Elekit 8600S Single Ended 300B

Readers of this site will know that I have a love/hate relationship with the 300B tube. It can be a great sounding triode, but in general I find it to be over-rated and often eclipsed by tubes of lower pedigree with much better prices. Sometimes though, the venerable 300B is simply magical, and I’m happy to say that the spell has been cast by the Elekit 8600S.

The 8600S is the newest 300B amplifier kit from Japan’s Elekit. For those not familiar, Elekit manufactures all sorts of kits, from tube amplifiers to robots, but with an emphasis on audio products. Elekit’s tube amps are top tier performers, and the 8600S is no exception. One advantage of a kit is that you do the labor, eliminating a good part of the retail cost of a product, so for a low price you can have a component of top quality with superb parts and performance far above its price range. At just about $2500 with the upgraded transformers, caps and other parts, a hot-rodded 8600S like the one pictured below is certainly not a budget item, but the end result has been favorably compared to amplifiers costing $20K and more. A nice clique to be in, and a really good return on investment. Taking an experienced builder a day or two to assemble, the 8600S was way beyond my ability (I’m all thumbs), but I was lucky to find a builder with a lot of experience to tackle the job and the end result is one of the quietest and highest fidelity 300B amps that I’ve ever experienced.

My unit was meticulously assembled by Richard at Aum Acoustics and features all the bells and whistles, including the upgraded Lundhal output transformers, Vcaps, higher quality tube sockets for the small signal tubes, Takman resistors, and a TKD volume control.

This amp sings! The soundstage is enormous, big and wide, with program material presented with warmth and musicality, in-the-room palpability, and a touch of the famous 300B romance. But this amp also has some serious bass slam and a grip on the speakers typical of a much higher power amplifier. There is an effortlessness to the sound that is seductive and very alive. Overall, this does everything very well and some things, like soundstage and micro detail, are so good its hard to imagine an improvement. Unlike most of the 300B amps I’ve owned (13 now and counting), this one has a very clean, crisp and fast sound, a bit more like what I think of as a 2A3 sound, but still has most of the lit-from-within glow that I like about 300B. The John Hogan 300B amp I owned had something special about its sound that was more classic 300B. But it was also far nosier at idle, with some audible hum at the listening chair, while the Elekit is completely silent. Likewise, in memory comparison to my Art Audio PX25 amp, I would say that this has all of the PX25 sparkle and ambience, but with a little more warmth and musicality. And that is high marks indeed, as both the Art Audio PX25 and John Hogan’s 300B are two of the absolute best sounding amplifiers I have ever had in the room.

Along with Audio Nirvana’s 300B, this is the quietest 300B amp I have ever had with zero noise at the speakers. Nothing. This is rare in my experience for a 300B amp and is a big deal for those of us with 100 db/wm speakers.

I’ve only used this amplifier with speakers, but it is equally a headphone amplifier. Some might argue it's a headphone amp before anything else. I cannot comment on the headphone performance, but would bet foldable money that its just as good as the speaker performance.

So what are the downsides? It's a kit and will need assembly; that is the biggest hurdle here. Otherwise there aren’t many downsides. I dislike the TKD volume control, as the range is rather small on my super efficient speakers, and I have trouble getting past 9:00 on the dial before its too loud for my room. I wish it were an integrated with two inputs like the Elekit 6L6 that I still own. Overall the chassis is a bit lightweight for a tube amp, no one is going to mistake this for a Jeff Korneff build, but its adequate. And although sparse and minimalistic it does not appear cheap or cheesy. If anything, with tube cage in place it looks rather like a Dynakit ST70 on steroids, which I rather like.

It's a little hard for me to recommend a kit amplifier, although I know many of the readers of this site are well versed in building tube amps from scratch and this is likely child play. That said, if you are able to do the build, or can find someone to build it well, this could easily be a destination amplifier for those who love the 300B. You could spend twice the money on tubes for this amp (think Western Electrics), and in my experience, this one is worth that investment. I don't think you will easily find another 300B amp of this fidelity anywhere, much less at this price point. Bravo Elekit, keep them coming!

Overall, a very clean looking amplifier. Tubes are 300B driven by two stages, with a pair of 12AU7 and a 12AX7, here by Sovtek, RCA and Telefunken respectively.

RCA cleartop 12AU7 and a Telefunken smooth plate 12AX7, both from the early 1960s.

Its hard to see here, but this is a pretty big amplifier, and the Lunhal output transformers peeking out of the slats are quite a nice upgrade for this amp.

Very basic connections on the back. The switch is for impedance.

The ST70 disguise, I like it! Although I never use the tube cage, this one looks good at least.

Overall, the Elekit 8600S offers simply stellar performance. When done right, 300B is an awesome sound, and this Elekit is certainly done right. An amazing sounding amplifier, and with 9 watts per channel it can power most any speaker out there to room filling levels with pure, unbridled single ended mojo. Highly recommended!