MEETING THE JAPANESE MASTER
JUNGI KIMURA: 47 LABS
THE THREADS OF OUR SOUL
The American Indians use the expression, but it is also one of the oldest expression..."our life is a blanket created of many threads...there are dark and bright threads, and the more multi-colored threads we weave into it, the more interesting the pattern of our lives", so I remind all of my brothers of how many of those glorious threads are woven into our lives, and became permanent elements of our soul because of our hands...what we have felt with our hands and what our hands have crafted. From page 150 of my book, The Search for Musical Ecstasy , is this poem by D.H. Lawrence:
Things men have made with wakened
hands, and put soft life into are awake
through the years with transferred touch,
and go on glowing for long years.
And for this reason, some old things are
lovely warm still with life of
forgotten men who made them
I remember the moment well, as if it were just yesterday. This, one of the brightest threads in my blanket, is still alive, shimmering in my hands. I remember the moment I first touched a bare female breast. It was very small, and it was perfect and it was fifteen years old and it belonged to my girlfriend, and the moment I touched it on the night of my junior prom my hand caught fire...I mean it felt like it was burning as if it was struck my lightening. It was a night in 1957 I will never forget. I wondered then how it was possible that by simply touching something my life could be changed forever, and I didnt ever want to wash my hands for fear that the magic would wash off. I am sure you have had the same experience of your hands feeling magic.
All of my brothers have been transformed by touch..the touch of their baseball glove, their bicycle, a favorite toy...things are filled with life, which is why we love touching beautiful audio gear or an old Japanese bowl, or an 1873 Winchester.
When I unpacked the box that was delivered by the jolly Fed Ex man in the dark blue Bermuda shorts and funny looking knees, and held the very small black box packed within in my hand (6x4x1.5... inches, not feet...it is the size of a Sony Walkman), I had one of those mysterious moments of touch. Even before I listened to this absurdly small 25 watt per channel solid state amplifier it was talking to me. I instantly knew, from the wisdom of my hands, that this was not going to be a normal audio speculation, but that this tiny totem of Japanese audio artistry was a key that would open the door to a new dimension of my imagination, and I was right. As you will discover latter on, it delivered a powerful spiritual challenge to me. I dont know why when I touch the art of Japanese audio masters I hear voices that command me; voices that I willingly obey. Is it my brain damage, or can things posses and express the soul of the artists, Michaelangelo?
I remember the night about five years ago well. I was talking to John Curl, (who was complaining about mechanical problems with his Porsche) the man, who as designer for Mark Levinson, created the transistor amplifier revolution. I asked John why no one had designed an ultra-refined very low powered solid state amplifier; one that was a solid state analog of our beloved ultra simple single-ended triodes. John reminded me that his first design for Mark was only 20 watts...but it was also huge and complicated, and I kept on hitting on John about simplicity. He agreed that LESS IS MORE but that was not what American solid state amplifier culture is all about...it is all about power, more power, and more power, and I remind you of the recent cover of Stereophile that boasted about the new Boulder amplifier.."1,000 WATTS".
So it is only natural that Americans would think that solid state amplifiers must be huge, powerful, and complicated.
Now dont get me wrong, as Guildmeister of the Triode Guild, I am not recommending that my brothers give up their tubes, but lets face it there are many of our brothers who prefer the flavor and aroma of solid state sound, and the reason I was speculating with John was that I wanted these music lovers to have the best of what they love. Should Harley-Davidson riders have the best possible bikes, and shouldnt the riders of Hondas ( in spite of their spiritual errors) have the best bike possible? Who am I to judge another mans passion...well.... almost?
So it did not surprise me that 47 Labs solid state amplifier is in America, from Japan...the audio culture that embraces...LESS IS MORE, MORE THAN ANY OTHER CULTURE. This tiny amplifier, as far as I am concerned, is the amplifier that will cause the same revolution in Solid Stateville USA as single-ended amplifiers caused in Tubeville USA, and the revolution is coming to us, again, by way of a Japanese master, Jungi Kimura. (Jogulation Alert: the speaker cables that came with this amplifier are single strands of 22 gauge solid copper...which I recommended you experiment with three years ago). This tiny amplifier is the pebble falling into the solid state lake whose rings will soon be as wide as your imagination. Again, I remind you that the art of audio design in this island country is directly connected to an eight hundred year tradition of craftsmanship which produced the Samurai sword, Haiku and those ferociously beautiful lacquer boxes
My writing about Nobu Shishido expressed my admiration for the tribe of Japanese audiomaniacs who dedicate themselves to shredding the perimeter of musical beauty, and their audacious spirit, their restlessness, and their ability to simultaneously embrace and transform their artistic traditions. This is where artistry and John Wayne type guts ( or should I say Ninja?) comfortably co-exists. This little black device is one of the great works of artistic bravery I have ever encountered...this master has balls, which compels me to now pause and discuss a subject which can only be understood by ego and sexually secure music loving men.
DOES SIZE MATTER?
On my way to Art Dudleys, publisher of Listener Magazines, annual barbecue, I drove with Yoshi Segoshi, the importer of the 47 Labs equipment, who is familiar with both the American and Japanese audiomaniac culture, because he is both an American and Japanese audiomaniac, which is very rare indeed. This man combines the best of both cultures, and we need about 127,843 more of him in America.
While we were driving through the luscious green valleys of the Catskills mountains, their patchwork of bright green fields swaying heavy with corn, trimmed with Sunflowers, I discovered that Jungi Kimura, is in the truest sense of the word a revolutionary artist, and it is impossible to separate art from culture and that means it is impossible to separate his art from his politics. Jungi is a revolutionary in that he is designing audio equipment for men who are sexually secure; a man who is sensually alive and subtle; the man who, in the best tradition of Japanese arts, knows that his sexual energy must flow like water smoothly around the rocks; bright, subtle, clear, mysterious. What kind of man uses those gigantic hulking solid state amplifiers which never achieve subtly of tone, whose great claim is their pure brutish power? Why would a man need such gigantic hulks in their living rooms? You guessed it...and I am taking the liberty to be creative in my translation...and admit that I too once created amplifiers for this customer...and this may be a new law of audio existence: amplifier size is inverse to penis size. Men who own those gigantic solid state amplifiers have small penises...actually or metaphorically, and men who use small amplifiers have large penises either actually or metaphorically. When we size up this matter, I believe what Kimura is telling us, is that sexually secure men, men who are confident about their sensuality do not need those Goliaths of solid state power.
Jungi Kimura only designs audio gear for sexually secure men.
This may also explain why low powered triode amplifiers, amplifiers between 3 and 9 watts are becoming so popular...again...in America, because more of us are becoming sexually secure, taking Viagra or...is it possible that our penises are growing? You know where to email me with your insights.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
When I received an email from Yoshi requesting my appraisal of Kimuras art, I was already aware of the high praise that Herb Reichert had given both his amplifier and DAC in Listener Magazine so I knew I was being requested to listen to an amplifier by another Japanese master. Yoshi also told me that Peter Breuninger was auditioning the amplifier. My affection for young Peter is well known, but I secretly wondered if he had the artistic sophistication to grapple with this Black Badge of Courage, because Peter had not yet danced on red hot coals, and been through three divorces. Yoshi was obviously reaching out to triodmaniacs to evaluate his amplifier and I think this is good audio Ninja cunning, because (1) only we possess the musical sensitivity, intelligence and imagination to appreciate such a refined device and (2) I can imagine how this will cause those who own those solid state boat anchors to get a twitch, and need a rubber bed sheet, and most importantly (3) it is well known that triodemaniacs are the most sexually secure men in the American audiomaniac tribe.
This remarkable beautiful black small container, contains the soul of Junji, and he is a dangerous dude, shaking, rattling and rolling the orthodoxy of solid state design, Jungi is exactly 180 degrees out of phase with Mark Levinson, and Krell. His art bears no resemblance to any solid state amplifier I have ever seen, or heard, or, you have ever heard or experienced. Two channels of 25 watt mono amplifiers which measure about 6 1/2 x 3 3/4 x 1 3/4 inches (not feet) weighs about one pound, and are connected to mono cylindrical power supplies, and.... they have IC chips in each channel. So how could I, the Guildmeister of the Triode Guild take them seriously, and how do they compare to my DHT amps? Are they a real threat to the Big Boys of Solid State Mountains?
BUT FIRST SOME GOOD BASIC ADVICE TO ALL MUSICMANIACS
This is obvious: experience the widest possible range of music because it will broaden your imagination and...who knows what new exotic tastes you will discover? Chamber music fiends should check out the latest rap music and rap fiends should check out the latest recordings of the Manhattan String Quartet.
This is why you all must experience this dangerous, revolutionary amplifier that was designed for sexually secure men. Even if you are a die-hard tube maniac like myself, this will be a thrilling experience, because anytime we encounter the work of a master we are thrilled, we are strengthened and we are connected.
CAVEAT EMPTOR TANNOY
Jungis micro amplifier is the second most powerful amplifier I have auditioned in the last year, and 25 watts of power will literally blow down the house I live in with my hot rodded Tannoy horns. Yoshi who has heard the stock Tannoy Westminster Royals many times in Japan was blown away when he heard these highly modified speakers in my living room, and commented that he had never knew that the Tannoys could be so dynamic and clear. He is describing the benefits of my hotrodding, and why these are the perfect speakers for probing deeply into Jungis soul.
(Note: While Yoshi was at my house I initiated him. I let him hold my old Winchester, put to his soldier, and taught him how to talk like John Wayne while pulling the trigger)
My caveat to you all is that I can only describe my experience of this amplifier on my speakers, which reveals, I believe, their ultimate quality. Speakers of lower quality may not reveal the full measure of their amazing grace...for a solid state amplifier.
Now I want you all to sit back and put on your safety belts while I give you the words that will appear in neon lights on the billboard in Time Square:
Dr. Gizmo, Guildmeister of the Triode Guild, Americas most beloved thermionic techno-shaman says..." If I had to pick one solid state amp to listen to, Jungi Kimuras 47 Labs revolutionary micro-amp would be the one".
Do I need to say more? Yes. There is still a big difference between this amp and my favorite DHT amps, but this little mother is as close to the sound I love in tube amps in a solid state form as I have ever experience and has a harmonic authenticity and coherence (without the broken glass shards penetrating my ears) that is almost completely absent in all other solid state amplifiers. This is the first solid state amplifier that has the right aroma and flavor and I would feel comfortable eating. Simplicity of design is the key to this amazing achievement.
And it pisses me off, and makes me jealous. Why shouldnt I be honest? I am human and any time I encounter such creative brilliance, I feel jealousy and I am proud to admit it, because now I am thinking about other areas of tube circuit design I would like to explore...that is how deeply I am affected my Jungis circuit...as will you.
WEB SITE: www.sakurasystems.com