Consonance Cyber 211
Following Up My December 2005 Review
By Steven R. Rochlin
W ow! That sums up the staggering amount of correspondence i have received concerning last month's Consonance Cyber 211 review . Have been feverishly answering many e-mails and felt that it was best to post a follow-up article so that everyone may see the common questions and answers. This is my, perhaps futile, attempt to reduce the onslaught of e-mail reaching my inbox. Also of note is that since the review Consonance has sent me a pair of Full Music Deluxe Edition 211 output tubes. So we will also cover how they faired against the stock tube and my fave NOS GE VT4C. And first, a few e-mails and my reply:
Thanks to your well written article and a great dealer in Atlanta, I own the Hyperion 938 loudspeakers and have enjoyed every moment of it. I just read your review of the Consonance Cyber 211 Amps?
Since I may not have access to this equipment, can you tell me what (if any) difference I might experience with my Hyperions should I use the Cyber 211 Amps (plus a good pre-amp) instead of the Jeff Rowland integrated Concerto amp I am presently using?
Thanks for your e-mail. Wish I could help, but Jeff Rowland never sends us anything to review, though we have asked Jeff quite a few times during shows. Therefore I have no clue as to what differences there may be. Best bet would be to e-mail the Cyber 211 guys and find a dealer who will let you enjoy a 20 day in home audition. As always, an in-home audition is the best way to be sure. Maybe your local Atlanta guy should try to be a dealer?
Enjoy the Music,
Steven R. Rochlin
Since you are keeping the Consonance amps, I was wondering if you have tried the JTL Tung Sol 5687s (pre 1960). Give them a drive. Great review BTW.
Glad you enjoyed the review. If you buy the amps, play around with the bias. i find that upping it from 4.8 to about 5.2 sounds better with the GE VT4C to bring out the highs a bit more.
Enjoy the Music,
Steven R. Rochlin
The first e-mail is self-explanatory. As much as we want to review what some feel are great pieces of audio equipment, certain manufacturers are hesitant to allow us the opportunity. Our writing staff has decades of experience so it is hard to understand their apprehension, unless they choose not to undergo a honest assessment of their gear, and that is indeed their right. The second e-mail brings up a great point not in the original review!
Tube Rollers Delight!
While the stock 211 tube did a very good job, i felt there could be more musical bliss achieved beyond the stock form Consonance Cyber 211. My years of experience with the Audio Note Ongaku have served me well in this regard. At the same time Consonance felt that sending me a pair of the new Full Music Deluxe Edition 211 output tube was in order.
Seen to the right are both output tubes side by side. Note the GE is taller, yet the Full Music tube is fatter. Both have ceramic bases wrapped with metal. Of note is the below photo where the GE VT4C has a ceramic top while the Full Music employs the usual 'finger' tension pieces and metal (see photo below). There are other difference that i will not fully cover, but that the GE seems more rugged and in my opinion requires a touch higher bias to achieve the best from it. In pure stock form, the Cyber 211 owner's manual says to bias the 211 at 4.8 Volts DC. With the GE VT4C, i have found that in my system a bias of 5.25 Volts DC brings out the highs and associated harmonics a bit better.
Fortunately, this amplifier is not auto bias. Frankly, i hate auto bias for the simple fact that it adds some unnecessary circuitry and i favor the less=more principle. Furthermore, if you can manually bias an amplifier it also provides the opportunity to change it, as this also alters the resulting sound an amplifier produces. Bias changes are free, though please stay within about 20 percent of the manufacturer's recommendation. You can indeed have too much of a good thing, and tube life may suffer accordingly.
Only the extremely lazy will not want to bother with biasing their amplifier. This is the only advantage i can really understand where auto bias presents. Sadly, the auto bias crowd may be the same people who love CD because they are too damn lazy to achieve higher musical bliss from vinyl, and the necessary adjustments vinyl replay entails. Unlike vinyl replay, biasing an amplifier takes only a minute, maybe two. It is so easy you could probably teach your 5-year-old child within 5 minutes how to do it! Ok, so you will need to buy a $15 meter, though for your small $15 investment you can do amazing things, including other audiophile tweaks! In my opinion all hard-core audiophiles, not just tube-o-philes or DIY'ers, should have a meter and know how to use it.
Different Tubes, Different Sound
While the various tubes i could choose to 'roll' into this unit would take a huge article in and of itself, here are some basic impressions. The Full Music 211 was very shouty when first installed with the amplifier at stock bias setting. The bass was, perhaps, a touch better than the GE VT4C, but the highs on the Full Music was lackluster at best. They lacked definition and clarity. After 100 hours the shouty personality subsided only a touch and no matter what was tried, i never liked the new Full Music Deluxe Edition 211. Perhaps they need over 500 hours and only time will tell. Enter the JTL Tung Sol 5687.
With the NOS Tung Sol in place, this greatly removed the shouty impression of the Full Music tubes, but was not a complete solution as the highs. Above 4kHz, the music still lacked definition and proper harmonic sheen. It also appeared the overall resolution dropped a notch or two. No matter what i tried including bias, other tubes, etc. So for now with about 200 hours on the Full Music 211, and they want a jaw dropping $1,000 for them, i would have to pass on recommending these. Especially when NOS GE VT4C is much lower in cost. Hmm... i always felt new tubes should cost less than prized NOS tubes. Hmmm indeed!
So back in went the GE VT4C and stock USA Raytheon ck5687wa. Let her warm up, adjust the bias to about 5.25 Volts DC and the music was back! While the bass of the GE VT4C may not be a few Hz as deep as the Full Music, it is very close. The midrange of the GE is more musically pleasing than the Full Music or stock tube, and the highs of the VT4C with the way they reproduce harmonics in tact is simply divine! This is the configuration these monoblocks will be staying for a long, long time within my humble abode.
Note: Only die-hard tweakers should read the next section. Others should simply skip down to my Closing Comments.
But i hear you tweakers with soldering guns want more. Ok, here is the 911 for those of you who love how easy it is to tweak this amplifier. Rejoice as there is plenty of room inside the chassis! While i have not tried any of the below tweaks, these are merely suggestions. i make no sound judgment (pun intended) to the result from these tweaks.
The first tweak would be to extend some wires out from where the M Caps (lower right parts in the photo above) are and try V Caps, silver foil, or whatever may be the flavor of the month. Please remember caps take a long time to settle in, so when i do such tweaks the caps usually spend about a week on my cable burn-in device. i use the old Duo-Tech Model CE1000 from a decade ago, now no longer available, though there are plenty of modern alternatives. With the wires that connect these caps now being moved to the outside of the amplifier, you could use whatever cap you feel best fits the music of the moment. Think of it as tube rolling, but instead of tubes it is capacitors!
Other parts you could tweak would be in using top-grade Black Gate capacitors within the power supply. Sure this can get expensive... fast! The choice is yours, and because they already use Rubycon as stock, am not sure the results would be worth the cost of entry. This is why i first mentioned the M Caps as this would be fewer parts, 2 versus 7 or so.
Lastly, those of you who are truly talented could try moving from stock solid-state rectification to using Mullard GZ34, CV378, or some such. The big problem here is this tweak is not an easy 1:1 swap and only the highly experienced tweaker and solder sniffers should fathom such a change.
In stock form, the Cyber 211 is a great amplifier. It comes with some NOS tubes and is an amazing sounding unit that easily competes with units over twice the cost. The only tweak i suggest is removing the stock 211 tubes and getting a set of NOS VT4C tubes for a few hundred dollars. Once installed, bias the unit from stock 4.8 to 5.25 Volts DC or so and enjoy the music. There is no real need to go further.
The onslaught of e-mails concerning my rave original review has been keeping me quite busy and i hope this article will somehow reduce those numbers. There appears to be many people who have the same Hyperion loudspeakers in my system ( reviewed here ), with one reader in particular who has been firing off many e-mails to my inbox. My best suggestion would be to get your hands on a Cyber 211 and try it within your system. If you have 90dB/W/m or above sensitive loudspeakers, these monoblock tube amplifier may bring you thousands of hours of musical bliss. If you liked what the 47 Labs Gaincard or some cheap pirated copy-cat sounds like in your system, then by all means try the Consonance Cyber 211 and you may be very pleasantly and amazed! In pure stock form, the Cyber 211 brought a huge smile to my face. With the simple tweak to the GE VT4C and upping the bias, the smile on my face was akin to the Cheshire cat. Of course in the end what really matters is that you...
Enjoy the Music,
Steven R. Rochlin
Type: vacuum tube monoblock amplifier
Power Output: 16 watt, RMS @ 1kHz
Vacuum Tubes Per Monoblock::
NOS Siemens gold pin E88CC
NOS Raytheon CK5687wa
Total harmonic Distortion: less than 1% (10 watt @ 1kHz)
Signal To Noise Ratio: 90dB
Frequency Response: 5Hz to 47kHz ( -3dB)
Input Sensitivity: 0.6V
Input Impedance: 100k ohms
Input Type: Unbalanced (RCA)
Output: 4 or 8 Ohms
Dimensions: 420 x 185 x 330 (LxWxH in mm)
Weight: 30kg per monoblock (packed)
Warranty: 2 years parts and labor, 90 days tubes
Price: $4,995 per pair
Opera Audio Co., Ltd.
C-1501, Building No.9 Kingdom Garden, Xiaoxitian
Haidian District, Beijing, China
Voice: 86 10 62220935
Fax: 86 10 62220935
2307-R Bristol Pike
Bensalem Pa 19020
Voice: (215) 953-9099