26 July, 2011

Overview: Elekit Part I TU-875 TU-8230 TU-8300

Overview: Elekit, Part I
Review: Elekit TU-875 TU-8230 TU-8300

Updated March 5, 2015

Basic Info on Elekit

vkmusic (North American dealer); Victor Kung, whom I have yet to meet, is a great guy, very passionate about what he sells, very helpful to his clients and well regarded in diyaudio, where he runs the Elekit forum. Victor had put in a hell of a lot of work on Elekit, including translating manuals and flyers from Japanese to English for their older products like TU-875 and TU-879 (and his English versions were then used by other vendors without crediting him!) All Elekit users, especially those who DIY, should give him credit. If I were a North American Elekit fancier, I'd buy from him rather than from others who had less dedication.

Elekit official website
cnamusic (Elekit HK seller); Mr Lau is also a pretty helpful guy.

Finally, I am getting to it. Let me start to wrap up my Elekit journey. This article is mainly a formal review of the TU-875 preamp and the TU-8230 amp.

TU-875 full function Preamplifier

This preamp is no longer available but info can still be found:

Official Info
Great Japanese website showing assembly
香港代理 cna 舊網頁資料
發燒音響 12

Like the TU-870 (ECL82/6BM8) amp, this used to be a perennial in the Elekit stable. Many years ago, when I bought the TU-870 I also bought the TU-878 CD player, but for some reason I opted out for the preamp. Wrong decision that I was not to rectify until last year, when I ordered one through cnamusic.

Building the preamp was a more cumbersome effort than any of the amps. The small preamp incredibly houses a full-function MM/MC phono section (switched by a button in the back) and the densely populated circuit board took quite some work. Special care also had to be taken in soldering the closely spaced pins of the IC chip (for the MC phono), so this kit may not be for the first-time kit-builder.

Ergonomics for such a compact unit is exceptional. The volume knob to the right has a smooth feel. A gentle push on the left balance knob neatly selects inputs.

Power supply is by a wall mart (cna supplied kit is original 100V) but you can easily replace it with an aftermarket unit (cna sells a cheap Chinese SM 220V unit as well as a more expensive after-market power supply) or build a dedicated supply. However, over-kill on the power supply may not be too rewarding: as you see, the power supply is only for 7V DC, which is raised inside the preamp's tiny power supply section to a much higher 200V DC, hence the section inside the preamp is likely more important, and there is not much room for modification there.

Sonically, this preamp is truly exceptional. Its vanishingly low background noise shall shame many a (much) costlier preamp. It is hard to say whether the line section or the phono section is the more brilliant one. The line section uses only 1x 12AU7 and its sound is neutral, smoothly detailed and surprisingly sophisticated. Violin replay is top class: equally revealing of the string and the body; and managing to sound harmonically rich yet never etched. It is only in music of the greatest dynamics (such as well recorded orchestral music or piano) that the preamp restrains itself and sounds slightly flat in comparison with much higher-cost units with big power supplies. Nonetheless, what this tiny power supply section can do is still mind-boggling. I have partnered this preamp with amps from Verdier, Wavac, even Kondo, and it never bats an eye, such is its confidence.

The quiet phono section uses solid state for its MC section and 2x 12AU7 for the MM section. I have previously written something on it in a "group test" (click here). The tubed MM section is superior to many outboard phonoamps and compares favorably with classic tubed units, though you should not quite expect the performance of top-class units like those from ARC and MFA, for example. What is just as surprising is that the MC section, which has excellent gain (it can even manage my Ortofon MC-5000), manages to sound quite tactile and even handed, without the rather sterile cardboard quality of lesser outboard phonoamps. Taken into overall consideration, it is hard to think of any outboard phono units up to several times its cost that is as even a performer as this unit.

A miraculous performer and a best buy, certainly one of the best products in the Elekit range. It is so good that I brought it back to NYC to serve my vinyls.

TU-8230 2A3 amplifier

Official Info (hit 外觀.仕樣>> for more pics)

Unlike what they did for the TU-8300, cnamusic, dealer in HK, sold this in the original kit form. I first heard this in cna's showroom and bought one (first impressions here).

Over the Chinese New Year I built it in 2 days. As Elekit uses circuit boards for everything, including terminal strips and volume pots etc, the work was a little cumbersome, but not difficult. One also has to strip a lot of wires to connect the various boards. Some spots would have been just as easily hard-wired; nevertheless, I followed the instructions to a T and built it using all stock parts. You shall note the silver-capped output transformers are different in appearance from those used in the TU-8300.

I first used the stock valves, Chinese 2A3 and 6SN7. Satisfied that the machine was working properly, I lost no time in replacing the tubes with Ken-Rad black-glass VT-231 (imho the best 6SN7) and RCA double-plate 2A3.

This is a heck of an even performer and a dark horse. It runs very quietly and sounds very sweet, with excellent detail retrieval (I don't feel the need to upgrade caps), bandwidth and dynamics. For those who like more tube warmth, the amplifier has more finesse and tonal allure than its bigger brother TU-8300. When driven hard, it maintains its composure and one almost cannot hear any distortion.

My listening gave me the impression that this amp is at least as good as the other 2A3 amps I own or have heard (Sun Audio, ICL, Verdier), if not actually better. I actually briefly compared the TU-8230 with the Sun and ICL, and it more than held its own, quite an achievement. IMHO this is the best amp I have heard from Elekit. Elekit fans shall remember many years ago they had other 2A3 and 300B amps (that look like a bigger TU-875) but let me tell you those did not sound very good, nothing like this generation of TU-8230 and TU-8300. Perhaps I shall write a few more words about those in Part II.

A champ then. It is summer now and I actually use this amp more than any others. It runs very cool and yet has enough power and finesse for my Tannoy Canterbury. Yes, I match it with the Kondo M7 preamp and it is not shamed. It is that good.

TU-8300 Update

Official Info (hit 外觀.仕樣>> for more pics)
Japanese website with good pics
Japanese website that chronicles the assembly
Japanese website showing details of the parts

If you're reading this, you may remember that I have previously published a review (by my friend Danz) of this 300B amp (click here). This is a limited edition product, but may still be bought (as kit) from various places on the internet.

I took this amp to NYC, where it is driving my YL speakers ably. The amp is certainly run in by now, and my impressions have not changed much. It has a trace of leanness about it, but its driving power is quite exceptional. Not for the romantically inclined, but a strong contender.

The input sensitivity is way too high for my 104 db YL horns. I lowered it by adding resistors, but some background hum persists. Also, I changed the coupling caps to NOS Russian Military, which increased warmth.


  1. Hey there! If there's any chance you'd part with the TU-875, please let me know. I built a TU879s for a friend and he waited too long to get the TU875 before they sold out. Now i'm on a mission to help him find one!

  2. Given my penchant for cheaptube (what many people don't understand is that my expensive gears don't really change my basic values) it is highly unlikely that I shall ever let it go, especially since I am a Elekit fan. But they do perplex me - why the hell don't they at least put out another preamp to complete their line? I am sure they will one day. I'll buy one in a snap. Patience!