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Partial tear down of Willsenton R8


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4 hours ago, muon* said:

Think you will find that the new production Mullards are nothing like the NOS production ones, the only similarity is the name.

New sensor purchased the names of most of the legendary tube brands around 2000 or 2001.

Yep.  Agreed.  Not trying to compare new vs NOS.  New EL34 bought to compare against new stock KT88 only.  👍

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I am not an expert on tube amp like many on this forum however writing this blog to help those who are thinking of buying Willsenton R8 or those who owns it and want to know bit more about it. I am no

It came!!     😲😲😲😲😲😲   Ordered November 22nd.  Arrived January 26th, by ocean.  (I was too cheap to pay the airfreight)    Off we go!  

It's not in its final resting place yet, but couldn't wait to test it.   I'm running all standard Willsenton tubes currently with KT88s   I let it warm up for about 20 minutes, che

1 hour ago, Candan said:

Yep.  Agreed.  Not trying to compare new vs NOS.  New EL34 bought to compare against new stock KT88 only.  👍

I misunderstood, apologies.

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2 hours ago, Candan said:

No worries!  I'll eventually get NOS but this is my starting point!  😁

Yes, need to start somewhere of course, you will find a range of different characters with all the different valves in the EL34 family, my preference within my meager budget is the NOS Svetlana Winged C's, not SED.

 

But am reliably informed that the NOS Mullard xf (1 through 4) variations are the best.

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11 hours ago, Phrangko said:

After switching it off how long should I expect it to cool off? The smell like paint coming from the R8. Is that normal? I noticed it out of the box as well.

 

After switching off the amp, it should take around 30 minutes for the power transformer to return back to room temperature. The paint smell is normal for a new amp and will go away with time.

Edited by xlr8or
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12 hours ago, Phrangko said:

Another one for you or Atmaj. My R8 is fairly new. It is true my hand does not burn when I touch it for a period of time. After switching it off how long should I expect it to cool off? The smell like paint coming from the R8. Is that normal? I noticed it out of the box as well.

R8 has potted transformers so the outer casing takes time to warm up as well as cool down. I don't have any reason for this but I have noticed that with use, the warming up of power transformer has gone down a bit. Paint smell is very normal and will go off in few days.

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On to testing my 4th set of power tubes: The Tung Sol 6550s arrived last week and I've been spending some good time with them. These are new production from Upscale Audio. They burn in all power tubes for 72 hours prior to shipment. Some comparisons to the stock KT88s that come with the R8 in combination with NOS RCA Red Base 5691s (which are my current favorite 6SL7 variant):

 

To sum things up - Huge soundstage, but aggressive and fatiguing. Compared to stock KT88s, the 6550's soundstage is bigger, the highs are brighter, and there is more bass. In fact, I had to insert my Schiit Loki into the chain to dial down the bass and highs. The 6650s also have a more forward presentation. I couldn't tolerate them for long in UL mode. It's just too fatiguing for me and those highs are too sizzly. Some other negatives were that, while the soundstage is undeniably wider, it is also blurred a bit and lacks the depth and holography of the stock KT88. There's just no warmth anywhere to be found in these *in my system* and the midrange is dry. The 6550s really remind me more of my solid state amplifier, in that you may be initially wowed by their soundstage and energy, but feel the need to turn it down soon thereafter. I really prefer the stock KT88 here and have really come to appreciate that tube. The stock KT88s are a good power tube.

 

If you have soft dome tweeters or generally warm and laid-back speakers, I think these 6550s could possibly be better match.

 

6550s.jpg

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38 minutes ago, echorec said:

On to testing my 4th set of power tubes: The Tung Sol 6550s arrived last week and I've been spending some good time with them. These are new production from Upscale Audio. They burn in all power tubes for 72 hours prior to shipment. Some comparisons to the stock KT88s that come with the R8 in combination with NOS RCA Red Base 5691s (which are my current favorite 6SL7 variant):

 

To sum things up - Huge soundstage, but aggressive and fatiguing. Compared to stock KT88s, the 6550's soundstage is bigger, the highs are brighter, and there is more bass. In fact, I had to insert my Schiit Loki into the chain to dial down the bass and highs. The 6650s also have a more forward presentation. I couldn't tolerate them for long in UL mode. It's just too fatiguing for me and those highs are too sizzly. Some other negatives were that, while the soundstage is undeniably wider, it is also blurred a bit and lacks the depth and holography of the stock KT88. There's just no warmth anywhere to be found in these *in my system* and the midrange is dry. The 6550s really remind me more of my solid state amplifier, in that you may be initially wowed by their soundstage and energy, but feel the need to turn it down soon thereafter. I really prefer the stock KT88 here and have really come to appreciate that tube. The stock KT88s are a good power tube.

 

If you have soft dome tweeters or generally warm and laid-back speakers, I think these 6550s could possibly be better match.

 

6550s.jpg

 

Great review! 

 

Although I'm still waiting for my amp, with stock KT88 and my re-issue Mullard EL34s to arrive, it's good to hear what you're saying about the stock KT88.  It doesn't sound as though I'm missing out by not ordering 6550s out of the gate!   I'll be pairing with very forward sounding speakers and was concerned about them being too intense.  

 

It felt like I ordered my amp 2 months ago.  But it's only been 2 weeks since it shipped!  Another month I guess.  Sigh 😪 

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22 minutes ago, Candan said:

 

Great review! 

 

Although I'm still waiting for my amp, with stock KT88 and my re-issue Mullard EL34s to arrive, it's good to hear what you're saying about the stock KT88.  It doesn't sound as though I'm missing out by not ordering 6550s out of the gate!   I'll be pairing with very forward sounding speakers and was concerned about them being too intense.  

 

It felt like I ordered my amp 2 months ago.  But it's only been 2 weeks since it shipped!  Another month I guess.  Sigh 😪 

 

Thanks! I popped the stock KT88s in after I posted my review and it only confirmed my personal opinion of the two tubes. I much prefer the stock KT88 to the TS 6550. The stock KT88s have really grown on me. On this amp it's interesting because when you switch between the EL34 class and KT88 because, for me, I instantly miss the liquid mids of the EL34. But when my ears adjust to the KT88, I definitely appreciate their qualities too and end up enjoying them just as much, but with different music. For example, reverb and echoes really extend into the soundstage with the KT88s and there is more energy. With EL34s I listen mostly to jazz and classical. With KT88 it's electronic time. One of the main reasons I purchased this amp was the various tube options and that is really paying off in enjoyment for me.

 

I'm really looking forward to hear your experiences with the R8 and your Kantas!

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On 15/12/2020 at 11:50 AM, echorec said:

On to testing my 4th set of power tubes: The Tung Sol 6550s arrived last week and I've been spending some good time with them. These are new production from Upscale Audio. They burn in all power tubes for 72 hours prior to shipment. Some comparisons to the stock KT88s that come with the R8 in combination with NOS RCA Red Base 5691s (which are my current favorite 6SL7 variant):

 

To sum things up - Huge soundstage, but aggressive and fatiguing. Compared to stock KT88s, the 6550's soundstage is bigger, the highs are brighter, and there is more bass. In fact, I had to insert my Schiit Loki into the chain to dial down the bass and highs. The 6650s also have a more forward presentation. I couldn't tolerate them for long in UL mode. It's just too fatiguing for me and those highs are too sizzly. Some other negatives were that, while the soundstage is undeniably wider, it is also blurred a bit and lacks the depth and holography of the stock KT88. There's just no warmth anywhere to be found in these *in my system* and the midrange is dry. The 6550s really remind me more of my solid state amplifier, in that you may be initially wowed by their soundstage and energy, but feel the need to turn it down soon thereafter. I really prefer the stock KT88 here and have really come to appreciate that tube. The stock KT88s are a good power tube.

 

If you have soft dome tweeters or generally warm and laid-back speakers, I think these 6550s could possibly be better match.

 

6550s.jpg

I’m really glad I saw this. I’m running stock Cayin KT88s, but have been tossing up whether to try some 6550s, or go for Gold Lion KT88s. At this point I’m leaning toward the latter. 

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On 21/12/2020 at 4:47 AM, Flash said:

I’m really glad I saw this. I’m running stock Cayin KT88s, but have been tossing up whether to try some 6550s, or go for Gold Lion KT88s. At this point I’m leaning toward the latter. 

 

Keep in mind that tubes can have a completely different presentation in different circuits and you may like the 6550s in your Cayin amp (or do you mean you are using Cayin branded KT88s in an R8?).

 

On another note, I keep reading anecdotes online regarding changing the outer 6SN7 of the R8, claiming big improvements. I'm skeptical, but curiosity got the best  of me, so I ordered two more pairs of NOS 6SN7: The Melz 1578 with round anode holes (I really want these for my collection!) and a pair of Westinghouse tall glass 6SN7 GTB. When I originally changed the stock 6SN7s out for NOS RCAs, I had to really convince myself that I was hearing any difference, so I am curious if these two very diverse and different tubes will yield any changes to the R8's sound. At some point I will also probably add the PSVANE CV181 (6SN7) as well because this seems to be the tube that Lee is pushing as an improvement. Will report back on my experiences.

 

Also thanks to @xlr8or for help on NOS Mullard power tube recos. I'm on the hunt, but am being very patient and picky, waiting for the right quartet to show up, so these may take some time...

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Read this one earlier. The testament Steve made as well as Atmaj's made my purchase of the R8 a bliss not including the enjoyment I actually have in owning such a 'priced' tube amp.

 

https://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2020/12/23/hifi-the-willsenton-r8-integrated-tube-amplifier-is-a-no-brainer-buy/

 

 

Edited by Phrangko
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18 hours ago, echorec said:

 

Keep in mind that tubes can have a completely different presentation in different circuits and you may like the 6550s in your Cayin amp (or do you mean you are using Cayin branded KT88s in an R8?).

 

On another note, I keep reading anecdotes online regarding changing the outer 6SN7 of the R8, claiming big improvements. I'm skeptical, but curiosity got the best  of me, so I ordered two more pairs of NOS 6SN7: The Melz 1578 with round anode holes (I really want these for my collection!) and a pair of Westinghouse tall glass 6SN7 GTB. When I originally changed the stock 6SN7s out for NOS RCAs, I had to really convince myself that I was hearing any difference, so I am curious if these two very diverse and different tubes will yield any changes to the R8's sound. At some point I will also probably add the PSVANE CV181 (6SN7) as well because this seems to be the tube that Lee is pushing as an improvement. Will report back on my experiences.

 

Also thanks to @xlr8or for help on NOS Mullard power tube recos. I'm on the hunt, but am being very patient and picky, waiting for the right quartet to show up, so these may take some time...

Apologies, yes stock tubes in a Cayin amp. 
Thanks for your advice. I’m still relatively new to the world of tubes. 

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22 hours ago, Phrangko said:

 

Thanks for the link! I was always curious how the R8 would sound when paired with the Heresy 4. This is encouraging.

 

Have been saving up just in case someone is looking to sell their pre-loved Heresy 4. 

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Hi everyone. Experienced in hi-fi but total newbie as far as tube amps go. I am considering the R8 as my first step into this world, for use in my analogue / vinyl setup. I listen mostly to jazz trios and quartets with some big band, acoustic instruments and vocals, especially female. HST, I also like funk such as Quincy Jones, Earth Wind and Fire and so on, with a 'big' sound and a lot of brass. 

 

I am hoping that Triode mode would suit me for the jazz trios, female vocals and so on, and Ultralinear mode for the funk etc. Am I thinking along the right lines?

 

I have what I hope is a simple question: on the China HiFi order page for this amp, there are various options for different tubes.

 

 

2020-12-26_14-24-22.png.e891c16f3fca85ec39d7c77f67218139.png

 

 

2020-12-26_14-24-44.png.005ce74232423f749fa734d1bf811550.png

 

What are the benefits of the Psvane or Shuguang tubes over the less expensive Willsentons?

 

As far as I can tell from the posts here (I read the whole thread, although quickly), most seem to begin with the 'standard' options. Is there any benefit in 'upgrading' to the more expensive options listed? I don't think I will go down the rabbit hole of tube rolling, so I'd like to start as I mean to go on. Any advice gratefully received, so thanks in advance.

 

 

Edited by Zed Zed
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1 hour ago, Zed Zed said:

 

 

Hi everyone. Experienced in hi-fi but total newbie as far as tube amps go. I am considering the R8 as my first step into this world, for use in my analogue / vinyl setup. I listen mostly to jazz trios and quartets with some big band, acoustic instruments and vocals, especially female. HST, I also like funk such as Quincy Jones, Earth Wind and Fire and so on, with a 'big' sound and a lot of brass. 

 

I am hoping that Triode mode would suit me for the jazz trios, female vocals and so on, and Ultralinear mode for the funk etc. Am I thinking along the right lines?

 

I have what I hope is a simple question: on the China HiFi order page for this amp, there are various options for different tubes.

 

 

2020-12-26_14-24-22.png.e891c16f3fca85ec39d7c77f67218139.png

 

 

2020-12-26_14-24-44.png.005ce74232423f749fa734d1bf811550.png

 

What are the benefits of the Psvane or Shuguang tubes over the less expensive Willsentons?

 

As far as I can tell from the posts here (I read the whole thread, although quickly), most seem to begin with the 'standard' options. Is there any benefit in 'upgrading' to the more expensive options listed? I don't think I will go down the rabbit hole of tube rolling, so I'd like to start as I mean to go on. Any advice gratefully received, so thanks in advance.

 

 

Welcome Zed Zed!

 

I also bought the R8 and am waiting for it to arrive.  I've now got a box of various tubes to try.  Just waiting for the amp.  I'm about 5 weeks waiting so far.  (Took the sea shipping route.)

 

The stock Willsenton tubes are not mean to be terrible.  You may want to try before rolling them out.

 

Usually, most tube amps of this configuration have more of a sound difference by switching the 6SN7 tubes, which is why in the drop-downs you can see an upgrade to the PSVANE 6SN7, yet the 6SL7 remain as Willsenton stock.   Most people on here have said the opposite.  That upgrading the 6SL7 shows more notable improvement.  They sell the 6SN7 upgrade as a 3 pack, meaning you're also switching out the middle/front.  This is the voltage regulator tube and won't change the sound at all.  Even Yong at China Hifi isn't sure about this one!  He tends to suggest to follow the site upgrades.  But again, people on here disagree with his direction.  He's helpful, but just a sales guy!

 

In the end.  Trial and error!

 

Personally, I bought Brimar NOS 6SL7 to switch out the Willsenton ones, as well as new EL34 power tubes from Mullard, as it's always worth having an EL34 / KT88 swap out!

 

Good luck!

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30 minutes ago, Candan said:

Welcome Zed Zed!

 

Cheers mate. The UK version of the forum doesn't have such informative R8 threads, so here I am from the other side of the world :)

 

30 minutes ago, Candan said:

 

I also bought the R8 and am waiting for it to arrive.  I've now got a box of various tubes to try.  Just waiting for the amp.  I'm about 5 weeks waiting so far.  (Took the sea shipping route.)

 

I haven't pulled the trigger yet (as our US friends would say) but I am close I think.  5 weeks plus is a long time - you must be totally excited with anticipation. 

 

30 minutes ago, Candan said:

 

The stock Willsenton tubes are not mean to be terrible.  You may want to try before rolling them out.

 

That is my plan so far, unless anyone gives me other advice. One of the reasons I have held off buying is that I am trying to learn as much as I can about tubes and tube amps. This is totally new for me. I have decades of experience of hifi in general behind me, but I am a tube virgin.

 

30 minutes ago, Candan said:

 

Usually, most tube amps of this configuration have more of a sound difference by switching the 6SN7 tubes, which is why in the drop-downs you can see an upgrade to the PSVANE 6SN7, yet the 6SL7 remain as Willsenton stock.   Most people on here have said the opposite.  That upgrading the 6SL7 shows more notable improvement.  They sell the 6SN7 upgrade as a 3 pack, meaning you're also switching out the middle/front.  This is the voltage regulator tube and won't change the sound at all.  Even Yong at China Hifi isn't sure about this one!  He tends to suggest to follow the site upgrades.  But again, people on here disagree with his direction.  He's helpful, but just a sales guy!

 

Interesting. Maybe I should considering ordering the upgrade pack of three tubes along with the amp itself and then playing around later. There's plenty to consider it seems.

 

30 minutes ago, Candan said:

 

In the end.  Trial and error!

 

Personally, I bought Brimar NOS 6SL7 to switch out the Willsenton ones, as well as new EL34 power tubes from Mullard, as it's always worth having an EL34 / KT88 swap out!

 

Good luck!

 

Thanks. I have read a lot about the EL34 vs the KT88 but can't come to any hard and fast conclusion. So, as you say, trial and error seems to be the way to go. This is quite exciting for me - it will be the biggest change in my music listening for a long while. In the 80s I sold all my vinyl (dumb mistake) and recently went back to analogue after a gap of about 35 years! Now I have a new TT (Roksan) and I am buying again all the albums I sold, which is an expensive pastime. By comparison, the cost of the R8 and some spare tubes is peanuts, which is why I am happy to experiment. 

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24 minutes ago, Zed Zed said:

 

Cheers mate. The UK version of the forum doesn't have such informative R8 threads, so here I am from the other side of the world :)

 

 

I haven't pulled the trigger yet (as our US friends would say) but I am close I think.  5 weeks plus is a long time - you must be totally excited with anticipation. 

 

 

That is my plan so far, unless anyone gives me other advice. One of the reasons I have held off buying is that I am trying to learn as much as I can about tubes and tube amps. This is totally new for me. I have decades of experience of hifi in general behind me, but I am a tube virgin.

 

 

Interesting. Maybe I should considering ordering the upgrade pack of three tubes along with the amp itself and then playing around later. There's plenty to consider it seems.

 

 

Thanks. I have read a lot about the EL34 vs the KT88 but can't come to any hard and fast conclusion. So, as you say, trial and error seems to be the way to go. This is quite exciting for me - it will be the biggest change in my music listening for a long while. In the 80s I sold all my vinyl (dumb mistake) and recently went back to analogue after a gap of about 35 years! Now I have a new TT (Roksan) and I am buying again all the albums I sold, which is an expensive pastime. By comparison, the cost of the R8 and some spare tubes is peanuts, which is why I am happy to experiment. 

 

Agreed on the content on this site.  I'm from Canada!   :)

 

5 weeks of waiting is not anticipation.  It's a nightmare!  :D

 

Sorry, if I confused.  Of course up to you, but based on other people's experience, I suggest you don't order the upgraded 3x 6SN7.  Take the stock and upgrade the 2x 6SL7 later instead.

 

Biggest diff between the KT88 and EL34 power tubes is that the KT88 are a little warmer and low end oriented, whereas the EL34 are more snappy and open in the mids.  Depending on your speakers though, you may prefer the EL34 with your jazz.  

 

Anyway, in a year from now, you'll have boxes of tubes with 38 different opinions about what you like best, and still change your mind a lot!  This is one hell of a rabbit hole!  

 

 

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Welcome @Zed Zed!

 

As you know, much like anything HiFi, you won't know until you try it yourself in your own system. There is some really good guidance in this thread that will help you on that journey. The R8 is a great amplifier. I like it so much, and it is so relatively cheap, that I am considering buying a second R8 to heavily modify.

 

It's tough to say which mode you would prefer, but for me, I use Triode almost exclusively with EL34s and UL with KT88s. I listen to a lot of Jazz and Triode with EL34s is the way to go for me personally. The brass has no edginess and is smooth. The good news is that, with the R8, you can switch between the modes in real time with the remote, so you can know instantly. The only time I find myself using UL with EL34s is if I'm listening at background music volumes. It bumps the top end and center image forward.

 

Personally I would recommend ordering the amplifier with stock tubes. Break your amp in for several weeks with the stock tubes and decide from there if you want to begin tuning the R8 with tube rolling. Then you'll be able to say, "I wish it had less this or more of this", etc.. You will be able to tune it to your heart's content if you feel the need. Just know that rolling can be a deep rabbit hole, albeit a very rewarding and enjoyable one. There are many tried-and-true NOS American tubes that can be had for much less than the new PSVANEs...

 

On a separate note, I have been comparing 3 different pairs of 6SN7s over the last few days. I plan on doing a quick write-up here either later today or tomorrow. The results surprised me a bit.

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2 hours ago, echorec said:

Welcome @Zed Zed!

 

Thank you!

 

2 hours ago, echorec said:

 

As you know, much like anything HiFi, you won't know until you try it yourself in your own system. There is some really good guidance in this thread that will help you on that journey. The R8 is a great amplifier. I like it so much, and it is so relatively cheap, that I am considering buying a second R8 to heavily modify.

 

It's tough to say which mode you would prefer, but for me, I use Triode almost exclusively with EL34s and UL with KT88s. I listen to a lot of Jazz and Triode with EL34s is the way to go for me personally. The brass has no edginess and is smooth. The good news is that, with the R8, you can switch between the modes in real time with the remote, so you can know instantly. The only time I find myself using UL with EL34s is if I'm listening at background music volumes. It bumps the top end and center image forward.

 

Thanks - that all makes sense to me and is in line with what I have read about the EL34s and Triode mode.

 

2 hours ago, echorec said:

 

Personally I would recommend ordering the amplifier with stock tubes. Break your amp in for several weeks with the stock tubes and decide from there if you want to begin tuning the R8 with tube rolling. Then you'll be able to say, "I wish it had less this or more of this", etc.. You will be able to tune it to your heart's content if you feel the need. Just know that rolling can be a deep rabbit hole, albeit a very rewarding and enjoyable one. There are many tried-and-true NOS American tubes that can be had for much less than the new PSVANEs...

 

Also makes sense - get to know the 'stock' sound first and then decide what I want to change, if anything. I have been down so many rabbit holes with hifi and, more lately, home cinema. I always start out saying I will resist, but inevitably get drawn in. With home cinema I started with a large TV and ended up constructing a SOTA home cinema to professional, commercial cinema standards in a 200 year old cowshed that happened to be on our property. I have to say, tube rolling sounds like a lot of fun.  The one thing I want to avoid is making amplifiers my hobby - my hobby is music and the amp etc a means to an end. There's always the danger one takes over the other and it's easy to end up with the LP playing the system instead of the system playing the LP, IYKWIM.

 

2 hours ago, echorec said:

 

On a separate note, I have been comparing 3 different pairs of 6SN7s over the last few days. I plan on doing a quick write-up here either later today or tomorrow. The results surprised me a bit.

 

I shall look forward to reading that. The stage I am at right now is 'consuming information'. I think, knowing myself too well, that the decision has already been made to buy the R8. :)

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4 hours ago, Candan said:

 

Agreed on the content on this site.  I'm from Canada!   :)

 

5 weeks of waiting is not anticipation.  It's a nightmare!  :D

 

 

Haha. I know the feeling. I have a love-hate relationship with anticipating...

 

4 hours ago, Candan said:

 

Sorry, if I confused.  Of course up to you, but based on other people's experience, I suggest you don't order the upgraded 3x 6SN7.  Take the stock and upgrade the 2x 6SL7 later instead.

 

Got it, thanks. As I just said to echorec, it makes sense to get to know the stock sound before trying to alter it.

 

4 hours ago, Candan said:

Biggest diff between the KT88 and EL34 power tubes is that the KT88 are a little warmer and low end oriented, whereas the EL34 are more snappy and open in the mids.  Depending on your speakers though, you may prefer the EL34 with your jazz.  

 

Anyway, in a year from now, you'll have boxes of tubes with 38 different opinions about what you like best, and still change your mind a lot!  This is one hell of a rabbit hole!  

 

 

 

Haha.  I've only been here a day and you guys already have me sussed :)

Edited by Zed Zed
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Long post, but here’s my 6SN7 shootout between these 3:

 

 

  1. Willsenton Stock 6SN7 tubes (which are NOS Novosibirsk 6H8C from 1979)
  2. NOS RCA 6SN7-GTB Orange Label
  3. NOS Westinghouse 6SN7-GTB Tall Bottle from 1961

 

 

All above used with TS EL34B power tubes and TS 6SU7GTY (6SL7) Black Glass/Brown Base.

 

 

Equipment used: Hana SL cart > McIntosh MP-100 Phonostage > Willsenton R8 > Revel Performa3 F208 Speakers.

 

 

So, let’s answer the question right of the bat – Do the 6SN7s change the sound of the R8? Yes, they do, but differently than the 6SL7s.

 

 

Several months ago, after breaking in the stock R8, I had changed the stock Russian tubes to the RCAs. I didn’t hear much of a difference and had a hard time differentiating between the two, but I thought I could hear something going on in the top end. I have kept the RCAs in based on the principle of reliability and have been happy with them since. It wasn’t until I got the Westinghouse tubes this week that I heard a clear difference. The Westinghouse smooths the top end and slightly warms the upper mids enough that I’m certain I could pass a blind test on my own test tracks.

 

 

I used two very different test tracks to confirm what I was hearing. First was Sergei Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kijé , "The Birth of Kijé” (Analog Productions Living Stereo pressing). There’s a piccolo at the intro of the first band that can be a bit grating to my ears and has always bothered me on this recording. It wasn’t until I heard this track with the Westinghouse tubes that it finally sounded smooth an right. With the stock tubes, the piccolo was a bit piercing. With the RCAs, it was better, but still not quite right.

 

 

Second track was Alan Parsons Project “I wouldn’t want to be like you” (MoFi 45RPM). I have always felt the percussion on this track were a bit too harsh and felt too sizzly on top in my system. The Westinghouse brought those highs down a notch and the track sounds more cohesive and I wasn’t annoyed by the highs. Again, the stock Russian tubes were too sizzly and the RCA slightly better.

 

 

Time will tell, but so far, I consider the Westinghouse tubes an upgrade to my system's overall sound. Based on this trio of tubes, I am confident saying that changing the 6SN7s can yield refinements in the top end of the R8. Keep in mind my test is done using speakers that are considered very detailed and on the brighter side (metal tweeters and drivers), so I am especially sensitive to changes in the upper end.

 

 

No difference was heard in any other elements of the sound. This is where, in my opinion, the 6SL7s come in. 6SL7s seem to not only effect the overall tone, but also the soundstage width/depth, dynamics, and separation of elements within the soundstage. I still feel the 6SL7s are the most important tube in the preamp section of the R8. This all also confirms to me that finding the perfect tubes is similar to equipment matching, in that it’s a complex recipe of source, speakers, and everything in-between, to achieve synergy for your whole system. For example, I could change my cart to a warmer one like my AT OC9ML/II and the Westinghouse may then be too dark or veiled. And let’s not forget that important x-factor: Preference! What’s right to me, might be wrong to you. So, just have fun with it, enjoy the experience, and post your results here.

 

 

Btw – My wife, who graciously sat through a listening session of rolling, could hear no difference between all the 6SN7s, including the Westinghouse. It was quite the opposite with her and the 6SL7s rolling sessions, where she would say things like “I feel like the sound is more immersive” or “I feel like some sounds are now floating in front of the speakers”. Just an interesting observation, I suppose.

 

 

Next week I have a pair of NOS Melz 1578s coming from Russia. Some say these are the best 6SN7 in existence, with a massive, deep soundstage. Others say they dislike them and that they have no midrange. Curious. I suspect, like most tubes, it depends on the circuit they are being used in. So I am naturally interested in how the R8 performs with them. Either way, they seem like quite a unique tube and I’m excited to review them.

 

Edited by echorec
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45 minutes ago, echorec said:

Long post, but here’s my 6SN7 shootout between these 3:

 

 

  1. Willsenton Stock 6SN7 tubes (which are NOS Novosibirsk 6H8C from 1979)
  2. NOS RCA 6SN7-GTB Orange Label
  3. NOS Westinghouse 6SN7-GTB Tall Bottle from 196

 

Great post!  👍🏻

 

It's reassuring that your findings mirror what I've been hearing to be the right order to try rolling the pre tubes.  

 

I'm hearing you're finding that it's best to tune to your sound with your choice 6SL7, then when you're happy, tweak it with 6SN7 to just refine it.

 

I didn't know the Willsenton stock N7 was NOS Novo!  Do you know what the stock L7 is?

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Hello there...  I got the Willsenton R8 5 days ago...at day 1 it was great...on day 2 the left channel started playing with heavy distortion...we have checked the tubes...left right...checked the rca inputs...but nothing... any ideas before I send it back?

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16 minutes ago, Candan said:

I didn't know the Willsenton stock N7 was NOS Novo!  Do you know what the stock L7 is?

 

The Willsenton stock 6SL7s are Sovtek (Reflector) 6H9Cs. Mine are dated Nov-1981. They are very inexpensive in bulk, like $2 a tube or less, which is likely why they were chosen. I doubt they are matched or screened for quality. One of mine came with the glass separated from the base.

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2 hours ago, yatsek7 said:

Hello there...  I got the Willsenton R8 5 days ago...at day 1 it was great...on day 2 the left channel started playing with heavy distortion...we have checked the tubes...left right...checked the rca inputs...but nothing... any ideas before I send it back?

 

That's too bad. How did you check the tubes? Did you swap tubes to the opposite channels? Both preamp and power tubes?

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12 hours ago, yatsek7 said:

Hello there...  I got the Willsenton R8 5 days ago...at day 1 it was great...on day 2 the left channel started playing with heavy distortion...we have checked the tubes...left right...checked the rca inputs...but nothing... any ideas before I send it back?

 

Sorry to hear that. I just ordered my R8 yesterday and feel your pain at waiting probably some considerable time for delivery and then having to face a difficult return. This is always my nightmare when buying from overseas, especially with very heavy items where the carriage costs a substantial sum, as is the case with bringing the R8 from China to the UK (carriage is more than a third the cost of the amp itself).

 

Could I suggest that as an alternative you take the unit to a local radio repair shop that specialises in vintage gear and have them look it over?  Chances are it's something simple which could be fixed at low cost (certainly lower cost than a return and replacement, which will involve TWO freight charges to the seller. Maybe the seller will be OK with paying for the cost of the repair locally? As you will have to be in touch in order to arrange the return, it can't harm to ask.  Just a thought.

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On 15/12/2020 at 2:43 PM, Candan said:

 

Great review! 

 

Although I'm still waiting for my amp, with stock KT88 and my re-issue Mullard EL34s to arrive, it's good to hear what you're saying about the stock KT88.  It doesn't sound as though I'm missing out by not ordering 6550s out of the gate!   I'll be pairing with very forward sounding speakers and was concerned about them being too intense.  

 

It felt like I ordered my amp 2 months ago.  But it's only been 2 weeks since it shipped!  Another month I guess.  Sigh 😪 

 I will add my tuppenceworth here if I may,

   I've been running tube gear for a bit over 25yrs (that's not as long as quite a few on here though) I do not own a Wilsenton, but I've owned classic, Chinese, American tube amps running EL84, 6L6, 5881, EL34 family, KT88/6550 with both solid state, and tube rectification.

    The actual input tubes will make the greatest difference in sonics. 6SN7's can be really microphonic, I've had many NoS one's that as I turn the stepped  volume attenuator, the 'clunk' comes out of one of the speakers. So you can either 'put up with it, or have a small collection of 'those tubes'. You'll read plenty of advice to get XYZ brand with triangular square getter <(joke) etc. These are often 'holy grail' tubes. I have some for sure, but I reserve their use for those 'special' listening sessions. The average brand 'NoS' tubes will outperform 90% of modern production, and are often a lot cheaper than the 'boutique' modern ones.  There is a subtle difference between say KT88 and 6550 tubes in sound, but the EL34 setting is where you will have the most fun, EL34/KT77/6CA7 all plug and play in the EL34 setting. However you have 3 very different construction tubes the KT (tetrode), EL (pentode) 6CA (beam) they all have subtle differences in sound. The 6SL7 will obviously also make a difference in sound The 6SN and 6SL will make the greatest difference in your amp.

       However the rectifier tube WILL indeed make a subtle difference. (the 'voltage sag' and current delivery) So even different brands of rectifier WILL make a very subtle difference. Also the bass performance especially at higher volumes produce a difference between valve and solid state rectification. My current amps use tube rectification, but even the manufacturer recommends a particular solid state rectifier if you are frequently on high volume settings. (the SS one can give double the current delivery of a GZ34) Here you need to be 'careful' and something I have experienced personally. Depending on your HT voltage, you could have 500v+ HT on the tubes (mine does) which 'allows' for the voltage sag of a tube rectifier. Putting in a simple replacement SS rectifier the voltage goes up on the tube HT line, pushing these modern production tubes close to the limit (my amp HT voltage).  You are likely to get a little firework display inside the tube quite 'early' with many of the cheap KT88/6550 tubes.  I owned a Radford STA-100 classic amp, which gave 100 watts per (1960's design) this amp got 100 watts from a pair of KT88 by running 600v on plate and screen. NO modern KT88 has the build quality of old. It had a 20+yr old quad of GEC's in it, which were replaced. 1990's there was nothing like the current selection of tubes (brands) in production. Any of the then Chinese made tubes (often gold dragon) would give a firework display, within a couple of weeks at least one, by 3 months? all 4, gone. The best tubes in that amp then were the Svetlana 6550C, but even they were 'done' by about 12-16 months. If you go solid state rectifier, I'd strongly suggest the weber coppertop WZ68 if your rectifier is GZ32 or 34, this is the one used in my amps (recommended). It is the one that gives double the current of a GZ34, BUT, it has a large resistor in it that reproduces the voltage sag found in a tube rectifier keepin g the HT correct.

 My final thought and GRIPE, the new Mullards, Gold Lion, Tungsol etc are NOT 'reissues' they are simply a brand name owned by that group. Modern tubes are not produced with the precision, care that was required back then, and as tubes did 'everything' in a circuit, those factories scrapped 'defective' tubes.. these days 'seconds' seem to find there way onto the 'cheap supplier' market on eprey etc. If you want to get a bit of insight on that, google for the comparison between a genuine, and modern mullard 12AX7 where Matt Lachesky actually dismantled and inspected them both.

Edited by Graywulf
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A very fitting post by @Graywulf and to share the same sentiments let me share the first ever Mullard 12AX7 valve made in the Blackburn factory in 1953 by those female engima machine decoders a decade earlier. Distinct features include 17mm  black toasted welded plates, wrinkle glass and square goal post getter. These are pre mC1 and are all coded 1600. While I'm at it let me throw in the GEC TT21 from 1960.

 

20201229_012001.jpg

 

Screenshot_20201229-011820_Samsung Internet.jpg

 

Screenshot_20201229-011748_Samsung Internet.jpg

 

20201229_011538.jpg

 

Screenshot_20201229-011155_Samsung Internet.jpg

 

20201229_012958.jpg

 

IMAG0500.jpg

 

IMAG0498.jpg

Edited by xlr8or
Typos fixed.
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36 minutes ago, Graywulf said:

 I will add my tuppenceworth here if I may,

   I've been running tube gear for a bit over 25yrs (that's not as long as quite a few on here though) I do not own a Wilsenton, but I've owned classic, Chinese, American tube amps running EL84, 6L6, 5881, EL34 family, KT88/6550 with both solid state, and tube rectification.

    The actual input tubes will make the greatest difference in sonics. 6SN7's can be really microphonic, I've had many NoS one's that as I turn the stepped  volume attenuator, the 'clunk' comes out of one of the speakers. So you can either 'put up with it, or have a small collection of 'those tubes'. You'll read plenty of advice to get XYZ brand with triangular square getter <(joke) etc. These are often 'holy grail' tubes. I have some for sure, but I reserve their use for those 'special' listening sessions. The average brand 'NoS' tubes will outperform 90% of modern production, and are often a lot cheaper than the 'boutique' modern ones.  There is a subtle difference between say KT88 and 6550 tubes in sound, but the EL34 setting is where you will have the most fun, EL34/KT77/6CA7 all plug and play in the EL34 setting. However you have 3 very different construction tubes the KT (tetrode), EL (pentode) 6CA (beam) they all have subtle differences in sound. The 6SL7 will obviously also make a difference in sound The 6SN and 6SL will make the greatest difference in your amp.

       However the rectifier tube WILL indeed make a subtle difference. (the 'voltage sag' and current delivery) So even different brands of rectifier WILL make a very subtle difference. Also the bass performance especially at higher volumes produce a difference between valve and solid state rectification. My current amps use tube rectification, but even the manufacturer recommends a particular solid state rectifier if you are frequently on high volume settings. (the SS one can give double the current delivery of a GZ34) Here you need to be 'careful' and something I have experienced personally. Depending on your HT voltage, you could have 500v+ HT on the tubes (mine does) which 'allows' for the voltage sag of a tube rectifier. Putting in a simple replacement SS rectifier the voltage goes up on the tube HT line, pushing these modern production tubes close to the limit (my amp HT voltage).  You are likely to get a little firework display inside the tube quite 'early' with many of the cheap KT88/6550 tubes.  I owned a Radford STA-100 classic amp, which gave 100 watts per (1960's design) this amp got 100 watts from a pair of KT88 by running 600v on plate and screen. NO modern KT88 has the build quality of old. It had a 20+yr old quad of GEC's in it, which were replaced. 1990's there was nothing like the current selection of tubes (brands) in production. Any of the then Chinese made tubes (often gold dragon) would give a firework display, within a couple of weeks at least one, by 3 months? all 4, gone. The best tubes in that amp then were the Svetlana 6550C, but even they were 'done' by about 12-16 months. If you go solid state rectifier, I'd strongly suggest the weber coppertop WZ68, this is the one used in my amps (recommended). It is the one that gives double the current of a GZ34, BUT, it has a large resistor in it that reproduces the voltage sag found in a tube rectifier keepin g the HT correct.

 My final thought and GRIPE, the new Mullards, Gold Lion, Tungsol etc are NOT 'reissues' they are simply a brand name owned by that group. Modern tubes are not produced with the precision, care that was required back then, and as tubes did 'everything' in a circuit, those factories scrapped 'defective' tubes.. these days 'seconds' seem to find there way onto the 'cheap supplier' market on eprey etc. If you want to get a bit of insight on that, google for the comparison between a genuine, and modern mullard 12AX7 where Matt Lachesky actually dismantled and inspected them both.

I think I'm an awful way of your level of tube amp rabbit holing before I can give you a useful response!  🤔🤣. But thanks! 👍🏻

 

Are you still suggesting that the 6SL7 switch will or won't have greater affect than switching 6SN7 pre tubes?

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5 minutes ago, Candan said:

I think I'm an awful way of your level of tube amp rabbit holing before I can give you a useful response!  🤔🤣. But thanks! 👍🏻

 

Are you still suggesting that the 6SL7 switch will or won't have greater affect than switching 6SN7 pre tubes?

Oh dog, did you NEED to remind me I am deep in the rabbit hole? 😆😆

 Both will make a difference 6SN7/6SL7 the one that is the input tube makes the greatest, the phase splitter (power tube driver) still makes a noticeable effect, just not as big as the input tubes.

  We tried to warn you, but you have taken the black pill, so buckle up for the ride. You WILL end up with a collection of each tube type, and know 'exactly' the sonic difference each pair makes.  Then depending on mood, genre, media type etc, you'll be rolling tubes like the rest of us

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14 minutes ago, Graywulf said:

Oh dog, did you NEED to remind me I am deep in the rabbit hole? 😆😆

 Both will make a difference 6SN7/6SL7 the one that is the input tube makes the greatest, the phase splitter (power tube driver) still makes a noticeable effect, just not as big as the input tubes.

  We tried to warn you, but you have taken the black pill, so buckle up for the ride. You WILL end up with a collection of each tube type, and know 'exactly' the sonic difference each pair makes.  Then depending on mood, genre, media type etc, you'll be rolling tubes like the rest of us

Got a draw full of tubes to try already and my first tube amp still hasn't arrived... Getting sucked in before I've even started.

 

Amazing how these tubes are about $5 each and the amp was just a couple of hundred bucks.   At least that's what my wife thinks 🤣

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My experience with New Production EL34 is that they make you believe that they have the better mid range but I feel it is at the expense of bass. Nos EL34 is a diff story. It trumps any new production KT88. 
 

KT88 has more grunt and but doesn’t shimmer as much. For most modern day speakers I’d think the KT88 would be better. 
 

I currently have the KT150 tubes. If nos EL34 and KT88 got married and made giant tube babies, it will be the KT150. It’s a complicated tube to get it right but if it’s used well then it produces a very interesting sound. Extends more than nos EL34 , open rich mids and slams like a sledge hammer. Great for rock music. 

 


 

 

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There are some other vintage power types you rollers should also consider. For triode mode, try the Telefunken EL156's. You'll need tube adapters but these babies sound much better than the EL34. Now there are also some STC 5B 255M or 5B 254M valves that need lower screen voltages but again these trounce the EL34. For the KT88 in UL mode, the TT21's with anode cap tube adapters are getting expensive now but well worth it. The TT22 is cheaper but requires a heater mod to get it to work. 😁

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45 minutes ago, bruceathome said:

Just ordered an R8 with the EL34 tubes. Now for the long wait. My first  tube amplifier - I’m really looking forward to hearing it!

 

I am sure you will be happy. This was my first tube amp too.  Thus far I am very happy with the amp and the experience from purchase to taking delivery of it.

I am keen to roll some tubes but I am enjoying it as it is for now as I have not been offended or disappointed with the std supplied Willsenton tubes but that said, know that things can be improved and very much looking forward to that in due time.

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The Melz 1578s arrived today and boy are they neat! For those that don't know, they were developed for Soviet era nuclear facilities and military applications. Here's a pic of them warming up in the R8. They sound really good! I'll do some critical listening this weekend to pick out the differences, but for now just enjoying them without thought. Hope you all have a happy healthy new year and roll lots of tubes in 2021!

 

 

Melz-1578.jpg

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I just got my R8 after a long wait (UPS tracking - what a mess). Everything seems good on arrival. Purchased the unit with the Psvane KT88 upgrade option. For future tube rolling I also bought a pair of Silvania JAN 6SL7 WGT (1950's) and a pair of Melz 1578 (6NS7/6N8S) for the pre amp section, and some Genalex Gold Lion KT77. This thread has been a blessing.

 

Peace,

Tony

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