LOS ANGELES (PTA) — Let’s be honest. We’ve all been in a VK Music room at shows, and they sounds great, but we often don’t see much coverage of the brands. Is it because of the large acrylic open-baffle horns just being too “out-there” for regular audiophiles? Is it be because of the fear of kit-built-designs? Might it even be a language barrier?
Every time I walk into the VK Music exhibit, I feel alone. I look around the room (or booth) at all the interesting looking kit electronics, but with the curiosity of a child. More lost than I’m willing to admit, but still intrigued and eager to dive in. Much like the first time I… moving on.
An old audiophile friend once told me, “If you want to be a real audiophile and understand what’s going on, you have to build a few components.” That statement has always stuck with me, and to that the feeling that no matter how much I’ve built, it isn’t enough. I’ve only ever built one amp, and it wasn’t a world shaker. Speakers I’ve done, but none that pushed boundaries. Am I a fraud?
I think I’d feel less like one if my first real system had included a kit amplifier. A test of my will to become involved in the hobby. The reward of accomplishment that outpaces my ability to just “open a wallet.” Enter the Elekit TU-8600 300B SE Tube Amplifier Kit from VK Music of Canada.
The Elekit TU-8600 is a single-ended tube amplifier kit that does not include the preamplifier or output tubes. This allows the end-user to further qualify themselves by choosing the tube compliment that best suits their taste or budget. When outfitted properly with tubes, you’d be looking at one 12AX7, two 12AU7, and two 300B tubes. Output power would be in the neighborhood of 10-Watts per channel. Feature wise, there aren’t many to talk about. A single RCA line-in around back, with gold plated speaker terminals. Around front a power siwtch, headphone socket, and volume knob. Quite utilitarian, but this is a kit, and that’s typically par for the course.
As for the loudspeakers, it was not clear (no pun intended) if the loudspeakers were entirely of AER build or just using the AER driver and horn parts from VK Music. From my estimation, they are from AER’s custom open-baffle line, where I assume any combination of acrylic panels, horns, and drivers can be outfitted to the design and size of the customer. Typical with these open-baffle designs is the use of an AER woofer to augment the low tones.
Also on display was an open top-loading mechanism CD player from Sparkler Audio. The S503 as it is called, is an oversampling design, with two digital coaxial outputs (S/PDIF) for dual-mono configurations. A DAC power supply that can source both AC and DC power. Sadly, SACD is not supported, but nearly everything else is. A stereo pair of RCA outputs does in fact exist outback of the unit, while front panel switches and remote IR reader lace up the front fascia.
My impressions of this exact system could be pulled from multiple listening sessions over my show-going experience. In particular this is the largest room I’ve heard the AER and ELEKIT based system. Often VK Music has a booth in the corridors of an audio show, or has a much smaller room with the system set up on the long wall. This go round, the short wall offers plenty of tight imaging that doesn’t seem as much compromise over the long walls wider sound-staging. This time around, I pay close attention to the blending of the bass cabinet to the horns, and I can’t discern where the hand-off occurs. Do I like what I am hearing? Yes, I do. The single driver horns are super quick with upper bass, and happily bloom in the treble where one might not expect them to go with ease. The bass horn equally keeps up the pace with the paper-driver horns, and faithfully adds an organic warmth to bass notes that keep me interested.
– TU-8600 Tube Amplifier Kit
– Custom Open-Baffle Loudspeakers
– S503 “Spiral” CD Player/Transport