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Hey Dan -
So, finished up the PR101 last night, including head and phono boards. Put it in service with a "Full Monty" ST120 rebuild and it sounds fantastic! Everything works perfectly, despite my little run in with LED's (Ken had installed them all backwards, but made an excellent save)!
I messed around with some different cartridge loadings and gain settings with a Denon 301 mkII MC cartridge fed into step up transformer to bring it up to MM level. Not surprisingly, with that cartridge, the 101's (ST120 as configured and modified I suppose is almost a GT101) driving B & W 802's your defaults were right on.
I did drop the gain from 3 to 0 as it seemed to be fine for my normal listening levels on that system. So once again, thank you so much for your creations!
I've had so much fun with it all I can't begin to tell you, and learned enough along the way to pretty soon attempt some repairs on various vintage solid state cases I've acquired over the years with more optimism than knowledge, but confidence just the same.
I still have the second GT101 Kit to build when I need a assembly fix.
I have the LED issue resolved (Dave installed the LEDs backwards, but made a beautiful recovery). I love the preamp! I can now enjoy multiple sources without leaving my chair...remote definitely has its advantages.
I just want say that everything from ordering, packaging, instructions (fantastic) and your support was an amazing experience. Now on to my next project...dual horn speakers! Parts are already on their way :-)
Thanks again for putting up with my mistakes and walking me through those issues (Of my creation). I have mentioned as much to nearly everyone I know!
Well I have the Preamp with 2 phono stages all done, up and running
First thoughts , this pre is super quiet , even the phono stages are really quiet! Better than my Pass Labs home built stages. No problems with the build , everything worked first time. I am sure it will only improve even more as it gets run in. As you can maybe see from the pics I did a few mods to it , not that I thought it needed it but I had the parts in my part collection so thought I would use them.
Fitted filtered IEC power connector , damped the cabinet with damping sheet, used nichicon and Elna audio grade electrolytic caps where I thought best, mostof them actually. Socketed all ICs. All blue LEDs on front panel. ( I don't like green ! ) Pcb mount terminals on the power supply board and the input board just for easy disconnection/removal etc. That's about it.
What a great job you did with these kits. Now working on the GT-101 power amp.
I left the PR-101 "on" for 72 hours, then hooked it up to the GT-101.
To be completely honest, I should mention that I am an addict to tubes... my reference system being a McIntosh C-2300 tube preamp, a MC-2102 (8 x KT88 for +100 W tube power) power amp on extremely revealing speakers Tannoy DC10A (one of the absolute best speakers they ever made). Alternatively there is a Dynaco VTA ST-120 (Bob Latino) power amp equipped with 4 6550 tubes sounding equally well.
The GT-101 has been with me for over a year and, when connected to the C-2300, has given me lots of fun listening . (summertime, when it's too hot for tubes....:)
So, now that my PR-101 is finally finished, I connected it with the GT-101 on these DC10A. Sources being a Cocktail Audio X-40 (streamer/ripper/harddisk) and a OEM turntable with Jelco 750D arm and Ortofon 2M Black.
First impressions : (PR-101 + GT-101)
Guessing that I like to have a tube in the circuit at least somewhere, I connected the PR-101 to the Dynaco VTA-ST-120 amp....
I am proud to have finished this project. (it worked perfectly from the first moment) and I love AkitikA. In Europe you pay about $1,500 for a preamp/power amp combination that performs as a $4,000 alternative...
What more can I say ?
Thank you Dan, I had great fun. I will use the amp in a second system and enjoy it for many years to come. And I still have my 2 "updatemydynaco's"ST-120 (SS) amps....you now..... "just for fun" !
All the best,
A few days later, I'm flabbergasted by the performance of the PR-101. It is so clean, musical; rhythmic... A special word about the phonostage, volume completely open on a 100W/ch tube amp, on 93 dB/W speaker and yet, one can hardly hear a slight "shhhhshhhh" from the speaker. (setting internally at +3 dB)
Well, I have to admit that the MM stage of the AkitikA is more quiet then the phonostage (MM with 2 12AX7 PSVANE) of my MC-2300. And while it is dead quiet, it certainly doesn't sound dull. On the contrary, this is one of the liveliest, musical and inspiring MM stages that I ever heard. It makes the music sound so willingly, generous and effortless. Listening to it becomes "fun"
I think I'm starting to prefer the sound of the phono stage over the MM stage of the C-2300
Dan you did it (again)...
One may have reasons to buy expensive high-end equipment (pride of ownership being one of them), but when it boils down to music, all you will ever need is an AkitikA
I wonder Dan if you yourself really know how good this PR-101 performs compared to up to 3.000 $- 4.000 $ "regular" alternatives. Definitely, I would like to organize a blind listening test. I feel like congratulations are in order here...;....!!!
All the best
(With reference to Bob Grossman's Review of the PR-101) Wow, Dan! Quite a nice set of words about the PR-101. He mentions some things that I have been thinking about while I listen to my PR-101. For me, and this might be faint praise, it doesn't do anything badly. And that's the rave. I am not a multi-dollared audiophile. I do not own any cables that cost me more than a few tens of dollars to make myself; excellent connectors and excellent wire can be bought at a price so low, it makes the hugely expensive "audiophile" cables a total not starter for me. (But that's another rant.)
I listen to a wide variety of music; head-banger rock to massed voices and orchestral to jazz quartets. I record classical music as a career. I listen to the PR-101 through other real "audiopile" products down the line, ARC, Vandersteen. What I notice can be summed up as "precise." Crisp presentation of strings and voices, a lack of smeared tones from horns and brass, and distinct low end and separation from basses, and low drums. Added to that is a vivid three-dimensional soundstage that places each group of instruments in their proper stereo space.
That's pretty great for a piece of gear that costs many thousands of dollars. That is unbelievable for the price of a PR-101.I admit that I was prepared to say "nice build, fun kit. I'll sell it and go back to my old pre." The PR-101 is still in the rig and I can see no reason to be looking at a preamp upgrade for a long time.
Good work, Dan! I think you have a hit here.
Editors Note-Doug's Bio- Doug allowed me to include a bit about his audio pedigree
I have spent my whole professional life in the "audio" business; toured arena rock and roll, did sound for major market sports television, documentaries for the BBC, and motion picture and television series production dialog recording. I am now "retired", work for a brilliant engineer/editor and we record most all of the performances of note in the Seattle area. We work on a "less-is-more" model when we record, usually using between two and four microphones for live capture. We also record CD sessions and movie soundtrack (scoring) sessions that are much more multi-mic'd, usually around 24 inputs. Great fun, precise work dictated by what we hear and our experience. And I get to see a huge number of performances, for better or worse, during the year. :)
Wow! I sit here listening and enjoying my completed Akitika PR-101 Pre-amp with the added phono pre-amp board kit. My primary pre-amp is a McIntosh C2500 which I love (with my McIntosh MC2155 Amp). I built this PR-101 for a secondary need, and I can honestly say IMHO it is terrific. I am currently listening to it with a Elekit TU-8300 Tube Amp, Rega P5 Turntable (with Dynavector 10x5 MM cartridge) and Wharfedale Jade 3 speakers. I am impressed. Separation and soundstage sound great. There is no hum or noise. Just sounds very good to me.
This kit was a lot of fun! Your instructions were complete and I had no issues at all with the kit. It worked perfectly first time turned-on. The fit and finish of the mechanical mounting of the boards into the very nice case are well thought-out. You were impressively available via email with the one or two questions I had.
To be clear, in my opinion this kit requires a bit of experience. There are many resistors and capacitors to install (especially with the phono pre-amp board), and it requires some patience to complete. But your instructions are written in such a way as to ensure success if one follows them. Even your wise counsel to take breaks is indeed valuable.
Thanks for a great experience. I look forward to other items you will likely offer...something has to fill those other open spaces in the Pre-amp :)
Finished the phono board last night. Tweaked it for capacitance, output level, and filters. Really nice kit from instructions, to components, to integration into the 101.
The sound is outstanding. I am running a Grado Prestige Blue1 cartridge with a Dynaco ST70. Very quiet, with excellent detail and dynamics. The imaging is superb, excellent clarity in the midrange. The bass is also better, tighter, and deeper. I am comparing this to an outboard phono preamp that cost almost 3 times as much.
Great job, and thank you. Any plans for a head phone integrated amp?"
I just wanted to let you know how much fun it was for me to build the PR-101 preamp. Other than the missing 8 pin DIP sockets that you very quickly sent to me,everything was a breeze to assemble. The instructions were perfect and it all went together with absolutely no problems.
Now that I have both the amp and preamp mated together, I wish that you had other kits for me to build. I do intend to order the phono preamp kit in the next couple of weeks as well. Thanks again for a fine job of producing these kits.
Dan: Hello. Hope this e-mail finds you and yours in excellent health. Just a short note to let you know that I finished the assembly of the preamp a few days ago. I am using it to listen to CD's using one of the three power amplifiers that I bought from you and assembled last year.
The preamp, altogether with the power amp is behaving excellently. The TC works beautifully--so that means that bass and treble are just beautiful and when the TC is disabled the flat response is just very, very nice too.
The remote is working very nice and the overall results are 10 out of 10 stars as expected from your projects.
Honestly, Dan, I believe that these two units will become audiophiles collectables and that they will be some sought-after equipment. The assembly was, of course, as you very well predicted sophisticated and more complex than the power amp, but that was expected in an equipment with so many features.
Just let me know when you have the two additional PC boards for PHONO and HEADPHONES revision/addition to the preamp so I can go ahead and buy them and assemble these and integrate them to my preamp. I am getting old and my vision is not that good, although I understand that many of these identification of solid state items such as transistors, IC's, small capacitors,etc. are somehow difficult to see at plain sight...so that's why I use magnifiers.
I want to congratulate you for a very fine and excellent product. The assembly manual was --as usual- excellent except for a few typos, very few, and I did not have any problem at all constructing this excellent equipment. Dan...you are an excellent electronics professional...a genius.
Best regards, your friend,
I purchased the Akitika PR-101 Stereo Preamplifier from Dan in February of 2015. My kit was one of the first batches produced. When it arrived the first thing I noticed was the fantastic packaging of the kit. The chassis was wrapped in a soft protective wrap and then suspended in foam. The small parts were in their own box inside the shipping box. 5 stars on packaging.
The manual is downloaded from the website. I put mine on a flash drive and went to Staples for printing. 68 pages. The manual is well written. Clear concise instructions. Only 2 corrections and they are posted on the website. 5 stars for the manual
The kit is comprised of 4 circuit boards. I must say that the quality of these 4 boards is really as good as I have ever seen. Thick epoxy, double sided, sharp clear silk-screening. The solder tabs are through hole type meaning the inside of the holes are plated so the solder will flow to both sides of the board. 5 stars on the circuit boards.
All the components are in bags labeled for each section you are working on. The quality of the components is very high. I am a very fussy builder and didn't have to add or replace anything. 5 stars on parts.
I did upgrade 3 items on my unit. First, the green LEDS were replaced with blue ones. Second, I replaced the RCA blocks with gold plated ones. Third, I added from my personal parts stash sockets for all of the IC's. I don't like to solder to IC's. The parts for the upgrades were supplied by Dan.
I will say that in my opinion that this build is not for a first time builder. The spacing of some of the components solder tabs is very close together. It is very do-able if you have steady soldering skills.
Tools that I used - Optivisor, Panavise circutboard vise, .032 solder, Fluke 87s, small flush cutters, wire stripper for small gage wire, wire bender for resistors.
At the end of each section build the manual directs to perform tests before proceeding. Each section passed without the need for rework.
The cabinet is really well done. All the internal mounting points for the boards have studs welded in. The accuracy is fantastic. Everything fits as it should. Lots of room to work inside. The silk-screening is sharp. The finish is great. Once the lid is on the finished cabinet is very strong with no protruding screw heads. 5 stars
The supplied remote is very cool and works great. Easy to read lettering. 5 stars
Once I finished the build I plugged into my Stereo system and everything works as it should. Sounds good too. I will let another reviewer do an in depth write up on the sound quality, as for me I am very satisfied with everything. 5 stars
Just finished building your PR-101. As I was building the preamplifier, one word kept popping into my head: precision. The assembly manual is precise and helpful at the same time. The FR4 circuit boards are very well executed. The metal case holds together perfectly. Everything fit exactly as it should. Just a joy to build. It's clear that you spent a lot of time and thought pulling this project together.
I'm impressed with the sound that the PR-101 and GT-101 produce when paired. It's clear and natural. Can fade to black and be very quiet or can run loud if you want that.
Here's a short list of features that you might want to add to your longer list:
Can't wait to see what you come up with next.
I finished the preamp. Your manual was very well written and the kit was easy to build. I can tell you spent a lot of time on the manual, it was very well written and up there with manuals from companies like Bottlehead and Ten Tec.
The preamp sound very nice even without much time for break-in yet. Very smooth and nicely detailed. It can even drive by Pass F4 clone to an usable volume level, and sound very nice with that amp. It will be interesting to see how the amp matures as it breaks in and I would like to roll some op amps also.
Thanks for putting out an excellent kit
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