Review: Yaqin (China) MS-34D Tube amp

Category: Amplifiers

I have been living with a small 5.1 surround system for a while now.The problem was that as the system sounded pretty good for movies it just wasn't cutting it for music,which is 60% of my usage.Now I could have chucked the 5.1 system & built something more geared toward music but I was really wanting a Tube based system since I value a warm,organic sound.Although Classic Rock & Blues are my main stable during the day, when evening comes I switch to Jazz & Classical so as not to piss the neighbors off too much.I needed a system that could bring Stevie Ray's Strat to life during the day,then at night,convey the emotion that Mozart intended when he wrote the haunting Serenade K361.A plan formed. I bought a nice AV rack big enough for my 42"LCD & placed the small sats.on each side of the tv, with the small center channel speaker in the middle.With the rack holding my Sherwood Newcastle surround receiver & Yaqin Tube Buffered,Marantz DV-7001 dvd player I had my 5.1 system for movies.A pair of Dynaudio Audience 52 SE speakers in the stunning Rosewood finish were procured from a local merchant(at a MAJOR discount) who was clearing out all his audience speakers,making room for the new Excite series.These were placed on 30" Studiotech fillable stands about 3' to either side of the A/V rack.Now all I needed was a Tube Integrated Amp to drive the Dyn's.But I didn't want just any ole amp.I wanted something with remote control AND a decent headphone output for those late nights when I wanted to blow off a little steam without getting the cops called on me.Well a little digging on Audiogon didn't give me too many options.The only 2 Tube Integrated's that fit my needs were the Cary Audio SLI-80 & VTL IT-85.Both very expensive if bought new & pricey even on the used market. Since I already had positive experience with Chinese audio products via the Yaqin Tube Buffer I decided to see if anything was available from the big Chinese makers.Searching through Shanling,Ming Da & a few others didn't bring any rewards.A lot of them had remote control but none added that all important headphone output & the power I needed to drive my Dynaudios.Next stop Ebay.Searching Tube Integrated Amplifiers netted about 100 or so results.1 after another I viewed the adds until BANG!EL34 tubes pumping out 40 watts per channel in pure Class A Ultralinear mode,a front panel switched Triode mode,remote control,tubed headphone output & made by....Yaqin!The Buy It Now price was VERY attractive,shipping wasn't bad but it would take forever to get here.Expedited shipping was almost $250.00 but would put the amp in my hot little hands in just 3-5 working days & with the price of the amp so low I was still making out like a bandit.Now we've all heard the horror stories about buying Chinese made audio gear direct but as the saying goes BUY the Seller,so I checked his feedback which was excellent.Before I pulled the trigger I had a few questions so I sent him an email.Response came from China within 6 hours,very incouraging.I made the buy.Several hours later a PayPal invoice was presented to me complete with expedited shipping.Total due,$610.00!!!Payment was made & within 12 hours I received notice my amp had shipped! I watched over a 2 day period as my amp made it's way from China to Alaska to Southern California to Nevada.3 days from the time it was shipped & it was here,WELL WORTH the money for shipping.The package was wrapped in Heavy Brown paper.Tearing through that revealed a Yaqin Factory Box proclaiming Yaqin"MS-34D"Hi Fi Stereo Power Amplifier.Cutting open the top reveales dense,closed cell foam.Pull & pull & pull & finally the top of the foam,which reminds me of a close fitting coffin comes loose.There sitting in the bottom,nestled in the lower half of the foam coffin is the amp.Deeper than it is wide(12 3/4"w x 14 3/4"d)it calls to me.I grasp from the sides & lift.Holy s@#t this thing is HEAVY!When the specs say 52 lbs.beieve it! I set the amp on a nightstand & inspect it.There is a very small scratch on 1 side,a slight discoloration on top of 1 of the transformers & an area of the bottom plate that is bent a little & doesn't sit flat,BUT for what I paid I must say I am VERY pleased!The frame of the amp is Black Anodize aluminum with a Silver Anodized Front Facia framing a Black Perspex center area.The tube sockets are made of ceramic & sit solidly in the amp base.The Satin Silver,volume knob is a motorized Alps & turns smooth as butter.The Black Perspex Facia is adorned with 2 Brushed Silver buttons on the left side marked UL(Ultrainear) & TR(triode)& each button has a green led above denoting which mode is running.To the left of these buttons is a green power on led.There is no standby function,the unit completely shutting down when turned off via the side mounted power switch.Below the power on led is a gold plated 1/4"headphone socket.The right side of the facia has 4 Brushed Silver buttons marked AUX 1-4 for input selection.Around back is a standard IEC power cord socket so different cords can be tried.Gold plated rca inputs marked 1-4 & European style speaker connectors for 8 & 4 ohm taps are provided. Pluging in the tubes,which were well protected during shipping,being nestled inside pvc tubing,again nestled in dense foam cutouts in the bottom under the amp,is a simple matter with the tubes seating in the sockets with a satisfying thump & no slop.Time to bias the tubes.Open the provided manual.WTF!Throw the 6 page manual in the trash(actually keep it in the box)!It has no more info in it than was provided to me in the sellers original add!Bias voltage is clearly marked next to the biasing pot & a nice little Torx driver is supplied to do the adjusting.However the nice little Torx driver fits VERY snug in the bias pot making it somewhat of a hassle to get the voltage right as it changes when you try to pull it loose.I would have prefered slot type adjustment but after a few tries you get it right. I make sure the volume control is turned all the way down & grab the remote control unit,which is about 6"long,1 3/4"wide & 3/4"deep,is very heavy & has 2 beautiful Silver Anodized aluminum plates covering what appears to be a dense,hard plastic in between.Since there are no batteries anywhere in the box I assume they are already installed.Now what to listen to first?A brand new SACD I haven't listened to yet,"Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughan In Session"slips into the Marantz,not expecting much since the amp has 0 hours on it & the speakers only have about 10 hours on them.I AM FLOORED!What I hear is MUSIC,SWEET MUSIC!Stevies Strat has that bite!Alberts Gibson has that golden glow I know from first hand experience a Gibson can have when coaxed by the right fingers.What REALLY grabs my attention is the kick drum,you can actually hear the stretch of the skin on initial impact,amazing.The other thing that grabs my ears is the bass.I was expecting the bass to sound a little loose or soft.NO WAY!Those Japanese made power transformers grab the little Dynaudio woofer & ROCK! As it stands right now,with only a few hours on the amp & speakers I am VERY pleased.I have never had a system that presented the music in such an utterly natural way! I look forward to the system breaking in & trying a different power cord or tubes down the road.I haven't even tried the headphone output yet & will post an update when I finally plug my Sennheiser HD 525's in, but for now I can say without a doubt the best $600.00+ I have ever spent on audio gear.

Associated gear
Marantz DV-7001 Multi Disc Player feeding through Yaqin Tube Buffer.Dynaudio Audience 52SE speakers.MAC cables(CuQ speaker,Source HC power cords & Silver Braided I/C's).Furman PST-8 Power Station.
Good to see someone giving a Yaqin a shot. A few simple DIY upgrades can really make them true budget performers, many threads on the net that go into detail on this.
Well I've had this Chinese Integrated Tube Amp in my system for a full 2 weeks today so I thought I'ld post a follow up for anyone that's interested.Lets start with Construction & Ergonomics:Other than the few items I listed in my initial review the only negative that I've encountered is, that wonderful Alps motorized volume control is VERY close to the pre-amp tubes & you have to pay VERY careful attention when using it manually(as I painfully discovered).Biasing has NOT been a problem now that I have loosened up the pots interface with the Torx driver required to bias her.After intial biasing I have checked it several times & it remains dead on,with no drift what so ever.As this amp is Pure Tube & Completely Class A she gets pretty hot,but not so hot(even after 10 hours straight use)that I can't rest my hand on top of the transformers.Now to how she SOUNDS:Lets start at the bottom & work up.This little amp has NO problem driving my 4 ohm Dynaudio's DEEP & TIGHT!Whats more it has wonderful tone & articulation,with everything from the notes leading edge through to decay comepletly portrayed.Stand up double bass has real body.Midrange is simply GLORIOUS!Male(Chris Isaack,Dean Martin,Robert Plant etc...etc...)& female(Norah Jones,Pat Benetar,Billy Holiday etc..etc...)voices are rendered with no sibilance or chestiness & are completely natural.Strings have a beautiful sheen & woodiness that is highly addictive BUT(& here is the one area I'm having a problem with)at fairly loud levels there is a hardness or brightness that I can't get rid of yet.Now please keep in mind this is ONLY a problem when it's REALLY cranked up(volume control at 10 o'clock +),at normal levels there is no brightness or hardness at all.Also keep in mind that my Dynaudio Audience 52SE's still only have about 80-90 hours on them at this time,which is why I haven't tried new tubes or other tweaks just yet(I really hope it goes away as the Dyn's get a few hundred hours on them).One aspect of the sound that KEEPS JUST BLOWING MY MIND is DRUMS.I have NEVER had a system that reproduced drums in the manner that this one does.I don't know how to describe them accept to say that they are ALIVE!Imaging & soundstaging are AMAZING.A prime example of this is Mozarts"Adagio"from Serenade K361.This movement is(IMHO)one of THE most beautiful pieces of music ever created.K361 is Mozarts Concerto for Wind Instruments.The Adagio is a series of Solo Wind instruments building to a cresendo of all the Winds.This piece starts out with a solo Oboe & through my system it is placed at the far right(about 6'outside the speakers)& slightly elevated in height.As the piece progresses & each insrument comes in you can actually see thier placement in the orchestra, as well as,amazingly, that the venue where this particular recording was done has rows of instruments placed at higher & higher elevations,starting with strings placed on the floor,reed instruments slightly higher & behind & brass instruments even higher & farther back,plainly evident when the French Horns start playing at about 6'above floor height & about 10' behind where the first Oboe was!To say that I'm happy with this purchase is a total UNDERSTATEMENT!Whatever the type of music I'm playing,be it Classic Rock-Electric/Acoustic Blues-Reggae or Classical this I/A just sings,consistently musical & enjoyable(until that volume control hits 10 o'clock).It's probably a good thing I can't get past that 10 o'clock position anyway,I'ld probably ruin my hearing pretty fast because I would never turn it down!
Hey, I am diggin' this now too. Got one delivered couple of weeks ago. Looks solid and sounds quite good. But I feel that the stock Chinese tubes aren't doing this the full justice. Have you tried tube rolling?
One thing I noticed was that the not-so-well-recorded albums really get highlighted by this, for a moment I thought it was a problem with the amp. But well engineered recordings really start to shine.
I like to recap my Yaqin MS-34B with russian PIO's. Maybe someone can help me out. Is this a good idea? And which ones are to be considered to take notable effects?
I have no scheme but you could point it out on a photo.

Thanks in advance!