Cayin A88 - 1st impressions


Silver Member
Username: Paulfolbrecht

Post Number: 181
Registered: Dec-05
Got this amp Friday, intended for my second system which had an Onix/Melody SP3. I wanted a triode or triode switchable amp, having so fallen in love with the sound of the Cary Six Pacs in the main system. Plus, I just can't stop buying stuff cause I'm sick.

The Cayin's 1st place, where it still resides after 12+ hours of listening now, was to be in the main system, for eval. That system is a Shanling CD/SACDP, PrimaLuna 3 preamp, Gallo Ref 3 speakers, and also a pair of Marantz monoblocks for bi-amping of the Gallo woofer's 2nd voicecoils (this brings their bass response from 33 down to 22Hz).

Short story is that I'm amazed at how good this amp is. It simply sounds fabulous - full, lush, airy, extended, etc. Guitars, piano, bass, vocals, all sound wonderful.

I started out running it as a power amp only, with the PL 3 going to the Cayin's pre-in, and it sounds great that way. Most astonishing are its power capabilties, as it's 22 watts/side in triode mode is MORE THAN ENOUGH to manhandle these Gallos to high volume levels (90dB+).

After a fairly short audition in this config, I switched to using it as an integrated, taking the PL3 out of the mix. No disappointments at all! While I did seem to lose a bit of midrange lushnes, I think this is probably due to the Cayin's use of 6SL7/6SN7s to the PLs 12A?7s, the latter of which tend to sound a bit fuller. (White wine vs red is the analogy provided by one of the gurus here. That sums it up! Different, not better or worse.)

In terms of the areas where one might, theoretically speaking, expect an integrated to fall short of the performance of good separates, I could detect nothing. Imaging, soundstage, are 1st rate. No weaknesses in any areas. Good space around instruments, treble extension, and quite solid bass - and this is without the Marantz units on 2nd voicecoil duty. Because the Cayin has no pre-out, and I had no splitters on hand, I could not run them. As people who know the Gallos know, they kick some very low, taut bass even without bi-amping, and the Cayin has NO PROBLEM making them sound good!

This is what was really surprising to me. The Gallos, with their 10" woofers and moderate sensitivity and impedence curve, are not a terribly benign load by any means, and, again, the Cayin's 22W of triode power is absolutely ample! No signs of compression or any other ill effects at high volume levels - and I listen in a very large space as well, essentially an open 30' x 30' "room" ("open-concept" house).

As for triode vs. UL - I do prefer triode mode by a hair, but it is really nearly splitting hairs. I guess I have learned that the sound of the Six Pacs is attributable to much more than just running in triode mode. Switching between the two on the fly, via remote, is quite a neat feature, allowing very direct comparison.

In summary, this amp really does rock. All the tubes are stock, btw, and I bought the KT-88 version. I have some EH 6550s on the way to try as well.

I could live very happily with this amp in my main system. For the way I listen, and what I listen to, anyway, it does everything my PL/Six Pacs combo does at less than half the cost, and those components are considered stellar kit in their price ranges as well. You could really build a killer system around this amp for well under $5K.

I got an extremely good deel the amp, btw. Well under retail. Mail me privately if you're interested and I'll give you the dealer.


P.S. Music:
Thelonius Monk - Straight, No Chaser
Jesse Cook - Nomad
J. Loussier - Plays Bach, Baroque
VAS - Feast of Silence
Pink Martini - Hang On Little Tomato
Patricia Barber - Verse, A Fortnight in France

More classic Jazz and modern world music.

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 2374
Registered: Dec-04
Plus, I can't stop buying cause I'm sick.

Good one, Paul.
It sounds like a wonderful item.

Silver Member
Username: Paulfolbrecht

Post Number: 183
Registered: Dec-05
i'll sell u all my dishes for $30

need one more amp

Bronze Member
Username: Ravbains


Post Number: 58
Registered: Mar-06
Hi Paul,

after reading your post, I did a quick Google to get a look at this amp.

I found this link:

I must say looks very impressive.


Bronze Member
Username: Ravbains


Post Number: 60
Registered: Mar-06
another link, in case the folks here want to read more about the Cayin A88:

Silver Member
Username: Paulfolbrecht

Post Number: 185
Registered: Dec-05
The 6moons review came out the day I got the amp, apparantly, and I found out about it a couple days later. I was not surprised that their reaction was quite a lot like my own (tho that review preferred UL mode).

Bronze Member
Username: Emdawg12345

Post Number: 47
Registered: Jan-06 damn this one is crazi!

Silver Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 940
Registered: May-05

It's time to go back to school, your mommy is calling.
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