A Mogwai and Three Gold Lions
Last year I committed to buying new gear only when I could fund the purchase with sales. It’s simply too much fun discovering new designs, and so this decision limited my overall investment in the hobby. Recently, I posted my amp (two actually…) for sale on Head-fi.org, because I thought I’d experiment with new gear. I really enjoy trying new things,and the perspective gained by switching sources or amps is valuable. Ultimately, any experiment returns me to the music. The whole point, really. So, I briefly posted my ampsandsound Mogwai on Head-fi.
I ended up pulling the sale (thankfully, there was minimal interest) because I really do love the amp in my system. Instead, I ordered a pair of Gold lion KT88’s. Since buying the amp, I’d been curious about how the tubes compare to my standard fare (current favorite are the 6CA7-Z Treasures). As usual, I’d already read a ton about their qualities, but had not heard them in my system.
Initial impressions upon start up: a clear, liquid mid-range, deep bass extension and overall more control. They certainly need time to settle in, so I’ll wait to provide any in depth feedback. I love the tone and texture I’m getting from these even now, so look forward to the next couple weeks.
Hot. These Lions heat up like the Phoenix summers.
Alright, here’s how it went the first month. At first blush, I really dug the sound of the GL KT88. I’d read the GL’s sometimes take a long time to settle down, and that they may not sound their best for 100’s of hours. The clarity in the mid-range allowed for better decoding of complex music. Stage depth and separation are more apparent. The Mogwai with the KT88’s keeps its composure with dense mixes even when things get crazy.
All listening impressions made using the Schiit Yggdrasil as source, and the Audioquest Nighthawks. And, listening to Brad Mehldau’s latest – Blues and Ballads – as a reference through all tube changes. I know the recording and performances pretty well by now. It’s a bit congested for my taste – very intimate, and the kits mix is spread across the whole stage. Not my favorite choice, but I’m nitpicking…
This GL KT88 is a muscular tube, and it sounds great. That said, there is something about the upper mids and highs that bugs. Not sure yet. It’s subtle, but has a clouded glass sort of sound…ok, maybe not my best attempt at describing sound. But let’s roll through all my Gold Lions and the PSvane black bottles I’ve got on the shelf.
Switched to the Gold Lion KT66. I don’t think these are broken in yet, but I prefer their high freq qualities over the KT88. More air and dimension from the KT66’s. Bass isn’t as good, but again this may improve with time, though doubtful it will match the KT88’s in this respect. Both seem to present the same glassy sheen and a subtle glare in the upper mids – need more time to figure this out.
Switching to the GL KT77 for comparison. So, we get a slightly more mid-forward presentation. Punchy bass. Sounds good. I’m still hearing the same upper mid glare…but maybe a tad drier than the other lions. Ok. I really like the KT77 anyway, due to the presence it delivers.
So, now switching to the 6CA7-Z black bottles that have been a favorite. Immediately hear more clarity in the high freqs and upper mids. More (and drier) air, despite the overall mid forward sound. Jeff Ballards hats sound right to me…cymbals are drier and have a more natural tone and decay. Brushwork is more tactile and nuanced. Piano notes attack more naturally. Tonal weight feels right. Getting more string attack from the bass, and possibly less bass extension compared to the KT88. This tube creates a closer/smaller stage, but balances with better extension up top.
For me, the 6CA7-Z black bottles are still my first choice in this system. Of course, your own experiences will vary based on the associated gear. Want to call out again how nicely the Mogwai performs – especially at its price point. It’s transparent enough to reflect all tubes changes, and is really quiet. A great value for anyone looking to roll this family of tubes.