Help with tube amps

I have recently become quite interested in puying a tube amp. I have no knowledge about tube amps but have been told of the magical sound a tube amp will make. I am looking to be able to put this tube amp into my system once in a while in order to experience this magic with my husband through a night of romantic acoustics every once in a while. Although my budget may seem low ($1000), I am hoping that there are some amps out there that will suit my needs. Amps I have looked at so far: Houston GSP-02, Sonic Frontiers SFS-80, and Decware Zen triode. Looking for any other suggestions and/or advice.
The Houston would be a good choice.It has cool looking tubes that would add some great glow to the evening.Its a great looking amp and Ive read it sounds quite good also.Customer service is a problem with these as I believe the company went under.Music Direct has some demos for around $600 that listed for near $1000 at one time.Of course you would get better sound buying a used amp for $!000.If you ever see a Conrad Johnson MV-55 for $1200 or so you may want to consider spending more.Its a killer amp and has that tube magic midrange like few others.It looks good too
My wife and I often listen with two other female music fanatics. All of the ladies demand tube amps. I prefer tubes but personally there are several SS amps I could live with. As a start a Jolida 502 used, with decent tube upgrades could be a good beginning since if you don't like it they are very easy to sell and g0 for 500-800 depending on the specific tubes. We have one in our bedroom sysgtem. Tube do amps tend to have personalities or house sounds that may or may not be to your likeing so I would suggest trying to listen to several different manufacturers. For example CJ makes superb gear but we don't like the CJ house sound but it is a personal preference not a recommendation.
Do yourself a favor and go to and check out Mike's Mini's for under $1000. a pair. I'm running his 8417s' and these babies are pure magic! Quicksilver Audio excells at customer service. Boy is your old man one lucky dude!
Have Fun!
Emily: What speakers are you using and how large is your room? If the speakers are efficient and have a reasonably flat impedence curve that does not dip too low, it will open up the number of possible choices greatly and if this is not the case then it will narrow the search down. I also supect that if you end up with a good system match that you and Hub may end up burning those tubes more often than you imagined. My wife loves the sound of our tube amp even on nights when I am grumpy (it makes no difference). I recall that you had an Adcom preamp, but cannot remember the rest of your system. Did you want a power amp only to use with your pre, or would an integrated amp be more practical? I used a solid state pre with tube amps in the 70's. It sounded good to me and was nice and quiet.
I am sorry, I forgot about telling about my speakers. We run a pair of NEAR 50me mkII, with low senstivity but not a difficult load to drive. Right now we are in a small room, about 12'x12'. Our current system is an Adcom GFA-5802, an Adcom GFP-750, and Sonic Frontiers SFCD-1 running with MIT MH-750 bi-wire cables and Yellow Viper interconnects. Thanks for all the advice so far everyone!
If you are really looking for that romantic glow I can highly recommend conrad-johnson. Their older MV-75 amp would have plenty of drive for your speakers, they are still serviced by c-j, and can be had for about $700. You might also find one of their newer MV-45 or 50 amps for about $1k.
The used Quicksilver mono amps are also and excellent. And if you want to buy new, check out Antique Sound Labs ( and Audio Electronic Supply ( Both companies make 25-30 watt amps for under $1k.
I agree with David - The C.J. MV-55 would be a good choice, with some 'steam' to drive your speakers to reasonable levels. Not far from your budget - there are two on the site at present. Question is: Will you be able to resist getting a tube pre? Hmmmmm.......Cheers, -John
You might want to take a look at the VTL can be had for ~$950 used. It has a nice look to can see the tubes aglow through the from faceplate. It is also nice sounding piece...not quite as "romantic" sounding as the C-J stuff, but will give you that "tube magic".
I would go for,the C.J. MV-75 plenty of bang for the buck.
another cj vote. i'm a former mv55 owner (recently upgraded to cj monos) and would highly reccomend the mv55, as well as the older 75 (i've listened to, but not lived with, one). the cj sound is wonderfully warm, musical and engaging. since in integrated a tube amp into my system, a cj tube amp, my acoustic & femal vocal collection has grown exponentially. cj equpiment really brings out the best in acoustic and femal vocals, as well as jazz. good luck.
I would also go with Conrad Johnson for that "tube" sound. I like their amps, though have never owned one myself, and the company has a good rep and should always be around if you were to need them. The Decware, though cute, would not push your speakers. Many tube amps, surprisingly enough nowadays do not really have a tube sound to them, though I do not find this to necessarily be a fault and the CJ's do still sound like tubes. Another amp that I have zero experience with, but that looks interesting is the more powerfull EL34 based amp from Music Reference. Anyone have first hand experience with this unit?
Probably one of the best deals out there would be to find a used Quicksilver GLA. Low maintenance. Auto biasing. Well built and sounds great. No longer made but desirable and occasionally for sale.
"Romantic accoustics" seals the deal for Conrad Johnson. That magical caramel tube glow in the midrange would be a good syno match with what you describe you are looking for. CJ has that is spades. Good luck
I used to own a Golden Tube SE-100 (EL-34 based), and just loved the sound. It can be had for about $1000, used. Customer service might be a problem as the company went under, but there seems to be some companies that repair GT gears. Good luck with your search!
Decware's Zen Triode amp will only provide about 2 to 3 watts per/ch., but with the right speakers (93 dB +) it will make wonder why you ever bothered with SS gear. I got a revision "B" from Decware for $425 (the current "C" costs $500) and I have little desire to listen to my 120 w/ch "arc welder" anymore. This amp will show you every weakness in the rest of you system. Currently I have my CD player going direct into the amp (variable input) and it drives full-range drivers (50-14 kHz) in simple bass-reflex cabinets. The lack of a crossover makes a HUGE difference. For the human voice and for jazz ensembles I have not heard better in my system. Imaging and soundstage are amazing. The most remarkable thing is that I used to turn my SS amp up to hear detail, and this is no longer needed with this little gem. If you seek LOUD music playback, with pants-flapping bass, this amp is not for you.
If you're willing to spend some serious cash on high-efficiency speakers (97 dB+) this amp will play loud.

In any case, Steve Deckert is a joy to do business with and his money back guarantee might make your decision easier.

I hope this helps,
mcintosh mc240 can be had for that money in rough shape but works fine...the mc225 is a little more money but less power..and sounds better and rarer

audio note p2se single ended pentode amp..powerful for 17 watts and 1000 used..the OTO model makes 10 watts and some say it sounds a bit better..a little less money...

dynaco st70 or st35 good starter tube amp with good power

audio research classic 60 and VT60

There are others in your price range but they are all low powered SET amps and not very desirable; ie, cheap low powered SET amps are not very desirable!
Hello Emily. I would concurr with the Conrad Johnson recommendations as well. The older mv45,mv 50, mv52 are wonderfully musical with near zero ear fatique, and can be found for far less than your budget. All of them are el34 based. Roger magesky's rm-9 is another consideration. Best of luck on your endevour.
Gosh the 8417's are great as I probably know more about the sound of those amps than anyone else other than Mike Sanders...If you think they are good my friend you had better get yourself a listen to the Quicksilver TRIODES.
The 8417's are a joke compared to the TRIODES.
Any questions about Quicksilver stuff give me a scream...I am the AUDIO god
After exisiting as a solid state fanatic for 30 years I recently purchased a second system that for the first time is tube based. It is a Jolida 302B intergrated amp, Jolida 100 CD player, Meadowlark Kestrel 2s with Synergistic and Tara interconnect/speaker cables. For under $3500 with cabling and a little tube rolling, this is an amazing system. There is a distinct difference in sound that, for classical and jazz, is much better through the tube system. Much sweeter and easier on the ears is the overall impression I give this system. I hear as much detail as I do with the solid state system, it's just a more laid back, gentler impact. I'm not a total convert either way; each type of system has its limitations and advantages.
She asked for cheap stuff that will work guys - what about George Wright? In your price range and new and it's as good as the more expensive stuff.
I recommend CJ MV-55 which I have owned for about 4 years. Sweet and great sound. No one will get wrong with this amp tube.