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I just bought one of these two weeks ago for 13000円(~$115) on amazon.
At first, I was extremely disappointed. Constant low level right side static, random strong bursts of noise, and balance issues at lower volume levels.
Most of the noise issues were quickly fixed by moving electronics away (cellphones or laptops within 3 feet or so drive it nuts). I initially switched the terrible, cheap chinese tubes with the highly recommended Voshkod 6ZH1P-EV. They were an improvement, but some of the noise issues persisted. It wasn't until I changed the tubes to GE 5654 5 Star that I was really wowed by the sound. I honestly regretted the purchase until I plugged those in.
Don't base your opinion on this device off the stock tubes.
My current setup is running directly from my PC DAC, using GE 5654 5 Star Tubes (labeled made in Canada), with MDR-CD900ST headphones.
Out of curiosity did you have to change the jumpers for the GE tubes? Happy to say my amp behaved right from the start with the Voshkods.
No I did not. The GE tubes (and the Voshkod) are all in the same family of tubes. The tube family goes by many names, most commonly EF95/ 5654/6AK5/6J1/6ZH1P/ etc. There is an article on head-fi describing the three usable tube types and listing some of the better tubes of each type.
After some research into it, I think my Voshkod's were late production and of lower quality than earlier versions.
OK just wondering. Guess I have older Voshkods, amp sounds sweet
I had to return my first amp to Amazon ($99 at time), the volume gain was different in each channel, changing out/switching tubes made no difference. There was also some static as you described. The second one seemed to have some static in one channel, but after a 5 day break in it was gone, and switching to the vintage (and broken in) Voshkods was a necessary improvement. Low noise floor and black background. Nice little bedside amp, but appears to be plagued with QA issues judging from all the reviews I've read. If you're handy with a soldering iron and have some spare time, it appears there are some mods it can benefit from.
It is extremely sensitive to interference, even if you get a good copy. I wonder how many people plugged their phone into one, set it right next to it, then were disgusted by the terrible noise?
And yea even with my new tubes it sometimes feels like there is a balance issue. Though it is either extremely subtle or in my head (most likely the latter). I might try looking at cleaning up some of the bad soldering on the inside one day.