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So far I have had four different failures in four different shipments. Three of the Royal Princess 300b and one KT88 Grade "A", which retails for an astronomical price.
Sophia will always blame failures on shipping, the customer, or the amplifier. Bar none. It's getting irritating. Very irritating to deal with them. So far they have been good at replacing the first three failed 300B but it has been several weeks already and I have not received a refund for the last return, which was paid for by us.
I have a very disappointed customer now that is getting very antsy about his new mono blocks and preamp due to this recurring tube problem. Of course we may very well loose the sale due to this if we cannot find a good replacement.
Unfortunately the sound from the Sophia tubes is unsurpassed in our experience. I wish they were as robust physically as their wonderful sound reproduction.
As you might imagine this is a very precarious position for a manufacturer that is selling this brand as an upgrade backed by promises from another supplier that is obviously having serious problems with quality control and denying it.
Maybe it's time to make some changes. Too bad... they were going in the right direction sound wise.
I have had good luck with 6SN7 tubes from Sophia, which are also very good. I have a friend who purchased the royal princess 300b's and a couple of 6SL7's. The 300B's were great, the 6SL7's were garbage. Sophia needs to do better for the money they are charging.
Some people really like the black treasure 300b's better than the Sophias. I think they better get their act together or people are going to go elsewhere.
"Unfortunately the sound from the Sophia tubes is unsurpassed in our experience. I wish they were as robust physically as their wonderful sound reproduction"
I have also found the sound of the A grade 6SN7 tubes unsurpassed, very linear with great extension top to bottom. Unfortunately I have less luck with their longevity. The first failure was within about 90 days of purchase. Sophia Electric replaced both tubes even though i didn't purchase the 1 year warranty, they didn't have to do that and could have said you're out of luck. Since then one of those two replacements recently failed. When testing the 2nd I noticed that it was borderline on the transconductance test, this at less than 2500 hours. So the fact that they sound great my experience to date tells me these tubes are not as robust as some of the other NOS 67N7 tubes I've used, not by a LONG shot. These are probably early results as what might be expected. The tubes in question are being used in a pre-amp output stage and the failure of both in such a short period of time indicate a QC or parts deficiency in their manufacturer relative to NOS tubes. I would be interested if others have had my experience with this tube.
Tubegroover, I bought replacements for my first set of Sophia 6SN7s at about 24 months, because I had a weird problem that I thought might have been one of the tubes. It wasn't the tube at all. I now have about 30 months on the original pair. They are used in my modwright sony cd player. I don't think your problem is typical. But I now have a nice pair of spare sophias, so I should be set for a long time.
Interestingly enough Brownsfan, I recently purchased a used Modwright 95 with the Sophia's so I have another pair to measure and see how they fare over time. I really hope you're right about my problem not being typical because I really like the tube but at the price I expect it to last a bit longer. I may give them one more shot but plan on speaking with them first before purchasing.
My experience matches your. My first pair of Royal Princess 300B tubes had a tube failure in less than 3 months of light use. The replacement pair were extremely microphonic. They rang like bells when tapped lightly with my fingernail. I was told that it needed to be broken in. (Or how long do you think Ive been stupid?) Of course, they were still microphonic after breakin. Reporting no improvement, I was told, "Stop tapping the tube." I would never recommend Sophia, especially hearing the experience is not unique.
BTW, their 300B is good but its not a Western Electric. The Westerns won hands own in my system shoot out.
Actually, I have two pairs of NOS Western Electric tubes and neither pair have the last bit of upper resolution nor the final end of deep bass that the Sophia Electric 300B Royal Princess does. It is by quite a measure a superior sounding tube.
And we have five different amplifiers here and it's the same with them all.
But think about it. In those days the equipment did not reproduce sound to anywhere near the full spectrum that we are able to experience on today's equipment. So how could the engineers in those days have even designed the old 300B tube to live up to what our new products can allow you to hear now (20Hz to 20KHz or even more). The truth is, they simply could not have. But oh that magic midrange!
I keep my WE nos 300Bs only as an investment and for personal reasons now. You'd have to kill me as they say...
In the three months that have passed since my first post here about Sophia Electric, almost all of our issues have been settled with a high degree of professionalism.
Richard has always been first rate in trying to help with all of our service and technical issues, and I have to say it again... I still believe that this tube is sonically superior to any other that I have personally experienced.
And we also still offer Sophia Electric 300B tubes with our amplifiers. I think they are working very hard to solve every problem, and believe me, we manufacturers do encounter some of those along the way.
Sometimes all the research and development and all the testing one can come up with still cannot measure up to what real life can dish out, especially when it comes to shipping!
All one can ask for is good fast service and for us to always quietly and quickly honor the warranty when needed.
When that customer trusts you enough to give you their business, especially a new company that manufactures products that can cost so much money - in today's economy no less - they should never have to worry about service.
I cannot imagine what it must take to start a company that builds vacuum tubes, much less at the level Sophia Electric does! They certainly make a great sounding product. And that cannot have been anywhere near an easy task.
Thanks to all who've put some comments onto this thread. There really is no one sided coin to simply anything hence nothing is absolute perfect. I originally posted this thread because my initial assessment of my amplifier purchase from them was far from perfect. However, the amp has had no problems so far and sounds quite nice. I've never bought Sophia specific tubes so can't comment on tube related stuff. But since I have been a customer of them at one point in time, they have re-assured me of my purchase and responded back in an orderly time.
Vangstr's review came up when I I searched "Sophia Electric 126S amplifier review" online. Perhaps it would be the best answer in Vangstr's won words for his question after one year.
This poster's owner review is here:
Review by vangstr on January 03, 2014 at 23:43:55
IP Address: 220.127.116.11 Add Your Review
for the Sophia Electric 126S
This amplifier is finally getting my thumbs up review after nearly a year of ownership. I don't like to give reviews on equipment especially if I haven't really spent a good amount of time with it to fully understand its' good and bad. Only through a fair amount of ownership time then either the product gets a thumbs up or thumbs down.
This unit is the re-designed EL34 integrated amp from amp builder Richard WuGang of Sophia Electric. You may have already heard of their excellent tubes especially their 300B etc. So there's no need for further introduction on my part for the company itself. You can simply visit the company's website at www.sophiaelectric.com
New in 2012 is this Sophia Electric 126S. It has three levels of build pending the buyer's taste for upscale modification by Richard. The one I bought from Richard is simply the US version (120V) level 3 (basic). The upper two levels are level 5 (with upgraded transformers) and top of the line level statement series which incorporates a slightly different circuit to accommodate JBL/horn sized speaker applications. I opted for level 3.
The amplifier came to me delivered in an medium to large sturdy box with the amplifier fully encapsulated with a custom styrofoam container holding the amplifier. I found the tubes included boxed and wrapped separately inside this styrofoam container with this delivery.
The amplifier looks very modern and is built 100% out of an aluminum chassis. There is no steel sheets to be found on the unit which is pretty impressive. From the top transformer cases to the bottom of the amplifier plate - all aluminum. The sockets where the tubes plug into are nicely selected and doesn't look or feel cheap. The speaker connections are the newer WBT alongside 5 rca inputs. On the front of the amp you'll find the volume knob and selector switch. The volume pot is by Alps and is a 100k. I felt that the knobs could be better selected for a more quality feel. They just feel a bit on the flimsy side for me. 3 months into owning the unit, I found that the selector switch was catching the nearby input channels as well. Although this problem went away after a few weeks, it never came back. So I really don't know what could have caused that problem to come and go. A few phone calls to Sue at Sophia Electric too I'd like to add. The bottom feet, I felt, were really cheesy. It came with felt pads stuck on them too which made the amplifier smooth to slide and scratch free for your amp stand of choice. I am into aftermarket accessories so I opted to use my own isolation footers.
Opening the top plates of the transformers and power transformer show 2 completely enclosed/potted output transformers from Sophia Electric in black. The power transformer which sits in the middle is open and you can literally see the wires coming out down into the underside of the amp circuitry. The OPT's are cool to the touch even after long listening sessions but the power transformer can get pretty hot. My listening sessions are about 5-8 nonstop daily. The all aluminum chassis does absorb much of that heat and acts as a big heatsink to dissipate it off. Which I guess is pretty nice. Touching the chassis won't burn you like touching the output tubes!
Looking under the bottom plate reveals only 2 small circuit boards for the 2 input tubes (6U8) and a small circuit relay board for the "ON" switch. This relay switch delays the startup of this amp at start up. Otherwise the rest of the circuitry is all point to point soldering of resistors etc. I recognize the Allen-Bradley resistors but couldn't decipher the other smaller metalized resistors as to what brand/make. There is no use of coupling capacitors so I gather this circuitry is rectified differently. You would have to ask Richard. Overall, don't expect Leben or Shindo - like soldering quality. I think this is definitely one area that Sophia Electric should improve on is the layout of the resistors and how they are soldered together in a neater fashion to better reflect its price.
Well if you can forgive and forget the engine compartment and listen to the sound of this machine, you will be amazed. It is simply magic - hence the name Magic 126S. This amplifier will require 2 matched 6U8 input signal tubes. As for the output tubes, as long as you have matched pairs to form a quad you'll be ok because its all auto biased. I've rolled KT66, 6L6GC (do not use 6L6), KT77, EL34, 6CA7 all run fine with this amplifier - no sweat! As for the input tubes, I've rolled 6U8, 6GH8, 6EA8, 6JW8, ECF82, ECF802 - they all work fine. My favorites are the Seimens and Mazda/RT.
Back to the sound?lush galore! This amps signature is lush and warmer than my friends Leben CS600. The Leben is very transparent but lacks the nice lush warm sound of this 126S. I rate this Sophia 126S to the likes of Shindo. It seeks to find a neutral/transparent speaker and you will not be disappointed! After trying, Harbeth, Sonus Faber, Reference 3A, Joseph Audio, Verity, Devore Fidelity, ProAc, Totem, Von Schweikert?I've finally settled on the new Merlin TSM MMM BME (black magic edition). The 126S is lush but still very detailed. The highs seemed more rolled off compared to the Leben CS600. But very romantic and true like the Shindo. Apples and oranges as one of my friend always says..so whats your taste? Think of 300B sound but with 25W instead of 9W. I love the RCA 6L6GC black plates in this amplifier because it gives the amp better headroom for stretching.
Overall, the amplifier is very musical. It is super quiet even with the 92dB speakers I hooked up to. Internal circuitry build is not like the Japanese boutique amp builds but I gather the company is trying to improve. Aesthetically, Sophia Electric looks very nice and modern. The previous generation of their amps looked horrible but now their amps look way better. Soundwise, it'll give the Shindo and Leben a run for their money. Many audiophiles will pass over Sophia Electric as simply a tube company but take heed, they now build some serious amp gear to rival even the best out there. I could've spent $5-10k on a Shindo, but decided to save my money and go for this Sophia instead. The extra $5k I saved, I'll go on a trip to Japan instead.
Product Weakness: Internal wiring/soldering needs better presentation to match price point.
Product Strengths: Very sweet warm romantic sound. Easy tube rolling feature for the output tubes.
Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Sophia Electric 126S
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): None
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Well Tempered Record Player
Speakers: Merlin TSM MMM BME (black magic edition)
Cables/Interconnects: Grover Huffman ZX
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Jazz/Pop/Electronic
Room Size (LxWxH): 22 x 23 x 12
Room Comments/Treatments: ASI resonators and sugar cubes
Time Period/Length of Audition: owner
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Shunyata
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner
Your System (if other than home audition): owner
This poster owner's photo of the Sophia Electric 126S amplifier he took was first posted in another forum: