Sharing tube experiences with Cayin TA30/PrimaLuna

Hello, I wanted to start a thread for people using Cayin TA-30s or their cousins the Prima Luna Prologues 1 and 2. Just thought I'd post some info concerning my tube rolling experiences and get some feedback from others, as this whole tube thing is new to me and finding good recommendations for tubes seems very tricky and system dependant. Accordingly, I'll preface my rollin' results by saying that my system consists of an Onix XCD88/Music Hall player, the bizzy bee Cayin, and B&W 602s2 speakers with more or less generic wiring.

Well, I've had my Cayin for nearly a year now, and have done some tube rolling. My experiences with power tubes goes like this:

Stock tubes: mushy, bloated, and generally bad because I feel they were on their last legs so I replaced them with...

Svetlana S-Type EL34 (same as Mullard reissue): These tubes were a bit hard sounding prior to break in, but afterwards they really developed a nice sound. Moderately warm, lots of body, and great bass. Slightly relaxed up top, and overall very musical. Good PRaT too. I prefer them in every way to the next tube I tried, which was...

Electro Harmonix 6CA7: This tube is very extended up top, but sounded bright with the metal tweeters in my B&Ws. Really detailed, thin, and unimpressive in the bass department. Not my bag, but me the ticket for someone else.

As far as the small tubes go:

Electro Harmonix 12AX7EH: these came with the amp. They're more or less fine, in that I can't really point out any glaring flaws or attributes. They sort of get out of the way I guess, in that their presentation seems pretty neutral. They're not horrible but they aren't at all inspiring either, which led me to try out...

Groove Tubes 12AX7C: I only got these because my friend worked at Guitar Center and gave me these super cheap. They were pretty awful. Grainy, bright, thin. I don't think these were meant for hifi. The EHs went back in until my next tubes arrived. I hate blanket statements, but really, just stay away.

Groove Tubes 12AX7M: Wow! Hard to believe these are made by the same company. They look alot more like a nos tube than the 12AX7Cs or 12AX7EHs, and they sound a whole lot better too. Way smoother, more liquid, yet at the same time more detailed. One of the tubes I got had a problem with microphonics though, so I had to order a replacement. All in all though, I consider these a big step in the right direction from the EHs and would love to find something even more natural and lush sounding.

12AU7 time.

Stock 12AU7s: No idea who makes these. Like the stock X7s, these are pretty "neutral" and a bit boring. A plus is that they softened up really bad recordings, but again, they're generally uninspiring and I'm sure anyone could do alot better.

Mazda 12AU7 Chrome Plate: Hmmm...these are hard to sum up. At first I thought they were too bright, and they are more extended on top than alot of other tubes, but really I'd say these are just very very detailed. They opened up things alot, and match well with my 12AX7Ms. They're a pretty good combo together, in that you get alot of detail, smoothness, and dynamics, but if your system leans toward the bright side of the spectrum they may be too much. I like them as they give me alot more low level detail than I had before and create a more realistic tone to alot of instruments. I'm sure there's better stuff out there, although I don't what stuff that is by my standards. In fact, Upscale Audio, which sold me these as well as my 12AX7Ms, recommended another tube after I told them about my experience with the Mazdas. That tube was...

Siemens E82CC/12AU7: I was simply confused after I installed these things. I wanted to like them. I really did, especially after the exceptionally nice man at Upscale recommended me to them, but I guess it wasn't meant to be. I read so much about how great Siemens tubes are, but these particular tubes sounded veiled, thin, and worse than the stock tubes. Not as detailed as the Mazdas, and very "fake" sounding - not organic at all. I was really surprised and ended up just putting the Mazdas back in.

So that's my story, I'd be happy to read about anyone else's experiences. I'd really appreciate recommendations on relatively inexpensive and obtainable tubes, NOS or otherwise, and would love to hear from someone that has tastes close to my own but more experience with tube rolling.
Have a great day!
Nice assessment. What is your experience using the TA30 in single ended operation? A couple people are quoted as saying that it is killer with 6L6.. for 5 BIG watts.
That's interesting about the 6L6. I've only tried the tubes I mentioned, so I'm nowhere near an "authority" on the TA30. In fact, right before I got my current tube selection dialed in (New Sensor/Svet EL34, GT 12AX7M , Mazda 12AU7 Chrome Plate) I was going to try out single ended operation, but now it's been sounding too good for me to get around to it.

Do you know if the 6L6 are biased to 700mV for SE like an EL34?
I talked to paul and he told me that 12AX7 sockets can be change to 12AT7 or 12AU7 the two 12AU7 Sockets should always stay 12AU7's. You can use
EL-34 Biased to 35. KT-88, KT 90. 6550 Biased to 40-45
FYI the two amps are not "cousins" except for being ultralinear in operation like many other push-pull amps.

Especially when pushed due to Adaptive AutoBias and the output transformers. There is an article from the UK comparing the PrimaLuna with and without Adaptive Autobias installed that you may find suprising.

One man's tube he does not like today may be the one he loves when he changes speakers or goes from carpet to a hardwood floor.

Another tip from a industry guy that bought a ProLogue Two. He loves the SED 6L6GC. I haven't used them here, but he went bonkers and it's a cheap way to have a little fun.
Etanh ; Very nice descriptions .
I just switched (today)from a Cayin A-88T to a Prologue 2 . I was wondering if these descriptions would actually apply to the Prologue . From what I have been told , the Prologue uses different parts and assembly procedures as compared to the Cayin , although in the same factory . You described your Cayin as a 'busy bee' , does that mean that it has been modified ?

Does anyone happen to know the breakin time for the Prologue 2 ?

Thank you
my apologies for implying any similarities between the two amps if no such similarity exists. I would hate to mislead your custormers, as I am one. Actually, I was led to believe that they are nearly identical except for the autobias circuit, faceplate and cap selection, so thank you for clarifying things. In any case, my main point was to just share my tube rolling experiences with others and gain knowledge in return, although I will again stress that my findings strictly relate to my particular amplifier and system.

as Upscale pointed out, our two amplifiers are not by any means identical aside from both being push-pull amps housed in a nearly identical chassis that can use an identical tube complement and share a similar power rating. It's highly doubtful that my exact experience with these particular tubes would be reproduced in your system, but it's possible that we may agree on a few general characteristics regarding their sound. And yes, "Bizzy Bee" does mean the amp has been modded.

Last week I ran the amp in single ended operation and didn't like it very much. In my system the highs became more pronounced while the low end dissipated a bit. The midrange was a tad warmer, although there was a general "smearing" and grittiness that was too much for me.

Also, I think the mazdas have broken in some more because I'm really loving the Mazda/GrooveTubes/NewSensor combo right now. Can't wait to do some room work this weekend.


I have seen many threads on the Cayin TA-30 and the PrimaLuna products. Almost every one of them shows more similarities than differences. You know more than anyone about the PrimaLuna products, what exactly are the differences and why is the PrimaLuna better?