Art Audio Vinyl Reference vs Maxxed Out K&K

I am considering moving from a Moon LP 5.3 with outboard power supply to either a the Art Audio Vinyl Reference (used about $2,700) or the Maxxed Out K&K phono pre with all upgrades constructed by Kevin Carter (new about $2,600). I would appreciate comments from anyone who has heard one or more of these phono pre amps. I am currently using ortfon jubilee cartridge. Thanks in advance
I just recently read on the Art Audio website something to the effect that Kevin Carter either builds the Reference for AA or that he designed it. I think the latter is the case. Or do you know this already? Therefore I would expect the two to sound very similar to each other and any differences could be due to capacitor and resistor choices, differences between and among the various Lundahl transformers used in both units. IOW, nothing that I could not "fix" myself with a soldering gun. You might think that since the new K&K Maxx phono is a later design, it might be a tad better, or not. You might even ask Kevin. He is a straight shooter, as far as I can tell.
Kevin designed and builds the Vinyl References. He'll tell you the differences between it and the Maxxed Out. He is a straight shooter.
The Vinyl Ref. will not have the latest mods. That is: current source plate load for the input stage with the new JFET along with changing the series RIAA filter resistor from a series connection to a shunt connection, IXSYS 1N100D/2N100D2 MOSFETs in both current sources (input/output stages) and a different connection for the PS filter choke. These changes make for some rather striking differences. I would certainly recommend the Maxed Out kit over the Vinyl Ref. More so if you opt for the LL1931 input trannies.
Dear John, Based on another post you recently made elsewhere, I get the impression that there is yet another balanced phono stage designed by Kevin that is either in development or about to be released. Can you tell me/us anything about that one? Thanks.

I'm sorry we missed each other earlier this month.

Kevin is launching a company with a retail distribution model - Sonus Veritas. This is likely what you're alluding to.

John fairly well nails it - that the K&K Max will evolve more quickly as Kevin learns more from his explorations into this realm.

It's unrealistic for a retail product to undergo changes as quickly as a product designed for someone with soldering skills. Where changes to the DIY product are welcomed, a manufacturer runs the risk of being perceived as being only interested in improving his cash flow if he offers upgrades too frequently.

Manufacturers have to walk a fine line - much as they'd like everyone to have their current work.

If I were a betting man, I'd guess that the time will come very soon, where Kevin will stop offering a build service for these phono stages - selling them either in kit form or possibly discontinuing them.

I doubt he'd want to compete against his Sonus Veritas line. Of course, if he saves a few "tricks" for the Sonus Veritas line, then he'll have no issue and will be able to address two different markets - the DIY-er and the retail mode.

As has been said before, Kevin is a straight-shooter, and I have never hesitated to send my customers in his direction.

Thom @ Galibier
I don't think you have to worry about Kevin getting out of the kit business any time soon. The Sonas Venice is too expensive and complex for Kevin to consider offering as a kit. The retail cost of just the transformers is more than a Maxed Out. Having built one, I can hazard a guess that Kevin would not want to deal with all the problems kit builders would encounter. That said, the new version of the Maxed sounds very good. Maybe not as refined as the Venice, but the retail price of the Venice is supposed to be $18k! Does it sound $15,400 better? Not for someone with my bank account. The market for the Venice is not the same as the DIY market. As to where Kevin is heading with his business, check out the new products that he has announced for 2011 on his forum. Doesn't seem like he plans to abandon the DIYers anytime soon.
Thanks everyone I appreciate and value your input.
I spoke to Kevin myself recently. Seems that his pesky customers and the business they are bringing is getting in the way of finalizing the Sonus Veritas(?). So, if you guys will just leave Kevin alone, he will eventually market the SV. But I saw a post on this product as old as one year, so don't hold your breath(s); the SV was descrbed as imminent even in that year-old post.
Kevin had the goods at RMAF, just not in the finished package. The room sounded great. After dealing with Kevin on the phone a number of times it was great to finally meet him in person. I hope he keeps both lines running.
I own one of Kevin's upgraded Maxxed out phonostages and it would be a pity to see him discontinue it. I would think that his existing product support is from a money concious group that want big performance from little exspense, not big performance from big exspense. I'm sure he would have a handful of dedicated followers but my guess is that would be the exception and not the rule. Hopefully he would still support his existing product which has garnered a healthy following. Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of Kevin's existing products, but the buck would stop there for me unfortunately.
Taylor, et al. I hope you know I was joking in my post above, wherein I suggested that in my brief conversation with him, Kevin regretted that he was stymied in completing the Sonus Veritas by "business". He seemed quite happy with things as they are and indicated in no way that he has any plans of changing his business model. It seemed that the SV is just a fun project for him that he likes to pursue when he can grab some time for it. So, chill. It's all good.
I don't think he's planning to discontinue the kits. I spoke to him a few weeks ago and he said he's actually planning to increase the options for the Maxxed Out by, if I understood him correctly, creating modular back panels that will allow customers to choose the standard MM/MC configuration, or MC/MM with a capacitance adjustment dial, or even MC/MC.

Late last spring, when he did my upgrades, I had him mod my Maxxed Out with a MM capacitance dial on the back panel so I could play with MM cartridges. It makes this terrific phono stage even more versatile and at no sonic cost. And because I have a two-armed 'table and sometimes run two LOMCs rather than a MM and a MC, I bought one of his premium SUTs, based on the same LL1931 trannie as the Maxxed Out. To my ears it easily sounds as good as the MC input on the phono stage (the only real difference is extra IC) and it's cheap. Now I have nearly the same flexibility as a 3-input phono stage like the Rhea or Steelhead or Wavestream at a much lower price point. And I actually prefer the sound of the Maxxed Out to the Wavestream, which I auditioned in my system.

So I think this phono stage is a wonderful deal and Kevin should be applauded for making it available. That being said, I *will* audition the Venice when it's ready. Kevin says it's miles ahead of the Maxxed Out, so it must be amazing.
I can say definitively that Kevin is NOT going to abandon kit sales in favor of Sonus Veritas phono preamps. These two items are targeted at very different groups of buyers and deserve to share the stage together. In fact as the previous poster wrote, Kevin is working on improving the Maxxed-Out Kit on a continuing basis. The latest upgrade is worth applying to both the original kit (2003-2007) and Maxxed-Out Kits sold prior to September 2010. Starting with the kit I am building this week, the upgrades will be "on the board".

BTW, this is Kevin. Thanks for all of the kind words from you owners!

Cheers and Happy New Year!
That's good news Kevin, nice to hear it from the source ... funny how rumours get started. I guess now I can "chill" ... LOL

Your latest upgrade I bought from you took a bit to break in but it just got better and better with usage.

Happy New Year to all ...
Another happy Maxxed Out owner here who has one of the updated version from Kevin and it sounds fabulous with more hours.

Great to know the K&K will be here for the long haul.