Building the Audio Note Kit 1 SET amp...

Hi, Folks,
If anyone's interested, I've started a blog with lots of photos, documenting my ongoing build of the Audio Note Kit 1 300B SET amp. If you've ever thought of building any kit before and want to get a feel for what it's like, you're welcome to have a look!

I am vicariously building your AN kit with you, I only wish I could keep the results! It would be interesting to hear a PCB-built and hard-wired version side-by-side to see how much difference hard wiring would really make. I'm probably wrong, but I doubt it make THAT much difference.

You are evil, though, in that you tempt me to pad my PayPal balance with a purchase of this kit, but my commonsense side is winning out, thank God.

I will be watching for furthur intallments of your build blog, I can almost feel my soldering iron in my hand as I read it. Nice soldering joins, by the way.

WOW! Audio Note should pay you for that blog. Very nice.
I've been watching the blog with interest, and really loving it. It looks great. As I listen to my Kit One, I am excited for you, because I know that you will be very happy.
Great job on the blog! First rate and thank you for posting.
Nice. I was just looking at one of those very kits today, thinking it might be a nice project for a small, second system. What loudspeaker are you planning to use, and did you opt for any of the upgraded components in connection with the kit? (Sorry if you mentioned it and I missed it). The blog idea is cool. Thanks for doing this!
Not only is this an interesting read..even for those who are not into valves OR kits.....but the time and taste you have put into it are so evident...😘
The layout, typeface and pictures display what can only be described as 'professional' quality...👀
Do you have a graphics, designer or architectural background..❓😜
Thank you for the Link...👍
The only upgrades I purchased, due to budget constraints, were better capacitors for the 300B driver board (Mundorf Supreme Gold/Silver/Oil) and a 3 position input selector switch. But I can do other upgrades down the road... that's one of the nice things about building a kit. I'm planning on using this amp with my Reference 3A De Capo BE's. I'll let everyone know how it works out.

Halcro: Thanks for the kind comments (and for showing that you can use emoji's in Audiogon posts... who knew?) Wordpress makes it pretty easy to toss together a good looking blog. Amazingly, many of those photos were taken with an iPhone 4S! Some of them were taken with my old DSLR, but the iPhone makes it really easy to get tight close up shots.

Grannyring: Thanks!

Roxy: Many thanks. What's the rest of your system, speakers especially? Your "System" link strangely points to a thread called "Where's Tvad?" ;-)

islandmandan: Thank you! I'm glad you like my soldering joints. Some are prettier than others but you get better as you go. But man, I nailed the tip of my left hand middle finger yesterday when my soldering iron slipped, and whoa, nelly, let's just say there was some extended swearing going on. Nice blister there now but at least it's no longer throbbing! That was bound to happen at least once. At least there's a good story to go with it. Closest I'll ever come to a sports injury. ;-)
I never understood how that link to Where's Tvad happened. It's been that way for a long while. I use my kit one with a pair of Klipsch Epic CF-4 speakers. They look like monsters, but actually work great in a small 11X13 room. I have had some great speakers with more glamorous names in the past, but these are really the best I have had overall. They are 102db efficient, and work very well with the Kit One.
By the way, Tvad is a happy Audio Note owner, last I checked with him.
Tvad used to comment here all the time but I haven't seen his posts in quite awhile.

Roxy: I know that a lot of SET owners are drawn to Klipsch because of their high efficiency.
Rebbi, I have a tip for you if you are willing to be a tad unconventional. This mod will cost you nothing, but will have a very positive impact on the sound of your amp and system. Run the output tranny wires outside the chassis and use the binding posts as clamps only. Simply tin the the bare wire and clamp your spade up against the the tinned bare wire. All binding posts, regardless of price and quality, degrade sound pretty substantially. I have done the A/B comparisons and no contest.

You can simply drill small holes next to the binding posts for each wire. You may not need to if you can go out another way. Perhaps the bottom? If you drill holes just place some little rubber grommets to avoid the rough metal rubbing on the wire's coating.

You can be creative and execute this mod in a way to assure the wires will never short by touching each other. It is worth the planning and thought. With a little effort and creativity you will lift the performance of your system as much, if not more, than a tube, wire, or cap upgrade.

Look at my virtual system and see how I did this on my external crossover.

We DIY guys can be bold!
I forgot to mention again......your the man! I so enjoy looking through and reading your blog. You have me wanting to buy an ANote kit. I look forward to hearing your impressions of the sound.
Grannyring is right. I do the same on my amp. The point is to have the output wires from the output trannies directly in contact with your speaker wires. If you can get rid of the terminations on your speaker wires even better. Although if you do remove the termination on you your cables in some cases you can risk lowering the value for resale. -Jet
Careful Rebbi, that's the signpost up ahead, you could soon be entering the "Tweak-light" Zone, where ordinary things don't happen very often.
Grannyring: Wow, that's interesting. I think I'll see how the amp sounds with a conventional build, first. I can always do your mod later if I want to try. That's the nice thing about this process - I know where everything is and how it's connected! :-)
I have had three different Kit One's over the years, going back to the days when Angela Instruments sold them. I wrote a review waaaayyyyy back for Positive Feedback when it was a print journal, and Art Dudley has written about it in the old Listener magazine.
I have a pair of the L4 monoblocks now and they are simply excellent in every way. I am also getting ready to build a pair of the new dual 300B interstage monoblocks for my late winter project.
Brian Smith is a great guy to work with on these kits and pretty passionate about keeping them as state of the art products. They are a screaming deal compared to a finished product of this quality, for those who can solder.
Thanks for the post. I sometimes wonder what the Kit 1 would cost if it was only sold as a finished product. Anyway, glad you've had so many positive experiences with AN Kits.
What kind of speakers did you run the Kit 1's with?
Dbarger ;
Can you speak to the quality of the parts in the Kit 1's , since ANK broke away from Audio Note ?
How many of the parts , in the basic kits , are actually made or sourced from Audio Note UK ?

Thank You
The quality is exemplary. In the kits with Tantalum resistors, the Takmans are excellent, as are the AN tantalums.
I would say the kits have only gotten better over the years. I believe the wiring has been improved regarding layout so that a finished kit will be very quiet. My L4's are super quiet. I have a Ref75, great amp, but find I usually am playing the L4's... They both have their strengths.
Rebbi, I was on your blog this morning. YOu are getting close to the end. I cant wait for you to finish and fire up the amp for the first time. It will be an experience you will not forget.
I'm considering either the Kit 1 10th or a pair of the Legend monos (with the latter OPTs upgraded to the latest C-core); I'd welcome any thoughts or input, especially if anyone has any knowledge/experience re the C-core transformers.
I have the Kit 1 10th Anniversary for some months now. I can't say how it would compare to the Legend Monos, but before I decided, I asked the opinions of Brian @ Audio Note Kits as well as Pete Fulton, who built it for me, and both of them immediately advised me to get the Kit 1. I believe that it was Brian (you could and probably should call him) who told me that there were customers who had gone from monos back to the Kit 1.
I can't really comment on the superiority of the c-core transformers in my amp, since I have never heard the regular ones. For the difference in price that I paid, I hope they sound better! Joking aside, the amp sounds great, and I am very happy. I never would have thought 8 little watts could sound this good.

Are you using your Kit 1 10th with a preamp or as an integrated? I don't want to give up my pre (which is also my headphone amp and gives me remote volume control) and am a bit concerned having an additional volume pot in the signal path (although I'm sure it could be built as just an amp).

Is the Kit 1 10th quiet re hum/noise?

I've been corresponding with Brian & Pete (both have been great, although I'm likely driving them crazy with all my questions 😄), but they haven't really recommended the Kit 1 10th over Legends with C core OPTs. I'd really love to hear why some folks have moved to the Kit 1 from the monos.

Thanks (and I don't want to hijack the thread!).
As the OP, I've got no problem or concerns with your "hijacking the thread." Ask away! I'm happy for this thread to become a home to general Audio Note Kit conversation.
I am getting rather close now to the end of my build. Speaker posts attached, RCA posts attached. Next comes the input selector switch and the volume pot and I should be ready to begin testing. Wish me luck!!
Hi Rrsclyde,
I have mine configured as an integrated, with a Khozmo stepped attenuator. Out of curiosity, I thought that I might hook up my Morrison Audio ELAD (solid state) placing it between the source and one of the inputs, after calling Pete and asking if that was safe. At first, superficially, I thought that I preferred it, but I soon realized that the magic of the amp's timing and the way it exposed musicians intent, at least with this preamplifier, had been lost.
I'm glad that you asked about noise. It is not just quiet, but very quiet. My speakers are 102db efficient horns, and there is no noise to be heard with ear to speaker. I think that its one of the reasons for the clarity of the amps sound. And yes, it can be built as just an amp.
I would love to hear the Legend C-Cores with that new super preamp they are introducing.
I've heard that the Khozmo attenuator is a significant upgrade, but Brian steered me away from installing it from the get-go. He suggested getting the kit successfully built and burned in, and then perhaps doing that upgrade down the road. The part itself is about $180 on, so it's not extremely pricey to retrofit.
Don't sweat it. I doubt that it's a big difference. Users have been praising this amp for years, and that was before the many upgrades that have been incorporated since it first came out. You will be happy.
Hi Rebbi, We havent heard from you in a few days. How is the build coming?
I've had a busy work week and have only had sporadic time here and there to work on the kit. :-(
I've also offered to help Brian to edit the final version of the assembly manual for the Kit 1 2014 Edition, which is due to be ready for distribution by the end of the month. So that's taken some time, too.
So, in building my kit, I've been working with an incomplete, "beta" version of the build manual, which has somewhat slowed me down because it's necessitated a good number of Q and A emails back and forth between Brian and me. But I've learned a lot in the process and I feel confident that the new assembly manual will be very good.
As for the kit itself, I have the wires soldered to the Elma input selector switch and I'm just about ready to make the connections to the Driver Board and the RCA inputs. At that point, we'll be ready for power on (without tubes!) and voltage checks. So expect to see another blog post by the end of MLK day on Monday!
Very exciting. Looking forward to your report after that first power up!
It would be a good idea to check the ohmage from B+ to ground before you apply power. With no power on, and the tubes removed, I would guess the proper ohmage would be a couple thousand Ohms. Also make sure the caps are discharged before the test.

I've smoked a lot of projects in my 40 years of building things. =-} Haste makes waste.
Just to remind you again, don't be discouraged at first power-up. The sound on the first day was not pretty at all. I was concerned. It starts clearing up soon after though.
Roxy -
The Assembly Manual says at the end, "The sound of the kit1 will change quite a bit over the first month as it burns in – you will also smell the transformers burning in – this is normal."
So it sounds like you're on target.
Beginning test phase. Rechecking interwiring connections and then power up without tubes to try some voltage checks. Woo-hoo!
Well, the amp is entirely built. Voltages check out fine, so this weekend I'll be hooking it into my rig and checking out the sound, making sure there's no hum issues, etc!
Play it on Salvation Army $10 speakers first. I always test on throw away speakers first as an FYI.
++Grannyring. You don't want to take a risk of damaging anything expensive until you are confident all is and will likely remain as it should be.
The amp is finished and making music! I'll be posting more specific sonic impressions once the amp is burned in, but I wanted everyone to know.
Excellent news Rebbi! Give it a good burn in and let us know.
Brownsfan: Thanks! Will do!
Fantastic! Congratulations. Please tell us what is was like the moment you first heard music coming out of the amp that you built with your own two hands.
I'm really happy for you. You did an excellent job of building as well as documenting the build of your amp. I hope that you love it, and I really think that you will. Congrats!
Jetrexpro: It was pretty cool. Actually, the first big thrill just plunking the thing down on my component cabinet next to the turntable. It's quite a visually beautiful thing in and of itself. My non-audiophile (but music loving) wife and daughter took a look at it and said, "That's what you've been building? It's beautiful!" That was a great moment.
I just paged thru your blog. Very impressed with both the blog and the work done building your AN amp. You should be proud... bravo!
Congratulations Rebbi! Looking forward to your impressions once it's burned in. I was tempted by your blog to head down the same path but instead chose instant gratification through the purchase of a used amp. I admire your spirit and determination.
Pdreher: Thank you!
Thank you Rebbi for sharing with us. You've done an excellent job, not just building the amp but communicating the experience. Keep us abreast of your impressions.
Thank you so much for the kind comments. Out of the house right now with the amp playing a CD on repeat for some easy burn in time. Again, will communicate impressions when things start to settle down.
Look forward to reports as the unit burns in.
I sent you a PM a couple of days ago.