A few months in the making and testing, QA is excited to announce a new lineup of high-performance cables, the Star Series.
Star Series is born out of the symbolism of excellence, like how children stand to understand from their first grading system since young. At the same time, it is also paying homage to the five stars on our Singapore national flag, where the country Quartz Acoustic proudly calls home.
There is no end to the best in hifi, so the thought of naming the best lineup of a brand as ‘reference’ like many others do is not QA’s ideal of thought. Surely our best is below the mark of the truly best one out there, if there really is one, categorically speaking. But in using the higher echelon of parts and components with similarly high-end craft of termination, our Star Series is no way hovering at even the upper midrange, but way more above that. With our Star Series cables, you are guaranteed a star of greatness high up in the vast openness of sky amongst others, and definitely also a platform not far away in your journey in search of reaching out to the next or more stars.
Prices of cable lineups in Star Series may look extraordinarily expensive in comparison to similar cables from the general DIY masses, but only because QA Star Series is not those average ones out there. Until one realises the true cost of the connectors/plugs we hand-picked to be used as terminations for our Star Series cables will then the value be fully understood. Using selections from Furutech, Oyaide and KLE to name a few, there is no one critical component of the Star Series cables being a counterfeit or inferiorly-made one, because the quality of the connectors/plugs are that crucial in ensuring these cables will be right down the long list of upgrades after getting them.
Many makers and resellers seemingly market their cables to only the affluent group, actually leaving the majority of users in the audio community totally devoid of chances in hearing what ‘really good authentic’ cables can sound like. This is the reason why we do not say Star Series is only for those who can afford it. Affordability is not true at all in hifi, because enthusiasts and audiophiles like us can afford anything we want – we will go to great lengths to get it, only sooner or later – if we are honest.
And that makes everyone the possibility be the rightful owner of Star Series cables if one fully appreciates how the sum of all parts will be a greater equivalent. Nothing beats owning a cable knowing it can bring significant improvement to their system whilst been safe in the knowledge craftsmanship quality is assured and warranty support is enabled. These are values proving to be monumentally worthier than considering any justification of prices for cables, or worse yet, comparing apples to oranges and still decided based on whichever is the cheaper one. This is only doing a disservice to the outstanding products of the brands involved, who have stood out amongst the rest and have already marked their presence in many truly top-of-the-line industry cables over the years.
And before we left out the reason for Star Series creation – QA believes in the potential of these cables and simply, they deserved to be paired with few of the best connectors/plugs in hifi audio to becoming a more common option of choices for all audiophiles and the community in powering and linking their equipment up.
All Star Series cables come with extended 2-year warranty from QA.
Continuing from where we left off, subsequent detailing of this post is on a R100 amp with 845 tube version. 845 was chosen for our audition model because it is the highest retail value of the tubes among the three (despite 805 version of the amp costing a higher price) and it sits in the middle ground of 211 and 805 in terms of power output. Presumably, it should give quite an accurate sense of the two.
Here is a quick video walk-through follow by the detailed write up that comes after.
First off, R100 is a beast – a monstrous amp that could actually
prevent you from excitedly unboxing to try it out, solely because it is that heavy. Weighing in at around 42kg,
one needs to be mentally prepared and do some rhythmic breathing in preparation
of lifting it out of the thick and rugger double-boxed boxes. Please take note
of correct posture in lifting it up, as it does has a serious consequence of
hurting your back if not careful. To be safe, get a partner to help. I cannot
stress enough, the weight plus the bulk really make it damn heavy to be
Due to its weight, it is highly not recommended to place it on top of any normal TV console or media rack without proper thickness or approved weight-holding strength. Sometimes prolong sitting it on console or rack may warp them even if they may not break. Placing the R100 on the floor is the best and safest option. If you intend to move it around or plug in and out cables at the back of the amp often, I would recommend to sit it on a heavy duty platform trolley, trolley without handles, so it can look pretty as well as having ease of manoeuvre. You will thank me later.
Done with the heavy lifting, one will instantly be drawn to
the thick chassis and gigantic transformers, sources of the majority of the
weight. It is definitely impressive to see how well-machined the exterior is
being out together. There is no one sharp edges at all, with all corners taken
into consideration to be rounded off. That at least gives one a peace of mind
knowing carrying it will not dig into the hands and got hurt as a result
because of been weighed down.
It is hard not to notice the bulb-like tubes sticking out of the amp. Yet the brawny amp body compliments the pair of 845 perfectly. They will never be hidden because even with a cage on, the R100 will still present the beauty of big triode tubes to be admired. The cage is semi-open, guarding just the side of all the tubes, but covering the top of the preamp tubes of 6SN7s and 12AX7s.
The cage design may split preferences, as some may hope for a fully covered cage to prevent accidental scalding upon touching the giant tubes during operation. In all honesty, a full cage may not save fingers from hurt on prolong touch nevertheless, because the heat from big triode tubes will likely heat the cage hot enough to still cause unpleasant sensation. A full cage also takes away the aesthetic of the glowing tubes (which rightfully deserved to be seen), an ethos Muzishare seems to always uphold in the design of their amps.
The semi-open cage reflects a very modern approach that lends value to the design of the amp. For safe and easy removal, the cage is removed in halves, a symmetrical approach that can be seen right immediately after the entire removal of the cage. Looked metallic but they are not – the cages are fabricated from layers of supposed acrylics finished with excellent metallic and glossy spray.
Amazingly, the cages did not warp or soften despite the close proximity with the hot 845 tubes, a trait acrylic would definitely be susceptible of. It could be a more durable type of plastic I do not know, but is surely a very safe option to leave the cages on for a prolonged period without worrying them warping. Revealing the preamp tubes, a cageless R100 shows the prestigious lineup of the tubes in an orderly and imposing arrangement.
Not the biggest, but the 5U4G rectified tube seats right in the centre, leading the eyes to the rest of the tubes impressively. This visual function is almost akin to its electrical function, providing the best of direct currents to the rest of the tubes. And while we are on this rectifier tube, do understand this is a very significant implementation by Muzishare at this price point not implemented elsewhere in other brands like Line Magnetic or Cayin (except the Pro version).
A rectifier tube provides excellent efficiencies in current distributing and stabilising, allowing the tubes to be fed with cleaner and stable current for cleaner signal output. And this provides another channel of sound improvement when rolling rectifier tubes with even better vintage tubes. The presence of this rectifier tube is often overlooked but it holds a great deal to the quality of R100.
On the sides of the 5U4G rectifier are a pair of 12AX7 and
6SN7, both being very popular and wonderful-sounding preamp tubes. There are
great choices of rolling them with vintage tubes, improving the smoothness and
linearity of the sounds even further. Rolling 5U4G, 12AX7 and 6SN7 tubes are
not particularly expensive (barring those super rare European variants) yet the
sound improvement is a significant upgrade. Because behind them are tubes where
their vintage counterparts will cost a huge sum to get hold on that they are
better left with the stock tubes. Made no mistake, the stock tubes are from
PSvane – already a highly regarded brand of tube for reissues.
Do take extra care in removing the bigger tubes of 300B and
845. There are only 4 pins in them, so the wiggly motion to remove 300B needs
to be firm. 845 tubes are SCREWED ON. They are not removed the same way as the
rest of the tubes by pulling them out! Remember! Hold 845 tube by the glass and
firmly rotate anti-clockwise about a quarter turn. The bottom of the tube will
align with the groove and then it can be removed easily.
On each side of these big tubes are the Hum Balance and Bias
adjustment. By selecting to the corresponding bias group on the front panel on
the left switch, we can adjust the bias of the 845 tubes to the correct value
of 85mA with a test pen, taking reference from the ornate and bright VU meter
in the middle of the front panel. Bias adjustment should be done preferably
after at least 5 minutes of being switched on so the tubes are hot enough to
show a stabilised reading. This adjustment does not need to be done every so
frequently unless the 845 tubes are changed.
The same cannot be said for the hum balance adjustment
though. This needs adjusting when different speakers of different sensitivity
are connected, in addition to the changes of tubes. To and fro fine adjustments
will have to be made on both adjustors on each side until the least hum is
heard from the speaker cones by placing your ears right up to them. Complete
silence is seldom ever possible, so do not get too caught up on that. As long
as you heard nothing from your listening position then it is good.
The selector switch is on the front of the panel, seated to the right of a sturdy push button for powering on and off the R100. While the size of the power button is great, having the same size for the bias/VU meter sensitivity and inputs selector is admittedly less than ideal as these selector modes need switching which can be helped with a bigger knob. Presumably, aesthetic reason is probably why Muzishare implemented that, which to be fair, they are seldom touched as well once adjustment is done.
The volume knob, however, is one huge, precise, machined aluminum piece that turns buttery smooth. It offsets the symmetrical look we see on the tubes layout but nonetheless still visually balanced with help from the emphasis of space around the Muzishare logo on the other side. The exquisite and beautiful rounded VU meter right in the middle of the front panel ‘rounds off’ all things circular in front, presenting a delightful sight of high end outlook.
With the wide selection of inputs available comes the huge plethora
of connections at the rear. Particularly high value in performance is the
present of both balanced and phono inputs! A truly balanced connection in the
entire audio chain can be greatly appreciated by those who played digital files
whose DACs may have the option of connecting. This allows for a higher dynamic
range as well as an even lower noise floor for a quieter background.
Phono inputs provides vinyl lovers to skip an additional
phono stage and cable to go directly from the turntable to the amp with just a
single pair of cable! Using external phono stage is often recommended as it
performs way better than any built-in preamp most of the time. The MM phono
stage in R100 not only saves the cost from getting the extra component, the
shorter and more direct signal path within the internal circuit prevent
additional noise to be introduced to the sensitive phono signal. One less component
means one less complexity for the signal path and also additional money saved
for tube upgrades for R100.
Having a balanced and phono inputs greatly heightened the
performance value R100. These two components have already been seen in the KT88
tube amp X7, hence it is really not a surprise to see them in the flagship
R100. They are not specifications to be taken from granted, however. None of
these could be seen built together even in higher-priced amps from other Chinese
brands like Line Magnetic and Cayin. While balanced and phono connections may
not be utilised by everyone, they are definitely component features that
future-proofed your investment subsequently if upgrades down the months or
years call the need for them.
A common feature for high-powered tube amp less commonly
seen in lower-powered KT88/EL34 amps is the availability of 16ohm speaker taps.
Amps like R100 has the flexibility, and voltage muscles, to drive speakers load
of higher impedance rating without worry of damaging them with higher currents.
Finally, how R100 sounds. Knowing how subjective this can
get, the following impression is best described in terms of comparison from
EL34/5881/6L6GC and KT88/6550 tubes. Basically, one word, marriage. EL34 tubes
are known for the delight vocals. KT88s are so superior in power and dynamics. The
845s in R100 driven by 300B are almost like a perfect marriage between EL34 and
KT88 WITH even added improvements!
Vocals are sweet and musical like EL34, BUT with added naturalism and organic touch to it. Bass and highs are ample like KT88, BUT with added tightness and more punch at the lower end and extended crisps of sparkles at the higher end where one will hope KT88 can squeeze these in further. Music just sounded much livelier with touch of realism. Power from 845 tubes does not mean the gain is high and volume is loud – in fact at 9 o’clock position is where the volume is good, anything past 10 o’clock the amp is pumping some serious juice (at Class A, this is fully expected). Every amps can drive any speakers to a loud level no problem. But power from 845 tubes come in extruding all the fine details of almost all the frequencies, regardless the volume level, in enabling the intricacies to be heard.
It is hard to find any further lacking of dullness of the music with R100 without going into the micro level of nit-picking of specific instruments or frequencies. At stock, the sound from R100 has little room for improvement. If any, I am sure we can go into these finer details with upgrades of the tubes, coupling caps, fuses and binding posts etc. But these can be reserved for the next discussion.
R100 845 tube amp is also available for auditionnow . Please enquire for a time slot through the contact form here or WhatsApp me at +65 9423 9296. Give me a heads up preferably at least one day in advance.
No available stocks for immediate purchase just so to keep the upkeep and pricing low. Orders made will be delivered direct from factory to you within 2 weeks.
Available to ship worldwide, please enquire for shipping fees (I am sorry it may not be cheap due to the monstrous weight). FREE shipping in Singapore.
Our Muzishare X5 was the first full-fledge branded
factory-made tube amp we brought in around 3-4 years ago in bid to increase its
exposure to the general audiophile community in Singapore and the region. A
tube amp so well-made and beautiful has no reason not to be considered for
anyone seriously into getting his/her first, second or third tube amp.
Muzishare over these years has consistently improved on the quality further, both on the aesthetic front as well as the worksmanship and most importantly, audio quality. Their increasing popularity in China are slowly bringing much awareness outside the region and to the global scene. It is imperative such exposure could do a lot of good to have a focus here in Singapore. And as outlined in our previous post, QA’s effort has finally paid off to have secure the official distributorship of Muzishare tube amps in Singapore from November 2019 onwards.
In recent months, Muzishare has been building a flagship model in order to refresh their tube amp lineup, which has been consistently hovering in these respective tube series – EL84 of X3T, EL34 of X5, KT88 of X7 and 300B of X-300B. While KT88 tube amps are traditionally the onset of big boys, for those graduating from a EL34 tube amp, it is no longer a tube series of amp that holds the charm. Many other manufacturers have come out with various KT88 tube amps and begin saturating the market. The once-powerful and rather exclusive KT88 tube amp is now quite a dime a dozen. Not to undermine KT88 tubes at all for I am still a huge fan of the fat beam tetrode, but above this class is another league that just dwarfs the KT88s (as can be seen in the photo below), big triode tubes, 211/845/805.
Line Magnetic is one brand of the Chinese-made amps that
have enjoyed stellar reputation worldwide for its indisputable quality. They
are one of the early adopters in Chinese tube amp manufacturing to use these
giant triode tubes. Their 845 and 805 series of amps are parked at the higher
end range of the tube amp chain in many rooms, providing a sound output of the
Muzishare’s flagship model of R100 is heading towards this direction – a hefty tube amp that branches into three different versions of 211/845/805 tubes respectively, allowing customer to choose one that they are most comfortable with. It may seem like a challenging feat for Muzishare in building the R100 as it is only a recent development and lack of previous big triode tube model to back as portfolio. Truth to be told, amps from both Muzishare and Line Magnetic come from the same factory estate in Zhuhai at Guandong, China. Connecting the dots, Muzishare does has a wealth of expertise in building a big triode tube amp, confidently and remarkably, as we are to find out in the next post, where I will dive in details on the Muzishare R100.
This news came way earlier but the festive period and orders have been preventing us from announcing!
We are pleased to announce that Quartz Acoustic is now the official distributor for Muzishare tube amps in Singapore!
As some of the customers know, we have always been huge admirers of Muzishare amps. They are just very well-built, fantastic quality in performance and are some of the more beautiful tube amps manufactured from China. Their specifications often edged out amps of the same tube types from competitors which gives their amps an excellent value for money.
Muzishare has a strong following in China, where it is considered relatively high-end for a tube amp brand with extensive features and solid workmanship. Manufactured in Zhu Hai, Guandong, China, the components and parts in Muzishare tube amps consisted of high quality, audiophile-grade of materials, build together with remarkable point-to-point exquisite soldering. External chassis are all well-machined and sand-blasted to a posh exterior, resulting in Muzishare tube amps to be heralded as one of the more beautiful and refined tube amp brands in China. A lesser-known fact is that Muzishare amps are manufactured in the same production factory as the remarkable Line Magnetic.
QA will provide all official queries, sales and support of Muzishare amps through all official channels of contact. 1-year official warranty, as with all our other products, will be provided. We will see to your issues and rectify them, if any, before extending the support to China factory if that need arises, even if your warranty has unfortunately expired. Terms and conditions of warranty and returns still applied. All warranties and supports are only applicable to customers of QA and units purchased from QA. Grey and/or imported sets will not be honoured.
Ground box has become an intrinsic part of an equipment in the audiophile setup. Fans of such boxes will never get hold of them enough in adding at least one to every equipment of theirs. Let us look at why it helps in the audio chain of equipment and how it can be connected
The fundamental of ground box is really just to ground out the signal further – no matter how audio equipment are designed and built with grounding in mind, inherent interference from anywhere will get into the signal path at every opportunity. These include cable pickup from the air, electrical noises introduced from power supply, electrical components receiving EMI pickup so on and so forth. The vast complex nature of electrical principles happening in the entire equipment chain just presented a whole lot of instances where signal noise can be added and/or generated. These interference are not necessary perceivable noises we can or try to hear from speakers or headphones. They could suppress certain frequencies and/or raise the noise floor that ever slightly, giving rise to our perception of ‘veiled nature’, ‘muddiness of sound’ and ‘not transparent’ enough as we chase our own level of satisfaction of sound. For clarity, interference and noise will be used interchangeably here.
By grounding out the signal at different point of the signal
path through introduction (connection) of the ground box at different entry
path of the equipment chain, our aim is to get rid of these ‘noises’ as much as
possible before they get amplified further down the link. This is the sole
reason why we always strongly recommend to place the ground box FIRST at the
source of your equipment. These are the DAC, CD player and turntable. Bear in
mind we are talking about signal noise and less of those grounding issues that
caused hisses and hums. These audible noises can only be resolved through
correct grounding techniques and NOT by connecting ground boxes thinking they
can magically remove the noise. It may help, but it will not clear up the
inherent ground noises entirely.
Effective ground box will primarily make the sound turns out
significantly more transparent in the background as a result of lowering the
noise floor. This really brings out the tonality and timbre of the music where
we can achieve better clarity across all frequencies. High resolving system can
hear more details. But the point is, it will just sound ‘right’, not just
Aurcharm grounding box first make its appearance in our
store a few years back and there have always been a lot of interest in it. With
ergonomics and efficiencies in mind, we spent quite a bit of time in developing
our own ground box to be better than the Aucharms.
QA Premium Audio Ground Box packed in a lot more minerals
within the box to really improve the grounding effect. At almost 2kg in weight,
QA ground box has managed to blend in a vast variety of high quality earth’s
natural minerals together with pure conductive element. The effect is a more
immediate and noticeable improvement than either one of Aucharm’s two boxes of
The main physical difference we could see is the cube shape
nature of the QA ground box compared to the rectangular form for Aucharm’s. The
cube shape allows one to place the box in various orientations where the
grounding cable can be best placed to connect to equipment – it will remain a
cube in anyway.
Below: Likely placement of Aucharm grounding box is more or less limited to 1-2 position.
Below: The various positions you can place QA ground box – versatile and helpful
As mentioned earlier to have the ground box connected to the
source first for best effect, turntables are the most straight-forward as they
have ground jack most of the time. The included multipurpose crocodile clip can
be clipped onto the ground jack or it can also be removed to reveal the banana
plug. Plug that banana plug end into the ground box and secure the spade end to
the ground jack of the turntable.
As CD players and DAC seldom come with ground jacks,
connecting to any spare RCA ports found at the back panel is the best way of
hooking the ground box to these sources. The grounding of RCA ports are all
connected, even S/PDIF coaxial digital out port that took the form of a RCA.
While the crocodile clip could be used to clip on to the RCA port directly, you
can purchase the additional RCA-to-banana-plug cable at just S$7.90 to have a
more secure connection. Just plug the banana plug end to the ground box and
connect the RCA end of the cable to any available RCA port of your CD player or
DAC to secure the ground connection.
After the sources, preamps are next in line for the ground
box connection, followed by power amps and speakers. These subsequent equipment
should follow the principle earlier of using the best type of plug for the
choice of the connections. The included multipurpose crocodile clip should
yield some combinations available in connecting to any available grounding post
of the preamp, or it can plug straight directly to the negative post of the
power amp output/speaker input. The RCA cable can be utilised here too if there
is available RCA port on the preamp/poweramp.
Below: Like a turntable, certain preamps and most phono stages will have the ground post, and this is how the three main methods could be used to connect with the ground box.
At the point of power amp output, although the ground is
also shared up to this point at both the negative posts, the effect of the
grounding box will be improved if one box is connected to one negative post of
EACH channel, instead of connecting just one ground box to one negative post of
the power amp. Reason being that with the signal is at the highest level at
this output end, amplified signal interference is best grounded to one ground
box each. This is also why one ground box is recommended for each speaker too.
Additionally, we do have another cable that has the UK plug
at one end. This cable is useful for the ground box to be used on the mains
where all equipment plugs go, or basically it can be plugged onto a spare
outlet of a power conditioner strip if one is being used. This has the effect
of grounding out the electrical noises coming from the mains and keep all the
current feeding to the rest of the equipment at its cleanest.
So, the ground box practically has quite a number of ways and means it could be connected to your choice of equipment. Do play around with the placement and hear for yourself where it performs the best in keeping the sound to your most preferred listening! But very importantly, do take note that it is crucial to only connect ONE equipment to ONE ground box! A single ground box CANNOT BE SHARED between two or more equipment! Because this can result in the possibility of shorting out the ground paths at the wrong locations! So please do not try that with the aim of saving money as it may turn out you will spend a lot more!
A tip we would like to share when the single time you can share the ground box between two equipment is ONLY when the two equipment are not turned on at the same time. i.e a ground box is shareable between a turntable AND a CD player because, most of the time, only either one of the machine is turned on and playing. But do take note that the one equipment not being used should be turned off at its mains too. Having it on standby or off but still electrically connected may still has the possibility of introducing that feed of the AC current noise routed to the other equipment with the ground box as the bridge!
Our QA Premium Audio Ground Box is available for order here. Entirely manufactured by hand from various raw materials, up to 12 days are needed for completion. But do check with us if we have stocks available when we do make extras as and when, especially during those batches of mass order.
Bringing our modification upgrades to the next level, we have completed testing on upgrading this beautiful Muzishare X5 EL34 integrated tube amp. It was a resounding success.
Upgrading potential is very high on this Muzishare amp. In fact, for tube amps, coupling capacitors play a huge part in the extension and spaciousness of the sounds, as much as the tubes have the greatest say in the sound flavour. Replacing over a dozen of the capacitors in X5 bring up the performance value to another notch. Importantly, this goes to say Muzishare X5 itself is already a fantastic amp to begin with.
The quality of Muzishare X5 can be easily seen from the intricately-designed and CNC-machined chassis. Beneath it, the wirings and components are similarly hefty. The capacitors this amp should be using deserved a lot more better.
We chosen Jantzen Audio, a high end brand from Denmark, to be the major branded capacitors in our modification upgrade. The Superior Z line of their caps have been lauded as one of audiophiles favourites for a long long time and reviews of these caps have never failed to impress. Their constructions are huge for similar capacitance of lesser grade caps, if you see the before and after photo of the upgrades. Luckily, their elongated shapes make the arrangement in the tight spaces possible and logical. Other top of the line caps include Nichicon KX series, ELNA Silmic II and Vishay BC. ELNA Silmic II is renown for using silk fibres in the cap itself that will “a superior acoustic characteristics.” Nichicon KX series of caps are audio-grade in itself that will normally only be seen in upper high end range of tube amps.
The effects of these upgrades are almost immediate. X5 accepts EL34, 6L6, 6L6GC, 5881 tubes and all these tubes have great tonality of characters. But what the upgrades have aided is the ability to hear the additional smooth, silky vocals, and the spaciousness of the textured details. Leave much of the flavourings of sounds to the tubes, these upgrades presented such a clean and neutral slate akin to a clean plate for even the slightest subtlety of the food, or sound, can appreciated when being served. A few more hours of burnt-in and they open up; natural, extended and musical.
As part of the bundle to at least have the amp powered up suitably in a high standard state of operation, we are adding in one of our customers’ favourite product, the Furukawa OEM 17mm thick Audiophile Superb Clarity Power Cord FREE. Cable is 2m long to suit most circumstances of connecting. Pairing this cable with the upgraded amp ensures the amp is well-fed with clean and quality current of juice for excellent output preparation.
Do head over to the product page and read more in detail of the specifications and see more photos and place your order. Order will be shipped out in 14-18 days with ALL the upgrades done, after which you only have one job, enjoy.
Muzishare is a brand that enjoys quite a bit of popularity worldwide. It is hard not to, when it has the design appeal and construction of a fine tube amp, and performing just as well as it looks. X5 from Muzishare possesses all that great quality and carrying the EL34s as its power tubes, we do need further decision to bring that in as the first Muzishare tube amp on sale at QA.
EL34 tube is a very versatile tube type in terms of the varieties it has for replacement and rolling. Main sound signature for EL34 is the smooth and sweet midrange it extends to the upper region of the frequency spectrums. Vocal lovers, this tube type is your best companion! Be mesmerised by your favourite artistes singing with a true presentation in front of you, probably even catching the breathing done!
Getting more details of this amp is entirely possible if better quality of EL34s are inserted in or with rolling of 6L6G/6L6GC tubes. Your listening experience may be transformed with a livelier soundstage and added crisp. If you find yourself having 5881s instead, no problem too. These military tube variants are acceptable into this Muzishare X5 tube amp as well. That is what we called flexibility.
Pre-amp section of the tube amp is driven by 2x 12AU7 and 2x 12AX7 tubes. Easily available with different brands and vintage types too, rolling these tubes will add on to the fun of creating a sound flavour to your liking!
With so many tubes available for rolling, biasing of the tubes is important to ensure the tubes put in are always operating at their best settings. X5 brings tube biasing to a great level of ease, with just a flat-head screwdriver needed. The front panel of the amp is a VU-meter lookalike that negates the requirement of a multimeter. That is the bias meter used for gauging the correct amount of current going to the tubes. There is a knob on the top of the amp on the right-hand side indicating which tube to select to while doing the bias, and that is also indicative of the reading with respect to the tube it measures off. Biasing is simply adjusting the adjustment screws on the side of the top panel respective to the tubes labelled until the needle in the bias meter points to the accepted range.
To the right of the bias meter are two fantastically-made aluminium knobs from CNC machining. Controlling the volume is a smooth act, while changing between the input settings is a solid affair. With 4 inputs selection to plug in and choose from, you can plug in a wide range of sources to play your favourite music from!
Two wonderful features of this X5 are found to the left of the bias meter. A 6.35mm headphone out ensures this amp not only powers speakers, but it can also drive headphones of any sizes and demands without difficulties at all! Dedicated tube-powered headphone amps can cost close to what this X5 is offering. At the same time, they may use tubes less commonly found for replacement or rolling. This restricts the headphone amp from performing to a variety of sound flavours. An amp like X5 almost brings the best of all worlds in giving you one package with exceeding performance, cost and versatility.
The switch beside the headphone out is to toggle between Ultralinear and Triode mode of the amp. These two modes are common connections within the circuit of tube amps that provides different power outputs and also different flavours of sounds. Ultralinear has a high power output, i.e higher gain. It boots a higher dynamism to the sounds, like a SS amp in some sense. This mode is great for orchestra, ensemble and classical genre of music.
Triode mode on the hand has a lower power output. Volume control tends to need to be higher for similar sound level appreciation. However, this mode has an emphasis to midrange of the music. Hence it is a very popular mode chosen for vocal genres like pop and opera. Either mode can be toggled on the fly even with the music being played. A-B auditioning can be done to see which mode is preferred.
At the back panel are high-quality binding posts and RCA jacks that are bound to secure all connections hooked to them. RCA caps are provided to cover whichever ports not used to prevent oxidisation of the contacts. A voltage switch at the back allows the X5 to be usable anywhere in the wold regardless of 110v or 220v AC.
Weighing close to 18kg, the entire amp was constructed out of solid materials like steel and aluminium. The front panel is already one 10mm thick aluminium. The rest of the chassis is an enclosure well-glazed with sand-blasted glittering gloss that does not leave fingerprints. Quality of the construction extended to the cage. No tools are needed to fix it over the tubes. With a banana-plug-like feature, the cage can be affixed securely to the amp. Removing it from the socket is just as easy and quick. Brilliant!
Finally, the other piece of well-machined hardware is the remote control. Crafted entirely out of aluminium, it matches excellent with aesthetics of X5. While it only offers volume adjustment and mute/unmute operation, having that remote on your hands is undoubtedly a convenient in controlling the volumes while seated comfortably on your listening spot.