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REVIEW: Elekit TU882 tube headphone amp (kit and assembled)

post #1 of 154
Thread Starter 
I was loaned a review sample of this amp Victor from VKMusic. Website:


ELEKIT TU-882AS>*


The product is available as a true kit, for $360, or in a form where the PCB’s are stuffed and there is “some assembly required”, but no soldering, for $425. I cannot comment on what it’s like to build it in either form, however, as mine arrived fully assembled. My unit is the same one reviewed by Mrarroyo.


The amp is designed and made in Japan. It uses 2x 5670/2C51/WE396A tubes. Interestingly, and usefully, there is a switch that varies the output impedance of the amp, to allow matching with headphones of different impedances. The switch has three settings – low, medium, and high. According to vkmusic, the impedance switch is connected to the output transformer and varies the output impedance accordingly. I did find that the amp was blissfully hum-free with all of my headphones, from the 600 ohm Beyers to the 40 ohm Kenwood KH-1000. So the feature does seem to be effective. The switch is effective only from the ¼” hack – there are mini-jacks for high and low impedance. There is also a “convenience” 1/8” mini-jack input on the front for an iPod – I didn’t use it. For this review I used my Denon CDP and my iMod iPod/ALO Auri-cap dock as the sources.


The amp comes in a fairly Spartan, but still reasonably attractive, sturdy, and very compact case:





I used the amp for a while with the Western Electric 396A. This will add about $100 to the cost of the amp, versus the GE 5670’s, which are decent, and cheap as dirt ($5 or less each). I’m assuming that is the stock supplied tube, as that is what the amp came with, although since mine was a well-travelled review unit, I’m not 100% sure on that. Since it’s not a Chinese amp, it probably doesn’t come with the Chinese equivalent 6N3, and thank God for that, since it’s a terrible sounding tube. But the WE 396A are really nice sounding tubes. The description below is the sound of the TU882 with the GE tubes, but it does take on a higher level of refinement, perhaps at the expense of a little bit of euphony, with the WE tubes.


I tested the Elekit using Beyerdynamic DT880 and 990’s (both 600 ohm), Sennheiser HD800’s, and Kenwood KH-1000. The latter, while a nice headphone overall, I used mostly to test the low-impedance performance of the Elekit – the KH-1000 are a very warm, laid back headphone, and were not an ideal pairing with the TU882 – the Beyers and the HD800 matched better, although in this case it wasn’t an issue of impedance I do not believe, just voicing – as you will see below, the two were, when combined, a bit too much of a good thing.



The Glow is on the Inside


Someone on head-fi once posted their disappointment that a tube amp he'd bought recently didn’t have much tube glow, and he meant aesthetically. The amp used only small signal tubes, and I told him that most small-signal triodes don't glow much. But many of them do have a beautiful "glow" that they impart on the music, which is why 9-pin dual-triode tubes like the 12AX7, 6DJ8, and the 5670/2C51 are so popular, and the TU882 is a testament to that. At least in the case of the 5670, there are nice NOS variants that are not $300/pair, like the best 12AX7 and 6DJ8's are these days.

Listening to “The Look of Love” from Shelby Lynne’s “Just a Little Lovin’”, the sound was just luscious. Nothing short. It wasn’t slow, or overly syrupy, but it was a little euphonic – a plump upper-bass and lower midrange. But it was SOOOOOO beautiful, I almost wanted to cry. Seriously – it was that good. For anyone who wants a tube amp with good resolution, decent dynamics, but that makes the music glow, this is the one to get in the under $500 price range.


Just to be clear, the Audiotailor Jade is a more neutral sounding tube amp (from either of its headphone outputs). And the Jade also makes very pretty music. But the TU882 had a rosier outlook on the music, without the feeling of coloring it. This is the magic of a well designed tube amp, IMHO – one that doesn’t seem colored, and that sounds good on all music, but that continues to impress in terms of having the music flow well, and sound SWEET.


This rosy disposition did not hurt dynamics. The attack on Megadeth’s “Trust” from “Cryptic Writings” was there in full measure. So was the impact of the wonderful cover of “Lark’s Tongues in Aspic Pt 2” from Dream Theater’s new record "Black Clouds And Silver Linings". Deep bass was somewhat limited, though – this was evident on “Raise the Roof” from Carbon Leaf’s “Indian Summer” – there were some very low bass notes that I didn’t feel were reproduced in full measure. But the mid-bass is slightly fat, and as such, the amp never sounds anything close to lean.


Absolute treble extension is also slightly limited. The treble is also just slightly soft, although very delicate and pure sounding. But if what you want is to hear the sound of the gnat’s wings as it flies off of the arm of the viola player, then you won’t get enough treble hyper-detail to get that. Delicate cymbals and triangles were reproduced very well, however.


Miguel (Mrarroyo) described the amp as having an “organic” sound. I think that’s a brilliant description for it. In gets across, in one word, what one can expect from the TU882. I always felt that the Ming-Da MC8707-C was very organic sounding, and it is, but the Elekit is even better in this regard. I’m really surprised that an amp with just 2 5670’s can sound this way, to be honest. Lots of claims are made about the parts, and the design, and I am not knowledgeable enough about tube circuit design to be able to validate this (although I am currently trying to tech myself tube circuit design using Bruce Rosenblit’s “Beginner’s Guide to Tube Audio Design”). But the results are definitely pleasing.


Soundstaging was very good, but not world-class in terms of either width or image specificity. Depth, on the other hand, was exceptionally good. In general, all but the most hyper-imaging fanatics will enjoy the spatial presentation of the TU882S. Listening to “Weather Report Suite” from The Grateful Dead’s June 1974 convert in Miami, the Elekit did not present all the width information I know that is present on that recording (which I have played so many times I know like the back of my hand), but I was still drawn into the performance with the depth, and by the sound. Recordings that basically lack width and are all depth, like “My Funny Valentine” from “Chet Baker Sings”, were enthralling.


I smiled a lot while listening to the TU882S. That’s a good sign, generally. Also a little hint – the amp sounded about as good with the HD800 as any amp I have heard, and for just $425…


Maybe Beauty really is as Beauty Does…


For those of you who are into audio gear as jewelry, this amp isn’t for you There isn’t a lot of tube glow to look at, and the casework is utilitarian, and no more. But if you want an amp that will make you really enjoy listening to music, and will drive any headphone you can think of short of electrostats, then the TU882S should be on your short list. If you like building kits, even better. Enthusiastically recommended.
post #2 of 154
Great review of a great sounding amp! I wish people gave it a chance, they will be very pleasantly surprised a save a bunch of money.
post #3 of 154
great review! Thanks. look like a terrific product
post #4 of 154
Thank you for the review. Did you find either the DT880/600 or DT990/600 to be a particularly good match?
post #5 of 154
Thread Starter 
Both sounded really good - but I kept coming back to the DT990's with the TU882 - they seemed to synergize especially well together.
post #6 of 154
Great job Rob....I know you plugged in your DXs....how did they sound? Also, can you explain a bit on those input/outputs on the face of the amp....

I read through the other thread, however, it still was a bit unclear. low, medium, high.....?

I have a crap load of 5670/2c51 tubes.....Might put them to good use.....

Thanks again

Jes
post #7 of 154
Thread Starter 
Thanks Jes!

Yep, I did try the DX1000's, and they sounded very good, although it's not my favorite amp for them, not was it the best mate for the Elekit. From a synergy perspective, the Beyers and Senns were a better match.

The 3 mini jacks on the front are one "iPod" input, and then a high and low impedance headphone out. The impedance switch is active only on the 1/4" jack.
post #8 of 154
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skylab View Post
Thanks Jes!

Yep, I did try the DX1000's, and they sounded very good, although it's not my favorite amp for them, not was it the best mate for the Elekit. From a synergy perspective, the Beyers and Senns were a better match.

The 3 mini jacks on the front are one "iPod" input, and then a high and low impedance headphone out. The impedance switch is active only on the 1/4" jack.

Outstanding...Thanks again sir....
post #9 of 154
I would like to see comments about sinergy matching this amp with K701, if anyone had this experience.
post #10 of 154
Which of Elekit TU882 or Decware Zen Select CSP-2 would you recommend to use with denon "LA5000" 32ohms phone?
post #11 of 154
Thread Starter 
Very hard for me to say, since I don't have the LA5000 to try on either - I only had them for review quite a while ago. The CSP-2 is the better sounding amp to be sure. But it's output impedance is 60 ohms - not perfectly ideal for the 32 ohm Denons, at least on paper.

I'm really not sure what the TU882's impedance switch actually DOES, electrically - and as such, this is why I hesitate to make any definitive statements here. All I can say is that neither the TU882 or the CSP-2 hum with my lowest impedance headphones, the 40 ohm KH-1000. That is the most definitive statement I can make. Those headphones do hum slightly with many of my other OTL tube amps.
post #12 of 154
Good to see that amps on the lower-mid budget range are picking up pretty well. Nice review Rob [Skylab].
post #13 of 154

TU-882 IMPEDANCE SWITCH

"I'm really not sure what the TU882's impedance switch actually DOES, electrically - and as such, this is why I hesitate to make any definitive statements here. All I can say is that neither the TU882 or the CSP-2 hum with my lowest impedance headphones, the 40 ohm KH-1000. That is the most definitive statement I can make. Those headphones do hum slightly with many of my other OTL tube amps."

the impedance switch is connected to the output transformer; for low connect to output transformer 0~6/ohm; for mid connect to 0~32/ohm; for high connect to 0~600/ohm
post #14 of 154
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vkung View Post

the impedance switch is connected to the output transformer; for low connect to output transformer 0~6/ohm; for mid connect to 0~32/ohm; for high connect to 0~600/ohm
Excellent - thanks Victor.
post #15 of 154
Skylab, another great review. I don't have this headphone amplifier, but I do have the Elekit TU-884CD limited edition tube output CD player which I put together as a kit and can say that it is a very good sounding product which I have now paired up to the Hlly MK-III 3 tube headphone amp which uses a pair of super tubes (6H30-PI). All these TU products are designed by Mr. Fujita at Elekit who has a good ear when it comes to audio.

I may just build the headphone amp also as a next project.

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