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Vacuum tube

Price: 200 USD/szt.

Distribution: Synergy Hi-Fi

Dr Ningsheng Liu


WWW: Synergy Hi-Fi

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

It is really not a common thing to find a new vacuum tube manufacturer, which does not only stamp its name on a product. This is why the case of the Chinese company Synergy Hi-Fi is special. This company, founded in 1995 in Hong-Kong, dealt primarily with distribution and sales of tubes and tube amplifiers in China. Mr. Ningsheng Liu, who designs the tubes with his partner, Mr. Tan, sais:

“We deliver our materials and some of our technology to the Shuguang factory – Create Audio are not just re-branded tubes, they are manufactured to our specification and are designed to fulfill our requirements”. And he adds: “Those technologies and materials are characteristic for our tubes only, and you will not find them even in Shuguang tubes”.

Shuguang and Shuguang – what is it all about? – This is one of the biggest tube manufacturers in China, a joint venture with LG Electronics. Its ‘Black’ series, with carbon covered glass, is known as one of the best products in the world, especially when we are talking about 300B tubes. But this success was backed by years of research. The factory was opened on December 26th 1965, with the number #770 instead of a name. It was built to supply the military, and was manufacturing electron tubes from the very beginning. Since 1980, when China opened a bit to the rest of the world, the company received an official name – Shuguang, what means “East” in English, what was to represent the idea of a new beginning. A very interesting trip around the factory was prepared by the magazine “Enjoy the Music” and it can be seen HERE.

As you can see, Create Audio is too small to buy their own machines, this is why it manufactures its tubes in the Shuguang facilities. They offer big power triodes 300B and 845, KT88 tetrodes and EL34 and EL84 pentodes. But also low power triodes 6SN7, 12AX7, 12AU7 and 12AT7 are being manufactured. Besides the tubes also audiophile grade fuses, with gold plated connectors are proposed. We received most of their products for testing, but I though, the 300B will be most interesting to be tested. They are provided in ideally matched pairs. Their bases are ceramic, inside we will find a carbon covered mesh anode cover, made from “nano” materials – a new “magic bullet” of the audio world, used here to stabilize the electron flow. The pins are gold plated, and the tube is made from quartz glass. Because the amplifier of Janusz, the host of the meetings of the Krakow Sonic Society, the Silver Grand Mono Ancient Audio uses four of such tubes, I asked for two pairs at Synergy Hi-Fi. Interesting enough, Janusz uses Shuguang tubes in the amplifier, which replaced the carbon Full Music 300B/c. After a week of listening he decided to buy the Create Audio tubes. Because after burning them in, he found them being as good as the Shuguang, but slightly different: more precise, more resolved, more energetic. He said, that the Shuguang were more saturated, slightly warmer, more “condensed” and “meditational”. The second amplifier I used for testing was the fantastic integrated Trafomatic Audio Experience Two. It comes with Electro-Harmonix from the Gold series, manufactured by Sovtek. Thanks to the kindness of the Polish distributor of the company Sophia Electric, Mr. Tomasz Król, I managed to get two other, incredibly interesting, tubes for testing: the carbon and mesh Princess 300B/c and Princess 300B/n. I have just to add, that I got the Create Audio tubes thanks to Srajan Ebaen, the editor in chief of “”, a magazine, with which we cooperate since some time. The tubes, manufactured by another Chinese specialist, the company Shuguang, are from the Golden Jazz Series.


I used the following discs for testing:

  • Diorama, A Different Life, Accesion Records, A 102, CD.
  • Eva Cassidy, Imagine, Blix Street, G2-10075, CD.
  • Gerry Mulligan, Night Lights, Philips/Rainbow CD, PHCE-3064, CD.
  • Jack Johnson, Sleep Through The Static, Brushfire Records, 56055, CD; review HERE.
  • King Crimson, In The Court Of The Crimson King, Universal Music Japan, UICE-9051, HDCD.
  • Kraftwerk, Autobahn, Capital Records/KlingKlang/Mute Records, STUMM 303, 180 g LP (2009).
  • Kraftwerk, Tour The France Soundtracks, EMI Records, 591 708 1, 2 x 180 g LP.
  • Lisa Gerrard, The Silver Tree, 4AD/Sonic Records, SON212, CD.
  • Tingwall Trio, Vattensaga, Skip Records, SKP 9087-2, CD; review HERE.
  • Tommy Dorsey, A Portrait of Tommy Dorsey, Music Collection International, Gale 404, 2 x CD.
  • Wynton Kelly, Piano, Riverside/Universal Music Japan, UCCO-9273, CD.

Although the motive of the test were the Create Audio tubes, I could not refuse the pleasure of listening to all of the mentioned tubes and comparing them. The basic reference were the mentioned Electro-Harmonix, and I tried to make all the tests relative to those. But I need to make an important statement upfront: tubes sound different in different applications. Although almost always they keep the basic aspects of their sound, but it will be the choice of the designer of a given amplifier, who will influence which aspects of it will be underlined and which neglected. This is why I suggest, to treat this test as an introduction to experiments carried out personally – this is real “tuning”, and we should do it in our own system.

Sophia Electric Princess 300B/n. The “Mesh” Sophia seem to be slightly brighter than the Electro-Harmonix. We can immediately hear, that the gravity point is laid higher. This is partially because they provide more information in the treble area than the Russian triodes. The latter had also more massive virtual sources, the shapes of the instruments had clearer edges. But the Sophia are more resolving and more vivid. Their bass, although less tight than with the EH, was more “colorful” and more plastic. The contrabass from the Mulligan disc Night Lights was in general clearer, it took a more active part in creating the piece. The saxophone of the leader had clearer structure, but its edges were not as well defined as before. But the most important change was, of course, the brighter timbre, but also much more resolved and vibrant treble. Also energy transfer was a class better with those tubes – I mean, that the instruments have a more intensive sound. Although they had not a bigger volume, they were not closer to the listener, their intensity was much bigger with the Sophia. With the Tingalli Trio disc, especially Vattensaga, the title track from this disc, it was audible, that the tubes show bass in a softer way. This is a new disc, with the contrabass recorded in a way it is recorded now, in a more contoured way than earlier, and in reality, but the price paid is the hardening of the attack. The EH tubes showed that instrument the way it was recorded, or at least they went close to that sound. The Sophia smoothened it and softened slightly. Yes, this is closer to reality, but with better recorded instruments, and with electronics, it will be perceived as softening. There is not much to talk about sound stage, because it is very similar to the one from EH – deep, nice and with splendid separation of the planes. This is a very refined tube, with a rich treble and nice midrange. But its timbre is rather pastel, and bas not as tight as with Electro-Harmonix. It seems also, that bass distorts earlier in the Sophia. It is worth to repeat, that the way a tube works, is related to a specific application – in a slightly darker system, that would profit from some “light” and freshness, the Sophia should sound better and more interesting.

Sophia Electric Princess 300B/c. A fantastic tube! But… But let’s wait until the end with that “but…”. The timbre is located lower here, than with the mesh Sophia, and closer to that, what the Electro-Harmonix showed. We have a much deeper sound here, the harmonics seem fuller, everything has more body. The sound is closer to the listener, and we have the impression of everything being here and now. But not through brightening, but the “body”, the presence caused by the higher energy. Against this background, the mesh Sophia seemed a bit “leaky”. I mean there were no holes, but it just shows exactly what I want to convey. The carbon version is more dense, more coherent. The whole musical emission is slightly quieter, not so “eager” as the 300B/n. The vocals of King Crimson in In The Court of The Crimson King, developed much nicer. Everything flows, without hesitation, but also without any nervosity. The tube reproduces the weight of the instruments properly, mostly due to a strong and full bass. It is not as contoured, like from the Electro-Harmonix, but at the same time it is much nicer, because it seems to connect the best of the mesh Sophia and the Russian tubes. And now the mentioned “but…”: this tube has a part of the midrange withdrawn, what makes everything sound deeper and fuller. The whole is incredibly vivid, but partially because a part of the midrange, from around 1 kHz, is slightly weaker, nothing is brightened, etc. Also the resolution of the treble was higher in the mesh version. Here it is splendid, the treble is better than in the EH, because it has a splendid timbre and attack, but the mesh version could sound even better, the treble was worked out more. This was audible well with for example the disc of Tingali Trio, where the piano was a bit more matted with the carbon tube, and the cymbals were not as carrying as before. The changes were not big, but they are worth taking into account, when making choices. And with the Mulligan disc, when there was a baritone saxophone to reproduce, the carbon Sophia shined like a star, due to the dense timbre, strong first plane, etc. In general, for me, the carbon version was a big step forward, but a step, we need to pay for.

Create Audio Golden Jazz Series 300B. And finally we reach the pretext to the test, namely the Create Audio tubes. I must confess, that Janusz, the host of the Krakow Sonic Society meetings, is an important voice for me, in case of 300B tubes. This is why his decision to replace his Shuguang tubes, with which he was very satisfied, was an important message for me. Yessss… I try not to write in stereotypes, but after listening to many versions of the same tube, only with mesh or carbon, I cannot get around creating a theory, at least temporary, and for my use only: mesh sounds higher, and has a more vivid treble. Also the sound stage may be much bigger. But this is done on the cost of the bass, which is most beautiful from carbon tubes. Also the midrange of the latter is more fleshy, more saturated, as if there would be twice as many sounds. On this background, the Chinese tubes are a bit “to the side”. This a mesh tube, but with the addition of carbon, and of course it takes something of each solution. It is more resolving than the carbon Sophia, but it has lower bass than the mesh version. In my opinion, the bass of the carbon Sophia is brilliant, and was a bit deeper and stronger, than Create Audio. But the latter was not so light as the mesh Sophia, and had a much more clear, more resolved bass than for example Electro-Harmonix! And those were very good in that aspect. But the most important aspect in those tubes is their brilliant resolution. Without brightening, without hardening, with the vividness of the best mesh tubes (like Full Music), but with precision and a slight “honey” cover, something that does not lead to brightness, but to richness. I liked this tube a lot, really. If we could add to it the bass from the carbon Sophia, then we would have an ideal. Its midrange is not as saturated as in the Western Electric tubes, or even in the mentioned Sophia, but it is by far not thin. I think, that this tube has the tonal balance set better, nothing is emphasized or withdrawn. This might discourage some 300B lovers, who prize the midrange most, who chose Western Electric (I mean the NOS version, and not the current production). But it is worth to see, how sound looks like without adding a strong, personal “filter” of expectations. A linear, dynamic tube with an outstanding sound stage. What a debut!!!

Rating. Although I usually do not rate devices, because this is a shaky thing, in case of the tubes, I want to make an exception, because this will allow to better understand the differences between them. But to stay within a recognizable pattern of evaluation, I borrowed the scale from Thorsten Loesh from the magazine “Enjoy The Music”. Perhaps it could have been prepared better, but I think, that there is no value in making unnecessary efforts, or is there?

Electro-Harmonix 300B
Timbre 65
Bass 70
Midrange 60
Treble 55
Resolution 55
Sound stage 60
Manufacturing quality 55

Sophia Electric Princess 300B/n
Timbre 70
Bass 60
Midrange 65
Treble 70
Resolution 65
Sound stage 60
Manufacturing quality 60

Sophia Electric Princess 300B/c
Timbre 75
Bass 70
Midrange 80
Treble 65
Resolution 70
Sound stage 65
Manufacturing quality 60

Create Audio Golden Jazz Series 300B
Timbre 75
Bass 65
Midrange 80
Treble 80
Resolution 80
Sound stage 70
Manufacturing quality 60

Technical data (according to manufacturer):
UH: 5V
IH: 1.2A

Maximum values:
Anode voltage: 480V
Automatic bias: 100mA
Fixed bias: 270mA
Anode dispersing power: 40W

DC parameters:
Va: 1300V
-Vg: 60V
Ia: 60mA
Gm: 5.5mA/V
Ri: 700Ω
μ: 3.85

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  • CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Prime (tested HERE)
  • Phono preamp: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC (tested HERE)
  • Preamp: Leben RS-28CX (tested HERE; soon to be changed to Polaris II, tested HERE)
  • Power amp: Luxman M-800A (tested HERE)
  • Integrated amp: Leben CS300 (reviewed HERE)
  • Loudspeakers: Harpia Acoustics Dobermann (tested HERE)
  • headphones: AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, 600 Ω version (reviewed HERE, HERE, and HERE)
  • interconnects: CD-preamp: Wireworld Gold Eclipse 52 (tested HERE; soon to be changed to Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, article HERE), preamp-power amp: Velum NF-G SE (tested HERE)
  • speaker cable: Velum LS-G (tested HERE)
  • power cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9100 (CD; reviewed HERE) and 2 x Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC7100 (preamp, power amp (reviewed HERE)
  • power conditioning: Gigawatt PF-2 Filtering Power Strip (reviewed HERE)
  • audio stand Base
  • resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD (article HERE ) Turntables change continuously, as do cartridges. My dream setup: SME 30 with Series V tone-arm and Air Tight PC-1 cartridge (also in the PC-1 Mono version).