AkitikA GT-102 power amplifier

Discussion in 'Power Amps' started by k4rstar, Apr 13, 2019.

  1. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    Bought this assembled a while back, finally spent some time with it this weekend as part of an un-official shootout. Impressed with it at any price, very impressed with it at this price. Very clean, detailed and up-front throughout, no immediate flaws. Not very airy, doesn't extend ultra high which is fine. Its one weakness appeared when trying to drive the dual 15" woofers on my PAP Trio 15s at high volume, control of the bass started slipping a bit. Still good, nothing egregious but noticeable.

    This thing would be a winner with a smaller speaker set up, great value.
     
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  2. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    Spent some time with the loaner last night with this amp hooked up to my B&W DM600 S3's...

    Other amps compared: Adcom GFA-535 II, Niles SI-245. For those keeping score here are the comparison specs (just for reference):
    • Akitika GT-102, 50 watts per channel at 8 ohms, 0.003% THD
    • Niles NI-245, 45 watts per channel at 8ohms, 0.05% THD
    • Adcom GFA-35 II - 60 watts per channel at 8 ohms, 0.04% THD
    Now, the specs here are a bit off because Akitika rates THD here at 1K, while the others are 20hz - 20kHz. So as a truer comparison, the GFA-535 II is at 0.008% THD at 1Khz. The Niles is not rated at 1k. But we don't really want to spend too much time on distortion specs...moving on.

    Initial Impressions
    I will say, I was a bit worried when I first turned this thing on. It sounded more congested and less high end and low end and even mid-centric when it first fired up. After a few minutes, it warmed up quite nicely. So this thing needs a good warm up before evaluating.

    When it did warm up, the instruments began to separate, the high and the low end expanded and it became a nice sound. I would say fully balanced sound actually. The top end was ever so slightly soft, but the bass and mid-bass had great definition and non-fatiguing sound all around. Going back to the Adcom gave me more depth, and also had more of that Adcom bottom end boomyness and almost loss of mids. The Akitika sounded much more balanced - not the last word in detail, but very nice, rich, musical. It kind of reminded me of a vintage Dynaco, maybe with a slight bit of quickness with a modern twist.

    Compared to the Niles was just no comparison. The Niles is brighter, bashier, and has a bit of harshness in the upper end. It has a much more "up front" character. It also has the tightest bass of all three amps tested and not well defined. It sounds fine for TV shows and movies, just not the best for music due to the smearing and splattering of the high end and lost of low end definition. The Akitika just slaughtered it in terms of depth, space and width and overall clarity and smoothness. The Niles's soundstage presentation was just more flat and fatiguing. I will say going back to the Akitika from the Niles was almost a quieter sound, but this has more to do with how up-front and aggressive the Niles sounds compared to the depth of the Akitika.

    So really, it gave my Adcom a run for the money. Although the Adcom produced much more heat, is heavier, and still almost boom-hiss. The Akitika was just much more pleasant to listen to for the full spectrum of sound. Adcom amps to me have always had a certain sound to them for this dip in the mids and strong powerful low end. I almost can't use it for TV dialog as it is just too boomy and missing those voice intelligence mids that are ever so important, at least with the speakers and placement I have in my bedroom. With music, the 535 can make things sound more alive and musical, and I did not feel like I was loosing much going to the GT-102 except for missing that super almost wonky "oomph" in the low end and just a more natural presentation.

    So I feel this is amp is very capable. Almost as deep and wide as the Adcom, but with a more balanced presentation that will sure to please. It also does not get as warm. Just enough warmth to know that it is on. Not incredible amount of power, but certainly dynamic and spacious.

    I am going to keep it around a couple of more days to check it out further.

    NOTE: the loaner amp has a volume knob on the front and was found that it had just a bit more room to get totally to the end. So that also might explain the ever so slight drop in volume by a couple of db. I will do some more testing. I also wonder if the quality would improve with fixed resistors if not needing a volume knob.
     
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  3. Ksorota

    Ksorota Almost "Made"

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    Akitika GT-102 Loaner Impressions

    Thanks to @k4rstar for setting up this loaner. It was an interesting amp to compare in my headphone setup.

    For reference, in the comparison I am running

    Mac Mini -> Tidal -> Denafrips Iris -> Denafrips Ares II -> Freya S -> Akitika speaker taps/Vidar speaker taps -> HE-6 (4 screw)/HD6XX…no speakers were used in this comparison…note: for the last two days I used the volume control on the Akitika and although not the way I would generally run an amp, it was nice to have in my usage case (headphones). Sounds better through FreyaS

    Right out of the gate the Akitika is not as warm or extended in the low end as the Vidar on either headphone and sounded thin with the HE6. Some time to let the amp warm up helped to improve the overall sonic delivery, filling in some of the lows and smoothing out the treble sharpness. Warm up time was not long and did not actually heat up the amp as it remains cool to touch except for directly around the vent holes on the left. My thermal camera showed a high temp of 75 degrees F on the surface after nearly 6 hours of running time, but the room it is in is always in the high 60’s low 70’s.

    After spending more time with the GT-102 I noticed that while the Vidar is a great match for HE6, it forgoes some detail that the Akitika retains. What I at first perceived as sharpness or edge (ok, maybe there is still a bit of that with HE6) later became enhanced treble, better detail retrieval and air. What surprised me most was that I feel that the better match up is the HD6XX with its boosted mid bass. The Akitika wakes the HD6XX a bit while also maintaining most of its smooth delivery. It still seems to be missing that low end however. I know the Vidar is boosted in the bass, but I am not sure if the Akitika is actually neutral or too thin sounding. For my tastes I think its lacking in the low end and too elevated in the upper treble.

    Final thoughts are that I believe the Akitika is a bit piercing at times and lacks extension and impact in the bass regions . Mid range is mostly fine, nothing stands out as lacking or boosted, but also does not engage me as much as the Vidar. The Akitika would not be my first pick as a headphone amplifier with my setup. The increased energy in the treble comes across as more detail but also leads to fatigue much more quickly than the Vidar setup. If the two amps could be melded together into one, I think it might make a good combination…or maybe some EQ?

    I wish I had some speakers to test it out on, but they are not hooked up and are packed away somewhere since I recently moved…and honestly prefer the ease of using Sonos around the house!

    These will be on their way to the next member of the loaner tour, thanks again for letting me try out this amp which I was not aware of before the tour.

    Final thoughts…the amp looks like a fun project that I wanted to complete with my son, but it just does not match my preferences. Just for curiosity I hooked up my old Denon AVR-1601 60 watt per channel and found it to be more pleasing overall due to the lower treble energy. Actually, it might even be a more balanced listen than the Vidar (going to spend some time on this thing)

    Tracks/Artists used for testing:

    311 – Mosaic
    Aerosmith – Big Ones
    Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
    Brother Ali – US
    Medeski, Martin and Wood – End of the World Party
    Sara Bareilis – Live at the Variety Playhouse
    Pomme – les failles caches
    Portishead - Dummy
    Jamie Cullum - TwentySomething
     
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  4. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    Introduction

    I will readily admit I have next to no experience in two channel. While I have auditioned lots of gear in stores (and read lots of SBAF) before making purchasing decisions, the fact of the matter is that it is much more difficult to audition two channel gear at home. Thus, these impressions of the Akitika GT-102 is going to be strictly comparative to my Schiit Aegir, and I'm going to admit it right now; I do not like the GT-102 over the Aegir in my system. However, I recognize that this is very much a function of synergy, and depending on the speakers and source used, I can definitely recommend the GT-102 as a good option for an integrated amp.

    For reference, this is what was used to evaluate the speakers:
    • Audio Technica x Drop TT w/ AT Red cart
    • iFi Zen Phono
    • Klipsch Heresy iii speakers

    Sonics

    The common theme between Aegir and GT-102; the Akitika has more sins of omission but has few sins of commission. Keep this tradeoff in mind while reading my impressions and also if you're in the market for a power amp.

    Comparing strictly to the Aegir, the Akitika sounds noticeably more stereotypically solid state; it's noticeably thinner in timbre and not as warm-voiced nor mid-centric as the Aegir. In certain systems this is desirable, but in the case of my Klipsch horns it is not; this amp does not play as well with the horns. While it does a decent job of not making the horns sound shouty or screechy (even with "beautiful female vocals" of The Carpenters), in this application it doesn't sound as full-bodied as the Aegir, which I recognize is practically designed to be used with horns. However, overall I would consider the GT-102 to be more flat across the spectrum (and again, synergy plays a large part).

    In terms of transients, the Akitika is more of a modern-sounding amp than the Aegir. Attacks hit a bit harder, but it achieves this by being a more square than the Aegir (which I understand is more on the rounded side). In the mids and highs, on the Klipsch horns this can make the attacks sound a bit harsh (a big reason why I chose the Aegir as my amp in the first place). However, that being said, the decays are well-controlled, and it sounds very clean without going over the edge into territory where it has no nuance whatsoever. I would not necessarily call the Akitika a "modern" sounding amp; remember that this is strictly in comparison to the Aegir. If I had to guess, maybe it's about 2-3 small steps towards the modern, square presentation than the Aegir.

    The slightly more square presentation is also present in dynamics. The Akitika I think hits harder than the Aegir, but it could be that the squarer transients are fooling me. At any rate though, in microdynamics it's a no-contest towards the Aegir, which destroys the Akitika in this area.

    Staging was an interesting one. Schiit gear is well-known to stage very close, and the Aegir is no exception. The Akitika stages a bit further away than Schiit, is narrower (but not by much), and is slightly U-shaped where the edges of the stage are closer than the middle. It can sound like the GT-102 has more depth because of this than the Aegir, but I think from further listening they might be similar in stage depth. The Akitika is also a bit more nebulous in the sense that there isn't as good of a sense of the stage's boundaries; the Aegir I find to have clearer boundaries in its stage (this last point is neither a good nor bad thing; more of just preference).

    So to summarize: Akitika GT-102 is more even in FR than the Aegir, has fewer sins of commission but more sins of omission in strict comparison. I can recommend it, especially given that the GT-102 is less than half the price of an Aegir. Very good value provided you don't mind a bit of DIY (I am not sure if you can buy it prebuilt).

    Volume Knob/Pot

    If you want that silky smooth, expensive feeling pot, look somewhere else. I mean come on, this is a pretty inexpensive amp. That being said, I had no issues with any kind of scratching, channel imbalance at actual listening levels, etc. Just wanted to mention this in case someone buys this expecting something like a TKD.

    Conclusion

    I can recommend the GT-102 given its low price and relatively high performance. That being said, just like with other gear, it really needs the right system to bring out its better characteristics. Unfortunately, my system is not the one that would give it the best shot.
     
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    Last edited: Jan 8, 2021
  5. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    From Akitika via email today:

    "
    Order Now to Avoid the GT-102 Price Increase
    GT-102 prices will increase this Sunday. We use great parts throughout, and those costs have gone up. Here are the increases:

    • GT-102 Kit goes from $314 to $329.
    • GT-102 Kit, Z4 version, goes from $339 to $349.
    • GT-102 Assembled and Tested, goes from $488 to $514
    • GT-102, Z4 version, Assembled and tested, goes from $514 to $529
    If you order before Sunday, we will honor the current pricing. You can save between $10 and $26, depending on which kit you order. Please note that we are currently OUT OF STOCK on all of these items. We expect to be shipping as of the first week of February.

    Order now to lock in your savings!

    "
     
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  6. k4rstar

    k4rstar Done his time

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    I think everyone did a good job so far reviewing the GT-102 in their own words. I will just mention it pairs best with a pre-amp that has some flavor to the sound, using a passive pre-amp for example may be too much of a good thing
     
  7. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: Upscale Audio; recovering HFM addict

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    Been listening to this amp for a little bit, have been comparing against my First Watt F7 clone through my speaker system. Right off the bat, I'll say I like this amp with the gear I've already got (most of which tends towards tonal warmth and smoothness but also plenty of dynamic slam), BUT I would be careful about component matching if I were to build a chain around this amp, for reasons I'll get into below.

    Main System (Digital):

    Lynx E22 AES out -> Monarchy M22B (PCM63 DAC) or EAD DSP 9000 III -> Feliks Euforia AE for system volume control -> Schiit Saga passive mode with the pot maxed (just using this as an RCA splitter) parallel out to my sub amp (Monoprice 400W) and power amp (F7 or GT102 in this case). Speakers are JBL L55 (94db / W @ 8 ohms) with all original parts from 1974. Subs are sealed 15" from Parts Express kit. I've been running the GT102 wide-open on the pot and controlling system volume like I normally do via the Feliks. Pot is good enough and I didn't sense any channel imbalances, scratches, distortions, or noise when slowly climbing up to wide open.

    In terms of the spatial rendering, I'd characterize the amp as slightly narrow in soundstage (matters slightly more to me with speakers than headphones but still not all that important to my engagement / enjoyment), but with good imaging clarity. There's a well defined center image with a bit of feathering out to the sides. The soundstage is somewhat funnel shaped, meaning it's most dense and deep at the center, gets shallower as it extends out through the width. I never felt like the soundstage projected beyond the width of the speakers, unlike my F7 which throws a much wider soundstage with the same degree of depth across the width. That being said, the imaging clarity and delineation characteristics kept things feeling tight and open - never congested or stuffy. The denser center image did give vocals slightly more forward presence in the mix compared to the F7, where voices sit in line with instruments.

    Speaking to the dynamic qualities, I'd say this amp provides more of a focus on microdynamics than macrodynamics - attacks are sharp and transients begin instantaneously, but sustain and follow-through are slightly attenuated, not quite maintaining the weight and scale of the initial attack. You could call it slightly 'square' compared to the F7 in a sense, but it doesn't come off as harsh or jumpy, though I can see this not pairing up well with a passive pre and a D/S DAC at all. This amp does do very well to declutter music with frequent transient information, never feeling remotely bloated. Like @k4rstar said in the above post, a nice tube piece in the chain does wonders if you'll be using this amp. I wasn't in love with the sound thru the Saga passive alone without the Feliks in the chain. There is no sense of transient compression, dynamics are lively and open. It just doesn't have that 'huge' macro slam factor I'm always listening for. Can't complain at the price as it's still very well articulated. Just noticeable next to the F7.

    Sometimes it's difficult to parse out the tonal profile of an amp when most amps are measurably dead flat through the audible band. I like to think of tonal quality with amps as being intertwined with the dynamics - many amps seem to drive transients with a focus in a certain tonal area, feeling more 'forward' or better projected in one area than another. My F7, like all the other First Watt amps I've heard, is pretty agnostic in this respect - feeling dynamically cohesive and appropriately weighted regardless of the fundamental tones of a transient. I'd say the GT102 drives transients with a focus in the upper midrange to low treble. Snares and vocals, trumpets, upper melodic synth lines, alto sax, cymbal fundamentals all have nice presence and bite. This is an exaggerated oddball analogy, but in many ways going from the F7 to the GT102 with the same chain otherwise is like the shift from an Andromeda IEM to the FDX1 with the most-damped nozzle. Id say the bottom half is a bit lean though I never felt like fundamentals were lost completely. That said, I did find myself recalibrating my subs to help bolster the LF a bit. This is not a thick or 'heavy' sounding amp. It's light on its feet and has an 'athletic' feel to the sound.

    I don't feel like anything's lacking in terms of detail or resolve - textures are well rendered, crisp, and there's no sense of veil. I'd say there's a minor sense of homogenization between recordings at least compared to the F7 - the amp always maintained the same tonal/spatial/dynamic character as opposed to being more 'chameleon-like' though I hesitate to call this a weakness when the coloration itself is benign and well suited to most types of music. The fact that the sound is quite responsive to upstream changes means that it's able to scale and the resolve is quite good for an amp of this price.

    At the end of the day, I will say that I'm impressed with this amp and think it's an exceptional value at the asking price. Despite the F7 being here, I'm happy to listen to the GT102 as a change of pace for the remainder of the loaner period - I enjoy listening to it, and yes, I could live with it, at least with the upstream gear providing decent synergy. As is, it's a step or two away from the edge of tolerable in terms of upper mid focus and transient sharpness/squareness. I don't think I would like this on an all-SS chain or with a DS DAC. But I like what I'm hearing now.

    Thanks to Akitika and K4rstar for arranging this. It's been refreshing.
     
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    Last edited: Jan 18, 2021
  8. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: Upscale Audio; recovering HFM addict

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    @ChaChaRealSmooth I just finished reading your review above now after writing my own. Interesting how our impressions really converge on several points (soundstage, transients) despite you comparing vs Aegir and me comparing vs F7. Now I'm digging back in the Aegir thread for my Aegir-F7 comparison review. The fact that we both heard the same things with fairly different chains / speakers gives some good context for the sound of the amp itself.

    @k4rstar would you see any harm in me trying the GT102 with headphones? I know this amp has a boundary for lower impedance loads, but there should be no issue if I'm running 300 ohm transducers hopefully. I have a 4-pin banana adapter and I'm curious about the synergies there as compared to my speakers. The amp isn't all that much bigger than some of the larger headamps out there... I'm fine to forego this as well if there's any concern for the safety of the amp.
     
  9. k4rstar

    k4rstar Done his time

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    there should be no problem.
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Thanks a lot SBAF for raising prices on gear!

    More seriously, these price increases are incredibly modest. The that fact they were announced only gives me confidence that this is a good company and worthy of giving our money toward. It's nice to see manufacturers not take advantage of success by raising prices 20%, 30%, 80%. You know who you are.
     
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  11. magnium

    magnium Rando

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    I received the loaner last week and here are my impressions:

    My speakers are the KEF LS50 which have nominal impedance of 8 ohms and accept 25-100W of power.

    Since it has a volume pot, I first hooked up the GT102 directly to my new DAC. I didn't turn the knob very far before it reached my typical listening level. The vocals were very clear and present. Much of the spatial cues were much more noticeable than what I hear from my normal setup. I liked what I was hearing but it seemed to me that something was off. The highs and lows were more recessed than I am used to.

    I then switched to using my Marantz AV receiver as a preamp and hooked up the GT102. The sound representation was very closed to what I'm used to hearing. The mids seemed a lot more clearer and I didn't need to turn up the volume as high. I would have liked to have hooked up my new DAC but lack of time and spare cables prevented me from trying it out.

    To me, the GT102 represents a great bang-for-your-buck given its slight edge, sound wise, over my AV receiver.
     

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