Looking for best $1000 tube power amp

Hi everyone,

I'm completely new to the speaker world and speaker amps as well. That said, I'm looking for a tube power amp.

New or Used

Other components: MHDT Havana (NOS Tube DAC), Decware CSP2 Tube Pre-Amp (I can nix this and add $1000 to the budget for both a Pre AND power or integrated; not preferred though since I like its HP amp.)

Price range: $1000 for only power amp($2000 *ONLY* if there's a massive, NOT merely incremental upgrade in that range)

If nixing the CSP2 pre-amp, $2000 for Pre AND power, $3k if there's a massive upgrade.

Favored sound: Musicality, euphony, emotional involvement. Lushness, smoothness, whatever you'd think of when you hear the word tubes. I could honestly give a rat's ass about accuracy.

Setup: Small rooms, 1200cu ft. Plan to play at moderately high volumes (-15dB to -10dB from reference)

Speakers: Do not have yet; most in consideration are bookshelf 8ohm and at the least sensitive, 85.5db. That said, I'd prefer a amp with wide compatibility unless if it comes at a cost of worse SQ or inability to play at decent volume.

Thanks guys!
I used to own the Conrad Johnson MV60...the MV60SE (available here in your budget) is more powerful and more linear...but still a beautiful amp. Should drive bookshelves well. I drove them with SF Guarneris for years.

Very good reviews...i remember one suggested it was mostly like to end up on the 'all time classic' list. I agree.
Choose your speakers before your amp!
I'm not familiar with your other components. But look at used Conrad Johnson & VTL power amps w/in your budget. Even a used VTL ST85 could give you the Lushness you want, if you don't need a lot of power. Modern C-J's can be more "accurate". Add Cary to the list if there's anything available in your budget.

For tube-friendly speakers, consider Merlins.....
Since you have a Decware Pre and prefer musicality and emotional involvement, I would recommend a Decware Mini Torii or one of their other amps and a pair of high efficiency speakers. I wish I had gone that route from the beginning. Its much harder and much more expensive to get a more musical pairing than you can get with a low powered tube amp or a SET amp and HE Speakers.
The best $1000 tube power amp will be the one your speakers love.
06-23-12: Phaelon
The best $1000 tube power amp will be the one your speakers love.

Well said!!!
Hygienist, I just realized that you’re a new member so my above answer might seem glib. I urge you to search the archives; you will find a plethora of threads discussing amplifier selection. Speakers and amplifiers are ideally bought together. They’re like husband and wife. There are so many variables involved that you really have to hear them together to know how they’ll function as a pair. If that can’t be done, buy the speakers first with the type of amplifier you prefer in mind. Again, please avail yourself of the archives. Welcome to Audiogon.
@Phaelon No worries, thanks for the advice! I'm coming from the headphone hifi world where there are some pretty legendary synergies spoken of, especially due to the much more limited selection in that world.

Oh, and as for speakers, my main contenders thus far are the
Nola Boxer (8ohm, 90dB bookshelf)
Fritz Carbon 7 (8ohm, 87dB bookshelf)

Both are the warm, musical type but the Boxer has been described to also be a bit bright at times whereas the Carbon 7 is a bit dark. Leaning towards the Nola Boxer at the moment. However, I am looking at possibly used Sonus Fabers or something if I can get a good deal, hence I can't be for sure.
Welcome Hygienist,


I have been playing with sub $1500 tube amps for the past few months in the garage/man cave. I have been having a blast and just today I brought home the latest contender. A modded\rebuilt Dynaco ST-70 from the good old days. New JJ tubes throughout and I am working on trying to ID the new guts. The tranny's are the classic cloth lead Dynos.

For $425 it cant be beat ... I might just buy it to have as a spare. I'm going to love swapping tubes out.

Current Champ :

Jolida 202BRC - Amazingly good integrated. Hated it for the first 100 hours then fell in love. Never underestimate the value of burn in time. Switched the EH 12AX7's for NOS Telefunken Smooth Plates and the 12AT7's with NOS Mullards. I left the EH EL-34's in, they are very good. It does everything well and for the money I think I got a great deal. I can’t see anyone being too disapointed. Very sweet tube sound and it's stock and there are many cool mods for these amps. Build quality is very, very good.

Last months competition :

Harmon Kardon Citation V (Rebuilt McShane PS)

Very nice amp but it did not play well in the man cave. I tried a whole bunch of tricks but couldn’t get it to behave. It was on loan so I left the tubes alone. It had new 6L6's so I imagine they might have been a bit too fresh but I put at least 50 hours on them without a change. The amp was accurate but had an almost solid state feel. Bass slam up the wazzo but it lacked the sweet mid and top end I was looking for.

Quicksilver mini mites

Just love em. I ran them over a month and they never disappointed me. Very lush but I needed a bit more power. I hated to give them back. I'd say if your a jazz lover and you are running a good set of monitors these might be worth a try. Proacs and Dynaudio 1.3's came alive. It was a great match up. I will probably pull the trigger on the next step up when one comes available. Might be sweet with the Boxers.

Yet to try :

Dynaco MKIII Monos
PrimaLuna Prologue Six
Cary Rocket 88

Garage System :

Counterpoint SA 3.1 Preamp with fresh NOS Amprex PQ 6922
Jolida JD-9 Phono pre (Gold Lion 12AX7)
Technics 1210 M5G
Sony XA9000ES SACD Player
Emotiva XDA-1 USB DAC
Mark Levinson ML-23.5

Speakers :

Paradigm Signature S-4
Proac Tablett III's

Interconnects :

Signal Cable Silver Ref
Nordost Blue Heaven
Cardas Twinlink

PC :

Signal Cable

Not a super expensive system by any means but I spend more time in there listening to music than I do in my main listening room. I really enjoy the ability to swap gear in and out. I have a local used audio shop that will let me try anything I want before I buy. I take full advantage of it and I buy plenty. I think you are in the right ball park as far as bang for the buck.

Good luck man!
Chances are a $1,000 tube amp will not have enough power to drive an 85.5 db speaker well.

Enjoyed reading your posts in the past. Generally agree...though would probably be more comfortable if, as per OP, the speaker is a bookshelf speaker. Plus, i think he said the lowest sensitivity speaker of his options was 85.5db.

As posted already, important to get the amp-speaker combination right!
Lloydelee21: Thanks. Yes, the OP said the LOWEST speaker sensitivity was 85.5db. I just meant that he/she should explore speakers with a higher sensitivity because frankly, a $1,000 tube amp will generally be a lower output amp.

Hygienist: You are looking for a $1,000 tube amp (which IMO will be somewhat low in watts), I'm selling a pair of Omega MaxHemp V2 speakers. They are 96db. I purchased directly from Louis Chochos. Sorry to plug them on your thread but I just wanted to let you know.
I went looking for a tube power amp a few months ago and found that the least expensive (by far) option that made sense to me ...new anyway...is Jolida. Period. Bought the newest version of the JD502P via Rick at Audioforce (nice guy, great deal), got the factory mods (warranty...you get a warranty!), and off I went having no idea what it would sound like in my system. Wow. I've become a fledgling tube monger. The amp is a quiet powerhouse of tubey fun, it's well made, looks killer, sounds really sweet without being too greasy, and cost less than my cables. A lot less. A slammin' 60 tube watts per side, and if you need more you can buy 2 and bridge 'em for 120 watts or something, and still be in cheapskate land.
Plenty of good suggestions here. I would also recommend you contact Jim Nichols from JWN amps. He will build you a custom tube amp for well under $1000.00 that is auto-bias and accepts virtually any power tube type, and did I mention it sounds great as well