Chi-fi superstar - Aiyima T9 integrated amp

Discussion in 'Power Amps' started by k4rstar, Sep 25, 2022.

  1. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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    I purchased this little T9 amp in July on the advice of my good friend doctorjohn. You can read his original review here: https://cheaptubeaudio.blogspot.com/2022/06/aiyima-t9.html

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    This unit is really exceptional. It can be purchased from Amazon or your favorite CCCP sponsored online marketplace for around $129 USD. It is worth every penny. I purchased it to use as a stopgap until my single-ended 2A3 project is completed later this year, but I have become so enamoured with it I wonder why one really needs anything more.

    At first glance, the T9 looks like many similar amps in the marketplace with a gaudy VU meter (it grew on me, it looks good in person) and bluetooth antenna sticking out the rear. Actually the sound of this unit is exceptional. For me the key indicator of sound quality in audio equipment is clarity. I will quickly define clarity as the intelligibility of sounds and their subtle relationships, the separation (individuality) of different instruments, the separation (individuality) of different sound recordings and the successful transmission of intonation in music.

    The T9 is exceptional because for a modern device costing what it does and offering so many features (Bluetooth, DAC, pre out, tone controls, remote control, etc) it possesses a very high degree of musical clarity. I have had a number of expensive amplifiers in the exact same system ranging from SET to push-pull to minimalist discrete transistors to minimalist integrated transistor circuits and the T9 beat them all in this criterion. I won't list the individual comparisons because you won't believe me anyway.

    Out of the box, it will offer a pretty agreeable and enjoyable sound just connected via Bluetooth to a modern smartphone, totally acceptable for a budget bedroom/office/living room setup. The included USB cable sounds quite poopy and I would recommend grabbing another cheap one (I like the Elecom USB cable from Amazon JP for $15).

    My personal use case for the T9 is as a high performance in a dedicated two-channel system with high sensitivity speakers though. Since I received it in July, I have been making a number of tweaks to all parts of the chain and they are all heard clearly through the T9. In July the sound was good but fatiguing after a few hours, possessing those 'soggy' class D transients that never really go away and get worse at high volumes.

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    Since then I have switched from using the USB input to using the line in with the DAC of my Mac Pro. The internal DAC is one of the integrated JL do-it-all bluetooth DAC chips. It's more than serviceable, I just happen to have a high performance DAC, so I used it. I wouldn't expect all or even most external DACs to necessarily sound much better than the on-board unit. I also made a bunch of other changes to the systems cabling (nothing expensive mind you), tweaks to my speakers themselves, etc. and the strain at high volumes has virtually disappeared. It was really surprising to me how the T9 reflected every change made and never showed itself to be the bottleneck.

    I am really quite confident I could invite some SET aficionados over and convince them they were listening to a SE 2A3 amp if they closed their eyes. The T9 has verve, it is totally capable of sucking you into the music. I can't really give much higher praise than that. I don't get much time to listen to the big rig but I try to sneak away a few hours every weekend to spend with the T9. I imagine most people buying one of these is going to use it in a smaller system with bookshelf speakers and for that application it's already very good. For a high-end application where you can spend a little time to get the most out of it, it's an absolute killer.

    There's a lot of hype around this unit so if you want more audiophile descriptors or know more about specs I am sure you can find some mainstream reviews which go through that. I'm just here to tell you to not sleep on this thing in the context of a high performance system.
     
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  2. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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  3. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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    No, although I know it's bugged a lot of people. my speakers are a real ~97db/1w/1m sensitivity and so on the volume step between 0 (mute) and 1 I already have a close to usable volume, maybe that's why
     
  4. Bourne Perfect

    Bourne Perfect Friend

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    'from Amazon or your favorite CCCP sponsor'

    But you repeat yourself. Nevertheless, nice review.
     
  5. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    The myth of the hifi cheap giant slayer is strong, and highly attractive --- and it looks like this is a genuine contender. Damnit, it comes within my impulse-buy budget! Sadly, it wouldn't do so by the time it reached my desk via Indian customs :(
     
  6. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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    you are right of course
    [​IMG]

    Some more thoughts on the Aiyima T9. for a year now it has been an in-joke amongst friends to describe audio gear by a quality called 'Tang Yin' (唐寅) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tang_Yin

    like all in-jokes, it will become lame if I explain it, but a poorly machine-translated review of the Sennheiser HD600 from an author on a Chinese forum described the HD600 as 'the ultimate truth' and likened it to the paintings of this famous Chinese artist.

    [​IMG]

    Well, we all know the HD600 is more truthful than its siblings because it is capable of rendering sharp sounds sharply. and so I have begun describing equipment as having Tang Yin when it can sound faithfully sharp. I despise 'polite' sounding components, and when used in abundance in the path they make the sound dull and boring. The T9 is special because it does possess Tang Yin. It can give me goosebumps and make the hairs on my arms and neck stand up when a singer hits a high note or the power chord hits just right. please note that this is a different quality than the unpleasant serrated sharpness some monolithic power amplifiers can have.

    finally, the Aiyima uses the 6K4 vacuum tube as an input buffer. this is a CCCP laboratory special and there isn't exactly a direct electrical equivalent for it from the golden era of vacuum tubes. I believe it is precisely this device which gives the T9 it's Tang Yin. I suspect this because my first instinct was to rip it out of the amplifier and replace it with some GE 6AK5s from the 1950s. At first I thought I was successful as what usually happens when you replace new tubes with old ones was heard: textural information in abundance. However when I returned the next day it was clear I did not want to listen for more than 2 songs. The 6K4 is responsible for giving the T9 it's standout qualities of verve and harmonic sharpness. It also seems to 'wash' unpleasant artifacts from modern studio recordings and make them eminently more listenable. I would recommend to leave the stock tube, but feel free to experiment.
     
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  7. Priidik

    Priidik MOT: Estelon

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    Asia never ceases to catch eye.
    I wonder what's up with the power supply, it says 24 V.
    Then the spec says 100 W per channel to 4 ohms.
    Simply splitting rails and some component drops it would do about 15 W / 4 ohms.
    All this to not discourage anyone. 15 W can do a lot.
     
  8. señorhifi

    señorhifi Friend

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    Not sure how seriously I can take this thread. Almost sounds like a trap. However, I do really want to experiment a CCCP laboratory special Tang-Yin experience sponsored by my favourite CCCP approved marketplace. No, seriously, I was looking for something like this to use with a pair of cheap Wharfedale speakers from ages ago (Diamond 8). This sounds interesting.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2022
  9. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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    yes, thanks for pointing that out. the specifications are fake news at best and just quoting the TPA3221 datasheet for its maximum output into 3 ohms @ 1% THD with a 30 V supply.

    most sellers are bundling it with a 24 V laptop supply so the real output power as you noted is closer to 15W/4 ohms. and I agree this is enough for most domestic listening environments with most music with most speakers.
     
  10. JayC

    JayC Resident Crash Test Dummy

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    I'm not too sure about that, I believe you need relatively high sens speakers for this - a set of KEF LS50s or Dynaudios for example aren't going to cut it

    That's what made me look over this one unless I swap speakers in the next year when I move to a bigger place (I wanna join the BWC..)
     
  11. Justin S

    Justin S Friend

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    If you do go this direction, I would love to hear about how it works out. I will be modding a pair of Diamond 9s with the GR Research crossover. I am currently using the little NAD D3020 with them (dining room system) to pretty good effect. I am curious if the T9 plays well with the Wharfedales.
     
  12. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I saw Amazon had an open box of the Douk rebadge of this unit, the ST-01, for $75. I happen to have a Line Magnetic Mini on hand so I ordered the Douk and will post comparisons soon.
     
  13. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Ah, well, Amazon sent me the wrong item. Right box, wrong item inside. This is the second time recently this has happened from an Amazon marketplace purchase. I'm just sending it back for a refund, oh well.
     
  14. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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