Ok..ive been on this audio journey since 1998 and every couple of years there would be something i would
buy or change to go further into high end. With limited budget..theres nothing much to do but do so in
I Started with the Dynaudio 52se fed by Audiosource AMP300 with a Pioneer DVD player directlyconnected. This was way too harsh sounding so i got a Lite Audio DAC60 LE tube dac to soften the soundand YS-Audio Symphonies Plus tube preamp. It has been good for majority of the recordings but there arestill a bit of harshness in the top end especially for some recordings, and i find i couldnt listen too long dueto some listener fatigue (unless i had the volume down like in late night listening). So in the last yearor so, ive been reserching getting into an all tube system, with a tube integrated. One of the fears i've had was the maintenance (biasing) and probably going through tube rolling. I finally decided and sell my current equipment to finance the integrated. I sold off my dac/preamp/amp. Ive looked into tube types
and decided to go with KT88s instead of EL34s - which i thought may suit my kind of music more.
Some of the ones ive considered were the MingDa MC34-ab, Cayin a88t, 50t,55t, Jolida, Prima Luna
. Most were considered but were eliminated due to price (trying to keep under $1000, and difficulty in biasing).
So i decided in part to go with Yaqin MC-100B
(under $700 in ebay) mostly due to the thread here in AVSforum, and planned to eventually upgrade the tubes to Shuguang Treasures, which i have been reading
about a lot lately too. So ready to pull the trigger, i did some searching in ebay and came across this seller joechenliang selling some el34 shuguang integrated. I sent him a message and asked if he carried the Shuguang S8MK II integrated (which i was considering too). So i told myself if it came
close to the mc-100b price, i would probably go with that (advantage being point to point wiring against pcb on yaqin) So after a day or so, he replies back and says he does and that he will post up
the listing. So i waited patiently and looked at the listing he puts up...its not an S8MKII but aPSVANE TS88 KT88 Integrated AMP.
Whoa...ive never seen this integrated before..must be totally new..i liked the simple look of it...
It had PSVANE tubes all around (which is made by Shuguang engineers)
It had a switch to go either UltraLinear or Triode (which i wanted to try), It was listed as having 25W (but my online search yielded that it was actually 35w in UL, 25 in triode). It had taps for 4 or 8 ohms. The disadvantage i saw was it only had 2 inputs and i didnt see any biasing pots on the
outside - so it probably meant i had to manually bias it by opening it up...but wait..it says on the description it had a "self supporting biasing" system. So i emailed the seller and asked how to
go about biasing..and he confirms its auto-biased!! Another concern of mine was that it was 110/50 hz but the seller did confirm that he had 110/60. So i compared the it agains the yaqin, and since my original
plan was to upgrade the tubes in the mc-100b anyway..which would set me back $300-400 or so. i decided to go with PSVane. (even though the specified power tubes were not the treasures kind but lower priced hi-fi
designation) Total cost was $1098 (shipping included). This was a big gamble for me since ive never spent that much on ebay, let alone to a seller in HK. And there were no reviews to be found on this as it
is relatively new. So taking a chance..i pull the trigger on Jan 31, then on 2/3 I asked for a shipping # which he supplied. I look it up and it says it was logged into the DHL HK facility just on that day..so i figured i would get it about a week or so from friday. I check it over the weekend
and saw that in was in OH by then...was surprised it was at my door on Tuesday evening!
So i unpack it, this thing weighs a ton, and its specially packed all around with foam, and the opening the cage, there is another foam inside to protect the tubes. I looked at the tubes and lo and behold, the
seller has included the PSVANe KT88-T (Black treasures). WHOA!..thats an unexpected upgrade as the picture in the listing had only the KT88 Hi-fi tubes!!!!. That upgrade alone would have cost $300
- $450 dollars in ebay for a quad.
One bummer is the power cord that came with it is for Europe? but i checked the back, the markings indicate 110/50/60 so i just took a spare
power cord i have. I looked for a manual but i didnt see any come in the box, but its all pretty straight forward, Power switch, input selection and volume in the front, while the UL/Triode mode
switch is in the back along with the 2 inputs and speaker terminals (4/8ohm taps).
So i hook it up..the first cd i put in is Norah Jones Come Away with Me. Whoah..its totally different..All that i have heard about Tubes are all true. Her voice is more natural sounding, you can place the
instruments better..there seems to be a seperation between the instruments. You can basically listen to this for hours, the treble is not harsh anymore, the midrange coming out is a lot more weightier/prominent
than before. The bas is there, more textured, but not as big an impact
as i knew before. To verify this, i switched to Jack Johnson - Brushfire Fairytales and did confirm that
loss of bass impact. Dont get me wrong..the quality has improved, but the impact..just not as big or prominent as before. I played a couple of songs on diff albums. And one of my Coldplay albums - A Rush
of Blood to the Head which always sounded dreadfull on my system (well known for the Loudness War)..i just had to try and test. This was the biggest change i heard - it was now more listenable, i heard
things i did not hear before. There seems to be voices or instruments that just appeard that never was there before. I ended up listening to the whole album. I also put in Neil Young's Greatest hits on
DVD Audio. This was another album that is great but i had listener fatigue listening to. I ended up listening to the whole album as well.
The next day, decided to re-listen to the albums i had first listened to, to see if there has been any change. One thing i noticed, was the bass got a bit better, but still not the same as my old system.
So i put in a cd that i knew had some great bass - Blacked Eyed Peas - Monkey Business. This one
surprised me as all the good stuff is there...their voices are more discernable and the bass is all there and quite good. Nothing is being missed. After a few more albums..one thing i noticed was if the output level
of the cd/record was not as high..then dynamics suffer a bit (i put the volume on the 12 - 1o'clock
position). Another thing i noticed is that whether or not im listening at night or day..i keep the volume
in almost the same position, as opposed to before, when its night listening..i keep it down significantly as compared to day listening. Most cds too had a more significant change brought about by the integrated
while some cds relatively sounded the same. The biggest improvers were actually the cds that i found "unlistenable"
like Coldplay (all their albums), No Doubt (Greatest Hits), The Cure - 3 Imaginary Boys, Britney Spears (:-)) GH, Led Zeppelin (remasters)..etc.....maybe these unlistenable cds were actually mastered with tubes...and hence sound better when played with them.
The next day i try Triode mode, and i noticed the sound seems more 'syrupy" and would probably work best on vocals during nighttime. I think some cds work best with Triode while some work best with UL.
I think the difference is the seperation of instruments , and sound seems more transparent using UL.
The volume on both seem the same, even though the UL is 35W while Triode is 25w.
Overall, this has been a great upgrade and has improved my system overall now...and i was initially planning to upgrade my speakers too, but now that can wait a bit since im not in any hurry to upgrade it yet.
Treble and Midrange is there while the bass quality improved - although in some recordings, the bass output (quantity) might have suffered a bit, while others remained the same - is still very good. so far ive
probably had less than 25 hours on it so far, and cant wait for those Black tubes to burn in after 100 hours. One negative about it is its only got 2 inputs...and this thing is like a mini-heater...good thing
my diy rack is open (ikea). Also for my listening levels (which is quite high) i find the volume indicator plays around the 11 - 1'o clock positions.
One last thing..i dare you to listen to Adele's "Someone Like you" with your eyes closed on this one without crying...
presentation was so intimate....i cried like a little girl :-)
heres some pics...http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v671/luigi11/PSVane/