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First-Timer Doubts: K-12 or Gainclone?
First-Timer Doubts: K-12 or Gainclone?
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Old 25th February 2007, 08:17 PM   #1
sansbury is offline sansbury  United States
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Default First-Timer Doubts: K-12 or Gainclone?

Hi all and thanks in advance for tolerating yet another noob. I'm a pretty fast learner but some things not so clear to me just yet.

Cliff's Notes:
1. Budget system under $500ish total
2. Smaller apartment location
3. Primary source would be PC/iPod output
4. Would also be building speakers
5. Mechanically adept but limited electrical experience

I'm looking at building some quality budget gear since I got to pay myself a little bonus in Jan. thanks to better-than-epxected sales in my business. I'm a pro software geek and have good carpentry and modest electrical and electronic experience and used to know my way around a soldering iron before I discovered girls.

Anyways, I've never had tubes before so I was thinking about the K12 kit by S5 paired with the Studio One or Two by Pi Speakers. I can build my own cabinets from scratch easily to trim $ there.

I live in a small studio apartment and am moderately content with the 2" Cambridge Soundworks speakers hooked to iTunes on my laptop, so I figure darn near anything should be a significant improvement. FWIW

Thing is, spent the past two days reading the safety stuff and I'm getting a little scared, enough that I'm wondering if I shouldn't be looking at a Gainclone instead... for that matter maybe it would work better for me regardless?

Let's see... Wood floors, wood chairs, wooden work table, rubber shoes, GFCI, hand in pocket, watching out for loaded caps, check, recheck, triple-check... how necessary is it to poke in the box when it's hot, anyway? Anything special I need to know about mounting that thing in a real chassis? And I still don't quite get how to install bleeders on the caps but I know I want to.

In other money-draining pasttimes I'm a private pilot (instrument & sea rated & partner in a C-172) which is the sort of thing that makes life insurance cost more, so I'm all about the risk management approach to things, but this is new territory so I want to cover the bases.

Again, thanks in advance.
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Old 25th February 2007, 08:39 PM   #2
Nordic is offline Nordic  South Africa
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discharge one of those 35v caps in your hand, or touch a livewire, if you survive, you not only prove your genetic prowess, but also learn some respect. I would take $100 dollars and build both, the power supply could probably be made to work with both... In the $500 leage I would want solidstate or valve gear.
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Old 25th February 2007, 09:15 PM   #3
tkifowit is offline tkifowit  United States
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The most important question is what kind of music do you play?
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Old 25th February 2007, 09:32 PM   #4
sansbury is offline sansbury  United States
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Music? That's a pretty wide range for me. Some opera/classical, plenty of rock, and a good helping of more electronic stuff. I suppose if I was going to pick one thing to optimize for, I'd use Sigur Ros, which is a pretty eccentric Icelandic rock/avant-garde group that is decidedly acquired taste... try this one on for size.

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Old 25th February 2007, 11:46 PM   #5
tkifowit is offline tkifowit  United States
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Cool sound!!
Ok as I have both a K12 and a ginclone I can tell you. That you would be happier with the gainclone for that.
The K12 sounds better for the classical.

I listen to a lot of jass and classic and I love a little kit that cost me 250.00$. It is a EL84 SE amp.

But for my rock I use the gainclone. Plus you can have a wider choise for speakers.

Does this help you?
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Old 26th February 2007, 01:03 AM   #6
sansbury is offline sansbury  United States
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Yes! Very helpful. I was starting to kind of lean that way anyway, for sound reasons, so good to hear it confirmed by wiser minds. I'm looking at the BrianGT kits and only thing I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around is the @#$! PSU.

I understand *what* it does I'm just having a hard time figuring out where to get all the right parts. Oh yeah, and that chassis business.

Who knows, maybe after this I'll try to do a valve-buffered Gainclone
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Old 26th February 2007, 01:18 AM   #7
Eli Duttman is offline Eli Duttman  United States
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Location: Monroe Township, NJ

Being safe around tubed equipment is not too difficult. Your car's storage battery can kill you. Are you going to give up driving?

While I wouldn't put the K12 in the junk or toy category, it does leave quite a bit to be desired. May I suggest you check "El Cheapo" out. For a few $ more than a K12 costs you will get (IMO) something better. Speakers that are 94 dB. efficient are needed. Higher efficiency is "gravy".
Eli D.
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Old 26th February 2007, 01:40 AM   #8
jduffy is offline jduffy  United States
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I wouldn't be afraid of electricity but at the same time, learn that your hand in your pocket could save your life. There are plenty of horror stories out there of those who should have known better but did something foolish regardless of that fact.

I built a Gainclone from scratch and a tube amp from Bottlehead for under $500 total. Doing both projects almost simultaneously taught me a lot and I was starting out with very little knowledge.

Now I have a good understanding about audio electronics and just completed a tube guitar amp. My next project is a tube linestage preamplifier from scratch.

For great Gainclone info check out:


I basically built the LM3875 version that he outlines on his site. I tweak something on it just about every weekend. It's a blast! I tend to listen to my tube amp during the week and the Gainclone on weekends. The tube amp pretty much kicks the GC's butt. I'm cool with that though.

Good luck with your projects because you will have more than one, trust me!
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Old 26th February 2007, 08:37 PM   #9
gofar99 is offline gofar99  United States
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Howdy, I have built the K-12 with several mods. The sound is very smooth and listenable. If you want to see my comments check out diyaudioprojects.com . I am building a tube buffered gainclone at present and can't really comment on GC sound. Back to the k-12, I'm presently using Dayton MTMs and the quality and accuracy is hard to beat at any reasonable price. If you need lots of sound or have very low sensitivity speakers the K-12 won't do. I use a back up marantz for that (65wpc). Even though I love the K-12, my sense is that the GC might be better for your application. The various tube line stage preamps and buffers are said to give the best of both worlds and I suggest you search the web for details on them.

Good listening
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Old 26th February 2007, 09:53 PM   #10
DrExotica is offline DrExotica  United States
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I have built a gainclone as well as several tube-based amps and preamps. I must admit to liking all of them.

I will agree with the other posters that the gainclone will provide more power and give you more flexibility with respect to speaker selection.

Build both - you will learn a lot. It will however be easiest to start with the gainclone, especially if you buy a set of Brian Bell's boards (top notch, btw).

Fun stuff ahead for you...
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