Description

The amp was built by Blackie Pagano. It is a 300B SET circuit by JC Morrison, modified by Blackie, with one half of a 6SN7 direct-coupled to the second half in the driver stage. There is a cap in the signal path.  Right now, I have an Audio Note silver cap in there.  My current tube compliment: Side Getter Short Bottle RCA 6SN7 GT, Takatsuki TA-300, and RCA 5R4. The amp has Tango NY15 3.5S output transformers and strong, choke-filtered power.  

The speakers are Cain & Cain IM Bens with 6" Fostex drivers and super tweeters.  Bass is augmented with two Cain & Cain Bailey subwoofers each powered by a Dayton plate amp.  

In 2015 I went from a dedicated, very small room, to a much larger living room.  This has its positives and negatives.  It is not always convenient finding opportunities to listen to loud music in a shared living space but the system sounds better now than it did in that tiny room.  

My source is an Emm Labs DCC2SE with an Oppo unit used as a transport and a streamer.

When I am not listening to speakers, I listen to headphones.  When I am not listening to the large system, I also have a smaller desktop system in an office.  The speakers are very old Klipsch KM2, in need of upgrading.  I use a Moon Audio Dragon IHA-1 for headphones and as a preamp with a Peter Daniel Patek Gainclone for power.  A Cambridge Audio DacMagic output to the IHA-1.
Read more...

Room Details

Dimensions: 25’ × 30’  X large
Ceiling: 9’


Components Toggle details

    • Cain and Cain IM Ben + Bailey
    Backloaded Horn 6 inch Fostex 168E Sigma driver plus super tweeter. This is the intermediate size double horn by Cain & Cain. For bass duties, there are two Bailey Subwoofers with two Dayton SP250 plate amplifiers. The Bens are running full range through the plate amps.
    • Custom Amp 300B SET
    Dual mono custom 300B SET built by Blackie Pagano. Tango NY15 3.5S output iron, separate power and signal chassis.
    • Tubesville by Blackie Pagano Duality
    Another shot of the signal chassis
    • Tango NY15 3.5S
    Output transformer upgrade installed by Steve Berger.
    • Emm Labs DCC2 SE
    Signature Edition DAC/Preamp
    • Emm Labs CDSD SE
    Signature Edition CDSD redbook/SACD transport
    • 47 Labs Ota
    Single strand copper
    • 47 Labs Ota
    My favorite interconnect.
    • ATS Acoustics Acoustic panels and bass traps
    2' by 2' panels and bass traps. I suppose the artwork is a kind of diffusion...
    • ATS Acoustics Acoustic panels and bass traps
    2' by 2' panels and bass traps
    • Audio Note Silver/Mylar Capacitor
    %99.99 pure silver capacitor.
    • Audio Sector Patek SE
    50 WPC Gainclone built by Peter Daniel. A nice solid state backup/alternative.
    • Oppo BDP-103
    Disc player used as a transport and music streamer.
    • Moon Audio Dragon Inspire IHA-1
    This is tube preamp/headphone amp.  I really enjoy it in my desktop system.
    • Cambridge Audio Dacmagic 100
    A general purpose DAC with lots of switchable inputs.  Desktop system.  I am using three out of the four inputs, USB from Mac Mini, SPDIF from Direct TV box, and TOS from Xbox.
    • Sennheiser HD800S
    I love these headphones.  They sound great with both the Moon Audio IHA-1 or the Tubesville amp.  Paired with a Kimber Axios Copper cable.

Comments 85

222222&text=tj
Owner
It’s all Monk all the time right now. Exploring the entire list available to me on TIDAL. Currently listening to Monk and Sonny Rollins. It is amazing. Their styles compliment each other so well. The frenetic action from the very first track is uplifting. And the sound is enormous and super clean. It must have been a pretty lively room where they recorded it and you can hear the reverb on the recording. This is another nice thing about the album. It is wonderful.

tjkurita

222222&text=tj
Owner
Speakers are now 10’ away from the listening position and 6.5’ apart. I will keep it this way for a while. When I was sitting two feet forward (8’ away) the sound was lean, bright, and missing the impact of a large speaker system. I think this is because I was completely missing the sound coming from the horns of the speaker. At 10’ the sound is louder, bigger, and better balanced. I am so happy with this. It has taken me years to find the correct configuration. I removed some bookcases from behind the speakers and moved the subwoofers. It sounds huge like this.  Reviewing my notes from prior posts I find that the shortcomings I was describing were the direct result of sitting too close for the horns to integrate. 

Currently listening to The Undivided Five by A Winged Victory for the Sullen. It is a big sounding recording and I am enjoying the way my system presents it. 

tjkurita

222222&text=tj
Owner

Speaker positioning is very difficult.  For a while I had my speakers 5' apart with the listening seat 8' away from each driver.  5' apart was kind of arbitrary: distance from the nearest wall was the only determining factor and the speakers were nearly 6' away from the nearest wall.  I determined the distance from the speaker by moving the chair back and forth to get a sound I like.  My preferred sound has a "headphone like" quality: where the speakers and even the room almost disappear.  It is like being in an entirely different space.  There was something about this sound that was not quite right, though.  It was very "bubble like" and sounded a bit constrained.  I felt like I was missing something I can only describe as "impact."

 

So I made a pretty drastic change by moving the speakers 6’ apart and put the chair 9’ away from the speakers.  Changing position by just one foot made a big difference.   It was like extending the size of the bubble of sound forward and more wide.  There was also a nice addition of impact and power that I feel like I was missing.  The sound coalesced into a more impactful package.  My room constraints do not allow me to move too much further from the speakers but one day I will rearrange everything and give it a try.  The downside is that there is a very small amount of shout in the upper midrange when played a higher levels (75-78 db peaks).  I only listened for about 2 hours with this new configuration so I am trying to figure it out.

 

Suffice it to say, changing speaker positioning can update a system a lot more than changing downstream components.   

tjkurita

222222&text=tj
Owner
Herbie's Gliders under the main speakers and subwoofers has made a nice improvement in imaging and detail.  The sound is more open and removes "smearing."  I also placed some 1/2" risers under the mains feet to place the main driver on the same plane as my ears.  The short RCA with side getter sounds very good.  Very nice balanced sound with nice detail.  This is my new favorite tube in the driver stage.  I have also stuck with RCA 5R4 ST shape.  It sounds great.  

Listening to Bill Frisell "Blues Dream."  One of my very favorite albums.  Also listening to A Winged Victory For the Sullen.  Until I signed up for TIDAL, I had never heard of this group.  Really enjoy them in the evenings.  

NEXT UP: Oiled Cotton Jacketed Duelund tinned copper speaker wire.  Right now I am using 12ga Blue Jeans copper wire (I think Belden makes it).  The system sounds really, really good now and I probably don't need to work on it much more.  But maybe the Duelund wire will be good.  And it is relatively inexpensive.  

tjkurita

222222&text=tj
Owner
Very happy with how the system is sounding at the moment with the normal criticisms remaining.  I have known this system for a long time and I am more satisfied with its strengths than frustrated by its weaknesses. 

After years in the this house, I have found a nice set up for the room.  Speakers are more than 5' from the nearest wall.  5' apart from each other, and I sit 8' away.  This has made a nice improvement in the sound stage.  I am getting that 'being there' sound as well as the in your head sound of horns, with none of the transistor radio sound for which BLH speakers are known.  This will always be a scooped system, I think.  A bit bright, tipped up in the upper midrange and thin in the lower midrange.  It sounds great, but the lower midrange is the system's failing.  I recently switched from Sylvania (an inherently bright tube) to RCA with very nice results.  The subwoofers are very well integrated at this point and provide great bass presence and power.  

I also installed HiFi Tuning Supreme fuses in the amp.  They are relatively new with approx. 8 hrs on them.  They actually had a pretty significant impact.  I had one original fuse of unknown make and another scavenged from a guitar amp, also unknown make.  Putting in two fuses of the same make in a dual mono amp, made the left and right channels match up better, improving the listening experience quite a lot.  Tonally, I am not sure.  I don't have enough hours listening to be able to judge but I am enjoying the sound very much.    

I have Herbie's Audio threaded glider feet on the way to replace the stock feet (prone to bending).  And I signed up for TIDAL, which is excellent!  

Listening to: Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, Bonobo, and Dntel lately.  And Eno quite a lot as well.  

tjkurita

222222&text=tj
Owner
Four years since my last post and I still have the same system.  Upgraded headphones, obtained a new little preamp/headphone amp for a desktop system that I also set up.  I still enjoy my Cain & Cain speakers but I have been listening to the desktop system a lot more.  My next step will be to refine that system, perhaps with KEF bookshelf speakers.  Switched back to Sylvanias in the 300B amp.  In a larger room, the system has room to breathe and opens up quite a lot.  Still intimate sounding, as I sit rather close, but with more presence and "room."

tjkurita

222222&text=tj
Owner
Apologies all for my absence from the forum lately. I have recently purchased a home and I am setting it up.y internet connection is cell only for now!!! Will post a bit more shortly.

tjkurita

222222&text=gw
Hi tjkurita, I have idea for you if you want to give me a shout. [email protected] or 402-276-0343.

gwalt

Center
Never heard Cain and Cain but it's one of the few lines I would consider building around for looks alone. Plus I suspect the sound done right is top notch as well. There was a pair of nice abbeys up for sale here recently by a nearby seller. I was a split hair away from jumping just because the darn things are so visually striking! 😍

Ag insider logo xs@2xmapman

222222&text=je
Hi Tjkurita, Where have you been we havent heard from you in a while-Regards Jet

jetrexpro

222222&text=tj
Owner
System edited: Added current pictures of my room. Moved the computer to the side of the room. The previous setup with a monitor and computer at the front of the room messed up the sound a bit.

tjkurita

222222&text=tj
Owner
Having lived with the Cains for something like 7 years now, I think I am quite ready for a change. Over the next several years I will be gearing up to a full horn system, either DIY or used Avantgarde. For quite a while my sights were fixed on the Cains and on the present system. Now they are drifting into the future, at a full horn system (or at least a horn midrange and treble and a subwoofer bass).

tjkurita

222222&text=tj
Owner
Hi Charles, I bought the tubes used just to try it from a reputable person who told me it was about a month old. So I figure they were burned in, but not over worked. It is definitely possible that they are not fully burned in, though. How much time does one really put on one's gear over a month? Unfortunately, I am not that interested in finding out with these tubes. Mostly, I don't want to have to listen to them during the burn-in time! I think, more than likely, it is the second option you mentioned that makes them sound bad. There must be something about the design of my amp and the tube itself that makes for a bad combination. I will post these on a few websites and see if I can offload them.

tjkurita

Center
Hi Tjkurita,
This Shuguang tube has received very good reviews from a number of sources and owners. But as we know, individual results will be variable.
1) Is it fully burned in?
2) Could very well be amplifier or system dependant (which happens).
Charles,

charles1dad

222222&text=tj
Owner
The Shuguang CV181 50 yrs. Treasure is anything but a treasure for me. It is a poor-sounding tube in my system. Compared to all of my NOS tubes: Sylvania GTA, GT, 5692, Tung Sol GTA, Ken Rad VT231, Brimar CV1988, it has worse tonal balance, less resolution, less speed, poor soundstage... The tonal balance is focused on the lower half of the spectrum and is very thick-sounding with unnaturally heavy bass. There is good detail in the midrange but it is not as balanced as the NOS tubes. I purchased this tube because of a glowing review it received on the TNT website. The review was from 2009 and the reviewer stated that the Shuguang sounded better than the Brimar CV1988. I can't imagine how or why he came to such a conclusion. His system must be very different from mine because the Shuguang tube does not even come close to the Brimar (the Assemblage 300B he was using had a single 6SN7 as the first stage driver and two 6BX7s in the second stage, I believe). In my system, the Brimar is more refined, cleaner, faster, better balanced, more open, and more harmonically sophisticated. It is very difficult to describe accurately the sound of "optimized" SET amplifiers. There is something special about the harmonic refinement and "sophistication" of good SET. I find that the Shuguang tube destroys this sophistication in my system and makes it a bit of a mess. At all volumes it makes pretty unappealing sound.

tjkurita

222222&text=tj
Owner
Sylvania 5692 are OK, but they lack the air of the Sylvania GT. They are a bit too thick in the low-mid and upper bass. I would consider the 5692 a warmer tube than the GT. Of course, the GT is a brighter tube in general but it is more balanced than the 5692. The Syl is more revealing than the 5692. For a less direct sound, the 5692 might be a good option. The fact is, however, the brightness of the GT is never fatiguing. It is simply more beautiful with more detail and airiness with solid, smooth, low mids and clean bass. I will try the Shuguang 50 years treasure CV181 next.

tjkurita

222222&text=tj
Owner
Briefly put in Tung Sol tall, triangle plate, 6SN7s. The sound was bright, even brighter than the chrome top Sylvania. They have a nice airy quality and are very fast. There is also a good bit of impact to these tubes, dynamics are good. But the sound is too bright and even became a bit harsh. At higher volumes 75-80 db, these tubes are not comfortable to listen to. At lower volumes <60 db, they are quite nice. These tubes cost me $60/pair. It is a reasonable cost to find out I don't like them all that much. Next up are Sylvania 5692.

tjkurita

222222&text=tj
Owner
Just put in Sylvania, "T" plate, bottom getter, 6sn7 GTAs. They sound GREAT! I will live with this for a while, I think. Difference between bottom getter "T" plate (BG) and top getter "Chrome Dome: (TG)" More liquid and lush midrange in the BG with a thicker, more intense sound. Seemingly louder with more harmonic richness (distortion). The best way to describe the sound is "thicker" and "fatter." The TG has a much more delicate, cleaner sound, but it is also more laid back and less powerful. The detail with the TG is more discernible than with the BG. In fact, the difference is similar to switching from copper to silver in the coupling capacitors. The BG tube has more detail than the copper cap (thanks, I'm sure, to the silver cap still being in the circuit) but there is a similar "thickness" to the BG tube. This seems to bring out the best in the system as a whole. I like the combination of the strong midrange with the cleanliness of the silver caps and TA300B. The BG tubes really seem to give the sound more power.

I really like these tubes in my system. They give it that little something extra. The combination of delicate, clear, fast sound from the top getter 6SN7 "Chrome Dome" and the silver capacitors, and the very detailed TA300B pushed the system in a very "dry" direction. Especially for an all tube system. The bottom getter GTA adds some of the lushness and life without sacrificing too much clarity.

tjkurita

222222&text=tj
Owner
I can understand the preference for copper. It had a nice sound. Plenty of detail with beautiful, lush sound. But for my preference (detail and speed from an all-tube amp), the silver caps are ideal. I'm certainly curious about other caps, but it really becomes a difficult proposition as I have no experience with building. From my memory, the Audionote copper foil in oil caps sounded better than the Jensens. Unfortunately, those went bad.

tjkurita

222222&text=je
Tj,

Thanks very much for the offer. Right, my amp uses .1uf. I have not tried any other cap but so far I am pretty happy.
I do know guys who prefer copper to silver. Nice to know you are getting along well with your system and that you are enjoying your sub woofers. Let me know if get down to the city.

jet

jetrexpro

222222&text=tj
Owner
Hi Jet,

I definitely prefer the AN caps. They really do improve on every aspect of the sound. It is smoother and cleaner and faster. More detail and resolution and an overall more open sound. Dynamics are also improved. I think that it is a superior cap in every way. Of course, they better be considering the price. I hope it is not the expense and "newness" that is telling me that the AN are better, but I don't really think there is much question regarding the quality and the improvement. While I imagine that someone might prefer the sound of the Jensen copper caps, I don't think it would be because they sound better on a "technical" level. It would have to be because of a preference for increased warmth and a more rolled of presentation.

If you can use the Jensens and would like to try them out, I'd be happy to pop them in the mail for you. I think they are .25 uf and 630v. It looks like you use a coupling cap with a different value. Also, the vCaps are pretty hard to beat, I'll bet.

tjkurita

222222&text=je
TJ, How are the AN silver caps in the 300b sounding. Do you prefer your Jensen PIO copper caps or the Silver?

Regards,
Jet

jetrexpro

222222&text=tj
Owner
System edited: Added an updated photo of the system with computer and subwoofers repositioned.

tjkurita

222222&text=tj
Owner
I recently went to a friends house who has a very nice system set up. Two large public announcement horns from the mid-twentieth century (I think, I can't remember). They were pretty big but are technically mid-horns, I think. They were crossed over at something like 125hz to a big cube-shaped subwoofer with small, bullet-tweeters hanging below the horns. He once had a very large system of horns (including bass horns) but these two mid horns are the ones that remain. Hooked up to Welborne Labs Moondog 2A3 amps. With a transformer based attenuator. He was using computer-as-source with Audiovarna software.

What an interesting sound true horns make! It took me a while to get into it, but eventually I was captivated. They have an extreme immediacy and speed. They did not have any soundstage to speak of, no "spacial cues," the midbass and lowbass integration was off-kilter, there were railroad spikes in the treble. They had laser-beam-like focus making the sweet spot about the width of a human head. It was as if all recordings were mono recording. Still, I was pretty overcome by the quality of the sound. I think because of the immediacy and the "in-the-head" presentation. The female voice was quite amazing.

I have heard systems with multiple big cone drivers that sound distant and un-involving that do all those soundstage things right and have all the frequencies there, that are flat and "measure right." His was the opposite of that. But it was as involving as any system I have heard (with the right music). I do believe that anyone who gave themselves to the music, rather than "what they were hearing" would realize that horns have a great deal to offer. And maybe the multi-way cone driver systems are lacking in that most important quality of musicality.

When I came home I listened to my system and found that I still loved it. That it offered the same kind of immediacy as his horns but with a bit more of that "audiophile" stuff. My system does not have the same kind of dynamics as the horns and are far less efficient. And it does not get that last bit of immediacy that probably separates horns from cone speakers. But I think, in my small room, it is as captivating as the horn system.

One conclusion I have reached is that this small room is a blessing in disguise. The speakers are not too large for it. On the contrary, the smallness of the room actually gives the speakers a more intimate sound.

My friend will soon have an open baffle woofer system in place that will probably put his system over the edge and have me searching audiogon for some Avantgardes!

tjkurita

222222&text=tj
Owner
I reintegrated computer-as-source into my system. This makes things easier for some casual listening. I quite enjoy the sound. Listening a lot more to the Peter Daniel Patek SE Gainclone lately. It has a good, clean sound. It can be a bit peaky and dry and is not as refined or musical as the 300B, but it does plenty of good things. There is a pretty significant difference between Apple Lossless through TOSlink and the CDSDSE transport.

The subwoofers really make a big difference in the overall tone and presentation of the system. The music has significantly more impact. With body and depth. I have it conservatively set up somewhere near 100hz with the gain set just on the threshold. I have found that this is ideal for me. In addition, getting the ports of the subwoofer away from the wall and pointed more into the room made for significant improvements over having the ports pointed directly at two bass traps. When the ports were facing the bass traps, all of the bass dispersed along the walls! Strange to have no bass in the middle of the room and booming, unnaturally loud bass along the walls.

I have been listening to a lot of music and have not been active on the forum but I wanted to update the thread. I like the convenience of computer-as-source, but it does not cut it for attentive listening. I think of my system now as two systems in one. The 300B, Compact Disc system and the Patek SE, computer system. Lately it has been all computer as I only recently set up the computer. Happy with it!

I would like to get some other gear in here for comparison.

tjkurita

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