X-CAN V2 Valve Audition

Many people have asked the question "what is the best valve to use with the X-Can V2". In this test of 4 well known valves I hope to answer the question. Each valve will undergo a 48 hour burn-in before Listening commences. Musical references shall be Roger Waters "Amused to death", Yello "Pocket Universe", Martin Taylor "Spirit of Django" and The Orb "Orblivion". My source will be Marantz CD17 ki Signature and headphones Sennheiser HD 600's.

Parts and accessories available at the Rock Grotto accessories page.


The Line up
The grand Line up
  Click for Dundee, United Kingdom Forecast
From left to right: Philips / JAN 6922 (Matched) Sovtek 6922 (Matched) JJ Electronic E88CC (Matched ) Mullard E88CC (Matched)

Please Note: The Philips 6922's are not the valves that came with the x-can they are a pair that have been bought independently. The JJ E88CC's are not the pair I originally reviewed (I thought they sounded awful) these are from an older batch and have a slightly different construction to the "newer" batch so I will include these in the test as my supplier reckons the older batch may sound a lot better.

Valves Kindly supplied for test by   Many thanks to Sean for making this audition possible.

Ready to receive Valves!


Test one: JJ Electronics E88CC

I initially tried a pair of JJ E88CC's and was very "underwhelmed" with their sound. It was suggested I try a pair from an older batch as the newer batch I had listened to had a slightly different design to the older batch which had shiny pins as opposed to the newer batches black pins. I was expecting to be overwhelmed by the older batch Valves (if the rave reviews are anything to go by) but, unfortunately, found them to impart the same sonic blandness I encountered with the "newer" batch.

Old batch and new batch alike: The X-Can tended to sound diffuse rather than properly focused, with a noticeably de-emphasised treble and midrange. Instruments on Martin Taylor's "Spirit of Django" sounded sickly-sweet, and the music was not as open or as transparent as it could be. Vocals were "nice" but it was a shame about the bathroom they were recorded in!. The music through these valves was uninvolving, distant and had a very "rubbery" quality which gave the impression you were listening to neoprene coated musicians. Very hard to put into words but "smooth", "mushy", "veiled" and "downright unnatural" are a few words which spring to mind.

These certainly tame the "brightness" the stock JAN/Philips 6922's have been accused of. Unfortunately, they also dampen every aspect of the music and throw a very thick carpet between the music and the listener. If you want this effect then don't replace the stock valves with JJ E88CC's... Get down to your nearest carpet supplier and buy some underlay, place this between your headphones and ears and Voila! Mission accomplished. Very Very disappointing indeed.

X-CAN V2 Valve replacement guide HERE

Test Two: Mullard E88CC


What a breath of "realism" the Mullard Valves injected into the X-Can V2. They were characteristically delicate and refined in tone sounding almost ethereal. These valves imparted a delicate quality which allowed me to hear through and into the mix of layered recordings revealing the varied texture of the instruments.

Neutral, revealing and Highly listenable, I could listen to music for ages with these Valves in situ. Everything sounded so realistic and natural and soundstaging extended effortlessly beyond the ears. The bass was airy and tight and underpinned the proceedings superbly.. Each instrument could be picked out and followed, the space between instruments absolutely stunning!.

There is not much more I can say except for the fact that these valves seem to be the ideal partner to the X-Can V2. The X- Can V2 was designed specifically around the Nuvistor valve but the design didn't make it into production and the Nuvistor was replaced with the JAN/Philips 6922 as a much "cheaper" alternative. The Mullard E88CC suits the circuit and sounds like a million dollars......... Firm recommendation.

X-CAN V2 Valve replacement guide HERE


Test Three: Sovtek 6922


The sheer exuberance and polish the Sovteks injected into the X-Can V2 was evident from the moment they were fired up:

They are a very neutral sounding valve that extract every last detail of information from a recording. Similar to the Mullard in portraying a strong sense of dimensionality and wide airy soundstage but slightly more Solid state sounding than the mullard's euphonic valve like (natural) presentation.

These gave the most lifelike piano heard so far and the Roger Waters "Amused to Death" recording was given a delicious texture with bass drum going deep and full with lifelike snare and the cymbals properly fizzy - great stuff! Vocals were very prominent which made the midrange detail take a slight step into the background but not to the detriment of the overall musical picture.

These valves are a major improvement over the Stock JAN / Philips and give a well balanced, fatigue free listen.  Highly recommended.

X-CAN V2 Valve replacement guide HERE


Test Four: JAN / Philips 6922

These are the valves Musical Fidelity chose to supply with the X-Can V2 after deciding they would not produce the X-Can V2 with the Nuvistor valves.

It's easy to see why they chose these valves. On a brief listen, they sound upfront, revealing and very appealing... Just the kind of sound you want to hear on a brief audition at your Hi-Fi shop. Being classed as an "accessory".... who is likely to demand an 8 hour audition of the X-Can?

The thing is... these valves "do" sound good for the initial "shop demo" it's only after prolonged "home" listening that the harshness, fatigue and discomfort sets in and makes you want to rip the headphones off your head and smash the X-Can with a large mallet! It's usually the case that equipment that sounds "instantly good" turns out to be "forward", "in yer face" and "harsh" when you listen to it for a while (normally after it's installed in your Hi-Fi room!)

They are a good starting point offering the listener an insight into the "valve" sound but Musical Fidelity could have chosen something which complimented the X-Can better. Other listeners have called them "harsh" and "Bright" and I tend to agree. If it wasn't for the harshness they would be a great valve though as the bass and mids are very natural. Some listeners may enjoy this kind of presentation and these valves may well sound different in your system but if you're reading this it's probably due to the fact you aren't happy with the sound.

I've seen many X-Cans on sale at e-bay and just wonder how many of them are being sold by owners who don't realise a simple valve change is the the answer? The X-Can V2 was designed to accommodate exotic Nuvistors and not a pair of JAN / Philips 6922's so get experimenting instead of selling your X-Can V2!

Valve type: Price Pair Sound Comments
JJ E88CC £19.00 Rubbery, Mushy and smooth. Dissapointing
Mullard E88CC £30.00 Vibrant, ethereal, natural and rich. Superb
Sovtek 6922 £20.00 Easy going yet involving sound.
JAN / Philips 6922 £10.00 Dynamic and Bright. Cheap as chips.
Overall Winner is: Mullard E88CC. Superb sounding valve.
Reflector 6N23P-EB £30.00 Perfect match for the V2. Stunning sound.
Reflector Corporation 6N23P-EB Russian Mil-Spec valves .
X-CAN V2 Valve replacement guide HERE