Thanksgiving 2004 marks DAGOGO’s first anniversary. In the first year, DAGOGO published articles on using unique designs in digital front end, amplification and loudspeaker, supplemented by articles on the designers’ unique perspectives. In addition, Dr. Larry Borden’s thought provoking articles on audio-related matters, including one co-authored by Dr. Chris White, offer higher intensity in theories, and are a philosopher’s delight.
Prior to founding DAGOGO, my journey on the audiophile boulevard amassed fateful and fortunate encounters with unique solid-state and vacuum tube amplification designs, which in turn fostered curiosities in loudspeaker designs. That endeavor’s exerting, consequential influence on me has been beyond my anticipation.
The first cornerstone to all that had facilitated my experience to this stage is Peter Qvortrup of Audio Note. Peter has such supreme confidence in what his products can induce in music replay, he sent me products ranging from the $4k Quest SET monoblocks to the $20k AN-E SEC Silver loudspeakers ($30.5k as of Jan05, per AN importer, David Cope of Triode & Co.) in the last 3 years, enriching my spiritual experience in music listening. Then, the most incredible experience of all came to me in the form of his $31k DAC 5 Special digital converter.
Enter the sandman. The 2nd most crucial stage in my audio life came about when Yoshi Segoshi of 47 Laboratory, despite my newfound affinity for tubes, sent me his Flatfish CD transport, Progression DAC and Gaincard integrated amplifier for observation. Solid-state via the 47 Lab creative power known as Junji Kimura sounded so harmonious and vibrant, I was ready to rename Kimura-san “Sandman”, or even more affectionately, “Sandy”. It was with this remarkable marque that I experienced the one transport that has no peer in concept and implementation: the 4704 PiTracer. The transport is another irrepressible testimonial on the brilliance and creativity of a visionary and how far one can exert his influence over an entire field. Together with the AN DAC 5 Special, the 47 Lab transport assures me of a supremely resolving digital playback that remains unrivaled to my ears.
The ultimate transcendence took place when the ingenious designs were assembled to form a system: PiTracer, DAC 5 Special, Loth X JI300, AN-E SEC Silver, plus an AN cable system. The $15k Loth X JI300 integrated 300B amplifier signifies not only a leading-edge, unorthodox approach to a most conventional technology in amplification, but also a concept thoroughly executed and beautifully realized. And in this system where top products from philosophically differing visionaries are working together, the sonic result was one of surprising cordiality and, most importantly, topmost musicality.
Imagine how shocked I was, therefore, at a chance discovery of one 300B-based amplifier, the most complex in design I’ve encountered, possessing a level of music eproduction none had demonstrated until this day: Mr. Kazuo Kiuchi’s PAT-777.
QRT on top left Center Terminators on top right
Left Forward Right
Conventional looking from afar, the PAT is actually extraordinarily dandy up close, its font and top plate being a single sheet of polished aluminum, with the side and back panel wrapped in aluminum as well. In terms of finish, the PAT shares the glistening accolade of best-looking amplifier alongside the Loth X JI300 and Linn Klimax Twin.
The Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 is conceptualized around the WE300B and represents an adaptation of the classic WE91 theatre amplifier design, using the WE 310A input tubes and the WE300Bs together. The single 5R4WG rectifier tube is Mr. Kiuchi’s own idea, and he didn’t stop there.
Although circuit simplicity is one of the advantages offered in the adopted WE91 design, the distance Mr. Kiuchi had gone to implement that advantage is amazing. In places whenever possible, uniformly applied crimping secures connection between cable and component. From the sophistication of layout, the PAT is a stellar testimony to the competence of both Combak for the conceptualization and Kyodo Denshi in its assemblage. All transformers are custom built for Combak Corporation, and wired with Harmonix Reimyo’s own cables.
A Quantum Resonance Technology transmitter near the rear panel floods the entire interior supposedly with a specific range of electromagnetic field, which Combak further redirects by placements of absorptive cable terminators near the QRT device.
A front-panel rocking power switch engages a warm-up sequence at power on, then the power LED gradually recedes from amber into green in less than a minute. The process isolates the delicate and expensive parts inside the unit from power-up surges supposedly, preserving the well-being of the components, as well as the value of the unit. Though a 7 Wpc amp, the PAT sports 2, 4 and 8 ohm terminals, designed to accommodate banana and large spade plugs at the same time, as in driving Combak’s own
Bravo! minimonitors with the B-Bass.
There is a little beautifully engraved plate to the lower right of the Reimyo PAT-777’s front plate, which says, “WE 300 B Original Vacuum Tube”. Despite what it seems to imply, the PAT does not come with a pair of the WE 300B tubes manufactured half a century ago. Instead, the plate signifies the tube that the amplifier was designed with. On this, Kazuo Kiuchi, Managing Director of Combak Corporation, has the following to offer:
“Combak Corporation used the original WE 300B NOS’ as reference in the design of the PAT-777, and is not in a position to offer the original WE 300B NOS to the public. Some customers say the original WE 300B sounds better, while some say that the KR300B sounds better than even the original WE 300B NOS, and vis-à-vis. I think it depends on the individual’s preference for the sound. For the record, when we first designed the PAT-777, we chose both the original and current WE300B’s, because in our tests of many 300B’s currently available on the market, including those from KR and Sophia, we found the current Western Electric edition to sound well balanced and natural, with better harmonic details.
The WE 300B NOS is a collector-type item, and since it can hardly be found, we think there is no sense in using discontinued and unavailable tubes, regardless of brand. One reviewer communicated his disappointment that the PAT-777 does not come with an original NOS tube. I am sure that the PAT-777’s not using a discontinued tube is not an issue for most music lovers.
To me, the most important thing to do is to make the best sounding tube amplifier with existence tubes on the market; selection of good tube is necessarily important but not the ultimate factor in a design at all as you know.”
Reviewing the PAT would’ve been substantially less rewarding had I not the experience with the other amplifiers that preceded the Combak. Oftentimes, it takes a different viewpoint or experience to better appreciate matters that are close to us. Driving an expensive car may be exhilarating and flamboyant; but one will soon lose perspective of the privilege if it is the only car he or she will ever get to drive. The audio hobby is no exception. I would not have seen the light so radiantly rupturing from within an ingeniously conceived and created products had I not more than one of its kind for comparison.
In the 2-month, transitory period after the 2003 San Francisco Stereophile Show, I auditioned Audio Note’s $20k AN-E SEC Silver loudspeaker as driven by the company’s own $35k M8 preamplifier and $16,750 Conquest Silver Signature monoblocks, via a generous arrangement by then-importer, Ray Lombardi. The experience etched such unsurpassed musical impression into my mind, I had been carrying the deeply imbedded memories of an immaculate sound of the AN ever since, then I happened upon the Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 300B power amplifier at CES 2004. If “tubiness” was a measurable criterion that many audiophiles have so adamantly preferred, the PAT would get some of the lowest “tubiness” ratings ever among SETs.
In the immediately following months of an in-home audition, shock was the feeling that had transpired throughout every session of music-listening via the Combak amplifier. Aside from the shock on my sensibility, my own heartbeat was just about the only other thing I could feel above my toes when the Combak was playing music in my system. I found the PAT to be able to sustain such an unprecedented level of refined implementation, that oftentimes an extended listening session would ensue and leave me bewildered in the end, only half-consciously self-examining, wondering whether it was the music, or the sound’s reenactment process that had so released my mind.
After rotating the AN-E SEC Silver loudspeakers with amplifiers in my household that are top models in their own right, such as the $15k Loth X JI300, the $9k Linn Klimax Twin, and the $7k 47 Lab Gaincard S, the Combak emerged as the one amplifier with the most consummate suite of sonic attributes.
In reproducing Evgeny Kissin’s piano playing (RCA Red Seal 09026-63535-2 Chopin 24 Preludes/Sonata No. 2, Polonaise, Op. 53, EVGENY KISSIN), the 7 Wpc PAT-777 empowered the $20k silver-wired AN-SEC Silver speakers into producing a sound more than just rich in content and tonal sophistication. There was an enormous reservoir of constantly refined energy simmered in agile dynamics that rendered music anew in every playback. I reckon it was a sound as never before heard from a 300B design.
Via the 95dB AN speaker, the PAT also consistently generated the most consummate spectral refinement across the board, with consistent and unimpeded flow of tonal vibrancy in recreating the vocal of Carmen Lundy in “’Round Midnight” (JVCXR-0001 JVC XRCD Sampler, track 5).
Via the PAT-777, Dame Lundy’s iteration had a most voluptuous sensuality for the first time with a 300B design, so compelling in its swiftness in the mid to higher registers, as to dominate the duration of the track amidst reverberations that lingered between singings. The Combak/Audio Note’s rich and articulate spectral reproduction imparted highly differentiating and localized impression of voice versus instruments as well, culminating into a judicious spaciousness of discrete imaging, communicating a sound that was preciously lukewarm and intimate throughout. The Harmonix Reimyo was the most refined 300B design I’ve encountered.
The intimacy factor was intensified further when the Tannoy’s 15-inch Dual-Concentric™ substituted the Audio Note 2-way speakers in enforcing the day.
From the same XRCD, in Hiroko’s “Once And Forever” from the same XRCD, the 300B Reimyo also revealed through the Tannoy a suite of rich tones on the trio of piano, guitar and flute that was the most definitive and differentiated to date, and was utterly conducive in fostering immaculate imaging. Yet, with the Dual-Concentric™ Tannoy, Hiroko’s voice amidst her expressive keyboard narratives was captured as moments of tacit insistence and soft lamentation, alongside aerial, bountiful offering of mesmerizing chimes and triangles.
Don’t miss Misha’s “Through The Rain” from the same XRCD. The rhythmic and inquisitive piano melodies of Misha procured such a sense of tranquility with the live rain in the background, you’d want to play the track before sleeping every night.
The Combak/Tannoy was also surprisingly robust in portrayals of some of the grandest symphonies of all. In a reenactment of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony (EMI CDS 7476258), the orchestra had immense tonal body without depriving the Choirs’ intrinsic delicacy and sophistication. The proliferation of micro and macro dynamics as provided by the 300B amplifier revealed the composer’s deep personal feelings towards the work, and offered a most reassuring insight into the mental world Mahler traversed in.
Contrasting the EMI disc’s immensity in musical scale, where there was a rich, aerial sensation in the Combak/Tannoy system’s haunting portrayal of the 3-stringed shamisen in the JVC XRCD Ondekoza (SVCD-1027). The Japanese flute attained a rare liquidity and a mesmerizing, permeating opulence, which was ever so startlingly precious once the huge taiko started to rumble in the background. And this was the most spectrally extended 300B SET I’ve experienced.
Prior to 2004, Mr. Kiuchi employed preamplifiers of different manufactures in his cross-nation promotional tour of the Reimyo CD player and power amplifier. Hence emerged the clear inevitability for Mr. Kiuchi to create a preamplifier of his own design to complete his product line, if not also to provide assurance in the crucial stage of pre-amplification, which would be consistent to his design philosophy. Thus born the Harmonix Reimyo CAT-777.
Beneath the CAT-777 preamplifier’s brushed aluminum chassis is a densely packed interior of unusual multitude and orderliness, matched only by the PAT. A single AC mains provides power to the demonstration-class, symmetrical layout of parts and wiring. There are six tubes inside the sealed aluminum chassis, an enclosure with heat dissipating properties that Combak claims to be adequate. A soft-start process powers up the unit gradually, and the power indicator turns from amber upon initial power-on to green after a minute’s warm-up.
On the sleek faceplate’s far right, a large, oversized, super-smooth volume control bonds the machine and its master, and smaller, left and right “Input Level” knobs preside above a row of four input selector buttons at the center. Rear panel provides no less than 3 pairs of RCA outputs neatly situated with the left outputs to the left, and the right ones to the right. Mr. Kiuchi clearly have tri-amping users in mind when designing the preamp, as a single pair of output would have sufficed when used with his PAT-777 in driving the Bravo! minimonitors. Four pairs of RCA inputs sit atop the outputs.
When comparing the CAT to Audio Note’s $10k M5, I got the feeling that Mr. Kiuchi designed his CAT so it would not only impart the least electronic artifacts into the feeble signal, it would also serve as a mediator in bridging signals between any non-CDP-777 sources and his crowning achievement, the PAT-777. Because the resultant sound at the speakers was not one of alluring, flamboyant disposition, but of an persuasive mitigation of it, the CAT/PAT system proceeded to painting soundscapes with an impartiality that was at once rare in a tube preamp, and yet not devoid of drama in portraying soloists or ensembles.
The Reimyo preamplifier’s consistent ability of transferring resolution resolved by the upstream, Audio Note DAC 5 Special, was priceless, inducing the Audio Note AN-E SEC Silver loudspeakers into voicing the most beautiful and therapeutic sound in my system. It exerted a most positive influence on my enjoyment of music in its user-definable tailoring of dynamics of music in utter concordance with amplifiers and loudspeakers used.
Its Input Level control allowed me to fine-tune the interaction between the 47 Lab PiTracer-driven Audio Note DAC 5 Special and the ever-changing power amplifier/loudspeaker interface, and persisted in an unrivaled level of pristine tonality and dynamic clarity regardless of the ever-changing and varying settings of the input in relation to the outputting volume. The function also permitted the retention of resolution, maximizing dynamics in its coupling to different speakers.
In a system consisted of Reimyo’s own PAT-777 300B power amplifier and Audio Note’s top-of-the-line AN-E SEC Silver loudspeakers, music was infused with exciting dynamics and energy with the Reimyo preamp’s Input Level set at 10:30. In relation to the Input Level, the large-dial Volume was rotated at settings between 9 and 11, dependent on the level of the disc’s output and my preference. Only during midnight listening had I turned the Volume to around 9 o’clock; and during other times I would turn down the Input Level to soften the sound a bit for what I thought was more enjoyable.
Certain classical tracks benefited from a higher input level, bringing about colossal improvement in the reenactment of realism, while some sounded more appropriate with a more subdued sonic flavoring at the lower input.
I don’t suppose Mr. Kiuchi would contemplate incorporating a miniature CAT to his DAP…
I lived with the CAT/PAT through a good part of 2004, and the Combak system reigned supreme with this alluring impartiality in a household with various solid-state and 300B amplifiers.
As all of us developed an inadvertent preference in sound with the passages of auditioning and time, so I would be remiss if I hadn’t also come to a preconceived notion on “my own sound”. And there the M5 was at my side.
The PAT represents an open opportunity to indulge into differing choices of pre-amplifier available at my household, including the $10k Audio Note M5. Although suiting up the 300B PAT-777 with the Kyodo Denshi-constructed CAT preamplifier means listening to music the Combak way, subject to scrutiny is the extent to which the preamplifier satisfies 300B advocates and critics alike in a field of countless contenders. Undoubtedly, opinion on whether or not the CAT makes for a platform for the PAT to sound its best
The M5-flanked Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 emerged as possessing more levels in dynamic contrasting when driving either the AN-E SEC Silver or the Churchill Wideband, and its high output levels enabled solid-state and tube amplifiers alike in maximizing their potentials when driving various loudspeakers. Perhaps it is noteworthy that, with the M5, Linn’s $9k Klimax Twin was also given a signal robust enough to make the 84dB/4 Ohm Apogee Duetta Signature and the 82dB/8 Ohm Celestion SL700 flex their respective muscles.
Representative of the Audio Note method, the M5 pursued more diverse tonal shading, imparting stronger impressions of distinct intonation. If there is one aspect of the M5 that is more enticing than the CAT, it is the increased dynamic contrasting, by way of the multiplicity of transformers inside the M5. This is one aspect of Audio Note’s design that I personally consider as consistently inviting.
The Harmonix name is known for its passive acoustic and equipment tuning products, and the Reimyo series of electronics represents Mr. Kiuchi’s incursion into active sound reproduction. The PAT is priced unmistakably as the marque’s premium product, and the fact that its MSRP surpasses that of the acclaimed CDP-777 Extended K2 CD Player reflects its priority in Mr. Kiuchi’s mind. Yet, it is not a niche product.
When driving speakers with complimentary efficiency, such as the 95dB/8 Ohms Audio Note AN-E SEC Silver loudspeakers, or the similarly efficient Tannoy Churchill Wideband, the Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 was dynamically superb, spatially expansive, its meticulous tonality endowing instruments with subtle but realistic textures, empowering a most mesmerizing presence.
But just as the AN-E SEC Silver is able to delineate the minutest shift of tonality from upstream equipment changes, the PAT-777 is also an unusually sensitive embodiment of Mr. Kiuchi’s sensibilities that can easily be made to sound less lively in a system mismatch.
For many SET users among us, I reckon that the sound of the Harmonix Reimyo amplification represents an impasse in our quest for beautiful music, because for what we’ve come to appreciate and expect what a typical 300B-based designs can normally do, this Combak SET, in its uniquely responsive transients and unprecedented dynamics, is the least colored throughout the spectrum in service of the music, and not given in to reckless gratification.
The more I experimented with equipment during my reviewing process in the past 4 years, the more I felt the necessity of not indulging completely in either solid-state or tube system. As amplification determines the sonic characteristics of my system, I’ve migrated between purely solid-state and vacuum tube amplification for the past decade or so. Frankly, many machines from both types of design create uneasiness on my part during listening, and neither could bring about a level of satisfaction until some are cross-bred in my system. To date, the Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 is the power amplifier bringing about the most involving and resolving sound in my system.
Understanding how the dollar-per-watt value standard devalues a 7 Wpc amplifier, and how a good number of audiophiles simply won’t be able to forgive themselves for spending $7,100 on a 50 Wpc amplifier, much less a $22k one for a stingy 7 Wpc, the appeal of the $22k Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 is understandably reserved for readers believing in the merits of high-efficiency speakers, such as the Audio Note AN-E SEC Silver and the Tannoy Churchill Wideband, which are designed to accommodate low output SET’s. In the case of the Audio Note speakers, the PAT-777 experience evokes that of the Audio Note Conquest Silver Signature as driven by the M8, conceding in a less robust output capability.
Nonetheless, for the financially capable high-efficiency speaker aficionados, the $22k Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777’s commandment of an unusually broad sonic attributes, implemented with an unheard of level of refinement, ought to make it the one amplifier to savor.
In this context, Mr. Kiuchi’s Combak Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 is the finest SET I’ve used.
Digital Front End
47 Laboratory 4704 PiTracer CD transport
47 Laboratory 4705-G Gemini Progression DAC
Audio Note DAC One 1.1x Signature
Audio Note DAC 5 Special
GW Labs DSP
Sony SCD-777ES SACD/CD player
47 Laboratory 4706 dual mono Gaincard S with DACT24 & Cardas posts
Audion Silver Night PSE 300B monoblocks
Harmonix Reimyo CAT-777 preamplifier
Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 300B stereo amplifier
Linn Klimax Twin
Loth X JI300 integrated amplifier
Reference Line Preeminence Two passive preamplifier
Reference Line Preeminence One Signature power amplifier]
Z-systems RDP-1 Reference Digital Preamplifier
47 Laboraotory 4722 Lens minimonitors
Apogee Duetta Signature
Audio Note AN-E SEC Signature
Audio Note AN-E SEC Silver
Murata ES103a/ES105 spherical super tweeter
Tannoy Churchill Wideband
Tannoy Dimension TD10
Tannoy ST-200 SuperTweeter
Audio Note Sogon digital cable (1m, RCA)
Audio Note Sogon interconnect (2m pair, RCA)
Audio Note AN-Vx interconnect (1.5m, RCA)
Audio Note Sogon LX speaker cable (5 feet, spade/banana, bi-wired)
Audio Note AN-V silver interconnect (RCA 1m, 2 pairs)
Audio Note AN-SPx speaker cable (2m, bananas, bi-wired)
Audio Note AN-La copper speaker cable (8 feet, bi-wired)
Audio Note Sogon speaker cable (5 feet, bi-wired)
Canare L-5CFB 75-ohm digital cable (RCA, 1.5m)
Canare D206 110 ohm digital cable (AES/EBU, 1.5m)
Cardas Quadlink 5C (8 feet)
Granite Audio #470 silver cables (RCA 1m, 2 pairs)
Granite Audio #560 AC Mains (2)
Harmonix Reimyo Studio Master AC cord (2)
Illuminations D-60 75 Ohm digital cable (1.5m, RCA)
Van den Hul MCD-352 (8 feet)
Harmonix Reimyo ALS-777 line conditioner
Salamander Synergy 20 (2), Twin 30 and Amp Stand, ASC Tube Traps and Flat Traps
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