Lush and Romantic Tube Amps

Hi All -

I am on a quest for a lush, warm and romantic tube amp. Ideally, it should be 75 watts and upwards. I’m in a large room and my speakers are 87.5 sensitivity and 8 ohm. The room is large. 

The system:

LTA preamp 

Innuous Zenith music server 

Merason Dac 1 

Cardas Clear cables 


Suggestions are welcomed. 


I like the QLN speakers very much. Absolutely perfect for my small room and were definitely the right choice. They only go down a little lower than the monitors they replaced but I can’t believe how good the bass response is.  Absolutely no need for a subwoofer.  They are opening up now that I have a couple of hundred hours on them but still have a ways to go.  So I’m kind of in the same situation as you trying to find the “perfect” electronics to go with them.  The Class D amps have less time than the speakers so I don’t want to prejudge them.  I’ve been at this game for a very long time so I already know what a lot of this stuff sounds like BUT until it’s in your room paired with your other equipment you never know for sure.  What helped my decision with the A-S Class D was that they are suppose to sound like the OTL amps which I also own and like very much. I also don’t want to dispute the experts but so far I don’t find that to be exactly the case.  But like I said they still need time to break in.  I know too well what you mean about Pass. It’s great equipment but my god does it really have to weigh that much.  It took every last bit of strength I had packing up my Int60 when I sold it. And that’s one of their lighter pieces. I just passed the 3/4 century mark so number one rule now for anything I buy is it can’t weigh more than 50 lbs and that’s even pushing it.  That was one of the very appealing aspects of Class D, they don’t weigh much, not to mention no heat.  Big change from OTL’s.  Any how, now I just have to be patient while things break in.  Can’t really afford to buy anything else anyway.  But, I’m already formulating in my mind what a new CJ tube amp will sound like and have the feeling it will sound just right :-).

@marco1 - I look forward to your thoughts on those class d amps. I thought about the same model from Ralph/Atmasphere along right the AGD amps too. The feedback on the boards has been very positive. 

When I went to demo a rogue amp, the local dealer told me they recommend the rogue hybrid (tube and class d), but my wife ended up not liking it. Then I went through a phase where I thought “do I really want to deal with more tubes?” and was able to audition the pass labs amp, which is just ridiculously too heavy. I liked it  for certain types of music, but felt it didn’t give me the same emotional and immersive experience as my Audio Hungary amp. 

I think I might be addicted to second order harmonics? 

BTW - how are you enjoying the QLN speakers? 

Congrats on the new amp. It should pair very nicely with your speakers.I ran Conrad Johnson for years and like they say “it just sounds right”. I actually still have one of their SS amps that I tried with my QLN’s and it sounded very nice. I just pulled the trigger on Atma-Sphere Class D amps for my QLN’s and they’re breaking in now. I need to give them a lot more time but the Class D is a different sound even though it’s said they sound just like the OTL’s A-S makes. Definitely not lush and romantic. Who knows I might be thinking about Conrad Johnson tube amps again in the future 🤔

Hi All - 

I’ve been slammed with work and have not had the time to reply to everyone. I did want to provide an update. After doing an in-house audition of a Rogue hybrid amp (tube and class d), and then a pass labs xa30.8 in my home for a week, I finally pulled the trigger on a Conrad Johnson classic 120 with EL 34 tubes. 

I’ll report back once it arrives and I’ve had a chance to let it play for a few days.   


Thanks auroravengeance.  All interesting suggestions.  Not looking for an integrated though.

@ bluethinker   Dynaudio Heritage was on my shortlist.  Never got to hear them though, which is just as well.  I know i'll enjoy the QLN a lot more.

Well, Anthony Cordesman in a  Aug 7, 2018 reprint of a Sep 1, 1986 review in Stereophile said of the OTL3:

The OTL-1 is probably the best amp available for the tube fanatic seeking the maximum possible emotional impact from recorded music. ... use of the term "romantic" is the only fair way to express this design's unique character. In fact, the Futterman OTL-1 qualifies for all the best buzz words used by reviewers in characterizing the romantic tube sound: "sweet," "warm," "transparent," "dynamic," and "musical" (in the best sense of the term).

So I stand corrected.

There are probably no NYAL OTL1 amps available. OTL3s can be found, and they are the same design as the 1, just not as powerful.

​​​​​​​I think that the Atma-Sphere S-30 Mk 3.3 might be the easiest and best for you.

I have NYAL Futterman OTL3s. I don't know that I would characterize them as lush and romantic: they are fast, accurate, deeply transparent with a deep and actively present soundstage.

@marco1 Two recent SS amps that I really like at your price range are Perreaux 300ix and HifiRose RA180. IMO the only SS amp I consider to be better than the 300ix is Aavik I-280.

Soulnote A2, Luxman L-509x, Hegel H390, Accuphase E380 are other popular recommendations at this price point. I've heard the Soulnote paired with Vivid speakers but they sounded rather fuzzy, but could be just the speakers. Karl Fink loves it to death though and demoed his new Epos speaker almost exclusively. 

@Bluethinker: I’ve never heard a piece of Jadis gear. Read many a review on the company over the years though and each characterized the sound of Jadis components as being very warm and lush sounding.

Jadis equipment is quite expensive new, and even used has a high resale value.

This also means that over the time that you own the gear it should maintain its value better than that of many other audio companies.

For the money I am still sold on Quicksilver Audio. Their components are reasonably priced and IMO great sounding and very reliable.

Your post regarding your gear sounds so positive that you may have already gotten as close to the Holy Grail of audio as anyone can get. Beats going down that rabbit hole any further. lol

Best of luck!




I'll try to respond to all other postings over the next few days! I have read them all and appreciate all the insights. I really enjoy this board for the education from folks who know way more than me and can help guide my decision-making. 

Hi Everyone - 

I really appreciate all the valuable feedback. Lots of food for thought. Would respond as replies come in, but during the week I'm preoccupied with my work duties. 

As I've followed the thread, it has actually dawned on me that what I might actually be looking for isn't necessarily "warmth" but air, bloom, and decay. The combination of my current 100 watt tube power amp (Qualiton) and the LTA delivers an almost supernatural sense of ethereal magic. My wife, who generally tells me to turn music down, enjoys listening to this combo due to it's lack of stridency. There are tons of details, but zero harshness. There is a softness that make it easy to listen to music for hours on end. I'm eager to replicate that magic, but ideally with an American-based tube amp where care and maintenance is a little easier. I am realizing, however, the wonderful qualities of the Audio Hungary power amp. It truly  delivers on the qualities associated with a high quality tube amp.

@marco1 - Congrats on the QLN speakers! In my main room, I couldn't be happier with the QLN prestige 3 speakers. They are incredibly balanced and just fill a room with music. I prefer them to the initial pair I purchased (Dynaudio Heritage Speakers which I'll be looking to sell shortly). 

@vgmbpty - I'm not familiar with the brand. Please share more details on the sound you achieve with the integrated. I'm sure many on this thread would be curiuos. 

@jimmyblues1959 - I've been intrigued with the Jadis amps. Have you heard them? How would you describe them from first hand listening? Also, do you have a asense on how hard or easy it is to get them serviced? Are there a lot of tube amp repair guys in the USA? Or do they have repair center in the USA to your knowledge? 

Are you still around bluethinker?  In one of my previous comments above i mentioned lusting after your speakers.  Well as the old saying goes ask and you shall receive. Last night I was able to find a brand new in the box pair of QLN Prestige One at a very attractive price here on A'gon.  They're for a 2nd system small listening room so monitors will work perfectly.  Now I too will be hunting for a new amp :-).  I have an Atma-Sphere S30 that I may use to start which should power them fine in my small room.  They presently power another pair of monitors that are rated almost identical to the QLN's.  Ultimately I do want a new amp, which I also want to be solid state because I leave this system turned on 24/7.  Not looking for "warm and fuzzy " though.  So I guess we're both on the same but opposite hunt.  You want something with tubes that's lush and warm for a large room and I'm looking for something less powerful and more transparent in solid state for a small room.  Although the Absolare mentioned above looks to be very interesting.  Much too heavy though.  If anyone has suggestions please let me know.  Budget $5k - $10k, new or used.  Good luck on your hunt and apologies for hijacking your thread. 



I found the lush, warmth and detail in an unexpected place.  The Absolare integrated beat my former MBL rig.  Sold everything to get it.

Jadis are known for the type of lush sound you are looking for.  Very expensive new, however, more reasonable on the used market and very well constructed.

FWIW.. For lush sound,  the type of tubes you are using plays an important role here.  As for brand of amplifier,  I have always found Quicksilver Audio's amplifiers to produce this type of sound.  Have had my Quicksilver Mini Mite monoblocks for nearly 17 years now and have yet to tire of them.

Surprisingly, the setups I've heard so far that could be described as lush, warm, and romantic utilized SS amps. One used a Vitus integrated and another an Esoteric Class A power amp. 

My experience with higher powered tube amps is that they give highly realistic sound with plenty of excitement. I am using one, a Lab12 Integre 4 MKII and I definitely won't describe it as warm and romantic. 

Like some have suggested, I highly suspect that the warm sound the OP is looking for is only available in lower powered tube amps.  This will require an efficient speaker.

In addition to my 89db neutral speaker running on a 300wpc neutral ss amp, I have a 100db speaker dedicated to flea watt tube amps starting with the 300b.  Bummer it’s not efficient enough for 45 2wpc tube SET amps some say sounds like the best SET tube - I’ll need a much larger speaker (which won’t fit my rooms) to increase efficiency.

What I learned along the way is that NOS rectifier and driver tubes are vastly superior to current production versions.


@papafrgog ​​​& @vthokie83-

      While I totally agree with your assessments, regarding rolling amp valves; I'll bet the OP could save a passel of $$ (not to mention: possible sensitivity/efficiency matching headaches), were he to roll some warmer ones into his LTA preamp.

       Especially: if he's satisfied with the SPLs and performance of his existing amp and speaker combo, aside from that longing for a cozier presentation.

                                          Happy listening!


Russbutton, agreed you can save a good chunk of money building the VTA amps yourself....and definitely learn a lot about tube amps in the process.

Rodman and papafrog, for me tube rolling has been the best part of owning a tube amp. I've tried and own 6 or 7 rectifier tubes, and several versions of output tubes until I settled on my current pairing. Unfortunately I have WAY too many signal tubes as I got obsessed with 12AU7 style tubes. I think I have 40 or 50 pairs of tubes, and have rolled half of them through my amp......the subtle (or not subtle) changes are a blast to fine tune a tube amps sound. What I learned along the way is that NOS rectifier and driver tubes are vastly superior to current production versions.

OP-You have received many excellent amplifier recommendations above.  But +1 for what @rodman99999 says.  You can further refine the sound by rolling tubes.  Based on your objective, NOS Mullards and Telefunkens  would be an excellent starting point.  I prefer a lighter, more detailed sound, so I use Telefunkens and Amperex Bugle Boys.  Its fun to try different tubes and assess the change in sound too.  Good luck

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I have 2 VAC signature 200 IQ mono blocks and I agree with your assessment.  Nice and rich, but not "syrupy".  With KT 150's they really sing and have a lot of lower end punch. No one would confuse this with solid state, except for the great bottom end.  Great sound stage as well.  This would be an excellent choice for the OP to run in stereo mode.

I want to echo what @vthokie83 had to say about the VTA amps.  The prices quoted for them were fully assembled.  You can save a lot of money if you buy them as a kit and build it yourself.  

Look.  ANYONE can build these things.  I was using a soldering iron at age 12.  You can do it.  But far, far more importantly than saving money is how much more involved you'll be in your system.  You'll get infinitely more pleasure and enjoyment if you build the amp.  

Another benefit is that you'll learn a great deal about tube amps and you'll be able to learn about all of the components that go into making them sound as they do, and then to make choices that suit your ear.  There is no amp, at any price, that can give you that experience.

bluethinker  i think i have what you are looking for, 

conrad johnson 

et 3se preamp

mf2500a power amp  rebuilt by cj. let me know.......

So Ralph, who makes the sort of Class D amps you describe? Kidding...sorry...I'd like to try a pair of 'em someday so if there's a pair of demos floating around (unlikely as that may be)...I use a superb sounding Pass XA-25 that is allegedly "tube-ish" (according to Nelson) class A, and rotate that in and out with an astonishing sounding Dennis Had Firebottle SEP...I get away with that by using very efficient horn speakers...large room, large sound, a large time is had by all.


Can anyone provide a working definition of "neutral?" In other words, a point from which we can agree is indeed sonically neutral?

Atmas-Phere Wrote:

Neutral equipment makes no editorial of the signal. The Absolute Sound magazine gets its name from the idea that the musical source is the absolute sound; neutral would be exact reproduction of that without coloration of either warmth or brightness- just the music.

Establishing a reference quickly becomes an item of concern. The only way I know to deal with this is to make high quality recordings of musical events at which you were there, so you know how its supposed to sound.


Thank you very much Ralph for your rational and helpful post. I am interested because I suspect my preferences in reproduced music are at least in part aligned with those of the OP, Bluethinker. It seems to me that an actual, factual, emprical personal reference point is essential in determining whether a component is "neutral" or not. 

What you are looking for doesn’t exist, at least not at 75 watts. When you start pushing tubes beyond 50 Watts or so they get much more solid state sounding (less second order harmonics). You’ll lose that single ended lush sound, especially with a neutral speaker like the Buchardts. Big horns and a SET amp will do it. Cornwalls, La Scala, Altec A5 etc. get big speakers for a big room and pair with a 300b SET amp. Twittering Machines has a video on YouTube with the Cornwalls paired to an 8 watt 300b integrated in a 35’x40’ room. Pretty impressive.

If you insist on keeping the Buchardts, try pairing with a monster class A SS amp. Something like a vintage Krell to keep costs reasonable.

Can anyone provide a working definition of "neutral?"  In other words, a point from which we can agree is indeed sonically neutral?

Neutral equipment makes no editorial of the signal. The Absolute Sound magazine gets its name from the idea that the musical source is the absolute sound; neutral would be exact reproduction of that without coloration of either warmth or brightness- just the music.

Establishing a reference quickly becomes an item of concern. The only way I know to deal with this is to make high quality recordings of musical events at which you were there, so you know how its supposed to sound.



Not sure what you mean by romantic and lush but to me amps with exposed tubes are romantic if not steampunk!

You have a lot of great suggestions.  I use Manley Snappers and i am very happy with them.  They are dead quiet and musical.  Their aesthetics could be polarizing to some.  I think they are cool!

@atmasphere totally agree......Unless you can afford an Aavik integrated for 20K....a good tube preamp paired with a quality class D pure magic.....very immersive...sweet....lush......just musical.

Check out for their amps. They are modern "minimalist" iterations of Dynaco amplifiers, with very high quality components. They can use 6550, KT88, KT90, KT120 output tubes; a 5U4 type rectifier, and 12AU7 driver tubes. Their amps are also available in kit form if that sort of satisfaction is for you.....I purchased my VTA ST-120 amp already assembled with the upgraded capacitors, and a stepped attenuator to use without a pre-amp.

The VTA ST-120 is a stereo amplifier that is well north of 70 WPC high current power with the KT120 tubes, Cost is $1,340 without tubes, and $1,695 with 6550 tubes.

The M-125 mono blocks are north of 150 WPC high current with KT120 tubes and are $2,900 per pair without tubes.....$3,650 with a 6550 tube set.

I run rather expensive Amperex 7308/6922/12AU7 driver tubes, with a Philips 5R4GYS rectifier, and Tung Sol KT-120 power tubes.

Can anyone provide a working definition of "neutral?"  In other words, a point from which we can agree is indeed sonically neutral?


Thanks for the answer.  I've looked at your Atmasphere Class D. It looks nice.  I would probably be looking for a single unit Class D stereo to pair with a nice tube preamp.  Have you ever considered making one? 60-100 watts... would be such a nice fit to reach for the best of both worlds!

To atmasphere:    Knowing your background of tube design, etc., would you recommend perhaps using a SS power amp with a tube preamplifier?  Or perhaps a ss / tube hybrid integrated?  Thanks.

@gregjacob If the speakers are low efficiency as the speakers of the OP, perhaps yes if the amplifier used isn't harsh.

'Warm and lush' is a sign of a prodigious 2nd harmonic. Our ears interpret the 2nd and 3rd as 'warmth' and these harmonics can mask the presence of higher ordered harmonics (5th and above) which the ear interprets as brightness and harshness (typical solid state attributes).

There are class D amps that don't make the higher ordered harmonics like traditional solid state amps do, and so sound very much like a very good tube amplifier. Driven by a tube preamp, such class D amps can be extremely life-like and satisfying.

Just to clarify a little more what I started out trying to say above, what I should have asked is what warm and lush amps have you heard that you’re trying to replicate?Assuming you didn’t like the CJ sound you mentioned in your other thread doesn’t necessarily mean you will like warm and lush.  There is lots of middle ground.

Speakers seem to require lots of power. I would go with a more powerful tube amplifier especially if you've got a bigger room.

What amps have you heard to make you think you want warm and lush?  Maybe mention those amps to give people a point of reference.  I ran CJ Pr.12xs (triode amps w/el34’s) for quite a while.  They were probably the warmest and lushest amps CJ made at the time.  I still use tubes but no longer prefer that older CJ sound when compared with what they offer today.  If you truly are looking for warm and lush I recommend you look for a pair of CJ Premier 8’s.  They come up on the used market occasionally and will be exactly what you are looking for.  Plus they will give you the power atmasphere says you need.  I hope you have good A/C though because they will put out some heat.

But going back to warm and lush, make sure that’s what you really want.  Many people think it’s what they want until they get it.  I mean who wouldn’t want warm and fuzzy😎.  Personally with your speakers (which I lust for btw) I don’t think warm and lush is really what you should be looking for.

To atmasphere:    Knowing your background of tube design, etc., would you recommend perhaps using a SS power amp with a tube preamplifier?  Or perhaps a ss / tube hybrid integrated?  Thanks.



I am on a quest for a lush, warm and romantic tube amp. Ideally, it should be 75 watts and upwards. I’m in a large room and my speakers are 87.5 sensitivity and 8 ohm.

@bluethinker If the above is correct you will find that 75 Watts is not enough power. A large room, combined with the low efficiency of your speakers will not allow the amp to play all forms of music without overloading. IME you'll need at least 300 Watts with speakers of that efficiency!

So if you want to use tubes (tube power has always been expensive BTW...) you'll want a speaker that is a good 6dB more efficient. That would put you at about 93dB. 75 Watts would then be able to drive the speakers as loud as the 300 Watts on your current speakers.

The cost of tube amplifiers is why there were so many high efficiency speakers back in the old days (1950s and prior). There is no reason why a more efficient speaker should trade off resolution with a less efficient speaker.

I have, and love, the Leben CS600x.  I might not characterize it as lush, though it definitely tilts warm in my system.  Another Leben alternative is the CS1000p, which is a 100w tube amp.  Haven’t heard it myself, but i’m a big fan of the brand.

I purchased a used CJ MV60SE several years ago. Luckily, it was in mint condition. I have it paired with a ET3SE preamp. It doesn’t have the power you are looking for but I think CJ amps are pretty robust. A Classic 60SE may fit your needs. As previously mentioned, CJ will service older equipment. They will even upgrade caps etc as needed. I spoke with a service technician about my amp a few years ago. I could have a complete inspection and upgrade for just under 1K. Obviously, the cost of a new amp is significantly more than 1K. On the negative side, I’ve read on the CJ owners group that Teflon caps can change the sound and take a long time to burn in. I’m still on the fence but I trust CJ’s ability to recondition older equipment. Personally, I haven’t read any negative comments. Keep in mind, you have to cover the shipping and they prefer original packaging. If you have any questions, give CJ a call and speak with a technician. They are great people.


I have owned the VAC Renaissance 70/70 for 20 years, recently updated by VAC to their "signature" version 5 months ago. I don't consider it to lean towards a warm tuby sound. It is rather transparent, with a beautiful "realistic" midrange and very holographic soundstage. Maybe I am tainted, but it's not a thick syrupy sounding amp at all to me.

Find a preowned Cary, CAD 808R... not the easiest to find in the "R 12bz7" version. Fill with Genelex KT88 & EL84. The "Rocket 88R" is strong contender for the sound you seek. Checks all the boxes. Just my opinion. 

+1 on the ZMA. Great amp able to use a variety of power tubes to adjust the sound to your preference.

You’re not going to like this answer, hifi is of course very personal. I like a tubey sound, -  not a sound that has tubes but wants to be closer to an integrated circuit profile. Which to me means using a low power amp, because the tubes that have that sound are the ones based on the historic ones from the film sound era. 300b’s or 2a3’s or to get a bit more extreme, 45’s or 50’s. For someone like me, tube sound is an exploration. So I started with el34’s then 6l6’s and then 300b’s, etc. This is over the course of many years. And as we all know, our systems are equations, so because a component sounds bad, it could just as easily be to your liking if some other element changed, (or if it’s new and gets broken in). So if you like your current system, keep it, and don’t try to get a tube sound working with components that really aren't going to get you a classic lush tube sound. I would suggest you just get an experimental system for tube exploration. You won’t have to spend that much money to do this. Just make sure your speakers are efficient. Get used and vintage equipment. Have a great time changing things in and out. You’ll usually be able to sell on used stuff for what you paid for it. And don’t ask people how to power inefficient speakers with a tube amp. You can of course easily do that, but that is not going to be a classic tube sound. You know Altec's in giant old movie theaters were powered by 8 watt amps. 

@rcprince premier 3 is a preamp. premier 4 and 5 are power amps, stereo 100WPC and mono 200w, respectively. i heard that the premier 4 runs the tubes riht at the edge and eats em alive. 

tubes4hifi AKA vta 125W mono amps. 

conrad johnson MV75 factory upgraded

mcintosh 275 of course

conrad johnson premier 1B

i do not have any personal experience with these, but a while back i read every conversation i could find about several families of power amps. 

give this a read: