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

Model: 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

Review by jaydacus on October 17, 2009 at 00:19:05
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for the ST-120 Kit: Wired & Tested

The Kit:

If you can solder or are a quick learner, get the kit. It comes well packed with easy to follow instructions. There must have been 40 baggies with all of the little parts separated and clearly labeled. Each step in the process tells you exactly which parts you need to complete the step and there is no guesswork at all. As the amp starts to come together, it starts looking really cool. If you can't picture yourself building something like this, you can have Bob Latino build it, but at least to me the whole build experience was as rewarding as the resulting amp.

The Support:

For several months before I purchased the kit, I asked Bob all kinds of questions about it. Everything from how the bass performance was to exactly what type of tubes would work best. He always took the time to answer all of my questions and helped me to feel like I was making the right choices. I contacted Bob with a few questions during the build process and any small issue I had was quickly resolved. I have never seen a product that was so well supported in my life. Actually getting to speak to the person that spent a stack of months hammering out the exact design and then tweaking it to perfection is a real plus.

The Finished Product:

After I soldered the last wire, I installed the AC cord, hooked it up to my computer and speakers, held my breath, turned it on, and set the bias. I searched through my music library and decided on AC/DC- Highway to Hell. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. This amplifier that I has just spent 2-3 hours a day for the last 4 days came to life. Now I know what people who are passionate about building cars must feel like the first time they start an engine that they just built. The first thing that sprang to mind was that it felt like I had just started a high performance engine.

The Sound:

I could use all kinds of overused terms like lush, warm, clean,liquid, powerful, to describe the sound and they would all be accurate, but would fail to properly convey the level of excitement that listening sessions bring. There just aren't words to describe it properly. You have to experience it for yourself to get your head around this thing. What I can say is that it produces every frequency equally well. There does not seem to be a hot spot in the mids like I have heard with other tube based amplifiers. The mids are great. Electric guitars sound really hot and vocals sound like the person is performing right there, but this amp is just as able to produce bass so low that you can feel it as much as hear it and the cleanest highs I have ever heard. Normally when I get a new piece of audio equipment and go through my music collection I discover strengths and weaknesses. Stuff that sounded great before sounds less great, but other stuff sounds better than it did on the old speakers, amp, sound card, CD Player, etc. That is not the case with amplifier. It handles everything equally well. It sounds like whatever the music needs it to sounds like. It is just as good at making Metallica sound harsh and angry as it is at making Enya sound smooth and gentle. I'm not a huge rap fan, but it will do rap. It even gets the "bumping" part right. Not the floaty kind of bass that you normally hear with tube equipment, but real hard hitting bass. I would go so far as to say that the bass has a low end rumble to it that I have never heard in solid state equipment.

Upgrades and tube selection:

Cap upgrade on the driver board

Russian paper in oil caps on the backside of the driver board

Genelex Gold Lion KT-88 reissues

Mullard NOS(British Military) CV4024/12AT7

Ruby gz34 rectifier tube

Product Weakness: None
Product Strengths: The sound. Every Frequency from top to bottom

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: Dynaco St-120
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Not used
Sources (CDP/Turntable): PC with an M-Audio Sound Card
Speakers: Klipsch Quartet
Cables/Interconnects: Blue Jeans Cables
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Everything
Time Period/Length of Audition: 4 days
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Dynaco ST-120 Kit: Wired & Tested Amplifier (Tube) - jaydacus 00:19:05 10/17/09 (8)


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