Cayin A88T - My Favorite Amp Out of Numerous - FYI

I bought and sold over a dozen solid state and tube amps before settling on the Cayin A88T. I choose tubes over solid state for the life like quality they imbue in the music. I found the sound of the Cayin A88T very engaging and my pick out of all the amps I tried. It has a vibrant 'front row center live' appeal to it.

In comparison, my CJ CAV50 integrated sounded dull in the upper mid/treble area (although quit warm in the midrange). My Cary SLI-80 Signature F1 sounded very detailed, yet overly clinical, close to solid state to me.

The sound you get out of the Cayin can vary dramatically by how you tube it, and even by how you bias it, though less dramatic.

After much experimentation, my recommended tubes are: SED KT88 power tubes, for the 6SL7s - I recommend Mullard CV-569 or ECC35 (expensive but worth every penny, a dramatic improvement in the sound), and for the 6SN7s, I recommend RCA V-231s (military 6SN7s).

Bias: with the above tubes (which complemented the amp the best over numerous trials), for my tastes, the music seemed ever so sligthly too open in the upper mids, which I adjusted nicely by setting the bias to 336 instead of the 400 recommended. By the way, I had tried the 6550 power tubes, but they sounded too soft and closed in to me.

So, if you are looking to make a change in amps or looking to pick a first tube amp, I think you couldn't loose with the Cayin A88T. At present, I like it so much that it may be my last amp also.
" At present, I like it so much that it may be my last amp also."

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 !!

Happy Tunes.
If you liked the cayin 88, you will love the cayin 100. I have both. Yes, the bias of the 88 is a pain, but the 100 is a piece of cake when it comes to bais. Your last amp? Don't be silly. I am looking forward to a bigger Cayin/VAS, which I know is coming, soon. Enjoy.
I have not heard the 88T but I am loving my Cayin 265Ai Class A solid state integrated. I may one of these days try a Cayin tube integrated.
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.
Now move up to an amp commenserate with the Joule pre and see what happens .

"Let's keep things in perspective!"

Good luck .
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.
A very good pairing for your Joule would be the Music Reference RM9 MKI or II. I had the 150 Signature Edition with the RM9 Special Edition and that was about as good as it get at any price. Of course, I assume it would work great with the VZNs
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.
Plangco, what speakers were you using with the Cayin A88T?
Martin Logan Vantages at the time. Great amps for the money all around.

Happy New Year!
The Cayin A88T worked very well with some Dali Helicons and Spendor 8Se Speakers. The Spendors seemed slightly warmer than the Dalis, although both are beautiful sounding speakers. You get something and you loose something. Its all matter of preferance and balance.