Original vs. imitation ; MC275 vs. Cayin A88T

First off, I can see how this might cause some controversy, and that is not my intention. I wish to learn, separate fact from fiction, and hopefully gain some objective insights. To a fault, I'm a natural skeptic, I test everything. Almost exhaustively. Frankly I find myself having to verify too much, so this is my first post in hoping knowledgeable posters might shed some light. Ok here goes. Please no flames.

I have been very happy with the Cayin integrated, (as a pure amp) it is wonderful. It is detailed, tuby, and airy. Cymbals resonate like they should, no glare, highs aren't rolled off, and bass is respectable. Drums have authority. The imaging and soundstage are very believable. On good material, I am transported into the front row. Simply magical. However after going to some live events, I noticed live music, at least the amplified kind, was more of a wall of sound ( Jazz, orchestra, soft rock) rather than the distinct detailed space we audiophiles crave and adore. That didn't bother me much since I was not comparing a live presentation to it's recording and thereafter recreation. I was comparing apples to oranges, but nevertheless, it got me thinking... did the real Mac sound more life like? I wanted a little more power too, for when the mood stuck me. The Cayin at 45w/ch was loud enough for normal listening, but I wanted a little more emotion for those special times. As happy as I was, I wanted the real McCoy and see what I was missing. The reissue MC275 was said to push closer to 90w/ch. The amp is a legendary, and not is a small way. It stood the test of time for 45yrs, and still going strong. I had to try it for myself. I ended up purchasing a "mint" used MAC. My first.

My MC275 series V, is beautiful, and arrived without a scratch, 10/10. The very reputable dealer said it was retubed from the factory and factory sealed. It was. I prepared myself for a treat :) Initially, my first impression was that the Mac had a more expansive feel...a wider stage, but at a cost of some smearing. What was that? Smearing? Could it be? Yes... OMG, it is! Not by much, but some. I lost that lovely detail! The air between instruments and vocals was not readily discernable as it had been with the Cayin. Could this be?! I interchanged the power tubes. Same thing. Blasphemy!! No way! Maybe the Mac needs Burning in, that must be it. After 15 hrs, I did not notice ANY change from my initial finding, I audition each repeatedly, interchanging amps, carefully double checking connections, tubes, etc... Indeed, I much preferred the sound of the Cayin! Although the Mac could play slightly louder (guessing 15-20 % louder?), it was marginal. Could that also account for the wider soundstage? I am astonished! I am hoping that the Mac will burn in and sound sweeter. But even if it did, I can't imagine it SURPASSING the Cayin. Or could it?

Does anyone know if rolling the non output tubes will give me back the detailed holographic feel? At this point, I am a little doubtful the Mac can close the gap. Right now the margin is distinct. Is it going to make a world of difference?
I'm sure you know this but I will mention it.Critical listening right out of the box isn't going to tell you the real story.Give the Mac some time then reevaluate.The fact that you adore your Cayin is also a part of the equasion.You will have to experiment with different tubes but do give the Mac some time before you start this.As you know,your other equipment,your room,etc. has just as much impact on the sound as the amp.If after a while the Mac still doesn't sound right to you,it may be a mismatch with your other stuff.Just me thinking out loud.
I have compared the A88t, which I have, to the 275 of a friend which he loaned me for a month. The A88T still has the original tubes and now has about 1000 hours on it. The 275 had over 500 hours on its tubes when I used it. The 275 is owned by a Mac fanatic who is forever 'rolling' the tubes. I don't recall which tubes the 275 had when I made the comparison. He had two, I only tried one. It sounds great in his rig, which runs to B&W 802's. Running the 275 in my rig for about 50 hours did not come close to equaling or bettering my A88T. The friend who loaned me the 275 found the Cayin sounded much better in my rig. Most of my listening is small combo jazz vocal/instrumental. As Tpreaves has commented, tube rolling, other equipment etc. could be impacting the sound you get from the 275. I did try my A88T in the 275 owner's rig. It did not sound as good as in my rig, which I run into ProAc 140's and 1sc's. I also have a Cayin 100 and the VAS mono blocks/Vas 1 pre-amp. which I am very happy with. Is the 275 a great amp? Yes, in the right rig with the right speakers. Cayin has worked well for me. As an aside, the first amp I had was a Mac mono 30 with a merantz 10 pre run into a Tannoy speaker. It's missed.
Thanks for the input. I will give the Mac a fighting chance. What's surprising is that swapping the power tubes between the two made no difference. The Cayin tubes (at least 1000 hrs and have lost a bit of lushness since 9 months ago ) didn't change the way the MAC sounded. Nor the Cayin tubes in the Mac.

The point is well taken about having adequate time for gear burn in. My Ming DA 2A3 pre took ~300 hrs before it lost it's glare and harshness. I got the pre after reading some reviews of it here and took the chance that it might improve the A88T. It made a big improvement. The Cayin is a MUCH better amp than an integrated. I'm quite happy with it other than I want more power. Any other amps I should try for ~5k?

So from my experience burn in takes the edge off, and the harshness mellows. But will it help with dimension and detail also? Will trannies and the non power tubes bloom? If so, after how long?

100 amps..100 different results.

My speakers are AZ Adagios, so we seem to have comparable rigs... I'm very interested in your take of your other amps. How does the bigger Cayin compare to the A88T? Does it lose any detail or is it just a bigger brother?

Have you heard any amp in your rig so far that equaled or rivaled the A88T?
McIntosh equipment is good, but it is not as good as the hype surrounding it would have you believe. In the late 60's and early 70's I knew a guy who worked at a stereo shop that sold McIntosh. They sold a lot of it based on the name and the hype. He owned Marantz equipment, even though he could buy the Mac equipment at a discount. I asked him why. He told me not to tell his customers, but the Marantz sounded better. I bring this up not to trash Mac because I have heard it and it is very good. The hype would have you believe there in nothing better. Not really true. I have a Cayin A88T and the clarity still amazes me.
Better is always in the eye/ear of the beholder.
You have to roll the small signal tubes. That is where you are missing it. They are the most important, not the output tubes. The stock tubes are terrible. You will notice a huge difference. You rolled the wrong tubes for detail. The output tubes make difference, but not nearly as significant as the small signal tubes.
I must agree with Tzh21y. I rolled the 12ax7's and T7's and was quite (pleasantly) surprised. I used Telefunken's.

Rick (RWD)
Upon extensive AB'ing I've changed my mind. Setting up my speakers properly made a big difference: imaging gained considerable depth with the Mac after I moved speakers out 2ft from the wall. Strangely I did not get much improvement from the Cayin. Speakers against the wall, there was no contest, Cayin won handily. Stock tubes in all amps, and the Mac has an air about it that I find more realistic. The larger Cayin A100t is marginally better than the A-88T. Both Cayin's have a more focused feel, and I liked that in the beginning, but as time went on, I found the lack of air not as enchanting as the Mac. Mac has that air at a cost of some fuzziness and lack of focus. However the stage scale feels right, whereas the Cayin displayed a more miniature presentation.

On live recordings, Cayin did a slightly better job of transporting you into the audience, as if row 15 or so, though the presentation feels a little dwarfed (average size room, 15x20x8)... and I'm not sure it's a power/volume issue either. The Mac is more front row, plays louder as I believe it's a real +90 watts, whereas the A100T is a true 70 watts, and not the advertised 100 that these dealers publish. Even the factory says it's 70/ch. At lowish don't want to wake the wife volumes, air is not that important, so I'd pick the Cayins. However I do like to feel as if I'm witnessing the performance at times, and that requires the power and ambiance of the Mac.

Since I don't wish to be a collector of amps, I've decided to hang onto the Mac and pare both Cayins. It's a tough call really. Hopefully I can gain some definition by tube rolling the Mac. If not, I can live with it. Whereas I don't think I have a chance of tube rolling air into either Cayin. Or can I?
Actually I just sold my Cayin A70T after replacing it with a Mac 2275 integrated amp last year. The speakers are B&W 805S's and Spendor S 3/5's both used in conjuction with subwoofers. As mentioned above the input/driver tubes make a significant difference with the Mac as the supplied Mac branded tubes are basic Shuguang OEM and not too good. The 12AX7's in the Tone control amp are now Mullard reissues the Phono Preamp uses low noise Sovetek 12AX7LPS's and the drivers are Mullard CV4024's (replacing the 12AT7's). The outputs are Tungsol reissue 6550's but to be honest they only made a small difference over the Mac branded Russian manufactured KT88's. I too listen primarily to small group Jazz along with Impressionist Classical (Debussy,Ravel etc)and modern Classical (Copeland,Gershwin,Vaughn Williams) and the Mac significantly out preformed the Cayin. That even with Telefunkens, Mullards and Gold Lions installed and burned in with the Cayin. Part of it certainly was the power differential as the B&W's are marginal with the Cayin's claimed 55watts per channel but even at low volume in the Triode Mode the Mac was more defined and surprisingly had greater depth. I will be trying the Gold Lions in the Mac when I have a chance and have hopes that they will offer further improvements.

Regards, Jerry
Here is my follow up to my original post.

After tube rolling the smaller signal tubes of the MC275, it's a winner! NOS tubes made a big improvement. The Cayin couldn't match the air of the Mac.

I also listened to the bigger Cayin A100T, but still prefer the Mac. There is something right about the soundstage scale and air.

The Cayin is still a nice piece in my mind, and a great starter tube amp. It will be hard to part with.