Chinese valve or tube amplifiers - are they any good? Well, I've tried out 2 of them from Hong Kong and the answer in a nutshell is they are absolutely brilliant and easily beat much more expensive transisitor amps. They have names you haven't heard of like MengYue, Music Angel, Sound Luster, Yaoin, Yaqin, Mr Liung, Audioromy, etc. and the prices can be a bargain even after you add the hefty postage charge. At the cheaper end (under £150 including postage) are valve amps using 6P1, EL34 or EL84 valves. If you go up to £200 you can go for bigger and better valves like KT88 or 845. Go to the top of the range like 100B or 300B valves and expect to pay about £300. You may have to pay a customs fee but this wasn't too bad at £10 to £20 for the 2 amps I got.
The first amp a Meng Yue 6P1 arrived safely within a month after winning the auction. I soon had it unboxed (it was packed extremely well) and linked to my system: the amazing detail and quality absolutely blew me away. I was used to my British made Audio Innovations amplifier connected to a Marantz KI Signature CD-63 player and Sonus Faber speakers, but the amp was slow and muddled compared to the Meng Yue (perhaps the valves needed changing in my old amp). Male vocals e.g Shane McGowan sounded a bit harsh with the Chinese amp but female vocals e.g. Sinead O'Connor or Holly Cole sang beautifully and with such emotion you could close your eyes and feel their presence!
I decided to go for a bigger amp and bought an Audioromy KT88 - this is a monster and arrived 6 weeks later by surface mail. Again the beautiful detail was very evident; Shane McGowan sounded smoother and more pleasing to my ears. All the instruments are clearly heard with excellent stereo imagery. I compared the Chinese amplifiers to an Arcam Alpha transistor amp and I preferred both valve amps every time, even my wife noticed the difference. The liveliness and wow factor was missing with the Arcam - it's like putting cotton wool in your ears.
The build quality of the amps are excellent and the transformers weigh a ton. I don't know how the Chinese have done it especially at these great prices but if you want fabulous hifi and not pay a fortune, do invest in one of these fantastic sounding amplifiers.
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