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The Akitika GT-102 Power Amplifier

08-03-2020 | By John Zurek | Issue 110

The last decade summers at my place have been hotter than ever before. At 6300 feet, what used to be two weeks of high temps has turned into 10 weeks of even higher temps. I know this is just a Chinese hoax, but damn, the heat my tube monoblocks generate is just too much for comfortable listening. My place was built in the mid-50s, and there is no way to retrofit central AC. The swamp cooler that takes care of the rest of the house is loud—too loud for the listening room. After relying on headphones during the summer months for the last few years, I wanted a solution to mitigate the global warming in my listening room. I needed a cooler-running amp that sounds good enough to listen to for 10 weeks, and not break the bank.

Akitika came to my attention from a friend of a friend who was using the 50 watt GT-102 amp and the PR-102 preamp. You've probably noticed their small ad in the back of the print rags. I dismissed it for a long time. After looking around for reviews and comments from forums I thought what the hell, I'll talk to them. When I found out that Dan Joffe, the Akitika designer, is also the guy behind www.updatemydynaco.com my attention piqued.

Although primarily sold as a kit, I was interested in the assembled model (you can read all about the kit details on the website), and Dan sent me one in a surprisingly short time. It arrived in a box with packing that was comparable with most of the other high-end amps that have made their way to my place. The unit itself is pretty standard. You can get any color you want, as long as it's black. The front panel displays the brand and model in white lettering, and a green rocker switch lets you apply power. On the rear you'll find an IEC power connector, two gold-plated RCA input jacks and +/- sets of speaker outputs. The GT-102, while not audio jewelry, is not out of place next to most high-end components.

  Akitika GT-102 Power Amplifier

Although Dan really didn't think the amp needed any break-in time, I decided to let it burn in for a couple of days. Maybe it's a placebo effect, but I always feel components sound better after a little break-in. This amp did. By the way, I did all my listening with an after-market power cable. No need to constrain a good amp with a stock cable.

Meanwhile, I decided to get a little more familiar with what this amp is all about. Touted as a Class AB amplifier with an electronically regulated power supply, the GT-102 is said to offer advantages "similar to class A operation." According to Akitika, "If the power supply's output impedance is low, then the output signal minimally modulates the rails. That should cause less distortion at the output. In that sense, the Class AB with regulated power supply should be about as blameless as a Class A amp." The amp includes a toroidal power transformer, film and COG capacitors, metal film resistors, heavy-duty extruded aluminum heat sinks, isolated input jacks, double-sided PC boards, and a fully regulated power supply. It is based on two LM3886 power op amps, and according to Akitika, "We use the metal tab version, this maximizes the ability to get heat out of the IC. The grounding arrangement allows for direct contact between the metal tab and the heatsink, so we don't suffer the thermal resistance of an additional insulator. The part is mounted on large, deep-finned heatsinks. Finally, the electronically regulated power supply gives the chip really quiet DC power to work with, which maximizes its ability to produce clean output power."

All that said, the GT-102 is a bit fussy, but so are most high end components. It likes a stable 8-ohm load. Not ruler flat mind you, but you get it. I suggest talking to Dan Joffe to confirm your speaker's parameters will be a good match.

I'm not really sure what I was expecting to hear when I played the first track, but I was surprised. In a good way. Granted, I've been listening to tube amps almost exclusively for many years, so I'm jaded. But from the first tune my gut told me this amp had personality, and did not favor that lean solid state sound that many of us don't care for. I wouldn't call the GT-102 warm, but it did have warmth in the mid-bass, which I'd opt for any time vs a lean presentation.

The GT-102 also had a surprising talent for detail. Going through my usual reference tracks revealed details that had previously been elusive. The Aikitika rendered many fine points with an agreeable finesse that I would normally associate with more expensive amplifiers. And, it did not commit the grievous sin of trading detail for fatiguing, aggressive highs.

This year I've become quite the fan of Qobuz, and spent a week or so just discovering and listening to new music with the GT-102. I kept waiting for that aha moment where I would discover the weakness of this amp, because how could a component this affordable sound this good? That moment never came. Instead I noticed dynamics, timing, and tonal presentation that were levels above what you'd expect from an amp at this price.

The GT-102 is not perfect, and it's not going to compete with those $100K monoblocks you read about, but it has nothing to hide, and certainly nothing to be ashamed of. It does not draw attention to itself, and it lets the music flow with ease. I really like the way it is voiced, and even though it's so damn affordable, it convinced me to let go of some of my solid-state prejudices.

I've always paid special attention to the value of HiFi components. Most of us have to carefully plan our purchases, even more so these days. In my opinion the price of a component does not necessarily indicate how good it is. That's certainly true in this case. Of all the amps, preamps, speakers, DACs, cables, etc. that I've listened to over the years I can't think of one whose price to performance level is higher. If you listened to this amp blind I'd be surprised if you could guess its price.

Looking for a summer amp? How about an amp for that second system? Just starting out in the world of high quality audio? Or, does the GT-102's price just appeal? This could be the amp for you. Do make sure you talk with Dan to ensure your speakers will work with the GT-102. Like many high-end speaker /amp combos you'll need careful matching.

Just when I've been moaning to myself about how expensive everything has gotten in high-end sound, the Akitika GT-102 comes along and blows that complaint out of the water. It ain't perfect, but it is a satisfying amplifier if you match it properly. Dan Joffe's design and implementation proves you don't have to be a one percenter to play in the high-end audio game. The assembled, tested, GT-102 amp goes for $488 plus $26 shipping in the lower 48 states. The kit version is $314 (really?) plus $26 shipping in the lower 48 states.

GT-102 Amplifier

Retail: $488 plus $26 shipping


Contact: Dan Joffe