Lost that "Tube Magic". Can you help?

Greetings and thanks in advance for your sharings.

My first tube amp(only a few years ago) was an H.H. Scott LK-72B with all original 7591 tubes. The thing was just plain MAGICAL to my ears. It would impart the same character to just about any speakers I paired it with... Theils... older B&W's... Paradigms...

Pardon me if my words fall short as I've only been at this hobby for several years: The top end was not as extended as some and bottom end was a bit flabby but the thing sounded good on all types of music and soared on vocals and solitary instruments. Tones had a density... a harmonic richness... an aliveness... that made me sit up and listen. There was often an "air" around vocalists and instruments that wasn't so much about 3-dimensional soundstage placement as it was about something "other dimensional(for lack of better words)" Sometimes the sharpness, the "splat" of a horn note from a Cassandra Wilson album would compel me to drop a project in another room and come running into the listening room with my mouth hanging open. Vocalists could sometimes be hauntingly present and perhaps larger than life (if somehow inaccurately so). I haven't experienced that since- Not in showrooms nor in my own system.

The Scott developed some coughs and sputters within a few months and I had most of the caps replaced. Magic gone. Still a very nice sounding unit.. bass was more extended and tauter... over all sounded "cleaner" but a lot more... well... solid state.

I'm thinking "I now know what this 'tube magic' people have been talking about is". I decided I would pull out all the stops(for my budget) and buy a modern, reliable, positively reviewed piece of tube equipment that could be a lasting centerpiece to all of my other equipment changes(lasting?? Laughing at myself here). I bought a Cayin A-100T with newish Electro-Harmonix KT-88s and an assortment of NOS preamp tubes. This was not it. Perfectly black background, gobs of power, entended highs and lows(more low end control than most of the quality solid-state equipment I've owned(McCormack, Proceed, Counterpoint)), but missing that magic. To my ear it sounded rather solid-state-ish but without the drive in particular. I tried it with a number of speakers and this overall character remained.

Lastly I tried an Onix Melody SP-3. Overall I found it more musically satisfying that the Cayin in that it had better pacing(drive) and just sounded more musical to my ear. Instruments on the Cayin sounded more accurate but the whole picture cohesion was more there(for me) with the Onix. This is a great amp(especially for the money) as many reviews atest to, but it was still missing that magic for me. Again, a bit too solid-state-ish if you will. I played with replacing some of the preamp tubes with some good quality NOS tubes to some good effect but had the sense that tube changes were not going to change the character enough. I tried this amp with a number of speakers too.

"Why don't you just play with capacitor and tube changes in another H.H. Scott if you like the sound so much?" That's a good question and I may end up going that route in the end but I would really like to have something that is:
1. More modern and reliable. I like a more modern look too.
2. Has a remote control(I can hear the snickering already ;) .
3. Perhaps has even more of that magic than the Scott. Despite the magic, the Scott lacked a transparency that my other tube amps have had. Better extension and control would be welcome too if it's possible to have my cake and eat it too.

I would -really- like to spend less than $1K if possible. I would prefer an integrated solution.
Tone controls would be nice(not absolutely necessary).
I have not settled on speakers at this point either.

I've heard a few tube pieces that didn't have that solid-state character but they were rather "soft and mushy" and lacked the aliveness I'm wanting. It certainly could have been the setups.

Anyone have experience with what I'm talking about?
Do you have better ways to describe it?
Is this a characteristic of older tube equipment in general? H.H. Scotts in general? 7591 tubes? All OS tube setups? Can you recommend a modern, remote controlled, sub $1K solid state integrated that might fit the bill? Any solid state equipment out there that would really have the qualities I'm looking for?

Again, thanks much.
Amendment: Don't worry about answering the solid-state equipment that sounds like tube question at the end. There are lots of other forum posts devoted to that. Cheers.
A lot of the old amps have that magic,but not always a guarantee on old or new gear.Changing coupling caps can change the sound so much,its hard to believe its still the same amp sometimes.Blindfolded,you may think somebody switched amps on you.Different brands of caps may sound more different than swapping amps too sometimes.Cheap caps will kill the magic fairly easy.Then caps like Solen are fairly neutral and may kill the magic in a Scott,but sound really good in some triode amps.Trying "SED" output tubes may help in your new amp. All of the New Sensor made tubes have a house sound though all of their brands I've tried.Not much tube magic there in my opinion.A Conrad Johnson MV55 or MV60 something newer than 1995 from them might have that tube magic your looking for.You could use a remote SS preamp too.There must be other brands out there that will fit your needs.Stay away from Jolida,and I can't speak for any of the tons of new Chinese stuff out there.
From what I have read, the Conrad Johnson tube gear comes to mind as modern gear that has the kind of character you described.

Your statement that the Scott gear imparted a particular sound to various speakers is interesting. Surely some sounded better than others and each sounded different? Did you prefer the Thiels or the B&Ws? Which models?

The system I have heard recently that matches what you describe best was a Cambridge 840c CD player, Linn Axis turntable with Denon DL103r CART, ARC sp17 pre, and a higher power Rogue tube power amp driving a pair of PSB Synchrony floorstanders. A pair of OHM Walsh speakers like I have in my system would be an interesting variation on that system that can add a special kind of magic to an otherwise more mainstream sounding system.
VAC pre and amps
Conrad Johnson.

For something a little more neutral that I've heard and liked and that is in your budget, you might listen to a VTL IT-85.
Leben amps may do the magical trick. Check out Jeff Day's reviews, if you have not allready.
VTL or Manley are so musical and mostly slay the complaints about tube gear being slow with sloppy bass and truncated highs. This gear works well, is reliable and they do not grind their tubes into the ground by running them so hot. Tube life runs into years, not months.
H.H. Scott LK-72B with all original 7591 tubes just colored the sound that to your ears was magic. There's a good possibility that we all are to our own ears inclined to like a certain colored sound. I would if I were you go back to an original Scott or equivalent and enjoy this magic that is now lost with newer gear.
I remember reading an article about guitar players who like very old guitar amps, this article stated that the old power supplies have a special quality because they are completely 'broken in' (for lack of a better term) and that this can only be achieved with something this old and 'used'. Maybe the same thing is happening with the capacitors on your Scott amp and maybe with time you will get some of the magic back.

Just a thought and good luck
The "magic" is in the EL84 tubes. The bigger tubes don't sound the same. I have a Mapleshade moddified Scott. Some of the mods clean up the bottom and top end issues you refered to.
The Musical Fidelity A-1 is being discounted toi $999. It has a tube like sound (class A) and has a remote!
You might be able to try it out, and return it if you don't like it.
I am far from an expert in these matters and my statement may sound very harsh, but comes from experience. I purchased a pair of Mac MC-30 5-7yrs back and simply fell in love with all the attributes you describe in your Scott before mods. I sent these off to be completly rebuild and hated the sound afterwards. Thus they sat in a box for the next 5-7 till I sold them a couple months ago. My experience was these units had a down right lush and overly warm character that was very seductive, but not even close to acurate. Many thousands of $'s and many months later my ears have matured and I beleive I have acheived a system that is tilted towards the warmer side of the scale but still true to the artist wishes without the soft slow and very seductive sound of the MC-30's with the bad caps. How have I done this. Reading the forums, and working with experts from the retail sector of our hobby and having candid coversations with Andy at VTS on my choice of tubes. Tubes purchased by assuming the not informed sellers are acurate with the descriptions is a flawed way to to roll tubes when tring to achieve audio bliss. This tube realization is a very recentily learned new level of understanding on my part. You may be purchasing real NOS and they are not fakes -- but measurements are not the end all to the sound...measurements can only measure the life left in the tube and tell the buyer and seller nothing about the sound. I feel a phone call to a trusted tube expert and a couple hundred $'s of investment could give you back the sound you are currently not hearing. This is an opinion from my experience and I offer it for consideration; not as a self pronounced expert tring to be superior in any way.
The most musical, involving tube gear I have ever heard was made by Audiomat, which is not to say that other recommendations at the same price aren't good, I just haven't heard them all. Other modern makes of interest to me, at lower prices, are Audio Space and Audio Note Kits.

You have a good chance of finding magic with any of the above. I would also like to mention the tweaks that squeeze the last bit of performance out of any piece of gear, the kind of small increment that can make all the difference. I would not give up on any tube amp without trying Herbie's Iso-Cup footers and Herbie's tube dampers. Shoot Steve Herbelin an email and ask him to advise you. He's never steered me wrong.


Finally, don't overlook the contribution of your AC power to making magic. I think isolation transformers give the best bang for the buck but there are other interesting approaches too. For an amplifier, of course, a big transformer is needed and these are expensive, but a patient search can strike it lucky.
The Manley Stingray immediately comes to mind, but no remote unless you spring for a brand new unit. I would stay with an EL84 or EL34 output tube amp. Mystere might be another choice.
My Cary SLI50 has the magic mated to the appropriate speakers. No remote and they rarely come up used. Tube rectification is a plus also IMO.
The amp that comes to mind is the CJ MV-100.Agree with the SE tube comments.The Onix SP-3 with careful tube selection,possibly the Almarro 318.The PL1 from Primaluna with a little tube-rolling.
I used to own a couple of HH Scott components (amp and tuner) that I had my friend, George Wright (RIP), work on for me. One of the things he pointed out was that he felt some period NOS capacitors were superior in sound to his ears than any modern day equivalent. He had quite a stash of them in his shop. Alas, I do not recall specifics there, and that's just one person's opinion, of course. Capacitors certainly can make a difference in the sound of a component. I would definitely give the new caps 200-300 hours of playback time (running a signal through them) to break them in. I'd agree with some of the general comments thus far that imply that the magic you are hearing is a subjective response to the way the amp colors the sound and where it may add distortions. Different amps = different flavors and the magic part is entirely subjective. I don't know that I'd go as far as to say all amps with a certain tube type are likely to sound alike - in my experience this is far from the truth, though you can generalize about specific tube types. Just generally my impressions of the Cary and Conrad Johnson gear I've heard would have me point to them as warmer (read: "tubey" or whatever adjective you prefer to describe such traits). It's really a tough call to determine what your "tube magic" sounds like, compared to my own version of that, but having owned the Scott amp I'd think those two would be a good place to start.
I have to throw in with conrad johnson. I currently have both a Premier 11 (old stuff) and a Premier V (really old stuff). It's difficult to articulate the cj sound. These amps are not extolled for their neutrality, but at the end of the day, to me, the music comes off as sounding more real than music from other, more sonically accurate amps that I've heard. I know that sounds like a major contradiction but that's my perception.
I've noticed when researching the CJ amps that CJ does not provide a lot of detailed specifications on their gear compared to many other leading vendors.

I suspect what sounds magical to some cannot be done justice via specifications....that seems to make good sense to me and is not a slight by any means.
I know the feeling in that when I was picking up a pair of amps from a dealer and went in and literally could not believe how good the piano and voice sounded in the store from a Billy Joel album (and incidentally I am not a huge fan of). The dealer (hell of a nice guy) said yeah that is a new line and the best stuff I have in the store. It was conrad johnson pv1 and whatever their first amp was. I listened to those little buggers for over an hour in his store. That listening impression stayed with me for years. Being a working pauper it was out of my range and I lived with afforable solid state for the next couple of decades.

Into the 90's I FINALLY got my cj mojo. Bought a PV11 and premier 11a. PV11 gave way to a supratek preamp and I upscaled to premier 12 monoblocks.

I do not have a clue about the new Chinese stuff but I think you will find what your looking for with a classic American tube company with cj being very near the top.

Good luck and have fun.
One of the best tube integrateds that I have heard is the JAS Bravo 2.3.It is a SET amp that uses 6c33 tubes in the output stage.It is completely tube rectified and puts out a surprisingly robust 18wpc(sounds much more powerful).I heard it at a local Hi-End Dealer when auditioning speakers and I was very impressed.Below is a link: http://questforsound.com/amps/amps_jasAudioBravo23.htm
Cayin A88t That's where I Have ended up and really like the sound. Its been my experience that some solid state amplifiers when they get old have that exaggerated sound I found it in a B&K st202 and a soundcraftsmen ma5002. Dynaco st70 tube amplifiers unrestored have it also. The problem is they may prove undependable or worse can have a capacitor purge. The Cayin is full sounding and they are built well. Just my findings hope I helped
Maybe its the "Allen Bradley" carbon composition resistors carrying the magic!

Maybe the ESR of the caps use even with the same value and voltage rating are different? Maybe the Selenium rectifiers impart a magic sound? Solder maybe?

Ahh too many things to consider. IMO, any restored vintage amp will measure better but does not necessarily mean will sound better. True restoration experts take into consideration important parameters like Operating Points, and don't just buy and replace a component from new production materials because they are close enough. They have to consider and preserve the unique tone of the amplifier for example. This why NOS parts sales are increasing. Found any audio components with Western Electric on it and chances are, it will sell.

So, if I'm in your shoes, I will be patient and look for the same amp that had been restored properly. Or better yet, learn to do the restoration yourself, step by step, so you know which one change the character of the amp as you change components inside.

But I will put my money on AB resistors!


To describe an amp by saying it "would impart the same character to just about any speakers I paired it with... Theils... older B&W's... Paradigms..." sounds like a description of coloration to me. Granted, some colorations can by pretty addicting, but they aren't musical truth.

It sounds like Eyediver is finding that newer gear has less of this coloration than the old Scott equipment, and that aging capacitors (with drifting values) were a major contributor to the colored sound in his original gear.

BTW, I go through this sort of thing with my tubed guitar amps. The difference is that they are prized for their colorations.

WOW! Lot's of varied and good suggestions. I had an old Scott amp long ago and will confirm, as other have noted, that a Conrad Johnson MV-55 I had 15 years ago reminds me of the Scott and the MV-55 is still one of those amps that just makes "music". Not the last word in bass slamm or linearity but that's not what you are looking for anyway. It had much of the same sound you seem to be looking for with a few of the traits you like about the Onix or Cayin and you can tube roll to customize the sound further to your liking.

Just my $.02
I too just went to an old amp cj premier 4, and wow it sounds more like music but it isn't as accurate as my ss simaudio w-5???
I too was confused!
But after reading this thread I realize I wasn't losing my marbles.
I would also take a good look at the chinese made audio experience a2se preamp, it's proving to be a killer preamp.
And also make sure the source is good, that is imperitive for a good sound!
I'll never forget when I first heard my Fisher 500C (7591 tubes) - It was the magic we assume brought our forefathers to audio. But as has been said above, it is really colored detail-obscuring lovely grunge. But who cares, Audio is about boxes that reproduce sound, the degree of approximation to music is subjective. So stick with the sound you like it will be much more fun and rewarding than worrying about audiophile stuff. Though I never take my own advice, I love the hard road,

The best option might be to have some one work on the Scott - with the intention of doing a little as possible.

The other is investigating real SET amps, a 2A3 has a different magic. A lot of audiophile have gone down that road (I did). I have a couple of music loving friends who are totally hooked. There are trade offs, but it beats SS - if you love the warmth and comfort of Scott, the most reliable way to get it and keep it is with SET.

Good luck,

FWIW I listen to a lot of old vinyl from back when these vintage tube amps ruled. They sound better than ever on my current system these days. The only tubes are in the ARC pre-amp and phono stage. The ARC tube sound does not really sound noticeably like tubes, more like smooth but detailed SS.

I also have an mhdt Paradisea tube DAC and an mhdt COnstantine SS DAC. With the tube DAC (with stock GE tube) and the ARC, there is noticeable tube warmth and midrange bloom as they say. With a NOS TUng Sol, the sound is more like the SS Constantine. I like the Constantine best with the ARC tube pre. The warm bloomy tube sound is alluring but in the end artificial sounding to me.

DEfinitely not all tube gear is created equal. Different strokes for different folks. I've even been known to go for different strokes from day to day. Variety is the spice of life after all!
First, I would strongly recommend you speak with Will Vincent about his Super Baldwin amps. As for restored Scott equipment, member: cjkinpa has several listed and is a reputable, knowledgeable source for you. I encourage you to speak with both.
There are some great suggestions above. I especially like the Almarro and JAS amps mentioned.

For less money than those though, I purchased the SQ-84 and really love it. It is a 10 watt integrated using two 6v6 tubes per channel with one input but is also a great headphone amp. It has been replaced by the SQ-84v2 version which ups the power to 15 watts, has more inputs, and has remote volume control.

I find the SQ-84 to be extremely magical with the single driver speakers I currently use it with and with most speakers I have tried (save for large, inefficient floor-standers with multiple big woofers and ugly impedance dips well below 2 ohms). The SQ-84 mated tremendously well to the AAD 2001 monitors I owned that are not very efficient at 86-ish dB. The 2001s put out very powerful and controlled bass when driven by the SQ-84, which I really had not expected from only 10 watts.

The SQ-84 v2 is reviewed here: http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/0909/sound_quest_sq_84_v2.htm

Good luck and have fun in your search!!

Like many of the other posters, I think CJ is probably the direction you should be looking towards.
Bro, just get a heavily modded Panasonic box like mine and relax into the music.
Eyediver, I will second the suggestion that you should contact Will Vincent.

If you still have your dyn's, one of Will's st 70's will give you some great tube magic you are looking for.

I don't know what you would be using for a preamp, but maybe if the snow quits I might be able to let you hear my st70 with your speakers.( I bought the black bryston 3bst from you)

I don't remember a pre when I heard the bryston, you just ran your mac cd player directly into the bryston...


You have received a lot of good information and advice here. I will agree with the folks who have pointed you to some of the older CJ gear - I have a Premier 11a and think that it sounds great in my small listening room. But it doesn't sound like the old/original Scott amps I have heard in the past.

A couple of guys have mentioned Manley. Great gear - well built, reliable and sounds great. But IMHO that is about as far away as you can get from your Scott in terms of lush tube bloom.

You have set a challenging list of requirements: "magical", reliable, remote, integrated - all for under a thousand bucks. If you are planning to replace your speakers maybe the posters that suggest a SET amp are advising you in the right direction.
Eyediver, when you do a serious bit of service to an older amplifier, it takes time for those new parts to break in, and for the disturbances that result from the replacement to settle out. It may be way too late for this but I would advise running the amplifier for about 5-6 weeks and see what you think of it then.

One caveat- it is common for a service technician to replace the coupling capacitors in the output section of any older amplifier, as you often see electrical leakage in older capacitors that can be serious concerns for the correct operating point of the output tubes! **IF** these caps were replaced, you might be hearing the amp complaining about them. Most older paper coupling caps while not very good performers were in fact very nice sounding and are actually sought after for some of their qualities.

So I would examine that issue with your technician- if he put cheap coupling caps in they can be removed and replaced with something decent quite easily.
Thanks everyone for taking the time to respond.
Like from my last posts, I have a whole notepad page full of notations and things to further research. You guys are great!

Sounds like I need to check out Conrad Johnson equipment and step into the Single Ended hallway too.

There are a lot of CJ stuff mentioned both old and new. Listed right now are a few mv50 and mv75s. I read some reviews and I think they might fit the bill. I'm leaning toward the mv-50 or waiting for an mv-55 to come around because there are a lot of recommendations for el-34 tubes having what I'm looking for. Any further thoughts/experiences/CJ equipment contrasts would be appreciated.

The JAS and the sound quest sq-84 v2 catch my attention too. An origianl sq-84 just came up for sale I see.

I will be looking into Dynacos and have contacted Will Vincent.
Dave, would love to figure out a time for a listen.

I will continue to check back on this thread (for many month) if there are anymore thoughts that come to mind.
there is an audio note soro for auction, not sub 1K but a nice tubed integrated. i had one, and if you change out the stock tubes it has a really nice sound -- clean but the midrange is very compelling for the $$
I second the Soro fwiw
I'd lean toward a mid 90's or newer Conrad Johnson or newer. If you go with another brand,the same goes for them.It took a lot of years to get the sound right on tube amps again.The Blue Book on Agon is a good reference for the years made.Of course if you want the prices you have to subscribe.CJ has an integrated CAV-50 (non remote I think)that should be close to the MV-55.
I'm curious how long the Scott was run with the new caps. I've been shocked at how long caps can take to "burn in" (for lack of a better expression). I think I'm with Philojet. M aybe things will get better with more time???
Wouldn't surprise me if the old Scott takes on more of its original character over time as the caps break in.
Glow Audio. Excellent

"Pardon me if my words fall short as I've only been at this hobby for several years: The top end was not as extended as some and bottom end was a bit flabby but the thing sounded good on all types of music and soared on vocals and solitary instruments. Tones had a density... a harmonic richness... an aliveness... that made me sit up and listen. There was often an "air" around vocalists and instruments that wasn't so much about 3-dimensional soundstage placement as it was about something "other dimensional(for lack of better words)" Sometimes the sharpness, the "splat" of a horn note from a Cassandra Wilson album would compel me to drop a project in another room and come running into the listening room with my mouth hanging open."

No,your ears did not deceive you......

I heard an old (62?) Eico HF-89 this last weekend and it too, had the trumpet blat your talking about, it was amazing and real and liquid.

Friend this guys amp was in no way out of spec,this guy was a master tech of MANY years,audio is his passion... He was running old Mullard el34 tubes in this amp. I'm going to talk with him about this attribute.... as you and I have the same questions.

I believe. It could be the old Iron,some of the older parts that just sound "better",.......... could be the NOS Mullard tubes.
I going to find out too!
The people who repair this gear KNOW!!!
If they sell this stuff with updated parts,it might not be easy to get real answers.
I'm with you!
FWIW the technology **has** advanced over the last 50 years :) In its day, the Scott was a good amp, but if you look at what it cost and then calculate the decline of the dollar's value during that time (about 10:1), you get an idea of the minimum you would have to spend to get something of similar performance.
Technology has advanced,but has not made better sound, to your majesty, the ears.

I'm using tubes, and they're old technology, 1920's?,and they sound more pleasing than transistors (to me and many others) than the newer technologys.

Salesmanship and marketing gets in the way of truth.

"The Scott developed some coughs and sputters within a few months and I had most of the caps replaced. Magic gone. Still a very nice sounding unit.. bass was more extended and tauter... over all sounded "cleaner" but a lot more... well... solid state."

I want a restored vintage classic,but if I buy a rebuilt one,I fear that magic will be lost too,like what happened to your amp.

Right now, I have Quicksilver mid mono amps with a Mininmax tube preamp, I'm running Gold Lion KT88 reissues in the Quickies. This is as close to the magic sound Ive gotten thus far,and it's pretty good too. Horns dont have that blat sound as the Eico HF 89 did though...
Inflation calculator Link>>[http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm]
It's great that here at Audiogon,we can buy used!

Really de-flates those inflated prices a lot.

The trick is to FIND the piece that satisfies.

Not just throw money around.

I believe I can help here as someone who owns several Fishers. It is the caps. I have done a very long thread on this very subject. I too was fascinated at the astonishing qualities of these vintage pieces.

I don't mean to high jack this thread, but I think this other component can take your systems to a higher level. Try and hear the Vpi Classic tt, it took my system to a new high. Way more musical than other tt, and everything else that audiophiles look for!!!
Tobias said, "the most musical, involving tube gear I have ever heard was made by Audiomat . . ."

I concur. Some of the best sounds I've heard out of a box were being amplified by an Audiomat Arpege about 7-8 years ago. I wish I could find a used one. I have a Triode Electronics-upgraded ST-70 and it's okay, though certainly not magical to my ears, at least in its current incarnation with stock power transformer and Siemens output tubes.
Try a used Hovland HP-100 preamp (if you can find one)