An evening with the Stoetkit

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Posted by Wayne Parham [ ] on June 11, 2004 at 05:25:17:

Last evening, I decided to make a little dinner party evening and enjoy the Stoetkit. I really needed to be working on one of about a dozen projects, and had planned on working on the next batch of drawings for π speaker plans. That's such a looooong process though, and so since the amp had arrived, I decided to give myself some time off last night.

Stoetkit ECL82 Ultralinear Push-Pull Tube Amplifier

The Stoetkit is a very attractive little amplifier. My photos don't do it justice, but it is a smartly built amp. The top is deep navy blue and the front panel has a grey peened finish with black silkscreened lettering. The transformer covers are gloss black which looks great on the gloss blue chassis. You'll really dig the power light in front, 'cause it's an LED of that really cool blue color. This is one smart looking amp.

It was packaged nicely in a padded shipping box that contained a metal transport case. Frank had a carry case made for the purpose, and it's really something. It makes carrying, packing and sending the amplifier a snap. This carrying case doesn't come with purchased kits, I'm sure, but it is nice for moving around the demo unit during the evaluation period. Kudo's to Frank at FSAudio.

I didn't open up the Stoetkit amp, but I could see through ventillation slots that it uses a printed circuit board. It is a high-quality board with green solder mask. I couldn't see any labeling so I don't know if it is silkscreened or not. I've noticed that many other tube kits use cheaper single-layer boards with no solder mask. That's probably just fine since the circuits are so simple, but it is nice to see high-quality green fiberglass in the Stoetkit.

There are pros and cons for PCB's and for point-to-point wiring. But one significant "pro" for PCB's is that it makes performance consistent between build-ups since the circuit paths don't vary between units. It's also faster to assemble manually and consistent in component placement, so automated assembly is possible. Kit builders don't care about wave soldering machines and robot component placement, so that advantage of PCB's is not an issue but it is usually easier for do-it-yourself builders to solder on a printed circuit than to do point to point wiring. That translates to a greater likelyhood that the builder can expect to do it right and get the performance the designer expects.

I made no point of comparing the amp to others or doing any particular selection of music for careful listening. Remember, this was my night off. Instead, I just setup the amp and a CD player on a table along with a pair of two π towers. The weather outside was super, so we decided to setup outdoors and cook on the grille. The whole night was spent under the stars enjoying Frank Sinatra, Diana Krall and Glenn Miller. It doesn't get any better than that.

Here's the neatest part. One of my friends that came over for this impromptu late-night listening session was Joe Keeton from over on the Music and Movies forum. He's real into video and works in the television industry. But he isn't at all familiar with tube gear. So I got to watch his reaction, and that was probably as fun as anything else.

Think about the first time you ever listened to a tube amp with some classic jazz or vocal material. It's like the first time you try champagne. And I could see that come over Joe, so I think we snagged another convert here.

As I said, this wasn't meant to be a real evaluation or anything like that. I just wanted to make mention of the fact that I had received the amp, powered it up, and got to enjoy it a little bit. I'll give it a more critical listen in the next few days, and the Great Plains Audio Club will get together and we'll all give it a listen. But for now, I can already tell that I like this little amp.

The thing that is immediately obvious is that it isn't lacking in bass or treble and the overall sound is balanced. Vocals aren't "forward" or harsh nor are they subdued. There are no obvious artifacts, no strange sounds and best of all, no hum. Maybe in a quieter inside environment I'll notice some hum but it sounded like it was a much quieter amp than Paramours, which is a pleasant surprise for me.

I couldn't turn it up and didn't rotate the volume knob past one-quarter turn because I was outside and it was after 10:00pm. My neighbors - as tolerant and cool as they are - would appreciate my restraint 'cause I can tell that this little amp can put out the juice. Even at one-quarter turn, while running inside to freshen a drink, I noticed that I could hear the bass inside the house. I thought to myself how funny it was that this little-bitty 9 watt tube amp was really thumping.

So for a first go at it, it looks and sounds like a winner to me. A most pleasant evening for sure!


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