I think you got your answer, who would be better qualified than Kevin on that subject? A quad of gold lions cost less than 200.00, if you want to find out for yourself its not a big investment and maybe worth a try. Best of luck.
I don't have a VAC, but if you speak with Kevin ask him if he has listened to the Shuguang Black Treasures, to my ears they are overall more musical that the GLs , base Shuguangs, JJs, SEDS - my experience with my Ayon Spirit 2
IMO, the Shuggie Black Treasures (KT88-Z) trump everything but the EAT's and the NOS (vintage) Gold Lions. They are as good as the vintage GL's (per my own A-B) and may be as good as the EAT's. They definitely exhibit what I call 'high transconductance sparkle', like the EAT's and the NOS GL's.
Their only negative (not really, but . . .) is they take the FULL 300 hrs. to break in! Probably for the black carbon polymer coating to cure? And no one knows (yet) how long they'll last? I've been running mine for 2 yrs come Feb. (about 3500 hrs.) If you buy them direct from China, you can get Premium matched Treasures for under $400 for 2 matched pair, shipped ;--)
I always followed Kevin's recommendations for tube replacement and bought all output tubes from VAC.
Shuguang makes the following KT88 tubes:
KT88-Z (Black Treasure)
BTW, the 'SC' is the only KT88 tube currently made (by anybody!) that is an EXACT replica of the original M.O.V. (Marconi Osram Valve) Company later known as GEC or Genalex (the British name of the US General Electric Co. ;--) who bought MOV and made the original Gold Lion, Gold Monarch and Blue Label GEC (all the same tube, BTW) The Penta/SC is an excellent tube, but nothing like the original performancewise.
The "Gold Lion" tubes currently made by New Sensor (in the old Russian Sovtek factory) bear no resemblence to the original design -- a statement that can be made for most of the tubes New Sensor manufactures under all the vintage brand names they managed to acquire (Mullard, Tung Sol, Svetlana, et.)
As for Kevin's recommendations, with due respect, equipment manufacturers use tubes which represent a reliable supply for them (followed by reasonable cost) but are not always the 'best' tube of that type. Sometimes their OEM tubes cause problems, as with McIntosh's use of the New Sensor "Electo Harmonix" brand (which kept blowing up ;--) McIntosh finally switched to the S.E.D. Winged "C" KT88 (the original Svetlana tube, not the New Sensor brand "Svetlana" tube ;--) which is another excellent KT88 tube.
Bottom line is that if you want to do a little research, you can almost always find better tubes for your equipment than the OEM tubes supplied by the manufacturer.
As for Kevin's recommendations, with due respect, equipment manufacturers use tubes which represent a reliable supply for them (followed by reasonable cost) but are not always the 'best' tube of that type.
I would tend to agree with this statement as it relates to most manufacturers out there. However, my conversations with Kevin regarding use of output tubes in both the Avatar and Auricle Musicblocs lead me to the conclusion that VAC is the exception. Kevin supplied me with quite a bit of information on tube comparisons of output tubes, all of them leading me to believe the VAC selected and tested were the best all around choice. As for signal tubes Kevin always recommended that I try various NOS tubes on the market.
For those interested in trying the new production Gold Lion KT-88 tubes, Roger Modjeski at RAM has quite a supply. IMO he is one of the best at matching tubes to ensure quiet performance and reliability. He and Andy at Vintage Tube Services are my primary tube suppliers.
Clio, all I can say is it might be instructive for you to talk with other VAC owners who have tried other tubes in their amps ;--)
I use the Genelex KT88's in my VAC Auricle Musicblocs and they sound great. I've tried the VAC branded tubes, the Shuaguang Pentas and the SED's and they're all good, but I keep coming back to the Gold Lions. I buy mine from Jim McShane (see Audio Asylum) and they've been very durable tubes.
Been there done that bought the T-shirt. For the record I even did comparisons of three different types of EL-34 output tubes, including NOS Siemens, in my Avatar. Stayed with the VAC tested Shuguang tubes. I used NOS Mullards for the signal and phono stage tubes. With my Auricle Musicblocs I used a combination of RCA cleartop and Telefunken for the signal tubes and the VAC premium KT-88 tubes.
Kind of a moot point now anyway as I now longer own either of these pieces.
I am a long-time VAC Avatar Super owner and have tried quite a few brands of output tubes and have found that the absolute best are definitely the Genelex Gold Lions, they do everything right from top to bottom. They are just awesome. Also a very good performer was the Ruby KT88 which I tried on the advice of a local tech. Next would be shuguang and then EH (great detail, limited bottom end).
The VAC tubes I have bought are very expensive and I don't see that you are getting anything better than you can get for less $$ from known and trusted tube vendors. Remember, Kevin values his time highly and you will see that in his pricing (can't fault him for that).
Have you tried Svetlana winged c?
VACMAN, I don't believe I have tried the Svetlana winged C.
After reading your enthusiastic post, I ordered a matched quad of Gold Lions from Tube Depot (on sale for $109 for a matched pair). They will be going into my VAC Phi 200 amp.
Questions for you or anyone with opinion and experience:
1. How long did it take them to burn in?
2. Did you keep your VAC powered on 24/7 during the initial burn-in?
3. I read the RAM Tubeaudiostore.com site, which has them on sale for $75 each, but tubes are matched by a proprietary computer program. Anyone with experience with this, is it worth the added cost?
I buy my tubes from Jim McShane, he is great to deal with and provides top notch service. I just received a back-up quad as the set I am running now have been at it for over 1 year in my amp. I think you will find that they will work pretty well out of the box and it won't take too long for them to settle in (30-40 hours). I would never leave my amp on 24/7 for burn-in and always turn mine off if I am not going to be listening to music in the next hour. I was talking to a dealer the other day who told me about a customer who blew up a set of new tubes in a VAC amp because he didn't properly mute the unit when he was getting initial bias set. With new tubes I always start at lowest bias setting and let tubes warm up for 10-15 minutes before bringing up the right voltage.
Thanks Maineiac, I'll report back once the Gold Lions settle in.
FWIW, nobody really NEEDS a matched quad ;--) Push-pull amps (the most common) work in matched pairs. However, if your amp takes four of something, or eight of something, then there are certain economic and operational advantages to buying FIVE matched tubes (for each group of four):
1.) You don't have to keep the matched pairs separated. You can plug any tube into any of the four sockets and still be running two matched pairs.
2.) If you buy FIVE matched tubes, then should one fail, the fifth (spare) can replace any one of the four that fails. If you're particularly O/C, you can even rotate the five (like tires) so thay all have the same 'wear'. (This may sound silly, but tubes, especially power tubes, DO change their test readings over time, even though they are still performing just as when new.)
To the question of breaking tubes in 24/7: I don't recommend it. It won't harm the tubes, and back when there were ONLY tubes, a lot of gear was left on 24/7, sometimes for years, for various reasons, with no ill effect. But with NEW tubes, it's best if you are present, with your hand near the on/off switch if fireworks should start -- which they most often will in the beginning -- usually right after turn-on, or as the tubes are warming up. With a few exceptions, most power tubes are substantially 'broken-in' (and can be pronounced 'reliable') after 25 -- 50 hours. That's only a dozen listening sessions at most. And with a lot of power tubes, you won't actually want to 'listen' for the first 25 hours anyway ;--)
Darn it, that makes so much sense! Buying 5 would have been wise. But my order shipped this morning. Funny that the tube dealers don't suggest this to all their OCD audiophile customers. I wonder if they keep the test results so they could match one more?
Over 30 years an audiophile, first year in tubes... and lovin it, despite the learning curve.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
You can trust Roger Modjeski's tube matching service. His tube have biased very closely in pairs per channel in my amp. BTW, he plans to test the TungSol KT120s (by popular demand on his forum). Hopefully, he'll then decide to carry/sell this tube.
OK, with only 5 hours on them, these new issue Gold Lion KT88s are starting to show their stuff. I'll report in as they find their groove in my VAC Phi 200. So far, they sound good, not great, but good like a mass-market stereo system at its best.
I'm ordering the Black Treasures KT88-Zs soon, so I'll be able to A/B them when the BTs burn in, in about, what, a year or so? Sounds like they take a long time, but are worth it.
stick with the kevin recomendation he knows best.i have had 2 of his amps and he knows his tubes,you are better off buying them from him also
Lewisg, what other tubes have you tried in your VAC amps?
Sungaung GEKT88 from GD Audiio have been recommended to me as the best budget KT88 and the Treasure tubes as even better.
i also need some kt88 for my vac phi200 and have talking to grant fidelity in canada.they are dropping sungaung and using psvane that is a company formed by x partners and employee's of sunguang.they have a black tube for 500 a quad but i cant find any info about these, help
Lrg36, GF will push anything (they think) they can monopolize, as it was with the Black Treasure series, in the beginning, when they 'claimed' they had 'exclusive' North American distributorship for the Black Treasure tubes -- that is until everyone found out it wasn't true, and when at least one online tube seller I know brought legal action against them! So you can understand if I'm a bit suspicious about their (latest) story regarding the Psvane line ;~)
Mjcmt: I have been dealing with Clark (at Good Component) for over four years, and have sent him many very happy customers. You can even request that your matched premium KT88-Z's (Shuguang Black Treasures) have the strongest emission readings (greater than 50 mA) and if he doesn't have any on hand, and you're willing to wait a couple of weeks, he will hand pick them for you right at the factory when there's a new production run. Not only that, but he seems to have the best prices of anyone. The last time I bought a quad, they were $357 (for two matched premium pair), including PayPal and DHL airfrieght. That's what I call 'service'! BTW, Clark also sells Psvane tubes -- probably a lot cheaper than GF!
Might also try Agon member Trelja if you are interested in the Black Treasures or Psvane - Joe is very knowledgeable and reliable, and offers great pricing (speaking as a satisfied tube customer)
Alonski, how are you making out?
Great timing. I just read your post while me and my wife are casually listening to some great LPs I picked today. One of them is my forth copy of Getz/Gilberto and it's an original pressing in great shape, and not more than 2 minutes before reading your post, I turned to my wife and said, "wow, the new tubes finally burned-in! I am so familiar with this album, and hearing its lushness without loss of detail is making me smile!
A few weeks ago, I rolled a quad of Tung-Sol 6sn7s and a quad of Genelex Gold Lion KT88s (all new issue) and suffered through weeks of crappy, almost unbearable sound from my Phi 200. I even called in for a return authorization for the tubes, I was so frustrated because the very nice people at Tube Depot said they should sound good right out of the box... uh, not so much. It took at least 60 hours for the Tung-sols and about 40 hours for the Genelex.
I just put on Waltz For Debbie... Oh does this LP sound gooood! And I suspect there's more burn-in to come, this is probably just the beginning.
Also, this week I'm getting a set of 6SN7s from Brent who is going to audition the ones he's testing and matching for me on an identical amp and marking the positions to install them in! (I always feel taken care of by VAC) Then, after these hand-tested and selected and auditioned tubes burn in, I'll be able to A/B the driver sets and report back. After that I'll do the same for the KT88s. This is so much fun. Bill Evans is sounding so good right now, maybe better than I've ever heard it... but I will do the A/B before committing to that.
Thanks for asking!
Great to know that you are having fun. I just rolled in new tubes too but my experience with break-in is not as dramatic. ENJOY!
If you enjoyed the original sound of your Avatar, stick with Kevin's suggestion.
I have an Avatar Super, just re-tubed (VAC KT-88s)by Kevin and it is stunning!
alonski---"Over 30 years an audiophile, first year in tubes... and lovin it, despite the learning curve."
same thoughts and sentiments here....nothing beats tubes... nothing,(well almost nothing:-))
Here are my observations from the front lines of the battle of the tubes... The four low level 6SN7s in my VAC Phi 200 needed replacement, so as an experiment, I rolled new issue Tung-Sols and burned them in for at least sixty hours. Then I received four 6SN7s (new Chinese) from Kevin which were picked and matched by Brent and then inserted into a Phi 200 at the vactory and only after they listened to them (in my exact amp) did they send them to me. Gotta love those guys!
There is no comparison, the fresh, unburned tubes from VAC completely outperformed the Russian made Tung-Sols. The difference is not subtle at all. The VAC sourced and tested 6SN7s simply shredded the russians.
And now, the KT-88s...
With the new driver tubes humming a happy tune in my amp, it was time for phase two:
I compared the chinese VAC KT-88s, (which came with the Phi 200, and sounded lush, detailed and gorgeous), with the Russian contenders , the Genelex Gold Lion reissue output tubes. I burned in the GGLs for sixty hours before critical listening (they sounded thin ROOTB) to make a valid comparison.
The GGLs sound light, open, untethered and musical, with a lot more inner detail and air. Compared to the lush, dark-leaning and romantic KT-88s from VAC, it's hard to say which is "better." The best way I can express it is that they are equally good, but different... it's more an issue of personal taste. Some reference tunes sounded better with one and vice versa. They are both very good tubes, and for now, the Lions are still in my amp and I'm enjoying my system immensely. If it wasn't such a PITA, I would swap them out as needed depending on what I'm spinning. That's not going to happen.
I hope this helps those of you considering rolling these readily available tubes in your amps. I'd be happy to answer any questions regarding my experiment.
Alonski, my experience has been similar. When I tried EH KT88, they were superb in terms of inner detail but lacked in bass and overall soundstage. The VAC tubes were very good in terms of bass but didn't have the definition of the EH, the genelec reissues seemed to be, for me, an awesome balance of strong bass, excellent imaging and detail, and overall that makes my avatar super do all things very well.
Maybe you could just get another set of phi 200s with the different tubes so that you could easily switch to the different tube set. ;).
I took your advice and today we're holding a bake sale for the Fee Phi Fo Fund (don't blame me, you gave me the idea!) raising money for another VAC Phi 200. Let's see, $10,000 divided by 50 cents... that's only twenty thousand Brownies we have to sell. If you ever tasted my wife's Brownies you too would believe this is not an unreasonable target.
Alonski, If you can ship, I will buy a batch. Let me know!!
All right, our first customer! Only 19,988 more Brownies to sell and I'll have that second Phi 200.
Thanks Maineiac for supporting this good cause. I'll ask our corporate CPA if your Brownies could be tax-deductible.
My experience with the Golden Lions in the VAC Phi was shortlived. They sounded like grand and glorious 'hi-fi', punchy at first but quickly fatiguing. The Psvane's have merit, both as drivers and power tubes.
i have 2 sets of shuguang treasure kt88's and they are good but they have trouble too.the only way to get a real matched quad is to buy them from a dealer in china.the canadian dealers buy them in matched pairs and then try to quad them and they do not match as well,also are about $125 more.the tubes that kevin hayes uses are shuguang tubes also and are close to as good as the treasures