Elekit TU-8200 DX Headphone/Speaker Amp Review
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ProfessorC1983

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Hi everyone... wanted to say hello, since I bought myself a TU-8200DX from Victor as a Christmas present to myself. Had a lot of fun soldering it together and now I'm waiting for it to fully burn-in. I only have about 15 hours on it, so from everything I've read I know it will only get better from here! Thanks to everyone who has participated in this thread over the years. Reading it was a delight and there's such a wealth of information here about how to customize this amazing product.

Victor talked me into the Mundorf Supreme Silver Gold caps and the Genelex Gold Lion ECC82 tubes, along with the Amtrans resistor upgrades. As for power tubes, it's really a shame the NOS market has dried up... I'm so jealous of you guys that got GE 6L6GC's for $50 a pair back in 2015! Right now they're going for $180/pair on eBay, but I figure I should bite the bullet and pick up a set since they'll soon be gone forever. I want to try the SED Winged C EL34's as well since those will also disappear. I figure I'll have years to enjoy the new-stock tubes which will hopefully get better with time.

I picked up some Senn HD650's as well, which is a divine pairing so far, and I'm also using the Elekit to drive my ELAC Debut B6's. They aren't quite sensitive enough for Triode mode, UL is slightly better, but I think my next investment will be in some high sensitivity floorstanding speakers. I've heard that Tekton Lores are a great option for low-wattage tube amps, but I'd love to hear what <$1000 speakers you guys like specifically for this amp.

I did have a question for the user above who's using the Schiit Saga as a pre-amp for the Elekit, as I'm eager to use this combination as well. (I'll use the setup for TV watching in addition to digital music and vinyl, so having a remote volume control is important.) Did you find the reduced clarity occurred in the Saga's passive or active tube buffer mode, or both? I plan to try various combinations later but don't want to jump to conclusions since the Elekit is still breaking in, and all the new Mogami interconnects will require some burn-in time as well.

So far I couldn't be happier!
 
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dawktah2

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I think Western Electric beginning to make new 300B again will change the landscape.
 
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Effusion

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Congrats on the build @ProfessorC1983!

Yeah, while everyone will be different, I noticed my unit opening up and the bass getting better after about 30 hours or so. I also eventually went with the silver/gold caps and have really enjoyed them since; many others here have also enjoyed the upgrade. While I haven't tried the Gold Lion signal tubes, there should still be many old production out there at decent prices, however this will vary and higher-end 12au7s will tend to give better sound. There are also options to run different options using some of the tweaks @Dimu has done. Yeah, the hard part is the power tubes, especially since many have dried up in recent years. The days of $50 GE 6L6GCs was really nice though! Best advice for finding cheaper options is to use eBay, go for auctions, and just keep trying to get a good price. Also helps to have a way to test them once they arrive, if just to make sure they are not really low on life if the seller was selling them as NOS or lightly used. Also best to try to go with sellers that sell a lot of tubes and have pretty good reviews; tubes can get damaged during shipping and nothing is worse than a seller that won't accept them back if so.

One suggestion on power tubes are the 807s with adapters. They are probably the only ones that are still decent in price, with a ton available. However, in my experience, they can differ quite a bit in quality, with some sounding much better than others. I never really cared a ton for the very common RCAs, but have had good luck at times with others. However, inconsistencies do exist even within brands it seems, such as some Westinghouse's sounding really good, while others not so (different production years and internal materials/designs). I also like my SED Winged C EL34's, really nice soundstage/air if I remember correctly and sweet in certain areas, but also a bit lean at times compared to some, but not as lean as some others, just about in-between many. Unfortunately the EL34s have really gone up too, they where high in price 4 or 5 years ago as well, so Mullard and the such can be pricey, depending on their own factors, as well as harder to find. While I primarily run my unit in Triode mode with headphones, in my experience UL mode can work a bit better with most speakers and gives more speed/impact to the drivers, as well as more wattage. Also, I definitely prefer the EL34s in UL mode, compared to Triode with headphones, really allows them to open up and shine. Other power tubes I feel sound better in Triode or Pentode in general and with headphones. I haven't been able to spend much time with the unit hooked to speakers though, so my experiences there are a bit limited.

HD650s are a great choice with the 8200, I run a modded pair with mine and have always really enjoyed the result. Honestly, due to the tweak-ability of the amp, I think the 8200 could potentially be a really good match with most headphones. Folks here have run everything from low ohm IEMs to high ohm over the ear open backs with good results. I've even had the pleasure of hearing the 8200 drive the Focal Utopias better than a $6,000 mega amp with thousands of dollars of tubes in it, using a specific tube combination in the 8200, and the owner of both also agreed (he was actually the first one to try and was floored at the time). So, in my experience, synergy is very possible in many situations with this amp.

Can't really help on the Saga, but I did know of a passive pre that had a remote control that the manufacturer insisted imparts nothing onto the sound, essentially a "black" component, but this was years ago. It was made by Fletcher Haynes Audio, https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Electronics/FletcherHaynes-Audio-201540149902090/. Peter is really an amazing guy, one of the last of his kind and knows a ton about tubes and tube/electrical circuits, Helen is also really great as well, very helpful and joyful... while I don't know more information about this pre-amp per se, unfortunately it also seems hard to find anything online as well, but I did see it in action in their showroom about 6 years ago, so at one time they had them. Might be best to just contact Peter for more information, although I'll warn you that he is a very busy guy most of the year, plus it looks like his main website is no longer active, so I'm not sure the status. The nice thing about Schiit products is that if it doesn't work out, for you and in your setup, they are generally easy to resell, so may be the best option initially.

Welcome to the club! :beerchug:
 
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Effusion

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Not sure why I didn't remember the switch linked below, as I actually own one, but guess I'm not sure how important the remote is for your uses and the inputs/outputs, etc. Although my buddy is currently using mine to switch between recording devices, plus between headphones and speakers, when I did use it, prior to my Elekit, to switch between vinyl and pc it worked really great. No real degrade in sq from what I remember, so might work as another option, just would have to press in the buttons instead of using a remote and no volume control, but it is passive, no power needed. Plus it's cheap!

https://www.parts-express.com/parts...ite-video-selector-switch-5-in-2-out--180-938
 
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Lasollor

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I'd used a Saga to tame the gain on my TU-8200 for about a year, but sold it recently because I got a passive transformer to do the job.
I did find that with some tracks it reduced the clarity a little bit. Even after upgrading various parts of the amp, I couldn't hear it with the HD650 but noticed it sometimes with the HD800. For some reason active mode had a little hum with every tube I tried, so the above comments are about the passive mode which was completely silent. I think the functions of the Saga outweighs its effect on clarity if you need them. Just for comparison, replacing the stock volume pot on the TU-8200 had bigger effect on the clarity.
 
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ProfessorC1983

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Thanks @Lasollor -- I played with the Saga most of yesterday and unfortunately I get a pretty bad hum, regardless of whether it's in passive or active mode, and it even persists without any tube installed. It's pretty much unlistenable with headphones. Of course, if I attach the source directly to the Elekit, everything is perfect and the background is as black as I've ever heard regardless of volume level. I've reached out to Schiit for suggestions but I think I'll just return it and try another option.

And thanks @Effusion for the suggestions! I have a very similar manual RCA switchbox right now, works great except for the lack of volume control and my girlfriend nagging me every time she has to get up from the couch to switch the input back from phono to TV. :wink: I've been leaning toward building a semi-DIY solution based around the Joshua Tree Attenuator from Twisted Pair Audio - http://www.twistedpearaudio.com/control/jt.aspx - which uses only relays and Vishay Dale resistors in the signal path. Shouldn't be too hard to control it from an Arduino with IR receiver, and rig up a similar Omron G6K relay solution for the input switching as well. I'll let you guys know how it goes!
 
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Effusion

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Very cool, yeah I considered building one myself prior to owning the 8200 as well, different more simple design, but the price was just too good on that parts-express model at the time, plus I didn't need the volume control/remote. Now I just use the 2nd input on the 8200 for my phono preamp, so no need anymore, but a remote would be nice. Lasollor is right about the stock volume pot, which will actually probably be my next upgrade on the 8200, maybe sooner rather than later. That's too bad about the Saga, wonder if something internally is screwed up with that one. Could always try to contact Peter from Fletcher Haynes Audio, but I'm not sure if he is still active with the line, etc. In the end, sometimes best to go with a solution that works best for all your needs, such as DIY options, etc. that you referenced. Sounds really cool!

Yeah, let us all know how it goes and what questions you may have regarding the 8200 in the meantime!
 
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sunneebear

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Adcom SLC-505 Straight Line Controller (Passive preamp) (700x308).jpg
I was also interested in passive preamps. After some research I settled between the twistedpear or Nelson Pass' B1 buffer. I went with the B1. I bought the kit with the relays but never used it because I came across a Adcom SLC-505 Straight Line Controller for $70 on Craigslist. It was perfect. A passive preamp and a bunch of inputs. I have been using the Adcom since. My brother is using the B1 and loves it.
 
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sunneebear

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My TU-8200 drives my main speakers (Jamo C 607) so yes I do use all the inputs on the Adcom.
20190106_213157.jpg
 
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Dimu

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TU-8500 is purpose-built as a preamp for TU-8200 and is a cute little project once TU-8200 assembly is finished. And it has good phono stage too. It adds a second pot, so you can control volume very precisely. And if you load it up it boosts 2nd harmonic and changes the sounds in a good way. But if you just want to attenuate signal all you have to do is plug in a couple of RCA attenuators- that has to be the simplest solution.

here is an example:

https://www.amazon.com/Harrison-Labs-Line-Level-Attenuator/dp/B0006N41B0
 
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sunneebear

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TU-8500 is purpose-built as a preamp for TU-8200 and is a cute little project once TU-8200 assembly is finished. And it has good phono stage too. It adds a second pot, so you can control volume very precisely. And if you load it up it boosts 2nd harmonic and changes the sounds in a good way. But if you just want to attenuate signal all you have to do is plug in a couple of RCA attenuators- that has to be the simplest solution.

here is an example:

https://www.amazon.com/Harrison-Labs-Line-Level-Attenuator/dp/B0006N41B0
Sadly the TU-8500 only has four inputs. If you only need four, most relay type selectors start at four and are very cheap. Kits came be had for $20.

Those RCA line level attenuators affect the sound. In the 90's I tri-amped my speakers. I used different amps to suite the characteristics of the tweeter, midrange and woofers. Trying to match the levels for the amps, I tried those RCA attenuators. Each brand had it's own sound. When you have a few to AB you can tell right away that they affect the sound.
 
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Hi everyone... wanted to say hello, since I bought myself a TU-8200DX from Victor as a Christmas present to myself. Had a lot of fun soldering it together and now I'm waiting for it to fully burn-in. I only have about 15 hours on it, so from everything I've read I know it will only get better from here! Thanks to everyone who has participated in this thread over the years. Reading it was a delight and there's such a wealth of information here about how to customize this amazing product.

Victor talked me into the Mundorf Supreme Silver Gold caps and the Genelex Gold Lion ECC82 tubes, along with the Amtrans resistor upgrades. As for power tubes, it's really a shame the NOS market has dried up... I'm so jealous of you guys that got GE 6L6GC's for $50 a pair back in 2015! Right now they're going for $180/pair on eBay, but I figure I should bite the bullet and pick up a set since they'll soon be gone forever. I want to try the SED Winged C EL34's as well since those will also disappear. I figure I'll have years to enjoy the new-stock tubes which will hopefully get better with time.

I picked up some Senn HD650's as well, which is a divine pairing so far, and I'm also using the Elekit to drive my ELAC Debut B6's. They aren't quite sensitive enough for Triode mode, UL is slightly better, but I think my next investment will be in some high sensitivity floorstanding speakers. I've heard that Tekton Lores are a great option for low-wattage tube amps, but I'd love to hear what <$1000 speakers you guys like specifically for this amp.

I did have a question for the user above who's using the Schiit Saga as a pre-amp for the Elekit, as I'm eager to use this combination as well. (I'll use the setup for TV watching in addition to digital music and vinyl, so having a remote volume control is important.) Did you find the reduced clarity occurred in the Saga's passive or active tube buffer mode, or both? I plan to try various combinations later but don't want to jump to conclusions since the Elekit is still breaking in, and all the new Mogami interconnects will require some burn-in time as well.

So far I couldn't be happier!
So glad you're happy with the new Elekit amp! Interesting you have the Mogami interconnects, these are something I have been meaning to buy or make myself, as I have made Mogami cables for almost all of my headphones, including two sets for my revered Sennheiser HD540 Reference (second release of the first 600 ohm model, ie; without the headband ridge). I bought these headphones from new 30 years ago now and they are still my goto cans for disappearing right into the music, the pleather pads and Mogami cable transforming them while maintaining the superbly organic musical traits that so effortlessly pour from them.
I have just built my Elekit TU 8500 preamp 5 days ago, waiting and saving for some 18 months until I could do this. I bought up the Amtrans resistor kit, Mundorf Evo's and upgrade op-amps beforehand. After building kit gear for decades, I can easily state that this has been the finest kit to build of them all! I even went all the way and carefully filed down the joining links that hold all the boards together as they come in the fresh kit. I made a small booboo by only ordering two of the Mundorf caps, not four, but fortunately I have a stock of really nice 0.47uF polypropylene 650V caps on hand so I put them into the phono coupling section and the Mundorfs into the line stage. A also have a small stock of the fabulous and very rare now Black Gate 0.1uF NP caps and used two of them in the phono stage instead of the stock versions. I find that once these Black Gate caps run in .. and it takes a while! ... the transparency is fantastic, I've used them in several of my amps and as bypass caps for power supplies.
Initially I used the stock tubes, in this case the preamp came with Chinese Shuguang 12AU7s and I have to admit I was rather amazed that they sounded pretty good! Lots of tuneful fun, a touch of extra tube warmth maybe, but still clear and very rhythmic, something that is the first thing I pick up on ... no rhythmic integrity, out they go! Bass was full yet did not slug timing, so I kept them in for the first 8-10 hours or so, thoroughly enjoying myself, my body instantly responding to the rhythms, no harshness or edge with AAC/Mp3 tracks from iTunes, just great fun as I sat and jived around. A really good start.
Next day, I popped in my well used Psvane 12AU7-T's that came from my previous TRI KT88SE integrated amplifier. Blimey! These things really are still excellent tubes, taut timing, very transparent, extended and neutral in balance. I could swear I heard things in very well played tunes that I've simply never heard before, not so much overall, just little details here and there. The kit used is as in my Sig below, QP1R as a source via optical cable into the Schiit Modi Multibit DAC, Slinkylinks pure silver ICs into the preamp and the White Zombie LaCacanya ICs into a highly modded Silicon Chip headphone amp and HD540 Ref1s.
The preamp is so utterly silent it's not surprising I could hear tiny details at the back of the soundstage suspended in their own space, very wide stereo stage and rather fine depth. The HD 540s excel (as I have them) at creating a virtual 3D space where the headphones themselves and the bones of my skull vanish and the depth perception from this system from a live concert, as in Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars soundtrack is quite astonishing. Bowie's voice is punchy, full of natural character and yet never harsh or edgy, quite something! Bass is fast and taut, kick drum well separated behind Bowie, percussion well out to the left and almost behind my left ear, Mick Ronson's guitar soaring with fantastic creativity, especially on The Width Of A Circle and Cracked Actor.
Even the phono stage is silent and I have to use full volume to hear even the slightest of noise, at normal listening levels and even beyond, it's effectively noiseless. Speaking of which, I really like this phono stage! Full of life, very tuneful and great imaging ... and the preamp is far from fully run in yet.
Next, is to save up for the TU 8200. I will keep in touch with this thread to keep tube options alive and open.
PS: the pics actually show a set of Mullard ECC88s that I mistakenly thought were 12AT7s, oops! No wonder they GLOWED brightly :) Amazingly, they sounded rather good, if a bit warm and slightly soft in the top end. The Psvane 12AU7s are brilliant here.
 
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sennsay

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Just finished before new year
Ah, I see there are more better quality parts I can add to my TU 8500 yet :) I was going to go with Nichicon FG caps in my power supply too, but thought I would just try stock for now ..... other than Mundorf Evos in the line stage, Amtran resistor kit, upgrade op-amps in the phono stage. Interesting what you've done there. SQ?
 
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I wanted to share my TU-8200DX build here on the thread. I finished it last week and have been burning it in. I switched out the stock tubes with New Production Tung-sol 6550s and NOS ribbed plate 12AU7 Mullards. I have to say this is a gem of an amp. The transparency in this config is fabulous. I'm running the Modwright LS100 as my preamp with Zu Audio Omen IIs for speakers and various headphones. iBasso SR-1s are my go to headphones....


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jerick70

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One question about the TU-8200... Can I use 12AT7s in place of 12AU7s? I read about someone using these as an upgrade and was curious if this is possible.
 
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