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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2016 9:10 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 11, 2010 11:54 am
Posts: 148
Location: Montreal, QC, CA
Well I managed to skip ahead a bit in the assembly and finish basically everything that doesn't rely on the mainboard. Finished up the i/o section on the back panel, the AC input, power transformer and choke. Mounted the output transformers and wired them up. Once I get my last few parts I'll put them in the main board and wire up all everything and I should be good to go.

So far I'm very pleased with the quality of the components and construction. Everything fits together nicely and looks very professional. I've found more errors and omissions in the instructions which is mildly frustrating. However, it turns this kit into a more advanced affair. I certainly wouldn't recommend this to someone who doesn't have any prior building experience. On the bright side Kevin seems very prompt and friendly with any assistance I've asked of him.

Will update when I get my missing parts.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 7:16 pm 
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Location: Montreal, QC, CA
Update! Got the missing resistors in the mail today and popped them in. I'm still missing a diode for the power section, but Kevin advised me on a substitute. I don't think it's ideal, but I expect the correct diode tomorrow and will swap it in when the time comes. I just couldn't stand sitting around on holiday with this thing staring at me, haha. So, I finished 'er up and tested and am now running it in. So far I'm very happy. Here's a few more pics, and I'll follow up with some impressions on the kit and the sound as it stands right now. Once everything runs in it will probably sound a bit different.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 7:27 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2005 10:18 am
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Location: Surrey , BC, CA
look excellent! Sorry to hear about some mix ups with K&K...I had good experiences with them in the past....


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 8:19 pm 
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Location: Montreal, QC, CA
Don't get me wrong, Kevin has been absolutely stand up with sending me replacement stuff, and apologetic. I was just so hyped to build the kit I was being impatient. But also it's a rather premium affair. I would have hoped stuff like this didn't happen. But also, we're all humans here this **** happens.

Going to write up a few points a bit later...


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 9:47 pm 
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Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2011 7:26 pm
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Location: Airdrie, AB, CA
Looks like a fine build from here. As for the missing parts, sometimes it's more important how the vendor reacts when there's an issue, and solves it for the customer. Seems like things are covered so that's good.

I should probably not watch the thread too closely... have SS phono stages... don't need further temptation. It's a slippery slope. :)


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2016 9:28 am 
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Location: Montreal, QC, CA
So the proper diode came in today and I swapped it in. Closed 'er up for good and back to listening to music. The past couple of weeks with no vinyl playback have finally come to an end! Currently listening to the last Vijay Iyer Trio album, "Break Stuff". Very happy to have my vinyl rig back up and running. And very happy to have the K&K part of it. Here's some impressions so far:

Kit:

- packaging is absolutely top notch. Things were organized nicely, and packaged extremely well. I'm keeping the packaging in case of a future move (renter here).
- components are high quality. I've built a number of kits now and usually they go somewhat cheap on the components in order to save costs. I suppose this is one major reason why this kit is pricey: WIMA metal film caps, Auricaps, Lundahl transformers, Cardas jacks/posts, matched NOS tubes. Quite premium stuff in here I'm happy to say
- PCB quality/design is excellent. The PCB is constructed very well. Layout is spacious and easy to work with. Screening is logical and informative. I like the little touches like not putting the ID of the component (i.e., C14) under the body of the actual component. Makes for much easier testing and checking once the board is populated. Mechanical layout is excellent.
- pre-assembly of daughter boards and tedious stuff. While not necessary, this was appreciated. A couple of the daughter boards (the CCS for example) have some pretty tight work on them. I can see less confident builders having trouble with this. Kevin has done it for you, which is nice. He's also dressed all the wiring for you, which saves even more time.
- chassis is high quality and while minimalist still attractive.
- instructions leave a little to be desired. I'm of two minds about the documentation with this kit. On one hand things are written very well; I can tell Kevin is an educated guy and his writing shows that. He elaborates on important topics and emphasizes important notes. However, I did notice some typos and missing info. I found this odd given the amount of attention to detail he's put in. For instance while one section of the assembly is very well documented, he seems to have left out any comments/instruction on some other small (but crucial) sections. It's just a bit inconsistent overall. If you've got some building experience under your belt these things won't be a problem. Every time I came up on an inconsistency all I needed to do was to consult the pictures and use some power of deduction to figure out what goes where. This could be an issue for new builders however.
- customer service is excellent. Despite my challenges with a couple missing components and inconsistent instructions, Kevin was only an email/phone call away and was always more than happy to assist. He seems like a very nice fellow and is proud of his work.

Sound:

So far (only a couple hours in) I'm extremely pleased with this. This is replacing a Bottlehead Seduction (which I also assembled from a kit) and it seems so far to improve on all the areas I had reservations with. Areas that I wanted to improve were, in order of importance, bass control, sound staging, imaging and compression during loud/busy/complex passages, and high end extension. I'm happy to say that so far all of these things are improved, or at least I believe so. My setup is Dynavector 20xH, Rega P3-24, K&K Trio Phono, Pass B1, McCormack DNA-1, Energy 22 Reference Connoisseur.

- Bass goes lower and is much better controlled, low-mids don't bloom as much. Things sound fuller but tighter.
- Sound staging is really a huge improvement I'm confident to say. I'm noticing less frequency-dependent cross talk between channels so things image much stronger. Sound stage is wider and more solid.
- I've read other people talk about how they didn't like how tubes seem to collapse the sound under really dense/bombastic passages. This can really ruin listening for me. I listen to a lot of dynamic rock/metal/jazz stuff and when everything goes mono and blurry in the big sections I am totally turned off. It's hard for me to say at this point but it seems the K&K has much better command over these difficult passages. Dynamics are much better conveyed. I don't notice the compression of tubes quite as much.
- High-end is definitely more extended with the K&K. I am loading the Dynavector at 47k, like I did with the Bottlehead, although DV recommends 1k. I might experiment with this later as the loading resistor is socketed for easy changes. The Bottlehead had a very noticeable high end roll off; it sounded more "vintage" if I had to choose a word. I feel the K&K has a gentler roll off in this department which allows for some more sparkle and air to come through. A very welcome change.
- I can tell this is a much more unforgiving preamp. I noticed tracking errors I'd not noticed before (anti skate needs a tweak) and shitty recordings are not given a free pass. Listening to a record by a new sister-trio out of the States called Joseph and you can really hear the compression of the modern recording styles.

Now, I will admit, most of the above could be a result of honeymoon phase, and I've come prepared for that! Before shipping off the Bottlehead to another CAM member, I recorded 5 or 6 various selections straight out of the preamp to my computer (using my RME interface). Once the K&K is burned in (Kevin recommends about 120 hours) I will record the same tracks and A/B between the Bottlehead and K&K to see if the changes are real or if I'm just kidding myself here, hehe.

Thanks for reading the thread. Hopefully it's useful to someone shopping around for a fun new project!


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2016 11:57 am 
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Location: Richmond Hell, ON, CA
Thanks for updating (I knew you'd get fast service from K&K for the missing parts) - and I really like all the pics.

Would this be a good project for a complete noob to try to build?

Looking forward to your A/B comparisons with Bottlehead!

_________________
Michell Gyro SE, SME IV, Dyna Karat 17II, K&K step-up, PS Audio GCPH phono (Underwood mods).

W4S DAC-1/Benchmark DAC-1, Shanling CD-S100/Sony BDP-S3100

Cain & Cain Abbys, Musical Paradise MP-301 v3, Acurus DIA-150, Vandersteen 2 CE Sigs.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2016 12:54 pm 
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Location: Milton, ON, CA
Looks great and I've always admired k and k stuff! In defence of bottlehead I believe they have a replacement phono kit now that is supposed to be quite a step up from the seduction. Which tubes does this trio use and what gain does it give you?


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2016 3:16 pm 
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Location: Montreal, QC, CA
Chr3is wrote:
Thanks for updating (I knew you'd get fast service from K&K for the missing parts) - and I really like all the pics.

Would this be a good project for a complete noob to try to build?

Looking forward to your A/B comparisons with Bottlehead!


Actually, while Kevin was super fast getting the components out in the mail, he did send them regular post. I am too impatient so I put in an order with Digikey for the replacement bits. Their overnight shipping is hard to beat. But I had to survive the couple stat holidays though, hehe.

In my opinion this would be a tough one for a complete noob. It's more forgiving of soldering skills than other kits I've built as everything is laid out quite spaciously, there's little in the way of point to point work, etc. However the instructions and the assumptions made make this one a bit of a challenge if the builder runs into any issues. I wouldn't recommend it for a complete newbie, but I wouldn't say that it's not possible. Take your time, double and triple check everything, and it should be fine.

Cheers!

-- 29 Dec 2016 23:29 --

analogluvr wrote:
Looks great and I've always admired k and k stuff! In defence of bottlehead I believe they have a replacement phono kit now that is supposed to be quite a step up from the seduction. Which tubes does this trio use and what gain does it give you?


The Bottlehead stuff is great, don't get me wrong. My Seduction gave me many years of enjoyment, and I'm still using the Crack headphone amp. I was originally thinking of going with their Eros phono stage before learning of the K&K. Their instructions are definitely superior to K&K's, and their customer support is also excellent. However, the wooden chassis can be a bit of a turn off with all the leads coming out of the top, and the components/hardware in the K&K is definitely a step (or two) above Bottlehead. I think the designs have some similarities actually, i.e., 3-stage, cascode current source load. The Eros uses an ef86 however and in my experience with that tube I don't think I would like it for phono duties-- too susceptible to microphonics, heavy midrange emphasis (caveat: in my experience in a guitar amp circuit). The K&K uses 3x 6922 tubes, of what heritage I do not know. I know they are NOS (1978 according to Kevin's markings) and I've read he tends to go for old Russian ones. I'm no tube aficionado however. I will say he's done a great job with matching them. The K&K is also transformer coupled on the output which will provide balanced outs as well as a very low impedance load. The Bottleheads have a high output impedance in comparison which can be tricky when pairing up with other components downstream. Although this shouldn't be a deal breaker.

As for gain, I am only running the MM front end which gives me the option of 42dB or 48dB of gain. I have it set to 48dB with my DV-20xH at the moment and its more than enough. With the optional MC front end you can get anywhere from 56dB to 72dB -- loads!

Hope this answers your questions.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2017 11:58 am 
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Location: Montreal, QC, CA
I think its safe to say the K&K has been broken in at this point. I went back and captured cuts of a variety of music to A/B against the Bottlehead. To be more specific I recorded the same tunes, and time aligned and level matched them so that I can quickly A/B between the two in a DAW. Recording was done with an RME Fireface. My first impression is that the differences between the two are much more subtle than my original feeling. However, the differences are there and they definitely agree with my initial assessment from last week.

- channel separation is better
- sound stage is wider and more solid
- extended frequency range in both extremes
- upper mid range is much flatter (4-6kHz). Through the Bottlehead vocals sound recessed in comparison.
- better bass control
- less low-mid resonance (less boomy/boxy, whatever you'd like to call it) 100-250Hz sounds much better integrated with the K&K
- dynamic range is greater

Overall I am very happy with this upgrade. Perhaps it's just honeymoon phase still, but I feel like my hifi has definitely reached new heights. Absolutely loving it lately.

Cheers!


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