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REVIEW: Dynaco ST-120 Kit Dynaco ST-120 Kit: Wired & Tested Amplifier (Tube)

Model: Dynaco ST-120 Kit: Wired & Tested
Category: Amplifier (Tube)
Suggested Retail Price: $995.00
Description: Bob Latino built 60 wpc kit: wired and tested
Manufacturer URL: Dynaco ST-120 Kit

Review by Mark1101 on August 05, 2008 at 09:10:58
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I recently purchased an ST-120 kit from Bob Latino. At first I wasn't sure about the purchase and had many questions. Bob provided quick, cmplete, knowledgeable answers that helpedme decide about my purchase. I received very good communiction throughout the entire process / transaction.

I purchased Bob's ST-120 kit wired and tested with power supply and coupling cap (auricap) upgrades. Bob also sells the kit as a DIY project for less money.

To my surprise Bob built my amp, tested, burned in, and shipped it in just 2-3 days. The amp arrived in a very well protected package and in perfect condition. In looking at the equipment it is beautiful, like a work of art. Inside and out Bob's work is meticulous. I have owned several other tubes amps and am familiar with the parts and Bob uses all very good quality parts. I was immediately very happy with what was deliverd to me. I could tell it was built to last.

You can see the equipment list I use in my system below. I'll explain my speakers. I use a slightly modified Klipsch MCM grand cinema all horn speaker system with custom Al Klappenberger extreme slope networks. This is a 104+ db setup that will absolutely punish you with any and all upstream noise and anomalies. It is a very efficient and highly detailed setup. The rewards with clean sounding equipment are enormous. Obviously, this is a very large 2 Ch. speaker system, but it can be driven by even low powered amplifiers with great success.

I loaded the 3 Mullard 12AT7s, Valve Art KT-88s, and Sovtech rectifier, fired up the unit and biased the tubes using the 4 external pots on the driver board. Quick and easy. All weekend the bias was rock steady. I let the amp play for around 72 hours straight and listened for about 1/3 of that time over the weekend. I gave it a real good workout.

Up first was the noise test done by shorting the RCA inputs. With the speakers I'm using I can detect any anomalies very easily and this amp is dead silent. If there is a theme to this review it would be that this amp scores mightily in the "cleanliness" department. I can't say enough about how quiet and clean sounding it is. No hiss, no hum, nothing but sweet music. I wish my darn preamp was even close to as quiet as this amp. Unfortunately it is not.

I used a lot of different music over the weekend ranging from blues to rock and jazz. Only CDs were used.

The ST-120 has beautiful extension from deep low end to crystal clear highs. All weekend long I was following bass lines delivered with strong emphasis, crystal clear, and sounding effortless. There is not even a hint of "tube slop" in the bass. Cymbal strikes are all there including the trailing edge. Again, crystal clear but not edgey or grainy. Vocals from the midhorn were smooth and detailed regardless if man or woman rock or jazz, softly spoken or "screams". All smooth and sweet.

The amp has a very tight clean and detailed signature while still retaining all the warmness of tubes and it is real powerhouse in a small package. It stays clean and clear right to ear piercing levels.

The output transformers never got hot but just warm and while the power transformer did get a good workout it runs cooler than my other tube amps and several others I've been around. Although I really pushed the amp at various times for 2-3 hour intervals it just never gave any indication that it was even breaking a sweat.

Soundstaging. Now here I have to say the jury may still be out. I don't have enough information yet. I have other Klipsch speakers (Lascalas, corwalls, and heresys) that I have not tried yet that I know image very well (Lascalas). My big cinema speakers are not the best at imaging and eclipse my room. So I can not fully comment on the 3D image. I was however fully engaged in the music all weekend wanting for nothing more. This amp is very true to life and provides great accuracy.

Bob is a grat guy to deal with and he has hit the nail on the head with this amp. It truly does everything very very well.

I don't even have the best tubes in it yet and I give it a big thumbs up and say "highly recommended".

Product Weakness: None yet.
Product Strengths: Clarity, clean sounding, detailed, accurate, powerful, both high end and low end extension, fit and finish !!!

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: Bob Latino ST-120 kit
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Juicy Music Audio Peach
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Jolida JD-100
Speakers: Modified Klipsch KPT MCM Grand
Cables/Interconnects: monster
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Blues, Rock, Jazz
Room Size (LxWxH): 26 x 18 x 11
Room Comments/Treatments: 12 panels of Owens Corning 705
Time Period/Length of Audition: First week of ownership / entire weekend of listening (~24 hrs listening time)
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Dynaco ST-120 Kit Dynaco ST-120 Kit: Wired & Tested Amplifier (Tube) - Mark1101 09:10:58 08/05/08 (11)


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