Linear Tube Audio- Any feedback on their amps/ Preamp?


I recently was told by another member about Linear Tube Audio as they are using David Berning's designs (approved by David) and are made in the USA.  The Micro ZOTL 2.0 pre has just received great reviews and they also offer the ZOTL 40 and ZOTL 10 amps.  I would really like to get some feedback from someone that owns the pre and one of the amps.  Thanks!
sense63
The ZOTL40 with the MicroZOTL2.0 as a preamp was in Room 208 at the Newport show that just wrapped up. I'd be as interested as anyone in impressions.

Will
Linear Tube Audio
I picked this amp up yesterday and holy crap, it's bested everything I've ever owned. In fact, I was just at the Newport show I don't think I would trade my setup for anything I heard there. I did hear this amp at the show and it was good but it's much better in my treated room.

ZOTL 40 + Micro ZOTL as pre + Direct Stream DAC + Janszen zA2.1 speakers = Holy Grail. After some good breakin time more will be revealed.

Lancelock- thank you for your feedback.  I decided to pull the trigger on the microzotl and the zotl40 and am in the process of breaking them in.  I'll give my 2cents worth after some listening time has been logged.
Sense63, can't wait to compare notes
Nice sense63!

The  ZOTL 40 + Micro ZOTL I heard at RMAF last year still sticks with me. The soundstage was so real and holographic while being so musical it haunts me at times. Definitely looking forward to your impressions and comparisons...
After a few days of breaking in and critical listening, here a few thoughts.  

Amazing soundstage.  Clear.  Organic.  Micro dynamics in spades.  Life-like.

My system: Primaluna Dialogue Premium HP integrated, PS Audio DirectStream DAC, PS Audio Perfect wave transport, Aurender X100 and Omega's new floor stander with 2 Alnico drivers on the narrow baffle (Louis hasn't named it yet).  I also have a pair of Proac D30R speakers.  My wiring is from Jena Labs (Symphony interconnects and Twin 7 speaker cable)

As good as the Primaluna is (it's the best integrated I've heard yet), the Linear Tube Audio Micro Zotl2.0 with the Linear power supply and the ZOTL 40 are a clear step up to my ears.  There is an organic, naturalness to the sound.  I am definitely hearing things in familiar songs I've never heard before, but more than that, I'm not focusing on that.  I find myself getting caught up in the music and just enjoying my listening time.  Maybe another way to describe it is that I feel (for the first time) that the musicians are playing in front of me.....not a recording of them.  I am hearing inflections in vocals that I've never heard before.

The midrange is magical and there is a punch to the bass (more natural sounding) that I've never experienced before.  Not a bit of fatigue with the high frequency either.  Another description that comes to mind is fast.  I especially find that music starts and stops on a dime with the Omegas.

I have to admit that I'm smitten and look forward to putting a few more days on the gear.  I do want to mention that Mark is one of the nicest gentlemen to work with.  He answered all my questions and doesn't hype his products.  I suspect he doesn't get too worried with his 30 day in home trial as he probably won't get too many back.

Best-
Scott
Scott,

I agree with your impressions. This is the best sound I've achieved to date. There is a magic combining the Micro as a pre with the ZOTL40. I tried other preamps but nothing can touch the micro, not even at 4 times the price. 

Funny thing, I originally bought the Micro as a headphone amp (and a good one it is), then I found out I could power my 93db efficient speakers in another system with the one watt. As a flea watt amp it sounds fantastic. Finally I decided to try it as a preamp just for the helluva it. Holy crap, it's doesn't have all the bells and whistles and only has 2 inputs but it's the best preamp I've ever heard.

I also have a DS DAC and Janszen zA2.1 hybrid electrostat speakers. The ZOTL40 drives the electrostats with plenty of headroom. I have tried a variety of amps over the years with these speakers and until now have never found a satisfying combo along with the power I need.
Sense63'

any feedback on the ZOTL amp & pre? I'm guessing you have it by now?

lance

Because the ZOTL circuit reveals the character of the tubes (and most components in the signal path) so strongly, now that we've made more ZOTL40s and heard them in different systems, we've decided to find some new tube options, as the Tung-sol EL34s don't seem to be the ideal match. Mark is currently deep in a pile of NOS, various new stock, and tube equivalents that we'll be auditioning to find a ZOTL40 tube that can really complement the 40's nature. 

-Will
LTA
Will,

i am listening to the ZOTL40 with a quad of Shuguang Treasure 6CA7-Z. These tubes take an agonizingly long time to break-in. I put them in another amp I have and let them play for almost 2 weeks straight. The ZOTL is very easy on tubes and I think it adds to the long break-in. I think the tubes are almost there now, yes, sounding pretty damn good. Warmer, more liquid and very good bass.

lance
ZOTL40 - EL34 shootout

The shootout was a lot of fun. For those of you who haven't met Mark, he's a great guy and a dedicated audiophile. I like his business model too. Start with a fantastic design and employ local people to manufacture great products HERE, not by slave labor in XYZ foreign country to maximize profits.

OK, the results are in, the EL34 Tung Sols that come stock with the amp sound very good, but there are a few other tubes that sound even better. Here are my Picks for the top tubes in the ZOTL40 in order, no. 1 being the best:

  1. NOS Mullard EL34 XF2
  2. Genelex Gold Lion KT77
  3. Shugaung Black Bottle 6CA7 (very long break-in)
  4. NOS Sovtek EL34 Winged C
  5. psvane EL34PH
  6. Tung Sol EL34
  7. Mullard EL34 reissues

The Gold Lion KT77s are killer in this amp and are manufactured currently.
The very expensive Chinese 6CA7 black bottle tubes and the Phillips knock offs also sound very good but are costly. Equally as good as the Gold Lion KT77s are the NOS Sovtek winged C EL34's and maybe better, but I'm still listening to them. They're getting better with break-in, and I keep going back and forth on that one. I didn't get enough time with the KT77, but my first impression puts it near the top.

If you can get your hands on them, the NOS Mullards in this amp..... I can't explain it.... is the most incredible sound I have ever experienced. Yes, the Mullards are legendary and the ZOTL 40 takes advantage of these vintage tubes in a spectacular way. I bought a set of used NOS Mullards for a fairly reasonable price. Because the ZOTL is so easy on tubes, I expect them to last a long time.

I'm not really good at describing the sound differences in audiophile terms but it was all there, the sound stage, airy highs and tight lows. The top of the list giving the best of these attributes.

The upgraded tubes put the ZOTL40 a notch above the ZH230 in my humble opinion. Maybe that's why David Berning has decided to drop that amp from his line. I did hear that Berning is going to stick to his top of the line amps that he builds himself. The Berning 211/845 monoblock amps were reviewed this month in TAS and I think they used the term "best amp in the world." Oh well, $75K is out of my reach but I've got a ZOTL40.

If you ever wanted to own a $50k amp for a fraction of the price, this is it. I really can't say I've heard anything this good at any audio show. Although I've never heard the 211/845.

Associated gear:
Janszen zA2.1 hybrid eltrostats
JL Audio E110 subs (pair)
PS Audio Direct Stream DAC networked
PS Audio P10 regenerator
Micro ZOTL as preamp with linear power supply
Morrow and Cerious Tech Cables



Lance, thanks for hosting that shootout! We had another with Mark's system and we've decided to go full Genalex Gold Lion for both the ZOTL40 and the ZOTL10. KT77, 12AU7, and 12AX7 for the 40 and EL84, 12AT7, and 12AU7 for the 10.

These Gold Lions are really excellent current production tubes, and unless you want to pay significantly more for some of the boutique current productions, they seem like the way to go. Now they just need to make a 6SN7!
So given that the Gold Lions are the new stock tube, are the NOS Mullards worth the additional cost?
The NOS Mullards as you probably know are extremely expensive. I purchased a used quad of XF2's for $300. These are used tubes mind you but they test strong. The ZOTL 40 is very easy on tubes so I expect to get a pretty good life span out of these Mullards.

I think the EL34 NOS Mullards are the holy grail of tubes and yes, better than the Gold Lion KT77's. Don't get me wrong the KT77's sound great in the ZOTL40 and definitely better than the Tung Sol EL34's, so the question of is it worth the cost? It's all relative. If I didn't have that extra $300 to spend I would say no but I like to collect tubes. 
Thanks.  You are right - the value of incremental improvements is in the ear of the listener.  The Mullards are intriguing.  The fact that the ZOTL is easy on tubes increases the value of using those tubes.     

lance:
Congratulations on a greats sounding amp and taking it to the higher level with evaluating so many tubes. Have you had an opportunity to try audio grade fuses and wall outlets with your system?

I am quite pleased with the improvements after installing Synergistic Research Black fuses and their Black A/C wall outlets. And unlike most tube purchases, they come with a 30 refund policy.

Have a good music weekend.

David Pritchard
David,
i like to try things even when I don't always understand them. I did install a hospital grade outlet when I cleaned out a spare bedroom to use for my stereo. I can't tell you if it made any difference at all, no way to test this without going to a lot of trouble.

I might be accused of participating in some pagan ritual but yes I installed an SR black fuse. When I stop making changes for a minute I will eventually pop the old fuse back in and try to do an A/B comparison. At the moment I have Bobs Cerious Technologies graphene extreme speaker cables burning in and they are spectacular.

Scott -
Are your observations the same with the Proacs as with the Omegas?  Did you find either one to be more synergistic than the other (the Omegas being higher efficiency and higher impedance)? 

weebeesdad-

I found the synergy to be better with the Proacs vs the Omegas.  I think the Omegas do better with SET amps, maybe because the SET amps produce more distortion and the Omegas are so clear.    
Hi.

I am definitely going to get the ZOTL40. At the same time, I’m looking for some speakers to go with them. I don’t have a lot of space, so something with a small footprint.

I’ve heard the ZOTL40 with a set of Dynaudio Confidence C1s, and the sound was excellent. However, the Dynaudio’s are both expensive, and really prefer higher-wattage amps.

Does anyone have a suggestion for a good pairing with this amp?

I already have the microZOTL2, which I bought as a headphone amp, and it’s just one of my favorite purchases ever.
Zachawry,

definitely use the Micro ZOTL as a preamp with the ZOTL40. It beat a 4K preamp I tried in my system. The two were meant for each other. The ZOTL40 will work without a preamp, it has a volume control but it's better with a pre.

This combo is absolute magic with my Janszen zA2.1 speakers and plenty of power but they are a little pricey, unless you found them on the used market maybe. I also have a set of Decware ERRx radial speakers that sound pretty good with the combo. The ZOTL40 is way more power than these radial speakers need.

One other thing I noticed is the power. I think the ZOTL40 is actually rated at 46 watts. I have another 40 watt old school tube amp and the ZOTL40 is way more powerful, more volume. My 87db Janszens are driven with headroom to spare.


Zach, based on Lance's experience I might suggest the Janszen Carmelita, formerly called the zA1.1.  That is the stand mounted version of his zA2.1 with very similar sonic character.  While I'll admit the zA2.1 hardly occupies more floor space than its stand mounted sibling, with fewer drivers the Carmelita might suit some smaller rooms better and the price is quite a bit lower.  Yet it retains that electrostatic mid-range magic.

Thanks for the advice. I will definitely use the MZ2 as a pre-amp. If anyone is still using their switching power supply, I highly recommend getting the linear power supply LTA now offers. Makes a big difference. 

(I was so impressed by the linear power supply that I jumped hard on the power supply bandwagon and got a third-party one that costs about as much as the MZ2 did to begin with.) 

Anyway, with the ZOTL40 I find myself in a position of looking for speakers to match my amp instead of the other way around. I will look into the Janszens. Not sure if they're available in Japan, where I am, but I will check. 
David Janszen resorted to mainly direct sales so he could lower prices.  So I suggest contacting him.  He does offer trial purchases.

Has anyone compared the MZ2 + LPS with Dennis Had's LP27A preamp? I have found the latter to be a true giant killer. Has anyone compared the former with Dennis Had's Dragon IHA-1 headphone amp? These are all similarly priced and the Dragon can also be used as a preamp with the optional outputs.