Disregarding the old Heathkit stereo amp I hijacked from my Dad back in the 70's, I am a newbie in the world of tube amps, having recently completed the excellent ST-120 by Bob Latino. Living outside Worcester, MA, I was also able pick the kit up directly from Bob, saving a few bucks, and get the chance to meet him in person. It was an honor to meet Bob and fun to have also been educated on some of the great backstories to this fine, modernized amplifier.
I was able to assemble the kit without a hitch. As all of you likely know Bob's instructions are foolproof. I was a bit worried about my soldering skills but soon learned this kit is more about (carefully and slowly) routing and shaping wires than anything else. My biggest challenge was to recognize when I was tired and to take a break to avoid mistakes. Yet again, Bob's illustrations and illustrations helped immensely. Start-up was nearly perfect, but it turned out I had trouble getting all of the bias up to recommended levels. After emailing a request for help at 5 p.m. on a Friday night, I got a phone call from Bob 5 minutes later and we were able to confirm the culprit as a bad GZ34 rectifier. Bob had me over to his home first thing Saturday morning, with the amp, where we reconfirmed and fixed the problem. Bob was very gracious with kudos for how well I assembled the amp (aw shucks!) and we both admired it's total silence when connected to his shop speakers.
So it turns out I hit the trifecta of excellence traits for this product...Quality Components; Concise Instructions and Superb Customer Support. Well done Bob and thanks!
I am driving the amp primarily with an (also new) Emotiva Stealth DC-1 DAC. The DAC is fed by a NAS-connected, Asus Chromebox that was easily hacked to run Kodi media software (formally XMBC) via a stripped-down Linux OS called OpenElec. The DC-1 has added pre-amp benefit so I also have a digital coax input from my Oppo BDP-83 BR player AND an analog input for my Technics in-line turntable . My speakers are a classic pair of re-foamed JBL L166's I bought back in 1977 when I was stationed in Japan. They've held up very well and I am so glad I ignored my thoughts through the years to sell them. It is a complete system and I have a lot of new ways to play. (yay! )
I've barley had a couple of dozen hours with the amp so far but it has been quite stunning. I'm using upgraded caps and the KT88 tubes and want to be comfortable with the entire setup before I start down the tube-rolling rabbit hole (we'll see...).
If I have one small issue with the amp it's the location of the power switch. I understand and value the amp design staying true to the original Dynaco frame but I know I am likely to get a mark or two on my forearm after a few late night listening sessions . I am going to try a pretty cool looking surge-protecting Power Strip (I got for free after a home energy audit) that has a control outlet that can sense current flow from the plugged-in device when powered on and, in turn, power-on 4 slave outlets. I would use the DC-1 as the master device and power the amp through one of the slave outlets. The control outlet is even programmable to sense Low/Med/High current flow so the master device can even have a trickle flow when in standby and still switch the slave outlets when turned on. Is anyone else using something similar or have thoughts on this power strip arrangement?
So...Apologies for all the links if they're too much. I didn't include photos but would be happy to as follow-up. I'm looking forward to following this site and to hopefully add value when/if I can.