Tube Integrated With Clarity

I’ve recently decided that I prefer integrated amps over seperates and I’m looking for another tube Integrated for my second system.  Not to long ago I purchased a demo Lab12 Integre4 and it really changed the way I looked at integrated amps. I’d be more than happy owning a second Lab12 but that’s just too boring.

I’m looking for a very fast and clear sound, yet retain the smoothness and liquidity of tubes. Not interested in amps with slow bass or overly smooth or rolled off treble.  I used to think extended treble and resolution resulted in brightness. I’ve learned over time that doesn’t have to be the case. I really think you can get a good dose of both without crazy money if you know what to look for.  It’s for a very small room so I’m open to anything from around 10watts plus. Current speakers are Totem Arro but looking to find a pair of Reference 3As or Fritz in the not too distant future.  

Budget is tops 4K but I’d prefer to spend less. So far I’m really interested in Linear Tube Audio as well as Octave. If I go with LTA I may buy a MZ2 and one of their power amps just because it seems cheaper.  With Octave I’m looking at V40 SE or V70SE. Hopefully with either I can find one that comes with their Black Box.  I’m guessing I may get some Audio Research suggestions, but I feel as great as they sound, value for your dollar is not the best. Also, I feel some of these other companies put more emphasis on developing integrated amps.  

As far as aesthetics I’m into a clean modern look. I think both Octave and LTA represent my preferences well. Anyways, I’m sure there’s plenty I’m missing and looking forward to some suggestions. 



Damned by faint praise.


Reading your post, my immediate reaction is that your Lab12 Integre4 really doesn’t do it for you. It may have attributes you like. But when I have really found components that I connect with I don’t want anything different. so, my immediate reaction is the Lab12 Integre4 should go to your secondary system and you should continue your search for the perfect sound for you.

I think your description of the sound you want is consistent with Audio Research, so it might be the right match. It certainly is for me. You can see my system under my ID. A used Vsi 75 might be the ticket. I would focus on your primary system and see if you can get it much more to your taste so that you can’t imagine getting anything else for your secondary system. Then you know you nailed it.


@brylandgoodman As a fellow Lab12 Integre4 user, albeit the MKII version, I think you would be hard pressed to find another tube amp that could match the clarity and speed of the Lab12.

I am assuming you were describing the positives of the Lab12 in your desired sound descriptions rather than its weaknesses. If you are not satisfied with it, you could try experimenting with interconnects. 

Nevertheless, a Jadis provided the same level of excitement and fun as Lab12, albeit at higher price point. If you can find one used within your budget, it would be no brainer. Line Magnetic's stuff is similarly great sounding, though the aesthetics may not be to everyone's liking. Audio Research's stuff IMO is not on the same league as Lab12 and Jadis. 


Not familiar with any of the other equipment you mention, but I own an LTA MZ2 and it's astonishing, especially for the price. I've used it with a number of power amps and it never fails to shine. The only reason it's relegated to backup status is because I lucked into a great deal on an Alma-Sphere MP-3, which is better than the MZ2 but not by a lot. I use an integrated (Willsenton R-8) is my second system but maintain separates in my big rig as that gives me the most flexibility to experiment.


Sorry I wasn’t clear, but the Lab12 isn’t going anywhere. I truly love it and have no thoughts of something better, at least for me. I’m. looking to replace seperates in my second system. Finding an integrated so satisfying in my main system made me realize the simplicity and cohesiveness can really provide value with a well voiced integrated. 

So, you are very happy with what you have and it isn’t going anywhere. but you are looking for something for your secondary system that is inferior, but different than your primary system?



I was interested in both LTA and Octave for my Spatial M3 Sapphires. I demoed the Octave V40 se with the SBB. It was a stunning amp that gave a new perspective on my music collection. Dynamics, Clarity, Instrument tonality and separation. With the ability to tweak with NOS driver tubes I am in love with the Octave line. Since upgraded to the V70 Class A and that is my forever Amp. Good Luck in your search. 

I read a great review, chose a Cayin A88T, 22/45 wpc, very glad I did

bigger brother is a100t 50/100 wpc, never heard one, but I imagine same sound as my A88T, however, A88T uses 6sl7 and 6sn7, the A100T uses 12's


VAS used to be the Cayin US rep


one a100t in usa

note: mk1 has internal bias, PITA, later models have exterior bias meter and adjusters. I needed mk1 for my 16 ohm speakers


I was gonna recommend Octave but you beat me to it.  I’d go for the v70 SE if you can swing it as your Totems will likely appreciate the additional power.  There’s one for sale now in you price range…

LTA seems like another great option for the sound characteristics you’re looking for, but their linear power supply is a must for better sound quality (at least for the MZ2) so factor that into the price.  Hard to see you going wrong wither way.  

Linear Tube Audio is the only relatively cost effective line I have heard that comes to mind that is likely a safe bet to efficiently deliver the best "clarity" with most any speakers including Totem Arro, a speaker design that gets good bass out of a small box. That’s because of the patented and very unique LTA design that provides a more SS like low output impedance compared to most other tube amps with no output transformer involved, as I recall.

"Clarity" to me infers detail and dynamics along with a low noise floor.

Some Audio Research amps might be another different but reasonable alternative worth some consideration.


IF you are willing to change the speakers to match up better with most tube amps that are higher output impedance, meaning the speakers present a relatively easy load and are maybe also somewhat efficient, then there are many good choices out there from CJ to ARC to Atmasphere or many others. Otherwise the practical tube amp choices will be relatively larger and more expensive in that you have to beef up the amp to compensate for best results with smaller tough load full range speakers. Or you can offload the bass to powered sub and that opens up many more options regarding tube amps up to the task of properly driving many popular more full range speaker designs out there these days.

Fritz is a very good choice for an affordable alternative to Totem Arro that can be driven well with most any amp including most low power tube amps. I’ve heard Fritz speakers at shows run off flea powered tube amps and that is where I would look personally were I determined to efficiently build a tube system capable of delivering clarity in terms of detail and dynamics comparable to other more common approaches. That is something I have actually put a lot of thought into and might still try at some point but have not pulled the trigger to date. I have been more focused on eliminating tubes from my system and have accomplished that mission with very good results of late.

Spatial Audio speakers might be another option but those are larger and an open baffle design which is a totally different beast.



One other option I would put out for consideration (no tubes though) would be a Cambridge Evo all in 1 integrated amp. This is a very stylish, functional, compact and wonderful sounding swiss army knife for reasonable cost (by high end standards at least) that has everything one needs to explore any modern hifi source material from phono to tape to Roon and other streaming approaches that one might choose and might be a way to possibly explore some new digital streaming horizons if of any interest.

I have been running an Evo 150 for almost 2 years now and it is top notch in regards to clarity without ever being fatiguing...which to me is the grand prize. IT also has opened up fantastic newer music sources beyond my vinyl and digital music collections like versatile high res streaming via Roon and Qobuz.

Really appreciate the feedback so far.  It seems Octave and LTA are both solid options.  I’m curious if anybody has experience with Audio Hungary?  I’ve read a few reviews but haven’t seen much user feedback for them. 

elliott,  Last I knew Cayin had some issues going on far as service and parts availability.  

mapman,  A switch to a pair of Fritz is very likely in the not to distant future. Matching the new amp to the Totems isn’t too important to me considering. Spatial Audio is intriguing to me but not sure about their fit in my 9x11 room. 

jeff,  I’d be open to a hybrid but the few I’m aware of don’t excite me a whole lot. 

you have described the newer McIntosh tube sound, not to be confused with the older warmer/mushier sound. You may want to consider one of them in your short list. Used probably but there are lots of them out there and they hold their resale value better them most. 

Bryland, I have the Audio Hungary a50i. You should be able to pick one up under $4000 used.  I owned a LTA preamp and thought it was very nice but would not call it as tubey as I tend to prefer.

I also own some modern Conrad Johnson and prefer the Audio Hungary. The AH bass is some of the best I’ve heard coming from a tube integrated amp. It’s deep, big, solid, has tone and moves air, very impressed, maybe partially due to it being class A. The detail and information it pulls is just as impressive as the bass.


The amp is very fast and does not stumble no matter how complex the music is. It also plays every type of music you throw at it, the CJ can’t do that. Got to say this is my favorite integrated amp I’ve ever owned, For me this one is a keeper. Good luck on your search. I’ve always felt the preamp section in integrated amps are the weak link not so with the AH from what I’m hearing.

I really like the LTA gear and the guys that run the company. My son lives right outside DC and maybe 10 minutes from their shop in Takoma Park, MD. If you are anywhere close, you should visit them in person. I did that and spent a few hours talking about their gear and listening. I met most of the folks working there, but alas, no David Berning. I am continually watching for their Z40 integrated used. Until then my Luxman L505 uXii fills the gap pretty well. One thing I like about their amps is that they drive their tubes very conservatively and project extremely long life for those expensive NOS tubes. good luck in your hunt!

Ayon isthe best built excellent sounding and use world class Lundahl transformers  and chokes ,and a very nice machined case , not cheap sheet metal like most ,

it is microprocessor controlled which monitors each individual power tube 

which tubes last much longer then then just averaging all power tubes combined 

just hit a button if a tube goes and ready to go , the spirit 3isvery good and uses Mundorf Preamp coupling capacitors on the output , made in Austria not China 

C core transformers are the world standard for top Tube Amplifiers , toroidal  transformers Never in Any world class tube product .


Wait, correct me if I am wrong here because I have limited experience with tube amps but when the OP says he wants something “very fast”, is he barking up the wrong tree with tubes? Articulate and smooth I can buy in to but “ fast”? You tell me.

@falconquest Higher powered tube amps from the likes of Jadis, Lab12, Leben, AudioNote, etc are certainly not lacking in the speed department.

I moved up from a SS Class A integrated to tube and my current amp renders electric guitars and drums much more convincingly than my previous SS. 

I like rogue and quick silver. Their integrated amps are pretty different from one another. Maybe one of them will strike your fance Both sound pretty good to me.

Indicating "speed" in a tube amp is just lazy. I can highly recommend Black Ice (formerly Jolida) as a company that makes great sounding affordable tube amps that have modern snap and clarity. I owned a 502P for years and it was excellent. 

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Not sure what speakers you will be driving but if relatively efficient, look at the Raven Audio Black Hawk or Osprey.

I owned the Osprey  for over a year - really nice sounding integrated with great low end, mids and clear and detailed highs. I only sold it because I wanted more power for my Harbeth's and the Raven Reflection was more than I wanted to spend even with 100% trade-in value on the Osprey. 

They sell direct and offer a 45 day in home trial with a reasonable restocking fee so pretty low risk IMO. Excellent customer service and advice.

No experience with Octave, but LTA sounds like a good choice.  It is definitely a tube design with clarity.  I had the MZ2 and Z10, which is essentially an MZ3 in a traditional package.  I would highly recommend the Z10/MZ3 over the MZ2, especially if you use headphones.

I have listened extensively to both the Octave V40SE and the V70 Class A the V40 is an excellent amp especially with the Black Box. It actually approaches the performance of the V70SE without (too close to call) but the V70 Class A is spectacular as a $10K amp should be. I'm a fan of Octave Audio and believe they make exceptional compnanats. Just my opinion.  

I’m digging all the suggestions, much appreciated. 

I’m going to have to look into Audio Hungary as well as Ayon more.  Both seem to potentially have what I’m after.  Some of the brands suggested I have owned ,McIntosh, others I’m just not drawn to. Sometimes aesthetics, sometimes I’m not even sure what it is, but they don’t feel like my style I guess. I hope that doesn’t come across as shallow. I’m just saying I find it similar to people where you are attracted to some and not to others. Far as attracted, I don’t simply mean looks but everything including the companies background/history. 

Anyways, I’m glad I have a little while to figure it out. The room this stereo is in doesn’t see much use till the winter months. I figure I’ll start selling some other gear soon and look to purchase in a month or too, depending.  

Again, thanks for all the feedback. Looking forward to more. 

I had a Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum II and with upgraded NOS small tubes it sounded incredible, smooth, clear, atmospheric sound stage and plenty of power.  

The kicker for me happened when I traded it in.  The dealer had been playing a set of HE speakers with a highly regarded Rega Elicit R integrated amp.  The Rega based system sounded smooth and pleasant.  

But when he tested my Cronus Magnum II in the system (stock tubes) it was a wow moment.  The thickness we didn't know was there with the solid state amp just vanished and a clear, uncongested airy transparency opened a window to the music with the midrange at its core, completely dimensional and much more musically real.