I must admit I didn’t know much about this brand when it arrived at our shop. The heft and feel of the units (yes we have 2 of the matching amps) immediately caught my attention. The aesthetics, in particular the way they are illuminated, also spoke to the degree of attention and quality.
Once I quickly found a link on The Vintage Knob I realized it was in fact something special. And very rare and collectible.
I have come across original HK Citation gear over the years and this turned out to be HK’s last ditch attempt at recapturing the golden years of audio. They produced two preamps and amps with no budget limitations and in limited quantities totaling not more than 1000 for each. The model X-II was the less expensive of the preamp but it provided 2 phono inputs which make it more functional and desirable than its big brother.
A quick look inside revealed just how expensive these units must have been to design and build. The layout of the components is absolutely methodical, the component selection is at the highest level, and the attention to detail is ridiculous.
So it wasn’t a surprise that after testing all the capacitors, relays, potentiometers etc., that it needed absolutely nothing to get its full performance. I cleaned the ancillary pots just in case (the main Alps volume knob is sealed) and wiped the unit down. The tests bench yielded similar results, clean strong signal on all inputs and outputs. The amplifier tested exactly the same, no issues or hiccups. It powered on and quickly came out of protection and has worked perfectly for weeks after.
The amplifier has two unusual features not found on amps from this era. There are front panel controls for both bias (normal and high) and filter (ultrasonic and infrasonic). The bias makes sense as it will probably adjust the transistor bias to run hotter and probably warmer in sound. I have no idea what the filter button does but I’m sure a savvy audiophile will chime in. On the back you’ll find super high quality connectors for both single ended and balanced, and a convenient handle that makes moving the unit around much easier. The heat fins are super pointy so this handle is a welcome feature.
The preamp has two sets of phono inputs which is ideal for a super analogue geek that might have two turntables or a single turntable with two arms. I find this to be pretty common nowadays, the geek not the preamp. There are handy adjustments in the front for tweaking the MC phono input which sure beats having to open up the unit. Instead of a balanced knob you’ll notice there are left and right channel attenuators which will yield the same result but also set the total output to better match the amp. On the back you’ll find super high quality RCA connectors for all inputs and balanced for output.
Both units are super clean with no signs of abuse. There are no significant scratches, just the occasional scuff from moving around. Functionality is at 100% and both units been tested for weeks on the bench and in the listening room.
The preamp comes in the original box. The amp will be double packed for safe arrival.
If you’re an HK fan here is your shot at a super rare piece of audio history from the golden era of HiFi. Made in Japan!!