Kingko KA-101. Experiences?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by murphythecat, May 28, 2017.

  1. murphythecat

    murphythecat Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    hi everyone
    been following the thread at AK about the new Kingko amps that the member RGA really like. he even replaced his 7k LM219ia amp for the small KA-101!!!!

    Kingko Audio

    im very interested about this amp being a avid fan of EL84 tube. Those tubes are imo very special and this amp seem to represent incredible value for money.Im concerned about the quality of the OPT used as the price seem almost too good to be true...

    Anyone heard those amps?
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2017
  2. Manimal

    Manimal Forum Resident

    Location:
    Southern US
    Interesting, the website is not great.
     
  3. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    It's a one man operation and at this point you have to just e-mail King and arrange payment. In Hong Kong - things are sometimes a bit different for example here - if you pay with a credit card or paypal they will often add 3% or so to the price. When I book my flight home after my two year contract I pay via Credit card but am reimbursed the price less 3%.

    The review I have written for the KingKo has been submitted. The price I was given is $6,500HKD which is around $825US. This includes shipping to the US.

    Murphy

    The price of the KingKo if it were carried by a US dealer would be in the $1500-$2000 range with their mark-ups. Sound Quality isn't necessarily the reason I sold my 219IA - it is big and heavy and doesn't have universal world wide transformers which means if I move back to the west - the amp won't work. Further the hassle and expense of shipping something that big is a problem. I prefer the KingKo to all the PP amps I've owned or auditioned over the years under about $2200. And none of them had a headphone amp or one anywhere this good. Although some of those had remotes or more power.

    I don't judge things based on price, size, weight or appearance. I judge stuff on sound quality. King is a designer and engineer having worked in computers for National Semiconductor and been the importer repair tech for Almarro, LM, Rogue Audio, Melody Valve Audio and others and been an ATC dealer and owner for over a decade. This company is a retirement gift to himself and took a long time to create.

    I like a lot of the choices he made here and think it is a terrific amp for both beginners and retirees looking to downsize and for headphone lovers who want the amp to do more than just headphones. I have heard a lot of $800ish headphone amps over the years and I feel the KingKo is considerably better than all of them. It's the first time in 17 years that I feel I have finally heard the HD600s sound the way they are supposed to sound.

    The amp uses an EI transformer copper wire with silicon metal plate and given its size is a pretty hefty 24lbs.

    Although I don't recommend it to you as I don't think we much share the same taste in audio equipment. It's better to go with the people who hear things the same way as you and like the same things as you than someone you disagree with most of the time. I read Art Dudley more than I would read Michael Fremer for example.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2017
  4. murphythecat

    murphythecat Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    thanks rga
    how would you say it compares to the lm219a. how close is it to the performance of the lm219, where do they differ in actual sound. I know lm219 is SE and KA101 is PP, but how does that translate in listening?
    im also considering cary sli80, or maybe a leben, stuff like that...
     
  5. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Big amplifiers with big power tubes require much more expensive output transformers. So they immediately cost more to make before you get into any sonic advantages. Low power EL84s and even 300B and 2a3 and 45 simply don't require the sheer iron size and weight to make them sing. More power int he SET world requires a lot more money. Plus the tubes are hugely expensive. The 219IA uses 6 tubes that run around $100 each so when they go...

    My review will be out eventually and will state the differences I find against the LM 219IA and the OTO Phono SE (also EL84). I think the KingKo KA 101 hangs in with both of them very well. It even has some advantages in certain respects. But it isn't as weighty or as rich in tone. And on some albums it does show me a little bit why it is a push pull amplifier but it does this less than other PP amps - and considering it is using the dirt cheapiest Shuguang tubes throughout - a lot can be gained changing out the stock tubes - King took out the 5AR4 and put in a RCA replacement 5U4G ($60) and it was rather amazing what it did to the entire ambiance of the experience (and this is a tube I always felt did nothing because it's not part of the sound circuit just power). So as a stock amp for $800 the fact that it is not blown out of the water by two far pricier amps is impressive. The OTO is richer, dark and has more body and tone - but the King isn't tone free - it has some and it has more open exciting upper mid and treble. Unlike some other PP amps that bully the sound with a fat midrange hump that is somewhat tiring down the line, this one has a flatter frequency response.

    With the LM - it has that big bottom end bass and is also richer and darker. The KingKo is more mid and treble - but it does have solid bass as well just a different kind of bass - the punchier nimbler sort.

    I have not had the leben or Cary in my home. I did greatly prefer the Audio Note Kit One to the 300B amp from Cary several years back - the AN actually had real bass and sounded vastly more powerful. Better transformers I am betting. And it was considerably less expensive - but then you have to build it so...
     
  6. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    looks like a decent amp for headphones or efficient speakers. what speakers are you planning to use with it?
     
  7. murphythecat

    murphythecat Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    damn... seem very interesting tbh.

    i guess ill wait and see the experiences from others, thanks for your help!

    @avanti1960 i need a amp for my harbeth p3esr, shl5+ and Tannoy! im also considering the rogue CM 2 that many including yourself really like, but the headphone amp of the CM2 is not implemented well like in the Kingko so im quite interested in the kingko as well.
     
  8. MC Rag

    MC Rag Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    I've been wanting to try tubes for a while and I like the look and small form of this Kingko. Do you think it'd be up to driving some Dali Fazon F5 speakers which are 87.5db and 6ohms?
     
  9. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    These questions come an awful lot and the pat answer is always that it depends. Room size is a big factor and so is the minimum impedance of the loudspeaker. The nominal impedance doesn't tell you much. My speakers are 6 ohm nominal but dip to 3.6 ohms (which isn't too tough but nor is super easy. 7 watts is what is recommended as the minimum with my speakers. But you could run a 3 watt amp if the room is not too big and you don't expect the walls to crack.

    But the other thing I usually say is to not stick square pegs into round holes. In other words not try to force SET and low powered amps onto speakers clearly not designed for tubes. Then again King's favorite speakers are ATC which is hardly a "tube friendly" speaker maker.

    I have the day off tomorrow and I will take my KEF LS-50s out of home theater duty and run them with the KingKo (Ko means buddy or friend in Cantonese) and see how it runs. The KEF is a rather difficult speaker to run in terms of sensitivity/impedance. Which IMO explains why people have issues with it. The speaker should be rated and connected to a 4 ohm tap - the Kingko is a 6ohm output to cover a bit of a wider net with just one set of outputs.

    I would have added the KEF/Kingko combination evaluation but it was already one of the longest reviews I've written clocking in at 3800 words (albeit including an interview with King). I generally think reviews should be 2000 words or less. So it was already becoming too long.

    You have to realize though that 96dB sensitive speaker is 10 times easier to drive than an 86dB sensitive speaker. So you would need about 80 watts on an 86dB speaker to get the same level 8 watts will give you on 96dB speakers

    1w=96db
    2w=99dB
    4w=102dB
    8w= 105dB
    16w=108dB

    for an 86dB speaker to get to 96dB

    1w = 86dB
    2w= 89dB
    4w=92dB
    8w=95dB
    16w=98dB
    32w=101dB
    64w=104dB
    128w= 107dB
    256w=110dB

    And 90dB is actually really quite loud - Most people are listening well below 85dB most of the time. But the above is all rated at 1 meter. In a large room where you sit 10-15 feet back 3-4 meters - and a loss of a few dB per each meter you sit further away you can see that if you have LE speakers you are going to need significantly more power OR you have HE speakers and more power doesn't matter. In a smallish room - the Kingko will have no problems.
     
  10. MC Rag

    MC Rag Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    Thanks Richard. Looking at some independent spec tests on my Fazon F5s their impedence minimum is 4.5 at 177Hz, maximum 18 at 80Hz (I have no idea what this means in reality). Also mentions "Power for 94 dB (1m) 4.4 W" .

    My listening distance is 10 feet. I don't listen particularly loudly. I might wait for a few more reviews and your thoughts on the Kingko with the LS50s but I have the feeling this might be right for my first tryout of tubes.
     
  11. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    The only issue with Kingko is you really can't try before you buy as it is shipped from Hong Kong. Sometimes you can just go to a local dealer and either bring your speakers to them or let them give you their demo model to try at home. A dealer usually will allow you to do that especially on a day they are closed. So if they are closed on Sunday - you can usually get it the end of their Saturday and bring it back Monday. And it's already burned in likely so it will sound the way it sounds. Basically bring in any low powered amplifier of the 5-10 watt variety to see if it will work.
     
  12. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    The Kingko has been driving the KEFs well surprisingly. I've grown accustomed to the vastly supeior sound of my AN E/Spx Alnico top to bottom and so I have to get used to that metalic thinner KEF treble and lumpy bass lower mid sluggishness in comparison. The KEF is still good for the money but I can see why King doesn't much like them and is looking for a particular ATC second hand.

    But the Kingko can drive them - reasonably well. With Lady Gaga's Bad Romance pushing the volume and the meters pushing hard to the right the sound compresses and soft clips nicely.

    As always though with a smallish powered tub amp you're better off with HE speakers. The King was more alive and dynamic and had more going on in the treble than my 50 watt per channel Marantz which is never bright but always sounds as if it is partying at a mortuary.
     
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  13. Snoflo1998

    Snoflo1998 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    UK
    I brought the 219 with me from a 240V 50Hz country to a 120V 60Hz country. Works fine with a 3000W transformer. Sounds the same to me. Shipping from the UK to the Caribbean was 468usd with UPS, so transport and voltage differences aren't insurmountable.
     
  14. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    I should be clear here that shipping or voltage is not the only reason. A while back on this forum I did a preamp shootout. I found that the LM 219IA is a considerably better power amp than an integrated amplifier which is usually always the case with integrate amplifiers. My plan was to to buy a preamp use the LM 219IA integrated as a place-holder for the Audio Note Empress monoblocks seen in this video @ 1:30. To me these are the best values in Audio Note's line-up and the 2A3 is currently my favorite sounding output tube that is in the realm of affordability.



    With my change in speakers from the AN E/Lx to the AN E/Spx Alnico - a dramatic improvement - I also gained ~2-3dB in sensitivity - so I don't actually need 24 watts.

    Thus my plan for awhile has been to buy the M6Phono Preamp and The Empress monoblocks - but this stuff is bloody expensive so it can't be done in one go. I was going to get the M6 first and use the LM as a power amp.

    But a fellow audiophile who posts on one of the forums lives in Macau - an hour boat ride from HK and expressed interest. Given the I liked the Kingko amp and that the KingKo can also be used as a power amp I can still get the M6 and the 12 watt KingKo is still much more power than I need. On top of that because the KingKo is a terrific headphone amp it gives me something that neither the LM or the AN preamp provides - a headphone amp. So even when it eventually gets replaced by the Empress - it will still be useful as both a headphone amp and a pretty great back-up amplifier should something go wrong.

    Of course now I am sort of back at the beginning where I was when I got to Hong Kong 6 years ago and looking at the Audio Note Jinro. (The LM 219IA was my poor man's Jinro).

    So now I am thinking do I go M6 Phono and Empress or just get a Jinro integrated (which can be used as a power amp). But I lose phono - arg. So many choices. And these choices are not just limited to Audio Note as I am considering some other options for a second non Audio Note system where I would still like components to work well with the E/Spx Alnico. Considering Emia, Shindo, Nagra, Music First Audio, ATC, KingSound, Tannoy, Acapella, Tersonic, as well as the classic series from Line Magnetic - I find all this stuff to be rather awesome - it's just what fits my room and of course budget, but we have some very good second hand shops here.

    I'm going to upgrade the KingKo with all the tubes King suggested to me and see just how far it can go because that can determine what sort of time-frame I need to make my upgrades.
     
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  15. Snoflo1998

    Snoflo1998 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    UK
    Oh! Thank you for the video and your thoughts. I get it now. Actually, I have a Sun Audio 2a3 that sounds very nice, so I totally understand someone preferring that to the 845 sound.

    Hmm, I'm really glad I don't live near any audio shops: no temptation!
     
  16. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
  17. MC Rag

    MC Rag Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    I'm edging towards getting this too. I had a nice and quick reply from King and the price including shipping to UK is very reasonable.

    Can I ask how well packed the amp came (polystyrene/boxing, etc)? And I know all tube amps generally run hot, but how hot is the KA101 and what sort of gap would it need above it?

    Oh and when is your full review coming out Richard?
     
  18. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Well with the review I actually don't know. Constantine has to give it to his proof reader - then they have to post it up with all the photos. Plus there may other items from other reviewers ahead of it. I would hope this month. In the next couple of weeks but he has given me no time frame - it's also close to 4000 words with an interview at the end so bigger than normal for me.

    The boxing seems good to me. Not the cheap foam that breaks but solid pieces - I don't know what the material is but it is this - I think it's called ethofoam

    [​IMG]

    And it is double boxed.

    White gloves for the tubes included.

    No this amp doesn't run hot at all - the sides get warm and obviously the tubes themselves get warm/hot like light bulbs. Put this way - the side of my refrigerator runs hotter than the sides of this amp. Which I admit makes me worry about my refrigerator but anyway.

    I would make sure if space is tight that the measurement King provides includes the feet. Sometimes that is not included in the height. I get around 8.25 inches high with the feet. Yeah I'm Canadian but I like feet and inches and mph and lbs. But Celsius rules.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2017
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  19. MC Rag

    MC Rag Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    I'd be siting this in an open fronted cabinet with a wooden shelf 4.75 inches above, I presume this would be fine and not a fire hazard from the valves.

    As a test I also just dug out an old Trends TA10.1 T Amp (Class D, 6 watts into 8 Ohms) and hooked this up to my Dali speakers and it produced sound levels above what I'd listen to 95% of the time with volume dial at 1/4 - 1/2 way so I don't think I'll have a problem volumewise with the KingKo's 12 Watts.
     
  20. murphythecat

    murphythecat Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    with my ifi retro stereo 50 which use el84 in PP, its not enough for my 83db P3ESR. barely enough but enough for me with my 86db shl5+
     
  21. MC Rag

    MC Rag Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    I haven't seen that before. It looks like a similar power output to the Kingko but with tone controls (that I'm all for) and other stuff I wouldn't use. Does it really only weigh 5kg?
     
  22. murphythecat

    murphythecat Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    sounds wonderful but I cant offer much since I never compared to another el84 pp
     
  23. MC Rag

    MC Rag Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    I've just made my first step into the world of tubes! The KA101 should be on it's way to me tomorrow - I hope it doesn't lead to a wholesale change of equipment :)
     
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  24. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Well I have purchased the Gold Lion 12AX7 & EL84and NOS RCA 5Ug4 These 6 tubes ran me $2200HKD close to $400 Canadian. Which is not bad in the land of tubes but approaching half the price of the amplifier.

    At first I just replaced the 12AX7 and rectifier which was good in the sense of tone and ambiance but a little hot in the treble and more sibilant. So I added the EL84s and that issue has come away retaining the ambiance and tone. Whew. The cymbals are present without the extra sparkle. This is all without any break in on the tubes.

    I am still mystified why a rectifier tube would make the difference it does given it is not technically a part of the signal.

    A tube engineer might better explain why the rectifier has the impact it does. It's physically bigger than the stock 5AR4. The RCA 5UG4 is a different tube but is listed as an acceptable alternate.

    It's just not often I run into budget stuff that is engaging. Hell it's not that often I run into expensive stuff that is engaging.

    I understand why the EL84 is so well liked by proponents. If you have the speakers that can be run with 12 watts of course.
     
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  25. Melody50

    Melody50 Well-Known Member

    Hi Richard,
    I am following this thread for quite while, would like to know how important is the output transformer and how good is in the Kingko KA-101?
    And also would like to know how different is the sound of this amplifier from your Audio Note OTO?
     

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