Conrad Johnson Classic 120se vs. Linear Tube Audio 40 Reference Amps

Hi All -

I have started a few threads lately and owe many of you responses to questions. Most recently, I asked about system synergy after plugging a Conrad Johnson ART150 and finding out it didn’t quite deliver what I had hoped.

To the point, I am looking for a power tube amp with warmth, air and decay. I’m looking for an ethereal quality and not focused on bass response per se.

My current system:

Innuos ZENith
Merason Dac1
Linear Tube Audio MicroZotl preamp
Audio Hungary 100 watt power amp (out for repair, unfortunately)
Puritan 136 Filter
QLN prestige three speakers (8 ohm, 87.5 sensitivity)
Cardas Clear Cygnus speaker cables
Cardas Clear Power

Room is very large with high ceilings (11 feet)


The system above achieves an incredible sound to my ears - ethereal, insanely good imaging and a holographic quality, lots of air, with notes hanging in the air in a way I’ve rarely experienced. My challenge is I keep having maintenance issues with the Qualiton amp and want to have a backup amp when it’s out for repair.

I’m NOT looking for a neural sound. I have realized, for my tastes, I want an amp that facilitates a relaxing experience.

I recently demoed the Conrad Johnson ART amp and found it sounded incredibly neutral to my ears. Almost like a solid state amp…

My question to everyone, given my tastes, how would the LTA 40 Reference with Mullard tubes or the Conrad Johnson 120se sound?

I love the combo of the LTA preamp with the Qualiton amp because you get both detail and a tube tone. But I’m wondering if the LTA 40 Reference might be too SS sounding? Likewise, based on my experience with Conrad Johnson ART 150, will I find the Classic 120se also too neutral sounding - lacking what I understood the CJ warmth of glow I had hoped for?

Your feedback is much welcomed.



Thank You for the update. Good to read that you found your "CJ Amp". There is one model for every Audiophile. Now, go purchase those NOS Mullard EL34 tubes!

Keep me posted as you massage the CJ Classic 120 into your room and system.


Happy Listening!

I ran NOS Mullard el34 in my Premier 12’s years ago. They’re just wonderful tubes in that application and I would expect the same in your amp. What’s another couple of grand for tubes, lol. Snap ’um up while you can 🙃. You might feel a little lighter but you’ll definitely not be sorry.



@bluethinker glad to hear that the 120 was the right choice. I had a stick (16) of NOS Mullard EL34 and sold them. I found that the Sophia Electric Grade A EL34 were just as good for a lot less. Call CJ and get their NOS Slovak 6922. They are very good.