After reading so many other reviews online, I would like to give back with a brief review of a Cayin A-100T Integrated Amplifier. It is loaded with 8 Mullard EL34's in the power amp section and a Sovtek 12AX7, two 12AU7's and two 6CG7's in the pre-amp section. It is a TOTL Chinese import purchased from a hi end audio store and is regarded to be at the higher end of the spectrum of Chinese manufactured amps (compared to Yaqin, Jolida, Music Angel, Shanling..) which is reflected by its over 3200$+ retail value. The amplifier is built incredibly well with absolutely no detail overlooked and has all of the qualities and features that one would expect from a top of the line product. All components are of the highest quality and are hand soldered point to point. A fully controllable remote is included and an extremely well made motorized volume control. There are 5 24K gold inputs and 4 and 8 Ohm 24K gold Speaker Outputs. It also features two modes that are selectable while listening, Triode (36W@8ohm) and Ultrlinear (70W@8ohm). I have a background in electronic manufacturing and can say that this a luxury item not to be confused with wall-mart or dollar store garbage that is often associated with Chinese products. This was meticulously built to the highest standards and no detail was overlooked. The term built like a tank gets tossed around a lot, but this solid beast at about 70lbs sure earns that clich?.
I could keep explaining how impressive the build quality is, but everyone wants to know how it sounds. I don?t have the best vocabulary that a professional would use to review an amp, but one word that I would use to describe the sound is incredible! What the amp does best is in its mid-range, it is warm, rich and extremely detailed as EL34?s are known for. The highs are also perfectly defined and reproduced in full detail. The combination of the two makes for the best sonic clarity that I have ever experienced in my own home. Snare drums, flutes, guitars, violins, pianos, saxophones, just to name a few, are reproduced with such perfect precision. Thanks to its monstrous size and muscle, this amp produces enough power to muster very realistic bass. This was one particular area where I have been dissatisfied in the past with smaller EL34 tube amps but the A100t triumphs.
I cant possibly emphasize enough on how beautifully accurate this amplifier is. Using my best classical vinyl records (my main source) created a marvellous listening experience. Each instrument played clearly with perfect detail and could be picked out individually when focused on. It is capable of a huge soundstage and reveals a definite image of a performance in front of your eyes. I have a really hard time choosing between Classical, Jazz and Instrumental records, as each one rewards me with what feels like a live performance in my home. Let me repeat that, a live performance in my home!! This is what I try to explain friends and family who don?t understand my audio obsession. This amp helps reproduce music to a level that is so realistic, it is like having my own personal library of musicians and instruments. I also have an extensive blues and rock collection which is done great justice by the Cayin. For instance, listening to the guitar skills of Mark Knopfler, Stevie Ray Vaughan and B.B. King, every nuance and articulation is revealed in a way that other high end systems fall just short of. The passion and emotion of Janis Joplin, Ella Fitzgerald or Koko Taylor are not just amplified, but rather, re-created. Live albums are particularly fun to listen to as all of the music along with all of the energy of the concert is acoustically reproduced phenomenally. One last character about the amp that can not go unmentioned is its natural and warm tube sound. This may sound obvious to an experienced tube listener, but to someone who is not used to the sound of tubes will instantly notice. I will not go into too much detail, but the overall sound is just so smooth and easy on the ear, I can easily sit and listen to music all day without fatigue.
I also want to talk about a couple of features of this amp that deserve mention. This amp can also be used solely as a power amplifier, I personally love the pre-amp section, but it can become convenient in the future. The remote works perfectly and has full control over the amp; Volume, Input, Mute and Mode. Also, the motorised volume knob is very well made, it is smooth, accurate and solid. Once again, build quality and overall aesthetics alone would impress any consumer. My favourite feature is that it can switch to two different modes via the push of a button, triode and ultralinear. This is very convenient for someone like me who listens to different kinds of music. Generally I like the triode mode for the most accurate possible reproduction of my music, but I use the ultralinear mode when I want more power. Each mode sounds good but I find that they have slightly different sonic colouring, almost like slightly different EQ settings. They make for a good pair, I find the triode mode somewhat brighter and the ultralinear to have a slightly scooped mid and accented bass. I use both modes and it is nice to kind of have 2 amps in 1 (4 in 1 if you include combinations of integrated/power), a modest SET and a more powerful Push-Pull. Finally, this amp also has a meter to display the bias measurements (I forget if it is voltage or current) and a switch in the back that to select the tube that you would like to measure. This gives you the benefit of easily fine tuning the bias whenever you like in seconds with just a screwdriver. No need for a tech, tools, measuring devices or even opening up the unit, it is very easy and completely fool proof.
Overall, this is an amazing amplifier worth every penny and more in sound quality and build quality. It does exactly what it is supposed to do with all of the bells and whistles. It amplifies a signal in a very natural and balanced way without lending any coulour and leaving a ?tonal? quality that only tubes can bring.
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