General Initial Impressions--Genalex Gold Lion KT88 Reissue


I've been on a tear of tube rolling with no end other than to try things out and see how I like them.  

I am trying out the Genalex Gold Lion KT88 reissues--8 of them--in a Primaluna Dialogue Premium HP integrated.  I mated them with 4 Cifte 12AU7s and 2 Baldwin (likely early 60s) 12AU7s.  

I made the mistake of not changing my selector switch from EL34 to KT88 during the first 20 hours of listening to the Gold Lion KT88s.  Regardless, I thought they sounded pretty great out of the box with the EL34 setting.  

It's still early in the process so I'm not 100% certain of everything. My initial impression is that these offer the sweetness of EL34 midrange while extending most of the sound spectrum.  There's a good bit of air on the top and mid to upper level detail is superb.  Compared to the EL34 reissues, I think the bass is a touch softer yet more defined--yet this is early and I need to compare with recordings that are tattooed on my aural memory before making final conclusions. 

Overall, I'd say this reissue is a damn fine tube.  I'm not finding any noticeable shortcomings or faults.  Everything is musical and enjoyable.  Smooth is the order of the day with this tube, yet it's not sleepy or droopy. It's a nice mix, in my mind's eye, of vintage and modern.  I really like them.  

I bought a matched octet from Upscale, but I didn't have these cryoed like most others I've bought. 

I'm super curious to hear about other users' experiences. 
jbhiller
My amp just uses EL34 tubes but the best sounding tubes I've found are the Gold Lion KT77's. Fantastic sounding tubes that have put to shame all I've tried even some more expensive. My matched quad was also from Upscale and non-cryoed.
I replaced 4 KT120s in my amp with Gold Lion KT88s and like them much better.  No downside - only up.
I'm also a fan of the Gold Lions (300b variant) i've tried them head to head with the Shuguang WE-300b and find them like you said more detailed top to bottom with great instrument separation, the Shuguang's have a little more base warmth and lower mid warmth but are not near as detailed or do not throw as big a sound stage as the gold lions. for the money i'd take the gold lions.
I really like the new GL KT-88's in my VAC Phi 200.  I bit more warmth in the midrange, great bass authority, and a smooth extension on the top end versus the Shuguang that VAC ships the amp with.  It was the right touch for my system's voicing, with no downside trade-offs.
My trusty Jolida 502p "with factory upgrades" has been running various tubage for years with interesting results…initially sounded fine with the stock 6550s (Tung Sol) but no no no…ya gotta roll! Sovtek KT88s…also sounded fine, similar to the 6550s, then KT120s lasted nearly 3 years and sounded great until they started to understandably lose their mojo, KT150s sounded fine for several months but I think my amp was straining to make ’em work (oh well…disturbing amp noise indicating the amp was saying, "get these things off me"), then Gold Lion KT88s were dropped in around a year or something ago and yeah…they sound pretty much exactly right. I also like Gold Lion 12AX7s in the front, and Mullard 6201s as they explode when turned on (as do I).

Can you please tell me what were your initial impressions of the GL KT88 and what didn't you like about the stock EL PL EL34?  I have tried quite a number of power tubes in my PL Dialogue Premium and I do have to say while they are all different they don't have the cohesiveness or soundstage the stock tubes possess. OR I just haven't found the right combo with the other tubes.  I will say this, like jond said above, the KT77 is a very nice tube. My issue is finding the correct 12AU7's.  I do have the Cifte's in the front slots and do like them but the stock PL 12AU7 do have some upper mid glare that I don't care for with some recordings.

Right now I am using KT150's with the Cifte's in the front 2 slots and trying some new issue Tung Sol 12AU7 in the rear 4 slots. In some ways I do like this combo but maybe I need to give the TS some more time to break in. They aren't bad at all and seem to have smoothed out the sound somewhat but I am missing some inner detail and lushness. Before switching to the TS I was using the stock PL 12AU7's in the rear 4 slots and the soundstage was too middle row and distant. I needed a tube to bring the vocals forward and the TS 12AU7 has done this. I have heard the GL KT88 might be too forward or cool sounding in the mids compared to the EL34 but you seem to think different?

I am with Jond on this. The Gold Lion kt77 is an awesome tube. I tried many el34 variants and the GL kt77 tube sounded the best by far in several different el34 based amps. The kt77's, I felt, sounded better than more powerful tubes from that brand and line. Really nice, open, extended warmth, tight and punchy. Well worth the little extra money they typically cost. (I have no affiliation with Genelex)

@andyz

I completely agree. The KT77 beat out the reissue el34 Mullard and the Primaluna el34 in my system. I do like those el34’s, but the KT77 are in a different league.

I have the Primaluna Dialogue Premium Integrated amp
A couple of questions since I'm going to purchase a PL amp in the ne t couple of weeks. 

1. Is Cryogenic about extending Tube life?

2. Are the Primaluna brand tubes a good start to experiment with. The amp I am looking at comes with KT88's. I'm also thinking of a set of basic EL34s to see which I prefer. I was going to but the PL house branded tube or the Mullards. 
I think the PL are decent tubes to start with as they are voiced for the amp. If there is something you don't like about the sound then you can change to tubes. Just my 2 cents.
@samzx12 

Great question-- Can you please tell me what were your initial impressions of the GL KT88 and what didn't you like about the stock EL PL EL34?  

I found replacement reissue Mullard EL34s to be better than the PL EL 34s.  I was really impressed with them.  They were rich and creamy in the midrange.  I think the GL KT88 may have a bit more range across the spectrum, BUT I need to go back and hear them again.  Honestly, both the Mullard reissue EL34 and the GL KT88 seem better than the stock PL EL34.  I think the stock PL was well behaved but didn't draw me in too much.  I'm going to have to go back and compare the 3 over a few sessions though because my aural memory fades after about a week or two. 
Thank you very much jbhiller. It is nice to hear what others think about a particular tube characteristic.  I have a quad of GL KT88 arriving tomorrow. A quad popped up on here after I posted my question so guess I will find out soon. The PL EL34 does have a very nice midrange and tone but after awhile I feel like something is missing. I am wanting more and I can't put my finger on it.   I also have the Mullard EL34's reissue and I need to roll them back in soon. I do like them but after listening for a few sessions they were missing something but can't remember what it was. Possibly I didn't have enough hours on them yet.   Like you my aural memory fades over time unless I have tons and tons of hours listening to a particular setup. I am hoping I really like the GL KT88 and will update once I get a feel for them. They basically are new and have no more than 3 hours so the fun starts over lol.
@wolf_garcia I have the Jolida 502A and I am beginning the power tube quest. I have read some of your posts about your beloved Jolida. You went all the places I am wanting to go...KT120's, 150's and now you are back to the KT88's. 

I have been running KT88 reissue Mullards for a few years and feel they may need an update. 

From what you have been through I may try the Gold Lions based on your opinions. 

If you have any more info feel free to pass it along to me :-)

db

My amps take just about anything....they ship with EL34 and sound pretty good...They sounded really good with Gold Lion KT 66 , but I think the KT88 sounds best in my Quicksilver Mid Mono amps....just the right sound in my system.
As an update, I'm now about 6 weeks in with the GL KT88s.  If I had to guess I'd say I'm north of 120 hours with them.  

Again, I liked them pretty well out of the box.  I got bored/curious and popped in the EL34s for a weekend in this stretch.  It made me appreciate the good of the EL34s.  I went back to the KT88s and they were fine, but I wasn't feeling so drawn in at times. In the last week I've asked myself why are things sounding so great as of late.  I'm sure that I'm more accustomed to the KT88s, but I wonder if they needed north of 100 hours to break in.  

The differences that I note at this ~120+ hour mark are more definition of instruments in space, better individualization of notes, the high end seems less tense, and the bass is just as present in volume but not as on top of me.  This is not a night and day change but it's also not too subtle.  

I'm less than 1200 hours into tube gear in earnest so I'm still getting a feel for the lay of the land.  I think that maybe some of these tube types do break in a bit in the first 20-100 hours--give or take.  And, with all this said, it all makes me want to keep experimenting.  
I missed that query aimed at me, but to update...now I'm using GL KT88s (as supplied with this amp) in a Dennis Had "Inspire Fire Bottle" amp with more efficient speakers…the Jolida may be headed for retirement, although seriously served me well for years…a great amp! The "Fire Bottle" is an utterly different design from the Jolida (single ended 12 watts per side), although obviously limited to efficient speakers.
I agree the GL KT88s needed at least 100 to 150 hours to sound their best in my VAC amp.  I actually removed them around 60 hours thinking they might have been a poor choice at the time.  Listened to my KT88SC tubes for a while and then retried the GLs. I was over 100 hours when they really separated themselves from my previous choice.  I now really enjoy their presentation in my system.

The GL KT88 have some nice qualities immediately but need time to burn in.  I have only about 30 hours on mine but noticed they are punchy and have a nice sense of air about them. Mids are smooth but overall the presentation seems just a tad edgy if that makes sense. Been using some KT150s and have some Preferred Series KT88 on the way so really trying to get used to the KT series of tubes before they arrive. Since I listen to mainly dynamic music I feel the KT series provides better punch, slam and dynamics than the EL34.

JB I know exactly what you mean about instruments in space and right now I feel the GL KT88 is lacking that right now plus the fact the EL34 does draw you into the music more but lacks bass punch or lots of bass in general. I guess we have to keep putting hours on the GL until they are broken in and once they are I'm pretty sure we will know.

@samzx12 , yes, I agree with what you said, especially about the presentation being a touch edgy.  I think this is true because with the EL34s I could run more preamp tubes with them that provide a bigger top end--i.e. Ciftes, RCAs, etc.  To tolerate some of the top end edginess, I had to get more creative with my 6 preamp tube selection.

Now I suppose I can assess my hypothesis that the GL KT88s require a good break in period if find that I can introduce the Ciftes and brighter tubes back in--especially more than 2 out of the 6 preamp slots.  I'm not sure that would mean I've actually proved something yet I do think it would make it more likely that break in is playing a real role. 


Yes I totally agree about running different preamp tubes other than a brighter or more energetic tube such as Cifte's, Amperex 7316, etc.  I noticed last night especially I will have to revert back to either the stock PL 12AU7 in the front slots or try something more subtle.
I am in the minority here, I don't think GL KT88 is all that different from other New sensor ones like EH KT88.  Maybe a bit more polite and prettier but that's it.  So, the EH were a much better value for me. 
I bought a quad of el-cheapo Sovtek KT88s just to see what's what a while back and they're actually really good…a now discontinued New Sensor product. 
I agree with your assessment of the Sovtek KT88's. While they have been discontinued they are still available on line. I've been using them for about 20 years quite happily, although I'd be careful using them in amps which pushed the tubes too hard. Tonally they have a beautifully clear mid range, highs, and an unemphasized but extant bass. I much prefer them to any EL 34 type I have used. FWIW.
Its obvious to me different tubes react differently in various amps. The EH KT88 sounded very sterile and dry in the mids and lacking in bass. There was bass but not enough of it. The GL KT88 possess none of the EH KT88 characteristics.
@newbee Have you tried the GL KT77 ? For me it's the best EL34 type I've heard. My amp cannot use KT88s.
Jond, Unfortunately not. When I have more funds and a shorter supply of tubes I want to give GL's a try.

Samzx12, Are you implying that the EH KT88 is a replacement, in fact, for the Sovtek, i.e. identical in all respects, just a different label? FWIW, in recent years I have principally used the Sovtek KT88, the SED KT88, and the Tung-sol 6550, depending on the amps and system set up. The Tung-sol is my current 'go to' tube 
Newbee: I didn't say the EH KT88 were a replacement for anything. I just stated they sounded sterile, clinical or analytical and lacking in bass in my amp compared to other KT88.  Don't get me wrong they have bass just not enough  of it.  The Gold Lion KT88 sounded MUCH better and a more balanced tube from top to bottom.  I have not tried any of the KT88 you mentioned however, have heard the TS 6550 is a nice tube. 

Oh and the Gold Lion KT77 is a very nice tube and I think you would love it.  It is more of a hybrid tube between the KT88 and EL34. 
As far as new production tubes are concerned, I don't think you can go wrong with the GL KT88's. I've tries treasures, JJ's, & the KT90. Of those I prefer the GL KT88. My amp is SE so I'm sure that makes a difference, but I really wish they would come out with a new production tube that has the mid range beauty of the older 6550 TS's or even GE's. The old TS black plates are absolutely gorgeous.