DK Design VS- Reference vs Signature

Have any of you compared the sound of the standard VS-1 integrated by DK Design to the sound of the recent "signature" model? I am very curious to learn DETAILS of how they compare.

Please only respond if you have performed such a comparison. Please be specific in your response.

Thank you.
The signature isn't even shipping yet so you are going to be waiting a while.
I thought it was shipping as there is picture on the web site.

Ok then. How about the VS-1 version III versus the version II? According to the ad in this month's Stereophile, they are now shipping version III. (either that or a lot of advertising funds got wasted : - o )

I corresponded with DK early last week and they indicated that the vIII was shipping very soon but it is still not listed on their web-site as of today.
The Mark III is now shipping. Still going to be a while on The Signature.
I saw the reference mkiii listed on the web-site today. Price 3195 bucks 200 more than the mkii. I think the mkII is discontinued.
I downloaded the MK III brochure, and it lists the amplifier's class of operation as Class A+. Class A+ ? Is this a new class? I thought the classes were A, B, and A/B?
At the risk of sounding cynical, lacking a description by the manufacturer, I could guess that class A+ could mean something like Class A+ B. As in Class A/B
Newbee, I doubt that's what DK Design meant by Class A+, otherwise there is no reason not to use the common Class A/B spec. Further, Class A operation has been one of the primary features marketed by DK since the release of the MK II, and perhaps the Mk I.
Tvad, What you say is very true, however everyone sez that the DK runs very cool. Common experience is that true Class A operation produces heat and the higher the bias is set the more heat the amp produces. I've heard of Class A/B amps which run very cool when the switch over to class B is very low, but even these amps get warm if the Class A stage is a substantial part of the amps output. I've never heard of an amp which is pure class A, that has any significant output in that class that doesn't run hot. In fact some run so hot you can hardly touch the cooling fins. Its my understanding that DK has not revealed how it can make an amp which is both cool and operates in class A. That observation caused me to think that maybe they coined a new description so as to avoid having to answer directly the heat producing issue of class A. Sounded, if you will, possibly like some marketing puffery.

Perhaps so one with some engineering/design knowledge can comment.................
Newbee, you and I think alike.
I got my email from the parts connecxion ( today, they do mods and the like - the guys that founded Sonic Frontiers i think. anyhow, they had listed an SE upgrade for the DK VS-1 Mk II that sells for about $1000. my guess is that is perhaps similar to the "signature" version from the DK factory? anyone heard this mod?
How about Class A-, A+ seems presumptuous to me,
but then again, they are the BEST amps in the world according to several reviews I've read.
Much better than all the other $20,000 or more integrateds that are class A+
Larry Staples, who now owns DK with the LS Audio Group, has been touting the Ref MkII to me for over a year. He bought one very early on in the product's infancy, and he replaced his Halcro amps when he heard the DK. He is working feverishly to get the marketing, and the product info, going in the right direction so the grey areas and fuzziness typical of the previous ownership are cleared away.

I haven't heard the DK, so I can't make any claims to it's superiority, but I do know Larry, and his group deserves our open minds.
I too thought that DK's official explanation of Class A versus Class A/B looked , at best murkey or at least somewhat confusing, as I even in light of this 'misinformation trail', purchased the DK itegrated amplifier.
Most audiophiles recognize that Class A is the description presumably, of an amplifier, running 'full out' which is to say, full power output, in order to eliminate the negative action, known as 'switching distortion'(from class A to class B circuitry) transistors.
Without getting into a major dispute here, the 'former regime' at DK, says that this amp, the Mark III, 'eliminates the issue of switching distortion'through proprietary circuitry, doing away with the switching distortion, therefore, it behaves like a Class A amplifier, without having the byproduct, too much heat.
Does this really happen?
Great question! I am an unabashed audiophile, who believes in 'potential versus measured greatness', so I am biased toward capability when measured against actual bench tested measurements. To explain, "If it sounds good, it's good, regardless of the measurements" and vice versa. I only know, in looking at the measurements, that without an empically complete scientific evaluation, that the 'square wave' input versus output for the Reference amp, looks 'almost perfect', if not actually perfect.
There is, as one looks at the ocilliscope reproductions of the amp, that it has, no 'time domain' signal delay, issues, as the amp reacts to the input signal instantly--also, no ringing, seen as 'overshoot' of the input signal. This is, perhaps the 'best' square wave representation that I have ever seen. Even the reviewer of the DK amplifier (Australlian Hi'fi") was non plussed, to the degree that he thought the amp signal was a 'null'or no actual signal, or the ocilliscope at 'idle', as what he saw, was perfect from a bench technician's evaluation standpoint.
This kind of 'square wave' replication is the 'holy grail' insofar as science meets sound is concerned.
I know that many, if not most amps don't recreate this kind of square wave from an input signal.
So, time function and amplitude function look perfect.
What does this portend,as it relates to output versus input?
The 'whole idea' of sound revolves around that very complex issue--which is, 'does the output 'look' like the input'?
In this instance, at one fequency, at least, the DK is, from a scientific, and measurement standpoint, with today's technology, 'perfect'.
Does it sound 'perfect'. Well, no. Nothing is absolutely perfect. But, does it sound really good? Yes! It does !
More important, it sounds 'musical', again one of those non scientifically graded, but all important, 'ear measurements' for the listener. This is a real chance to 'forget' the world of measurements, an area where the audiophile aready places his or her ears above the fray of measurements versus the so-called scientific data, and therefore 'above' absolute 'bench measure' testing.
Again, our ears out measure the bench.
I LOVE this site!
Larry R. Staples
DK Design/President/LSA Group
Hello Larry,

I am currently owning the MK2 and am very happy with the sound.I have the chance to buy the Tact Millenium MK2 for a very good price.
I don`t have the chance to demo it,did you ever heard the Tact?
I would think that, owning a DK, with a tube preamp section--you may miss the 'warmth' that tubes offer in the overall sound.
To realize the value of tubes in the preamp section, one needs only to 'switch' the tubes for another brand or design to realize how much of the sound is dependent on the preamp section. The DK amp, depending on the tubes used, sounds completely different when the tubes are changed. If you can audition the Tact, you may, in fact, like it better. This is the point at which 'personal taste' enters the picture.

We have heard the Tact under non audition conditions, and recognize it as being a fine product--though very different than the DK.
I would again, recommend that, since we have tubes vs. a digital amp, you audition the TACT carefully-as the sound probably doesn't get much different than these two.

I prefer the warmth of having Telefunken Tubes in my unit--that doesn't mean that everyone will.
Thanks for buying a DK. Please, let us know what happens, and how this turns out.
Larry R Staples
DK Design
Tvad, I agree with your assessment of Larry. I have been a member here for awhile, but do not write much (mostly read and assess everything on a daily basis :-)). I have been one of the few that took the plunge to get one of the pre-VS1 MKII (I have the VSI MK1) and it won me over. I am not going to go into if it is the best ect and all that crap. Let's just say, imho, it more that covers everything I am looking for. Sorry, for this long winded writeup - to the point - I emailed DK Designs for something and pleasantly Larry answered. He was very honest and helpful with no pushy tactics. It is a pleasure to have him on the board and makes it easier for all us audioholics to get our questions/concerns heard/answered on this forum.

I think I owe Larry an apology. I am not inherently critical, however over the past few months there has been quite a few new members with no history claiming the DK integrateds were better than $20,000 units...

Is it possible some were sincere? By all means! However, there were so many new threads, every few days, coupled with the "marketing speak" of the website with the class A, etc. left a bit to be curious about.

With all that being said- it is nice to hear you are trying to clarify some of the nebulosity. It has also come to mind in the past couple of weeks as you have been responding, many of the so called "shill" posts have seemed to go away.

I have heard the DK VS1 MkII on Usher 8871's with a VPI Superscoutmaster & Esoteric DV-50. Before the DK I heard the system with BAT VK-60 monos through an Aesthetix preamp (one of the higher priced ones - don't recall the name). All in all, the DK compared better than I had imagined, however the performance gap was larger than some would have others believe. Again, that gap should be there for the price difference as well.

Larry, you have definately helped the cause, and also gained my respect in the process. I wish you and your company much success.
Thanks for the kind words everyone.
All we want is a chance to prove that our company will do everything possible to make buying a piece of audio gear, a pleasant experience.
Mumum, I have been answering emails sent to the old home office during our transition. You would be surprised at how many people are searching for a real helping hand. Frankly it is gratifying to help the people writing in--and it's helpful to both of us. I get to see what people are asking, and saying, since it helps DK to move in the direction the customers want.
One of my first offical decisions, was to 'kill' the home theater piece which was close to production. Before you yell and scream, its not that I don't want the Surround Sound piece in our line--that is a very big market, and we want to have a product in that arena. It was, that the product in question did not make sense to me from a DK perspective.
The unit was 'all solid state'--and I think that people look to DK for 'Hybrid' electronics.
So now our engineers are working to make a 6 channel unit, with 6 channels of tube preamplification.
This will put us back some 3 additional months, and create additional expense. Am I being Polyanna? Was this a bad decision?
Time will tell. But my thinking was that, we have to remain true to our 'roots', and continually improve on the company, but not stray from our core competence and identity, which began as hybrid.
I have polled several of our larger dealers in an informal way--and they have supported that decision--don't think that some weren't disappointed about the delay. they were. But all of them agreed that the philosopy 'must' be maintained.
Any input from you guys on this?
We want to build what the select few audiophile/moviefiles want us to build.
I look forward to your comments--thanks again for the kind words.

Larry R. Staples
DK Design Group
Larry, I personally would be very interested in a HT unit. Being that I was a movifile before venturing into audio. I would like more info on this multi channel hybrid: is it going to be geared towards home theater (ie is it going to have connections for High Definition, THX, or Dolby Pro Logic II ect)? obviuosly it will focus on great warmth with all six channels, but it would be nice if we could have a switching mechanism to switch to a two channel. The number of inputs are important imho, as this could cater to not only a dedicated audio system, but also a dedicated ht system. Also, if you can keep the price at these great levels (like the "defunct" HT piece was set to be), I think you will have something that you would be able to use to stand out of the HT crowd with.
That was my thinking, a unit that would excel in both multi channel, or two channel music, as well as movies.
Plus again, being true to our identity.
Making a six channel pre stage will take some doing, and perhaps, because of it's physical size, two units, as in a pre and amp separates.
Whichever way we go, it will be a worthy successor to our Integrated, or we won't do it at all.
Switching is planned, as well as 'plenty of inputs'.
Send me your preferences on a unit like this, as we will try to hit 'most' of the preferences of our customers.
As I mentioned earlier, we exist to create what our customer base wants and expects from us, and at a reasonable price.
PS Send it to the DK site, and I will address any questions or suggestions that anty of you might have.

Unit has recieved some positive press. That said, there are what I perceive to be an incredible number of these units up for sale very soon after introduced - at half of list price no less. Why is that? Seems to be more units than an argument about typical early adopter equipment swappers can explain? Was considering a used device, but the sheer number of available units makes me wonder.......
I don't believe most are selling the DK integrated , do to not being completely satisfied with them.. If you look at the classified ad's listed you will find that 7 are actually dealers.(As of 08-15-05) Once the VS.1 Reference MK2 came out, shortly after the MK3 was then available. There was quite a few that wanted to sell there's to purchase the MK3, since it was slighly upgraded more and only sold for $200.00 more new , even though the MK2 already sounds very good.. There is also 3 listed with finacial reasons, 2 upgrading and only 2 unknown for selling there's..That only leaves posssibly 4 that are wanting to go a different direction... In my case i do tend to sell things i regret later, just to try others things out there, must be a disease...If this helps any, i liked the DK over my Accuphase E-406V , but its also a matter of opinion to each individual.. I know 3 others that also heard both of them, agreed with me on the DK sounding better.. I can also say my friend has the small pass labs X-150 amp, BAT-VK40 preamp, Music Fidelity Tri-vista dac , & upgraded Parasound 2000 transport and its very close with the MK2 , not using a dac. Thats saying a little for an integrated amp.. For the asking price even new you will not go wrong, but i do recommend using different tubes over the stock tubes..
Hope this helps some and Goodluck,
The last post left by me was meant for Tmicha3941..
I forgot to put in the user ID, sorry..
I have spent the better part of a year with the Mk II and about three months with the Signature. The Signiture has more impact top to bottom with a clearer and better focused midrange. The bass on the Signature is tighter and cleaner as well. There is a bit more of an analytical character or perhaps you'd say more control to the present iteration of the Signiture compard to the Mk II. This is perhaps due to the Black Gate Caps and possibly different tubes. Driven within its limits both are quite musical, but driven into hard clipping the Signature exhibits the classic solid state glare that we all know and love(not easy to do though)whereas the Mk II seems a bit more forgiving in this regard. They both share the neutrality and dynamism, detail and spaciality that DK is noted for. I am currently using the Mk III through the LSA2s and so far I am very impressed.
I heard a system with Consonance Droplet CD player, DK integrated (mk. 3), and Kharma speakers. The sound was just out of this world. My friend told me he had never heard Kharma's sound this good.
>Signature exhibits the classic solid state glare that we all know and love(not easy to do though)<

Yeah, that's a sound I reeeeaallly love. So much that I have had no desire to live with a SS amp for years now......

Oz, my post meant to read "when driven into hard clipping, which is hard to do, considering the outstanding dynamic capabilities of the amp, it (signature) exhibits the same solid state glare that we all know and love (I am being facetious of course). This last statement was targeted at tube cognoscenti like you to illustrate the point that though it is indeed a solid state amp (as evidenced by the above caveat) unless forced beyond its considerable limits it sounds wonderful, and in fact exhibits some of the best qualities of tube amps. I'm like you, for about the last 25 years, my system consided of primarily tube amplification. Conrad Johnson PV-6 and more recently the Melos SHA-1 preamps, Michaelson and Austin TVA and Moscode amps. There will always be a place for tube amplification for me, in fact I'm tracking down the best tube integrated for an office system to use with Totem Arros for closed miked, more intimate works with the occasional orchestrated piece (any suggestions?) but the DK Mk III looks like it's going to be a permanent fixture in my living room.
Larry, do you plan to have a room at CES?
We have two rooms at the WCES in Las Vegas, Room 2002 and 2004 at the St. Tropez Hotel, which is next door to the Alexis Park.
We have new products that we are introducing at the show, so it should be an exciting time for all of us at DK.
Thanks for your interest.
Larry, do you have any idea what Daniel is up to these days?
I have been in random contact with him.
His primary business interests were out of the Audio realm--he recently married, and I believe he consolidated his business efforts in an effort to lessen his work load.
Larry, I am about to start rolling the tubes on the mk2. What tube would you recommended with the DK mk2 that will better enhance its overall experience? More detail, articulation, mid range, purity, air, bass,and etc.
Get the pinched waste amperex if you can find them. The Mullard CV2492 is also an awesome choice.
Thanks... Do they sound better than the Seimens cc88/2262. I have read plenty reviews on these. Are the amperex and mullard better than the seimens?
I switched the stock tubes in my first MK II, to the Telefunken. That is a good tube, but somewhat lean in the bass for my taste. (Let's face it--tubes allow us to revoice the system, allowing for speaker differentials). For example, a THIEL owner would most likely have a different tube in mind than a Vandersteen owner.
The Telefunkens I used when I had the Sound Lab A-1's, again were good, but not as musical as the Amperex ECC88/6DJ8, circa 8/1962, New Old Stock, and probably about $250.per pair. (Jim Dillon who works for Toys from the Attic, one GREAT STORE) sent me a pair as a wonderful surprise gift! They are really magic--nice sweet musical bass, space within space, great vocal presence, really nice tubes. Hard to find probably, but, again terrific.
We are breaking in an amplifier for an upcomming review,(at the reviewer's request), and he further asked for a second set of tubes, for comparison's sake. So this week end, Shari at the office, asked me to try the Siemens, of course ECC88/6DJ8, (she estimated that they were from the 1970's) priced at $110. MSRP. I am not impressed yet.
Everything sounds congested, with less space rendered. The bass doesn't go as deep as with the Amperex, and the midbass is disproportionately loud. Sounds strange, but that's what it's doing.
This is all on my LSA2's, (Standard, not Signature Speakers), which have output at 10Hz (down 14db but not cut off). The bass is peculiar sounding, again too loud in the mid bass, but less deep bass.
Overall, I would say that, if you can get the Amperex, you'll love them, (if your speakers are fairly neutral). Again, this can be thought of as a voicing tool, with everyone having a somewhat different 'flavor' in mind.
If you would like more info, call me 888 671 8607--I'll be glad to discuss your whole system.One other note--in Las Vegas, we switched to the Electroharmonix which cost about $10. or so a pair, MSRP. They are pretty good for that money--respectable midrange, no zing on the top (at least with our LSASE Amp, and it's active loads).
Tube 'sound' has to be weighed against the circuit it's in as well as the speakers--the whole system. So again, if you want to discuss, just call me--it's probably worth while.
The Amperex allow my system to sound very organic. This is system specific though. As I mentioned, tubes will be viewed differently by listeners experiencing various interconnets, sources, cables, and most certainly loudspeakers.
To me, the most exciting aspect of tubes varying presentations, is that, depending on choice, some may be able to 'tame' one loudspeaker while another could even liven up another which may be too polite--therefore a potentially great 'tuning aid' for one's system.
Again, I prefer the Amperex for my system, even though they're somewhat expensive.
Good luck.
Larry R. Staples
LSA Group
01-22-06: Lrsky
Amperex ECC88/6DJ8, circa 8/1962, New Old Stock, and probably about $250.per pair.
Amperex 6DJ8 Bugle Boy from the early 1960s can be found any given week on E-Bay for around $50/pair. Amperex Orange Globe "O" Getter tubes made in Holland from the same era will run about $65/pair, and Amperex 6922 PQ USA white label will cost between $100-$150/pair, and sometimes less.

I have purchased three matched pairs of Amperex 6922 PQ USA white label tubes in the past year for $80/pair, and they all tested better than new.

It's not clear which Amperex 6DJ8 tubes Lrsky is referring to in his earlier post, but paying $250/pair is unecessary.
Actually saying that 'paying $250 a pair is unnecessary' is somewhat misleading.
Of course one can get poor quality, or what I consider to be throw away Bugle Boy tubes for the prices mentioned, from ebay or many other private sellers.

When buying from an individual, for example, on an ebay sale, one runs the risk of buying from someone who does not have measuring equipment. This could mean that the buyer could easily end up with sub standard tubes.
For example, to be considered an NOS tube, the MCDT must measure at least 65. This, I believe, is the minimum scale measurement to allow them to still qualify as NOS.
I am afraid that some audophiles may think that NOS (new old stock) actually means that the tubes are old but have never been used, which of course is not correct. Tubes can have gone through many hands yet still be worthy of the NOS rating, as calculated from the MCDT. These Amperex I was referring to in my post, in which I was addressing the question of which tubes I like, actually measure at 110/108 respectively. They are 6DGA While Label Tubes, and sound just terrific--that is what I was referring to when I said it was such a wonderful gift, and further that they were worth in the neighborhood of $250. Given their measurements, they could easily sell for that price, and be well worth that amount of money for a discriminating listener.
Actually saying that 'paying $250 a pair is unnecessary' is somewhat misleading. Of course one can get poor quality, or what I consider to be throw away Bugle Boy tubes for the prices mentioned, from ebay or many other private sellers.

Allow me to correct any unclear or somewhat misleading statement.

Here's a quad of excellent quality Amperex 6DJ8 Bugle Boy tubes that all test strong. One day remaining in the E-Bay auction, and they are priced at less than $20/quad.

Now, I suppose it's incumbent upon me to offer apples-to-apples proof that Amperex 6922 PQ USA White label tubes that are tested and guaranteed can be purchased at prices substantially below $250/pair from E-Bay sellers.

Here is a matched quad Amperex 6922 PQ USA White label tubes that I purchased from an E-Bay seller for less than $220/quad ($110/pair) that measure 101/101, 100/100, 100/100 and 102/102. These are excellent tubes with outstanding test measurements that were offered with a return guarantee by the seller.

I have purchased other tubes off E-Bay that were offered with test measurements and with return privileges. None of these tubes have been anything other than tested, excellent quality, and far from throw away.

I stand firm on my point that one does not have to pay $250/pair for excellent quality vintage Amperex 6922 PQ tubes, but one certainly has that option.

Buy from whomever makes you comfortable.
Its not life or death. Its only money and more can be had. Tom
Larry, thanks you very much....You have a lovely product and I am one satisfied customer. I really love the way this amp sound. Another question, Can you please give me instruction on how to install it. One thing I know for sure is I will have it unplug when I install it. I am assuming the only thing I have to do is disconnect the top of the amp with an alley wrench. Once disconnected the amp, remove the tube then put the other in the same way I took the other out, right? Is there anything elso I am missing.
Yikes. How can it be that "new old stock" is not really new at all, and you consider that acceptable. This is bizarre. I would assume that NOS means it's been tested but never used for anything more than a few hours.
NOS means exactly that...New, Old Stock. These are unused vintage tubes. Used tubes cannot be called NOS, but NOS is a term commonly misused by tube sellers to describe any vintage tube. That's why a buyer of NOS tubes should always ask the seller if the tubes have ever been used.
Please be careful.
First bleed the amp down, (playing it softly, turning it off, to drain the power from the output).
Then turn off the rear rocker unplug it--remove the top plate--in the rear you will see two tubes, surrounded by 'rings'. Try to not touch anything but the tube itself!!!
Wearing gloves or using something to keep the oil from your hands from transferring to the tubes, gently, gently rock the tubes front to back, while pulling up gently. It will seem stuck, but will pull lose. Note the bottom pattern of the tube.
Take both tubes out--then put the tubes back in matching the patterns. Be careful, as the tubes are somewhat delicate-if you misalign the bottom you can bend them-worst case, break the tube.
This shouldn't happen though, just be gentle.
Plug the amp back in--let it stablize, by turning on the rear rocker switch, then wait about a minute.
Hit the front 'on' switch, and the tubes will cycle to power in about 30 seconds.
Don't make any evalutations for 24 hours--and I would leave the amp on constantly for the first day.
With our circuit, we feel that the tubes should have a life of about 10,000 hours playing hours.
Let me know if I can be of any further service.

As to the question of "how can they be called new".
I suppose that it depends on which 'expert' you wish to believe.
Recently, I have spoken to several 'experts' and each time was given different information about this.
The most compelling of the experts, meaning the one who appeared to know the most, (how can I know for sure)--told me that the definition of NOS was not that New Old Stock means New in the classic sense, but New as it relates to measured performance. He indicated that, if the tube,(regardless of ownership or use) measures at least 65, and it's old stock it can be considered to be NOS. This sounds counterintuitive to me also, but that was his explanation.
I welcome any 'experts' who sell or trade in tubes to give their definitions, as I don't pretend to know the right answer. Heck, I'm the guy who said that Amperex circa 8/62 NOS tubes retail for about $250. because that is what another 'expert' told me--and he's a tube dealer.
TVAD says they can be had for less than half that at virtually any time on ebay. While I would personally feel more comfortable buying from a tube dealer, (maybe that's who is selling on ebay), that's a choice for everyone to make on their own.

Caveat Emptor, as always.

Larry R. Staples
LSA Group
Tube dealers sell on E-Bay just like they do on Audiogon or their own websites or over the telephone. E-Bay, Audiogon and personal websites are simply marketing opportunities...virtual storefronts. One should not make the mistake of assuming legitimacy comes by way of one venue and not another.

Legitimacy and trust comes via an established history of positive feedback, either here, on E-Bay or by word of mouth, regardless of the product being sold.
LARRY YOU ARE THE MAN!!! This is excellent service for an excellent product.

When I took the older pair out and replace it with the new pair. Every thing was fine. But when I put the older pair back in, the right channel tube lost its vacuum. It stop lighting up. I really don't understand how this could have happened. Can you explain to me what happen and How can I prevent this from happening?
Larry, is Shari Graham, late of Thiel, working for you now?