High-End Akitika Idea

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All of the reviews I've read on the FT102 and PR102 have been rather positive, especially for the price of the kits. The is comprised of a lot of parts that are good value for the sound quality; when looking some of them up I don't think and individual component hit the $5 retail mark.


But what if...instead of going for value per dollar, you instead took the basic design and upgraded some key components with top end gear? Some things that crossed my mind when looking over the manual:


-Use Burson V6 Classic opamps instead of the cheap TI chips
-Use Audio Note resistors, capacitors, binding posts and knobs
-Potentially use some XLR connectors instead of RCA (open to suggestion on the best RCA and XLR connectors, the Audio Note RCAs being so cheap makes me wonder why they're so affordable)
-Ditch the stock 3.5mm headphone connector and use whatever the best 1/4" is (Does Furutech make one? I couldn't find one Googling for it.)



Pricing out the Audio Note parts from Partsconnexion I get a total I can live with, being a fan of Audio Note in general. Another reason I like starting with the Akitika is that I travel a lot, and I would be able to fit the preamp and amp in my luggage rather easily.


Thoughts on this? Good idea? Bad idea? Something that could be done better?
 
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Why not build two of each?

#1 is perfectly "stock", using everything as-shipped by Akitika. In this experiment it functions as the Control.

#2 uses the component upgrades that you suggest.

Now you can listen to before vs. after and discover whether there is any audible difference at all. If so, you can determine whether the differences are large or small.

Be sure to include the Audio Note knobs in #2.
 
I like Akitika kits. Nice value. Easy to build. Super DIY vendor. I use The Akitika 2ppm 1kHz oscillator almost every few days.

With a DIP8 socket you can try all sorts of cheap opamps. I would guess that a “cheap” $5 TI OPA1611 on an SOIC8 to DIP8 adapter is going to give a Burson a run for the money. It would in fact, give most opamps by any manufacturer, a run for the money.

Other upgrades might be to add a few more low ESR bypass caps as close to the pins as possible. A 47uF Panasonic SEPF attached to the bottom of the PCB on each Vcc/Vee pin to GND.

Make sure all critical audio path resistors are not steel legs. Name brand Yageo (budget) or Dale or Takman (if you want to get fancy) metal thin films 1% are good for this.

Replace the basic voltage regulators on the PSU with ultra low noise TO-220 equivalent mini PCB premade TI TPS7A4XXX 4uV LDO’s.

Add mu metal shielding around the the trafo.

Nice connectors and knobs give a “luxury” sense upgrade to the unit but probably won’t affect the sound as much as the items I outlined above.
 
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All of the reviews I've read on the FT102 and PR102 have been rather positive, especially for the price of the kits. The is comprised of a lot of parts that are good value for the sound quality; when looking some of them up I don't think and individual component hit the $5 retail mark.


But what if...instead of going for value per dollar, you instead took the basic design and upgraded some key components with top end gear? Some things that crossed my mind when looking over the manual:


-Use Burson V6 Classic opamps instead of the cheap TI chips
Definitely not (without careful research) their spec's are incomplete and lacking datasheets. Many "cheaper" opamps are _extremely_ good. The only datasheet I seem to be able to find for the V5 SS Burson quotes 0.03% distortion (_shockingly_ high for an audio opamp), and input bias currents of 180µA, implying 7.6pA/√Hz current noise, about 20 times worse than an NE5534 (shockingly high for an audio opamp - spot the theme?). Basically its worse than a µA741 as far as I can tell.
Not sure what the difference from the V6 is other than they've fixed the excessive input bias current (its allegedly 3nA in the V6), so current noise is probable fixed. No value for voltage noise or distortion given though. What stock is probably much better.
I mean if the Burson V6 is also 0.03% you will lower the Akitika's distortion performance considerably - pretty stupid.

-Use Audio Note resistors, capacitors, binding posts and knobs
Use standard metal film, good film caps (PP where needed) - nothing wrong with those at all. I'd forget binding posts and go for SpeakOn connectors, much the best solution for speaker connection I know of. Again there seem to be no datasheets for Audio note resistors, bit of a give-away that...

-Potentially use some XLR connectors instead of RCA (open to suggestion on the best RCA and XLR connectors, the Audio Note RCAs being so cheap makes me wonder why they're so affordable)
Definitely anything but wretched RCA connectors, such a bad ancient design that should have been flushed out of audio decades ago.

-Ditch the stock 3.5mm headphone connector and use whatever the best 1/4" is (Does Furutech make one? I couldn't find one Googling for it.)
Yup, 1/4 headphone jacks are much more reliable and solid.

Pricing out the Audio Note parts from Partsconnexion I get a total I can live with, being a fan of Audio Note in general. Another reason I like starting with the Akitika is that I travel a lot, and I would be able to fit the preamp and amp in my luggage rather easily.
Standard metal film resistors are excellent, absolutely no need for anything "better". For SMT that means thin-film, if that's an issue. For signals standard PP metallized film caps are excellent, absolutely no need for anything more expensive, that just shows lack of judgement I think. Choice of electrolytics is another question - good temperature handling and low ESR obviously, and high ripple current for filter caps.

Thoughts on this? Good idea? Bad idea? Something that could be done better?
 
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