So I bought the Willsenton R-800i

After I bought the Klipsch Cornwall IVs recently it became apparent quite quickly that to make it really shine it needs a tube amp to drive it. (For me at least.) After doing some (=endless) research, considering the options (budget, shops nearby carrying models I´m interested in, etc.) and also asking around on this very forum I decided to go for the Willsenton R-800i. None of my friends here shares my excitement for audio stuff or even has a comparable system, so what´s now in my living room is the one tube amp I know. And I´m delighted. Together with the speakers it gives the music the presence and glow that I so desired.

Of course I can tell that there´s more potential in this amp and I already exchanged some of the stock tubes. There are more on the way and I can´t wait to test them. For now my financial means are a bit limited so I´m not ordering Western Electric and Takatsuki 300Bs just for the sake of comparing them. In fact I´m waiting with those a bit and go for the others first.

Searching online I find a lot of information on English language forums. Somehow tube rolling is not discussed as much on the German forums I checked though – and out of curiosity (and because they were pretty cheap) I went for both West- and East-German ECC83s and a fairly random mix of other tubes from the US and the Soviet Union. I´m waiting for them to arrive and not being able to read about some of them it raises my curiosity how they will sound. Maybe crappy, maybe not so bad, maybe even very good. I´ll see. Tube rolling will take some time and I don´t mind. The amp is there to stay for quite a while.

There´s an exhaustive thread on the Willsenton amps and fitting tubes here but since I found people´s comments on this forum so helpful I´m looking forward to hear from you. I´m open for tube recommendations and would like to hear anyone´s experience with the Willsenton R-800i. Or maybe someone has questions?

As for the tubes:

805 – stock replaced for Cossor
300B – stock
6SN7 – stock replaced for Sylvania GTBs, waiting for Fonon NOS (Soviet, 1979, a bargain for 10€)
12AX7 – stock replaced with current Mullard model, waiting for West German ones from AEG and Telefunken, East German ones from RSD and Funkwerk Erfurt (both used) and also Sylvania JAN 5751 NOS (a military model)
5U4G – stock, waiting for RCA NOS black plate and Svetlana NOS „Coke Bottle“


120mA is not the ideal bias point. It is the max bias. I contacted the company to confirm this. The manual is ambiguous in this regard. I find 80-110 mA to be good. 

One of my bias pots failed me. The company mailed me two new ones. The surgery to the one side is simple, yet the surgery to the other is a pain. 

Overall, the amp is well built labor wise. Parts quality is questionable. Electrolytic caps are Chinese. 

I've communicated with Skunkie about going through the unit. She's open to it but she's not jazzed about the 1000v on the plates. And, shipping my unit from Chicagoland to Atlanta would be a fortune.  


My previous post about my "unbiasable" R800i:

So, in searching for someone who can update my Audio Research LS-5 mkiii, I have also found someone who can take a look at my r800i...Scott Frankland...who came highly recommended by a member here who has an LS-5 and said Scott worked some magic on his unit:

I have pinged Skunkie a few times, but she’s not fond of either the weight or the 1000V. So, off to Scott it goes (in January). He’ll be upgrading any resistors and/or caps that need it and giving it a full go through. I’ve also alerted him to the issues Skunkie pointed out with the R8 (which I have currently sitting in as a replacement for the R800i) in case there are any commonalities.

Once I get it back, I’m probably selling the R8. It has upgraded Russian PIO caps...but I’m in a slightly smaller space. If I sell the R8, my Bluesound N130 w/Teddy Pardo LPS, and my Gustard X26 Pro (along with a few Hafler DH500 amps I’ve lost interest in modding), I can upgrade to a used HiFi Rose 150B, which I’ve had my eye on for a bit. I’ll assume the DAC in the 150B is at least comparable to the Gustard. This gets me a better piece of kit to pair with my R800i, which I like better than the R8 (even though I really like the R8). But the R800i makes the ProAcs magical, whereas the R8 is simply great.

I’ll probably pick up one of the newer R8’s at some point down the road, but my urge to get the R800i fixed and upgrade to the 150B basically trumps everything else.

That sounds very interesting. I know of one other person who has asked Skunkie to have a look at the R800i, but she also refused that offer. Yes, the amp is really heavy.

Please keep us updated once you hear back from Scott Frankland. I´m curious if there are any design flaws like in the R8. I´ve been following discussions on a number of forums and never heard of anything pointing in a specific direction. But still, maybe there is something in there that asks to be fixed. Also how you will upgrade components will be interesting to know. And the effects on the sound of course. It´s a great amp for its price and if you can make it even better by exchanging a few inside parts – why not.

I'm so done with my R800i.  China Hifi no longer responds to me. 

They shipped me two new bias boards as my right side pot was going nuts.  I opened the unit up to install them. Guess what?  The one on the left is a relatively painless surgery. The one on the right?  I simply cannot figure out how to do it without taking the amp apart. I mean significant deconstruction.  

What's more, the through holes on the PCB are only big enough for like 28 gauge wire. It looks like they just (somehow) soldered the wire to the top of the through hole.  

There are some good quality components in there, but when I looked at the big 1000v electrolytics, they are no-name junk that I cannot even locate online.  

This amp is far from a piece of junk. But I question parts quality now and design layout.  Further, I question having and amp 1000 v on the plates of the 805s if (a) customer service stinks; (b) design choices are wonky; etc. 

I hate having to write this. Your mileage may vary. For me, this feels like a 100lb paperweight now.  I'm not sure I want to even take it in and put money into it.  

Oh, China Hifi refuses to give me a name of their authorized US repair vendor(s).  Terrible. 

@jbhiller ​​@chmaiwald you guys still use tube amps with Cornwalls?

How did you placed those speakers in your room?

(distance from front wall,between them and from your chair)