Tube Amp Recommendation for a solid state guy

After years of using solid state amps I'm thinking of purchasing a tube amp. My current amp is a Bryston 4B ST, it's a great neutral amp w/ loads of power but I always feel like I want more warmth and mid bass bloom.

I've been researching various tube amps from new "Chinese" imports to older / vintage units and I'm unsure which is the right amp for me. I mostly listen to modern blues, rock and Jazz so I want an amp with guts and power. My biggest concern with tubes is there apparent lack of "kick" so I'm hoping to find the best of both worlds.

My budget is $750 - $1,500 and I'm not afraid of buying second hand. Can anyone make a recommendation?


What speakers are you currently using?
Do you know what the specifications are for them?
(i.e. sensitivity and impedance?)

Your current amp has 250 wpc into 8 ohms. That is a lot of power, and if your speakers need that kind of power, it will be difficult to get a quality tube amp for the budget you have stated.
Just my 2cents....I have an ONYX SP7 INTEGRATED (45watts/channel) and it powers my Thiel 2.4's with plenty of umph...Thiels are 87-88 db. I also use a Mac MC2500 (500wpc) with the Thiels...and Im not let down at all by that little 45wpc amp. So, as far as tube amps go...I would recommend a used VTL amp. Wonderfull bass and the overall sound is quite surprising when you are use to SS.
Let me make a correction...I have a MELODY SP7...interchangeable with ONYX SP3...except for the 38 vs 45 watt difference.
The way I achieve "the best of both worlds is to mate a tube preamp with a SS amp. I also use a tubed CD player. Good listening, Jeff
No amp recommendations can be made before your speaker's sensitivity and impedance curve specifications are known.
Class A transistor amps have many of the characteristics of tubes and solid state but tend to be out of your budget. One of the older Pass Alph (?) Amps might be worth looking at. I would try to borrow a tube preamp as Yoby suggests and see how you like it. There are transistors out there with a more tube like sound than Bryston, but Tvad is right, it depends on what speakers you are using. Have you tried the Bryston on other speakers?
I have two sets of speakers that I use interchangeably, Mission Volare V62 (88db) and Definitive Technology BP2000TL (92db).

The more I think about it the more I realize that maybe a tube pre is the way to go instead. The main reason I was considering a tube amp is I love my pre / pro (Arcam AVP700) and the ability to watch (listen) to DVD concerts in 5.1 DTS. I was a 2 channel guy for years but finally converted (to the dark side) after hearing a friends Bryston/Totem surround system.

I guess I'm derailing my own thread but are there any reasonably priced tube preamp / processors out there?

Thanks for the responses.
You may want to take a look at the Chinese preamps offered by Pacific Valve & Electric:

I have no experience with any of them, but I recently purchased a Chinese-made power amp from a dealer on eBay for around $700, a Paxthon VTA-160 (80W/channel using eight EL34's per side). I run it with 90db speakers, listening to mostly classical music. I've been delighted with its sound, and especially struck by the big image it somehow projects, which I wasn't expecting. It's construction quality appears top-notch, also (it isn't particularly big but weighs nearly 60 pounds!).

I'd suspect that you would want significantly more power, though, which would mean significantly more $, and so I agree that a tube pre-amp would probably be a more logical choice for you.
Correction to my previous post: The VTA-160 uses four EL34's per side (eight total), not eight per side. Also, I should have entered the Pacific Valve link as follows:
what exactly does it mean to match impedance with a speaker. In practical terms...what do you do to make sure you have a good match?
I've heard some say that tube amps actually make more difference, if you're doing 1/2 solid state and 1/2 tubes. It would be really great if you could borrow some piece of tube gear, amp or pre-amp, and give it a try. If you want more warmth and mid-bass bloom, no question that you're headed in the right direction. A lot of tube gear has really great presence...I don't think you're going to have any problem with the kick you're looking for.

One thing worth considering is that some tube gear has less of the "tube" sound than you may want. Some say that tube and transistor gear are all starting to sound more and more similar. I think there's some truth to that, especially with ARC, for example. There is a fair amount of information and opinion about these issues floating around Audiogon.
How about a hybrid power amp like the Vincent Audio SP-331.
Do you use mostly CD or vinyl as well?

If your source is primarily digital, a tube DAC may be the least expensive way to get what your looking for.

For under $500, you might pick up a MHDT Paradisea used. The stock GE tube or trying other substitutes would give you some flexibility in achieving your desired sound. MIT interconnects (the less expensive Terminator line specifically) work magic in conjunction with the Paradisea, I have found.
I've had a great experience with bi-amplification using tube and SS amps. For the amplifier with larger power you will need an extra volume control to adjust balance by ear. Although you might have to adjust it every time you'd like to change to a larger volume, I'd still consider it's better than removing the built-in speaker crossover and using an electronic one.
Fosgate FAP V1

Now you have me thinking too...
If a used mfa d75 shows up I would grab it; 75 watts with 6550 tubes and plays like it has double that.
I have said it before but here goes.

If you want to see what tubes do , then do tubes !
By that I mean go all of the way and see what is there . If you go part way you will only see part of what tubes do .

Who knows you may find what you are looking for . If not you can always sell the tubed equipment , if bought properly , and then go the part way route .

I would look for an integrated tube amp that has the versatility of using many different types of tubes . You can experiment around and hear the different sounds that different types of tubes make , both input and output . Different amounts of tube effects or warmness can be achieved this way .

I like the Primaluna Prologue 2 . With stock tubes you will get a slightly warmed up SS sound with good top end extension and a slightly rolled off base . By changing the input tubes , you can warm up the mids and base , extend the base and not loose the very nice highs . If that is not enough , you can start experimenting with the output tubes for more or less of the tube warmth thing . There are at least 4 different types , and sounds , of output tubes that this amp can use . Varying combinations will give you varying amounts of the tube sound that you are looking for . Quite a versatile piece and fairly well built .

There are three used ones for sale here within your budget .

If you go this route you will not need to disturb your present setup . This integrated should work with either of your speakers , although the 92db. ones may be better . Oh and it is self/auto biasing making it quite easy to use and tube roll . The only real downside is no remote .

Just my 2 cents worth .

Good luck .
How about a Prima Luna? There well built and very powerfull for its size. Or even Rogue for that matter.
I can also recommend the PrimaLuna - I went with the Dialouge 2 myself. I would not recommend the Rogue, though, unless perhpas you listen to alot of hard rock or metal, they are very edgy sounding.
I'm a long time tube user, but also a huge Bryston fan. I think if I were going to start from your angle, I would get one of those Musical Fidelity tube stages and run it through the processor loop on the Bryston. I'm sort of surprised Bryston isn't making a tube card insert for the 4BST. So yes, there is a tube 'processor'. It also has the advantage of being reasonably priced. Or Pathos would be a good 'little integrated' choice. You might even be able to pick up a Cary SLI80 in that range.