Yesterday I installed a matched pair of Gold Lion ECC88 tubes in my Musical Fidelity X-Can V8P headphone amplifier. I don't have a clue who manufactures the stock tubes. There wasn't any name or place of origin printed on the tubes, only ECC88. I must admit that the stock tubes sounded very nice, not brittle, or noisy, so the stock tubes have something going for them. I will keep them as backup tubes, though I will likely never need them.
Opening the X-Can V8P is a chore. The front face with volume control has to be remove, three modular plugs must be disconnected, and a front panel ground wire must be removed from its grounding post. Then the back cover has to be removed which allows the amplifier's main circuit board to slide out of the channels that support the circuit board inside the extruded aluminum enclosure. I set up the front and back plates and reconnected the wires for the nudie photo. The X-Can discrete circuitry is laid out nicely, and very well built. Removing the ECC88 tubes was simple, as was installing the new Gold Lion ECC88's back in the tube sockets. I reassembled the headphone amplifier, plugged the source interconnects back in place and the outboard power supply, then plugged in my Sennheiser HD600 headphone.
The Gold Lion ECC88's are so nice. Immediately I noticed an improvement in dynamics. Drum snaps were crisper, with quicker attacks and higher peaks. The bass is firmer and a bit more forward than the stock tubes. I can clearly hear the bass strings rich vibrations as the notes are played. The lush metallic bass string sounds as the notes decay are wonderful, and far superior to the stock tubes bass presentation. Listening to Chuck Loeb - One Another was spirit moving. His guitar licks literally floated with the electronic keyboard to create a full, rich, vibrant musical presentation that I have not experienced with the HD600's before today. The Gold Lion ECC88's are a true step up from the Musical Fidelity stock tubes. Simply put, the Gold Lions are much more musical. At 10:00 o'clock on the volume control there is plenty of volume to enjoy the HD600's. In addition, the silence of the Gold Lion ECC88 tubes is jet black, even at wide open volume with no audio signal. Genalex comes through again with another supreme tube. The Gold Lion ECC88's are marvelous. I got a chuckle out of the sticker on the back of the X-Can that says "No user serviceable parts inside". Yeah, right.
I couldn't be happier with the Musical Fidelity X-Can V8P headphone amplifier. Between its performance and the added resolution, detail, dynamics, and sound stage, plus the absolute velvet black silence, headphone listening has become a certified pleasure.
Edited by jdandy - 3/20/11 at 4:55pm