Looking at a Few Tube Amps

Discussion in 'New Gear - Values' started by Fusion, Sep 27, 2016.

  1. Poultrygeist

    Poultrygeist Addicted Member

    Please keep us informed. I've been in touch with King as well but am a little leery of making the financial transaction. I have a vintage single ended EL84 and it has really stirred my interest in these amps
     
  2. Poultrygeist

    Poultrygeist Addicted Member

    FWIW I just realized that the KA-101 has four EL84 output tubes and makes 12 wpc which based on my experience means it's a push pull ( negative feedback ) amp and not a single ended amp. An SE version would have only two EL84 output tubes and make no more than 4 or 5 wpc.
     
  3. RGA

    RGA Super Member

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    Location:
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    It is a Push Pull amplifier and people who know me know that Single Ended is my preference - but there are exceptions - it sounds a LOT better than the ASL MG head and LM 218mini (both are SETS). The headphone amplifier is an additional add on for King as he is mainly selling it as an integrated amp - the fact that beats up mainly headphone amp amplifiers for the same price is pretty good. And with stock tubes. I just finished my interview with King today - preparing now to write the review.

    King has sold and repaired a lot of amps over the years including the likes of LM, Melody, Almarro, Rogue Audio. He was the Asia representative so if an item failed it was sent to him to repair.

    I also like the feet - they're solid aluminum feet - not the usual cheap rubber crap or plastic painted to look aluminum. Metal film capacitors and EI transformer with silicon metal.

    Next year he plans to make available front plates in different colours - you can just unscrew the black front plate and put in a new one (white or blue or something). But the rest of the thing has to remain black to keep the price down.

    I am happy to hear something that is relatively budget in the audiophile world that I have liked. The magazine I write for just reviewed a $137,000US preamp and I wish I had my review ready so the next review would have been this amp for ~ $800. I like Audio Note as much as anyone but for those of us who live in the real world we must admit that that other world is batcrap crazy. It should be about getting good quality sound that makes you happy at a price that makes sense.

    Audiophiles are too into showing off how much they spent or having tried the most products - No. The thing sounds like music yes or no. Not everything expensive is great and not everything cheap sucks.

    This sounds good but you still may like other amps more - no guarantees in life. I like it you may not. It is push pull after all but this thing rips apart my Audio Space Mini 2SE PP amps for $1600 or the 211IA IMO. I comfortably replaced my 219IA with this amp as well. And I didn't have to give up the meters. :)

    King recommends changing the RCA NOS 5u4g and Gold Lion gold pin 12AX7 or TungSol 803s gold pin.
    He also likes Gold Lion gold pin for the EL84s and for the 12AU7 Brimer NOS or Amprex NOS.

    I think Push Pull slightly bullies the sound to one degree or another where a good SET amp does not. So on some speakers (usually the kind I like) push pull is a little abusive pummeling music at me that displaying it there for me to discover. This amp doesn't entirely get away from this pitfall and neither does the Audio Note I-Zero. But these amps do it less than other PP amps and they're not entirely without their own strengths. More impact isn't entirely without its strengths on harder hitting material. Drums are taught and robust for example and there is a tactile feeling throughout.

    I see why tube fans own a variety of different amplifiers - none of the tube amps I have heard regardless of price do it all (and certainly no SS). This amp will be no different but for the money as an all rounder it is pretty terrific. Plus it's a nice way to get into tubes not too expensively and is a mean headphone amp.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2017
  4. Fusion

    Fusion Active Member

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    Looking forward to hearing Brendan's thoughts. For the price I may just grab one. I don't plan on running tubes all the time and it makes that type of plan more difficult if your tube amp costs $3,000. Hard to justify the expense for something that sits on the sidelines half the time.

    Just wish it had a remote!

    I haven't listened to my AN AX-Two's in a while. I think I'll put them in either today or tomorrow. See how they stack up to my ProAc's. The ProAc's have been in there pretty much since I bought them a couple of years ago.
     
  5. RGA

    RGA Super Member

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    Fusion - if you don't want those AX Twos there is a fellow on the Canuckaudiomart forum that has been trying to get a pair for ages. His name is David Niece and his handle there is byebye88. Unfortunately I was permanently banned on that forum so I can't directly put you in touch with him. I figured Canadians who invented Hockey would be made of tougher stuff but the safe-space crybaby moderators would run away from a 12 year old girl selling girl guide cookies.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2017
  6. Fusion

    Fusion Active Member

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    Thanks, RGA. I don't post much there but I am on CAM (more of a lurker - and I've actually noticed David's posts as he signs his name at the end of them). If I end up selling the AX-Two's I'll definitely check in with David to see if he wants them.

    Listened to them last night. They do a lot of things really well. It's about trade-offs I guess. I think they do better than the ProAcs in some areas but worse in other areas. I'm going to continue listening to them for a few weeks and go from there.
     
  7. RGA

    RGA Super Member

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    I think they'd be similar enough to not bother keeping both of them. Same sonic ballpark - both pretty easy to drive - both limited in the bass and ultimate volume capability. ProAc is probably the easier when it comes to what it likes to be partnered with - like SS. Martin Grennel of Audio Note got on my case to put the AX Two up near the wall or corner. Basically - fussy. If you had them boxed up for two years and if you don't feel they really beat the ProAc - I'd sell em - you might get more than you paid or very close to what you paid since the list price has gone up and is now $965US. Which means you might do well.

    But as you note - speakers often do some things better and some things worse so in my case I much prefer acoustic instruments, live music and vocals through the AX Two over the LS-50 but if I want more thunder for trance I would take the KEF. Then again the AN K's price has been lowered (thank you Brexit) to $2k which means they can be had for $1800 which is $300 more than the LS-50 and they beat the ever loving hell out of the KEFs.
     
  8. opnly bafld

    opnly bafld AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Last time I checked @ 2 years ago base AN Ks were $2400 shipped; if they can be bought for $1800 shipped that is much better.
     
  9. opnly bafld

    opnly bafld AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Location:
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    I believe the price is 1800+ GBP which is over $2300 USD; I've been quoted just under $2400 /Lx.
     
  10. RGA

    RGA Super Member

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    Sorry - I just checked their price list and the AN K/LX is $2490 plus $515 for the matching stands (and you probably should get the matching stands). Less 10-15% off for negotiating.

    The model I was thinking of is the AN K/D which can only be had in black ash and is $2160. BUT I don't know what you lose. You get D copper instead of Lx and the D may not be fully Russian birch - if this is the case you may as well pony up the extra $330. The Lx gives you over 20 finish choices as opposed to one as well.
     
  11. RGA

    RGA Super Member

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    After about a month now with the KingKo KA-101 I have to say I am growing more impressed. I like that the volume control is not a stepped control. Those stepped controls are often either two loud or not loud enough. King put a little hole on the bottom of the amplifier where you can make it sit as a tripod. You know audiophiles love sitting their gear on shelves with three feet not four. Even with the Shuguan tubes throughout it's pretty special. I may buy a whole new upgrade set. I was rather stunned just changing the rectifier tube - I was under the mistaken impression that this is the power tube and doesn't really impact sound quality - well you learn stuff all the time because this tube makes a large difference indeed. He recommends NOS RCA and I'll say - good ole RCA - an $70ish dollar tube. He recommends Gold Lion gold for the 12ax7 and Gold Lion on the EL84s (though he recommends NOS Brimer or Amperex on the 12AU7). It will be interesting what will change with these. Even with the dirt cheapiest tubes it's pretty excellent.

    I've had my HD 600s for 17 years. This is the first time I can say they have truly sounded this good (not the lackadaisical overly polite and stodgy presentation they are sighted for so often but finally awake and upbeat and punchy . And my Audio Technica ATH M50x Professional headphones where some bass issues and a slight hand cupped tin can nature in the treble has vanished.
     
  12. Fusion

    Fusion Active Member

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    Bought them used for $200 or so, so really great value.

    But yeah, it really is a case of trade offs. Too bad one speaker just doesn't do everything better, which would make the decision easy.

    The AX-Two's beam high frequencies a little bit, so they fall behind the ProAc's there (it's not an issue that crops up all the time and I'm not super sensitive to highs, so this is not particularly troublesome). But they sound more 3D...there is a wider soundstage with greater depth as well. Other than that they both sound quite similar. The ProAc's are more detailed and resolving I'd say. But overall balance, tone, dynamics, and driver integration is very comparable. I'm going to have to listen more closely to see if I can spot some of the more subtle differences. I think both speakers excel in the midrange but voices seem a bit more natural on the AN's. It's very close though. As I said, the soundstage and high frequency beaming on the AN's is where the largest differences lie, so it's probably here where I will determine which speaker I prefer. The ProAc's are about twice the cost and I think it shows in some of the areas I mentioned (plus build quality - though I understand the approaches in cabinet design are different). It's clear there is a lot of sound for the money with the AN's though.
     
  13. brendans

    brendans AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I've had the KingKo for a week or so in a quite suboptimal setup in my shop while painting our house, but initial impressions are outstanding. I've been using the new Rega Brio for a few months and the KingKo completely annihilates it right out of the box in every way. Much fuller sound, better bass, better detail...overall super happy, and especially for the price. King has been super helpful and it arrived like two weeks sooner than he estimated. I have a few tubes on the way to try out. I also have a pair of the new Omega Junior 8xrs speakers on the way so I should have everything set up in the coming weeks and will have some better impressions.
     
  14. RGA

    RGA Super Member

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    Hi Brendans - King is going to introduce me to some tube shops around town here on Saturday and I hope to pick up some of his suggested tubes. The Brio isn't in this class. I am surprised by the KingKo because when you first see how small it is and only 12 watts you really don't expect much. And as a SET guy I REALLY don't expect much from push pull designs. Then I had to be careful not to get into that situation where you like something too much because you have low expectations. Like wow this is so much better that I thought it would be - but is it actually "good"? He's been selling well in Hong Kong apparently - people go into his tiny little one room shop and they wonder why they listen to his $2,000 setup (amp, speakers, CD player) and have to rethink the $25k they spent on theirs.

    Even with the cheapest tubes imaginable it sounds really good right of the box.

    I did try my KEF LS-50 with them the other day and that experience was merely So-So. Because the LM 219IA is a tonally deeper amplifier than the KingKo - the 219IA papers over some cracks - the KingKo made several recordings sound splashy in the treble showing up more of the weakness in the LS-50's high frequency response. It drove them surprisingly well in the bass but I detected limits. The KEF is a difficult speaker to drive.

    The Omega being single driver should be outstanding. 12 watts is probably overkill!
     
  15. Poultrygeist

    Poultrygeist Addicted Member

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  16. RGA

    RGA Super Member

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    The tube store has always been good when I've bought from them. I'm going to try King's favorites first but there are some interesting tubes at the tube store. I want to try the Northern Lights 12AX7 which for some of the reviews there is the favorite among many.

    But I'll probably start with his 5UG4 RCA, Gold Lion Gold Pin for 12AX7 and EL84s and Brimar on the 12AU7. I have a quad set of Mullard EL84s as a back up for the OTO so I will bring those back with me in the summer. Then order the Tube Store specials. It's great that these tubes last long and are cheap. I just read the OTO manual and Peter states that one should expect 8000 hours out of the tubes in that amp.
     
  17. Fusion

    Fusion Active Member

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    Do you know if King accepts requests to make modifications from his standard model? Nothing major, just a remote to change volume levels. I suppose I can ask him. I like being able to adjust the volume up or down slightly depending on what is playing.

    Very tempting given the price of the amp and the feedback it's getting. I like the idea of affordable long lasting tubes as well. I am most likely going to stick with the AX-Two's, btw. I can't imagine a better speaker for the money. It probably doesn't get noticed because of it's plain-Jane looks (I think it looks cool though, classy and understated) and the fact that AN isn't found in many stores.
     
    RGA likes this.
  18. opnly bafld

    opnly bafld AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    What was the price with shipping?
     
  19. brendans

    brendans AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Exchange rate at the time ended up being ~$775 shipped. Packaging was excellent.

    I have an RCA 5UG4, Amperex 12au7, and set of Gold Lion EL84s on the way to try out.
     
  20. RGA

    RGA Super Member

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    Location:
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    I asked him today about the remote and no he can't as he A) doesn't want any digital in his amp and B) he would have to redesign a large portion of the inside. The other problem is reliability - if the remote fails it is quite costly to repair down the line.

    Additionally,
    I spent a pile of cash on tubes today buying 12AX7, 4 EL84, and the RCA rectifier. $2200HKD. I'll try them later - getting over the horrendous humidity and crowds of Sham Shui Po computer and audio markets. It feels like a million people are all out and about in a 4 block radius.

    If you really need remote I suggest this

    [​IMG]
     
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