Publisher Profile

Interview with King Ip of KingKo Audio (Hong Kong)

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Read KingKo Audio KA-101 integrated amplifier Review.

 

Richard Austen (RA): Please tell the readers about your background in technology and audio?

King Ip (King): I began working as an R&D engineer, designing circuits and repairing and maintaining machines for Carlsberg (Carlsberg is now only an office) for seven years. I also worked as a technician for National Semiconductor for six years. I moved on to audio equipment retailing and importing for 13 years, repairing and selling tube amplifiers such as Almarro, Line Magnetic, Melody Valve Audio, Rogue Audio and a few others.

RA: What inspired you to leave retailing and move into manufacturing with your first product being the KA-101?

King:  I believe that Hi-Fi should not be very expensive. Listening can determine sound quality and I want people to enjoy music without money getting in their way. Young people can’t afford most hi-fi gear and they can’t get into owning something that sounds very good.

RA: Is your target market young audiophiles and beginners?

King: I would like everyone to consider my amplifier. I get a lot of different people coming to my shop, including retirees who want to downsize and a lot of couples. The customers’ wives like my amplifier because it is small, looks nice, and perhaps most importantly, not very expensive. Many wives do not complain if her man buys my amplifier.

RA: Many audiophiles are still concerned about stereo equipment that is made in China.  Is there anything that you can say to alleviate those concerns?

King: I have seen terrible products from China that are sold very cheaply, and that are possibly dangerous. I wanted my product to be less expensive than it is currently but you have to use parts that are both safe and where the sound quality would be good enough to put my name on. I am close to 60 and this company is like a gift to me.

Each time you listen and go back and want to use a better part it adds to the costs. My original concept for the KA-101 was 50% of what my current product costs. The original prototype went through several circuit designs and numerous parts.

RA: You have sold several headphone amplifiers as a retailer. Can you tell us what separates the KA-101 from other small headphone/integrated amplifiers on the market?

King: My amplifier uses a separate additional winding from the transformer to the output, which my engineer said was too difficult and too expensive. After several attempts we got a solution that sounded good and sounded like some professional headphone amplifiers. Some other amps use integrated circuits which are cheap and have poor frequency response.

The headphone amplifier is essentially a throw in as I am selling this amplifier as an integrated. I would also say that my amplifier uses better quality parts than some others. For example,

the transformers are the heart of the amplifier and we use a high quality copper wired, silicon metal plate EI transformer. The amplifier never runs hot even after being on all day. We use Ceramic tube bases instead of commonly used plastic. The other internal parts are OEM from plants in China that make the same parts for big brand names. All our tubes are Shuguang tubes. We cover the tubes for a 6 month warranty and the amplifier for 1 year. I have spent over one and a half years working on this amplifier making sure that it sounds good and the price is low enough and that it has very low noise and run cool so that it will last many years. Finally, I use solid aluminum feet for better stability as opposed to most other companies using rubber or plastic feet with aluminum paint.

RA: I see that many tubes are only covered for 3 months from other companies?

King: In my experience most tubes fail in the first few days or first month so it is not so hard to give 6 months of warranty on the tubes.

RA: Is there anything you would like to add?

King: The current price is introductory for the first run of amplifiers. The next batch will see a price increase, although it will still be quite reasonable. But my costs will rise on the second and subsequent batches.

My plan for next year is to offer additional front plates in different colours. This is an additional extra you can’t order on amplifiers with a white or blue plate. But you can buy additional front plates and then use a screwdriver to take your plate off and put on the new one.

RA: Lastly, most tube manufacturers supply inexpensive tubes with their amplifiers because they can be attained in high numbers, unlike most NOS (New Old Stock) tubes. Tube rolling is popular with tube amp buyers and your amplifier being auto-bias makes tube rolling very easy. What are some of your favorite tubes to roll in the KA-101?

King: I think the amplifier is just fine with the tubes that I supply as they are the Shuguang tubes from China. That said I think there are some big improvements that are attainable through tube rolling.

The tubes that make the biggest impact on my amp are the 5AR4 Rectifier and 12AX7 preamp tubes. I suggest the NOS RCA 5U4G which is a 5AR4 equivalent. And I suggest the Gold Lion Gold Pin 12AX7, followed by the Tungsol 803s gold pin and EH (Electro Harmonix) Gold Pin. The EH is inexpensive and can be a little noisier in dynamic passages. There are many more expensive tubes that you may like better but these tubes are very good and quite reasonable. For the 12AU7, I prefer NOS from Brimer and Amperex, and finally I like the Gold Lion EL84s.

 

Editor: Constantine Soo
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One Response to Interview with King Ip of KingKo Audio (Hong Kong)


  1. Myles Swift says:

    Richard, I am going to try the KA-101. I really want monoblocks. What do you think of a pair of them used to bi-amp some AN Js?

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