Best Pre/Amp or Integrated for Zu Essence

I am in the midst of upgrading my system. Current gear features Rega Saturn cd, Regar Elicit integrated with mc phono stage, and Pro-Ject Debut III turntable with Ortofon Salsa mc cartridge (just getting started in vinyl), Zu Libtec speaker cables, Zu Gede interconnects, and Zu Mother and Zu Bok power cords.

I just traded my WLM La Scala monitors for the Zu Essence floorstanders. Love the added dynamics and bass extension from the Zu's. I'm happy with them. I also like the La Scala's but appreciate the extra dose of vividness from the Zu's.

I am now looking to optimize my amplification. The Rega gear sounds pretty great with the Zu's, but I have been informed that tubes may have more synergy with the Essence's.

I am considering the following:
Audio Electronics AE3-DJH paired with Six-Pacs monoblocks,
Quad QC-24 paired with Quad II-Forty's monoblocks,
Cary 300SEI,
Primaluna Prologue 2,
Primaluna Prologue 3 paired with Prologue 7's

Any other thoughts? Budget is $4500. Since this is my first venture into tubes, I would like to stick with something that I can get on dealer demo or new.

I listen to a variety of music from small-scale classical to jazz to indie to electronica.

I am not as concerned with accuracy as much as I am with the "in-the-room" experience.


A good start would be adding in a tube buffer. The buffer can be used in almost any system so even if you later upgrade the amp, the buffer will still be useful. The Dodd Buffer is the one generally paired with the Virtue amps, but there are others.
Thoughts on mating the Lavardin with Superfly @213cobra?@213cobra?
I haven't listened to a Lavardin in close to a decade but it was an unusually copasetic solid state/Zu pairing when I last auditioned both in my own house. Lavardin has made some updates to their circuits so based on the first years of hearing their updates yield real sonic improvements, I have confidence the current generation are better still.

Into the Zu Superfly 16ohms load, the Lavardin will likely sound sweetest and cleanest driving that impedance, compared to 8 ohms or 4 ohms, though any difference you perceive won't be vast. But for the 50 and 55w/8ohms rated models, Superfly will cut the output to 25-30w, with decent dynamic headroom. That will be fine in most normal size domestic rooms, but if you have a large room or just want some added dynamic elasticity, you can from Zu 25 ohms/10w resistors to run across the speaker inputs to yield a load just under 10 ohms, to get back most of the 8 ohms-rated power back.

Lavardin has a US distributor again, so good luck. If you're specifically seeking a solid state amp for Zu instead of tube, and want to consider alternatives, I can suggest others if I know what you are hoping to pay.