“The next room to catch my attention was organized by ANKits, a supplier of high-end audio products sold in kit (DIY) form based on the Audio Note design philosophy. Born out of Audio Note UK ten years ago, ANKits is today a separate and successful entity. The firm has shipped over 2,000 kits in the last decade according to chief operating officer Smith. Several of those kits contain a certain percentage of Audio Note UK parts, in particular the firm’s legendary capacitors, C-Cores, wires and resistors. No matter the source of the parts, take a look at their quality. Some DIY kits available over the internet cram too many parts per square inch, making for awkward soldering. Not here. You get real full-sized metal cases and intuitive wire paths.”
“This room sounded incredible. I think it offered some of the very best quality per dollar at all of TAVES. The music grabbed a hold of me and would not let go.”
Plucked strings were as lifelike as they were in the very best rooms.
An EL84-based amp was providing all the snap one would expect from such a tube and all the warmth too. As a fan of tubed DACs, I am mightily tempted by the $1,625 DAC 2.1 featuring 6922 tubes. As a former kit builder himself, Smith approached Audio Note president Peter Qvortrup about continuing the kit business when Audio Note was in the process of shutting down their kit division in 2002 to focus more on their high-end finished product line. A good deal of AN (UK) institutional memory and design DNA crossed the Atlantic. Observe the tidy layouts in the photo, the short signal paths, the high-quality transformers, the big Audio Note capacitors and the liberal application of tubes. The circuit boards used are among the thickest I have seen and held. Behold the robust casework holding it all together.
There was nothing DIY about the look. Or about the sound.
Brian Smith says that neither he nor Peter Qvortrup could ever have imagined, back in the early 2000s, the breadth of today’s offerings let alone the commercial success of ANKits. DIY enthusiasts have access to a full range of DACs, preamplifiers, single-ended and push/pull mono blocks, integrated amps, phono stages and speaker kits.
According to Smith, the key to ANKits’ success has been the ongoing evolution of the products. He says he is “always looking for ways to improve the products whether it be the design, the manuals, the cosmetics or better parts per dollar. Better parts could mean components of course but also stainless steel hardware, 3mm aluminium chassis, the best heat sinks money can buy and thick 2oz copper-traced PCBs.” These are things a novice kit builder might not notice at first glance.
Smith says that “being a DIY supplier of high-end kits allows us to make product enhancements at a rapid pace–often ahead of our manuals–as the new tweaks immediately move into the next kit shipped. The products over the last few years are in a very mature state and we are still excited about upcoming releases in 2015.” “Can you be more specific?” I asked. “Well,” he said, “check out the room: brand-new DAC technology, EL84 single-ended monoblocks, a few integrated amps and more!”