My, My...what a nice sound this amp has ...

After having tried a series of amps recently I decided to make the move back into tubes. The reason was simple, a desire to find a sound that was stuck in my head from long ago. Also, (possibly) putting a stop to rolling through different amp and gear like snarfing through french fries at the local grease joint.

I researched this board and others. I spent time perusing different websites for info on sound characteristics and cost/benefit ratio. yada yada...

A week ago the package arrived. I whisked it downstairs to the music room and unpacked. Looks good. Hook it up plug it in. Allow it to warm a few minutes and away we go.

Now, I need to divulge a few things about who I am, as I don't want to misrepresent any knowledge or lack thereof. It's been years since I was seriously into audio gear. At one time I had a fairly high interest level and pursued tweeks. My Dad was a builder of audio cabinets, fine furniture and speakers in the Seattle area during the sixties. I got to hear alot of different stuff at an early age. He built a large set of speakers for a local band called "The Fragile Lime" My step-aunt at one time was Marillee Rush of 'The Turnabouts' fame. She did a hit called 'Angel of the Morning'... but I digress...

I remember one incident in '67 or so Dad put on Sgt Peppers and began to play through some recent speakers. I think the drivers may have been James B. Lansing, I'm not sure if they were Altec then or not...anyway I remember how the first part of the song spooled up, then hit that first big note with the bass. You knew something was coming and when it hit there was that split instant of this delay- huge expectation and then wham! It was an early memory of timing I suppose, but anyway.

Fast forward thirty seven years.

So within the last year or so I decided to upgrade a few things. The wife stays tho. The Kid is about to go off to college. I better spend this money before he fritters it away on an education ;-)

I work through a series of amps. Why? Well, my speakers are custom cabinets built by dear old Dad about ten years ago to a specification for Dynaudio Monitors. 7" driver with the d-28 tweet and a fourth order L-Riley crossover if I remember right. They stay. Just like the wife...sigh..

The Sony sacd 555 seems to work ok. It may not have cachet, but oh well.

So, upgrade the speaker wire and interconncts and off we go. After sampling some of the mid or higher level offerings from some of the mass producers. (Marantz pm-17, a couple of Denon, a special built from a friend, NAD something or other) It occurs to me I would like to find the sound that flows like a river. I can listen to at low and moderate volume without feeling like needing more. Sound that doesn't make my ears ring after half hour or less. These guys just are not cuttin' it. I also know I would rather not spend 'the bucks' to get 'there'. I contact Paul at 2B audio. Very helpful. We have what you need.

The Cayin ta-30 is now in place for a week. It has about fifteen hours use. It is early in it's life, but some trends here are noted. I'll start with some broad strokes.

This amp demands your attention. When it is playing there is no such thing as background music. It forces you to listen and sucks you right in. Playing Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie. Ella sounds full and in front. The horns are rich and brassy and front off to the right side. The strings sound like strings with an actual body under them, off to the other side. The high hat and drums are behind and to the left. The bassline is full not intrusive and each note is moving on the scale.

For fun let's install this other amp. I still need to off it on e-bay... so lets just say it was a thousand $ integrated a couple years ago. Ok, it's back in warm and playing and... Where is Ella? She sounds like a small girl, not the forty six year old black powerhouse she was a minute ago. She's not even in Front! They have her shoved back behind the horns and bass those Bast-rds!Those horns are thin by comparison. The bassline is ok, but the high hat sounds a little tizzy. My ears start to ring.... This amp has a great illusion of clarity, hitting highs and lows and mids but just not moving me. The kicker is I find myself turning it up louder and louder just to hear what should be there--- but isn't ever quite there. The sound of satisfaction is missing. The resolution of the notes is like a photo, like a photo of a Playboy Playmate that never will touch you or breathe and sigh in your ear.

The Cayin can't go back in quick enough! Ahhh! There she is! Ella! You brought your friend Dan Hicks!? And Jethro Tull! And Yo Yo MA!

Tears of joy! Thank you Paul

Went through the same awakening several years back. My siren called out to me from the mid-80's when I 'd heard my good friends system consisting of a pair of vintage Quad speakers, a rebuilt Dynaco amp, and a Audible Illusions pre. I still remember getting lost, basking in the comfort of the warmth and presence of the music at his house. They always had to drag me out of there pleading ".....just one more record...please, play just one more!". When it finally hit me over the head that tubes really aren't that difficult or expensive to own and maintain, I went out and bought a competing Chinese-built integrated, a Jolida 302B. WHY DIDN'T I DO THIS LONG AGO?!?! You've put the rest far to eloquently for me to rain on your parade so I'll just refer anyone to go back and reread your post. Now I'm way into tubes. Both my systems (home and work) are tube-based. Even tried a few SS wannabes (those that "sound very tube-like"). Don't just take my word for it, try it yourself: If you like the illusion of three dimensional presence and spacial representation, there is nothing like a thoughtfully assembled tube system. If you prefer slam and sound-pressure levels, and that more 'physical' illusion of the presence of music (like a photograph...well said), then SS is your magic carpet. In the recent issue of TAS there is a great discussion on the merits of tubes vs. solid state. In that discussion, Jonathan Valin states, "Solid-state is like a slide show. A really good, well-focused slide show. Tubes are more like looking at a satue garden."

Needless to say, I prefer the sound and illusion of tubes, but do appreciate SS for what it can bring to the experience. I tire easily from listening to SS though, and find it easy to walk away from. To each their own. Mine is tubes.

Thanks for the well written post!

Neat Post.

Your step-Aunt could sure sing. Angel of the Morning was a great song.

Regards, Steelhead.
Thanks, Marilee sure could sing. Her husband Neil played sax on that song. Do you remember the one huge flat note he made on it? Oddly, I always found that attractive ;-)and wondered if he intended it.
Thanks Rw for sharing your epiphany with us. I'll never forget the day it happened to me almost 20 years ago.

Happy tunes to You! Will
Hey thanks Tubegroover.

Wanna hear something funny? I must have been having a senior moment or some kind of brain fart. Ella and Basie has no strings to speak of. Dream a little Dream of Me has a pretty cool Hammond organ tho. I was listening to a cover of Honeysuckle Rose done by Mark o'Connor and Hot Swing Trio while typing that sentance...ooops.

The sound from this amp just keeps getting better. I am constantly amazed.

Interesting and fun post, Rwbadley!! I'm very curious as to what that SS integrated amp against which you compared the Cayin!

BTW: how many inputs on the Cayin?
Thank you for a wonderful story. My TA-30 - bought used here very recently - went direct to Paul at Buzzy Bee for his suite of modifications. It should leave for home early next week, and after it joins the family I too shall share my story.

Probably redundant by this time but, I will say it anyway, nice colorful and enjoyable post.
I bought a Cayin 3 months ago and i was amazed by this amp. The most beautiful sound you can hear from Mid level tube amp.I had a SS MF A300 for the last 2 years which i loved but I knew that i was still missing the warm sound of a tube amp. I got the Cayin and i am keeping it for a long time...
I remember those speakers your Dad made for the Fragile Lime. I was the bass player. They had lime green grill cloth and black lights to illuminate the speakers. For the time they sounded good too.
I remember the Fragile Lime and "Barney", one of the lead singers. I knew him when they played at Goofy's in Spokane. Is he still around?

Wow! No sh**! Fancy meeting you here!

Yes, they did have green grillecloth. Flourecent. Dad (Tim) painted those and we set them up with a blacklight. Pretty wild. Did you come to our house on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle to pick them up? If you did, you might remember him playing them for you in our living room (or you weren't there or don't remember, but I do...) I hope they did a good job for your band.