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REVIEW: Dynaco Latino ST-70 Amplifier (Tube)

Model: Latino ST-70
Category: Amplifier (Tube)
Suggested Retail Price: $885. 00 plus tubes
Description: Tube Amp
Manufacturer URL: Dynaco
Model Picture: View

Review by artemus on December 03, 2010 at 08:43:55
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for the Latino ST-70

This is my first review so it may not be in depth as to packaging, specs and technical issues. So here's my experience with the Latino ST-70.

My system had been comprised of Conrad Johnson solid state amp and preamp for a lengthy time. However the addition of a tube phono preamp added to my desire for more tubes. That said, I thought I would go in the direction of a tube linestage preamp. CJ is a very reputable company with a fantastic sound IMO. However, the stars never aligned to upgrade the preamp. AAMOF, 5 yrs later I am still listening to the CJ PFR linestage. And it is a very good preamp in its own right, garnering a class A rating from Stereophile in the mid 90's.

However one day I decided to look at tubed amps after reading somewhere that this was the way to really hear tubes at their best. I looked at SET's but decided that my room may be a bit large for 7-10 wpc. Then I found that the Dynaco had many builders who were working their magic on this very popular tubed amp. Many kits are available from various sources. But I'm not a DIY guy when it comes to electronics.

Enter Bob Latino who markets kits for the DIY'ers and also builds a finished product for those of us who are not inclined to take in a project of this kind. Bob's website is well laid out with the options available for the amps that he markets which are the ST-70 and a Latino exclusive, the ST-120. The ST-70 and ST-120 put out 2x35 wpc and 2x60wpc respectively.

Since my speakers are rated at 93.5db sensitivity, I chose the lower power amp option, the ST-70. This amp keeps to the circuitry of the original Dynaco ST-70. However, it is not a refurbished Dynaco amp. It is a brand new amp with all new parts, including the case. Heavier transformers are used as well as a new board which allows improvement over the OEM board.

One of the things I liked about the ST-70 from the first time I saw it was the flexibility it has. EL-34, 6L6, KT-66 or KT-88 tubes can be used to tailor the sound the way you want it. Top that off with a mode switch which allows you to switch from pentode to triode and you have one of the most versatile amps available. I listen to classic Rock and prefer the Pentode mode. However for the jazz lovers, the triode mode may be your favorite.

When talking to Bob about the ST-70, he offered a few upgrades. One was the Paper in Oil coupling capacitors and upgraded power supply capacitors. I don't remember if the Pentode/triode switch was an option or standard fare on the amp. But I told Bob to max it out. The price of the amp maxed out unit with shipping less the tubes was somewhere around $1050
Sorry, but its been a yr since I purchased the amp so i can't remember to the penny.

Bob Latino recommends the KT-66 tubes. I have run those and the Russian 6n3ce which i am running at the present time.

Installing the amp in the system is pretty straight forward. The bias must be set for the tubes you choose. But the instructions are very easy to follow. One other touch i like is that there are individual bias pots for each tube (4 in all). This is helpful in the sense that matching tubes are not required.

My initial impression of the sound from this amp was, Wow! I bought this amp to get a feel for what tubes could do in my system.. I'm not sure what I expected. But I'm pretty sure that I did not expect this $1300-1400 (with KT-66 tubes) to handily outperform a good solid state amp who's price tag was triple of the ST-70. This is not a slam on the CJ 2500A amp. The Cj is a very good amp. (I believe my mistake with the CJ was pairing it with high efficiency speakers) No. this is a testament to how good the ST-70 really is.

A few things stand out about my initial hearing of the ST-70. I've always heard that a tube amp will suffer with bloated bass. this is not the case with the ST-70. Or, maybe it is. let me explain. I have fought with this giant listening space for years trying to get adequate bass. The CJ 2500A was a big help in establishing a good bass line. However, the ST-70 is superior in this room. The CJ was deep and very tight. However, maybe the little bit of bloat in the bass from the ST-70 is a good thing considering the room. Then too, I'm just guessing here about the bloat. The bass may be fine in a smaller room as well.

Another aspect which stands out is the sound of the saxophone. It never sounded as real with SS equipment. With the ST-70 you can hear the reeds fluttering as the breath is blown over them. It just sounds right

Another aspect which makes this amp a keeper is the way it deals with the highs and other forms of brightness. The harshness has been taken from some songs which were all to bright before. However, this is not done at the expense of clarity. IMO, the tonal balance is very good with no frequency ranges over exposed. It just sounds right.

IMO, this amp is a bargain. I was not expecting to get the performance that I did for such a price. Are there better amps out there? I'm sure there are. But after a year of listening to the Bob Latino ST-70 I am not inclined to change amps

One final remark and the only negative I can find with this amp is that the RCA inputs are in the front rather than the back. I am sure this has something to do with design and maybe switching them to the back would cause a sonic degradation. This design may work well if using the amp in a mono block configuration. However for a standard 2 channel configuration, it is a pain. I have to keep my amp all the way back on the shelf so that my IC's are long enough to reach jacks. Another negative is that the power switch is located at the back of the unit. If your amp is out in the open there is no problem. However, these 2 considerations need to be considered before buying the ST-70, which otherwise, I highly recommend.

Product Weakness: The RCA inputs are in the front<br>Power switch is in the back
Product Strengths: Bang for the buck. <br>Great sound

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: Bob Latino ST-70
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Conrad Johnson PFR
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Teres 340 and Theta Miles CDP
Speakers: Silverline Sonatas
Cables/Interconnects: Pure Note
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Classic Rock, classical, Some Jazz
Room Size (LxWxH): 15 x 20 x 14
Room Comments/Treatments: Room opens to a 12x 12 DR
Time Period/Length of Audition: 1 yr
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Oyaide R1 recep. Monster HT-2000
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Dynaco Latino ST-70 Amplifier (Tube) - artemus 08:43:55 12/03/10 (4)


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