CKKIII vs Gilmore Lite LE
I've given the CKKIII over 100 hours of burn in and feel like it's gone through quite a bit of change.
My CKKIII was built by MisterX and looks identical to Solitary1's amp. Internally, the gain is lower at 4.1 since I primarily listen with my A900LTD's and HF-1's. Also, the output transistor was replaced with a MJE243/253 for a little warmer sound and a little punchier bass. (This is based on what I was told by MisterX)
For my evaluation/comparison I used my A900ltd's and fed the amp from a squeezebox3 playing alac files.
My other main home amplifier is a Headamp Gilmore Lite LE which has undergone at least 200 hours of burn in. As most of you already know the LE version of the lite comes with the dedicated power supply. All of my comments will be in comparison to this amp.Comparison:
The first thing that stood out was the depth the music had. This amp gives a nice 3d sound with excellent depth. Through it I can easily pick out instruments in a 3-dimensional space. The glite has good instrument separation but everything sounds like it falls in a 2d plane. It has a much more upfront sound in comparison.
At first the bass of the CKKIII wasn't as pronounced as it is on the glite. After burn in however, it is much closer. I think both amps go very deep but the glite has more midbass adding a little warmth/richness to the sound. The CKKIII is not dry and I actually prefer its bass presentation to the glite.
The treble is slightly cleaner on the glite but this is very close. The best way I can describe the sound is that the glite has a little more edge in the treble region.
The mids are very different. As I mentioned the CKKIII has nice depth to the music but sometimes it makes the singer sound like he/she is standing in the back. I hear this most listening to "Make This Moment" by Inger Marie Gundersen. Her voice is very upfront through the glite and way in the back through the CKKIII. I've grown accustomed to the upfront sound and find myself turning up the volume on the CKKIII to compensate. Interestingly, I don't experience this phenomenon listening to Diana Krall. She still sounds like she is standing in the front with her band placed all around her. Listening to certain tracks of "Not to Late" by Norah Jones keeps her in the front (like Not to Late) yet in other tracks she is standing in the back (like Wish I Could). Sometimes this works to its advantage, at 2:05 in "Broken" by Norah Jones she starts humming and it literally sounds like she is all around me. I'm slowly getting used to the sound of the CKKIII and it is growing on me.
Overall, the CKKIII is a very nice amp especially when cost is considered. The CKKIII costs roughly the same as the lite without the power supply and I find it compares favorably to the lite with the dedicated power supply.
If you are looking for a 3-dimensional sound and don't mind sitting 20 or so rows back at a concert I would seriously consider this amp.
If you've heard a glite and like its upfront sound or find it dry (to me it is a little warm) then I would look elsewhere.
If you value treble detail more than anything I would look elsewhere.
If you're on a budget and are looking for an amp for < $300 this should be near the top of the list.
Personally, I'm going to have a very difficult time deciding which amp to keep. In the end I may have to find room for both.