Reviewer: Jules Coleman
Source: Well Tempered Classic w. Roksan Shiraz; Well Tempered Reference [in for review]; Redpoint Testa Rossa [in for review]; Audio Logic 24 MXL tube DAC; Combak Reimyo CDP 777 [in for review]; Ensemble Dirondo [in for review]; Resolution Audio Opus 21 [in for review]
Preamp/Integrated: Shindo Monbrison [full-function]; Combak Reimyo tube line stage [in for review]
Amp: Shindo Sinhonia monos; Mark Pearson-built Mullard EL-34; Cr Development Artemis Gold; Combak Reimyo 300B [in for review]
Speakers: Wilson Audio Sophia; Audiopax REF100 [in for review]; Hørning Hybrid Agathon Ultimate [in for review]; Harmonix Bravo [in for review]; Duevel Bella Luna [in for review]
Cables: Stealth Indra interconnect; Stealth M-21, M-7, PGS interconnects; Audience Au24 interconnects; Shindo Laboratory interconnect; Stealth Hybrid MLT speaker cable, Audience Au24 speaker cable; Audio Note Kondo copper speaker cable; Harmonix Golden Performance interconnect and speaker cable; Stealth M-7 power cords; Harmonix Studio Master power cords; van den Hul Mainstream power cords
Powerline conditioning: BPT BP-3.5 Signature; ALS-777 [in for review]
Stand: HRS M-3 isolation bases; HRS MR1 rack [in for review]

Sundry accessories: Harmonix feet; Black Diamond Racing and Poly Crystal cones; Vibrapods
Room size: 30' x18' x 9'
Review component retail: $14,000

The name Reimyo is unfamiliar to the American audiophile community. Judging by the Reimyo CDD-777, this should change - and in a hurry. For the Reimyo CDP-777 is the best digital front end I have heard, by a wide margin

I distinguish between two kinds of especially praiseworthy products: Baselines on the one hand and benchmarks on the other. A baseline product sets the standard that others must match if they are to justify themselves. For many years, the Rega Planar 3 set the baseline for budget turntables. Budget tables are designed to a price point and thus necessarily compromised in ultimate performance. Yet if you plan on designing, manufacturing and distributing one, it had better be competitive with what the Planar 3 does at the price. On the other hand, excellent though they may be, other products could best baseline products, even those in the same price range.

Benchmark products define the state of the art, and -- at least for some non-trivial period of time -- are unequaled in their overall performance or in some important dimension of it. Benchmarks set a mark to which others ought to aspire. Baselines normalize a field by setting the floor by which achievement is to be measured; benchmarks set the ceiling which others grasp for but cannot as yet reach.

True benchmark products prove that audio dreams can come true. But as with other dreams, audio fantasies are rarely realized in lived experience. There are precious few genuine benchmark products capable of making audio dreams come true. Indeed, one might call it a miracle when such dreams do come true.

The Reimyo CDP-777 is such a rare benchmark product. It defines the state of the art in digital playback. This is a player you can purchase now, with full confidence that it will not disappoint or fall from grace in years to come. The Reimyo provides the audiophile and music lover that rarest of rare opportunities - the possibility of getting off the digital treadmill by solving the digital source problem once and for all time (as measured in audiophile terms of course).

The Reimyo is a Redbook-only player. No high-resolution formats are included. Those who insist on a machine that does it all need not apply. But before you dismiss this CD-only player as "retro" (incidentally, it does CD-R), I suggest stacking up the Reimyo against your favorite SACD, DVD-A or universal player. At this point in the history of digital playback, I'm putting my money on the Reimyo - and for two reasons.

First, while I am in no position to claim that SACDs or DVD-A discs are not in principle better than compact discs, I am also in no position to claim that CDs cannot sound as good as or better than LPs. It's just that they tend not to. To my ears, the SACD sound is a bit phasey and less than musically honest or persuasive. Second, the Reimyo reveals how little until now we have been able to extract from the basic Redbook format. If the Redbook standard was grossly oversold at the outset -- and it certainly was -- the Reimyo demonstrates conclusively that the format is now being undersold just the same. As the saying goes, reports of Redbook's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

I've had the Reimyo CD player in-house for nearly four months now. During this time, no SACD performance on any player I have heard to this point -- and certainly no CD playback on any such player -- was musically as convincing as ordinary Redbook playback on the Reimyo. If that's a miracle, so be it; for if a digital product can represent an audio miracle, this is it.

It's a Miracle
Indeed, Reimyo is Japanese for miracle. This particular miracle comes courtesy of the Combak Corporation of Japan. Combak produces two lines of audio playback equipment: Harmonix and Reimyo. Even if Reimyo is unfamiliar to audiophiles, Harmonix clearly is not. Well-known worldwide, the Harmonix line includes the wondrous Combak tuning dots and feet, resonance control devices, the outstanding Studio Master power cord and the well-reviewed line of Golden Performance interconnects and speaker cables.

Reimyo represents Combak's initial foray into audio 'components'. The current line-up consists of the ALS-777, an AC line stabilizer; the CAT-777, a tube line stage preamplifier; the PAT-777, a 300B stereo amplifier; and the DAP-777, a digital to analogue converter (and the subject of an extremely favorable and extensive review in these virtual pages by Srajan Ebaen). The Reimyo line is neither designed nor manufactured to particular price points. Rather, each product is intended to represent a statement or conception of the state-of-the-art.

There is currently no speaker in the Reimyo line though Combak's head audio architect, Kazou Kiuchi (Kiuchi-San), has been at work on a suitable speaker for the last few years. Unfortuna-tely, Mr. Kiuchi's design features a now discon-
tinued iteration of the Fostex 208 Sigma driver that both Kiuchi-san and I discovered we share a mutual affection for. Fostex has replaced this driver with a considerably less expensive and far inferior version that is much in evidence in some contemporary horn-loaded loudspeakers. Mr. Kiuchi has been trying to convince Fostex to reissue the better Fostex driver. There are likely many DIYers around the globe - including, I would guess, especially those who favor the Jericho horn enclosure - who wish him well in his efforts.

Combak does offer one speaker, the Bravo, which is not part of the Reimyo line. The Bravo was on display fronting the entire Reimyo line-up at the recent Home Entertainment Show in New York City. There it was paired with a prototype bass unit that will also serve as its stand. The prototype is currently named the "B-Bass" and now in its fourth iteration. Kiuchi-san does not rush any of his products to market. The room at the show was a refuge of sanity and beautiful, relaxing music and a favorite of showgoers and reviewers alike.

I have in house a full Reimyo review system including the Bravo -- sans B-Bass -- as well as the necessary complement of Harmonix cables, cords and tuning devices. In addition to a review of the Bravo speakers, I will have a separate review of the Reimyo/Harmonix vision -- or what I am calling "the sound of Reimyo" -- which will explore the system as a whole as well as various component parts of it.

Today's review is confined entirely to the Reimyo CDP-777 one-box compact disc player. If, heaven forbid, the Combak company were never to produce another audio product again, this player alone would provide a suitable legacy for Kiuchi-San and insure his place in the pantheon of great friends to music lovers worldwide - all those of us for whom music playback is an integral part of our life and one of the ways in which we experience joy in our daily lives.

Designing a Reimyo
Reimyo components are the result of what Combak refers to as High Tech Fusion. According to company literature, high tech fusion makes the impossible possible. The former logic instructor in me cannot help but feel that the ambition of making the impossible possible is a bit like that of squaring the circle. It is not, how shall I put it, possible - certainly not logically possible. After all, impossible means not possible. Doing so, then, would involve an act of Divine Intervention:

A miracle perhaps. Ah, the miracle to which the name refers no doubt - presumably without intervention from above?

Corporate hype aside, high tech fusion means that each component is the work of a design team that brings together experts from different companies of the relevant audio landscape. This cooperative strategy marks a departure from standard design philosophies. These usually involve one or more of three conventional approaches: (1) full in-house design; (2) full outsourcing of all or most of a product, then slapping the company logo on its faceplate; (3) something in-between as determined by the balance of outsourcing to in-house work.

High tech fusion implies a cooperative effort in fashioning, designing, voicing, assembling, tuning and finishing each product. Every product in the Reimyo line is thus a team effort in this sense, but membership on each team varies somewhat from product to product.

For example, the extraordinary ALS-777 line stabilizer represents the joint efforts of Kiuchi-san, Bill Stierhout of Quantum Resonance Technology and Kyodo Denshi. Quantum Resonance Technology provides three different kinds of line stabilization mechanisms, Kiuchi-san the resonance control within the chassis and ultimate tuning or voicing of the product, while Kyodo Denshi is responsible for the chassis design and assembly of the ALS-777.

There are passive QRT devices in all Reimyo products. This means that even as the design team changes from product to product, QRT, Kyodo Denshi and Kiuchi-san retain a hand in all Reimyo products. This accounts for the overall aesthetic of the line, the extraordinary internal and external build quality, and the relative similarity of the voicing. Whatever the product, Mr. Kiuchi is the maestro -- the conductor -- whose musical sensibilities are reflected in every single product bearing the Reimyo name.

Whereas the line stabilizer and the Harmonix Studio Master power cords fall comfortably into the upper echelons of products of their type, the CDP-777 is unquestionably the jewel in the Reimyo/Combak crown. With the usual team in place, the key addition is the Japan Victor Corporation or JVC. Alas, JVC is not at all synonymous with high-end compact disc players. Which begs the question, what, pray tell, could JVC have to offer that would render the Reimyo arguably the world's best compact disc player?