Lost that "Tube Magic". Can you help?


Greetings and thanks in advance for your sharings.

My first tube amp(only a few years ago) was an H.H. Scott LK-72B with all original 7591 tubes. The thing was just plain MAGICAL to my ears. It would impart the same character to just about any speakers I paired it with... Theils... older B&W's... Paradigms...

Pardon me if my words fall short as I've only been at this hobby for several years: The top end was not as extended as some and bottom end was a bit flabby but the thing sounded good on all types of music and soared on vocals and solitary instruments. Tones had a density... a harmonic richness... an aliveness... that made me sit up and listen. There was often an "air" around vocalists and instruments that wasn't so much about 3-dimensional soundstage placement as it was about something "other dimensional(for lack of better words)" Sometimes the sharpness, the "splat" of a horn note from a Cassandra Wilson album would compel me to drop a project in another room and come running into the listening room with my mouth hanging open. Vocalists could sometimes be hauntingly present and perhaps larger than life (if somehow inaccurately so). I haven't experienced that since- Not in showrooms nor in my own system.

The Scott developed some coughs and sputters within a few months and I had most of the caps replaced. Magic gone. Still a very nice sounding unit.. bass was more extended and tauter... over all sounded "cleaner" but a lot more... well... solid state.

I'm thinking "I now know what this 'tube magic' people have been talking about is". I decided I would pull out all the stops(for my budget) and buy a modern, reliable, positively reviewed piece of tube equipment that could be a lasting centerpiece to all of my other equipment changes(lasting?? Laughing at myself here). I bought a Cayin A-100T with newish Electro-Harmonix KT-88s and an assortment of NOS preamp tubes. This was not it. Perfectly black background, gobs of power, entended highs and lows(more low end control than most of the quality solid-state equipment I've owned(McCormack, Proceed, Counterpoint)), but missing that magic. To my ear it sounded rather solid-state-ish but without the drive in particular. I tried it with a number of speakers and this overall character remained.

Lastly I tried an Onix Melody SP-3. Overall I found it more musically satisfying that the Cayin in that it had better pacing(drive) and just sounded more musical to my ear. Instruments on the Cayin sounded more accurate but the whole picture cohesion was more there(for me) with the Onix. This is a great amp(especially for the money) as many reviews atest to, but it was still missing that magic for me. Again, a bit too solid-state-ish if you will. I played with replacing some of the preamp tubes with some good quality NOS tubes to some good effect but had the sense that tube changes were not going to change the character enough. I tried this amp with a number of speakers too.

"Why don't you just play with capacitor and tube changes in another H.H. Scott if you like the sound so much?" That's a good question and I may end up going that route in the end but I would really like to have something that is:
1. More modern and reliable. I like a more modern look too.
2. Has a remote control(I can hear the snickering already ;) .
3. Perhaps has even more of that magic than the Scott. Despite the magic, the Scott lacked a transparency that my other tube amps have had. Better extension and control would be welcome too if it's possible to have my cake and eat it too.

Also:
I would -really- like to spend less than $1K if possible. I would prefer an integrated solution.
Tone controls would be nice(not absolutely necessary).
I have not settled on speakers at this point either.

I've heard a few tube pieces that didn't have that solid-state character but they were rather "soft and mushy" and lacked the aliveness I'm wanting. It certainly could have been the setups.

Anyone have experience with what I'm talking about?
Do you have better ways to describe it?
Is this a characteristic of older tube equipment in general? H.H. Scotts in general? 7591 tubes? All OS tube setups? Can you recommend a modern, remote controlled, sub $1K solid state integrated that might fit the bill? Any solid state equipment out there that would really have the qualities I'm looking for?

Again, thanks much.
128x128eyediver
One of the best tube integrateds that I have heard is the JAS Bravo 2.3.It is a SET amp that uses 6c33 tubes in the output stage.It is completely tube rectified and puts out a surprisingly robust 18wpc(sounds much more powerful).I heard it at a local Hi-End Dealer when auditioning speakers and I was very impressed.Below is a link: http://questforsound.com/amps/amps_jasAudioBravo23.htm
Cayin A88t That's where I Have ended up and really like the sound. Its been my experience that some solid state amplifiers when they get old have that exaggerated sound I found it in a B&K st202 and a soundcraftsmen ma5002. Dynaco st70 tube amplifiers unrestored have it also. The problem is they may prove undependable or worse can have a capacitor purge. The Cayin is full sounding and they are built well. Just my findings hope I helped
Maybe its the "Allen Bradley" carbon composition resistors carrying the magic!

Maybe the ESR of the caps use even with the same value and voltage rating are different? Maybe the Selenium rectifiers impart a magic sound? Solder maybe?

Ahh too many things to consider. IMO, any restored vintage amp will measure better but does not necessarily mean will sound better. True restoration experts take into consideration important parameters like Operating Points, and don't just buy and replace a component from new production materials because they are close enough. They have to consider and preserve the unique tone of the amplifier for example. This why NOS parts sales are increasing. Found any audio components with Western Electric on it and chances are, it will sell.

So, if I'm in your shoes, I will be patient and look for the same amp that had been restored properly. Or better yet, learn to do the restoration yourself, step by step, so you know which one change the character of the amp as you change components inside.

But I will put my money on AB resistors!

he,he,he,

regards,
To describe an amp by saying it "would impart the same character to just about any speakers I paired it with... Theils... older B&W's... Paradigms..." sounds like a description of coloration to me. Granted, some colorations can by pretty addicting, but they aren't musical truth.

It sounds like Eyediver is finding that newer gear has less of this coloration than the old Scott equipment, and that aging capacitors (with drifting values) were a major contributor to the colored sound in his original gear.

BTW, I go through this sort of thing with my tubed guitar amps. The difference is that they are prized for their colorations.
Eyediver,

WOW! Lot's of varied and good suggestions. I had an old Scott amp long ago and will confirm, as other have noted, that a Conrad Johnson MV-55 I had 15 years ago reminds me of the Scott and the MV-55 is still one of those amps that just makes "music". Not the last word in bass slamm or linearity but that's not what you are looking for anyway. It had much of the same sound you seem to be looking for with a few of the traits you like about the Onix or Cayin and you can tube roll to customize the sound further to your liking.

Just my $.02