Great news: an affordable Canadian made SET amplifier. The Wolf Ear Kitoki.

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pstrisik

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Thanks Andrew!

According to the tracking, the mail carrier has it for delivery today.  :)

......Peter

happyrabbit

AND.....     A Couple Pics would be great too  :green:

pstrisik

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(Sorry for the duplication in posts for those reading both here and on the Wolf Ear thread in the Industry section.)

I've been letting the amp and tubes break in.  Did some listening last night.  Initial indications are that we have a very special little amp here!  I'll write more in some days.

In the first photo, you can see the Kitoki sitting where my Inspire was.  The Inspire is observing from the shelf on the right, looking worried!  And, of course, my beloved new Omega "speaker system."   :beer:

Initially, I have the Kitoki taking the place of the Inspire without other changes except for gain levels.  This means I have the Inspire LP-2 pre in the chain.  Volume is all the way up on the solid feeling stepped attenuator in the Kitoki.  Volume is controlled by my Cambridge Audio Azur 851N streamer/DAC (middle shelf on the left).  I will later give it a try with the DAC in full output mode, no pre, controlling the volume with the Kitoki (no remote though). 

I also have the signal split before the amp by the Marchand XM66 active xover at 110Hz (behind the tray of tubes).  So the Kitoki is getting a line level signal from 110Hz up.  The self-powered woofer modules cover 50-110 and the subs 50 and lower.  I will later also try running the SAM's full range bypassing the woofer modules to see how the amp does on its own.

The Omegas are being fed from the 8ohm output.  I'll also try the 4ohm output along the way.




In this second photo, more of a close up.  You can see the second set of output tubes that Andrew provided behind.  The EL84's are warmer/smoother.  The 6P15P-EV's are more forward.  Good contrast and covers those of us that prefer each of the primary presentations.

Note the multi-colored interconnects to the amp.  These are provided by Andrew to try as well.  He has them at custom lengths at reasonable prices on his site.  Very well made and attractive looking, IMO.  He also provided a matching power cord, though I do not have that implemented.  The speaker cables are DIY made from the currently trendy vintage WE11GA (heavier gauge version of the WE16GA).



Canada Rob

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My Kitoki shipped with NOS 6N15N-EB power tubes (the same tube type that came with my Super Zen) that had PAANO on the cold war era box.  They sound very good.  Today I bought from a music store up the valley a matched set of Mesa Boogie branded EL84 power tubes. 

Definitely an improvement across the board, especially in the soundstage depth department.  Very holographic, focused, and 3D (the other tube is too, but this one refines it).  Nothing lost from the other tube, but thus far on first impression, everything gained.  :thumb:

Peter,

It looks like you've got a set of Psvane or Shuguang gold pin EL84's sitting on a box.  If so, I'm sure anxious to get your impressions on those.

pstrisik

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Rob,

Do mean the two EL84's sitting on the black project box behind the amp?  If so, those were provided with the amp.  I don't recall which is which in the photo - one pair in the amp, one pair on that black box.  One is the 6P15P-EV (6N15N-EB or 6P15N-EV?), the other Tung-Sol EL-84.  I don't have any of my own EL-84's as my Inspire is SEP rather than SET.

Turnabout:  I'm curious, if you are able, about comparison between the Kitoki and the Super Zen.    Thnks

.....Peter

seikosha

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I'm curious, if you are able, about comparison between the Kitoki and the Super Zen.    Thnks

.....Peter

I'm on the list for the Kitoki and I've got the Zen UFO as my main reference amp.  I'll definitely be able to do a comparison.

pstrisik

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I'm on the list for the Kitoki and I've got the Zen UFO as my main reference amp.  I'll definitely be able to do a comparison.

Good to hear!  I'll look forward to that.

.......Peter

pstrisik

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The First Formal Review of the Tour!
« Reply #47 on: 22 Feb 2016, 08:58 pm »
I had a very enjoyable weekend!   Here is the first formal review from the tour.  :thumb:  I look forward to reading others'.  The amp is packed up and ready for instructions from the mother ship for its next destination.

Andrew, let me know if there is a particular place you would like this review.  I am also posting it over on the Industry circle thread.   ..........Peter



Oh, an amp tour.  What a fun opportunity to hear a different amp and compare to my current favorite.  The difficulty is that this favorite is one I thought would be my last amp ever!  These tours sure can be disruptive!

Mine is a hand crafted single ended pentode designed and built by the famous Dennis Had, an Inspire KT-150.  The amp on tour, Wolf Ear Audio "Kitoki" is a single ended triode designed and built by Andrew Rintoul in Alberta Canada.  Shouldn't be that different!  Source is the Cambridge Audio Azur 851N, their flagship streamer and DAC.  Speakers are Omega Super Alnico Monitors at 93db sensitivity.

As some Omega Circle participants may know, I have a complex system with the Inspire preamp, a Marchand line level 2-way crossover, active woofer modules, active subs, and powered supertweeters.  Testing was with all different combos and is described mostly in comparison to what I am familiar with.  I did also test with source directly input into the amp run full range to Omegas run full range with no woofers/sub/tweeters and compared to the Inspire with the same configuration.

Well... At the very least, the Kitoki matches the Inspire. In one primary way, the Kitoki shines, in one the Inspire.  Both amps are to die for.

The Kitoki added "sparkle" to my system that wasn't there prior.  I don't know if it is simply higher extension or something different, but the knock of a drum stick on a rim, the soft cymbal strike, etc., are more prominent and without adding the slightest bit of irritation.  It may be that the Kitoki does a bit better in imaging/realism, but too close to be confident in that conclusion.  The Inspire has a bit more body or fullness.  Perhaps this is the inverse of the sparkle and imaging advantage the Kitoki seems to have.

The Inspire is currently set up to run at 10 wpc with vintage British KT-77 output tubes (it can be as little as 5 wpc depending on the choice of output tubes).  The Kitoki is a modest 1.5 wpc. The gain difference was negligible and I never felt the amp strain.  I am not a metal or trance fan, so did not push its capabilities in that way.  Volume was easy with a nominal level of 80db (peaks higher) in my fairly large room (4600 cf) and listening distance of 11 ft.

I have largely given up the describing fine audio like fine wine.  All of those descriptions have started to run together and sound largely meaningless.  It all comes down to that sense of "just right"; that feeling that there is nothing in particular that needs to change, sounds not quite good enough or is distracting.  The primary variables for me, other than that most important one, are general smoothness, warm vs. cool, evenness throughout the frequency range, extension up and down, imaging definition, size of soundstage and musicality (technically, probably PRaT).

So, the primary criteria is met!  This amp sounds right.  When I listen and relax, it is transporting.  There isn't anything that calls my attention to a need for change.  When I listen more critically, I find:

General Smoothness - Excellent - no irritation whatsoever

Warm vs. Cool - Pretty balanced really - I wouldn't categorize it as either warm or cool.  However, changing the output tubes from the supplied Tung-Sol EL-84's to the vintage Russian 6N15P-EV demonstrated that the tonal quality can be altered with tube choice.  I found the EL-84's slightly warmer and my preference over the 6N15P's. 

Evenness throughout the frequency range - Excellent

Extension up and down - Up - the nicest, smoothest, sparkliest top end I have ever heard in a tube amp.  Down - bottom end is pleasing, though not quite as full as the Inspire I compared with.

Imaging definition - Excellent

Size of soundstage - Slightly smaller and more focused than the Inspire, though makes up for it in the sense of immediacy and intimacy.

Musicality - Excellent

Andrew told me that these tubes are the basic tubes supplied when purchasing the amp (along with the vintage Russian 6N1P-EV drivers and EZ81 rectifier).  Since my existing amp is a SEP, I didn't have any alternative power tubes to roll in.  I imagine some improvement could be found with carefully chosen EL-84's or equivalents.  I also do not have any alternative rectifiers that would be compatible.  I did, however, try alternative drivers: Russian 1975 Voskhod "Rocket" 6N23P - (single wire, gray shields).  These were an improvement over the 6N1P's just as they were in the Inspire and my opinions are based on using the 6N23P/TS-EL84/EZ81 combo.

Other miscellaneous things......   The volume control is a stepped attenuator which is very solid with prominent clicks. I believe this is an upgrade over the stock Alps Blue Velvet.  Fit and finish is excellent.  Overall aesthetics are subjective.  Andrew prefers a cleaner, more modern look than is traditional with tube amps.  Transformers are contained within the chassis.  The tubes are distributed in a logical manner on the top surface and take prominent visual attention without anything around or behind them.  The resulting tube glow is very nice. 

Supplied with the amp were Wolf Ear Audio made power cable and interconnects.  The interconnects can be purchased on the website in various lengths and at reasonable prices.  They are solidly made and very pretty (again subjective). 

Bottom line opinion is that this is an amp that anyone not needing more power would likely love!  I don't know how it would do with multi-driver speakers, but it is a match made in heaven with the Omega Super Alnico Monitors - single drivers at 93db.  At $1600 CAD (currently $1170 US), it's a great buy.








 
« Last Edit: 22 Feb 2016, 10:17 pm by pstrisik »

pstrisik

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Andrew,

I've got a question for you.  My Inspire has a single driver (6922/6DJ8, etc.).  The Kitoki has two.  Are there particular advantages to the two driver design in a SET?  Is the single driver design done using half of the tube for each channel?

Thanks........... Peter

Wolf Ear Audio

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Andrew,

I've got a question for you.  My Inspire has a single driver (6922/6DJ8, etc.).  The Kitoki has two.  Are there particular advantages to the two driver design in a SET?  Is the single driver design done using half of the tube for each channel?

Thanks........... Peter
Yeah, I'll explain without trying to be too technical.
Basically, the typical way of making the driver stages in amps is to have one triode section of the tube do both the gain and driving of the output tube (a typical driver tube such as the 6DJ8 has two triode sections per tube). Mine has one triode section for the gain, and another that provides no gain, but delivers all the current/drive and a very low output impedance to the output tube. The advantages of this are lower distortion and better damping between stages. The disadvantage is slightly more power consumption and more tubes required.
Hope that helps!

pstrisik

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Yeah, I'll explain without trying to be too technical.
Basically, the typical way of making the driver stages in amps is to have one triode section of the tube do both the gain and driving of the output tube (a typical driver tube such as the 6DJ8 has two triode sections per tube). Mine has one triode section for the gain, and another that provides no gain, but delivers all the current/drive and a very low output impedance to the output tube. The advantages of this are lower distortion and better damping between stages. The disadvantage is slightly more power consumption and more tubes required.
Hope that helps!

Very clear, thanks.  It does sound like two drivers would make for a cleaner sound with more isolation between circuits.  Very likely that was some of what I was hearing that was different than the Inspire, I imagine.

.......Peter

seikosha

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Duplicate post for those who are not following the Kitoki thread in the Industry Introductions area:

I’ve a had a great time with this Kitoki amp, and have been fortunate to be able to spend quite a bit of time with it since the next person on the list is on vacation until the end of April.  For a few years now, my reference amp has been the little 2 Watt Decware Zen powering Omega Alnico and RS5 monitors.  It’s been a match made in heaven with a lot of synergy, and even though I’ve had numerous amps pass through my listening room the last couple of years, at the end of the day, the Zen always seemed to stay on top.
First some notes, my listening room is small at 10*12.  Having a small room, I quickly learned that I’m never going to be able to have any sort of visceral bass in this space, which is fine because I’m not a bass head anyways.  My priorities are midrange purity, imaging and transparency and these are what I focused on in this writeup.

The Kitoki is the first amp I’ve had that competes with the Zen.  The differences are so slight that there is no way I could pick one over the other.   Both are transparent, fast, dynamic, detailed and image like crazy.  For a first product, Wolf Ear Audio is showing an awful lot of promise.

When I unpacked the amp and set it on the shelf, I instantly got an “oh no” it’s broken experience.  Before turning it on, I wanted to turn the volume all the way down and as I grabbed the nob to gently turn it, nothing happened.  It felt like it was locked in place.  Nope, it was just that the clicks on this volume control are so tight, with such solid and positive steps that you really did need to grip it and turn it.  I liked it!
For the first time ever, when putting an amp in my system, I couldn’t tell within a minute what the differences between it and the Zen were.   After some hours of play, I did start to get a handle on where they differed, which for me, was primarily in the upper midrange.  On some female vocals, the little Zen can exhibit the tiniest amount of glare.  Is it a fault of the Zen or the recording?  I don’t know.  However with the Kitoki in the system, I soon noticed that when this glare was present, the Kitoki took it away;  all of the sudden, some recordings with the slightest bit of glare, now sounded smooth and perfect.  No hint of any glare at all was present.  However, the flip side was that occasionally, with for instance some male vocals, I’d lose just the slightest bit of raspiness that would really make a vocalist come alive; things were smoother, but ever so slight.  I’d compare it with sitting a couple of rows back from a live acoustical (non miked) performance when you were already near the front.

I’ve got a Decware Mini Torii using 6V6/6L6 tubes that does a wonderful job on female vocals, making them seem even smoother than the Kitoki, but there are times with the male vocals that it just sucks the life out of them too much making some recordings unenjoyable.  The Kitoki never did that; I never had the desire to switch it out.

Another area which the Kitoki shined was its quietness.  No question, solid state or tubed, this is the quietest amp I’ve had in my listening room.  With an amp connected and plugged in, I’ve always been able to hear (with my ear next to the driver) either the slightest bit hum or a slight hiss.  It’s the nature of dealing with high efficiency single driver speakers.  The first time I tried this with the Kitoki, I was shocked.  I didn’t hear a sound.  I actually looked over to see if the amp was on.  That was a first in my experience.  Later I tried the same experiment in ultra-quiet early hours of the morning, and I could just barely sense the slightest bit of hum.

During my listening hours with the Kitoki, on more than a few times, I said to myself.  “I think this amp might be giving me a little more of the “blacks” between both the notes and the spaces within the soundstage.”   Perhaps this was an artifact of its quietness.

All of the above were my impressions with the SV83 tubes.  I have spent a few hours now auditioning it with the EL84’s. Just as with the Decware, EL84’s are interchangeable in the Kitoki.  In the past, I’d rolled some TAD EL84’s with the Decware and wasn’t super impressed.  The sound became less dynamic, lost volume and just became too polite.  When I threw in the Tung Sol supplied EL84’s into the Kitoki, I smiled.  Yes, the EL84’s seemed less powerful but they were still very dynamic and not soft sounding like they were with the  Decware.  “Ahhh”, I thought….”now here is something really tangible that I can write about explaining how the Kitoki differentiates itself!”  But then I on a whim I figured, I better try these Tung Sols in the Zen as well and sure enough, they showed that it was the tubes, not the amp that had initially turned me off to EL84’s.  Overall, the EL84’s retained much of the SV83 sound just sort of relaxing every thing across the spectrum.  They were nice and very listenable.

So it looks like I have another week before I have to think about shipping this amp out to the next on the list.  As I said, I don’t have much listening on it with the EL84’s so I’ll try to get more time with those tubes  and I have yet to touch the beautiful Power Cord and Interconnects that Andrew included.  I’ll follow up with some impressions when I’m done.

Really all I want to do now is just turn on the amp and enjoy it.  Sometimes when you have a nice amp, it’s not so much fun to “review” it, you’d rather just turn it on and appreciate it which is what you want to do with this Kitoki.

Brianportugal

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Hi Rob, love reading your reviews. I am running 3xrs (super) and Primaluna Prolog2. From all of your comparisons Decware Zen to wolf and fleawatt what do you think brings out the best? I love my omegas! Have a larger system with spica angelus but nothing like mr Omegas in a small room.
Brian

Brianportugal

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Hi Seikosha , what do you think of the wolf vs the decware. I'm looking to replace my primaluna prolog 2 with another tube gearwith my 3xrs.
Would love to hear your thoughts and what you are running now.
Brian

seikosha

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I'd be happy with the Zen or the Kitoki.  With the SV83 tubes, which I prefer, the two amps are very close.  The Zen has just a tiny bit more of a "direct" sound while the Kitoki is smoother.  If your room is lively, I'd recommend the Kitoki, if it's not, consider the Zen.  Again they are close.

With the el84 tubes,the Kitoki works better for me than with the Zen.  In my system, the The el84's push the Zen too far towards a darker sound robbing it of the transparency it does so well in its standard configuration.  However when you run the el84's with the Kitoki it doesn't sway too far in that direction, simply giving you a slightly warmer distant sound.  It's quite nice.

Canada Rob

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Hi Rob, love reading your reviews. I am running 3xrs (super) and Primaluna Prolog2. From all of your comparisons Decware Zen to wolf and fleawatt what do you think brings out the best? I love my omegas! Have a larger system with spica angelus but nothing like mr Omegas in a small room.
Brian
Thank you Brian,

The only speaker I've done a direct comparison of the two amps on are Super 3i's.  My Zen isn't the UFO version, yet my findings between the two amps are similar to seikosha's.  I run the stock 6N15N-EB in my Decware and love it. 

The Kitoki shipped with Paano branded NOS 6N15N and sounds great with them.  I now run Mesa Boogie branded (gray band) EL-84 (don't know who actually makes them - be nice to know).  They do everything the 6N15N do but add depth to the soundstage.  I have no plans to switch back to the Paano tubes.

Tough call between the two amps.  They're both an utter delight.  You wouldn't go wrong with either.

Brianportugal

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Thankyou both for the comments! Sounds like a tough call.
Brian