Who knows about KittyHawk amps?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by DEMENTED, Oct 7, 2007.

  1. DEMENTED

    DEMENTED Supporting Member

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    My friend Dave just got an 80's Kittyhawk M3 100 watt 1x12 combo. It's two channels, 4 EL34's and pretty clean. What can you tell me about them? They must have went under my radar as I don't recall ever seeing them.
     
  2. Jim S

    Jim S Supporting Member

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    Reb Beach was endorsing them in the Winger era.
     
  3. johnrea_77

    johnrea_77 Silver Supporting Member

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    I had a small collection of KittyHawk amps back in the late 80's/Early 90's. to put things into perspective I'll have to make it a short story.

    Like many I preferred tube amps and had used Marshall and Ampeg. After checking into Mesa Boogie and a few others I decided to try something more unique. I picked up a KittyHawk M3 at a music store in Portsmouth, NH and was really pleased with it. After about six months I sold off some other gear and managed to pick up their flagship M1 tube head. I sold off the M3 and picked up two 4x12 KH cabs (one slant/one straight). This worked for some time and then the big rack era hit. Kitty Hawk came out with the Quattro tube preamp and it instantly went on my wish list. This was the last piece I bought at "regular" street prices.

    About the time I had been using Kitty Hawk gear for around a year and a half something started going sour with the relationship with their US distributor, LPMG. My first thought was "Oh, great - now I'm screwed". It turned out that they had some issues with the dependability of the products and decided to discontinue them. My understanding was that there were some problems with their proprietary output transformers as well as components like the plastic shafts on the potentiometers breaking. I worked for a large computer company with an internal worldwide network that preceeded the internet by a few years. LPMG let me know that they were selling off their KittyHawk inventory very cheaply to clear out the warehouse. I let the "guitar noters" on my company network in on this and in no time the inventory was depleted. The only guarantee was that the amps would work on arrival. It was an amp garage sale of sorts.

    My KittyHawk inventory:

    Pre Fire Sale:

    Kitty Hawk M3 head (sold to buy the M1)
    Kitty Hawk M1 head
    Kitty Hawk 4X12 speaker cabinets (one slant/one straight)

    Post Fire Sale:

    Kitty Hawk M1 combo (1X12 dovetailed oak!)
    Kitty Hawk Testarossa Tube preamp (two)
    Kitty MIDI Patch Bayette I & II
    Kitty Hark MIDI foot controller.
    Kitty Hawk M5 1x12 combo (four 6V6 tubes!)

    The deals I got on some of these was incredible. The M5 was an amazing little amp and the M1 stack had some serious tone. The rack gear could sound good with the right combination of other pieces.

    As far as dependability with KH goes I had the M3 output transformer go out the week I purchased the M1. I attributed it to jealousy. The distributor fixed in under warranty. I had heard the preamps had issues with the power supplies going out from overheating, but I never had an issue. If you can get one at a decent price and know a good amp tech, it may not be a bad choice to consider.
     
  4. darko

    darko Member

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  5. Dave L

    Dave L Member

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    I had the Quattro for a while back when I used preamps, and my friend Dan used a M3 as his main head for a couple of years. None of us had any issues with them, and they sounded pretty good from clean via classic rock up to late 80´s, early 90´s high gain. I wouldn´t call them great amps, but on the other hand they are superb value for the money!
     
  6. bluesmann

    bluesmann Guest

    I dont remember all the details but i heard they got hit with a lawsuit and shut down.
     
  7. anibas

    anibas Member

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    I had an M5 4x6V6 combo for awhile,and it was a good sounding amp.However, it had miniature sealed pots that went bad,a PCB board that looked like it was laid out on some sort of paper material(!) with the traces in a V-shaped pattern,and oversized transformers that had nearly hair- thin wire coming out of them!I'm no tech,but this thing looked like a major repair bill waiting to happen!I traded it off,and didn't look back.
     
  8. BerkleeBill

    BerkleeBill Member

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    John and I worked at the same large computer corporation and were gear buds back in the day. I tried John's M1 during a trip through Syracuse and was pretty damn impressed at the tone!!

    Myself, I acquired the following:
    Kitty Hawk Quattro Tube preamp
    Kitty Hawk Testarossa Tube preamp
    Kitty MIDI Patch Bayette I

    I sold my Testarossa to John, actually, as I wasn't really digging the tone. I kept the Quattro, but after (not one, but) two PT failures, I decided I needed something a bit more rugged. I really liked the sound that channels 3 and 4 got, though.

    John - refresh my memory... there was one KH tube preamp i came across that was like a one-off prototype model. Serial #1 and signed by George himself. I eventually sold this to you, too. Do you remember what this baby was?? It was 2-rack space tall, and I think it's missing from your equipment list.

    Ahhh, memories.
     
  9. RickC

    RickC Member

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    hey, I was part of that "large computer corporation" too, and participated in the LPMG fire sale. Owned an M1 and an M3 head at one time. Nice amps, after you replaced the pots.

    So do I know you guys?

    /rick
     
  10. johnrea_77

    johnrea_77 Silver Supporting Member

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    Bill / Rick -

    I was known as B[][]M back in the day (DEC days) - Hard to believe I'm still a guitar gear head this many years later, but I don't flip gear as much as I used to and still doing gigs 4-8 times a month. The KH gear at blowout prices was a great deal. Eventually we all knew most of the technical issues on these amps. I actually liked the Testarossa preamp quite a bit and ran it with the cover off in the rack for better cooling.



    Bill - That RARE two space preamp was a Rexx 610S. I also had a Rexx 1602/602 linked preamp/power amp - Nice compact two rack setup with three channels and 100 watts. I still have a Rexx RG45 combo I snagged off the bay. Rexx Acoustics was formed by George Krampera who was known for his work with Yorkville/Traynor - I believe he designed their Elite series. He now is affiliated with www.kv2audio.com (he is the K).
     
  11. RickC

    RickC Member

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    BOOM! How cool is that. It was only a matter of time before we got some GuitarNoters on this board. Now where's db? Nice to hear from ya

    /aka_RICKS::CALCAGNI
     
  12. Fuchsaudio

    Fuchsaudio Member

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    Kitty Hawk was the German importer of Dumbles (for a short while). The amp chassis were built in the US, and shipped to Germany without transformers or cabinets (to save money), and the cabinets and iron were installed in Germany. Not sure how many amps made their way to Europe.

    Kitty Hawk later made some amps of their own design, that appeared to borrow pretty heavily from Dumble and Mesa-Boogie (sometimes both, in the same amp !). The production Kitty Hawks (imported into the US by LPMG) were not Dumble or Mesa based (I had schematics), possibly for legal reasons.

    LPMG (a.k.a. Latin Percussion), cut their losses (the product return rate was staggering). It was mostly broken pots and blown output transformers.

    I know, as I did a ton of repairs for LPMG at the time. We took loads of defective or new stock products and combined or dismantled them to make working units, and repair customers their returned units. It seems they were no longer getting support nor parts from Germany after a time. We eventually replaced the iron with other transformers from New Sensor (I believe), since the replacement Kitty-Hawks were as bad as what we replaced in the first place. The amps (when they worked) were actually pretty cool. The Quatro preamp was a nice preamp actually.

    There may have been a lawsuit between LPMG and Kitty Hawk to recoup repair and parts costs, but I'm not certain.
     
  13. BerkleeBill

    BerkleeBill Member

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    B{}{}M,
    Rexx 610S -- that was it!! Neat preamp. Can't remember if that baby was tube, SS or a hybrid - do you remember?? I forgot you also had the integrated preamp/power amp as well. For 80s stuff, they sounded great. :AOK

    Rick,
    Funny, but db just e-mailed me the other day, kind of out-of-the-blue. I just sent him a link to this thread, so let's see if he pops in and says hello?! Don't hear from many other former noters, but I do keep in touch with Ralph Crowley from Guitar_Notes, and Butch Leitz hit my up on my MySpace page last month.
    :BEER
    /aka_POWDML::BUCKLEY
     
  14. Dave L

    Dave L Member

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    I actually stumbled across a Rexx set-up last year... two preamps and also the rackmounted head. Didn´t get them, even thought they were dirt cheap. If they pop up again I´ll probably give them a spin. What was the deal with them, anyway? Is the preamp and the head supposed to work in series/cascade or something like that? The seller didn´t know anything about them, and there wasn´t much info to be found online.
     
  15. johnrea_77

    johnrea_77 Silver Supporting Member

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    Andy -

    So - you must've known Josh and Angelo @ LPMG. Makes sense since you are in NJ. I used to get calls like this: "We've got another M1, one of a kind and just tested out". I think the M1 combo in the "exotic" wood cab I received was one of your recovery efforts.

    Kitty Hawk might have stood a chance if they used better potentiometers and output transformers. It was amazing that their proprietary custom wound transformers were a big reason for returns. And the one space preamps needed better ventilation. I had heard getting parts from Germany wasn't a piece of cake and there were quite a few new amps used for repair.

    I actually regret that I didn't hang on to one piece of KH gear. I actually used them for four to five years. If I had to chose two to keep it would have been the M1 head and the Testarossa preamp. My last full stack was the KH M1 rig about 15 years ago. My new stack is a mini (two 2x12's) that I can cart around with no problem.
     
  16. stumpypete

    stumpypete Member

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    As Bill mentioned, I'm also an ex notes filer. Damn, I miss those days. Anyway, I still have my M3 from the fire sale. It's sitting in a crate in my basement in a million pieces with ALL the pot shafts sheered off!!! I never knew before this that that was a common problem. Anyway, it's been that way for over ten years now. I recently dug it out of storage and hope to put it back together soon. The overdrive sound was just okay, but I used to love the clean sound on the thing.

    Glad to see some ex-DECies still at it!!

    Ralph Crowley
     
  17. HelloKittyHawk!

    HelloKittyHawk! Supporting Member

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    Given my name, I felt duty-bound to contribute to this thread.
    I worked for a Kitty Hawk dealer in the late eighties. You should have seen the expression on (Boogie founder) Randall Smith's face when he spied the big pile o' Kitty Hawks, while visiting our store (not pleased)!

    When we blew them out, we hadn't yet had any reliability problems, as we carried them for a short time. I bought an M1 combo for the same price we were closing them out at ($495). I wish I had access to that fire sale, I was in New Jersey, after all. I would've liked a hardwood combo.
    Anyway, during one rehearsal shortly after I bought it, I was treated to the most beautiful light show as I stood behind the M1 and it's power tubes arced. I had one other repair, after the warranty period, something was intermittent. I still have the receipt which states "Barely Warranteed"!

    It has been seldom used in the last seventeen or so years, so I haven't had
    more problems-they're just waiting to happen. But I've got all the time in the world, Kitty Hawk; I can outwait you 'til the end of time!!!

    The M1 has some great tones and is amazingly versatile, with two totally independent channels (which are combineable), supposed Class A/Class AB switchable operation(doubtful) , various Gain modes,a switch for a choice between el-34 or 6L6GC, flimsy pots and jacks, a Celestion 100 Watt speaker, and instant hernia inducing weight (unreal)!

    By the way, I want to conserve the Sylvania 6L6's I've got in there by pulling a pair. I know when pulling two from a hundred watter, you remove either the inside or outside pair. With this amp, the output tubes are in two rows of two (one directly behind the other). Anyone know how to determine how they're paired (side-by-side, or front-to-back)? I'm sure those transformers can't tolerate impedance mismatches, so I'd run it into an external cabinet.
    P.S. I remember Rexx from their ads featuring Rik Emmet.
     
  18. HipKitty

    HipKitty Silver Supporting Member

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    I had the "pleasure" of taking care of a couple of M1's in my time (broken pots) and hadn't seen any 'Hawks for what seems like eons..until about 4 years ago when a client wanted some troubleshooting done to his Eagle. Seems like it just wasn't "acting right" to him. nothing really cropped up for me during the troubleshoot (except the lack of schematics for this amp and voltage charts), he was happy with a retube and rebias thinking it sounded like it did when he first got it. Fast foward 2 years and another client brings in the same amp. It was blowing fuses when he played out, but not at his studio...turns out it was the da** O.T.

    The guy still has the Eagle and loves it for it's clean (hates the distortion though).....to this day, I've yet to find any schematic for the Eagle.
     
  19. Tasweigan

    Tasweigan Member

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    I bought a Kitty Hawk rack rig (2x60 watt power amp) Midi patch bay and footswitcher, Quattro pre-amp and 2x1-12 cabs from the Aussie dealer when they first came in.(1988?) I think the first lot were made well.
    I played that rig for 15 years and never had a problem with any of it ever.
    In fact I don't think I ever re-valved the Quattro so not sure what tubes were in it but they must have been pretty good.
    I had brown base NOS tesla EL34's in the power amp and it was serviced constantly by none other than Dave Ulbrick!!!!
    Finally got too heavy to lug around and I wanted something a little more toneful, but it was a great rig. The Quattro was great. I liked the second channel especially and the high gain channel as well. Shred city, while the second channel was quite fendery.
    You could do a lot worse.
    I remember the dealer quit them a couple years later and said they were now unreliable and had gone down hill since they expanded to the US.
     
  20. dspblues

    dspblues Member

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