" At present, I like it so much that it may be my last amp also."
Famous last words! LOL
Famous last words! LOL
I owne two of these amps, very nice indeed. Question '' How did you bias this amplifier?'' There is no way (unless they changed the model) to bias this without fidling underneath and inside the electrical snake box. Just for this, I have to disagree with you, it does NOT make a good choice as a first tube amp, that is if you don't care if optimal bias is not reached. Not saying it doesn't sound nice, it does, and the CAV50 is hazy at best by comparison.
Have to agree with Sonicbeauty...I found that biasing this particular amp is a real PITA ! Definitly not for beginners . But it did sound nice in the mids and bottom end .
Also agree with Plangco that the Sli-80 did not seem to have as much of that tube magic .
I'm envious that you have found your last amp !!
When I said a I thought the Cayin A88T would be a great first amp, I was refering to it as a great first stereophile-grade tube-amp (and perhaps last as it is wonderfully good). The minor learning curve and having to bias the amp is the hole in the donut! Why look at everything else you get with the Cayin A88T (including incredible value used) and get upset at 10 minutes of study and buying a multimeter?
Yes, it may take a max of 15 minutes done in a relaxed way to bias the amp, but it need not be messed with again for about a year or so. Once done, it is very easy to do again. Get a multi-meter (about $18 at Radioshack), and read the directions within audiogon in biasing it. I recommending buying the optional alligator ends if not included. And don't touch anything inside the amp with your hands with the bottom off as it is very high voltage!
That is nothing compared to the rewards. Those who don't want to bother, should perhaps just buy a different Cayin amp or even what is a very nice and warm solid Harman Kardon 2 channel amp brand new on the internet for $200, and forget about asking for even higher fidelity. Gee, if learning something new and avoiding minor frustration is a problem, everyone would be wearing slip on shoes, instead of ones with laces! Let's keep things in perspective! By the way, you can soften the sound if that is what you like, by turning the bias down from the 400mV recommended to 435 like I did. With the KT88s, it had a nice effect. Be careful about going up though, you could fry your amp if you go too high.
I had the A100T amp also. Very nice. I thought the A88T to be a bit warmer, but the A100T more dynamic. Its all a matter of what you want to hear. As a plus with the A100T though, you can fry eggs on the shelf above if you want.
Instead of SED KT88s in my Cayin A88T, I tried the SED 6550 tubes. What a difference. The 6550 changed the sound and softened it quit a bit. The KT88s are much more open sounding and dynamic yet still possed good midrange texture. It is my favorite KT88 tube. The famous 'Black Sable' is just a SED KT88 that got the Cryo treatment. A dubious improvement for the price. The SED 6550s shifted the sound a little and positioned it roughtly between Cayin A88T and the Conrad Johnson CAV50. The mids became extra warm, but the vocals sounded too soft to me as the upper midrange is a little recessed. Female singers with a normally etched tone of voice didn't exactly sound like themselves. Diana Krall sort of turned into Julie London. People who like classical music or don't mind giving up some extension for deeper midrange texture, may love the SED 6550 though.
I just bought a used (expensive, gulp) Joule LA150MKII preamp and plugged it into the Cayin A88T pre-in. What I thought was about as good as you could get got even better. The sound was even more life like and smoother, and the highs opened up and that little bit of unwanted edge in the upper mids that I got with my wonderful SED KT88 tubes went away for the most part. The sound positioned itself it seemed, roughly between the Cayin and a Cary Amp, and incorporating the best of both amps presentation it seemed. (The Cary had more of a solid state more clinical presentation by my ears, more mid-hall sounding with a tube blush). I can't speak too highly of the Joule LA150 MKII preamp. I listened to many (Canary, Rogue, Cary, Musical Fidelity, Audio Note, Conrad Johnson, etc) and the Joule was my favorite for capturing the essence of the music. It was a major expense buying it, but to me, well worth every penny.
I am open to suggestions to an amp supposedly more commenserate with the Joule Pre than the Cayin. I have listened to many amps, and many of them much more expensive than the Cayin. And although the Cayin doesn't cost the bucks or have snob appeal perhaps, I have acheived some great synergy between the Cayin A88T and the Joule Pre. Best sound I have heard to date. I didn't expect it. But it is what it is. I
A nice tube in the pre section which a nice alternative to the RCA 6SN7/VT231 is the Sylvania 6SN7GTA.
By the way, I reluctantly recently sold my Cayin A88T for an Almarro 318B. The Cayin is much more dynamic and powerful, however, I purchsed some Zu Druid speakers which mated nicely with an Almarro 318B, which has the trademark SET palpable mids, although as mentioned, it gives up something in bass control, dynamics, and soundstage.
I tried several SET amps, and the Almarro 318A or 318B to me is one of the best. It wasn't an easy decision because the Cayin A88T has something the Almarro doesn't and vice versa. With the Zu Druids, the Almarro roars and its 18 Watts per channel is plenty.
As a side note, I personally like the older Zu Druids better than the new Zu Omen speakers. They both sound similar, but to me, the Zu Druids are slightly warmer in the mids and still have very good bass down to the sub frequencies where it falls a little short (a good blending musical sub is the 100 watt MJ acoustics or an REL), and the newer Omen, although similar, is slightly clearer sounding overall and has more slam and a little more bass and a tad more treble it seems.
Questions & curiosities:
You said: "reluctantly" sold the A-88T??? Why the regrets? Not asking for personal information rather - any thing amiss with the unit or something that did NOT strike your fancy?
A-88T versus A-100T: what are the pros & cons between these units (besides BIAS setting)?
Any comments these (two) tube units versus the transistor unit?
UMMMM - you can cook breakfast (eggs) on the shelf above???? Do they really get that HOT?
I have heard Chinese tubes are best for these units - what do you know about this? Think 'Classical' when responding.
Anyone have the S-100 or S-200? Comments about these please. If 'yes' did you consider the Marantz reference units?
Yes, I'm looking to add to my Audio room. Connecting to Definitive Technology 7004s with an SACD unit - primary music preferance: Classical and classic rock.
Appreciate comments from anyone, thank you.
I've owned the A70T and A50T. Both very impressive. I'm not impressed with the idea of turning over an amp just to bias it. Seems Cayin put more into the look of the A88T and skimped on the functionality of having easy bias access on top of the amp - Where it belongs if you ask me. Superb amps all around though...Cayin is the best bargain in tube integ's bar none. I've given up high end SS amps for tube integ's as a result of sampling several Cayin's, PL's, and several others. I'm now content with a 300B SET integrated. 9 watts Class A...pure tube...pure bliss...pretty glow too.