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Stereotimes
Reimyo DAP 77 Digital-to-Analogue Converter
June2007

So Many DACs, So Little Time


Over the years I have auditioned and owned a fair number of DACs and single-box CD players.
Some upsampled, others did not; some had a tubed output, others solid state; some were
moderately priced, others quite expensive, and still others were somewhere in between. While
virtually all of them had some good (or very good) sonic properties, they invariably left me
wanting...more.
My first exposure to the Reimyo line of electronics occurred approximately two years ago, at the
Stereophile-sponsored Home Entertainment Expo. The Reimyo room was, as others have
described it, something of a refuge from the typical over-bearing, overly-bright, hyper-detailed
sound so common at such shows. The Reimyo room was warm and soothing, and filled with
oodles of rich harmonics that brought tranquility to those who sat and listened. I knew
immediately that I wanted to learn more about the Reimyo line.
The digital source in use was the incredible Reimyo CDP-777 CD player, which I had the
pleasure of subsequently hearing at the home of my audio-buddy, Jules Coleman. To say that I
was impressed with this player would be the understatement of the year. Unfortunately, no
matter how much I rationalized, the bottom line was that its (approximately) $15,000 MSRP
wouldn’t fit into...my bottom line. While wallowing in disappointment a few synapses fired and I
recalled having read a glowing review by our editor Constantine Soo, of a Reimyo DAC which
was more modestly priced than their CD player. I quickly read some other reviews of the
Reimyo DAP-777 DAC, which concurred with Constantine’s impressions. After a telephone call
to Constantine I decided to do something atypical for me, namely, to buy the DAP-777 sight
unseen. For the last year the DAP-777 has provided constant enjoyment, and has impressed all
who have heard it. When Reimyo announced earlier this year that the DAP-777 had undergone a
series of upgrades, I was of course eager to try it out.
No DAC is an Island
I originally used the new DAP-777 as I had the older model, with a CEC TL1x transport. Part
way through the review the CEC was replaced with a Sony CDP-707 ES, the transport section of
which was heavily modified by Alex Peychev of APLHiFi. Speakers throughout the review
process were the incredible Horning Agathon Ultimates. If you haven’t had a chance to hear this
speaker, or one of Tommy Horning’s other models, I suggest you contact Jeff Catalano of High
Water Sound in New York City, the U.S. importer, to arrange an audition. Amplification was via
a Kondo Sound Labs M77 preamp and Tube Distinctions Soul amplifier, though on occasion I
used a 47Labs GainCard. Equipment sat on racks from Harmonic Resolution Systems. The
digital signal was conveyed from transport to DAC via a Stealth Audio Varidig Sextet cable. The
analogue signal passed from DAC to preamp via a Stealth Indra interconnect, from preamp to
amp via a Stealth GS-50-50 interconnect, and from amp to speaker via Stealth MLT hybrid
speaker cables. Yes, I like Stealth cables.

Listening took place in my new dedicated listening room, the dimensions of which are 15’ x 21’
x 9’. In each corner is mounted a Mondo Trap from RealTraps, and in the ceiling-wall interfaces
are a series of SoffitTraps (also from RealTraps). On the ceiling are hung ten Skyline Diffusors
(Low Profile) from RPG. A series of absorbent panels are positioned on the side walls at the first
reflections points, and immediately behind the listener.
For purposes of this review I compared the new DAP-777 to the older version.

We Have Ignition
Physically, the new unit is indistinguishable from the earlier model, except that the Reimyo name
(on the face plate) is a slightly different shade. Rather than describing the arrangement of the
inputs, controls and indicator lights, I will refer you to Constantine’s earlier review. I am pleased
to report that the unit has performed flawlessly since the day it arrived.

The upgrades are as follows:


* The PCB has been redesigned to improve signal flow.
* The new unit higher-grade Harmonix tuning feet, the same ones used on the $14,000 CDP-777
CD Player.
* The new unit includes a newly designed, 1.5m long AC power cord as opposed to the 1.0m
version from previous production.
* The new unit has more extensive application of Harmonix’ traditional and unique tuning
technology.
*The weight of the unit has been increased from 4.7kg to 5.26kg.

It was apparent from the first listen that the newly designed unit was cut from the same sonic
cloth as the older model. All the things that I liked were still there: the rich detail, the dynamics,
and the harmonic smoothness were present in spades. However, the upgraded unit brought some
added benefits. Most notable was a quieter background, which allowed more detail to be heard. I
should emphasize that this was not the kind of hyper-detail that is so prevalent in audio
nowadays, and which is characterized by an emphasis of certain frequencies. Rather, with the
upgraded Reimyo, enhanced detail was heard throughout the frequency range. It never seemed
forced or contrived but simply let more of the music flow through.
An added effect of the darker background was improved
microdynamics. That is, one can more clearly discern the attack,
sustain and decay of notes, which gives the sense of the music
being fuller and more complete. Moreover, the Reimyo DAP-777
does not tend to favor one part of the spectrum at the expense of
others, a property which adds to its relative neutrality. This was
especially apparent with stringed instruments, with which the
DAP-777 truly excelled. Some noteworthy examples I used in my
auditioning included Heartland: An Appalachian Anthology (Sony
SK 89683), which features (amongst others) Yo-Yo Ma on cello,
Edgar Meyer on bass, Sam Bush on mandolin, Mark O’Conner on
violin, and Bela Fleck on banjo; Steve Earl’s wonderful folk renditions on Train a Comin’
(Winter Harvest Entertainment WH 3303-2); Jorma Kaukonen’s tribute to country music on Blue
Country Heart (Sony CK 86394); and for blues, the incomparable Big Bill Broonzy’s Trouble in
Mind (Smithsonian Folkways recordings LC 9628). In each case, instruments were reproduced
with marvelous body and harmonics, and appropriate size and weight. Each retained its
individuality, while blending beautifully with those accompanying it.

The new DAP-777 was equally adept at reproducing brass. Noteworthy


examples include Norris Turney’s alto saxophone on Big Sweeet n Blue
(Mapleshade MS 02632), Clifford Jordan’s tenor sax on Live at Ethel’s
(MapleShade MS 56292), and the Count Basie Orchestra on 88 Basie
Street. Through the DAP-777, horns were biting yet simultaneously
sweet, largely devoid of the hard edge so commonly heard with digital
recordings.

The DAP-777 reproduced human voice with remarkable clarity.


On “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” from Strike a Deep Chord (Justice JR 0003-2), Dr.
John’s voice was husky and full, while Odetta’s was melodious and sweet, both largely
devoid of digital artifact. My friend Bill Stratton sings baritone in the “New Life Quartet.”
On “Dem Dry Bones” from the album I Believe in Miracles, (True Light Productions
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/NewLifeQuartet), the harmonies were reproduced with
breathtaking vividness, which enhanced the song’s spiritual message. Last but not least was
Ella. How can I possibly find words to describe Ella’s voice on “Too Darn Hot,” “I Love
Paris,” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” from The Cole Porter Songbook (Verve 821 989-2
and 821 990-2)? Suffice it to say that through the new DAP-777, she sounded as magical as ever
I’ve heard her.

The new DAP-777 also did a marvelous job of conveying music’s dynamics
and energy. The Blues Jumpers’ “Thanks for the Boogie Ride” (Wheels
Start Turning, Ridge Recordings) had me out of my seat and boogy-ing,
while Cream’s “Steppin’ Out” from their Live Cream Volume II, (Polydir
UDCD 2-625) had me bouncing all over the room playing air guitar. Glad
no one was watching.

As was true of the older model, the new DAP-777 is sufficiently revealing
to allow one to readily discern changes in other parts of the audio chain. For example, the
modded Sony had a distinctly different sonic presentation from the CEC transport, just as various
interconnects sounded different from one another. As I have
described in detail elsewhere, I do not put much emphasis on the
soundstaging and imaging present in most studio recordings.
However, I do feel that the natural ambience present in some live
recordings adds considerably to the listening experience. The
revised new DAP-777 did an excellent job of conveying this aspect
of the music in a natural, believable manner, as evidenced with Live
at Ethel’s, and Jimmy Vivino’s wonderful tribute to Mike
Bloomfield and Albert King on “Albert’s Shuffle” from the Al
Kooper Soul of a Man: Live (MusicMasters D 206948). I should
add in passing that the soundstage of the revised DAC was slightly more forward than that of the
earlier model. I had no preference for one over the other.

As mentioned above, the revised DAC provided better delineation of the notes as compared to
the older model. And yet, the newer model provided an improved sense of the music’s
continuity. While this may at first blush seem paradoxical or contradictory, I believe this speaks
to the DAP-777’s ability to capture the inherent properties of music, thereby effectively
conveying the music’s emotional content. While the earlier model excelled at this property, the
new unit is even better. In my opinion, this is the most significant aspect of the new unit, as it
makes the music sound more analogue-like.

We have all experienced the phenomenon whereby as our systems gain resolution, poor
recordings become increasingly difficult to listen to. We thus fall into the audiophile trap of
listening to good recordings, rather than to good music. While the DAP-77 can’t make a poor
recording great - -as the saying goes, one cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear - - it does
make poor recordings more enjoyable than do many other high-end components. This is not
because it blurs or sugar-coats but rather, because it allows the essential musical elements - -
those present even on poor recordings -- to come through. I cannot overstate the significance of
this property, as I found myself listening to and enjoying a number of CDs which I been ignoring
for years.
Concluding Remarks
Digital technology has improved considerably over the past few years, and enthusiasts can now
choose from a wide variety of CD players and DACs. While many units are competent, there are
only a few that stand out from the crowd. The older generation Reimyo DAP-777 was, in my
opinion, one of the better DACs on the market. It captured the essential essence of the music,
portrayed it without artifice or embellishment, and provided wonderful tonality. The new unit
retains these virtues, and adds to them a greater degree of refinement. While its list price of
$5,195 is not insignificant, I regard this DAC as one the true bargains in digital audio. I was
sufficiently impressed that I bought the review model. ‘nuff said.

Laurence A. Borden
 
2. Stereo Times 

COMBAK REIMYO DAP 777 DAC


AN ELEGANT PROOF

July 2006

“Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it is
counting.”
Gottfried Liebniz, Philosopher, Mathematician (1644-1716)

I met my wife back in a 9th grade math class. Both of us were the best of friends, taking bets on
which day of class our geriatric math teacher might make her last proof of the Pythagorean
Theorem. That math class would have been much more interesting if our teacher had explored
the connection between integers and music, ratios and Led Zeppelin. Think about it: from the
Western 12-tone music scale to the indigenous Javanese, (whose music I understand is composed
of two completely distinct tonalities), all music is built from the cinderblocks of mathematical
concepts, profoundly manipulated by an artist’s creativity and vision. An example of the
interplay between math and music is beautifully illustrated in Douglas Hofstader’s book, Godel,
Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (Basic Books 1979). Hofstader describes how J.S. Bach
succeeded in creating musical paradox and illusion in his “Musical Offering” by utilizing
complex mathematical patterns in its composition. In one particular Canon of the Musical
Offering, Bach utilizes three separate voices in such a complex manipulation of timing, pitch,
speed and direction that the original key of the piece is changed “right under the nose of the
listener.” Bach ingeniously plays with mathematical patterns to not only change musical keys in
each modulation of this Canon, but “ends” each modulation with a natural introduction into the
next. Brilliantly, the piece comes to its final conclusion when the last modulation leads naturally
into the restoration of the original key of C-minor that began the Canon. Hofstader calls this the
“Strange Loop Phenomenon,” where “by moving upwards or downwards through the levels of
some hierarchical system, (here, musical keys), we unexpectedly find ourselves right back where
we started.” Bach was a great master puzzler, creating his artistic vision through paradox and
illusion by utilizing complex mathematical principles of symmetry and pattern.

The subject of digital-to-analog converters (DAC) naturally involves this core interplay between
mathematics and music as well. All DACs convert analog signals to the simplest form of
positional number systems: the binary system, invented by the great mathematician and
philosopher, Gottfried Leibniz, around 1673. My interest in auditioning a few of today’s DACs
was to find out how successful designers have been in manipulating this dialectic between math
and music and to hear for myself whether separate processors are still worth investigating to
improve the front end of our systems, especially given today’s advances in one box player
designs.

X’s and O’s


I was drawn to the Reimyo DAP 777 DAC, (“DAP-777”) for two reasons. First, my colleagues
Key Kim and Clement Perry have both reviewed the single-box Reimyo CDP 777
transport/player ($17,000), and concluded that the CDP-777 was a reference player in their
systems. (Stereo Times, August, 2003). Would the DAP 777 bring similar rewards in
combination with my belt driven C.E.C. TL-51XZ CD player used as a transport
(“TL51XZ”)($1590) and could I thus obtain a slice of the CDP-777’s magic for a fraction of its
cost? Secondly, I knew that the DAP 777 (like the CDP 777) utilized the same proprietary
Japanese Victor Corporation (JVC) high resolution “Extended K-2” processing technology that
is used to produce JVC XRCD recordings, many of which stand as my reference favorites. (For
instance, check out the magnificent Take Love Easy, by Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass [Pablo, JVC
XRCD 00312]. Kazuo Kiuchi, the humble designer of both the DAP 777 and CDP 777, had this
to say to me about K-2 Extended Processing: “This IC processing is designed to extend 16bit
information to 20bit. It is a very precise, high definition and faithful converter of the original
source. In contrast, normal 16 bit processing is limited and actually is less than 16 bit due to
common mechanical and electrical interferences. This IC processing makes a big difference in
every aspect including details, depth, width, dynamics - everything you should experience in
your listening sessions.” In addition to K-2 Extended Processing technology, Kazuo also extolled
the virtues of the DAP-777’s custom made transformers, (separate for its analog and digital
sections), its ultra clean custom internal wiring and its resonance conditioning process,
proprietary to Combak.

Mathematicians often describe a proof as “elegant,” meaning that it relies upon a minimum of
additional assumptions or is derived from original insights. In viewing the DAP-777 from a
technical and aesthetic point of view, it too, could be described as “elegant.” The DAP-777 is of
compact, single-rack space dimensions, beautifully crafted out of clear anodized aluminum, with
a gold-silver badge showing its 20bit K-2 processing pedigree. Build quality is first rate, with all
controls designed with care and precision. On its rear are balanced and single ended analog
outputs, with optical, coaxial, BNC and AES/EBU digital inputs selected from a switch on the
front. Also on the front panel is the power switch and a string of small green LEDs indicating
input selector, operational functions (emphasis; lock; error) and sampling frequency display (48;
44.1 32). The unit is beautifully isolated by four metal footers elegantly designed into the body
of the chassis. Everything about the DAP-777 instructs of top notch build quality and design,
aesthetically pleasing as a shiny Mobius strip.
Speaking of elegance, allow me to briefly mention the newest improvement to my reference
listening system, within which the DAP-777 was later placed. Before the arrival of the DAP-777,
my system had received an exponential improvement by way of an upgrade to my reference
active linestage preamp, the First Sound Presence Deluxe, designed and built by one of my
favorite audio craftsmen, Emmanuel Go of First Sound Audio. Emmanuel upgraded my preamp
to a full “Paramount” upgrade, involving principally the substitution of Vishay resistors for
Holco resistors and the addition of hand built LTV Ladder type attenuators. Emmanuel
analogizes the addition of the Vishay resistors to that of taking the wheel of a racecar and I
wholeheartedly agree. The Paramount upgrade literally galvanized my system to a new level of
listening pleasure, with increased clarity, levels of inner detail and dynamic presentation.
Instruments within large orchestral works breathed with new textures and life, pinpointed much
more accurately in natural space. With the Paramount upgrade, Emmanuel has clearly achieved a
further lowering of the noise floor to expose more musical tension, natural flow and dynamic
inner detailing, the hallmark of his preamp designs. Like a dedicated mathematician, Emmanuel
continues to provide elegant new upgrade paths for owners of First Sound preamps and never
seems to rest on his humble laurels. I highly recommend a conversation with Emmanuel for
anyone considering a new reference preamp, or if you are a First Sound owner already, looking
to gain even more insight into your favorite recordings.

After several months of listening to my reference system with the new Paramount upgrade in
place and just the TL51XZ as my front end, I introduced the DAP-777 into the system connected
to the TL51XZ via Combak’s coaxial digital cable HS 102 ($935 per meter length) and their
XDC2 power cord (1.5 meter cord included in the price of a DAP-777) all generously provided
by May Audio for this audition. I listened to a specific selection of recordings, each first on the
reference and then with the DAP-777 in place.

A Beautiful Quotient
I would liken the introduction of the DAP-777 to what a mathematician might say about
mathematical beauty: that it arises only from an intensely active engagement with mathematical
concepts. Likewise, the DAP-777 absolutely commands your active attention to a particular
recording. Passive participation is impossible. Taking a lead from Jonathan Valin’s astute
observations on “sonic realism”, (The Absolute Sound, Issue 162), the DAP-777 literally
transformed recordings with a new “dynamic launching”, where every instrument from voice to
violin conveyed a more physical presence than with just the TL51XZ playing. I wasn’t so much
impressed with the increase in low level detail that the DAP-777 brought to recordings (although
there was plenty of this new detail to explore!), but more with the expansion of the sheer
“Physicality” of the music with the DAP-777 in place. Whether this was ultimately due to the
DAP-777’s introduction of a natural warmth to all recordings, a more lively midrange and larger,
life-sized images (or a combination of all of these) it certainly
created an immediacy to music that drew me in as an active
participant. For example, (keeping with our theme of mathematics),
take Joan Armatrading’s “Down To Zero” done in searing fashion
by the crackly soulstress, Bettye LaVette, on her great eclectic disc,
I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise [Anti Records 86772-2]. With the
addition of the DAP-777, all of LaVette’s distinct breathe, articulation and weathered soul came
through much more vividly than with the TL51XZ alone as front end. In her vocal technique,
LaVette has a unique way of arching up top with a dry, crackling in her voice. The addition of
the DAP-777 brought this unique vocal quality of LaVette’s beautifully out front, in a warm,
unforced new way. On my favorite cut, “How Am I Different?” Paul Bryan’s electric bass was
heard the way I enjoy it with my McIntosh amps in the mix: lots more rushes of air toward the
listener and a bass that was not gated but literally rolled into my listening room with far more
natural projection and recession back into a wider soundstage than before. As LaVette delivered
her damning question, “When you fuck it up later, do I get my money back?” I was struck with
the pure physicality of her vocal attack, with much more visceral warmth and body to her biting
words. The DAP-777 brought new life to this wonderful recording. It brought a physical
presence to LaVette not heard before, with a combination of new inner detail and more critically,
a “launching of dynamics” (Valin) which amounted here to a projection into the room of
LaVette’s voice in a more natural manner that demanded my attention to LaVette’s spectacular,
soulful delivery.

Speaking of greater physicality and immediacy, there is


nothing more compelling to me than Ginger Baker’s drum
work stunningly recorded on his Coward of the County
[Atlantic 83168-2] with the young, talented lions of the Denver
Jazz Quintet. Every cut on this recording is a gem of big band
creativity, including scorching solos taken by the likes of
James Carter on baritone sax and bass clarinet, and Ron Miles,
trumpet, to name just a few. James Carter’s Promethean blasts
on baritone were so physically involving with the DAP-777
that it was like hearing the solos for the first time. Carter’s
sudden honks down low sent warm waves of air and sound
projecting outward, taking me by complete surprise with their
new forceful dynamics and larger, more life sized imagery. The DAP-777 also shed new light on
the pure physicality of Baker’s technique. Splashes of cymbals, brushed and brazen, now came
to life as Baker utilized different weight and angles to achieve his metallic pallet. The intricate
“Cyril Davies” starts with Baker kicking out some very serious deep bass drum, simultaneously
combined with his quick cymbal work. With the DAP-777, I could now discern the physical
movement of Ginger’s foot pedal striking the bass drum, with the resulting waves of sound
projecting towards me and then naturally receding. With this new accessibility, the DAP-777
afforded a new medium to compare Baker’s pure physicality on the drums with other
percussionists. For example, one of my favorite local Boston drummers is Yoron Israel.
Listening to Israel’s sly work on pianist Laslo Gardony’s new release, Natural Instinct
[Sunnyside 4003], I was drawn into Israel’s lightness of touch and his use of silences to great
comic effect. This quality of bringing more “physicality” to every good recording, (and thus
being able to appreciate more the human performers behind the music), was the DAP-777’s
consistent virtue.

A final summary of the DAP-777 could be had in the context of listening to small and large scale
orchestral works. I learned about the wonderful Canadian recording label, Analekta, from the
writers at UHF Magazine, who have used recordings from Analekta for their own respected
review work. Listening to violinist James Ehnes with the Orchestre Symphonic de Quebec on
French Showcases [Analekta FL23151] was a revelation through the DAP-777. The DAP-777
brought a more rounded and warm tone to Ehnes’ playing, which was positively enticing and
inviting. The DAP 777 also brought an explosion of new color to the orchestra, particularly a
new lively midrange to woodwinds. It greatly improved the lifelike images of the individual
sections of the orchestra and fleshed out subtle, physical tonal differences not heard before. In a
much more intimate setting, presented by the intriguing duet of trumpeter Paul Merkelo and
organist/harpsichordist Luc Beausejour on their Baroque Transcriptions, [Analekta 29812], the
DAP 777’s virtue of bringing a greater physicality, a “dynamic launching” was absolutely
stunning. I had never heard Merkelo’s trumpet so liquid and warm, with such dynamic projection
to my listening position and then such natural recession back into a deep soundstage. The
physical traits of trumpet and breath moving air, projecting and receding with each forte or
pianissimo, were brilliantly conveyed by the addition of the DAP 777. Juxtaposed to this
swelling and falling was Beausejour’s organ, moving air magnificently with trills and deep
pedals of sound underneath. Again, the DAP brought more warmth and rounded glow to the
organ than I had heard previously, but all to the service of a more physical display of the actual
instrument, its sheer size and volume.

Delightful Proof
The Reimyo DAP-777 is a brilliant performer that will bring years of listening enjoyment for the
active and engaged listener. It brings a greater sense of pure physicality to all music and has a
special way with dynamics and their projection. It also provides rounded lifelike images and
exponentially increases the immediacy of the midrange in all music explored. If you already own
a decent player that can be used as a transport, then the cost of upgrading to the DAP 777 and a
digital cable might be less than buying a new, premium one box solution. The addition of the
DAP 777 into my reference system clearly demonstrated the importance of DAC design to the
expressive reproduction of music and how separate DAC and transport units still make a premier
music making front end, addressing the relationship between math and music most elegantly.

Nelson Brill
July 15, 2005

Reimyo DAP-777 Digital-to-Analog


Converter

Reimyo’s line of electronic components has


won accolades for its technological acumen,
realistic sound reproduction, and excellent
design and manufacturing quality. Most
recently, Reimyo’s single-box CDP-777 player
won my heart as the gold standard for "Red
Book" CD reproduction, and earned an Ultra
Audio Select Component designation, among
a shipload of other industry honors.

The DAP-777 digital-to-analog converter,


introduced about six years ago, is another
Reimyo foray into digital that’s developed a
devoted following. With the success of the
CDP-777, Kazuo Kiuchi, the driving force
behind Reimyo, considered discontinuing the
DAP-777. But how do you cut a product for
which new orders are still coming in and back
orders are piling up?

His answer: Don’t. Instead, make it better. Kiuchi, the ultimate perfectionist, went back to the drawing
board to come up with a "new" DAP-777. The result is a DAC that sells for $5195 USD and is similar to its
predecessor, including the same model number and appearance, but with enough important internal
updates to constitute a new product.

Collaboration pays

Before I go into the few details I’ve been able to pry out of the reticent Kiuchi, here’s some background. In
an industry that venerates lone visionaries, the Reimyo story is one of collaborative effort. But even
cooperative ventures need that single individual with the inspiration to wield disparate elements into a
whole bigger than its parts -- in this case, Kazuo Kiuchi. The Reimyo line is produced and marketed by
his Combak Corporation, whose Harmonix division is noted for resonance-control products ranging from
room-tuning wall stick-ons and other accessories to interconnects, speaker cables, and tuned power
cables.

I first met Kiuchi during his first foray into the US market, in about 1993, when Harmonix was fairly new to
the audio scene. The occasion was a demonstration organized by Victor Goldstein of Fanfare
International, then Harmonix’s US importer, of what seemed at the time a laughable idea -- that tuning
discs could markedly improve the sound of a mediocre violin, and do the same for hi-fi gear. A handful of
reviewers and industry folk were roped into what some of us figured would be a waste of time. The
violinist was Da Hong Seeto, who’s since become a prominent recording engineer.

As I recall it, Seeto played a piece on his own vintage French instrument. Then he played the same piece
on a cheapo violin that produced sounds reminiscent of backyard cats in heat. Kiuchi then took that
excuse for a violin and affixed to it Harmonix resonance-control dots in strategically located positions.
Seeto played it again, this time virtually matching the sound of his valuable French instrument. Jaws
dropped, and dropped again when a similar demonstration involving loudspeakers radically improved the
sound of an inferior model.
Throughout the demo, Kiuchi remained an island of calm in a roomful of raucous New Yorkers, gracious
and unassuming when we lauded his accomplishment, equally gracious and tolerant of the few grumbling
naysayers who refused to believe their ears. Over the years, I’ve heard the positive results of other of
Kiuchi’s innovative products, the results of his perfectionism and his tireless attention to detail.

Combak entered the electronics arena with a concept it calls High-Tech Fusion -- a cooperative effort with
two other cutting-edge Japanese companies to produce state-of-the-art gear under the Reimyo label. The
heart of the DAP-777 is JVC’s 20-bit K2 processing technology, used to produce its outstanding XRCD
discs. Harmonix’s acoustic technology and resonance-control products are implemented to get the most
out of the D/A conversion process. Kyodo Denshi, a prominent designer and manufacturer of precision
measuring devices, does the same for Reimyo products. Overseeing this joint effort is Kiuchi, who has
more than 30 years’ experience building musical instruments, tuning concert halls, and mastering
recordings.

Balance is a word that constantly recurs in Kiuchi’s conversations, whether referring to the physical and
mental balance essential to individual well-being, or balancing technologies to produce realistic- and
natural-sounding audio products. With its attention to detail, precision manufacture, and, sound, the DAP-
777 illustrates that balanced ideal.

The new DAP-777

Owners of earlier versions of the DAP-777 will want to know what’s different in the new one. As indicated
earlier, Kiuchi keeps proprietary information a closely guarded secret, but he’s boiled down the changes
to:

• A redesigned PC board to simplify and shorten the signal path


• The latest, improved Harmonix tuning feet -- the same as those on the $15,495 CDP-777
• More thorough internal tuning with Harmonix devices
• At about 11.5 pounds, it’s about a pound heavier
• The 1m power cord has been upgraded to a 1.5m-long X-DC-SM cord

Kiuchi’s claims of improved sound, greater clarity, dynamics, depth, and overall musicality I’ll have to take
on faith -- I never heard an earlier version of the DAP-777 in my system. (Owners of earlier versions
should know that upgrades are not available. Modifying older units to the new version requires a costly,
extensive rebuild. New DAP-777s are most readily identifiable through their serial numbers: 0502001 and
up.)

The meticulously designed and executed interior of the DAP-777 features JVC’s 20-bit 2K processor chip,
which has been used to outstanding effect in the CDP-777. Almost everything in the DAP-777’s innards is
custom-designed and -made, including the transformers and wiring. The signal paths are separated to
reduce distortion and noise.

Whatever magic’s been wrought inside the DAP-777, its low-slung exterior remains a model of stylish
sophistication, and at about 17" wide, 2.5" high (including feet), and 13" deep, it easily fits on a standard
rack shelf. The front panel includes a power On/Off rocker, a protruding selection switch for four inputs,
LEDs that confirm the selected input, and three LEDs marked Emphasis, Lock, and Error. Emphasis lights
up when a high-frequency-enhanced CD is selected; Lock just tells you that "all systems are go"; and the
red Error LED alerts you to just that. Three more LEDs indicate sampling frequencies -- 48kHz, 44.1kHz,
and 32kHz. The DAP-777 is "Red Book" all the way -- it plays CDs and DATs, not DVD-Audio, and the
closest you’ll get to SACD is the CD layer of a hybrid disc. Given the bleak outlook for new formats and
the vast improvements in CD sound, especially when played through top-level gear such as Reimyos,
that won’t be a barrier for most audiophiles.
The rear panel includes balanced and unbalanced analog outputs, four digital line inputs -- AES, BNC,
Coax, Optical -- the ground terminal, and the AC line connector. A Phase switch lets you reverse phase.
I’d prefer having this on the front panel, but I admit that while phase adjustment can improve the sound of
many CDs, the feature can tempt one to tweak obsessively.

Setup

I auditioned the DAP-777 with a reference system that included the Forsell Air Reference turntable,
Plinius M14 phono stage, Wyetech Opal preamplifier, modified Jadis JA-80 monoblock amplifiers, Von
Schweikert VR-4 Gen III HSE speakers, and Siltech and Nordost wires. Accessories included the high-
performance, high-value Vibrapod Isolators and Cones, Harmonix footers, Audiotop disc-cleaning fluids,
and a Bedini Ultra Clarifier.

I fed the Reimyo through my Metronome T-20 Signature CD transport and the Duevel Shuttle Disc, a
single-box CD player (review forthcoming). Most of my serious listening was done via the Duevel, but with
frequent switches to the Metronome to confirm my impressions of the Reimyo’s portrayals of individual
discs. With the DAP-777 in place, the Metronome’s warmer sound and the Duevel’s greater transparency
and extension were apparent, confirming the DAP-777’s accuracy in differentiating among source
transports. In short, the better the transport, the better the sound was; the better the sound on the disc,
the more of it the DAP-777 gave me.

This was also proved when curiosity inspired me to hook up a now-discontinued Philips DVD player with
SACD capabilities. This particular model is a good DVD player but awful for serious music listening --
connecting it to the Reimyo was akin to putting a cheap band on a Rolex. I wanted to hear if the Reimyo
could work miracles when joined to an inferior source. It didn’t, but it did upgrade the Philips’ sound to
mediocre.

Throughout my sessions, Harmonix’s RCA-terminated HS 101 digital cable linked the transports to the
DAP-777; the power cord was Harmonix’s XDC2. All listening was done via the RCA analog output
connection because that’s the sole option available on my preamp.

Sound

My favorable impressions during the "getting to know you" phase were reinforced once I’d settled down
with notebook and pen. It seemed appropriate to start with some JVC XRCDs, as they’d been remastered
with equipment using the same JVC 20-bit 2K processor chip used in the DAP-777.

First up was a CD of five Rossini overtures, conducted by Pierino Gamba -- a 1960 Decca/London
recording made in Kingsway Hall and engineered by the revered Kenneth Wilkinson. It sounds fresher
than ever on JVCXR 0229, boasting a tremendous dynamic range that the Reimyo faithfully conveyed,
with an ease and liquidity I had not heard from this disc before the DAP-777’s arrival. I was also surprised
by the wealth of detail that emerged from the orchestral texture, the airy lightness of the violins, and the
deep, powerful bass. The experience sent me scurrying back to my copy of London LP 6204, which
revealed that the CD fully matched it in most parameters, including stage width, and improved on the LP’s
dynamics and bass.

JVC’s edition of the Brahms Violin Concerto, with Henryk Szeryng as soloist and a London orchestra led
by Pierre Monteux [JM-XR2-4021], made me return to my turntable to play the RCA Victrola LP [VIC-
1028, plum label], which sounded rolled-off alongside the CD’s treble and bass energy. With the Duevel
transport, the massed violins came to the brink of edginess in the treble region during forte passages,
compared to the softer, smoother sound via the Metronome (and the LP), thus vividly illustrating the
Reimyo’s ability to differentiate among transports. This is one DAC that never homogenized sources so
that they sounded the same; rather, it brought out each source’s unique qualities. It’s important to make
the match that suits your preferences.
The DAP-777’s impressive soundstage was confirmed by David Chesky’s Violin Concerto, from his Area
31 album [CD, Chesky 288]. The Concerto is an accessible modern work with a high energy quotient that
never taxed the DAP-777, which also faithfully reproduced the solo instrument’s natural size in relation to
the orchestra -- something increasingly rare in concerto recordings. Fueled by Latin and jazz rhythms, this
musically and sonically outstanding disc also displayed the DAP-777’s hair-trigger timing and its good
handling of percussion instruments at all dynamic levels.

The Reimyo’s ability to effortlessly reproduce explosive material was also obvious with James Cotton’s
Baby, Don’t You Tear My Clothes [CD, Telarc CD-83596], on which the venerable bluesman is joined by
a bevy of big-name "friends," who complement his gritty singing and harmonica playing. Crisp, powerful
bass, hair-trigger percussion transients, and in-your-face driving rhythms all sounded remarkably clear
and gutsy via the DAP-777, along with an equally remarkable subtlety in reproducing the well-recorded
variety of shadings from such instruments as T.C. Chenier’s accordion in "Rainin’ in my Heart," and
Cotton’s harmonica in the title song.

I’ve found solo violin and female voice problematic on CD, and was curious to hear how the Reimyo
would reproduce the period violin of John Holloway on a brilliantly played disc of solo sonatas by the
Italian Baroque composer Francesco Veracini [ECM 1889]. I needn’t have been concerned. The Reimyo
sailed through it with ease; even when Holloway played fast and loud in the instrument’s highest register,
the sound coming out of my speakers was full-bodied and natural, never turning hard or shrill. And in the
Sonata No.6, a playful Capriccio apparently written to drive violinists crazy by testing the limits of their
virtuosity, Holloway’s exciting performance emerged with a full range of dynamics, microdynamics, and
timbral subtleties.

But that ECM disc was very well recorded; a better test of the DAP-777 was probably an indifferently
recorded female voice, such as a new reissue of soprano Mirella Freni singing opera arias [CD, Decca
B0004244]. Her rendition of "Sì, mi chiamano Mimì," from Puccini’s La Bohème, dates from an early-
1970s session that has not been newly remastered and is no one’s idea of a demonstration recording.
But it was quite listenable through the Reimyo DAC, which retained sufficient air around the voice and
reproduced most of the bloom of her lovely soprano.

This proves two things: First, that a good performance can captivate even when the original sound is just
so-so. Too many audiophiles listen only to super-sounding discs, chasing the sound but missing the
music. Second, it proves that the DAP-777 could extract the emotional core of music even when the
sound was dated or worse, a point proved time and again as I played CD reissues of ancient monophonic
recordings going back to the acoustic era.

In fact, some of my most rewarding listening while preparing this review was an old favorite from LP days,
JVC’s remastering of the Modern Jazz Quartet’s Concorde [JVCXR-0203]. It’s a 1955 mono recording,
but I never felt the lack of stereo. Details I hadn’t recalled from the now-worn LP grooves sprang out -- the
way Ray Brown’s rounded bass tones vibrated as his fingers strummed the strings in a slow piece, the
sharp ping of Connie Kay’s sticks and the smooth thrum of his brushwork, John Lewis’ precise articulation
at the keyboard, and the ringing liveliness of Milt Jackson’s vibes. All sounded as startlingly fresh as they
did a half-century ago.

But far more important than the specifics of any single disc was how the DAP-777 was so emotionally
involving -- more satisfying in that respect than the same CDs played via the Metronome’s matching DAC
or the Duevel’s internal one.

Wrapping up

To say that the time I spent with the Reimyo DAP-777 in my system was enjoyable would be a gross
understatement. The last time I heard such musically involving, "alive" sound from my system was when
Reimyo’s single-box CD player, the CDP-777, was putting me in audio heaven.
The DAP-777 sailed through every test I gave it, including some "trap" CDs exhibiting characteristics that
only the very best equipment can transcend. It excelled in making great discs sound great and inferior
ones sound wanting, albeit more listenable thanks to the DAC’s liquidity and ease of presentation. That
sense of fatigue-free musicality is the core of what the DAP-777 did in my system with good but less-than-
top-of-the-line transports. It should do the same for your system, so long as it’s matched with a good
transport and operates in a well-balanced environment whose electronics, speakers, and wires
complement it.

Even if you win the lottery, value should be a basic factor in evaluating audio gear. I’m a believer in the
principle that a price tag doesn’t tell you all you need to know about a prospective purchase: a high price
doesn’t necessarily connote high quality any more than a low one necessarily means low quality. Had I
not known the Reimyo DAP-777’s price, I would have guessed, from its obvious quality and outstanding
sound, that it cost somewhere between $12,000 and $15,000. Instead, it bears a $5195 price tag, firmly
placing it in the "best buy" category. You’d need to spend a lot more just to be in the Reimyo’s
performance ballpark.

…Dan Davis
dand@ultraaudio.com

Think digital-to-analog converters. Then think Japan. Now think Kondo-San of Audio Note; Yamada-San
of Zanden; Kusumoto-San of iLungo; Kimura-San of 47Lab: Four different designers, four different
iterations of non-oversampling, non-upsampling digital conversion. With this uncanny concentration of
out-of-the-box precedents, doesn't it seem as though non-Japanese digital designers needed to refer to the
Land of the Rising Sun as Seng-pai, the senior man? This would make them Koh-hai, the junior men. It's a
term that, incidentally, also means fairness. Considering these unconventional thinkers already mentioned,
let's avoid the opposite - unfairness or fukho-hei (and yes, the parallel to a certain four-letter F-word is
inspiring). We must now add Kiuchi-San of Combak Corporation to this illustrious list. Here's yet another
Japanese firm that does things differently, having first -- under the Harmonix banner -- made a name for
itself with resonance control devices. Its lineup of products has grown since. It includes the Enacom filters
and a small dual-concentric loudspeaker dubbed Bravo, jointly developed with Gradient of Finland [right].
There's also a very focused group of uncompromising electronics dubbed Reimyo, or Japanese for miracle.
 
 

At present, the miracles are four-square: The CDP-777 CD


transport/player, the PAT-777 300-B SET, the ALS-777 AC line stabilizer -- which I reviewed for
EnjoyTheMusic.Com -- and today's subject, the DAP-777 D/A converter. Unlike 666, the infamous Number
of the Beast, triple-7, one assumes, connotes a particularly auspicious occasion in Japanese culture?
 

Be that as it may, one thing is clear -


Combak/Harmonix does not practice designed-here myopia. Rather, Kiuchi-San prides himself on
identifying suitable partners with whom to codevelop specific engineering solutions, be it Bob Stierhout's
Quantum Resonance Technology in the ALS line conditioner or JVC/Victor Japan's 20bitK2 digital
processing in today's subject, with industrial design and assembly handled by Kyodo Denshi. Combak refers
to this enlightened cross-corporate approach as hi-tech fusion. It brings together core competencies of
different specialist firms to fulfill a particular project mission as outlined by 'conductor' Kiuchi-San. 

 
For the Reimyo DAC, this obviously included balanced and single-ended analogue outputs; optical, coaxial,
BNC and AES/EBU digital inputs selectable by front-mounted four-position barrel control; a 180°-phase
switch [rear-mounted]; and auto-lock 32/44.1/48kHz sampling frequencies. As a poster child of less-is-more
simplicity, the DAP-777 is of single rack-space height/width and 14.5" depth, inclusive of that inch-long,
click-stop selector knob. Four pointed conical metal footers with solid wooden discs to interface with the
chassis proper; a front-mounted black power rocker switch; the ubiquitous IEC inlet aft; and three frontal
banks of miniature LEDs make up the remainder. From left to right, one string of lights are input selection
indicators [1=AES, 2=BNC, 3=COAX, 4=OPT, presumably in sequence of sonic superiority]; the next
operational confirmators [emphasis; lock; error] and the last the sampling frequency display [48; 44.1; 32].  
 
 
That's it. Compact, elegant, with a finely grained clear-anodized aluminum fascia, the golden Reimyo silk
screen, a classy gold-on-silver metal decal about the 20bitK2 processing bit and all-green lights [except for
red=error], the Reimyo -- like the Orpheus Labs unit -- epitomizes Zen minimalism and cool. It assumes
that prospective purchasers are mature enough to not equate quality with size or heft unbecoming a small-
framed but dapper Asian city slicker. 
 
 
Defeating what only looked like rivets with my 1.5 mm hex driver, I next popped the black cover for a
look-see. As outside, so inside - surface-mount cleanliness and a tidy layout, with a special in-line noise filter
on the power inlet and twin transformers for the analogue and digital circuits respectively. 
 
 
Jonathan Halpern of May Audio, the US/Canadian distributor for Combak/Harmonix, had thoughtfully
enclosed an optional Harmonix Studio Master power cord. Seeing that the review unit had made a prior
pit stop at Pierre Sprey's of Mapleshade, it arrived additionally with an entirely unsolicited care package of:
Mapleshade Omega Mikro Ebony digital interconnect with battery power supply; one blue-directionality
Planar active power cord with LCX treatment; a 4"-thick rock-maple shelf; and various brass triple-cone
footers. Needless to say, this review will concentrate on the stock unit/cord housed in my customary Grand
Prix Audio Monaco rack to not introduce more than one variable at once. However, since curiosity is the
harmless middle name of audiophilia that has led more than one unwary soul down the slippery upgrade
slope, I would also play with the Mapleshade goodies to report on their sonic contributions in this
intended context. The DAP-777 was under development for over two years and employed top engineers
from Kyodo Denshi, a premiere digital measuring device company, with final tuning by Kiuchi-San. 
In best Japanese tradition, Harmonix' website gives away as little technical information as possible, except
to state that the internal wiring was specifically designed for maximum-speed data transmission and ultra-
low jitter. But looking at the schematic of the owner's documentation papers below, we can clearly see
that Combak has not joined the silly number's wars of 24 bits or upsampling. We're talking 20-bit, 8 x
oversampling. Do not make the mistake of automatically consigning the Reimyo DAC to the heap of
"outmoded, antique, passé" because of it. As my Zanden DAC Model 5000 MkIII proves, even 20+ year-
old 16/44 chips, if implemented properly, can more than keep up with the latest whiz-bang 24/192
sampling-squared sorcery à la Weiss, Anagram, dCS or Meitner. Numbers simply don't tell the real story -
but listening does. However, certain numbers give hints: S/N ratio >117dB, dynamic range >100dB,
channel separation >105dB. Output voltage of 2.45/4.9Vrms RCA/XLR is slightly higher than the standard
2/4V but not enough to overload standard input sensitivity preamps. 
 
 
The reason I requisitioned this particular DAC for review? xrCD. I've long since been a fan of JVC's high-
end recordings. As part of their mastering protocol, they utilize the very K2 processing incorporated in
Kiuchi-San's DAC. xrCD recordings don't employ any left-field trickery except utmost care in every single
stage of the recording/ mastering process, all the way down the chain to the glass masters and actual
pressing plant steps. Reasoning that their sonic superiority had to, at least in part, be due to Victor Japan's
proprietary K2 signal-processing aka digital conversion, the very existence of a consumer model employing
"xrCD technology" seemed to hold high promise. K2 -- short for Karakorum-2 as the 2nd peak surveyed
and cartographed by T.G. Montgomery in 1856 -- is also the second highest mountain in the world outside
Islamabad/Pakistan. With a 12,000ft sheer-ice pyramidal peak above the wide Concordia glacial field at the
head of the Baltoro Glacier, it is flanked by six equally steep ridges and considered the most difficult of all
peaks to scale by mountaineering.  
 
 
Where in the fiscal scheme of things does the Combak Reimyo DAC belong? Lower upper-crust: $5,500.
That's definitely not inexpensive but, considering how much you could spend elsewhere, still well outside
the shock-value zone. Ditto for the Studio Master cord, which, depending on Furutech/Wattgate
connectors, clocks in at $920/1,070 for 1 meter, $1,040/1,179 for 1.5 and $1,170/$1,300 for 2 meters. With
these preliminaries out of the way, let's fast-forward to the finals... 
 

The digital torture rack - definitely not a medieval affair like my Current Concepts Pilates reformer
Using the Furutech Digi Reference S/PDIF cable BNC-to-
BNC from my usual Cairn Fog as transport -- with the $10,000 Zanden DAC as comparator -- the
customary Ortho Spectrum AR2000 buffer/filter was relegated to the bleachers. The HMS cord feeding the
Reimyo plugged into the Velocitor like the Zanden and Cairn, to give a slight air and space gain of 'digital
separation' over plugging everything into my proud new BPT BP-3.5 Sig. Standing by for later
experimentation?

The i2digital X-60, Stereovox HDXV and Omega Mikro Planar Ebony digital interconnects; the Harmonix
Studio Master and Mapleshade Omega Mikro power cords; Mapleshade triple-point HeavyHat brass
footers. Before I hit play, here's Kiuchi-San's addendum to my facts presentation of the previous page:

"I think your report already covers all your readers need to know about our design. I only hope that
they'll understand how the very natural sound quality of the DAP-777 and the other Reimyo components
differ from what other companies produce in their class, by utilizing our unique Harmonix tuning
technology. There is much excellent electronics engineering and technology in our industry. However, in
order to maximize any technical advances, it is essential to adapt them via electromechanical and
resonance tuning protocols - what we call Harmonix. This is an area of research which I have spent more
than 30 years to develop and which is based on experience gathered from musical instrument building,
concert hall tuning and assisting in the mastering of audio recordings. The Reimyo Series is a direct
outgrowth of how to apply these insights to electronics. Accordingly, they incorporate more than 90% of
custom-designed and fabricated parts including wiring. However, the circuits themselves are the most
simple and basic possible."
Simple done right. That seems the core message here, not for its own sake but to serve what Kiuchi-San
calls natural sound. Now, anyone who tells you about day-and-night differences between truly
accomplished RedBook playback devices is either lying through his ears; in the marketing business which
could mean the same thing; or endowed with far better hearing than the rest of us mortals. And that could
be hyperbole as well. This by way of prefacing what follows. Switching from my beloved valved 16/44
Zanden to the K2 climber did not provoke instantaneous recognition of large-scale sonic differences except
that the former's low 1V output voltage had to be matched. Otherwise, the music continued to flow
seemingly unruffled.

That should come as no surprise.


16/44 Redbook -- and it bears repeating: That's all any CD playback ever is, regardless of fancy guess-work
interpolation! -- is a very mature medium. Nowadays it's all millimeter rather than inches or yard progress.
Power supply and analog output stage prowess, grounding scheme and resonance control wizardry are
often far senior in ultimate importance than chip sets used or math involved. What's more, both Yamada-
San and Kiuchi-San subscribe to the school of organic sound and would tell those on the super-resolution
highway that they're going nowhere fast. Or, as I was informed once without flattery, if you haven't yet
perfected the art of complete extraction, of everything contained in the 16/44 format, why abandon it in
favor of new formats which, due to even tighter tracks and smaller pits, require extraction skills superior to
those you've demonstrated thus far? First master the basics. Learn to walk before you dare dream of
running. I did tell you about how my correspondent wouldn't mince words, didn't I?

With today's setup, what better way to play investigative audio gumshoe than John Kaizan Neptune's
Tokyosphere on JVC's World Class Music label [3316, 1988]? It's a nouveau shakuhachi celebration
surrounded by purely traditional instruments - two kotos, bass koto, Japanese percussion and kokyu, an
erhu-derivative. It pursues very non-traditional, Jazz-tinged avenues of all-original compositions, with a
variety of flute lengths all the way down to the 2.4 bass shakuhachi. On some tracks, the koto strings are
muted with rubber tubing for a more percussive timbre, or finger-plucked for effect instead of using the
normal tsume picks.

Take "Tokyo Blues". It sees Satomi Fukami's koto hit


quavering diminished fifths, sevenths and other blue notes by skewing the fundamental string pitch with
finger pressure on the far side of the bridge. Eric Golub's double-bowed intervals go way twangy on his
fiddle licks; and John The Mountain Neptune (that's what his middle name signifies) turns mildly raunchy
with slurred glissandi and throat trills. Though essentially cut from very similar cloth, the Zanden DAC's
tubes made for a bit more pronounced soundstage layering, that heightened awareness of performer
placement in the depth perspective often tied to transient reflections within the recording venue. Tonally,
the Reimyo seemed a skoch leaner, this most apparent on string tones. By concentrating on the plucked or
bowed surface event proper, it evoked a different balance between agitated metal and attached resonant
wooden cavity. Alternating between digital feeds, the Reimyo felt a bit more incisive, the Zanden a touch
softer, as though the Combak unit favored the precision of the initial transient attack, the Model 5000 the
middle and end of the same tone. Two subtly different perspectives, none intrinsically superior. That was
exactly what expectations, about superior though disparate digital conversion implementations, would
have predicted.

By the time the happily vocalizing rendition of "Sheikh of Araby" by Harmonious Wail [Gypsy Swing,
Naxos World 76056-2, 2003] came around, I could spot these differences blind. This time, I missed Akiba-
San's Ortho Spectrum AR2000 on the Zanden. Without undoing the tube DAC's phenomenal mix of
musicality, endless decays and harmonic rightness, it adds rhythmic tension, on-the-button timing and Pippi
Longstockings spunk. Its absence on the Model 5000 MkIII now had the Reimyo swing harder; separate
the backup vocals more distinctly; stoke the brilliant fireflies of metallic glitter zipping off Tom Waselchuk's
Selmer-style Rob Aylward guitar with greater liveliness. It came down to the old silver vs gold color
temperature. One is cooler but apparently faster and energetic. The other's warmer, slower and more
comfortable.

Granted, I'm exploding the actual differences to describe them in appreciable terms
- at this level of the game, it's all about subtlety. That said, swing doesn't want Gemütlichkeit. Swing needs
pep. Naturally, once you add the AR2000 to the Cairn/Zanden mix, you get incision and full-bodied magic
- the best of both worlds. But that kind of perfection comes at a price: $11,100 plus a set of good
interconnects and another power cord. In other words, easily double over what the DAP-777 would set
one back. Sounds like a compliment for the Reimyo? You bet. I next needed a test for poise under duress -
something complex and convoluted which, nearly by definition, mandates culling from the classical
repertoire: Jean Sibelius 2nd Symphony in D major Op. 43, with Sir Alexander Gibson conducting the
Royal Scottish National Orchestra on Chandos [6556], cued up to the "Vivacissimo" and subsequent "Lento
a suave" which together make up the 3rd movement.

Once again, the Zanden took the lead in the onion department of layers upon layers, revealing farther
depth of the SNO's Centre in Glasgow. Its tonal distinction already noted still held up and was particularly
noteworthy in the cantabile woodwind interlude of the "Lento", giving the oboe and clarinets more
saturated timbres. Intelligibility of interweaving lines was outstanding with both converters, the pizzicato
filigree of the opening and the staccato brass motif of the transition more acute via the Reimyo. Where the
latter couldn't quite keep up was in the sheer scope of dynamic contrasts where tubes properly used seem
to reign supreme. The Zanden's climactic swells simply represented bigger waves and higher crests. This too
conformed with expectations but also proved that Kiuchi-San's organic mission statement was achievable
with solid-state.

An easy mistake in this reviewing business is to come to premature conclusions, not about what you hear
but what you believe is causing it. In this case, we have 16/44 with no digital but a proprietary analog
reconstruction filter and valved power supply and output stage; and a 20-bit converter with basic 8 x
upsampling, transistors and unspecified tuning. Assigning specific audible qualities to the respective absence
or presence of certain components is impossible. Only the designer knows how the various building blocks
uphold his super structure - which ingredient is responsible for what. All a reviewer can do is point out
sonic traits that remain repeatable with various software and perhaps describe how add-ons like different
power cords, interconnects, resonance attenuating footers or mass-loading devices can shifts the perceived
sonic signature in different directions. Thus far, the Reimyo DAC had proven itself to play in the same
league as the costlier Zanden, causing an experienced listener in a >$70K system context to find certain
qualities preferable with either party, thus turning neither into a clear victor.

Moving to Carmen Lundy's Self Portrait [xrCD JVC 0005-2] for that instant confirmation which always
occurs with truly well-recorded vocals, the harmonic envelope difference between either converter was
spotlighted as anticipated, but gentler than assumed. On Jobim's "Triste", Carmen operates in her alto
register, at the lowest-most reaches her voice is comfortable at. The Reimyo rendered her pipes more lithe
and lissome, the Zanden fleshier and more burnished. Neither at all occupied the extremes of this
cool/warm polarity, being just removed enough from central to remain audible and worthy of mention.
On this stunningly executed K2 album, and with this type of Jazz/lounge material, the articulate/soft
difference shrunk rather than expand, to diminish in impact as though equalized by the recording's
stupendous mastering quality.

Put differently, there was just enough otherness left to suggest that if one of these pieces used tubes, the
Zanden had to be it - but those thermionic notions would be an iffy proposition to begin with. You might
suspect it in the slightly greater weight of Nathan East's bass on "I don't want to love without you", the
marginally rounded-off bite on Ernie Watt's sax - but you wouldn't be sure. Which, returning to our earlier
statement of millimeters rather than inches, is as it should be. Where a lot of digital misses, in the eyes of
analogue devotees? With its lack of believability in the domain of flow and naturalness. These folks
compare digital to a mixed-media collage that's assembled from different bits and pieces. Enough scissor
borders are left to render the final outcome an assemblage rather than unified and grown organic whole.
Regardless of how exactly you describe this involuntary reaction to analog's wholesomeness, nearly every
listener notices it while likely also commenting on the pops, clicks and inconveniences. Naturally, it's this
elusive yet tangible harmonious presence thang that digiphobes cite as the primary reason why they diss
the binary method; not its instant track access nor sheer length of one-sided music content.

The Reimyo DAP-777 didn't play second fiddle to the Zanden's stressless analogue ease. It was merely a bit
more incisive and articulate, a bit less spacious and dynamic. Otherwise, it used the same larger canvas or
context to paint on. It reminded me of a famous Zen story. An acolyte gardener proudly shows off his
skills to the master. It's autumn, with most the leaves fallen. He has meticulously removed any traces of
unruliness, with not a single withered leaf dancing in the wind or nestling in the dry grass. Perfection? Not
according to the Sensei. He finds the real-life balance disrupted, its wildness sanitized. He proceeds to walk
over to the compost area, stuffs the carefully discarded dry leaves into a bag and walks his gardens doling
them out by the bushel, left and right like a ferocious Santa for Christmas. This anecdote hints at a Zen
essential. It abhors artificial perfection, celebrates instead the natural bio rhythm of life. And the Reimyo's
got it, that natural ebb and flow. It just so happens to be more attuned to the timing fixation of popular
music than the Zanden whose more natural habitat --without Akiba-San's analogue reconstructor
intercession -- is the classical domain. With the AR2000 in my usual system, I've already tuned the MkIII to
embrace Take Six's harmonizing but hard-fitting funk without compromise. Could the DAP-777 be tuned in
the opposite direction should one wish to? Time to experiment with the add-ons.

The first order of business was to replace my customary HSM power cord with the Harmonix Studio
Master, to hear the Reimyo DAC as Jonathan Halpern had intended. The software for this bit of aural
sleuthing would be Viento del Este [Nuevos Medios 15675], a potent dose of youthful Cante Jondo sung
by Miguel Poveda who, next to El Potito and Duquende, must be the most promising young Flamenco
cantaor recording today.
 
Nutshell verdict? What I previously said about the Zanden applies to the Studio Master. Put differently, it
nudged the Reimyo closer yet to the Model 5000 - more weight, more scale, a bit less leading edge
acuteness, a mite more ambient retrieval, heftier though rounder bass, a bit more meat but also softness to
what here were truly hair-raising vocals not yet ruined by the excessive emotional honesty that's a hallmark
of the best Flamenco song. To be sure, this minor plumping up did not come at the expense of
undermining energy which, with this kind of fare, would be utterly counter-productive.  
Moving to the 9-volt actively biased blue Omega Mikro Planar with crinkly dielectric increased both focus
and spatiality. It lengthened the very subdued echoes behind Miguel's opening solo as well as the rise of
the echo's bloom. Like all Omega Mikro cables I've heard, the emphasis was on speed, transient attack,
micro detail and a very open top-end which, if not properly accounted for elsewhere, could lead to a loss
of body, warmth and emotional accessibility. While bass weight came in after the Harmonix cord which
should be nicknamed Bass Master, the metallic higher harmonics in Poveda's voice -- a timbre highly prized
by gitanos -- were more readily apparent. The overall sharpening of focus seemed a function of both
lowered noise floor and faster rise times. While I'm not at all sure about outfitting an entire system with
these Planar cords for fear of eventually too much zip & zing, my single loaner snake with silver posts on
the male plug was a very welcome tuning option; especially with this type of high-energy material.  
 
 
To reiterate, the Studio Master added warmth and mass, the Omega Mikro speed and leanness. The
liability inherent in the latter orientation became apparent by goosing the volume. Things got just a touch
bright - very fast, precise and crisp but a smidgen relentless with Poveda's let-it-rip vocal fireworks. 
 
 
Adding to Pierre Sprey's and Ron Bauman's power cord their exceedingly fragile double-ribbon Ebony
digital interconnect with its DC charge on the sheer gossamer sleeve moved yet farther in this direction.
The increase of overall (not just treble) brightness was akin to high-noon sun: Zero shadows of muted
details; concomitant hardness of somewhat merciless exposure. It's what I hear in a lot of Mapleshade
recordings, too. Call it exceptional clarity wedded to sometimes unpleasant steeliness. That's particularly
annoying on a piano recording like Alan Gampel's Chopin & Liszt Sonatas [07382] which I find completely
unlistenable. However, this particular sonic ideal is neither good nor bad. It's just got nothing at all to do
with Mapleshade. One can benefit from doses of its Aspirin thinning/declogging action without
underwriting the whole concept. Simply insert enough Omega Mikro to tip overall balance in the desired
direction, then stop this adrenaline injection short of your patient's blood thinning out so much as to
render him unbearably hyper, caffeine-haggard and angular in his movements. We'll revisit this very unique
and unconventional cable in more detail in the forthcoming review of the Furutech Digi Reference. We'll
learn how its employ on my Zanden DAC affected the overall system presentation, and whether or not it
made my Ortho Spectrum buffer/filter superfluous or not. 
 

 
Besides now having confused the issue about the DAP-777's sound, did we learn anything else from this
brief detour into system synergy grafting? I'd say. It should be clear as Mapleday that the overall package
of this converter is so finely tuned as to respond to ancillary changes like a tweaked chameleon. As I've just
stated in my BPT BP-3.5 Signature review, this degree of responsiveness is a hallmark moment of the very
best components. To paraphrase Spidey, with great resolving power comes great response-ability. For
good or bad, changes that wouldn't budge a denser component could push a more finely calibrated
example over the edge. The margin for indecision shrinks. I once had to remind a manufacturer who was
wavering on submitting a component for review. If you can't take the heat, don't play. What I didn't add?
The obvious - if you don't play, you can't win either. But playing any game never guarantees winning. It's
simply a chance you have to take. 
 
 
On that winning front, the Combak Reimyo DAP-777 is a sure bet. You can't lose. However, don't assume
that the stock converter is a cast-in-stone finality. There are different degrees of winning. To truly release its
max potential in your system context requires tweaking and experimenting with ancillaries. It's called
chasing the dragon's trail of perfect system integration. Naturally, that's true for every audio component.
It's simply that prospective gains -- or misses over what would have been possible -- are more pronounced
and require greater care when you're dealing with this caliber of component. Think volume control with
finer click stops than you're used to: 0.1dB steps. This expanded scope of variability gives more options.
While you may doubt your ability to hear a one-tenth dB difference, you will hear how readily the
Reimyo DAC responds to cable changes.  
 
 
Spending a whole afternoon analizing over just some of the possibilities my inventory promised, I
eventually settled on the Studio Master cord with the Omega Mikro S/PDIF interconnect, over the Planar
cord with the i2digital X-60 as my favorite combination. Exhaustedly, I relegated Pierre's HeavyHat brass
cones to another day when his 4-inch maple platform sized to precisely fit my GPA Monaco arrives. I'll
then test his footers together with his shelf perched atop the carbon fiber struts of my support, to compare
directly against the stock acrylic shelf, the optional Formula carbon/Kevlar shelf and a triplet of Apex
footers. Pierre claims his maple/brass attack on micro resonances outperforms Alvin Lloyd's carbon-fiber,
self-damping freedom-of-motion recipe. Needless to say, on that count, I'm highly skeptical. But there's
only one way to learn, right? In the meantime, I had a life. Endless tweaking, futzing and obsessing simply
ain't part of it. That includes parking an expensive D/A converter on a floor-mounted maple shelf. Pierre
had included one of his standard-size platforms which doesn't fit the Monaco stand's triple-point
Sorbothane layout. Relegating it to the floor, Reimyo atop, simply wasn't part of the picture, sorry.
However, said platform works just dandy underneath the BP-3.5 Sig which is a report for another day. 
 
 
One feature's significance on the DAC has gone unmentioned thus far: The optical input. While usually
considered the ugly duckling of digital connectivity, its implied inferiority vis-à-vis RCA-carried S/PDIF is a
myth in dire need of correction. Depending on the system, a truly superior glass-fiber Toslink like
Wireworld's green Super Nova 5 might actually give superior results over standard RCA cables, for pennies
on the dollar.  
 
My Zanden DAC is too high-brow to bother with optical. That could leave certain customers out in the
cold. Granted, chances that a $10,000 converter will be mated to a transport lacking either RCA, BNC or
AES/EBU outputs are slim to none. But I could envision instances where a music lover might want to
upgrade his front-end in stages. The availability of Toslink on the Reimyo means DVD players or entry-
level CDPs-turned-transports can apply. And that simply equates to more choices.  
 
 
Popular wisdom holds that 16/44 Redbook is on its way out. Poppycock. It remains the dominant software
carrier for some time to come. Period. Music lovers with large investments in CDs and the kind of musical
tastes not served by the current SACD/DVD-A catalogues will continue to rely on Redbook to deliver their
most loved tunes. As the old G.I.G.O. monster reminds us, it's garbage-in, garbage-out. Your system can
only be as good as the information you're putting in. Hence a market for a truly accomplished Redbook
converter still exists, for those audiophiles really serious about their music. That's the customer for whom
today's review subject was designed. It's neither cheap nor frivolous. It doesn't play to the digital number's
war mind set. It's from a smaller Japanese company with limited distribution, albeit backed in the US by
May Audio, an old-time firm with an impeccable track record. On the Zen axis of effortless analogue-type
ease, it plays music as well as my reference. Do I need any further justifications for being impressed? Not.
Seeing that it accomplishes its mission for half the dollar amount I'm used to -- though I do slightly prefer
the Zanden when hitched to the Ortho Spectrum -- the Reimyo moniker of miracle is, in fact, rather
appropriate. Douzoyoroshiku, Reimyo-San - very pleased to make your acquaintance! 
 
Laurence A. Borden reviews the 2005 edition of
Combak's Harmonix Reimyo
DAP-777 20bitK2 DAC
October 10, 2005

Specifications:

Type: 2-channel Redbook CD 16bit/44.1kHz digital-to-analog converter


D/A Converter IC: JVC 20bit K2 multibit IC (16→20 bit Convert)
Digital Filter: 20 bit 8-time Oversampling
Sampling Frequencies: 48kHz, 44.1kHz, 32kHz. Automatic Switching
Phase Inversion: 0˚-180˚ switchable on the back panel
Frequency Response: DC ~ 20kHz (±0.5dB)
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: > 117dB
Dynamic Range: > 100dB
THD: > 0.003%
Channel Separation: > 105dB (1kHz)
Digital Inputs: 1 x Coaxial (RCA), 1 x Optical (Toslink), 1 x BNC, 1 x AES (XLR)
Input Impedance: 75Ω
Analogue Outputs: 4.90 Vrms (XLR), 2.45Vrms (RCA)
Power Requirement: 117V/60Hz, 220-230V/60Hz
Power Consumption: 13.5W
Dimensions: 430(W) x 65.2(H) x 363(D)mm
Weight: 5.3kg
Standard Accessory: X-DC 1.5m AC Power Cord
MSRP: $5,195
Manufacturer:

Combak Corporation
4-20, Ikego 2-chome, Zushi-shi,
Kanagawa 249-0003,
Tel: 046-872-1119
Fax: 046-872-1125
http://www.combak.co.jp/
U. S. Distributor:

May Audio Marketing, Inc.


2150 Liberty Drive, Unit 7,
NIAGARA FALLS, NY
14304-4517, USA
Phone: (800)554-4517 / (716)283-4434
Fax: (716)283-6264
http://www.mayaudio.com
Email: mayaudio1@aol.com

SO MANY DACS, SO LITTLE TIME

Over the years I have auditioned and owned a fair number of DACs and
single-box CD players. Some upsampled, others did not; some had a
tubed output, others solid state; some were moderately priced, others quite
expensive, and still others were somewhere in between. While virtually all of
them had some good (or very good) sonic properties, they invariably left me
wanting...more.

My first exposure to the Reimyo line of electronics occurred approximately


two years ago, at the Stereophile-sponsored Home Entertainment Expo.
The Reimyo room was, as others have described it, something of a refuge
from the typical over-bearing, overly-bright, hyper-detailed sound so
common at such shows. The Reimyo room was warm and soothing, and
filled with oodles of rich harmonics that brought tranquility to those who sat
and listened. I knew immediately that I wanted to learn more about the
Reimyo line.

The digital source in use was the incredible Reimyo CDP-777 CD player,
which I had the pleasure of subsequently hearing at the home of Jules
Coleman, my audio-buddy and reviewer at 6Moons. To say that I was
impressed with this player would be the understatement of the year.
Unfortunately, no matter how much I rationalized, the bottom line was that its
(approximately) $15,000 MSRP wouldn’t fit into...my bottom line. While
wallowing in disappointment a few synapses fired and I recalled having read
a glowing review by Constantine Soo, our own editor, of a Reimyo DAC
which was more modestly priced than their CD player. I quickly read some
other reviews of the Reimyo DAP-777 DAC, which concurred with
Constantine’s impressions. After a telephone call to Constantine I decided
to do something atypical for me, namely, to buy the DAP-777 sight unseen.
For the last year the DAP-777 has provided constant enjoyment, and has
impressed all who have heard it. When Reimyo announced earlier this year
that the DAP-777 had undergone a series of upgrades, I was of course
eager to try it out.

NO DAC IS AN ISLAND

I originally used the new DAP-777 as I had the older model, with a CEC
TL1x transport. Part way through the review the CEC was replaced with a
Sony CDP-707 ES, the transport section of which was heavily modified by
Alex Peychev of aplhifi. Speakers throughout the review process were the
incredible Horning Agathon Ultimates. If you haven’t had a chance to hear
this speaker, or one of Tommy Horning’s other models, I suggest you
contact Jeff Catalano of High Water Sound in New York City, the U.S.
importer, to arrange an audition. Amplification was via a Kondo Sound
Labs M77 preamp and Tube Distinctions Soul amplifier. 47 Lab’s
GainCard also saw occasional use. Equipment sat on racks from Harmonic
Resolution Systems. The digital signal was conveyed from transport to
DAC via a Stealth Audio Varidig Sextet cable. The analogue signal passed
from DAC to preamp via a Stealth Indra interconnect, from preamp to amp
via a Stealth GS-50-50 interconnect, and from amp to speaker via Stealth
MLT hybrid speaker cables. Yes, I like Stealth cables.

Listening took place in my new dedicated listening room, the dimensions of


which are 15’ x 21’ x 9’. In each corner is mounted a Mondo Trap from
RealTraps, and in the ceiling-wall interfaces are a series of SoffitTraps (also
from RealTraps). On the ceiling are hung ten Skyline Diffusors (Low Profile)
from RPG. A series of absorbent panels are positioned on the side walls at
the first reflections points, and immediately behind the listener.

WE HAVE IGNITION
Physically, the new unit is indistinguishable from the earlier model, except
that the Reimyo name (on the face plate) is a slightly different shade. Rather
than describing the arrangement of the inputs, controls and indicator lights, I
will refer you to Constantine’s earlier review (see bottom). I am pleased to
report that the unit has performed flawlessly since the day it arrived.

As Constantine described previously in the News section (see bottom), the


upgrades are as follows:

1). The PCB has been redesigned to improve signal flow.

2). The new unit employs higher-grade Harmonix tuning feet, the same ones
used on the $15,495 CDP-777 CD Player.

3). The new unit includes a newly designed, 1.5m long AC power cord as
opposed to the 1.0m version from previous production.

4). The new unit has more extensive application of Harmonix’ unique tuning
technology.

5). The weight of the unit increased from 4.7kg to 5.26kg.

It was apparent from the first listen that the newly designed unit was cut from
the same sonic cloth as the older model. All the things that I liked were still
there: the rich detail, the dynamics, and the harmonic smoothness were
present in spades. However, the upgraded unit brought some added
benefits. Most notable was a quieter background, which allowed more
detail to be heard. I should emphasize that this was not the kind of hyper-
detail that is so prevalent in audio nowadays, and which is characterized by
an emphasis of certain frequencies. Rather, with the upgraded Reimyo,
enhanced detail was heard throughout the frequency range. It never
seemed forced or contrived but simply let more of the music flow through.

An added effect of the darker background was improved microdynamics.


That is, one can more clearly discern the attack, sustain and decay of notes,
which give the sense of the music being fuller and more complete.
Moreover, the Reimyo DAP-777 does not tend to favor one part of the
spectrum at the expense of others, a property which adds to its relative
neutrality. This was especially apparent with stringed instruments, at which
the DAP-777 truly excelled. Some noteworthy examples I used in my
auditioning included Heartland. An Appalachian Anthology (Sony SK
89683), which features (amongst others) Yo-Yo Ma on cello, Edgar Meyer
on bass, Sam Bush on mandolin, Mark O’Conner on violin, and Bela Fleck
on banjo; Steve Earl’s wonderful folk renditions on Train a Comin’ (Winter
Harvest Entertainment WH 3303-2); Jorma Kaukonen’s tribute to country
music on Blue Country Heart (Sony CK 86394); and for blues, the
incomparable Big Bill Broonzy’s Trouble in Mind (Smithsonian Folkways
recordings LC 9628). In each case, instruments were reproduced with
marvelous body and harmonics, and appropriate size and weight. Each
retained its individuality, while blending beautifully with those accompanying
it.

The new DAP-777 was equally adept at reproducing brass. Noteworthy


examples include Norris Turney’s alto saxophone on Big Sweeet n Blue
(Mapleshade MS 02632), Clifford Jordan’s tenor sax on Live at Ethel’s
(MapleShade MS 56292), and the Count Basie Orchestra on 88 Basie
Street. Through the DAP-777, horns were biting yet simultaneously sweet,
largely devoid of the hard edge so commonly heard with digital recordings.

The DAP-777 reproduced human voice with remarkable clarity. On


“Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” from Strike a Deep Chord (Justice JR
0003-2), Dr. John’s voice was husky and full, while Odetta’s was melodious
and sweet, both largely devoid of digital artifact. My friend Bill Stratton sings
baritone in the “New Life Quartet.” On “Dem Dry Bones” from the album I
Believe in Miracles, (True Light Productions http://www.soundclick.
com/bands/NewLifeQuartet ), the harmonies were reproduced with
breathtaking vividness, which enhanced the song’s spiritual message. Last
but not least was Ella. How can I possibly find words to describe Ella’s
voice on “Too Darn Hot,” “I Love Paris,” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,”
from The Cole Porter Songbook (Verve 821 989-2 and 821 990-2)?
Suffice it to say that through the new DAP-777, she sounded as magical as
ever I’ve heard her.

The new DAP-777 also did a marvelous job of conveying music’s dynamics
and energy. The Blues Jumpers’ “Thanks for the Boogie Ride” ( Wheels
Start Turning, Ridge Recordings) had me out of my seat and boogy-ing,
while Cream’s “Steppin’ Out”(Live Cream Volume II, Polydor UDCD 2-625)
had me bouncing all over the room playing air guitar. Glad no one was
watching.

As was true of the older model, the new DAP-777 is sufficiently revealing to
allow one to readily discern changes in other parts of the audio chain. For
example, the modded Sony had a distinctly different sonic presentation from
the CEC transport, just as various interconnects sounded different from one
another.

As I have described in detail elsewhere ("How important is soundstaging?"),


I do not put much emphasis on the soundstaging and imaging present in
most studio recordings. However, I do feel that the natural ambience
present in some live recordings adds considerably to the listening
experience. The revised DAP-777 did an excellent job of conveying this
aspect of the music in a natural, believable manner, as evidenced with Live
at Ethel’s, and Jimmy Vivino’s wonderful tribute to Mike Bloomfield and
Albert King on “Albert’s Shuffle” (Al Kooper Soul of a Man: Live,
MusicMasters D 206948). I should add in passing that the soundstage of
the revised DAC was slightly more forward than that of the earlier model. I
had no preference for one over the other.

As mentioned above, the revised DAC provided better delineation of the


notes as compared to the older model. And yet, the newer model provided
an improved sense of the music’s continuity. While this may at first blush
seem paradoxical or contradictory, I believe this speaks to the DAP-777’s
ability to capture the inherent properties of music, thereby effectively
conveying the music’s emotional content. While the earlier model excelled
at this property, the new unit is even better. In my opinion, this is the most
significant aspect of the new unit, as it makes the music sound more
analogue-like.

We have all experienced the phenomenon whereby as our systems gain


resolution, poor recordings become increasingly difficult to listen to. We
thus fall into the audiophile trap of listening to good recordings, rather than
to good music. While the DAP-77 can’t make a poor recording great - -as
the saying goes, one cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear - - it does
make poor recordings more enjoyable than do many other high-end
components. This is not because it blurs or sugar-coats but rather, because
it allows the essential musical elements - - those present even on poor
recordings -- to come through. I cannot overstate the significance of this
property, as I found myself listening to and enjoying a number of CDs which I
had been ignoring for years.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Digital technology has improved considerably over the past few years, and
enthusiasts can now choose from a wide variety of CD players and DACs.
While many units are competent, there are only a few that stand out from the
crowd. The older generation Reimyo DAP-777 was, in my opinion, one of
the better DACs on the market. It captured the essential essence of the
music, portrayed it without artifice or embellishment, and provided wonderful
tonality. The new unit retains these virtues, and adds to them a greater
degree of refinement. While its list price of $5,195 is not insignificant, I
regard this DAC as one the true bargains in digital audio. I was sufficiently
impressed that I bought the review model. ‘nuff said.
 

HARMONIX REIMYO DAP-777 20bitK2 DAC


by Constantine Soo
March 1, 200
FOREWORD
Digital audio has been garnering the highest visibility among other equipment
of a complete audio system for two decades, and progression of that segment
of the consumer electronics industry has also been attracting talents from a
wide range of disciplines. To this day, manufacturers continue to advance
their understanding of every aspect of digital audio, and the fiercely
competitive spirit gave birth to generations of technologies of such increasing
complexities, that they almost dwarfed the very invention of the format itself.

Standing at the forefront for advancing the quality of the Redbook CD format,
hardware manufacturers from each continent are not the only ones making
appreciable progress, efforts by record companies in various countries have
also been monumental. Between the hardware and software industries, Sony
made the most visible progress in its development of the Direct Stream
Digital™ archival technology and the Super Audio Compact Disc medium.

Yet, in refining the RBCD standard, Victor Company of Japan, or JVC, has
been the one force undertaking some of the most fanatical measures since
the early 80s, as exemplified in the development of the DAS-900 digital
audio mastering system. The label’s CD’s made with the DAS-900 in the
early 80’s retain a highly resolute sound that can compare favorably even
against many other label’s releases of the day.

For the past few years, JVC has been producing the exclusive Extended
Definition Compact Disc (XRCD), a CD that is created under some of the
strictest quality control protocols in the industry, from recording to disc
pressing. Succinctly, the company’s proprietary 20bitK2 A/D converter is
used during recording, with the Digital K2 machine regenerating resultant
clock signals for transferring to a magneto-optical disc. At the pressing plant,
the 20-bit disc is then reconstituted again via JVC’s 20bitK2 D/A converter,
then converted into a true 16-bit signal using the K2 Super Coding machine.
Finally, the K2 Laser regenerates the EFM-encoded signal during glass
cutting.

The subject of this review, the Harmonix Reimyo DAP-777 DAC, incorporates
the JVC 20bitK2 D/A converter IC.

Spearheaded by Combak Corporation’s Managing Director, Kazuo Kiuchi,


the DAP-777 20bitK2 DAC is the prodigy child of Mr. Kiuchi’s “High Tech
Fusion” concept, signifying a convergence of resources in creating a product
that houses the pride of 3 of the most admired Japanese companies that are
the gems among its own kind: Combak, JVC and Kyodo Denshi.

On choosing Japan Victor’s K2 IC processor for his DAP-777, as well as the


DAC’s overall design, Mr. Kiuchi offers the following words:

“JVC’s K2 IC Processing is a very unique technology, totally different from


other IC technology. The core of the K2 contains an exclusive process in
the generation of an analog sine wave, which facilitates the outputting of a
full, 20-bit analog signal at the output terminals. Note that upsampling only
achieves a 16-bit resolution, because there is no true information between
16- to 24-bit. The music we hear from upsampling is still of 16-bit resolution,
while the JVC 20bitK2 is a true 20-bit, sine wave product.

When you compare the DAP-777 against other upsampling converter in


playing acoustic instruments, you can hear more information, smoother
textures, more acoustic cues within the listening space, and thus more
touching to the heart of the listener. The sound of the DAP-777 is, therefore,
of analog.

This is also the very reason why many reviewers who tested and compared
DAP-777 and upsampling concluded that the DAP-777 sounded better than
upsampling, and much closer to their reference LPs. Harmonix is of the
opinion that the significance of D/A conversion is not in number of bits but
how much information the unit can truly output.
All internal wires are specially designed for DAP-777 and the wirings are
solder-less as in the new CAT-777 preamplifier and PAT-777 300B stereo
power amplifier.

Designing a simple but good circuit is a wonderful challenge for any


electronic engineer but this is where I’ve done a lot of research in. It can be
stated that Audio is Art and nothing else, and it depends on the individual
who created it and how much he cared.”

The $5.5k K2 DAC is Combak Corporation’s U.S. debut in offering high-end


audio equipment. On releasing the company’s first major product under the
Harmonix name, please refer to the new commentary, “Combak’s Kazuo
Kiuchi on Harmonix Reimyo”.

REVIEW SETUP

Measuring only about 2.5 inches high, the DAP-777 joins Linn’s $9,000
Klimax Twin power amplifier in sporting a modernistic, slim portfolio. A lone,
protruding knob on the left of the front panel controls input selection, and lights
to the right confirms input sampling frequencies and signal lock status. A
toggle on the rear panel is provided for an 180-degree phase inversion. The
DAP-777 accepts all standard digital inputs, such as coaxial, BNC, AES/XLR
and Toslink.

My K2 DAC was previously used by the audiophile record label First


Impression Music, a Seattle, WA-based recording studio whose releases are
trusted by reviewers worldwide in equipment evaluation. FIM’s president,
Winston Ma, fortified the outer rim of the K2 DAC’s AC inlet with a metal
brace for stabilization of heavier AC cords, such as my Granite Audio #560.

Loth X’s $15k JI300 300B integrated amplifier, 47 Laboratory’s $26.8k 4704
PiTracer and Audio Note’s $20k, ALNICO-equipped, silver-proliferated Audio
Note ANE-SEC Silver loudspeakers provided the evaluation platform for the
K2 DAC. For additional perspectives, Sony’s SCD-777ES SACD/CD player
were rotated as a transport with the 47 Lab PiTracer, and Audio Note’s $10k,
M5 preamplifier, as well as Reimyo’s own newest $17k tube preamplifier, the
CAT-777, also took turns in controlling either of the two power amplifiers: the
$9k Linn Klimax Twin stereo power amplifier or the $27k Reimyo PAT-777
300B power amplifier.

Audio Note’s $30k DAC 5 Special provided insights into the potential of the
Reimyo DAC, and digital cables used between the transport and DAC was
AN’s own top-of-the-line Sogon. Interconnects were AN’s Sogon and AN-Vx,
and speaker cables were the SPx, all made with the British company’s
proprietary silver conductors. Also worthy of particular mentioning is Tannoy’s
$19k Churchill Wideband loudspeaker, the 15-inch, Dual-Concentric™
methodology of which contrasted the AN sound in according more in-depth
understanding of the K2 DAC.

AUDITION
Via the silver-wired Audio Note AN-E SEC Silver loudspeakers,
smooth texturing was the foremost attribute of the K2 DAC, as
First Impression Music’s SACD hybrid, The Four Seasons (FIM
SACD 052), was rendered with an underlying, fine-grained
tonality that complimented a pristine and rich texturing, making
for some of the most fluidic and reverberating tonalities.

From the warm and intimate acoustics of Italy’s Kirche Chiesa di S. Vigilio
Church, to the refreshingly original and thoughtfully vigorous performance of
the 8-person Sonatori De La Gioiosa Marca, the K2 DAC distinguished itself
in its tube-like delicacy and a soft but pristine top-end.

Manifested by both the Audio Note AN-E SEC Silver and the Tannoy Churchill
Wideband, the K2 DAC also exhibited an ability of producing top to bottom
spectral coherency plus substantial dynamic scaling in portraying contrasts
among instruments, traits normally accorded by machines with far more
substantial power management systems, such as those in the Audio Note
Super DAC, and the Wadia 27 Decoding Computer I once owned.
Take FIM’s another hybrid SACD, Autumn In Seattle (FIM
SACD 040), for example. The disc’s wonderfully dimensional
and evocative sound from the CD layer was complemented by
the K2 DAC’s competence in contrasting dynamic variance
among the communal and congruous playing of the trio of
pianist Tsuyoshi Yamamoto, bassist Ken Kanek o and

drummer Toshio Osumi, as the K2’s competence in contrasting dynamic


variances among the trio of instruments were summarily exploited by the
highly resolute AN speaker, while the Tannoy’s 15-inch Dual-Concentric™
impressed with the K2 DAC’s tonal wholeness on each instrument.

Convincingly, the K2 DAC conveyed the conciseness and subtlety of the


gentlemen’s camaraderie without subduing the rare flare and fluidity in the
occasional, instantaneous power plays.

Also deserving special notice was the Reimyo’s textural sophistication, which
imparted some of the most profound impressions on recordings of closed-
mike instruments and vocals alike.

One such rewarding listening experience was Mobile Fidelity


Sound Lab’s Modern Cool (MoFi UDSACD 2003), a disc
whose Redbook CD layer possessed tremendous details in
depicting a magnetic Patricia Barber in a highly personable
performance. Reimyo DAP-777’s ability of revealing the
immediacy of vocal and instrumental textures embedded in the MFSL disc
was engaging, repeatedly pulling the vocalist into the listening space with her
“alluring” presence, a descriptive appropriately penned by DAGOGO’s music
reviewer, Mike Silverton, in his December 2003 Review on the MFSL disc.
Discs of non-audiophile concern, such as Deutsche
Grammophon’s latest chamber music of Brahms:
Klavierquartett op. 25, Schumann: Fantasiestucke, op. 88 (DG
289 463 700-2), revealed a soothing warmth in the playing of
the world-class virtuosi’s mastery via the K2 DAC, a sonorous

lamentation that was at the same time expertly and ingeniously instilled with
spontaneous zests. Listening to the K2 DAC’s presentation of Martha
Argerich’s lyrical piano and Gidon Kremer’s technically peerless fiddling
reaffirmed what a well-designed solid-state DAC could do.

THE COMPANY OF YET OTHERS

Some proclaims that upsampling DACs have the ability of elevating the
performance of a digital front end with modest transport. The Reimyo
Harmonix was willing to accommodate in that regard to a certain point.

For example, changing the transport from the 47 Lab PiTracer to the Sony
SCD-777ES SACD/CD player resulted in loss of finer details and lesser tonal
differentiation; but the SCD-777ES/DAP-777 coupling was far livelier and
more dimensional than the Sony on its own D/A converting scheme. Then,
more extreme experimentation in the form of my $599 Sony DVD player
working as transport with the K2 DAC yielded unremarkable results.

Last not least, substituting Audio Note Sogon digital cable with others I had on
hand significantly impeded the K2 DAC’s ability to perform, with the most
notable casualty of tonality and transient development.

CONCLUSION

The emergence of the Harmonix Reimyo DAP-777 20bitK2 DAC from the
collaboration between Combak, JVC and Kyodo Denshi marks a new era in
industrial design and manufacturing. Each capable of fashioning a finished
product, the three companies’ partnership in bringing the Harmonix Reimyo
DAP-777 to the consumers sets an admirable precedence in the industry, and
we may never set our eyes on the likes of it again.

In my eyes, the $5,500 K2 DAC is priceless by its birthright.

Sonically, the Harmonix Reimyo DAP-777 is one solid-state DAC endowed


with the attributes of superb spectral coherency and a ultra-solid
soundstaging, solidly reaffirming the value of the embedded technological
fusion. The successive interplay of the two attributes contributed enormously
to rewarding listening sessions, caressing my sensibilities in each passing
second with a sonic beauty that implicated an inner sound from every disc in
my collection.

While it remains my hope to see a “trickled-down” unit utilizing the same


technological foundation of the DAP-777 which will surely be music to every
audiophile’s ears, I believe the one product already endowed with a higher
application of the 3 companies’ expertise, namely the CDP-777 integrated
player, is harnessing potentials that bewilder even the most imaginative
speculations.

The superiority of Audio Note’s DAC 5 Special has yet to be matched; but the
$5,500 Harmonix Reimyo K2 DAC so increasingly and unequivocally
reminded me so much of the AN Super DAC in each listening that I was not
able to forsake it. It remains turned on and connected next to the AN Super
DAC even to this day.
*

POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 34

reimyo
DAP-777 DAC and CDT-777 transport
as reviewed by Marshall Nack

MARSHALL NACK'S SYSTEM

LOUDSPEAKERS
Kharma Exquisite-Midi.

ELECTRONICS
mbl 5011 preamplifier and mbl 8011 AM and monoblocks.

SOURCES
VYGER Baltic M turntable, Linn LP12, LINGO, EKOS tonearm, ARKIV II cartridge, AHT Non-Signature phono preamp modified by
Walker Audio, ART Audio Vinyl Reference, and an Extremephono Limited Edition cable. mbl 1521A transport, mbl 1511F DAC.

CABLES
Interconnects are TARA Labs 0.8, Kubala-Sosna Emotions, Kondo, and Kharma Enigma. Digital cables are TARA Labs 0.8, Kubala-
Sosna Emotions, and Kondo. Speaker wires are TARA Labs 0.8, Kubala-Sosna Emotions, and Harmonix. AC power cords are Tara
Labs 0.8, Kubala-Sosna Emotions, and Harmonix.

ACCESSORIES
TAOC Rack and TITE-35S component footers, Walker Audio Tuning Discs and Valid Points for LP turntable, Harmonix RFA-78i Room
Tuning Discs, RFS-66ZX Tuning Feet, TU-888 Tuning Board, CORE Designs amp stands, Acoustic System Resonators, Marigo VTS
Dots, Argent Room Lenses, Echo Buster & Sonex acoustic panels, TARA Labs PM/2 and IDAT power conditioners, and Ensemble
Mega PowerPoint outlet strips.

Some days I find myself perched in the sweet spot actively engaged in yawns. You too? Do you find
yourself sitting before the altar, thinking "Okay, what next? Isn't there something more involving,
something more meaningful to this hobby?"

Perhaps we both need to open the windows and wash away the stale truisms, to gain a fresh
perspective on the direction our hobby has taken. Pose the basic question "What do you look for when
listening to music?" to "normal" folk and I imagine they'd respond with two requirements. First, it has to
sound like instruments playing. More than anything, this is a function of recognition of tone and timbre.
Second, there must be communication. This one is more difficult to pin down as it has to do with
subtle cues based on how the notes are articulated and strung together over time to create the
melody.

Now inquire the same from a mainstream audiophile and chances are you'd get back an entirely
different set of requirements along the lines of it has to have blinding Speed! extreme Resolution!
earth-shaking Dynamics! (the Three Tenets of Audiophilia). Now that's a rather grand canyon, eh?

Why the disjuncture? Outside of mainstream 'phile circles, do you think anyone cares about the Three
Tenets? Aren't they kind of secondary? If that's primarily what you're focusing on, sooner or later you
will grow weary. That's when you find yourself staring from the sweet spot, yawning.

Maybe it's time for an excursion to the far side, where you'll find a fringe group of audiophiles who
embrace the more pedestrian requirements of musical reproduction. These guys seek tonal color and
musical communication above all for those hours spent sitting before the altar.

Who are these outlaws, where do they hang out, and what gear are they buying?
That's easy. They generally do their listening in the proximity of tubes—glowing filaments are common
to most. Their gear ranges from the extreme of low-wattage SET amps paired with high-efficiency,
single-driver speakers, to push-pull amps with more powerful tubes like the 811 and 845, to some of
the new Class D solid-state gear. (A lot of Class D is voiced to emulate the hallmarks of SET devices,
but success here is variable and mostly superficial.)

If you're still with me at this point, you're either a member of the fringe or still yawning. In either case,
read on, 'cause I've got a front-end you should know about. But first, let me tell you how I spent my
summer vacation.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Lynn and I were looking for a new destination, someplace easily accessible, but foreign enough to be
interesting. An ad for Ottawa, Canada promoted those criteria—a Western European culture on a
sweet package deal. However, it also seemed a bit risky from the point of view of what's a tourist to do
there. Only one person in my acquaintance had spent time in Ottawa for other than business reasons,
and he was kind of cool on it and wouldn't give it a recommendation. Then we discovered that the city
hosts a summer chamber music festival. In fact, the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival bills
itself as the largest of its kind in the world. Now my curiosity was really piqued. Still… most of the
listed performers were unknown quantities. We went ahead and booked, even with our mixed
expectations.

After a short flight, we dropped our bags at our business-class hotel, freshened up and were able to
make the second half of a 2 o'clock performance at a nearby church. At once my reservations were
dashed, for two reasons: the level of performance was seriously good, at least as good as what I hear
in the second-tier venues around Manhattan, and the sound. The sound would prove exceptional in
every venue we visited during the course of the week. Because Ottawa doesn't have a suitable hall for
chamber music and there were often multiple events booked for the same timeframe, churches and
college lecture halls were lined up. The great thing was the majority of them were within walking
distance and admission to nearly all was included in the general ticket price.
We sat in four historic churches and one college lecture hall. Three had plaster interiors; one was
stone; and one which we attended at 11 PM on a stormy night to hear Olivier Messian's Quartet for
the End of Time was dark wood, dimly lit, and sweltering, with at least a 105% humidity level (sic). But
the sense of community present at that late-night, over-subscribed event was spooky. The close
physical conditions, the religious iconography, the transcendent music—all melded into a mystical
conveyance of just the sort I imagine Messian would have wished for. I've never experienced this
degree of sublime, ecstatic transport before or since.

We spent an idyllic week shuttling between successions of acoustic concerts in the various venues. All
offered glorious, unamplified sound that was more beautiful and warmer than I'm used to.

So I came home and reevaluated my own sound. The biggest areas of slippage were in beauty of
tone, timbre and something I call musical flow (a phrase I use to describe the succession of notes and
how they are joined). Not resolution or detail, or soundstaging, or even speed and dynamics, but in the
principle things that truly define music. (This report card was a lot better than I had anticipated.)

A little tweaking was in order to bring things in line. The next day, when my first audiophile visitor
came by, what's the very first thing he said? "Hey, it sounds lovely. Kind of warm, though, isn't it?"
Yes…

The DAP-777 and the CDT-777

The Reimyo DAP-777 DAC arrived a few weeks later. The DAP-777 has been around for a while and
is in its Mk II version. The one I was sent had seen service at the HE 2007 show last spring.
It was there that I saw the CDT-777 transport at its world premier. It looked intriguing and I made
inquiries. I was sent a factory fresh unit, one of the first to reach our shores.

In a Mellow Tone

There ensued typical late summer evenings at Nack Labs. I'd come home from work, make myself
comfortable on the couch with that weeks' New Yorker magazine, and let the Reimyo front-end play in
the background, burning-in. (The CDT-777 needs at least a week of 24/7 play to give an inkling of its
potential, and eleven days to fully mature.) But keeping it in the background proved harder than you
might think: whatever I was engaged in became difficult to concentrate on. The Reimyo kept intruding,
extending its invitation and soliciting my acknowledgement of its music-making.

The Reimyo spell was intact. Good tone is a given with the brand. You can depend on it for a warm
and inviting tone that won't be remotely associated with transistors, even though both the DAP-777
DAC and CDT-777 transport are solid-state.

The frequency blend has a nearly ideal allotment of bass, mid and treble, to my ear at any rate.
Instruments have gorgeous tone: warm, dark, luxuriously rich and full-bodied, with a definite acoustic
patina. What this does to classical strings is just this side of beautiful, quite unlike the majority of
quality front-ends, which tend to locate their voice closer to the accurate—often analytical or
mechanical—side of things.

The top-end is sweet and liberally limber, not thin and not brittle, and always manages to hold together
without glare or breakup, even at top volumes. The mid to high treble is a little under-represented.

I can tell you the midrange is warm, fleshy, and very satisfying, and that's about it: there's not much
else to comment upon here.
As mentioned above, the bottom end is over-represented, especially the upper bass. It's part of the
Reimyo voicing and serves to heighten dynamic impact.

The whole is impeccably integrated and arrives coherently on a stage with a grainless and smooth
surface. Dimensionality is excellent in the width and good front to back. Images have proper shape
and size and are round and massive. The Reimyo front-end always stays composed and collected
across the range of dynamics, never altering its character, displaying the same tonal qualities from top
to bottom. But, and this is key, there's not an aggressive bone—or for that matter, even an unpleasant
one—in its body. This extends to the transients, which are soft.

The tone is so good—approximating an idealized version of an instrument, like what you might hear
given the best instrument played in the best sounding hall—that, it must be said, it's even better than
what you're likely to encounter in everyday experience. Let's make that clear: The Reimyo front-end is
voiced to realize the designer's vision. Its goal is an idealized aesthetic take on reality, not to replicate
daily experience.

Neutral? No.

What comes in is one thing. What comes out is adjusted to correct perceived flaws in the source to
make it conform to that vision. This is achieved through application of the renowned Harmonix tuning
(another trademark from the same parent company).

Harmonix tuning is powerful medicine. I remember my first encounter with their extensive line of
footers and tweaks. It "repaired" problems nothing else seemed able to address. It was a revelation,
resulting in a system that became truly enjoyable for the first time, even if it wasn't neutral.

Most of us are grappling with the BIG issues on the level of "Is the thing even listenable given the
sizzling top end, the lack of bass… (fill in your specific dragons)?" The Reimyo gear will win you this
battle, with its ability to "correct" and enhance.

Tidal Crests

In addition to the tone, you get stellar macro-dynamics. They are delivered in spades, bigger than any
digital front-end I've come across. The Reimyo duo brings to bear fearsome tidal wave crescendos
that may even shock you when it roars. The sense of power is always there, lurking even in soft
passages or those with only treble material. Perhaps there is more energy allocated to the bottom-end
than there should be, strictly speaking, but then I've yet to encounter an audio geek who's gonna
complain about that—as long as the bottom is tight. This aspect reminds me of the overachieving
Reimyo PAT-777, an 8-watt 300B SET amp that was able to generate convincing dynamics with the
89dB efficient Kharma CRM 3.2s I had at the time. That combos' low-end force shouldn't have been: it
left visitors wide-eyed witness to the miracle of Reimyo's 8-watts.

You also expect the Reimyo front-end to image well and segregate instrumental lines. The highly
isolated images keep confusion to a minimum; you very clearly hear who's playing what. Now, this is
something I don't really find in the concert-going experience, but I know most audiophiles are gonna
spill saliva over. At a live event, I localize instruments by their tone and especially their timbre; I've yet
to hear imaging of the sort audiophiles talk about.

In Terms of PRAT

The Reimyo was at its best with small to medium sized jazz combos, source material that requires
good, weighty dynamics with few instrumental lines. Resolution is high up there (if not supplanting the
gold medal holder, the mbl Noble Line of digital separates).
You know how some components are able to push the beat to get your toe-a-taping? Well, here the
Reimyo was a bit languid. This may be due to the ever-present burden of lugging that low-end weight
around, which for all its abundance was pretty tight—actually, it's pretty tight across the frequency
spectrum and doesn't evidence a lack of control anywhere—but still, it's a load to carry around. Now
that I think of it, more likely it is due to the pervasive smoothness and soft, non-aggressive transients.
The Reimyo front-end definitely generates excitement, but it is due to things other than pacing.

This observation came to light while listening to Bill Charlap Plays George Gershwin (Blue Note
860669). Some consider Mr. Charlap and his long-standing rhythm section, the brothers Peter and
Kenny Washington, among the foremost, most engaging jazz trios on the scene. (I'm in that camp.)
These guys are always in a lock-step groove. I was enjoying the piano trio so much I put it on for
demonstration purposes, but a visiting drummer filed a complaint. Through the Reimyo, he said, the
attacks are soft and there's not enough SNAP.

If you're into warm, acoustical sound—say you like classical winds and strings, like me—you're gonna
love the Reimyo's rendering of these instruments. If PRAT is foremost on your list, you may take issue
with the transients.

Degrees of Digititus

The doctor says the symptoms are completely eradicated. And so they are. The Reimyo front-end
completely abolishes the ailments we commonly refer to as digititus, i.e. the sizzling treble transients
that nearly take your ears off; the thin tone; the grainy texture; the hyped soundstage. All of these
symptoms are vanquished—no digititus, lads.

Yet, for all the big, marvelous tone and image separation, sometimes I would have to ask, was that an
organ's pedal note or a roll on the kettledrum? Was that a trumpet or a soprano sax? Is that an upright
or an electric bass? Occasionally, I was left guessing about the ID of instruments. How can that be?
While the Reimyo duo doesn't sound at all digital, something else is afoot. A conundrum.

I've taken to calling this puzzle the second-degree burn of digititus. It is present to some degree in all
digital front-ends. In fact, this is one of the major differences between digital and analog: compared to
analog, timbral portrayal is not as complete. The Reimyo is actually pretty good in this respect, a lot
better than most digital front-ends.

Wires and such


Inside the CDT-777 shipping box is another cardboard box with the included 1.5 m X-DC2 power cord
and this assortment of goodies: the Disc Stabilizer, the remote and the tuning feet. The latter requires
assembly. You screw the rigid aluminum arms in to the bottom four corners. Next, attach what look
like gunmetal aluminum spikes. (A set of washers can be used between the aluminum arms and the
spikes for leveling purposes.) You can purchase the CDT-777 without the X-DC2 power cord for a
commensurate reduction in price; or you can move up to the X-DC Studio Master for a premium.
(Likewise for the 1.5 m X-DC2 power cord that comes with the DAP-777.)

I used Studio Master PCs straight into the wall to get the classic Harmonix sound. As the CDT only
provides single-ended outputs, I used the new, and wonderful, TARA Labs CCI digital cable with RCA
connectors. The DAP-777 has a full complement of Coaxial, Optical, BNC and XLR inputs, and both
RCA and XLR outputs. For the DAP-777 outputs to the preamp, I used TARA The 0.8 balanced ICs.

The DAP-777 is a slim-line design. It doesn't weigh much (5.3kg), or have a large footprint (430W x
65.2H x 363D mm). Build quality is high for a $5K component. The brushed aluminum face and end
plate are finished with curved corners. Black aluminum covers the chassis.

The top loading CDT-777 is also on the small side. Overall size including the footers is 466W x 361D x
131H. Weight is 14.0kg. Like the DAP-777, build quality is high for its $8.5K price.
The Disc Stabilizer, spikes and the tuning spike bases are the usual Harmonix object d'art, black and
beautifully finished. The Disc Stabilizer is magnetized and attracted to the CD spindle, thus furnishing
a relatively firm grip on the silver disc—even though it uses a Philips CD Pro drive mechanism it could
be firmer. The access drawer cover over the CD drive mechanism could have silkier action. It feels like
an old FM tuning dial without fly-wheel assist. CDs load and stop spinning in an average amount of
time. The plastic remote works fine.

One thing to note: be sure to turn off both Reimyo components when listening to other sources. These
are the first products of my acquaintance that negatively impacted other sources if left on. When I
listened to my mbl digital, both Reimyo pieces had to be turned off.

Conclusion

It was shortly after my summer vacation that I auditioned the Reimyo DAP-777 and CDT-777 front-
end. What I heard that week away at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival was deliciously
warm and inviting, more so than I'm used to. This proved propitious: it prepared me well to receive the
Reimyo's dialect.

You might find, as I did, the Reimyo spell fairly irresistible. It's easy to succumb and can suck you in
against your will. Even during burn-in, it was difficult to keep its music-making in the background.

There's the major-league macro dynamics. Take note: the Reimyo's low-end has more wallop and
thrust than any digital rig I've met to date. This alone is going to make a lot of audiophiles take notice.
It might be a bit oversize, lending it a slightly dark tonal balance, but then, who's complaining, as long
as it's tight. Music escalates smoothly and crescendos in a natural, very weighty, swell. Those
crescendos are mighty satisfying. You will like how the taut and fleshy images are well segregated
and stable in their locations, lending the soundstage an admirable solidity and keeping confusion to a
minimum.

Likewise, the symptoms we collectively label digititus are completely dismissed. In this regard, the
Reimyo is head and shoulders above the competition. You will not hear anything aggressive or grating
out of this front-end.

But mostly, the Reimyo is about tone. Tone is so good, it approaches an abstract ideal.

The Reimyo front-end will make everything you play a bit more full-bodied, rich and warm—and
beautiful. Its voice goes beyond what you commonly hear live; it is more like what you would hear
under ideal conditions.

The beautiful tone and the vanquishing of digititus are accompanied by an overall smoothness and
softness, which unfortunately impacts the transients. The fallout here is PRAT. The Reimyo DAP-777
& CDT-777 score seriously good grades excepting PRAT, which is about average.

The Reimyo will find its most satisfied customers among the subset of 'philes seeking beauty above
all. If you dream of coming home from work, unwinding and moseying over to the sweet spot and
pressing PLAY with the hope of luxuriating in warm, caressing sound, this front-end is right up your
alley. Marshall Nack