Willsenton R8 and R800i (805) or (845) news and views

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by RachaelW, Sep 13, 2021.

  1. RachaelW

    RachaelW Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Melbourne
    Hi guys,

    During lockdown I decided to drift away from solid state gear and bought my first tube amp about 18 months ago. It was the fabulous and insanely cheap Willsenton R8. Then about 4 months ago I purchased a second Willsenton amp called the Willsenton R800i (805 version). I absolutely love the tube sound compared to solid state and ended up buying the R800i to get even more into the hobby, but also get into a SET design without breaking the bank. As my speakers (which I love) are only 90dB efficient, I couldn't buy a 300b at any price because of the low power output.

    Anyway, the point of starting this thread (and being a new member of this forum) is, as the title indicates, to discuss tube choices, possible modifications (if anyone has attempted such), and impressions of these rather cheap chifi amps. I've also found that I have become totally addicted to tube rolling, so I do have some advice of my own that I am more than happy to share.
     
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  2. tlowe

    tlowe Life Explorer

    Location:
    Singapore
    Does anyone know the official website of this brand?
     
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  3. finn

    finn Forum Resident

    Glad you found this place and I can assure anyone who posts in this thread that Rachael knows the wheat and the chaff and is well versed in horse trading. She knows a bit about HiFi as well.
     
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  4. rockin_since_58

    rockin_since_58 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Simi Valley, CA
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  5. RachaelW

    RachaelW Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Melbourne
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  6. RachaelW

    RachaelW Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Melbourne
    Hahaha finn.

    By the way, the Takatsuki's are still sounding fabulous...
     
  7. RachaelW

    RachaelW Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Melbourne
    rockin_since_58 likes this.
  8. RockAddict

    RockAddict Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    @tlowe : The Willsenton brand is currently sold by "China Hifi Audio": China-hifi-Audio audiophile tube amplifier online store, Willsenton, Boyuurange Reisong, Muzishare Integrated Amplifier, power amp, preamp, SoundArtist Speaker for sale

    @RachaelW : The R8 thread (started by me, for better or for worse) cited by @rockin_since_58 contains a fair bit about different valves/tubes tried by users but the only "mod" I can recall off the top of my head is where @rockin_since_58 increased the bias above the normal level for KT88 valves/tubes and found, for him, it improved bass SQ (post #279 onwards in that thread).

    Although not a mod of the R8, I have just pulled the trigger on a Quad Artera PRE (analogue pre-amp) which, although purchased primarily as a headphone amp, will definitely be tried as a pre plugged into the R8 via the R8's dedicated RCA pre-in. However, delivery of the Artera PRE could take a few weeks because of low stock / supply chain issues so any feedback on that combo will have to wait for now - the feedback will probably be posted on both the R8 thread and the standalone Artera PRE thread.

    Despite a living space that isn't entirely conducive to accommodating the R8, I'm doing all I can to keep it having been through a heap of SS amps since 2014 and, evidently, not finding a "keeper". With the R8, I just want to carry on listening (notwithstanding some external factors that unavoidably limit the said listening).
     
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  9. rockin_since_58

    rockin_since_58 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Simi Valley, CA
    Correct 100 ohm cathode resistor is installed on V3, bias is functioning correctly and big Willy is rockin' again!
     
  10. RachaelW

    RachaelW Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Melbourne
    Hi RockAddict,

    Yes, please keep me updated as I'd be interested to hear how a separate pre-amp goes with the R8, although my tube supplier is putting together a kit 6SN7 as well as an E80CC version too.

    One thing I learnt very quickly was to throw the stock tubes in the bin and start over. This is what I have found to be the best tubes for the R8. So good, to my ears, that I will neither be selling, or cease using this amp. I'm fortunate enough to have two listening rooms. One being an average sized lounge room, where I also listen to movies through my stereo setup (currently Rega P6/Nagaoka MP500, Naim ND5 Xs 2, Willsenton R800i/Q Acoustic Concept 500), while the other is a more dedicated sound room, although it's not complete just yet because it was used as a "storage" room. The lounge is fully room treated, while the other room is still in the "planning" phase.

    The tubes that I use for the R8 are:
    NOS MELZ 6H9C (1952) - 6SL7 position. BTW, NOS Sylvania 6SL7WGT mil spec circa 1976 are great too, but the MELZ just edges it out IMHO.
    NOS Sylvania 6SN7 straight plates (circa late 50's/early 60's)
    NOS NEVZ 6H8C rectifier tube, although I have tried a Sylvania 6SN7 angle plate (early to mid 60's) - which I am sure makes a difference to the sound, however subtle it may be, even though logic tells me it shouldn't make a difference.
    NOS Mullard EL34 xf2 (circa early 60's)

    All tubes are matched, while all twin triodes (6SL7's, 6SN7's) are also balanced "plate-to-plate". Difficult to do given they are all NOS tubes, but I have a highly trusted contact in Canada who has helped me with this.

    I also listen only in triode mode, although because I am still in the middle of setting up the second room, I have got my old Chartwell LS3/5a's out of mothballs. Originally, in the lounge before I purchased the R800i, the R8 was powering the Concept 500's. Currently, I'm thinking seriously of purchasing a pair of Spatial Audio M3 (or perhaps even the newly released M4). I'm not sure which amp I'll mate with what speakers as yet though.

    The sound of the R8/Concept 500 is absolutely beautiful (with the midrange "to die for") with the type of music I listen to - small ensemble, jazz, blues. Examples - Eva Cassidy, Nils Lofgren, Jazz At The Pawnshop, Rebecca Pigeon, Nora Jones as a few examples, although I do listen to other music genres which are much more dynamic and the R8 still does an sterling job, especially given the speakers are only 90dB, although "tubes watts" do seem to be more powerful than "solid state watts".

    Nice to hear from you...
     
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  11. tlowe

    tlowe Life Explorer

    Location:
    Singapore
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  12. RachaelW

    RachaelW Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Melbourne
    Ok. Thank you tlowe. I'll certainly have a look, although in the R8, two of the 6SN7's (left and right) are used as phase inverters, while the third 6SN7 slot (middle) is purely for rectification. This means that the "sound" of whatever 6SN7 one uses in the R8 is not truly translated at the point of output, i.e., the 6SL7 input tube makes a huge difference to the overall sound as does the power tubes, but the 6SN7; not as much. I'm not saying they don't matter, as everything matters, but some things do not matter quite as much. The important thing for the 6SN7 is their matching and their plate balance - both of these things are critical to the R8 having good sound. Bear in mind though, that I use the same tubes (Sylvania 6SN7 straight plates - circa 1960) in both the R8 and the R800i. Possibly overkill for the R8, but absolutely necessary in the R800i because it is a SET design and any tube change effects the "flavour" of the sound.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2021
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  13. tlowe

    tlowe Life Explorer

    Location:
    Singapore
    Yes, I am aware of that. Cant say for R8 as I havent try it yet, but for LM-508IA (a 300B SET), the 6SL7 and the pair of 6SN7 input drivers play the biggest part on SQ management. Thought it might be a good reference for your new tube collection hobby..:laugh: Be careful though, it is sure very addictive. I have collected almost 100 tubes (6SN7 & 6SL7) in 4 months time, and now just getting on 6CG7 tubes.
     
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  14. RachaelW

    RachaelW Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Melbourne
    LOL. Too, too late. I'm already an addict.

    I've spent about $AU10,000 dollars on tubes in the past 18 months, so I believe I'm about due for a stint in rehab...
     
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  15. tlowe

    tlowe Life Explorer

    Location:
    Singapore
    LOL:laugh:...you in 18 months? I did almost SGD12K in 4 months...:doh:..can get another 4 brand new LM-508IA or a Luxman 509. It is really scary that I have to tell myself to stop:laugh:

    I dont really want to get you deeper in the hole but have you try Mullard ECC35 on the 6SL7?
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2021
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  16. RachaelW

    RachaelW Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Melbourne
    Bloody hell...and I thought I was bad enough. Lucky for both of us that we don't play the pokies, or I don't - can't speak for you. :biglaugh:
     
  17. tlowe

    tlowe Life Explorer

    Location:
    Singapore
    I have promised myself after getting a taste on some 6CG7 tubes, I will stop there. 8 pairs of 6CG7 are coming my way in the next 2 weeks time.

    Just to comfort ourselves, I always tell myself these vintage tubes will hold their values as time goes by, so no worry...:laugh:
     
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  18. RachaelW

    RachaelW Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Melbourne
    Is there an adapter for these tubes?

    Well, NOS tubes do hold their value. Mullard EL34 (xf2 - circa 1960's) have increased in the past year from $AU800 to not far off $AU1600 per quad, so they have appreciated by almost 100%!
     
  19. tlowe

    tlowe Life Explorer

    Location:
    Singapore
    Yes, you need a 6CG7 to 6SN7 adapter which cost around SGD14 each for me. In fact, I have just received my pair just this morning, waiting for those 6CG7 to arrive.
    Before you go on the 6CG7, I would advise you to try the Mullard ECC35 on the 6SL7 first. Huge improvement, at least on my LM-508IA. You can get a brief idea here:
    Mullard ECC35 & ECC33

    OH sorry, just noted R800i doesnt use 6SL7 but 12AX7.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2021
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  20. RockAddict

    RockAddict Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    Having purchased a set of Willsenton EL34s at the time of the R8's original purchase (in addition to the stock KT88s), then 2 sets of Tung-Sol EL34B (reissues) + a set of Genalex Gold Lion KT77s and a not insignificant number of new/reissue alternative 6SL7s and 6 SN7s (deliberately avoiding the NOS rabbit hole), I thought my "indulgences" were close to getting out of hand. However, these two posts leave me smugly satisfied at my relative (if unadventurous) self-control and this is one of those occasions where you may freely make liberal use of the term "lightweight" in relation to my valve (non) exploits.

    Suddenly, a it's as if a whole weight has been lifted off my shoulders and, happy coincidence, any related therapy is now rendered redundant as is the associated expenditure. So, what to do with this invisible saved budget? I know :idea:, something completely uncontroversial: cables...., a story best illustrated by the following emojis: :uhhuh: :tiphat: :shrug: :doh: :yikes: :wantsome: :D :-popcorn: :tsk: :hide: :whistle:
     
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  21. rockin_since_58

    rockin_since_58 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Simi Valley, CA
    Correction...the correct 10 ohm resistor has been installed.
     
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  22. RachaelW

    RachaelW Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Melbourne
    Thank you for the info. The R800i can also use a 12AT7, which is what I'm using atm. The Mullard M8162 - a beautiful sounding tube, but it is a 12AT7 equivalent. I think the caveat here is that if you use a 12AT7, it must measure really well. Besides this, the principal difference between a 12AX7 and a 12AT7 is the gain. 12AX7 = 100 vs 12AT7 = 60. Having said this, I can also use a 5751 which has a gain of 70. Of course it also depends on the circuitry as well, but I have tried a Siemens 12AT7 with great results, although the Mullard has a nicer sound IMHO and is an extremely quiet tube. It also has a brilliant frequency response with very quick, solid deep bass, sweet and extended highs, and what I mainly look for in a tube, a beautiful midrange and a wide and deep soundstage.
     
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  23. RachaelW

    RachaelW Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Melbourne
    Yes, it's scary addictive.

    Earlier I posted what tubes I am using in my R8. It sounds nothing like the R8 with stock tubes, although the NOS Mullard EL34's circa 1960's (xf2 series and touted by some as the best EL34's ever made) are getting rather expensive, but the sound of these tubes is magnificent. I've tried the Tung Sol EL34B and Gold Lion KT77 and they were nice, but to my ears, the Mullard's take the R8 to quite another level. Yes, they are that good...

    I've also tried various KT88s as well, but none of them had the beautiful midrange that I was seeking...
     
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  24. tlowe

    tlowe Life Explorer

    Location:
    Singapore
    The scariest part is when you found a tube that you like a lot, you ended up buying a few pieces or pairs extra for spare....and before you know it, you have multiple pieces or pairs for almost every tubes y0u tried...:doh:
     
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  25. RachaelW

    RachaelW Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Melbourne

    Same here. I love the sound of the NOS MELZ 6H9C mil spec (6SL7 equivalent), and because I always buy from one of two places, both have come to know me fairly well, Anyway, long story short, the pair of MELZ 6H9C's currently in my R8 are both part of the same production run in 1952. The matching and balancing is almost perfect. One tube (left channel) using the getter at the rear as a reference point - plate left/right plate balance = 79/81, while it's mate (right channel) - plate left/right plate balance = 81/80. Then, because I love the sound of the tube so much (at least in the R8), I have 4 more pairs of this tube with almost as close matching and plate balance.

    I also love the sound of the Sylvania 6SN7's from the late 50's/early 60's, so I have multiple pairs of these as well - both black straight plate (produced straight after the legendary "bad boys") and black angle plate, which were produced after the straight plate. I have a matched and balanced pair of the straight plates in the R8 ATM.

    I also have 3 pairs of the Sylvania 6SL7WGT mil spec JAN (Joint Army/Navy) from 1976 - all matched and balanced.

    So yeah, it can get rather crazy, lol...
     
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