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TU-8500 Review


Review: Elekit TU-8500 Full-Function Preamp, Part I
Overview: Elekit, Part II

Overview Elekit, Part I (article contains my review of Elekit's previous preamp, the hugely popular TU-875, which I think should interest you)

Note: As one sometimes does in a Blog, this review of TU-8500 would be in several chapters/parts, over several months, so if you are interested, check back regularly. The first parts would be from HK, where I will run in the unit thoroughly. In April, I shall take it to NYC where I could further assess its phono section. Based on my experience with the TU-875, the unit deserves lavish attention. Few things have excited me more recently. On close examination, the TU-8500 is a very interesting product, more than I had thought. Much thought had gone into its design.

Basic Info on Elekit
vkmusic (North American dealer); Victor Kung, whom I have yet to meet, is a great guy, very passionate about what he sells, very helpful to his clients and well regarded in diyaudio, where he runs the Elekit forum. Victor had put in a hell of a lot of work on Elekit, including translating manuals and flyers from Japanese to English for their older products like TU-875 and TU-879 (and his English versions were then used by other vendors without crediting him!) All Elekit users, especially those who DIY, should give him credit. If I were a North American Elekit fancier, I'd buy from him rather than from others who had less dedication.
Elekit official website
cnamusic (Elekit HK seller); Mr Lau is also a pretty helpful guy.

Click the image to open in full size.Click pics to enlarge.

Basic Info on Elekit TU-8500 (vs TU-875)
Once again, Victor was the first one to provide detailed info in English to the world. In addition to his website listed above, diyaudio's Elekit forum has 2 threads on the TU-8500: one with basic information (make sure you read this page also) and one on tube and opamp rolling. I got all of my info on this preamp initially from Victor.

With help from Victor, I bought an assembled unit from Japan (not much time for DIY these days). The DIY manual is provided (necessary for future mods etc), only in Japanese, in the typically lucid pictorial Elekit style. Although I am not well versed in electronics, the included schematic is useful to me. I hope Elekit will publish an English version of the manual soon.

Click the image to open in full size.Spec's from vkmusic:
Stock tube: NOS 5965A X 2 (option :12AU7 x 2pcs)
OP-amp: NJM2068DD x 2pcs
INPUT/OUTPUT terminal: Phono IN x 1
LINE IN : 3 (3.5mm stereo jack(LINE3 priority) x 1)
Power voltage: AC100, 115, 200, 230V
IEC standard, 3P inlet
Rated current: 8W
Dimensions: W252 x H73 D270 mm
Weight: Approx.3.1kg (when assembled, excluding power cord)

[Line amp]
Max output voltage: 22Vrms (1kHz)
Gain: x3.1(9.8dB), x1.15(1.2dB)
Frequency response (-3dB): 2Hz

Review: Elekit TU-8500 Full-Function Preamp, Part II

Review: Elekit TU-8500 Full-Function Preamp, Part II
Brief Review: Sparkler S303 CDP, Part I
Talk Vinyl: Fidelity Research MC-202 MC Cartridge, Part II
Brief Review: Lyngdorf CD-2
Yumcha Diary 07-03-2015

See Elekit TU-8500, Part I for Basic Info and First Impressions.

Day 2 In my Reference System
On Day 2 I took the Elekit to my old house, and hooked it up in lieu of my trusted Leben RS28-CX. I mainly wanted a first glimpse into the phono section.

Equipment Used

Digital: Sparkler S303 CDP (120V; but using my 100V line)(Best Buy 2014; see here and here)
Analog 1: Thorens TD-124 MkI/SME 3009 series 2/Denon DL-103 (briefly mentioned here)
Analog 2: Garrard 301 (grease bearing)/Thomas Schick 12"/Denon DL-103 (Midas)
Comparison Phonoamp: Micromega MyGroov (Best Buy 2014; see here)
Preamp: Elekit TU-8500 (Gain 3x)
Amp: Wavac MD-300B
Loudspeakers: TAD TD-3401

Oh MercyLine Section With the CD (well recorded, as is usual with Daniel Lanois production) of Dylan's Oh Mercy, the Elekit capably served up the requisite jump factor, albeit at this point with a broad stroke. With music that I know this well, even from memory I am fairly certain the Leben resolves just a little more (it better, costing so many times more!). Also, there is a little smearing of the bass which I had not noticed on Day 1 - this could be due to the microphonics or a character of the GE 5965.

MC Phono Section Again, through the Thorens turntable, I played the vinyl (original) of Oh Mercy, which is one of my trusted Test LPs. First, I played it through the Micromega MyGroov (which had received some run-in as I had lent it to my shidi and also trazom), then through the Elekit. The two solid state phonoamps are more alike than different. The Micromega MyGroov might just be a tad sweeter and the Elekit a little lean, but I do think the Elekit resolves a little more detail and has a somewhat larger scale. Promising, considering that the Elekit phono section had not seen a signal before.

I left the Elekit in the house, to be used the next day.

Image result for solti brucknerDay 3 In my Reference System
On this day, shidi came to my place, and we listened for 2 hours. I wanted to get a glimpse into tube rolling and understand the 5965.

5965 vs 6189 I dug out a pair GE 6189 (green letter), a 12AU7 variant. These are humble tubes, not at all the best of 12AU7, but still much better than current productions, and likely a real-world choice for Elekit owners. Actually I think this pair came with my TU-875 long ago, and I had not used them much. The difference is immediately felt.

The 6189 instantly provided a little more air, more fine details and in general a more sophisticated presentation. With the 5965 tube, through the razor-sharp Sparkler S303, CD replay with certain material was a just a trifle overbearing. For instance, the brass of Bruckner 9th (Solti/Chicago/Decca), which shidi requested because we had both recently attended a live performance of Dresden/Theielemann, sounded borderline strident with the 5965 tube, but swapping in the 6189 ameliorated that to a large extent. But there is the other side of the coin: shidi astutely pointed out that the 5965, although rawer, had a faster transient and, despite the lower-mu, more oomph factor. This surprised me a little, but it also shows tube rolling should be fun with the TU-8500. You will hear more about the 5965 later, but I will acquaint myself with the 6189 a little more for now.

MC Phono Section Suddenly I got only intermittent signal from my Thorens right channel, so I switched to the Garrard setup, As before, the Oh Mercy LP sounded distinctly better than the CD, more dynamic gradation and rhythmic finesse. We actually compared it to another more famous phonoamp (won't reveal it at present) and shidi thought the Elekit was better, a little less refined but more wholesome.

Short Note on Sparkler S303
Through the Sparkler S303, Dylan's band simply pulsates, full of electricity. The live atmosphere of the excellent Sarah Vaughn album was also well conveyed. This is a CDP that excels in Rhythm and Pace, hence a good choice for jazz and rock aficionados.

As mentioned above, when the going gets heavy, the CDP can be a little lean with classical and big orchestral stuff. Part of this may be due to the non-oversampling and minimalism. So partner with care.

Yumcha - Audio Takeout
After the session, shidi drove me to Central, where I joined yumcha. After yumcha, I took the Elekit to match with the Spendor SP-100 (more description and previous visits here), but the attempt was not entirely successful. System:

CD-2 Front_angleCDP: Lyngdorf CD-2 (official link)
Analog: Thorens TD-321/SME 3009S3/Fidelity Research MC-202
Preamp: YS Audio Balanced A2
Phonoamp: YS Audio Concerto Plus MC
Amp: YS Audio KT-120 monoblocks

Lyngdorf CD2 Playing the CD of Kondrashin's Scheherazade, although a little less resolving, imho the Elekit was more musical than the more matter-of-fact YS Audio Balanced A2 preamp. Here, I must mention that I have heard the CD2 before at the host's, and also the previous CD1. I think it is a very fine CDP, resolving, dynamic, yet relaxed (for analog lovers, the midrange is a little less rich, yet never wanting).

Fidleity Research MC-202 The resident LP system proved a foil for the Elekit. The Fidelity Research MC-202 had previously belonged to me (see my experience here). With the LP version of the same Scheherazade the sound was slow and lacking in spirit. Surely, the cartridge's low output of 0.17V was too low for the Elekit MC section (nominal 63 db gain; keep in mind the gain of the line section (9.8 db at 3x gain) is not very high either). Somehow, although the total gain is almost 73 db, it sounded like less. The hosts preamp/amp obviously had higher gain and brought the music to live. In fact, I think he got better sound from the MS-202 than I.

At this point, it seems to me the TU-8500's gain structure tends to be more suitable for higher efficiency loudspeakers (like my TAD 3401.)

Watch for Part III, coming very soon.

Edits: 03/09/15

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Topic - TU-8500 Review - vkung 10:58:36 03/06/15 (0)


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