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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 1TB iMac with Amarra 2.0 (AIFF, ALAC) via Entreq FireWire into Weiss DAC2
Preamplifier: Yamamoto AT-03-1A [on loan], Bent Audio Tap-X
Amplifier: Yamamoto A-09S, Woo Audio Model 5
ASI Tango R, Voxativ Ampeggio [on review]
Headphones: ALO-recabled beyerdynamic T1 & Sennheiser HD800
Cables: ASI Liveline
Stands: 2 x ASI HeartSong 3-tier, 2 x ASI HeartSong amp stand
Powerline conditioning: 1 x Walker Audio Velocitor S, 1 x Furutech RTP6
Sundry accessories:
Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; Nanotech Nespa Pro; extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters, Advanced Acoustics Orbis Wall & Corner units
Room size: The sound platform is 3 x 4.5m with a 2-story slanted ceiling above; four steps below continue into an 8m long combined open kitchen, dining room and office, an area which widens to 5.2m with a 2.8m ceiling; the sound platform space is open to a 2nd story landing and, via spiral stair case, to a 3rd-floor studio; concrete floor, concrete and brick walls from a converted barn with no parallel walls nor perfect right angles; short-wall setup with speaker backs facing the 8-meter expanse and 2nd-story landing.
Review Component Retail: £550/pr for TJ 300B-SE, £75/pr for TJ Globe 6SN7

Chinese audiophiles like the owner of Melody Valve Hifi Co. regard Full Music's Liu Zhe Sheng from Tianjin's Hebei Distric as a national treasure. He reputedly is one of the most knowledgeable people on tube manufacture in China. He's been at it for five dedicated decades already. When TJ's UK dealer Ian Large reported on availability of Mr. Liu's 300B SE, I couldn't pass. While TJ's standard 300B-C retails for £295/pr in England, the Special Edition commands a very stout £550/pr. At the time of this writing, that equated to $860 or €670. With precedents in Shuguang's Black Treasure Series and Synergy Hifi, Sino designer valves have come of age. Previously known mostly for cheap mass production, they now join ranks with Emission Labs and EAT on build quality, sonics and pricing. With availability of Western Electric reissues questionable and to preempt today's conclusion, it's fair to call Full Music's 300B-SE the advanced WE replacement on sonic aroma whilst introducing Czech-style sockets, pins and glass bulbs.

TJ makes at least four different 300B versions - standard, mesh plate, carbon plate and today's Special Edition carbon plate. While the latter two look very similar, Mr. Liu remains tight-lipped on what distinguishes the SE. Let others reverse engineer it without his assistance.

My personal inventory of 300Bs excludes Soviet samples; cheaper Chinese; the new Japanese Takatsuki; the KR Audio whose availability to non-owners of KR amps seems limited to tube seller stocks; and the JJ where quality control has declined.

For amplification, I had the Yamamoto A-09S and Woo Audio's twin-chassis Model 5 integrated with all optional parts upgrades. That usually runs my top headphones but is set up also for standard 10wpc speaker drive.

For speakers, I had a rare and shorter chance to run Inès Adler's €16.000/pr Voxativ Ampeggio built by Schimmel Pianos of Braunschweig. That's a 98dB single-driver design in a back-loaded horn enclosure crafted from tone wood finished in bona fide piano lacquers. The Ampeggio is obviously ideal for low-power direct-heated triode amps.

That was demonstrated by how the differences between my various output bottles shrank. My 91dB Tango R speakers' flat 6-ohm impedance below 1.000Hz makes them far more copasetic than instinct would think. Still, they require more raw drive and thus did emphasize the tube differences over the widebanders.

Aside from the Ampeggio speakers, Shigeki Yamamoto's review loaner of AT-03-1A purist passive volume controller happened to be in the house. This unprepossessing box built around precision surface-mount resistors, an Elna switch and very short top-quality hookup wiring had shown itself most invisible in the signal path. That fully liberated the Yamamoto to play its very best game without being weighed down by active preamp contributions.

Because the passive prefers short cables to the amp, I ran a premium set of Stealth Indra as the shortest quality leash I had on hand. Based on the winning combination of passive+SET and needing a permanent solution also for my Trafomatic Kaivalya tube monos, I next acquired a trade-in Tap-X from Bent Audio. With 61-step autoformers wound by Dave Slagle, the Tap-X offers remote volume, mute, balance, source switching and absolute polarity inversion. Internally it obliterates the usual snake den of transformer attenuators with ultra-short signal-path wiring that terminates in hermetically sealed precision reed relays.

Back on glowing bits, with the same shipment Ian Lange had also dispatched a pair of TJ's new 6SN7. Since my Woo runs those as 300B drivers (the Yamamoto uses NOS C3m); and since I had a matching 6SN7/300B valve set from Synergy Hifi including a pair of 5AR4 rectifiers which the Woo can take instead of its stock 5U4G... I had the makings for a compound TJ/Synergy match over both headphones and speakers.

Clearly valve manufacture in China has been taken to the next level.