The KT88-Z Treasures in my Simple SE.
I know what you're thinking, yet another review of the Treasures, just what the world needs. In a sense you'd be right. This is a review to give my impression of how _________ these tubes are. But in another sense you'd be wrong, this also is to highlight something you rarely see save for a few companies.RMAF
Rewind back to RMAF. I had been contemplating buying some Treasures after reading positive review after positive review I thought that I might just bite the bullet and pick up some of these tubes. I met Rachel and Ian for the first time in the Grant Fidelity room
and was astounded at the systems they had put together. I also heard the 2A3 treasures in the Woo Audio headphone amp setup and it was, quite frankly, the best headphone setup at the show by a wide margin. They also had an EL34 based headphone amp that used the Treasures, which, if I didn't hear the other Woo setup I would have thought that was the best! So my impressions of these tubes were very positive with the little taste I had.Ian and Rachel
Rarely is an experience buying a product from an online company anything more than point, click, purchase, shipped the end. With Rachel and Ian it was different. Ian is very informative and more than willing to give you any info you might ask about a product or accessory. Very knowledgeable and helpful. And Rachel, well as I said in my RMAF coverage, Rachel is the boss.
Very quick witted and humorous also a great person to deal with. Very prompt responses, very quick shipping and always let me know what was going on. That seems to be the Grant Fidelity way. Biting the Bullet
As Tyson will attest to, I had to wipe the drool off of my shirt after the show every time we talked about the Treasures. I was pretty much convinced I had to get them. So as a Christmas present... and a very early birthday present I got the ever important Significant Other Green light! They shipped very quickly, but my wife pulled a Christmas foul card when I tried to pop them into my amp in mid-december. So like a good boy
I waited until Xmas knowing that I would still have to break them in and that would take me FOREVER. At 8 hours a day we're talking almost 38 days. Obviously I allowed them to break in when I wasn't around reluctantly, leaving live tubes on when not home is a bit of a crap shoot so I didn't do it often and I slowly got through the burn in process.
Merry Xmas/Birthday Daddy!!! Sound Quality
The first thing any tubehead wants to know is how horrendously long is the break in? The answer with the Treasures is, long, very long, but not horrendous. I would say the 300 hours posted on the Grant Fidelity website is not out of line. Perhaps it won't take quite that long, for me it was more like 225-250 before they sounded amazing and were not changing their tonality anymore. The process is however not as painful as one would expect. They go from pretty darn good right out of the box to thin and harsh in the treble to sterile within the 1st 100 hours, but they are far from unlistenable unlike my experience breaking in the Gold lion KT66s. After about 150 hours they start to sound competitive with the best I've heard including the Penta Labs KT88s and the gold lion KT66s and worlds better than SED, Electroharmonix, and the standard issue Shuguangs. After about 200 hours+ they really come into their own, I don't know if it's because of the mysteriously and described "super alloys" or the carbon polymer coating, but these do take a lot longer to hit their stride than other tubes. Once you're there, you are there
After 250 hours these tubes are, in a word, amazing. The soundstage is so real it's surreal
uhhh did that make sense? The usual hifi bull applies, deep, wide, three dimensional, but something else strikes me about the soundstage that I have never heard before, it is done in a manner that transcends any of those singular descriptions. Sort of the difference between a world class black belt martial artist vs the talents of a true martial arts Master
. While the competitive black belt is devastating, precise, and quick, a true Masters movement is living poetry. Tacky overbearing analysis? Possibly. I can't think of a better way to aptly describe what I am hearing here, it's just that, living poetry.
I'm not listening and simply thinking "Man do you hear the detail in the treble" or "wow these things do excellent on strings!" like I often do writing these reviews. I wouldn't surprise a single jaded audiophile if I said at $300 a pair they had prat, slam, wonderful midrange smoothness, incredibly clean highs etc etc etc. All of these things are prerequisite at the level the Treasures are at. On that note there are no distinctive flaws either. For instance the Gold lion KT66s did everything pretty darn good top to bottom, but I thought they lacked 3-dimensionality. I also thought the Pentas were excellent and pretty much flawless, but that was before I heard the Treasures. In comparison the Pentas were a touch artificial sounding, while technically great tubes, they do everything right, excellent lows, mids, highs, and 3D soundstaging they are much less "Organic" sounding and the noise floor on the Treasures is so low it certainly allows way more nuance through and yes, black belt vs Master when in comes to performance. The end of Tube rolling
It's true, after getting the Treasures I find it very much pointless to continue playing with the Pentas, SEDs, EH, and all of my lesser tubes because the reality is none of them do anything better than the treasures, so, I sold them, yes all of them. EL34s I sold or included with the sale of other gear at least 10 or more pairs, KT88s at least 5 pairs. The only set I kept were the Gold lion KT66, I figured it was a good idea to have at least one set of EL34 equivalent tubes to have around for testing etc. But everything else is gone. By my calculations that is well into the $2000-$3000 range. Which brings me to my next point. Tube rolling is expensive and every tube audiophile does it myself included.
It got me thinking, would I have spent a dime on any of the other tubes I have owned knowing what I know now with the Treasures?? Part of life is the journey and part of the journey is discovery, but as far as I'm concerned it's money wasted, yeah I made up a bit of it by reselling, but I could have bought my sextet of Treasures and had a ton of money left over for other upgrades, but perhaps I wouldn't have the same appreciation for what I have now if I didn't. Either way, I cannot imagine myself using any of the tubes I used previously in my system ever again and that eliminates pretty much everything except for NOS uber rare stuff. So one must ask is $300 for a pair really that bad when you factor in the excellent service provided by Grant Fidelity? Personally, I call that a bargain.
(rated arbitrarily with a max of 5)
Equipment used (since my system is not updated.
Speakers: VMPS RM40s used in both triamp and biamp configurations. Tyson's Ellas
Amplification: Simple SE
Dyanaco ST 70s heavily modded, Response Audio Bella Extreme 3205, QSC woofer amp, Audio GD woofer amp.
Preamp- modded DCX
Source- Sony XA777 es SACD player digital section for CDs analog for SACD, Tyson's computer based setup, MHDT havana dac
Cabling: Bolder Cables and Kimber Cables.