Customer Reviews!

SYSTEMS REVIEWS:

 

L5 preAmp 102817

Mentor L5 Pre-amplifier & Interstage All C-Core PSE 300B

“Sounding better every day Brian. I’m still in shock at the bass, it doesn’t just go low, it is solid and powerful. Couple that with the huge dynamic range and linearity and you have a truly full-bodied experience. Each instrument is sonically different and beautifully separate, no more ‘clumping’ of the musicians. It’s almost as if each instrument has it’s own sound system to itself. Clarity and detail are simply stunning. I’m also loving the tone of those 300b’s, simply gorgeous. Even my son, always sceptical of the amount of money I spend, is blown away by the sound. Visitors take photo’s of the interstages!”
RAYMOND LINDSAY

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PRODUCT REVIEWS:

 

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Interstage 300B SET Monoblocks

I feel that I owe you what will be a long overdue review of my Interstage mono blocks.
The build process was predictably smooth (I have built an Audio Note Kits DAC so this was expected) and took me a couple of weekends to complete. The time was well rewarded, as the resulting amps are really quite remarkable.
Simply put, with these amps, I am finding myself listening to more music than I have in a long time.  Unlike other high end audio products I have owned, I am not just reaching for my “good sounding” recordings (which sound awesome here as well),because everything I play through these amps just sounds so right and easy to listen to.  What has struck me most with the Interstage mono blocks is not only how amazing vocals sound, but also how arresting acoustic and electric guitar sounds. I have had more than a few “feels like they are in the room moments” and thats pretty awesome. The bass is also noteworthy, as I was not expecting clean tight and plentiful bass from a 20 watt tube amp. All of this, and the music just seems to come out of a totally dead quiet background with no audible hum or noise at all.
Sure there are other kits on the market, but I doubt that any of them come close to offering the level of quality and performance I am experiencing. I cannot thank you enough for offering a kit that performs as well as this one. Please do keep up the good work.
BLAIR PIERSALL BOSTON MA

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DAC 5.1 Signature

“Dear Sir
I am taking time to let you know that I am immensely impressed with your products; particularly the Dac 5.1. Based on the build quality and superb performance of your Dac 5.1 I ordered the Mentor preamplifier and a pair of your 300b monoblock amps.
Your ANK Dac 5.1 Signature produces a realism that is hard to believe. My associated equipment consists of Audio Note { Kondo amp and pre amp } some Shindo gear as well as Mark Levinson cd transport and dac converter. The Mark Levinson 390s has been surpassed by you Dac 5.1 and is now in storage.
I am not a stranger to hi fi kits ; going way back to the Eico and Dynakit era. Your products in the four digit price rang really outclass many audio products in the mid five digit range. I can still hear to the 14,000 HZ range and use very high efficiency speakers such as the Shindo Lafitte..Voxativ drivers..and my own very limited production ; the 22,200 gauss flux density Reps R-1 speaker system. Thanks again for making available to us , some really fine audio products that don’t break the bank.
Sincerely”
FRANCIS M REPS


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EL34 Stereo Amplifier

“ It’s taken me a while what with summer holidays and so on but I have just got round to writing a few words for you on my impressions of the EL34 C-Core Power Amplifier.
Notes on the kit building experience
The kit was a joy to build, professionally put together and very easy for anyone with just a basic understanding of electronics, there is a lot of information on the included CD-ROM, plenty of pictures, so if there was anything I wasn’t sure of it soon became clear after a quick look through the files and pictures on the disc.
I can see from the quality of the components that the kit as a whole is really good value, I built several Audio Note kits back in the 90’s so when I was looking to build a new amplifier I was very pleased to find your website, your website is great by the way, it looks like you have a range of fantastic products so I can only say keep up the good work!
Sound quality
Sounded good from the start but now it’s run-in (around 150+ hours) it’s sounding REALLY GOOD!! The sound has opened up a lot, mids are clear and smooth, highs and lows are extended and well defined. I’ve never been sure of what people mean when they talk about the ‘warm’ sound of valve amps, to my mind that could mean coloration with an emphasise in the lower mid/upper bass region, this amp certainly doesn’t have that, it’s tonally neutral but it does sound smooth and sweet and reproduces music in a fluid, effortless way which I think is the mark of a good valve amplifier. At the same time as all this it’s fast! timing is excellent and leading edges are reproduced in a way not necessarily associated with valve amplifiers. You mention on your website how you have enjoyed listening to your Al Di Meola mid 70’s albums on this amplifier, I have these albums on a CD box set (not the vinyl originals sadly) and I totally get what you mean, the detail is amazing and the amp really seems to get in the groove with the music, I have just been listening to Herbie Hancock’s jazz/funk fusion album ‘Head Hunters’ (also mid 70’s) and you get the same felling with that album as well, that’s not to say this amp is a one trick pony, it sounds great on just about anything you can throw at it (good music that is).
All in all this is a truly great amplifier, I’m sure it can be improved with a few signature parts (upgrading the coupling capacitors as you recommended for instance) but I am more than happy with the way it sounds at present so I am in no hurry to do this, it has the ability to put a big smile on my face, what more could you ask for?
JOHN

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EL34 Level 3 Monoblocks

“I received the EL34 Level 111  monoblocks yesterday, the quality of this kit is outstanding! I’ve built my own tube amps before, but they’re nowhere near this nice. I can also appreciate all the R&D you guys have put into this, it saves me HOURS of playing with layout and measuring. I’m going to have to buy one of your 300B lots at some point.
I’m extremely impressed by the range of products and price ranges you’re able to offer. It seems like you’re constantly developing new products and evolving the classics. I also think even your high end equipment is reasonably priced (in the context of hi fi audio).”
JORGE ESPINOZA

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EL34 Level 3 Monoblocks

“Brian – man oh man, I just can’t imagine the day I hook up these bad ass amps up…. I’m going to be in tears, that’s a given… I made a  slight change in color on the choke and a little brass hardware…..I promise that’s all i will do lol…..im an artist how could i not add a touch of flare and tasteful to Audio Notes style I think….”
CHRIS HABERLAND

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EL34 Level 3 Monoblocks

“I’m interested in the EL34 MonoBlock Level 3. I was fortunate enough to have an acquaintance bring his pair over for a listen through my speakers, JBL 4365. They sounded absolutely sensational. We had to run them with a CD source (Oppo BDP-105) only for the day as my pre amp is XLR output only. So no turntable. And still they sounded breathtaking.
A.  CAMPLONE

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EL34 Integrated

“It sounds fantastic. I’m particularly impressed with the bass, clean, smooth flat response, and plenty of output – surprising for 35 watts.”
GEOFFREY SHORTEN

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Mentor L5 Pre-amplifier

“Today the boxes have arrived. WOW, how exciting, unpacking the boxes. It is better than Christmas! I am impressed by the size and quality of the Mentor parts.
Now I am starting to understand what you meant with “finest pre-amplifier on the planet!
JIRI OPLATEK

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Interstage 300B SET Monoblocks Quad C-Core

“Overall kit quality is stunning.”
ANTHONY PARKIN, UK

 

 

 

 

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L3 Phono

“We assembled the phone stage and ran it to play. It was amazing – first 30 minutes it was going  better and better and finally it reached it stationary state. What to say? This is the best sound which we heard so far… I would like to learn more how it was designed basically what is the philosophy of the design of the system.”
NIKOLAY NIKOLAEV, UK

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Interstage 300B SET Monoblocks

“Success.  The filiaments glow and power stays on”
“I went ahead with the voltage measurements and the measurements checked out to within less than 5% difference from expected.  This is probably within the variability of the mains voltage.  Then I played some music.  I literally froze in amazement where I was standing.  The transparency and the detail and the liquid sound of the female vocalist was fantastic!!  I was concerned about the adequacy of the bass with only 20 watts when I first ordered the kit, but in fact, the acoustic double bass had both depth and detail and much more in fact than my 125 watt/channel tube amp. WOW! – am I happy! “
“I finished the second amp yesterday afternoon and have been listening to all sorts of music.  I am very happy with the result!!  These amps are great!!   The most amazing thing is what they do with female vocalists:  The sound emerges from an absolutely quiet background – no trace whatever of hum – and the sense of presence is fantastic.  Also, there is plenty of detail and bass for classical music.”
ALLAN SMITH, California

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L1 EL84 Integrated

“Thought, why not try something heavier, so put on Metallica – Black, my goodness!!  The L1 EL84 Integrated amp came alive.!.  I have not done much comparison yet, but I can say it sounds awesome!! I can feel the difference in the sound stage, clarity, tone, and even tightness in bass. In the end the build was worth it!!”
SAMSON LOPEZ, UK

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Mentor L5 Pre-amplifier

“The DAC is almost beyond belief. I am re-discovering all my discs while my records and tape lie still. ‘The Mentor’, walks, and often runs, away from my similar priced McIntosh preamplifier in everyway. Low level resolution was quite astounding even when using other pre-amps, but with the L-5 ( Mentor), it moves into a different class.
So many products in audio have increased in cost and decreased in value and performance. The media seduces us into thinking what they say is what we want. All the products carried by AudionoteKits, are of the highest standard for schematic conception, layout, parts, fit and finish.”
GEORGE ZABRECKY

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DAC 2.1

“Just a quick mail to say many thanks for the perfect and professional packing and shipping you did on the DAC, so many people can’t pack. Once again Brian many thanks for your superb service, I might look at a preamp as well.”
PAUL

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DAC 2.1

“The DAC 2.1 is the single most rewarding purchase in my 37 years of audio.”
ROBERT GRANDONI

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DAC 2.1 built by ANK finished products builder Digital Pete

“Your work is exquisite!!!! I’m so pleased that I can’t even find the words to express my feelings.
I’ve been listening to it for only three hours but I can already tell how much better it sounds than what I was listening to before. Vocals are much clearer, separation and soundstage have snapped in where they should be, bass is deeper but with no smearing. Every part of the listening experience has improved. I could go on and on with the superlatives, and I haven’t encountered any negatives! I can’t even imagine how good it will sound after more break-in.
Doing business with you has been a pleasure from beginning to end. You should be proud of your customer service as well as your product. I’m looking forward to our next transaction.
By the way, please feel free to use me as a reference. Also you have my permission to quote any part of our communications to prospective clients.”
ALAN SIMON, Colorado

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DAC 3.1

“The imaging and separation between vocals and instruments conjures up an amazing illusion and I feel I could walk over and touch the individual parts. I threw a lot of complex music at the DAC with organs and classical content and I was pleased to see the DAC resolved all the detail and never sounded cluttered. On more modern music I heard stuff from the mix that previously just blended in and the vocals were surreal. I took the DAC away with me to my parent’s house, my father got me into hi-fi originally. We had a hi-fi bake off one evening and listened to a variety of transports and DACs, the DAC 3.1 was always the winner.
The result is that I’m now buying more CDs than previously, second hand is a great source and cheap.I would without a doubt recommend this product to anyone who is thinking of buying a DAC and is handy with a soldering iron. Construction took me around 12 hours. I was also impressed with the quality level of the components supplied in the kit. The instructions are fool proof and the whole kit came in individually labelled bags with an inventory.”
ALEKS

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Dac 4.1

DAC 4.1

“I have finish the assembling of my DAC4.1 kit and I’m very satisfied of it. All what I anticipate from this kit meet all my expectations. The timbres, the soundstage, the drive, the bass have reach level I have never met with any others dacs I’ve listen to in the past. I’m really happy with it!”
SYLVIAN

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DAC 4.1 built by ANK finished products builder Digital Pete

“Just a note to let you know the DAC arrived about an hour ago.  I just wanted to let you know the workmanship looks stunning.  The layout is absolutely neat and everything looks polished.  It is obvious you take great pride in your work.
Out of the box on first listen I could tell this is a special piece of audio gear.  It has detail and dynamics in spades.  After a number of hours of playing time the warmth and presence became more apparent.  It has that one character that I love and call “concert hall” sound, the acoustic space of the musical performance.”
BILL SCOBY

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DAC 4.1

“Saludos sr. Brian
Llevo 40 horas de escucha con el dac 4.1, y estoy fascinado con esta maquina ¡!! Me gusta mucho como suena en todos los sentidos. Tiene un sonido abierto y produce una escena grande. En cambio la musica no suena debil y volatil…. Sino rapida y con firmeza.
Las voces son claras , limpias y las reproduce con fuerza. Los agudos parece que no estan…. Pero cuando hay instrumentos de metal, aire , ,cuerda (octava superior) aparecen milagrosamente, con todo el esplendor… (simplemente es que no son persistentes). El grave y subgrave son lo mejor que he escuchado en mi vida en un cd-dac…. Rapido, apretado, y bien articulado…. Apreciando las diferentes notas de grave a subgrave muy bien definidas y no produce ese tipo de grave grande , y difuso. Lo que hecho en falta es mas resolucion (transparencia) y microdetalle….. Entonces he comprado nuevas valvulas “nos” a un famoso importador en “usa”. 2- raytheon (1950-1960) 2- tung-sol (1950-1960) 2- philips (1970) cryo….
En todas , la transparencia a ganado mucho….. Con estas valvulas las cualidades del 4.1 se han acrecentado hasta un nivel hi-end. No es una broma ¡!!! Hay que tener el resto de componentes del equipo a un nivel de calidad muy alto, para poder reconocer todo lo que puede hacer este 4.1. Esta vez…. La transparencia es tanta como lo que esta gravado dentro del cd.….. Y el equilibrio tonal es casi perfecto ¡!!!!! Mi satisfaccion es maxima…… no puedo continuar evaluando el 4.1 sin compararlo con productos de marcas del mundo high-end referencias. En mi equipo he tenido: naim, jadis , mark levinson, proceed, chord, karan, audiomeca, ….. He escuchado en tiendas especializadas: dcs, krell, vitus, copland, cary audio..etc……. Cableados, amplis, cd , dac, altavoces…….. Estoy familiarizado con productos de alto nivel, y os puedo “confirmar” que este dac 4.1 pertenece a ese grupo selecto. “por supuesto es mi opinion”…. Pero yo, ya tengo uno en mi casa, para mucho tiempo. Gracias sr. Brian…. Por conseguir una maquina de 3100$ (kit) con un nivel de referencia absoluta…….”
MARIO DIAZ, Spain

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DAC 4.1

“I can tell you Brian the DAC is amazing. It plays wonderful.
I have newer listen to music from valves like this before and this is just after a few hours listening time.”
OLAV STENSEN

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EL34 C-Core Integrated Amplifier

“Thanks very much for the wonderful tube amp kit. I just completed the assembling last Sunday evening. It worked properly from the very beginning, all voltage checks were OK from the scratch.
Thanks to your genious circuit and to high quality parts including the impressive C-Core output transformers, one ends up with a marvelous integrated amp at a very reasonable price!! Congratulations to this product. I hope that you will have a lot of success with selling this valuable product in the future!”
DANIEL OERTLI

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EL34 C-Core Integrated Amplifier

“The EL34 Integrated C core sounds freaking awesome! So smooth…. I don’t think that I have very discerning ears, but I am pretty sensitive to any harshness. (A lot of systems actually cause me a bit of pain).
There is absolutely none with this amp. The music also just seems more completely formed. The sound stage is so much more crisp and organized. The difference between my old amp and this one is pretty amazing in this regard. Another surprise is the potency of the 35 watts! My last few amps have been 100 watters. This seems pretty much as powerful. It has no problem driving my 86db efficient Sonus Faber Liuto monitors.
Anyway I couldn’t be happier. I’m not expecting or hoping for any improvement with the break in. Do you think there will be? I can’t imagine it.
Pete – great job with the build. As I’m sure you realized after answering my multitude of calls, I am a bit of a perfectionist. The craftsmanship is impeccable. I can’t stop staring at it. I defiantly don’t want to hide it with the cover. I will be having you build something else for me in the future.”
CHRISTOPHER ROBERTSON

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L3 Phono Stage

“I wanted to comment the L3 phono stage. Recently I finished my L3 phono stage which is complementing my system consisting of an Dared 845 tube amp, Audio Note AN-E speakers and a Technics SL-1210 MK2 turntable with Denon DL103 MC cartridge and Denon step up. The L3 phono stage is really good. A great product which I rate at least a level 2 product in the Audio Note range. With the L3 phono stage everything falls into place. How does it sound? I have no idea! It just makes music in a way I have never heard before from my analog setup. I also want to add that Brian and Audio Note Kits have provided me with great service and help before during and after the build.”
MARTIJN GIEBELS

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L5 preAmp 102811

Mentor L5 Pre-amplifier

“I was once again extremely impressed with the high quality of the Mentor components – even the plastic bags it came in were strong and thick! It was truly a joy to build and very satisfying indeed, so when visitors come to my house I am filled with pride as they compliment both the DAC and the Mentor – they make an excellent duo. I cannot put into words how sweet and beautiful the music is, The musicians I listen to would be awed at how good they sound. I have a friend who told me they recently went to a Penguin Cafe Orchestra performance and they sound better through my system than they did live. I truly feel as if the artist is not only in the same room, I believe they are playing for my benefit alone. There are times I make an unintentional noise and almost apologise for interrupting the performance!
The Mentor has a huge power transformer and utilises shunt regulation, which means when the amp needs to suddenly draw a lot of power, it is available. This makes for some outrageous dynamics. No longer do your recordings sound flat and uninteresting – they absolutely burst with life! Before this I listened to good music, but no more, now I am listening to fantastic music and wonderful emotions. My first listen and I could feel tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat from this pre-amp. It has seriously changed my life. I now spend a lot (too much in all honesty) of time sitting listening with an enormous grin on my face. I threw my television out some time ago and miss it not one jot, but losing this amp would break my heart.
My advice is buy one – NOW! If you cannot afford it, then honestly, sell your children/wife/house/car, you will not regret it. Money cannot be a barrier to such an amazing piece of equipment. If you have a bucket list this should be on top.”
KEITH GRAHAM, Cheltenham, UK

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Mentor L5 Pre-amplifier

“Finally I listened last night to some cd’s, I thought my L4 Pre could not be bettered, how wrong can you be, and that’s with the stock valves, pleasurable listening awaits you all! The sound stage/depth and being able to hear further into recordings is astonishing.”
LES GOLDER, UK

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Mentor L5 Pre-amplifier

“I can hear music made from The Mentor far closer to real instruments than ever before. Well done Brian!”
JERRY LO, UK

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Kit1-8

THE BUILD
“Unpacking an Audio Note kit is a distinct pleasure and the first aspect of the enjoyable and fulfilling experience of creating a truly exceptional audio component. The quality and finish of the Transformers and choke are incredible. For a SET Amp the high level of attention to finish and aesthetic detail assure a finished product that looks a fine as it sounds. The consistently high level of supplied components is remarkable; the measured values of the resistors were within .05% Amazing!
Following the excellent graphics and high resolution schematics provided, it was possible to focus on each aspect of the build successively to assure perfect mechanical preparation, component installation and PC Builds, including useful notes on techniques which will result in the best build quality and consistency (e.g. soldering notes for surface mounted resistors). The result is a remarkable balanced and dynamic SET Amplifier which exceeds the quality of anything I have heard from other manufacturers of either kits or finished components.”
THE PRODUCT
“Upon completing the kit, voltages were checked employing the included reference sheet and were within .08% of the specifications provided. Inserting the driver and power tubes and connecting to my reference system yielded a much unexpected result: silence. Without regard to the high quality of interconnects, power cables and power conditioning and ground, even the previous Class A system announced its functionality with a VERY low level noise floor. My suspicion was some error in construction: perhaps no audio path? The actual explanation for a soundless startup was again surprising, the noise floor of this amplifier was so low that it was effectively imperceptible with virtually full deflection of the level control!
The reproduction quality of the amplifier is exquisite. From the first moment of listening the reproduction exhibits a clear, balanced dynamic quality with remarkable speed and power not considered a hallmark of SET designs. The original design achievements of this amplifier have indeed benefited from the detailed and very uncommon commitment of Brian Smith at ANK to continue the improvement of already distinguished components.”
BOB LAIDLAW, California

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SHOW REVIEW:

The TAVES room

“I much enjoyed seeing your room at TAVES, it was one of the best sounding rooms at the show. Following your room there were few that sounded good. you kinda raised the bar a wee bit…. ha ha.
I know you said the new EL84 amps won’t be out until the new year but I guess I’m just getting impatient seeing as your room is still in the forefront of my thoughts…”
WARREN POTTER