The Wolf Ear Audio Thread. Kitoki Impressions and Discussions.

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Wolf Ear Audio

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The tour unit has been sent to the first in line! I'm excited to hear the impressions!

Ultralight

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What is the size?  Does it fit in a standard USPS Large Flat Rate Box?

Put me next in line to whoever is last.

I've had Omega Alnico briefly, as pair of Super 3i, and currently run a bipole RS5 Omega.

Thanks!
UL

pstrisik

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It's a comin' my way as we speak.. er, type!  Will likely be a week before it's here though.

....Peter

Hey UL!  :wave:


Wolf Ear Audio

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What is the size?  Does it fit in a standard USPS Large Flat Rate Box?

Put me next in line to whoever is last.

I've had Omega Alnico briefly, as pair of Super 3i, and currently run a bipole RS5 Omega.

Thanks!
UL
It comes with its own shipping box (reusable).
I can add you to the tour (I'll send you a PM)

bakalovb

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Hi everyone!
I'm brand new to AC.
I recently ordered 98 db Omega speakers, so, naturally, became interested in this SET amp.
I don't see any reviews/first impressions. Is that me, being unfamiliar with AC, or they are still pending?
Thanks and have a great day to everyone.

pstrisik

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Hi everyone!
I'm brand new to AC.
I recently ordered 98 db Omega speakers, so, naturally, became interested in this SET amp.
I don't see any reviews/first impressions. Is that me, being unfamiliar with AC, or they are still pending?
Thanks and have a great day to everyone.

Welcome bakalovb!

Still pending.  The amp is on its way to me.  Since it came from Canada into the US, it takes a bit longer due to customs clearance.  Tracking says it should arrive tomorrow.  I will have a couple of days to give it some hours.  Andrew tells me the amp has 48 hours so far but all tubes are brand new.  So my review will probably be towards the end of this coming weekend.

.........Peter


pstrisik

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(Sorry for the duplication in posts for those reading both here and on the Omega forum.)

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).



Ultralight

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Thanks for the photos and update. UL

Charles Xavier

Hi
Can you add me to the tour. I am in NY

Wolf Ear Audio

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Hi
Can you add me to the tour. I am in NY
That shouldn't be a problem. I'll message you tomorrow

pstrisik

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First Kitoki Tour Review!
« Reply #50 on: 22 Feb 2016, 08:54 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 Omega circle.   ..........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 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, 10:15 pm by pstrisik »

Wolf Ear Audio

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Thanks for the very kind review, pstrisik :) (I'll message the next in line for the tour and contact you later tonight)
If anyone was curious, I handled pretty much everything on my own, from the art and the website, to the chassis and amp design. I also build each one by hand on my own.

pstrisik

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Amp delivered to tourist #2 today - a day early!  Looking forward to some discussion!!


........Peter

OzarkTom

I am tourist #2. The amp is hooked up and burning in. It came in all the way from Alaska. :thumb:

pstrisik

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I am tourist #2. The amp is hooked up and burning in. It came in all the way from Alaska. :thumb:

Yeah, but mighty quick!

I put about 50 hours on the amp, 40 on the EL-84s, very little on the driver and on the Russian output tubes.  Andrew said he had about 48 hours on it before sending it.  So the amp and EL-84s should be good to go.  The other tubes could use some burn in.

Hope you enjoy as much as I did! 

.......Peter

seikosha

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Any Updates?

Wolf Ear Audio

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Any Updates?
There was a small issue with tubes and I had to send out new ones. They should be there today, so  we should hear back son :)

mike_w

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Hello Audio Circle.  I'm new to the board and I was drawn here by the recent discussions on the Wolf Ear Audio Kitoki SET ampflier.  This thread actually convinced me to purchase an amplifier from Andrew along with a pair of the Aohkii interconnects. I thought that I might share my experiences with the Kitoki and hopefully this is of interest for some of you also reading this thread.

Andrew delivered the Kitoki to my home in Calgary last Wednesday and helped me to get it up and running.  This exercise consisted of inserting the correct tubes into the appropriate sockets and plugging in the source, speakers, and power.  The unit itself looks great.  It is sleek with the transformers neatly tucked inside the chassis.  The tubes take prominence on the top and look great with their deep red glow.  I opted for the stepped attenuator in place of the stock potentiometer.  The attenuator has a very solid click from step to step.  Connections for the input and speaker are at the rear, along with plug for AC power.  Binding posts for the speaker wires are solid and easy to access.

I have been using a Linear Acoustics LA V100 solid state integrated amplifier. This amplifier was manufactured in small numbers in northern Germany 20+ years ago. Before that I used a Hafler amp/preamp separates.  Right now, I am using Totem’s Forest speakers.  I am using an Ayre QB-9 DAC with a Mac Mini and Amara as a digital source and a Rega Planar 3 and Elys 2 cartridge for analog material.  I had some concerns about the power output from the Kitoki driving the Forest speakers.  Coming from 100 W solid state to 1 W SET seemed a little risky, especially since the Forests have a rated sensitivity of 87 dB/Wm.  But, Andrew reassured me that as long as I don't routinely play at eardrum busting levels (I don't) and my room is not that large (it isn't – roughly 6 m x 4 m), then this should not be an issue.

The Kitoki is terrifically fun to listen to.  Being my first experience with tubes, I am thrilled with the presentation and character of the music.  The Kitoki is fast.  I am hearing details in the music that I never heard previously.  Subtle things, like the sound of the drumsticks, or a musician drawing in breath, or fingers on the piano are revealed by the amplifier.  These little elements help to draw me into the performance in a way that I was not with the solid state amplifier.  At reasonable volumes, the playback is effortless.  The image created by the Kitoki is engaging.  I wouldn't describe it as expansive, but I find it accurate.  The speakers just disappear.  Placement of the musicians is stable with space between the performers.  The Kitoki is capable of generating bass notes from the Forest speakers, but with less authority than my Linear Acoustic solid state amplifier. However, given how well the Kitoki handles the overall experience, I don't find myself missing anything. I have been listening to a range of music including Oscar Peterson's Night Train, Led Zeppelin's Live Celebration Day, Verdi's Nabucco, Young Galaxy, Radiohead… It's all good.

In my experience so far, the Kitoki is proving to be an entertaining amplifier that is providing me with a different (than I am used to) and enjoyable listening experience.  It looks great, sounds fantastic, and is giving me quality time with the music.  Andrew was terrific to deal with.  He was prompt with his communication and the product I received is exactly as advertised.  It was fun to talk to him about the design. He is passionate and knowledgeable about audio.  I understand that there are some more Wolf Ear Audio components on the way.  I can't wait to see what Andrew will come out with next!

Best wishes,
Mike.

Wolf Ear Audio

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Thanks for the kind words and the mini review Mike.
Waiting for OzarkTom to post his impressions here as well. We had a bit of a hiccup with the tubes, but he has new ones now. The tour will continue as planned very soon.

OzarkTom

I just listened to Halie Loren's Crazy Love, and that is the way I feel about this amp. It is shockingly good.