Hello, This is my first post here. On an old thread, but it's the one that helped me the most. Thanks to the OP !
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.
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 Onkyo 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 pvs 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 (silver in photos) 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....