20 May, 2023

Elekit TU-875

Review: Elekit TU-875, Part II
Letter from Hong Kong (23-6): Terrence Lau on Elekit TU-875

Editor: Reader Terrence Lau submitted this as a comment, but it's substantial enough that I took the liberty of additionally publishing it as an article, to keep the flame burning, so to speak. Many thanks for the detailed write-up!

The Elekit TU-875 is by now legendary. Many in the West look for it but finding it is very hard for them. HK people are lucky in that we could easily buy Japanese second-hand. The coverage on TU-875 is piecemeal in this blog, but I urge you to read them!

My early Elekit Overview (here) can be viewed as Review, Part I. For the sake of simplicity, I shall call this current one Part II, even if it comes after many of ELO's more recent articles on the subject, which likely triggered TL's interests.

ELO's articles are harder to classify. They were written in a Diary-like Systems Context. It pays to read
them carefully. The first one documents his Search (here); the second the full evaluation (here).

I got one in mid May 2023 in Hong Kong from a fellow on the review33 site. He was a very polite and nice guy who is similar in age as I, so we had a good chat at his home when dealing. 

It was an original Japanese domestic kit, unopened, and the seller said he had bought it in Japan himself. It had Jan Philips 5963, contrary to what I had seen previously on some YouTube videos where the kit was shown for assembly process with 12AU7EH. What a treat.

At home, it took me the best part of a day to assemble the thing. I made several mistakes in soldering one diode and several D170 triodes, rendering the unit inoperable upon “completion”. During checking I found the upstream PSU and tube boards were OK and concentrated on the lower main board. There I found my mistakes, having reversed the polarity of those parts that I mentioned. After repeated checks, it got to work finally.

It wasn’t difficult to note the “faster” sound of the TU-875 compared to my other preamps, both tubed and SS. Compared with my McIntosh C11 and C20, it sounds so airy and the background is so hiss-less that I had to turn up the volume up to max to confirm this performance. Really, Kudos to the designer of this kit working on a meagre but applaudable 7 volts 1.7 ampères little power supply case (the wall wart doesn’t even qualify to be called a box).

In stark contrast to my McIntosh and my Conrad Johnson PV-8, both the MM and the Line Sections.sound clear and quiet, without being too analytical, but giving huge level of detail and certain warmth in sound.
Harmonics are good therefore, and I found it easily to live with, especially for tube rolling. The front single tube is for the line amp with average amplification, while the two tubes near the taller cover on the back are for MM stage with really huge gain as I found out with my trusted OM-3 pickup. I haven’t had the chance to test out the MC stage yet but opinions have it that it should sound just as sweet as does the MM stage as it is built with two J-FET ICs. I’m not doubting.

In pairing this preamp I noted it relatively prefers a power amp with lower damping, for the sound to gravitate towards the bassier side of the spectrum. So, it should be paired with a tube amp such as McIntosh MC240, or even an EL84 one. The TU-875 works spectacularly well with my Ampex 15-watt mono tube amps with 6973, often referred to as the Ampex 6973 mono amplifier. Not to be confused with the stereo version from Ampex, this mono amp was built for 16 ohm loads, the stereo version being for 8 ohm. Alternatively, I will try it with my Nakamichi PA-700.

So my take is that, nowadays, while it's difficult to source as NOS un-assembled, the TU-875 is holding up well in its performance and even at the price I paid, for US$400 in sum, it is a great value on the whole. A bargain I should say. Just the fun of assembling the kit alone is worth everything and every minute. And alas this fun is probably only for those few who will travel the extra mile to first of all get one set to begin with.

Editor's Comments:
1) It's incredible that TL can assemble the thing in 1 day; it's not an easy kit! 2) the original tubes are JAN 5693! Very nice, but of course even older old-stock 12AU7s are even nicer; 3) Ampex 6973 monoblocks, man, these are gems (pic below borrowed from reverb)! Just that 6973's are hard to find! These are fast, fluid amps that outperform even EL84s. 

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