45w/CH INTEGRATED AMP (ULTRALINEAR)
ALL TUBE THROUGHOUT
HAND MADE CHASSIS / RIGID CHASSIS FOR A SOLID BUILD PLATFORM
POINT TO POINT WIRING
ULTRALINEAR or TRIODE MODE SELECTOR FROM REMOTE
TORODIAL POWER TRANSFORMER
The Cayin A-88t is the first tube amp that I've bought and it just might be the last. I feel this amp is a great value for the money. My biggest concern was the power rating @ just 45 watts ulterlinear and 22 watts triode, but this amp has suprised me, it drives my Gallo ref. 3.1 @ 89 spl quite nicely. The amp could be described as warm in it's presentation. With my hard wood floors and hard plastered walls and ceilings that is a welcomed aspect of this musical instrument. The sound is warm, spacious and clean. It responds well to tube rolling. The stock tubes are pretty good but the tempation is to great not to play with some combinations. I exchanged the stock power tubes w/ KT88-EH and it appeared to brighten up a bit and it seemed a bit cleaner in the midrange. I've now exchanged those with the Gold lion KT-88 and my warmth is back with even more clarity in the midrange. The Gold lions are winners in this amp at least in my listening enviorment. This amp excels at acoustical, jazz, classical & of course the blues. I know how-about rock? I would perfer a good solid state amp over this one -but I'm not disapointed at all with it's ability to rock & roll. It is a very versitale amp. So to rap this up this amp looks great, it will drive most speakers and the sound is big. I would strongly recommend this amp @ this price point.
Music that sounds like you are right there for the performance. Great looks, excellent build quality and of course the price point.
Bias is within the unit and you must remove the bottom plate-beware of the danger. I find this not to be a real bad thing because once the tubes are broken in (about 50 hours) I re-bias and it is good for many months, I check it about every 2-3 months.
Bought it from a German guy for 1200euros. Unfortunately I found out that it was imported and had no S/N! Apart from this fact the amplifier is great. This is my first tube amplifier and it cannot be compared to any other solid state or hybrid amplifier I've ever had. Finally my music got 'flesh and bones'. The voices that sounded mechanical now have become lively and present, and I don't miss the bass I had with my old Primare at all. The only issue I had was the bright and sharp high frequencies from the stock preamp tubes. Therefore I've started changing the stock tubes with some NOS pairs. Firstly I bought a pair of Raytheon VT229 for 6SL7 and a pair of Sylvania VT231 for 6SN7. The harshness dissapeared and it was replaced by 'creamy', smooth highs, but unfortunately the sound lost control in low frequencies. Now I'm testing a pair of Raytheon VT231 and I'm quite satisfied so far but I'm thinking about buying a pair of Sylvania Bad Boy. The stock KTs are good but I've decided to replace them with 4 Genalex GL Reissues which are on the way... (thank God, my wife is very possitive with my favourite 'sport'..!).
All in all this is a fantastic amp with stunning looks and sound, and makes a perfect match with my (also Chinese jewels) Aurum V2M. If in the near future won't 'rain' 5000 euros in my balcony, there's no chance to change this amp!
Fabulous sound, looks and build quality. Nice remote (if you don't buy it from an idiot who broke a screw while changing batteries).
No 'easy' or 'auto' bias. You have to risk your life by opening the bottom of the amp and bias it manually!
It always defaults to triode mode and you have to switch it to ultralinear everytime you switch it on.
Similar Products Used:
Not quite similar... previous SS and hybrid amps: Atoll, Marantz, NAD, Densen, Unico, Primare
Finally, the sound I was looking for has been found in the Cayin A-88T.
I started auditioning and buying/selling used gear with solid state amps. BAT, Forte, Musical Fidelity, McIntosh to name a few. Then I migrated to hybrids including Blue Circle and Unico (all of the above great amps by the way). Then I moved on to tube amps including Prima Luna, an older Conrad Johnson, VTL, Amarro 318B, Cary SLI 80, Cayin A-100T, and finally the Cayin A88T. What a trip it was.
What I realized along the way is that I prefer a warm amp that has realism, immediacey, and front row you are there living sound. My two favorite tube amps proved to be the VTL and Cayin. The Cary, Prima Luna, and VTL seemed to be of the same genre. That is, tube amps with close to solid state detail and accuracy, but a blush of tube realism to them. Of the three, I liked the VTL IT-85 best in this genre, feeling it to be a tad more musical and just a little less analytical, but still very warm, revealing and open. The music just jumped right out at me, and I heard nuances of the music not heard before.
The Cayin on the other hand, made up in lush, natural, vibrant alive midrange warmth, for the little if any that it lost in upper frequency etch and detail. It is not a dull amp at all though. Nothing seems lost to me, the midrange is moved forward, and the sound is very timbre correct and natural. Not eched, but not too soft or dull in anyway by my ears like some of the older Conrad Johnson gear (the newer CJ gear sounds more open). The A-100T had more power, but was a little more detailed yet slightly less warm than the A-88T by my ears (still a great amp!). It generated a bit of heat though with its octet of power tubes. It almost seemed as if I could fry eggs on the glass shelf above it.
However, the slightly more romantic sounding Cayin A-88T also I easily drive my floor standing Spendor S8e speakers with 45 Watts per channel. of underated high current power Moreover, the combination of the 6SL7 and 6SN7 pairs of tubes added a midrange warmth close to Single Ended Triode amps (SET) sound. (by the way, I had an Almarro 318B in the house to compare to the Cayin, although it sounded great in the mids, it didn't have enough power at all to drive my fairly efficient Spendors well - if you like to turn the music up at all, the Almarro is recommended for use only with ultra efficient speakers and a musical subwoofer. This recommendation also leaves out everyday monitors with the Amarro by the way, as my Spendors are more efficient than them).
The Cayin A-88T is very responsive to tube rolling. With the stock tubes, it sounded slightly etched though very good for my tastes, yet still warmer than the Cary and Prima Luna. However, when I inserted some revealing yet warm Mullard CV569 (6SL7, ECC35) tubes along with synergisic lush timbred RCA VT-231 tubes (6SN7) along with some SED KT88 power tubes, I was in acoustic paradise. I rolled alot of tubes to come to this combination.
My system now is a Olive media server, with a Monarchy M24 DAC driven by Amperex PQ 7308 tubes (tried many DACs also), the Cayin A-88T, and Spendor S8e floorstanders (which by the way are more efficient than most monitors and put out wonderfull bass, rich natural midrange, and clear extended yet warm highs - no B&W metal dome tweeter fatigue here!.)
So, for now the upgrade bug has passed and sitting down and listening to the wonderful system I have put together is all I want to do for ahile. I have seen the A-88T sell for around $1,000 recently. Don't let the price fool you. The Cayin sounds so great it is a no brainer at almost any price. McIntosh and Cary iare probably sweating bullets. If you are considering buying your first tube amp or upgrading, why buy what I think is the best tube amp for the money out there and get a Cayin A-88T. I recommend if for some reason you want even more detail and don't mind giving up a bit of midrange, then try a VTL amp.
Wanting to get back into tubes after selling off my Jolida 302b, I was searching for a high quality tube amp with modern features (remote, pre-amp bypass) to combine with my HT system.
Cayin caught my attention because of the numerous positive reviews of the PrimaLuna/Cayin el-34 models but wanting to get something with a little more power so thought I’d try a KT88 based tube amp.
After surfing around, the Cayin A88T met my criteria but unlike the previous reviewer, I did not critically audition the competition for a broader comparison. So, my review is solely based on what I know about this amp as accurately as possible.
Like many people, I started online and easily found the authorized and Asian “grey market” distributors. But, there was a big discrepancy between the MSRP of these distributors. At first glance, the hundreds dollars saved purchasing through “grey market” was alluring. But once you factor in higher shipping costs, lack of warranty, professional advice/service, duties and voltage difference, it probably isn’t worth while to save a few hundred bucks at most.
Still torn on where to buy the Cayin, I intentionally held off on my purchase for a few months until my vacation in Asia where one stop off was Hong Kong…and that’s where I got it. This baby was purchased new from Hong Kong’s authorized Cayin dealer for a price so good, that the plane ticket + cost of amp, equaled the North American MSRP for ~$2000.
How It Sounds
At first, I wasn’t that impressed and thought it didn’t even equal my good old Jolida 302b. But after 10-15 hours of play, the amp opened up and music became richer sounding.
Sonically, I pretty much agree with what the reviewer below mentioned, so I’m not gonna repeat what’s already been said (just read review below).
After a month, indeed the Cayin is wonderful sounding, good but not great, not jaw dropping WOW.
Then, I did the obvious thing for tube amps and changed the stock power tubes KT88 (actually not bad, very neutral & clean sounding) to 6550 Tungsol re-issues and right away there was an audible improvement. Instruments & vocals had more “weight” and generally more realistic sounding.
However, it wasn’t until I changed the preamp tubes did I fall in love with the Cayin. First, I swapped the stock 6sn7 tubes for vintage RCA’s (reputation for being smooth and luscious sounding) but the dynamics, resolution & soundstage dwindled and after a few weeks swapped back the stock tubes.
Still not satisfied, I swapped all 4 preamp tubes to tungsol reissues. Now I had an all Tungsol tubes (preamp+power)…and I was indeed WOWED!! Like the 6moons professional review said about this amps, “it sounds strikingly glorious”. Tonality is spot on! Strings have a natural sounding reverberation, individual piano keys are heard with accurate decay time.
To sum it up, the Cayin has the strengths of a good solid state integrated such good bass control, rhythm, dynamics and the smoothness, tonal accuracy that tubes amps are reknown for.
On a side note, plugging my cd player directly into the Cayin and using it only as power amp does open up the sound and has an even fuller & 3D presentation. Also, even though it’s only rated at 45/watts/channel, it sounds just as powerful as solid state amps I have owned with double the power.