Very nice write up. Thanks for sharing your experience.
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I just noticed that I managed to not get the intended subject on this thread and also have a couple of errors. I was having computer issues and when using copy/paste to redo the post it appears the subject was a copy of the entire post rather than the intended subject.
As a correction, the remote does not change the listening modes, it only does volume and will switch among the four inputs. The shipping weight is about 50 lbs and I'm sure the amplifier is well over 40 lbs so it's quite solid.
Had another good listening session this morning. I fired up the amp about 8:30 and let it play some background music until my friend arrive a couple of hours later. There were a couple of things in particular to note.
First, we listened to a couple of pieces at the beginning and then a couple of hours later before making the comparison to my solid state receiver before he left. All of the songs, but one in particular, sounded much better the second time. I wasn't expecting the difference between 2 and 4 hours to make that much difference so I'm not sure if it was a warm-up improvement or just still breaking in overall.
Second, I replayed several of the things that hadn't sound right during previous times listening to them and everything sounded pretty great. The amp definitely has been continuing to improve.
Tomorrow, I'll be home all day with the kids so my plan is for it to run pretty much the entire day. We spend most of our time in a different room so it should be fairly easy to police, but a couple of kitchen chairs standing guard should do the trick if necessary.
My friend brought over his Diana Krall Glad Rag Doll CD and was immediately sold on the amplifier. It seems to be one that just doesn't sound quite right on solid state gear. I have a Claude Bolling CD that is the same way. It seems that tubes are the magic ingredient for them.
Based on the date of my original post I have had my Yaqin for about 18 months so far and have loved every minute of it. Now that I have both an SACD player and Maverick Audio Tube Magic D2 DAC (iTunes to Airport Express) as sources it's so easy to enjoy listening. I am collecting parts to built a switch that will allow me to toggle back and forth with my receiver without turning off the tube amplifier so I can further maximize my listening experience. I hate the sound through my TV, but only have one set of speakers so I have to turn the tube amplifier off to make the switch. No more!
Well....this week marks the first anniversary of my puchase of the Silk Audio MS -38, so it's time for a review of my experience so far.
( originally posted these comments on AVS Forum - hope no one minds. Photos are there.)
I am not new to hifi. My first amp was a Cyrus 1, which I built a DNM capped 1000va external psu for in the 80s. Next came a Musical Fidelity (MuFi ) A100 class A mini heater (!)followed much later by a Musical Fidelity X-150v3. This was supplemented with various MuFi TUBE buffers. I never listen without these anymore. I love the fluid sound of tubes!
My main system now uses a pair of bridged MuFi X-P200 amps with X-P100 preamp and REL subs for a HUGE soundstage!
But....after we moved a couple of teens through the basement guestroom I decided it was time to repurpose the room for a "morning music room"! Something far from our bedroom, that would pass the WAF.
I had enough MuFi equipment to build an entire second system....So why not?
The second system was built around the Mu-Fi X-150 integrated with M1 CLIC streamer/dac and Marantz cd67 players. Speakers are Rega Naos transmission lines with REL T3 sub.
Cables all Kimber.
This was the system I added the Silk Audio MS-38 to after checking out this thread. I realized that most owners were upgrading from receivers, but comments about reliability and the two stateside distributors were very reassuring. I wanted to hear for myself if a tube amp would be a satisfying alternative to the tube buffered solid state route I was on for both systems. I didn't want to sell any of the Mu-Fi stuff to finance the tube amp, so I found the Yaqin MS-20/30 models appealing at a crazy price ( at $650ish, I hear my wife reminding me that it's still an expensive item - Thanks, Honey....But still half the price of the X-150)!!
Now, that was all fine and good to daydream over until I saw the Silk Audio version of the same amp. The MS-38.
Ray of SA has done a great facelift job on the original design, adding a VU meter to the front panel. Modern retro. Very appealing.
He was very prompt replying to my queries, usually answering at least half of my questions ( Tabnaac suffers from the same handicap, but terser). I have found that only asking one question at a time helps here!
Since SA is in Chicago USA, shipping was cosiderably cheaper than from Canada - something to bear in mind if a return for service is ever required.
The amp arrived quickly, well packaged . I risked back injury lifting it out of the double box to its support stand - top heavy due to the substantial transformers mounted to the top plate. Power tubes were well protected in pvc pipes and numbered at the factory, so I installed them in order. Signal tubes come pre-installed.
Several posts have commented on the fine construction quality. I would add that while one might expect a thick aluminium ( AH... A Brit! ) face plate on a modern amp, the rear panel is usually a thinner steel affair. Not so here. The same thick aluminium is used for the input/ speaker terminal plates too. Compare this to other "budget" tube amps at twice the price.
And what about the cnc'd bezel around the signal tubes?
Or the tube cage ( not even photographed on Silk Audio's ebay listings ) ?
23 machined parts!
Even if you leave the power tubes exposed, it sits very neatly over the output transformer covers. I use a custom cut 1/4" foam rubber mat material from Michaels craft store for damped anti-scratch support. Why hide it?
A guitarist friend who repairs tube guitar amps looked the MS-38 over and said it must be worth $5,000.
Well it looks the part!
How does it sound?
Tricky question, since it takes 40 hours or so to burn in the supplied tube set. I would say, from memory, that it was warm and pleasant from the start, but veiled. The clarity opened up gradually over the first month though. Remember, I had my big rig as a reference. Proac tablette speakers are very revealing especially with a Rogers LSB1 and REL subs!
No, this was MUSIC without the spotlights. Tonally quite satisfying.
A couple of months after the burn in I ordered a matched set of eight GE5654 tubes. A modest investment of $80.
The new GE 5654 tubes intantly sounded much clearer with a better insight into the recorded acoustic.
Since the Silk arrived I have fallen in love with Baroque music. My favorite music is still Jazz and Reggae ( Fat Freddy's Drop especially - that bass!), but that doesn't fly until after 8am.
After 40 hours of burn in the sound is so pure and "right" that I struggle to turn off the music to get on with my workday. What a pleasant way to start your day!
The level of improvement is way more than that of a cable upgrade - for less.
No need to agonize over this one. Just do it. You won't be sorry.
A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the three transformers at the rear of the MS-38 were not level.
They are so heavy that they can make the top plate of the amp sag!
I contacted Ray at Silk Audio. He contacted Yaqin for a solution. All they could come up with was to offer to replace the top plate.
I looked inside the amp. It was obviously a big job to remove the circuit board and transformers. Add to that the shipping charges and probable rough handling in transit, I suspected that the sag would still be a risk.
Besides, I had a better idea:
I first built a 2x6 jig to suspend the amp upside down by its edges, not resting on the transformers. Next I added a lacuered steel L brace under the transformers, with longer self tapping screws and aluminium spacers to clear the wiring beneath.
VIOLA no more sag!
Maybe the factory will add a version of this mod.
( Violas also sound very nice - Voila!! )
Ray was very impressed. No doubt relieved too. I suggested he thank me with a set of output tubes instead of the new top plate, labour and shipping. He's working on it.....I hope.
Swapping from the Mu-Fi X-150 back to the newly reinforced MS-38, I couldn't miss the increase in body and weight. Maybe there was less detail, but the MUSIC was well served.
If you are looking for just one amp for a satisfying music system, why not contact Ray at Silk Audio? I am so glad I listened to the others on this forum who recommended this amp, or the Yaqin MS-20/30!
I just got a set of MULLARD NOS 5654 tubes delivered. Will be installing once I have a set of Electro Harmonix KT77 or Gold Lions. Or maybe before....
CONGRATS on finding out you don't have to spend big $ to get fantastic sound!I've been preaching the merits of Yaqin since I first installed one of their tube buffers in a SS Reciever based system,moved to a EL-34 Class A PP & now a 10wpc.Class A Single Ended MS-34C!
As I've stated before until the status quo of the audio review maga/ezine empire is crushed mainstream audiophiles are never going to accept the fact that todays inexpensive Chinese made gear is EVERY bit as good,& in some cases BETTER than the mega $ gear that perpetuates the myth of spending big $ to get great sound.Enjoy!
Thanks Freedriver, I AM!
No doubt the high end tube amps are wonderful sounding at ten times the price of the Yaqin/Silk Audio offerings, but I am grateful that the entry fee is where people in the 99% can afford to play!
Isn't the fact that Audiogon exists proof that we all love a bargain (and high quality music reproduction)?
I just came across an Air Tight review on Stereopile mentioning top plate sag due to heavy transformers. Forgivable in my $600 amp, but in a $9500 amp? Art Dudley recommend an internal brace like the one I fabricated.
Now burning in my NOS Mullard 5654's.
After 30 hours they are beginning to get that saturated tone and really SING!