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'Designer Amps: Don Garber, Sam Kim and Don Allen

Posted on June 27, 2007 at 02:13:55

Posts: 66
Location: american southwest
Joined: August 11, 2005
I own a Sam Kim reworked EL84 based Heathkit 151 integrated amplifier. It is wired in triode mode, and apparently the circuit has been completely re-done. It sounds fabulous. I alternate playing it with my Fi SET 2a3 monoblocks and a Mapletree preamp. Both sound wonderful, and totally different sounds. I guess I shy away from relatively mass-produced tube gear, a la Cary and Prima Luna, both of which I owned and didn't care for.

The Fi's are fabulous in their musicality, realism and plenty o' power with my efficient speakers. The Mapletree preamps (I own 2) are hand-made to order by retired professor Lloyd Peppard in Canada, using some traditional circuitry, and reinforces the natural sound of the Fi's. Or I can switch on one of the preamps to a 'Cathode Follower' circuit and the sound is lush and tubey, without being syrupy. The Fi's also qualify as Audio Art, such is their design and beauty, and as such, I will never part with them.

The Sam Kim designer Heathkit was expensive, but the workmanship was evident in this amp, and it has jump, clarity and musicality that are startling. I have auditioned the Almarro 205 EL84 integrated, and own a Dynaco 35 that now sits in the closet.If there's some way you can talk them into auditioning one of Sam's amps, give it a try. Peter Breuninger
told me in an email that "the [Sam Kim] Heathkit would beat any other amp up to $5,000 in a blindfolded contest", and methinks it's true!

I have yet to encounter Don Allen's genius, his amps are not restorations but complete creations, and cost less than Sam's. According to some of the posting here, even his $500 "Cakepan" amp stands well against the best SET's...and I intend to check out one of his creations next.

The point here, I guess, in addition to a number of other audio designers, that the supply is limited, and they will not always be available to purchase new, vis a vis Jeff Korneff's 'retirement' from producing his amps and preamps, a friend tells me he coaxed a new 45 amplifier from Jeff recently, but he's not officially 'back in the game'.

Just my impressions (and prejudices) on my audio journey...I love the hand-made stuff, and I don't mean from China. The audio artiste making his statement and living by creating wonderful rare sounds for us to enjoy.



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RE: 'Designer Amps: Don Garber, Sam Kim and Don Allen, posted on June 27, 2007 at 13:32:23

Posts: 536
Location: South Central PA
Joined: March 15, 2006
Wow we think alot alike. I have the same amps Fi and Sam Kim but my Heathkit is the ultralinear. I was also thinking of trying a Don Allen amp maybe his 300B. I have a Wright WLA12A pre and a home built 76 6SN7 pre. I'll take alook at Mapletree.

Nothin from China here. Before I got into SET I had Quicksilvers.



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