Featured Pick:

Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777

     If you want a single ended amp with a 300B output tube, this is the amp for you. Master wizard Kazuo Kiuchi (of Harmonix cable and Combak tuning dot fame) has applied his fine tuning magic to amplifier circuitry, and has wrought a miracle with the 300B. The Reimyo PAT-777 boasts a pristine, pure transparency that far outclasses the countless other single ended amps on the market using the 300B as an output tube.
     We have waited 70 years for this amplifier. For 70 years, the legend of the 300B as a single ended output tube has promised the hope and dream of beautiful musicality, especially through the midranges. But for 70 years this promise has in fact been unfulfilled, this hope unrealized, this dream elusive. There has recently been a seemingly endless parade of new single ended amps trying to cash in by jumping aboard the 300B bandwagon. But they have provided sorely disappointing sonic performance, with noticeable distortion (usually grundgy), poor coverage of the bass and treble ends of the musical spectrum, and unremarkable transparency, even in the vaunted midranges. Indeed, about all they did offer was a tonal coloration that emphasized certain portions of the midrange, giving music an "orange" coloration (hardly a virtue). In fact, some discriminating audio reviewers, including Ken Kessler and this evaluator, had virtually written off the 300B as a single ended output tube with any hope of providing even decent fidelity.
     But now, at long last, here comes a single ended power amp that truly delivers on this 300B promise, this hope, this dream. And it does so in spectacular fashion. The Reimyo is one of the very select few best single ended power amps in existence. It is the only one among this select few to employ the 300B as an output tube. So the Reimyo PAT-777 stands alone, literally in a class by itself, as the world's finest single ended power amp using a 300B output tube. If you want to hear what the 300B truly can do in a single ended amp, this is the power amp for you. There are many other single ended power amps using the 300B for output; they don't even come close to what the Reimyo sonically achieves, and you won't get even a glimmer of what the 300B truly can do if you only hear these other amps.
     The PAT-777 is a stereo amp, putting out only 7 watts per channel (so you'll need to choose an efficient speaker, and ideally also one with a relatively flat impedance curve, to minimize possible tonal coloration interactions). But they are 7 lovely, musically wonderful watts. The PAT-777 finally delivers what other 300B single ended amps only promise, and does so in all the important sonic aspects.
     First, the PAT-777 delivers extraordinary true transparency, especially through the midrange regions. For example, a choral recording sounds so stunningly transparent that you can pick out and identify the individual singers, each person's voice having a slightly different timbre and texture than that of the person standing next to him. In contrast, most other power amps (especially most other single ended amps) lack this true transparency, and with them a choral recording sounds like a single homogenized mass of voices, since the distinctive qualities of different singers' voices have been veiled and blurred together. The PAT-777 sounds more like a live chorus does: there's Joe and John, and Mary and Ruth, etc. - and each contributes his or her own unique vocal texture and timbre to the sound that becomes the whole chorus. Likewise, an orchestra is composed of individual instruments, each having its own signature timbre and texture, and the PAT-777 lets the orchestra sound more real because you can hear the complex subtleties of all the individual instrumental contributions. Even a single musical instrument or voice becomes more real, since the true live sound of any instrument or voice is composed of myriad timbral and textural noises.
     Other single ended amps provide a tonally colored boost to the midranges, which fools some listeners into believing that those amps have clear midranges, when in fact their true transparency is mediocre. But the PAT-777 does not need to resort to such trickery. Its transparency is genuinely superior through the midranges, so it does not need to artificially boost this tonal region to fake a semblance of transparency.
     Quite the contrary. The PAT-777 is actually more tonally neutral than most other single ended amps, and keeps the midranges in balance with the lower and higher frequencies of music. Indeed it does a very credible job handling the bass and treble parts of the spectrum, better than most other single ended amps, and far, far better than other single ended amps with the 300B as an output tube. Most other 300B single ended amps turn into grundgy, dull mush in the trebles, and have very weak bass. It's a shock to hear a 300B deliver the kind of trebles that the PAT-777 does: clean, articulate, pretty fast and extended - yet still delicate, with just a touch of liquidity, softening, and rounding of treble transient attacks. Bass control is very good in the upper bass, exceptional for a single ended power amp.
     The PAT-777's special transparency through the midranges also pays big dividends in stereo imaging. The human ear/brain is optimized to pick up spatial and ambience cues in the midranges. Subtle spatial cues contained in recordings, such as reflections from hall walls, are superbly revealed by the PAT-777, and this helps to recreate a believable stereo stage and ambient environment to frame the music itself.
     Perhaps the most remarkable sonic achievement of the PAT-777 is its pristine purity -- so unlike the grundgy, gravelly, mushy distortion we hear from virtually every other single ended amp using the 300B as an output tube. Music listening becomes a joy instead of a fatiguing chore, when distortion goes away. And, thanks to the PAT-777's superb transparency, this joy of music listening also becomes an exciting journey of discovery, as you discover musical riches in your library of recordings library that you hadn't heard before with lesser amps. The clean, almost crystalline purity and articulation of the PAT-777 is utterly astounding when contrasted with the sound from 300B output tubes in virtually all other single ended power amps. Yet there is still that nice touch of liquidity and sweetness that one expects from single ended amps to enhance the musicality of recordings.
     The PAT-777 owes its sonic achievement to the patient tuning and the perfectionist purism of Kazuo Kiuchi and his associates, who developed for this amp a number of special perfectionist features, which reportedly play key roles in its sound. For example, the internal point to point wiring does not use any solder joints (suggesting that costly crimping and welding processes were found to be sonically better). Interestingly, this single ended circuit manages to achieve its clean purity without resorting to negative feedback (negative feedback is usually needed to lower distortion to acceptable amounts, especially in the context of single ended topology, which lacks the distortion canceling advantages of balanced or push-pull topology). This perfectionist quest has produced an amp that is not inexpensive ($15,000 for the stereo unit). But sonically the Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 stands alone among single ended 300B amps, and you won't want any of the lesser single ended 300B amps after you hear it.
     If no dealer in your area stocks this amp, you can contact the manufacturer at: Combak Corporation, 4-20, Ikego 2-Chome, Zushi-shi, Kanagawa-Pref. 249-0003 Japan. Fax (0468) 72-1125; email <harmonix@combak.net>.

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