen in the near field so that helps). The piano is the full width of the soundstage, steady as a rock, and the notes flow out around, up, and beneath me (great mike placement). Notes can and do come out of a completely black background unless the recording is done with less tricks and then you easily hear the venue, the room, the stage, the setting. And, I never thought I’d say this but FM now sounds pretty fantastic, considering it’s limits.

The sound is so pure that it’s reoriented the way I listen to music. I no longer listen analytically but for the sheer pleasure. It’s so rewarding and relaxing. Listening to favorites, I’ve noticed that some sound different enough for me to notice that there was some exaggeration or emphasis of certain parts of the frequency with my older set up. Whether it was the house sound that some say certain brands have or just the limits of the design I can’t rightly say. Maybe it’s all the extra circuitry added to accommodate all the extra features I have no use for. No matter. I’m content. Happy as a puppy with two pee pees.

Also, I have to give thanks to Alvin for his great customer service. He’s the most attentive distributor I’ve dealt with. His response to any question I had were immediate and thorough, as long as one is mindful of the time differences (just check your clock on your smartphone to coordinate appropriate time zones). 👍 He even followed up with shipping notices, delivery times, and any question I had with the unit’s operation or features, which reminds me, since it draws about 30-40 watts when on, make sure to leave it in standby when not is use. It can get very warm to kind of hot, but not hot enough for me to lay my hand on it for any length of time. If I had more space it wouldn’t be a concern (it cools off quickly). That leads me to believe that maybe since my JBL 4319 monitors are 92db, and that it doesn’t take much to make them sing, that the EX-M1, which is a Class A/B design, operates in Class A for the first several watts, which could account for the warmth of the unit along with the wonderful tonal density and texture. Someone with more know how can look into that.

All in all, it’s the best money I’ve spent and now I have no desire to upgrade to some PC based system. My CDs and SACDs sound fantastic, even the old ones along with the reissues. To think you’re getting a real taste of what the well heeled have been enjoying for a fraction of the price makes this a true bargain if there ever was one. Let me also add that I received no consideration from the manufacturer or distributor and these are my views and opinions.

All the best,
Nonoise






42bde94d bdc8 43d3 acac 45009c2b7217nonoise
Excellent and well written review sir. It answers all of the questions a prospective buyer, or just a curious audiophile would have. Thanks!
nonoise,
I notice that the website link says that it is almost $2900.00 though. You mentioned $2200.00,
Roxy54, 
That $2900.00 is in Singapore dollars. I missed it at first as well as I missed the 'S' before the '$' in the pricing.

All the best,
Nonoise
Great review. Even better is hearing how satisfied and happy you are with it.
Just wanted to add that after playing Ayre's Irrational but Efficacious! system enhancement disc, and with almost 3 hours of play time, it's just warm and not at all hot.
 
It may be that when new, things had to break or burn in. Alvin told me just to wait and see how much better it will sound after I've had it awhile.
If so, it's all downhill from here.

All the best,
Nonoise
Very nice. Thanks for sharing.
Hello nonoise,

       Is this a class D integrated amp? 

      From their website internal pictures and your description of the sound characteristics, my impression is that it's a dual mono class D amp module configuration with dual toiroidal, rather than the somewhat more typical class D switch mode, power supplies. 
     FWIW, I'm a big fan of class D and currently use a pair of mono-blocs with toiroidal power supplies but also own a couple class D stereo amps, one with toiroidal and one with a smps.  I don't perceive one type as being superior performance wise to the other but the toiroidal is definitely heavier.
     Very good review of your Kinki Studio EX-M1.

Thanks,
 Tim   
 
Hello Tim,

This is not a Class D amp. It's a good old fashioned Class A/B design modeled after some of the better sounding Swiss amp designs.

All the best,
Nonoise
Hi Tim,  did you have any wait time to get your unit? Thanks
Nonoise iam like you , SIMPLE, I bet you can use it as preamp, I have Viva integrated, I use it as preamp at times, very good review.,,
Hey guys, thanks for positive feedback. It's nice in this day and age.

As for how fast I got mine, I must have been one of the first to order as it shipped 5 days after I ordered it. The listed lead time then was 5-10 days. It arrived 3 days later, which was two days earlier than the estimate from the DHL tracking site. Now, the lead time is up to 3-4 weeks due to demand. I feel it is worth the wait. 👍

All the best,
Nonoise

     My opinion is that some may be over valuing the benefits of simplicity. 
I tend to doubt that it can be scientifically proven that 'simple' has an inherent resultant sound superiority to 'sophisticated'.

     Wouldn't 'simple' be considered the primary defining characteristic of an idiot?

     Perhaps KISS would be more useful meaning 'keep it sophisticated, stupid'

Tim
sim·pleˈsimpəl/adjective
  1. 1. easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty."a simple solution"synonyms:straightforward, easy, uncomplicated, uninvolved, effortless, painless, undemanding, elementary, child's play; More
  2. 2. composed of a single element; not compound.synonyms:noncompound, noncomplex, uncombined, unblended, unalloyed, pure, single"simple chemical substances"


It's all how you look at it and with what colored glassed you choose to wear. It's like taking a generalization and skewing it so you can have a contrary, argumentative, or an insulting perspective.

When I say simple, I mean it to be just what I said in my review in that the integrated serves just one purpose. It's not pretending to be more than what it is. One look at it's design shows where the sophistication lies. 

All the best,
Nonoise

     Just to be clear on my opinion, I think a sophisticated solution can also be simple, such as short and direct signal paths.
      I would describe a sphisticated and simple solution as being 'elegant'.  My main point being there is no superiority in an audio design solution being simple if it's not also proven to be effective.

Thanks,
  Tim 
In that, I agree.

It was in your leap from simplicity to idiot than got me wondering what was the intention of your point as it was something I'd never consider.

All the best,
Nonoise
nonoise,

      I was responding more to jayctoy's comments than yours.
      I'm not trying to be argumentative, I'm just pointing out that a sophisticated solution is one that is well thought out, efficiently applied, can be validated to be effective and may be either simple or more complex.  I think simplicity in a product or solution is a virtue but only if it's effective.
      I think we, and likely most others, agree on this.

Thanks,
  Tim
Tim,

I fully understand what you're saying. It's just that it's hard sometimes, to discern intention from behind a keyboard. Sorry if I seemed to overreact as I meant it to be open ended as best I could. 👍

All the best,Nonoise
I just wanted to note that the English version of the user manual is now available as a download at vinshineaudio.com

There's a touch of humor in it where what's mentioned that's in the box, along with the amp is an "el cheapo power cord" with the advice to use a better audiophile PC to get the best performance out of the unit. 

Finally, some one came forward to state the obvious. 👍

All the best,
Nonoise
nonoise,
 
    I understand and agree with your statement about discerning intention; I have difficulty with that sometimes, too.

    We're cool.

Thanx,
 Tim
what's the 4 ohm power rating ?
@noble100  
Geez, talk about simple, how easy is it to try and f-up a great review of someone who was first in line to buy a product based on build quality and price point. Sounds like you could use a KISS. And notice there is no "correct me if you think i am wrong" disclaimer inserted..

mboldda1,

Sorry, but the manual that I downloaded doesn't state a 4 ohm rating.
If you email Alvin at vinshineaudio.com he will respond with whatever info you need regarding the unit. If he reads this thread, he'll respond soon enough.

All the best,
Nonoise
Wonderful review, Nonoise. Thanks!


@jayctoy
Nonoise iam like you , SIMPLE, I bet you can use it as preamp, I have Viva integrated, I use it as preamp at times, very good review.,,

The problem with using a tube-based integrated amplifier having output transformers (such as your Viva) as a preamp is that running it without speakers or suitable load resistors connected can eventually result in damage to its output transformers and/or its output tubes, due to a phenomenon known as "inductive kick" or "inductive kickback." You can Google those terms for additional info.

I would not recommend operating a tube-based integrated amplifier with its power amp section unloaded without either obtaining an explicit ok from the manufacturer, or if the design provides some means of disabling its power amp section. Or, at the very least, if it provides a means of disconnecting the signal from the input of the power amp section.

That concern is not applicable to the solid state Kinki Studio integrated, of course. However it appears that it does not provide output jacks for its preamplifier section.

Best regards,
-- Al

Thanks @almarg ,

I have a question for you about this integrated even though you're not thoroughly familiar with it. It states in the manual that it's optimum operating temperature is 40º C or about 104º F. Would that indicate a sizable bias into Class A? 

If so, it would go a long way towards explaining it's sound.

All the best,
Nonoise
Hi Folks,
can this integrated be used only as a preamp or a power amp separately ?
It states in the manual that it's optimum operating temperature is 40º C or about 104º F. Would that indicate a sizable bias into Class A?

Hi Nonoise,

I can't provide much insight into your question. But FWIW an operating temperature of 40 degrees C does not seem to me to be particularly high. Although of course the reading will vary considerably depending on exactly where on or within the amplifier the measurement is taken, and it may very well be hotter than 40 degrees at some internal locations.

Also FWIW, most Pass Labs power amps and integrated amps that are described as operating in class AB, even the low powered ones, seem to specify an operating temperature of 53 degrees C, while weighing significantly more than the Kinki (which I suspect signifies greater ability to radiate and dissipate heat). With the 250 watt (into 8 ohms) INT-250 integrated amplifier described as leaving class A at 15 watts peak.

Finally, while it probably doesn't have any relevance I'll mention that the motherboard in the physically large and well-cooled desktop computer I'm using to compose this response is reporting a temperature of 46 degrees C, with the cores in the CPU chip running at 55 degrees C while idling :-)

Best regards,
-- Al 
can this integrated be used only as a preamp or a power amp separately ?

As I mentioned in my post just a little while ago the amp does not provide pre-out jacks.

Also, it could be used as a power amp, but only with its preamp section in the signal path. And if that is done, as was mentioned in posts dated 7-13-2018 in this thread it may be desirable to ask the manufacturer to reduce the gain that is normally provided by the design.

Regards,
-- Al


Thanks Al for the reassuring insight. I just came back from getting a small fan to attach to the rear of my media stand and aimed it directly at the top/back of the amp so I can cool it off should it get too hot.

There's 3/4 of an inch above the unit so I thought some aid in ventilating  would help but since it's in the normal operating range of most gear, I probably overreacted. I could just move it to the lower rack where I'd get 1 1/2" of clearance but I like the way it looks now. 😄

Thanks again for your invaluable insight.

All the best,
Nonoise


@almarg thanks for the info.
I gather that the amp is biased in class A for the first couple of watts - does the amp have a standby mode or does it needs to be powered on 24x7 for best sound quality ?
Dev

I don't see any power switch on the back so I don't think it is capable of a true "idling" standby mode like many amps.  Appears it is either on or off.
I thought there was a  standby mode and an operating mode. It states in the manual that it will take 20-40 minutes for it to sound it’s best.

I used to leave my Marantz on all of the time for it to sound it’s best but with a draw of 30-40 watts when operating, I leave the EX-M1 on standby until I use it. It still sounds fine when first used.

All the best,
Nonoise
The only way to know if it is a true standby mode is to turn it off with the the front knob or remote then wait a couple of hours and see what temperature it reads.  If no standby it should be room temp by then. Then if you want to be positive unplug it wait and measure again and reference both to "running/music playing" temperature.  
Good written review! I curious for more delivery/distribution information, can you mail me o [email protected]?
true standby mode

Yep, it does have a true standby mode.

With the mains power feeding to the EX-M1, a small 25VA encapsulated Talame transformer is powered-up. This is to keep the microprocessor and remote control circuitry power up to response to Remote Control or Front Knob control. On the display, the standby LED at the front panel (a nice white dot) lit to indicate the amp is in standby mode. 

Hope it helps!

Best,
Alvin @ VinshineAudio
That’s what I thought. 👍

As for delivery and other info, just go to https://www.vinshineaudio.com/product-page/kinki-studio-ex-m1.
As of now, the lead time is 2-3 weeks.

All the best,
Nonoise
got my answer today, 200 watts 8 ohm and 400 watts 4 ohms.
anybody compared this to the modwright mwi-200 ?
Nonoise, how about an update ?
any problem with the rca's being so close to the ac inlet ?
All's quiet on the Western Front. 

Except for the EX-M1. 😄
It's coming along just fine. Blossoming more here, going deeper there, opening more in the backstage. It's all good, if not great.

It's taking longer to heat up to where it's hot to the touch but still not hot enough that I can't lay my hand on it for as long as I like. It now takes about an hour before it starts to even warm up. 

Impatient as I tend to be, I've tried most of my cables and the delta in differences are even more apparent because of the subterranean noise floor. (it makes reading all the posts on cables all the more laughable)

When I said in my review that old CDs sound fine, if not great, I left out the uncanny realism that Mapleshade recordings can have. Pierre Sprey uses his own set up for recording and his music used to have a strange, distant sound presentation with my older gear. With the EX-M1, some of his music now has an uncannily real aspect to it. His East Coast Jazz themes are still not my cup of tea but they can now sound so real at times. I believe he only uses a two mic set up so whatever's closest to the mic really shines.

As you can tell, I like this unit so much that I'm considering getting the Vision DAC that Kinki makes. It would force my hand into getting at least a laptop to start with but Alvin told me that the DAC has a very similar sound to the integrated and for the price, I'm very keen to jump the gun on it and just get it. If Liu does the same magic with the DAC as he did with the EX-M1, then there's a reckoning due sometime soon.

All the best,
Nonoise



any more kinki info ?
The unit continues to break in fine. The base is deepening as already reported, and the music has a propulsive quality, making it hard to keep  one's limbs still. If this is PRAT, then the Kinki has it in SPADES. 

It's a bit strange to hear things done differently as the tonal balance coupled with the complete stage rendering has shifted some of the prominence of certain instruments and vocals accordingly.

Instruments on the extreme sides of the stage are now, properly louder but not overbearing. Things that had a bigger perspective in or near the center have, but not all the time, taken a step or two back but with more focus and image specificity. Layering is first rate as well, when it's recorded that way. 

Over the last two days I've been transfixed in my listening seat and simply and pleasantly, subtly, stunned by what's transpiring. I even went and did something I shouldn't have and bought some new speaker cables on a lark. Now I have two items to break in but the pairing is most copasetic. They are like an appendage of the EX-M1 instead of an add on to be judged independently. I've never experienced such a level of image focus before. 

It's too early to say anything final but I'm keeping the cables. Just like the Kinki, they're reasonably priced, if not a bargain, for what the level they perform on. It's another example of you don't know what you're missing until you hear it. 

All the best.
Nonoise
is the gain kind of high? one owner said the gain was a little high for him, 60 was loud.
kinki is now shipping the amps with a high/low gain switch on the rear.
listening to customer feedback and correcting the issues, good company.

what speaker cables did you get ?
The gain is high, comparatively speaking, but I now enjoy not having to crank things up to hear them. Also, with 256 steps, each @ .5db, I can finely tune things, sometimes from track to track. I find this most useful and wonder why no one else has done this by now. The volume reacts almost instantaneously to inputs and I've gotten really good at nailing the desired setting. Having written this, I don't see why someone would complain unless they're not used to it.

As for my new speaker cables, they're the Cabledyne Silver Synergy speaker cables. Like my Tempo Electric SCs, they use silver conductors but that's about where the similarity ends. 

The Synergy are 12 GA, four nines, stranded silver and cryo'd, whereas the Tempo are 14 GA, four nines, solid silver. Where the Tempo are in oversized Teflon tubing and use a gentle twisting to alleviate interference, the Synergy use a high purity copper weaved braiding for the entire length and call it a non electrical shield, chichis over their own, oversized tubing. They say you can see the improvement on an O scope. Also, the Tempo use bare ends and the Synergy use 24K gold plated BFA bananas that are some of the tightest I've ever encountered when making a connection.

Apparently that shielding goes a long way towards presenting the most tightly focused imaging I've heard. They're coming along nicely and now have equal base footing with the Tempo but have much better definition. They also quelled what I felt to be some glare on a certain singers voice that at times made me wince. Now it just show off her pipes as she effortlessly scales the SPLs.

That extreme focus, without etch or hype, allows me to see much further into the soundstage's nether regions. It's so relaxed and effortless in it's execution but not at the expense of highlighting a thing. It's just all laid bare to be heard.

I like them so much that I just ordered two sets of their Synergy RCA ICs to see how they fare against my more expensive Darwin ICs, which aren't shielded. I say that as all the cables at Cabledyne have that copper shield on them. Some say that ICs don't benefit that much from shielding but behind my rack it's like a rat's nest of criss crossing cables (most at right angles) so I'm eager to see if I can accrue more of a benefit from the design. Again, the speaker cables seem to be a match made in heaven for the EX-M1.

All the best,
Nonoise
I have no idea how "chichis" made it past spellcheck.
Bass       sorry, I had to.          Enjoy ! MrD.
Oops. I always have trouble with that. 😄