i own a cayin and love it but it ain't a almarro....
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your speakers probably would be a tough load for the Almarro as Aball says but the Almarro sounds bigger than it's 18W per channel SET design looks on paper. the Cayin has nominally more power and both amps will sound very different from each other. If you have any way to audition each amp that would be optimum scenario. Speakers that are 89 db and 6 ohm nominal usually flourish with high current sand amps. Good luck in your hunt.
I had the 318B and AZ Adagios - as long as your room is not huge, your CD player has "normal" output or you don't only listen to techno, house, hip-hop or "11-volume level" metal ... you may be very pleased by this combo.
It excelled in a natural, spot-on tonality, surprisingly deep and naturally tight bass w/ pure mid-range magic.
One warning, the 381B needs a long initial break-in and runs frightfully hot. It responds well, however, to small signal tube rolling and tweaks like cap upgrades and power cords.
I have heard both and had the Cayin at the same time as the Almarro. I love my lush sounding and plenty powerful Cayin. In comparison, the Almarro has wonderful slightly superior midrange, will require very efficient speakers if you like to turn the music up, even a little and lacks in the bass department.
With my reasonably efficient Spendor S8e floorstanding speakers (I found them more efficient than most monitors), I could not get enough oomph to play the music with any authority at all, and I don't mean trying to play loud.
The Almarro sounded very weak. Only low level volume, almost background music, could be played. The Almarro requires highly efficient speakers made to be played with low power amps, then of course your bass may go out the window and you will need a musical sub.
The midrange (albeit only playable at low levels and weak) on the Almarro is wonderful and has the edge over the Cayin which itself has some of the best most lush midrange I have heard. However, the midrange is only part of the spectrum. If you like to turn your music up and like good bass that extends into the midrange, the Almarro is badly lacking in all but rare speakers with the highest efficiency.
All things considered, I personally prefer the highly musical Cayin A-88t and the flexiblity of speaker choice that comes with its power.
By the way, the Cayin A-88T has dramatically more power than the Almarro 318B. Whoever said it is only marginally more powerful must have been speaking in a highly hypothetical way and not have actually listened and compared the two.
In addition to haveing 250% more wattage, the Cayin has heavier transformers for even more current yet. From having listened, the Almarro's relatively feeble output through the same speakers relative to the Cayin, isn't even in the same ballpark as the impressive 45 Watts/Channel Cayin A-88T which drives my Spendor S8e floorstanders at party levels with ease. The Almarro 318B, couldn't begin to muster playing the music with any significant emphasis through the same Spendors, much less playing at party level volume like the Cayin did. I had both these amps at the same time, so I know a priori.
Was the Almarro you tried the 318A or 318B?
Very different amps when it comes to driving ability.
Of course not all amps suit all speakers.
I find the 318B drives most speakers as well as 100 watt RMS transistor amps.They even handle 4 ohm loads quite well.NO push pull amp I have used compares to the hear through resolution of the Almarro.
They even drive old Gale 401a speakers to moderately loud levels-and they are a killer of a load.
The 318B is a re-engineered A . It gives up nothing in return . The A isn't in the same class as the B . The ext. is exactly the same and it uses the same tubes . But the B was electronically changed to maximize the very thing the A was lacking . Highs and lows . The mids on the A are incredible . The B has the same mids and more extention on both ends . And it's mere 18 wpc energy and drive is equivilant to around 100wpc ss.
I did some more comparing of the Cayin A-88T and Almarro A318B. I found the Almarro responds dramatically to changing out the pre 6SN7 and 6SL7 tubes. My best combo with the Almarro is a Mullard 6SL7 tube (CV-569/ECC35) with a Raytheon 6SN7 (VT-231). In my Cayin I preferred the Mullard CV-569 in combination with the the very midrange lush RCA 6SL7 (VT-231). I have not had opportunity to try a Mullard 6SN7. The Mullard CV-569 remained a constant between the two and is a warm, yet detailed and extended tube.
The Cayin is a little more extended and benefited from the warmer RCA VT-231 to balance the sound a tad (which is all it needed) in a softer direction. The Almarro seemed a bit too soft and mushy with the RCA VT-231 (6SN7) and needed the more extended yet still musical Raytheon VT-231 to liven it up a bit and induce more detail in the upper midrange.
With both the best pretubes of all for both from my experimentation in place, the Cayin has great dynamics, soundstage, stereo imaging, and is still warm, yet very open and clear. The Almarro looses a little on the openess and imaging, but has slightly warmer mids which to some may sound a little too soft to some.
For my listening tastes, the Cayin sounds wonderfully dynamic, extended, and open while the Almarro has slightly warmer and lusher mids but lacks a tad of the detail and dynamics compared to the Cayin (it does however still have very respectable detail).
These are two different amps to me. Apples and Oranges. Those who are in love primarily with a very lush tube sound with a great textured midrange may prefer the Almarro, and those who like tube sound with more dynamic power and openess and a clear yet still warm midrange which is more tonally accurate, may prefer the Cayin. Both are great tube amps which offer much more 3 dimensional and living presentation to sound than solid state amps, and in my opinion and after much experimentation, buying, and selling, are two of the best amps you can buy.
I ended up with an Almarro 318B with a little different tubing than what was in the weaker A318A Almarro and am using the amp to drive very lovely Zu Druid Speakers (Mullard 6SL7/CV569, RCA VT-231 (6SN7).
The sound is great. The Almarro doesn't have quit as good of imaging and soundstage as the Cayin, but has a midrange correctness, and open yet delicate highs that is hard to match with any amp other than a SET.
However, you get something and you loose something it seems. People who prefer instrumental and vocals or classical music with a more laid back yet rich textured sound may prefer the Almarro (better with high efficiency speakers) and people who want a slightly clearer and more pwerful and dynamic sound with sparkling zing and wonderful sounstage (warm mids albeit with a slight upper midrange etch) will prefer the Cayin I imagine.
Both are wonderful amps and are at the top of the list for my preference in sound (open and warm but not harsh) of a dozen amps I have owned over the last five years. Of course, the disposition of all other equipment and listener preferences needs to be added into the formula for net sound.
By the way, don't let the 45 watts
By the way, although the Almarro A318B is well built in general, its three pair of female RCA jacks in the back of the unit, are downright cheezy & do not hold up well. My friction mount RCA plugs caused two pair of them to dislodge and short out simply by pulling my RCAs on and off a few times. A friend of mines Almarro has the same problem.
The Almarros RCA jacks may hold up well with twist to tighten RCA sleeves, but friction mounts may cause a problem. I have ordered some quality Vampire gold over ofc copper rca jacks to be installed locally to overcome the problem.
I agree the Almarro has a more recessed image.
When you use it with a good active preamp like a Supratek the imaging gains depth and focus.
Not to say that the Almarro is still not a great listen by itself.I heard one driving a pair of Tannoy Westminsters and the sound was staggeringly good-as good as any system I have heard.
My Almarro responded very well to a set of Sophia Electric 6SN7 and 6SL7. The soundstage and imaging where a great improvement. I will not be going back to NOS tubes again. Yes, it was that big of an improvement.
It seems as if the Almarro A318B responds eagerly to any upgrade I've done so far. Power cord, tubes, I/Cs, etc.
Very tunable amp. In my treated room and the upgrades I've done to it, the detail is very good and the extention at both ends are well developed.
I haven't had any RCA input problems as of yet. My A318B is one of the very first ones made (2005) and so far so good. For around $1000 used on AG, it will be hard to find a better sounding amp.
Just a note - the Almarro can and will drive the notoriously difficult amp killers Gale 401's, (rated just under 4ohms and NOT efficient). Not to ear shattering volume levels but enough to reveal the depth and clarity of mid-range the Almarro excells at. Perhaps the high current of the Almarro explains this - anyway to my ears it works well with these speakers and is again proof that 'audio theory" is just that and exceptions to the rule do exist.
I owned both and liked them both. It is sort of an apples and oranges comparison. The better depends on your priorities. The richer midrange of the Almarro over the Cayin turned out to be a deciding factor for the Almarro although I missed the dynamics and wider soundstage and raw power of the Cayin which still had a warm midrange and a great sense of presence.
However, you really haven't heard the Almarro 318B until you try it with some fantastic old stock Mullard brown base tubes. Myself and friends rejected the Almarro until the Mullards were put in, which was a complete turn around from the previous dull sound. The Mullards preferred by me are the brown base ECC33 (6SN7) and CV569 (6SL7/ECC35). I auditioned the famous ECC32 and 34 which were slightly warmer (a little too much so in my system), yet less dynamic and synergistic as the ECC33/CV569 combo.
The Almarro has warmer lusher mids, and the Cayin is more dynamic. The Cayin mids are also very good, just not equal to the lushest ever mids with the Almarro. Choosing between the two depends on your preference and speakers needs and the overall effect in regard to your system on balance. Neither is superior. Just different. And both very very good at what they do.
I tried driving some Sonus Faber Grand Piano Home speakers with the Almarro 318B. No can do. The bass was boomy and the bass clipped/cut-out/buzzed with anything other than soft background listening levels. However, I have heard the Almarro works good with Acoustic Zen Adagios and most speakers that are not power hunger like the Sonus Fabers.