Amstrans will tell you to contact AirTight, however the link has no e-mail address, so you'd have to call them in Japan! With the yen rate getting better, it's curious to see what AirTight wants for them.
Takatsuki Electric TA-300B - Page 7
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They dont make them in thousands a day, like those from China, so, demand may be big, however the price is very high, even they are that good, they still only tubes.
A while back, when they were introduced and could be bought for USD 900-1100 from Japan directly, the local dealer up here told me the price will be EUR 1800, so, buy buy TA300:-(
Even with the US$/Yen it's still cheaper than a pair of vintage WE 300B. When I bought my pair of WE 300B years ago I thought it was crazy expensive the prices what people were asking, current prices for them now are insane.
Edited by warubozu - 5/16/13 at 3:49pm
With the help of some relatives in Tokyo, I was able to obtain a pair of these tubes for $1400/pair. My system: Custom 300B: 6SN7 driving 300B, capacitor coupled, OPT, tube rectified (5AR4), Emm Labs DCC2 source, Senn. HD800.
Why did I buy them? It’s a lot of money to spend on tubes. I bought them because my favorite power tube before these was the Western Electric 300B. The reissue. I’ve never had a chance to listen to the original issues. At $900/pair which is what I paid for them direct from WE, they were a great deal (I challenge anyone to find a better sounding 300B for $900!) But I had a problem with those tubes: reliability. They were ridiculously unreliable. I had, I think, a total of three matched pairs. Six tubes. Of these, four had noise. Hissing, sputtering, ugliness that was not acceptable for headphone listening. This sound could only be heard through headphones during quiet passages. But it was there and it bothered me. So I sold them all off and replaced them with JJ Tesla and then Sophia Electric Carbon Plate. Meh. Acceptable, but a major compromise. Then I read about these Takatsukis and read some reviews that said they sounded BETTER than the WE reissues… Well I had to try them.
They are built extremely well. They are noticeably more robust than the reissue WE300B, which I consider an extremely fragile tube. The glass is thicker and the base is (I believe) ceramic. The WE has a bakelite base, if I am remembering correctly. They are approximately the same size as the WE. A big difference from the JJ and the Sophia Electric tubes, which are significantly larger in size. Possibly a millimeter thicker at the base than the Takatsuki and WE.
Sound-wise, the Takatsukis beat all of the 300B tubes I have owned so far. I am trying to temper by initial impressions with the knowledge that the first listen to new gear is often a rosy glassed affair. At $1400/pair, these tubes are probably worth it but in my mind I want to justify the cost. These tubes are not a bargain, certainly, but certainly worth it. Compared to the $900 Sophia carbon plate, these tubes are at least 75% better straight out of the box, without any burn-in whatsoever. From my memory they are at least 25% better than the Westerns. But the fact that they do not have the same noise problems as the WE makes them much, much better. These opinions are my own, according to my own preference. And my preference is for refined, natural, detailed sound. I am looking for as flat a response as possible without coloration or "equalization." My main musical diet is small combo jazz, but I listen to other music as well.
For me personally, when tubes get it wrong, they seem to get it wrong in the direction of harshness and edginess. I can live with less resolution and detail-smooshing. When I don’t like a tube it is not because of less resolution and/or roll off (as can happen with DACs or amps) it’s because they sound harsh. I’ve only experienced one tube that I preferred less exclusively because it was rolled off, rather than because it was harsh, and that was the black bottle Ken Rad 6SN7. Still, that tube is pretty well liked. To me, tubes sound bad when they are harsh.
I have lived with and listened extensively to the following 300B tubes: Chinese Shuguang Globe, Eastern European JJ Tesla (two different pairs), Chinese Sophia Electric Carbon Plate, and American Western Electric 300B (three different pairs).
In my opinion, coming from the tubes listed above, these Japanese Takatsuki 300Bs are the best I have ever heard. The Shuguang was a “starter” tube when I first started listening to SETs. Not a great tube. I remember it sounding not so good but it has been too long to include them in the comparison. I like the JJ Tesla 300B tube. It is a very aggressive, very forward tube. But it has faults, mostly in the midrange detail and high end harshness. The Sophia is an improvement over that tube. It has a bit of edginess in the highs as well but it has more detail and is a bit more laid back than the Tesla and retains the strong bass. Both of those tubes have a somewhat narrow, congested soundstage but the overall signature of the Sophia is a bit more natural and tamed than the JJ. The Western Electric smoothens things quite a bit over those tubes. It has a flatter, more even response, better dynamic range, and very nice details. Importantly, it adds a wider, more open soundstage and a very nice airy quality. The WE has a more sophisticated, delicate sound than the JJ and the Sophia with improvements in all areas except the bass and all but eliminate high end harshness. The Takatsuki tubes magnify these improvements. Improvements over the Western Electric in almost all areas. With more midrange lushness and beauty and more detail. In my opinion, the amount of detail that the TA tubes can pull from a source is truly spectacular. I HIGHLY recommend these 300Bs.
With the Takatsukis, the upgrade in detail retrieval (from the JJ and the Sophia) is as significant as upgrading digital sources. There is a definite veil lifted by these tubes compared to the Sophias. Listening to Bill Frisell, “Further West,” a live album (I can’t remember the track, I just remember noticing it and being surprised), one can hear the hum of Frisell’s amp during silent sections. I am not talking about distortion hum. I am talking about 60hz hum associated with a guitar amplifier that has been turned on (and Frisell was using humbuckers during this era, if I remember correctly). This guitar amp hum cannot be heard with the Sophia.
In spite of this level of detail, the TA is also more lush than the Sophia. There is a spatiality and ambience to the music that gives the music life. The Sophia has a bit of a compression thing happening: a comparative lack of detail, lack of dynamic range and a lack of spatiality. I noticed with the TA that I can listen at lower volumes and hear the same amount of information. I like this a lot. This increase in dynamic range is a definitive improvement and really needs to be emphasized. This is why the tube is not fatiguing. Swtiching to a more "aggressive" tube will give the impression that it is responding better, but I think it is more about compression than improvement.
Soundstage and presentation is improved over the JJ and the Sophia pretty significantly. For example, Con Te Patito: Time to Say Goodbye by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, was always kind of odd to me. The “studio-ness” of it. The smoothed-out somewhat muted quality of the voices, the very forward-sounding presentation. With the HD 800 and Sophia Electric, it has always sounded congested. A bit claustrophobic. The Takatsukis do a lot to alleviate the problems I had with this recording. It seems to balance out the sound, giving a wider soundstage and a more even presentation of Brightman’s voice. It highlights the voices while moving them a bit back in the mix. Again the detail and dynamic improvement has something to do with it. But the overall presentation is also less pushy and claustrophobic. In general there is more separation of individual instruments and notes.
Bass response is increased slightly over the WE but less than that of the Sophia and JJ. I always found the WE a bit anemic in the bass. A bit quick. A bit light. The TA has more weight and depth there. A bit more power. If there is one criticism, however, the TA has less impactful bass relative to the JJ and Sophia. The Sophia and JJ tubes have heavier, more powerful, focused bass. I might like the bass of the Sophia a bit more with bass-heavy music (hip-hop and electronic). This might also be an effect of the generally more even response and wider soundstage of the TA which might make the bass seem recessed compared to the Sophia. When I listen to these tubes there is definitely bass there. It is quite strong. Listening to Can’t Knock the Hustle by Jay-Z the bass line and bass drum is very strong. But there is also detail in the keyboards. Jay Z’s vocal is, again, a bit more evenly mixed in the soundstage, the same effect as with the Brightman recording. Another song that is mixed ridiculously hot and has very strong bass is Fidelity by Regina Spektor. Again, the bass is controlled and it seems like it is all there. Those very strong synthy bass drums are impactful without being boomy or overpowering. It's a tough call. One could say that the TA is anemic in the bass. One could say that the Sophia is heavy-handed with its bass. Not sure at this point. I am trying to find fault with these tubes. The bass might be that fault. But honestly, I’m not sure if I can say that. It is really good bass response…
The high end on the Sophias and the JJ is not too great. The JJ especially can be quite brittle on the high end. I like the high end on the WE a lot. The TA is very smooth at the high end, similar to the WE. Again, with copious detail retrieval. I really find this pretty amazing. The highs are not rolled off. They are there. I think as the TA breaks-in further, the highs will smooth out even more. I can hear the very pleasant sparkle of good high end detail and I hope it improves.
The TA seems to have too full a midrange to be considered a “fast” tube. The midrange is very lush and musical but still detailed. There is a nice, full quality that makes it very pleasant to listen to. This is possibly where the ambience and the spatiality is most apparent. The increased lushness and musicality of the midrange is what gives this tube its character, I think. It is a very, very “musical” tube. I do think that the midrange is where this tube is at its best and I prefer it to the Western Electric reissue in the midrange. I can’t really compare the midrange of the this tube because I think it is incomparably good. As good as I have ever heard in my life. I repeat: the midrange of these tubes is the best, most lifelike, detailed, midrange I have ever heard from a tube. Having said that, please keep in mind that there is A LOT I have not heard!
The more I listen to these tubes the more impressed I am. They are truly amazing-sounding. They are real beauties. I can’t recommend them highly enough. If you are using a 300B amp and running anything other than Western Electric 300Bs, I hope you would consider these tubes very, very seriously. They will improve your system A LOT. If you find that they don’t let me know and I will buy them off you. Immediately. At $1400, they are very expensive. I would prefer the Western Electric 300B at its original $900 price, IF they were consistently noise-free and less fragile. I would not buy the WE300B again unless they were from a trusted source who could guarantee noise free service over its lifetime (an impossibility). A noise free WE300B reissue at $900 is a better buy, I think. But the TA300B is a better tube.
Interesting. I didn't know about Kuboten. It is worth it to me to go through a service like that so as not to bug my relatives in JP. Thanks for the heads up. I will probably wait for the Yen to get to a more reasonable level before I purchase again. But I will definitely get at least two more pairs for the future. These are really good sounding tubs and no problems at all. If, within a year, they lose it or go bad, I will certainly post that info here. But have read no reports of unreliability so far. I don't see why there should be. The 300B should be a robust tube. It is a very simple, old design. Let me know how things go.