The K&K is the quietest phono stage I have heard in my system. I bought mine used so I did not have to build it. They occasionally pop up here. Kevin Carter will build it for you as well if you buy one new.
Mine has the DaCT volume control which I had disabled. When I purchased it the phono stage already had the lower cost Cardas cap upgrade, but not the Black Gate/front end upgrade. I sent it in for the Black Gate/front end upgrade and this made a nice improvement. I also had Kevin take the MC 47k ohm setting and customize it so I can plug and play any resistors to fine tune the load. Overall I believe the only thing lacking in my version versus the newer version is the Mundorf caps, which require the newer and larger circuit board to accommodate them. Mine also used 6N1P tubes but I believe Kevin can change the circuit to accommodate 6N23P tubes which is part of the 6922/6DJ8 family. Makes for more tube swapping options if that is what you prefer.
This phono stage is similar (not exact) to the Art Audio Vinyl Reference in build as Kevin designed that phono stage as well. It is well worth the asking price new and a bargain at used prices.
I have listened to it and it does sound wonderful. I gave it serious consideration but when it came down to it, didn't trust myself with a soldering iron. Of course, I think you can get Kevin to build it for you at an additional cost.
I ended up going with a EE Minimax Phono which is excellent. There are numerous reviews around and you can check it out on morningstaraudio.com
Building the K and K Phono Stage was a great experience for me and I would highly recomend it to anyone. The unit sounds fantastic and is a bargain considering what a comparable unit would cost. I am a first-time kit builder and was apprehensive about taking on such a project. When the kit arrived and I opened the box it certainly looked overwhelming to me at the time; however, I decided to give it a go and have been listening with a big grin on my face ever sense! Kevin's directions are very good and he includes a CD with pictures to nurse you along and through the process. I set myself up on a dedicated table with my labtop and looked at the pictures as I proceeded with the project. I made a couple of calls to Kevin along the way and he put me right back on track and was very helpful. I can't say enough good things about the help and service Kevin gives. I highly recommend you pick up a good soldering station (about $150 or so) at your electronics store and give it a go. It took me about 26 hrs total to assemble and was told that was pretty good for a first time builder. The more you work on the unit it becomes addictive or at least did for me. Again, highly recomended for first timers or experienced kit builders and the sound is "to die for".
Like Capeman, the KandK was my first kit building experience. To practice, I went online and bought a couple of cheap electronic kits at about $10 each just to practice a little soldering and removal of same before getting started on the real deal. Capeman, at 26 hours you have me beat!
Based on a telephone call to Kevin a few months ago, I believe the latest version of the kit (one analogue circuit board versus two) may be a little easier to build compared to the two board model. Mine is the moving coil version and I'm very pleased with it.
Inspired by the KandK, I built an Audio Note Dac2.0 signature and I'm really enjoying it. Like Kevin, Brian at AN Kits in Canada, was very helpful along the way.
I believe both the KandK and AN kits are incredible values. Like Capeman, I recommend referring to the photos often, especially for those of us who do not read circuit schematics.
The MC version of the K&K does not normally allow for adjustable loading, is that correct?
I guess I am confused about the MC loading thing -- if you have an input transformer, such as in the EAR and the K&K, does loading at different resistance values become unnecessary?
To answer your first question the original K&K SE has a knob on the back that let you select different cartridge load settings. For MC if I recall it was limited to 100, 300, 1000, and 47k ohms. I had Kevin take the setting for 47k ohms and set up the circuit board so I could plug in resistors to configure my own setting for this position. The new version of the K&K SE has a lot more settings for cartridge loading from what I have heard so maybe this tweak is unnecessary now.
I cannot answer your second question.
Call Kevin, he is very helpful and will spend the time it takes to get you what is needed.http://www.kandkaudio.com
From the web site:
MC load switching (25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1.6K, and 47K ohms) using Caddock MK-132 resistors and a custom Grayhill rotary switch
Thank you, both. Somehow I completely missed that specification on the web site.
A question for you kit builders: can you recommend an appropriate soldering station for a project such as the K&K kit?
Spend the money for a "temperature regulated" station. Weller makes one for about $125 or so. You will still need one of the clunky guns for soldering things like RCA jacks.
Re: soldering station for a project such as the K&K kit
Hakko 936-11 approx. $90
I'd like to know what the K&K owners are using for cartridge and TT.
Scheu Analog Premier, Micro Seiki MA-505, Dynavector 20XL.
TW acustic Raven one/ Koetsu rosewood Signature, currently Zyx Airy3 silver
Immedia RPM tt and tonearm and a Lyra Helikon SL.
Clearaudio Champion/Satisfy/ZYX Airy 3-S-SB.
David 12, what loading are you using?
Lenco L75 (Jean Nantais-built)/Ikeda IT-345/Ortofon SPU GME
loaded at 100.
Without question worth 2X what he's charging for it.
I bought the kit a few years ago and built it in a weekend. It was a lot of fun, and sounded a LOT better than anything else I'd ever tried. I'd buy another one in a heartbeat for sure.
Nottingham Spacedeck, Ace-Space arm and Benz L2.
maineiac I use 100ohm loading with the Zyx, the stage is set at 63db gain
I see you've built both the K&K and the AudioNote...which do you like better? How do they differ? I am not sure which one i'd like to build...I'd alsi like to try the vacuumstate jtli but am not sure they offer it as a kit (I know their full-function pre is available at about 4k!)