I said it all before there are some really good affordable audio components coming from the Pacific Rim most of them from Mainland China. Fact is that some U.S. based companies have their products either partially or entirely made offshore and they never mention that fact. The case of the now mostly defunct Red Rose Audio and their marketing philosophy stands out in my memory. In an ironic backhanded way this is a testimonial for the quality of Chinese manufacturing. Case in point is the affordable Cayin line of audio components. It is yet another example of Audiophile grade equipment that offers great value for the money. Read on; lets take a look at the big picture.
Deus Ex Machina
You might call the Cayin A-70T with KT88's the upscale feature added big brother of the KT88 PrimaLuna PL 2. The A-70T is rated at 55 watts per channel and so it provides an additional 15-watts per side. The A-70T uses proprietary EI audio transformers and a toroidal power transformer said to have a much wider frequency response. The hand wired A-70T is a remote controlled integrated amplifier. This amplifier uses a 5AR4 rectifier tube. The driver tubes are two each 12AX7EH (hi-mu) and two 12AU7EH (medium-mu) tubes, both types are dual triodes. Incidentally the Greek letter Mu pronounced mew, is used to denote a tubes amplification factor.
For me the fun part of this amplifier is definitely the remote control feature. There is one remote control function that I always wanted to try. It is the ability to switch the amplifier between Triode and Ultralinear operation on the fly. Other than the small pushbutton power switch on the front panel all of the functions can be accessed via the aluminum remote control. There are eight buttons on the remote, two control up down volume, four select CD, Aux, Tape, Pre-in and Mute the last button switches between Triode and Ultra linear. After you switch on the amplifier a yellow colored Light Emitting Diode (LED) on the volume control knob blinks a yellow caution. After about 30 seconds that same diode turns red and the soft start cycle is completed the amplifier is than ready to go.
As I indicated the remote control allows you to select from one of the four input sources CD, Aux, Tape, and Pre-in. There is one additional pair of RCA connections on the rear panel labeled, Pre-out. The Pre-in and Pre-out connections offer an increased level of system flexibility. The first most obvious use for the Pre-in connections will enable you to separate from the preamp and use only the power amplifier portion of the A-70T. You might choose to use the pre-out to drive a powered subwoofer or run a set of cables to an outboard processor or recording device. On the top panel cover in two locations just in front of the left and right pairs of KT88 tubes are tube bias test points, three per side. Just above these test points are four bias potentiometers located below the top cover plate and accessible using a small slotted screwdriver. Using a voltmeter the bias adjustment is straightforward and easy to do. Each of the chassis tube openings has a nice decorative aluminum ring just above the sockets. The owners manual states that many different pentode tube types may be substituted for the stock KT88's. So if you are into "tube rolling" (tube substitution) like I am there are a lot of interesting tube tinkering possibilities waiting for you. Now look just behind the two output transformers at the back of the chassis. There are six sets of plastic covered WBT style speaker posts for connecting16, 8 and 4-Ohm speakers. There is an IEC style AC socket that allows you to use a variety of upgrade power cords.
The integrated I am evaluating for this report is from VAS Industries the "Exclusive Cayin Importer and distributor" of the A-70T Integrated amplifier The A-70T owners manual specifies that it is rated at 55 watts Ultralinear and 26 watts triode. The A-70T will allow tube substitution using the same types of pentodes as the SA-70T but requires that you adjust tube bias manually. The power specifications of both amplifiers are rated into an 8-Ohm load using KT88 tubes and in every other way the amplifiers appear identical. Understand that substituting other types of pentodes for the stock KT88's will change the power rating for both versions of this amplifier. Additionally there is a slight price difference, the Acoustic Sounds SA-70T lists for $1,975 and the VAS A-70T lists for $1,995. I phoned VAS the importer and I was informed that the two versions of this amplifier are still available. However VAS Audio states that they import and sell only the "newer higher power" A-70T version. This audio amplifier has upgraded power transformers and costs twenty Dollars more and for me the choice between the two is the Cayin A-70T. The increased power will allow a broader range of applications and that means more system matches.
To describe the differences between a good solid-state amplifier and a good tube powered amplifier is hard. To describe the differences between tube amplifiers is an art form that could trip up Shakespeare and Shelley. However I am bound to try, placing the A-70T in my system I could hear more warmth suffuse Diana's voice. The more powerful ultralinear amplifier lent the supporting bass lines a stronger apparent foundation that projected the sound out into the room. The sound of the A-70T in triode mode might be what the manufacturer refers to as the sound of an older classic American amplifier, but I can't be sure. Yes the triode configuration is warmer but the sound is still believable and is very natural. It was not so much like you were hearing the performance but rather more like you were experiencing a pleasant half forgotten memory. Suspending disbelief you are immersed all the more by the emotional content. It's as if a time machine trespassed space carrying you believing to the event. The most prevalent criticism of tube amplification is that tubes lack speed and this is most apparent on large bass transients.
The majority of the time I preferred to run the amplifier in ultralinear mode this greatly extends the upper and lower range of the amplifier. And to my ears in this operational mode nothing is left, out the full spectrum of the performance is there to enjoy. Since I listen and evaluate mostly by listening to the sound of a human voice using the amplifier in either mode is usually not a problem for me. I do have a recording I use to test and evaluate bass, it is something I've used and referred to before. Adagio d' Albinoni is performed by Gary Karr and Harmon Lewis and is available via the Cisco Music catalog [GCD8003]. It is a large pipe organ accompanying an Amati bass fiddle recorded in a cavernous stone cathedral. This musical selection is invaluable to me because it contains sustained bass frequencies that slowly decay to inaudibility. This test helps me to analyze not just the bass transient speed but far more important the tonal structure of the sound itself. And in that resonant stone Cathedral the wooden Amati seems to summon you with a mournful cry of sorrow. Using the Cayin to drive my ESL 63 speakers full range the timber accuracy is wonderful it allows you to hear the harmonic shading and wooden voiced resonance of the Amati Bass. The Cayin amplifier gets it right, the sadness the longing the essence of the music is free to tug at your emotions. If this performance does not affect you than I suggest you seek medical attention.
Let me ask you a question, are you exclusively solid state and only playing CD's? Are you using your expensive system more now just to provide back round music? Well Bunky I think I can help you. It may be that this phenomenon is a direct result of digital encoding and its subliminal side effects. If all you listen to are compact discs then I have a radical suggestion to make. Get tubes, put them someplace in your system be it pre or power or maybe even a tube hybrid CD player. Cast off your start stop sound and put a little harmonic continuity back into your life. Audiopals the Cayin A-70T is a very good place to start.
The human brain is an analogue decoder not a digital decoder and deserves to be treated with respect.
Tube Compliment: Four KT88s, two 12AX7EH, two 12AU7EH, and 5AR4.
Modes: Ultralinear and triode
Power Output: 55 Watt RMS @ 8 Ohms in ultralinear mode with KT88, 27 Watts RMS @ 8 Ohms in triode mode with KT88
Frequency Response: 15Hz to 48kHz (-1.5dB)
THD: 1% (1kHz)
S/N ratio: 90dB
Input Sensitivity: 380mV, 800mV (Pre-in)
Input Impedance: 100k Ohms
Output impedance: 4 Ohm and 8 Ohm
Weight: 59 pounds
Dimensions: 17.5 x 8.5 x 15.5 (WxHxD in inches)
VAS Industries, Inc.