K&K any comments?

I think I finally decided on the K&K Phono preamp, is there anything I should know? I plan on using a sumiko blackbird cartridge and vpi tnt turntable.
Enjoy! That's about it as far as what to do. Maybe Herbie's Halos. I found mine works best using Golden Sound DH Cones and Squares. I use, among others, A Sumiko Celebration and it is top-flight.
I,m betting that the K&K will keep you happy for a long time. If you do get the urge to swap it out, make sure to take the effort to listen to whatever you may have your eye side by side with the K&K before you decide.

Best and enjoy,

Have you already ordered the K&K, or no?
I had the opportunity for an extended evaluation of the K&K Phono Preamp. I wanted to like it; assumed I'd enjoy it; was predisposed to buying it, but decided against it. Whether it works for you depends very much on your system attributes. While you can easily interpret my comments as a negative review, I intend them as descriptive of what I experienced. In a system where phono is the primary source and you have brightness to compensate for elsewhere in the system, the K&K may be quite viable for you. Certainly 30 years ago as the phono section of a full preamp, it would have been considered excellent.

The K&K is superbly smooth, to a fault. It has a creamy signature sound that is euphonic, unintrusive, tonally commendable, and is certainly very easy to live with. But it is dynamically unexpressive, always damping musical excitement. I found it tonally accurate but softening of detail, obscuring of articulation, quite old-school in being creamy but uninvolving. No snap or jump. It chisels off every edge it encounters. It spackles over the textures in brass instruments, which many people like because it makes horns sound like they wished they sounded, rather than with the brightness and sometimes harsh texture horns in real life actually have. Guitars, harps, plucked strings are harmonically correct but their energy is damped. Dynamic projection is tamped. The sound stays on the other side of the room behind the baffle plane of your speakers. But everything is buttery smooth.

Spatial imaging, soundstaging are excellent. Among the best. Noise is higher than I'd like to hear in a contemporary design.

I'm tube-centric but impressed by some solid state phono gain stages. I directly compared the K&K to Manley Steelhead (tubes), Jasmine LP 2.0 (solid state), Bel Canto Phono 1 (solid state). Cartridge is Denon DL103D. Linestage, Klimo Merlino Gold. Amp, Audion Black Shadow 845 monoblocks; also Audiopax 88 monoblocks. Speakers, Zu Definition. Also listened on Stax headphones driven by a vintage Stax SRA 3a tube headphone driver. The Zu Definitions are wideband, exceedingly revealing, lots of dynamic jump factor. The K&K sounds beautifully smooth, dynamically anemic, uniformly softening in detail on my gear.

Build quality, parts selection and quality, overall execution is to a high standard. Tube rolling did little to change the essential dynamic blandness of the K&K. For me, this phono pre came in fourth among the units directly compared. It committed no sins of commission and for that alone it can earn a place in some listeners' systems. However, for me, the K&K's sins of omission preclude me recommending it.

Phil, I think he already decided on the K&K so why rain on the parade? And you want to compare units that retail at 3 and 4 times the price?
He asked. Not raining on the parade. Aside from that, these threads are used subsequently by others to inform decisions later. And it isn't clear the order for the K&K has been placed.

The poster could infer from my post how to compensate.

The K&K is nearly $2,000. The Jasmine LP 2.0 is under $1,000. The Bel Canto Phono 1, when it was still in the Bel Canto line, was $1195. The Manley Steelhead is $7300 -- the outlyer -- and I just happened to be able to audition one at the same time. The Bel Canto handily beat the Steelhead, by the way, so Steelhead did not set the pace for this comparison.

I could not agree any less with you Cobra, particularly in the areas you find to be the weakest. Then you go on to say "tube rolling". Please tell us what tubes you rolled through the K&K, if you don't mind.

Dynamically unimpressive, chisels off the edges? Were you listening to the same phono stage as many of thes rest of us?
"The sound stays on the other side of the room behind the baffle plane of your speakers." Sounds like the rest of your system (speakers or amp) is the culprit, perhaps.

I (and about 8 others), did a comparison awhile back at a local audio dealer's place and we threw the K&K up against quite a number of others. Don't recall everyone right now (I could check) but I know the EAR, a Klyne, a Pass Xono, an Aesthetix Rhea, and about four others were in the mix. In summary, it bested everything up to $5K in a virtually unanimous opinion. The characteristics most often sited was almost diametrically opposite of what you have stated above – and that one of its BEST attributes was that it was NOT buttery smooth as gone overboard by some tube stages but, by virtue of its hybrid design, captured the best of both worlds (something like a Boulder notwithstanding, of course).

Another thing to consider might possibly be break in time, which is why I ask the OP if they had ordered yet. When mine was new, and again when I had some resistors replaced in the MC stage, the soundstage, imaging, and refinement of presentation took a good 80 hours to FULLY develop. I found the soundstage a bid constricted at first. But then, it widened, then it deepened, then it widened and deepened again, all the while becoming both more tight and more refined (if that can be appreciated).

Anyway, just another point of view (and that of about 8-12 others I know personally).

I would REALLY like to have you comment on what tubes you rolled in the K&K. Thanks
I know what Phil is getting at in his description, but the K&K will remain in my system for the forseeable future. I have'nt heard the others, but the K&K clearly bested the Bel Canto to my ears. As always, it comes down to the sound you like and I am using this "smooth" stage with a smooth cartridge, a Koetsu Rosewood Signature and am entranced by the sound. I find very fast stages that etch the leading edge of notes, wearing. For example the TE Groove is a wonderful phonostage and I see why people like it, but I would find it wearing. So listen to it if you can, I bought it unheard(I live in the UK) a dangerous thing, but it is way the best and quietest stage I have had in my system. That is one thing I strongly disagree with Phil about, I think it is very quiet, with excellent RFI rejection.
Dear 4yanx/Dan_ed: I don't know the audio devices that form the audio system of that 4yanx/friends dealer but the 213Cobra system is a very high resolution one specially those Zu full range/101db efficiency speakers.

It is common to have these kind of totally different opinions when two audio systems are really different. Now these are the music sound reproduction targets for 213Cobra:

" Expression + Resolution + Tone + Presence, all in balance. "
In his system he think that the K&K don't achieve these goals: that's all, it is not up to the task.

Btw Dan, I think that 213Cobra or any one else has the right to express his opinion; it does not matters if some one already take a choice on an audio device. All the opinions help to all of us to understand better our hobby.

Regards and enjoy the music.
213cobra, excellent comments which point to how important listener preferences are in high end audio. Among the better products it really is hard to say that one is clearly better than another. It's usually a case of the listener's preferences more closely matching the equipment makers set of design compromises.
I had the K&K in my system for well over a month. It got lots of hours and I felt it had stabilized before I drew conclusions. Additionally, half a dozen other people joined me for comparisons at various times and assessments were aligned. Last, a vendor exhibiting at HE2006 here in L.A. stopped by to run the comparison for an exhibiting decision and their preference too ran against the K&K for the same reasons. In that context, we also listened to the K&K with a Modwright Preamp, as well as with the Klimo Merlino Gold. However, I am sure the units owner will continue to bake it in and I'll have a chance to hear it in the future. If things change, I'll be happy to say so.

I agree that fast stages that etch leading edge transients are a problem if they don't deliver the full tone behind the attack. I reject components that do this, but it's not what I hear in the group that comprised this comparison. Anyway, the K&K sounded pleasant and old school to me, as I said committing sins of omission, not commission. Which is what you want if you have to live with flaws.

I evaluated the K&K with the stock tubes because tube subs did not change the basic sonic character of the unit. The smooth signature seems to be intrinsic to the circuit, not the tube. I have some 6n1pev, which are a trace quieter, and I tried the ~sub of various NOS 6922 (Siemens, Valvo) and CCA (Telefunken, Seimens, Valvo, Zaerix, Sylvania). Results were mixed, with nothing able to significantly alter my impressions of the preamp.

I do agree RFI rejection seemed quite good, as any gear that can't reject RFI shows that flaw in my area immediately. However, the K&K was discernibly but not agfressively the noisiest of the group I directly compared it to. Now, that said, it's a comparative comment. Phono is noisy by modern hifi standards and the noise alone wouldn't have precluded me preferring the K&K.

To be clear, this was a Total Phono SE factory-assembled unit that was loaned to me for evaluation by its buyer. Not a kit, not customized.

Anticipating a possible break-in issue with the MC input transformers, I also used a couple of external step-up transformers into the moving magnet inputs, including S&B. Same result. The sonic signature of the active gain stage of this unit is overriding of secondary influencers and is very strong. Since phono sections are particularly subject to highly individual preferences, I assume that it reflects the listening bias of the designer, and I fully understand why some people are enthusiastic about the K&K. It just hasn't been convincing to me as earning an unconditional recommendation. But if smooth is your first order criterion, then this has it. For me, the K&K is nice but regressive, and makes music less expressive and more emotionally remote than I expect from hifi. I understand why others disagree.

And no, 4yanx, the rest of my system was not the culprit in the K&K's inability to project sound into the room. If you know Zu Definitions and any decent 845 amp, you know this is not the case. The system is highly involving, dynamic, spatially convincing and infused with jump. All the other phono stages took full advantage of those traits. With the K&K in, it all sank back. It was like listening to really good phono in 1975, by comparison. Pleasant and smooth but not projected. More to the point, my digital player has more projection with plain Redbook CD than the K&K, with same performance material, and that isn't true with the compared phono pres.

Fine, Phil, you have your opinion, and so do I. Fair enough. I know that I get plenty of projection. I personally think labelling something to sound like a 1975 phono is just plain silly since many made in 1975 sound better than those made last week. Given the circuit in the K7K I am very surprised that you didn't fry those 6922's you tried in there. I'd have thought that they'd have run just a tad on the torrid side.... Yes, I have heard the Zu's and, while I have heard very good 845 amps, the Druids were not my cup of tea in the systems in which I heard them, so maybe tastes are the difference here.

Raul, to the extent I should reply to you at all, I would have to check regarding the exact "other" equipment used when that comparison over two days was done (it is in my notes somehere). As I recall, one of the amps used was a super high-end Nagra and the other I know was a Boulder 2060, so I don't think the "resolution" was an issue, as much as you'd probably like to make that inference. The speakers I do not recall at all.

I also swapped the K&K out with several other phono stages borrowed and begged from friends and, in my system, it sounds almost directly opposite to what Phil describes. I go with a Platinum Edition McCormack DNA-225 through a Bent NOH passive and into Vandersteen Model 5A's so, while maybe not the final word in resolution, it'll hold its own with a number of systems and is hardly 70's vintage sounding (assuming that Phil's prupose is to deride with the 70's sounding analogy). Plus, things like "emotionally remote" and "less expressie music" do not do a whole lot in describing to me how something sounds other than to come across as so subjective that we'd better just leave this as a difference in opinions and/or ears. :-)
Hi Raul. Where have you been lately? Phil, and others, I did not mean to discourage input. I was under the impression that Padrillo had already made his decision and just wanted to support him a bit. I completely agree with comments about system synergy and personal preference. That said, I am curious about some of the comments made about the K&K hybrid and leading edge etching, if that's what Phil was saying. This just makes me wonder how cartridge and phono stage matching might have played into this. If that information was given I admit that I've missed it. It's been a pretty busy last few days for me so I've tried to keep up with one eye on this thread.

Phil, I am most interested in the Zu's. If I'm correct about the efficiency you have the Druid?

Best to all,

Not that it makes much difference, to me any way, but in case others bvesides Raul wondered about peripheral equipment:
Nagra VPA monos (did someone say 845's?)
Boulder 2060
Boulder 2010
Lamm L2
SME 30/2 w/SMW V/Koetsu Rosewood Signature
Basis 2800 Signature w/Schroeder Reference/Van den Hul Frog
Cello (Grand Masters, I think, need ot double check)

So, this is not MY systems, but IO wish it was - decidedly one on which a piece could be objectively assessed, anyway.

At any rate, I hope everyone enjoys their music this weeekend.
4yanx, Dan,

For the record, while I do have Zu Druids on a second system and did listen to the K&K there, my evaluation and comments of record were in the context of the higher resolution Zu Definitions I have on my primary system. Dan, I'd be happy to discuss both Zu speakers in detail with you. You're welcome to send email with your questions.

4yanx: You're right, many circa 1975 phono sections of preamps were better than separate phono preamps on the market today, but none had the dynamic life and projection, combination of transients + tone that are possible now with better components and more evolved understanding of what the cartridge is handing the pre. Most circa 1975 phono sections were pleasingly euphonic compared to the better higher-accuracy phono stages available now which also benefit from being discrete, with their own power supplies. My 70s reference is not uncomplimentary, merely descriptive for those of us who owned that generation of equipment then -- Audio Research SP3a-1, for instance.

I wouldn't try current Russian 6922s in the K&K, but the NOS tubes I cited are quite robust, especially the German Post CCa. I experienced no problems while I had those tubes in the circuit. Perhaps the K&K would have truncated their tube life if used long-term. I was experimenting, so willing to accept that risk. Oh, I also tried the K&K into a Django TVC with fully baked S&Bs. Still no change in basic signature.

Druids and Definitions have some distinct differences. If you heard Druids and did not care for them, that reaction may not apply to Defnitions. Again, my eval is in the Definition context.

As for my sonic vocabularly, it expresses what is meaningful to me. I fully recognize that I may not be describing sound to the prevailing AA/S'phile/HiFi+ standards.

Fair enough, Phil. I can appreciate what you've said, if not share in your point of view. The exception might be the generalization of 70's equipment because I was there in those days, too, and a bit before! ;) I would agree that there is benefit in a separate power supply. BTW, I've taken my shots for not being "prevailing", too.
Hi Dan: Congratulations for your Galibier!!!!

Regards and enjoy the music.
Phil said: "He asked. Not raining on the parade."

Actually, his question was "is there anything I should know".

Enjoy your K&K Pedrillo. Please let me know what you think of it. I'm in the market for a phono stage upgrade.
I built the SE kit. Also, I bought a stepped attenuator recommended by Kevin. In this way I have been able to run the phono peamp directly into my tube monoblocks. I like the K&K phono preamp very much. For less than $1750 (delivered, including attenuator) plus assembly time, I got an excellent phono preamp. I've used it with a Michell Gyro SE and, now, with a VPI Aries II. These two tables are quite different design and sound. The K & K works well with both of them. I use a Dynavector Karat 17D2 MK2, a low compliance moving coil cartridge.

The kit quality is excellent. Kevin will give you good support if you decide to build it yourself. Based on my experience with Kevin, I am confident that the factory built unit will be excellent.
Please expect the Lundahl transformers to take a couple of hundred hours to break in. Once they do, the sound will have lots of air and detail.
Ah, Plinko, but Pedrillo's subject line is: "K&K any comments?"

I think my initial answer was entirely within that mandate. Moreover, his post said, "I think I finally decided on..." That's less than a definitive decision to purchase. And then, "Is there anything I should know?"

In what way did my first response post deviate from this query?

My take on the K&K: In my sytem, I preferred it to the EAR (by a wide margin), the ARC PH3SE and it was at least on par with the PASS XOno. I subsequently purchased (used) a pair of the Bent Audio Mu-Mc S&B transformers to use in place of the built-in Lundahls and this was a significant improvement. However, I would be surprised if you could not live with the stock K&K for a very long time (if not forever) and be very happy with it. It is not state-of-the-art but it is certainly excellent.
I want to thank everyone for contributing to this interesting thread, and also wanted to say I have not made a definitive decision. I should point out that my gear is sim p-5 pre and w-5 power amp, and speakers are merlin vsm genIII. Tt is vpi tnt mark I and V moving up to hr-x and eventually a graham 2.2 arm and sumiko blackbird cartridge. My room is treated with sound dampening material like acoustical ceiling tiles all around room, wrapped in fabric for estetic purposes, records and books on other walls to quiet down room. Speakers are suspended from ceiling, and some lumber attached to frame supporting speakers for bass. Maybe this can help in finding what phono preamp will work best. Also may be moving to a tube preamp on a goner's advice, a goner mentioned sim's pre not the best choice, don't know right now cause everything sounds ok, but that could change as I bring things up to speed.
ah Phil, you're right! I missed that bit. Sorry!
An old thread started a year and a half ago, didn't even have a chance to read through it again but will want to now that i just received the K & K.
It does sound amazing, beats the ear 834p and jlti.
By the way it sounds better when I use the single ended rca's rather than the balanced xlr's. Any comments on this?
Thank you contributors.
Also would like to hear from K & K owners all the options I have for step up transformer. I'm using denon 103r now.
That will most likely be my next move.
Since I like Kevin's design thinking I should go with his SUT, any input(no pun intended).
I have owned my K&K with Lundahl trannies since 2003 and I love it to this day.

Like Shakey, I've been enjoying my K&K since 2003 too. I built it as a kit. I've also added the two upgrade kits.

About a month ago I installed the new Lundahl LL1931 step-ups and they are another excellent "step up".

If anyone gets the new transformers, I highly recommend using the "reverse input" break-in method running a CD level source for 100+ hours through the transformers. I had mine attached to my office system, kind of like a "one tap" TVC. I could hear the sound change quite a bit over the break-in period. A low level moving coil source might never break them in well.
Im wondering how you can evaluate any phono stage with one cartridge, especially an mc. Every phono stage is going to behave diffrently with various cartridges. In my opinion there is no superior phono pre for all cartridges the trick is finding the right match (and step up) to get the sound you want from the cartridge you like. I dont like the same stage for my 103d as I like for my insider and they dont use the same step up. Whether or not the K&K sounds good with Pedrillo's sumiko will be a matter of his expectations and doesnt reflect on the relative quality of the K&K.
I am starting to think that this is a phono stage I can live with. Doe sit lack in any way? What would it take to beat the K&K and how would it be better? Also I leave mine on all the time is that ok?
I don't think it is the best phono stage there is, I do at the price. I have compared it wwith a number of other stages recently, including the Whest 20. It was comprehensively better, more musical, deeper base quiet. i also compared it with the Tron in an all tron system. The Tron was quieter, a little more dynamic, not much in it, but it is about twice the cost. It has tubes in it, so I do'nt leave mine on. It does'nt seem to take long to warm up, half an hour maybe. I hope that is helpful.
I have a KandK moving coil setup with a Lyra Helikon sl cartridge. IMHO if you find the KandK to be "creamy", you probably need to look at other components in your system. I feel the KandK can support excellent cartridges. It is timberally accurate, portrays room ambience very well, and is fast without edge. (Mine is the 6n1p version just prior to the current 6922 version. No volume control and I installed the black gate caps modification. The main caps are the kimber/cardas combination.)

I discussed the most recent 6922 version with Kevin. If you are looking for a defined focus and a little less room ambience, he says the v-caps work well. If you prefer more room ambience to the recording and more harmonics or microdynamics, then he recommends the cardas caps or the mundorf.

He feels the cardas caps are very transparent and do harmonics and microdynamics great. I questioned this, since I've owned cardas golden ref cables and they are quite dark. Kevin said he was reluctant to try the cardas caps under the same assumption, but at the prompting of a friend, he tried them and says they bear no resemblence to the rolled off nature of the cardas cables.

Anyway, I've enjoyed my KandK phono stage and look forward to building his 6922 kit version sometime. Best, Jeff

Is your KandK phono the max-out version?
Just to stir the waters a little: Kevin has a new phono stage design that is ready for roll out in beta form. Fully differential, 3 stage, series feed (current kit is parallel feed) design with cascode CCSs at the "tail" of each stage and a separate cascode CCSs to feed a filter cap and shunt resistor to supply the B+ for each stage. Both the plate and the cathode sides of the tubes are isolated from the PS by high impedence current sources. Series feed means no parafeed caps to color the sound. Only caps in signal path are RIAA filter caps. I have built Kevin's fully differentail parallel 6550 mono-blocks with a similar circuit topology to this and can say they are very quick, dynamic and transparent amps. Expect new phono pre to be also. Downside? 2) LL1931s and FOUR amorphous core ITs mean it will not be cheap! I expect to get my hands on one in the next few weeks. I will post a follow-up.
Do you have the current K&K phono stage, if so which configuration and options?
I heard the new Phono Stage at Kevins place. WOW! Very, very nice.
Yes I do have the current phono pre. It was the first complete kit Kevin sold way back when. It has all current upgrades.
Yes it is the maxxed out version short of the mundorf cap upgrade and the 1931 trannies, but I will be adding all possible upgrades as I like this phono stage.
I loved the first edition, so I just bought the maxxed out new edition. I'll report back after I complete building it. Jeff
There is no way a Bel Canto, beat a Steelhead, I owned them both....LOL!
A few years ago I built a two chassis dual mono K+K first generation phono stage with the seperate channel boards and used S+B step up tranformers.Previous to this I had been using a Pass x ono.I kept the Pass for over a year before deciding it was not getting enough playing time and I sold it to a seemingly happy guy in Denmark.At this time I was using a Bent S+B passive.Wanting to simplify, use less cable and up grade in late 2008 I had Kevin build me his absolute best attempt at that time regardless of cost phono with a line input and stepped attenuator volume control and cartridge loading control he decided on the cardas caps and LL1931 transformers.The result was an eye opener for me and I sold my prior pride and joy to a friend of a friend with less decision time required than dumping the pass.Knowing Kevin I am sure he and his crew will continue to tweak and improve the product even further.My very humble system of VAC70/70.s Quad 989,s and Dais table, Benesch act2 arm and Benz ebony lp may not have the ultimate resolution its not so bad. and The new K+K has been huge step foward in improving it.
So you preferred the LL1931's to the S&B SUT's, or do you think eliminating the extra cable may have contributed to the improvement?
There is such a lot of different components changed in one shot it would be difficult to say what caused the improvements.Tube type,Audio note resistors,Internal Wire type,Transformers,Cardas parafeed caps versus Kimber,Direct to power amp connection. I thought in my system my homemade unit had a reasonable margin over the Pass X ono and most although not all friends agreed, it was no contest when the new unit was compared to my dual mono and I tried lots of load settings and cable changes etc before selling the unit.