I would think that preserving the fidelity of the recording is important at the source. A tubed stage further down the chain makes much more sense to me.
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2 general suggestions to provide the lush, non "digital" sounding digital signal you want:
1 - Any resistor ladder (R2 R) DAC, as opposed to the more common delta-sigma design;
2 - And the ultimate R2 R variant: non-oversampling.
I own 1 of each, both DACs made by Audio GD, a Chinese manufacturer well respected & reviewed on Head-Fi.org in connection w/desktop audio. But I think these DACs are so good they would serve quite nicely in a big living room system.
My ultimate preference is the NOS 19, Audio GD's previous line of non-oversampling R2 R DACs. There are still a few left for purchase at Magna HiFi in the Netherlands (that's where I bought mine). This is my day-to-day DAC, and its sound is far and away the best I've ever heard from any digital device. I do a lot of listening through headphones, so I'm really hearing it all...yes, it's warm, lush, and dark. Also very musical, organic, relaxed. The bass is excellent, but it's not dry, as digital so often is. It sounds quite full and a bit "wet" (opposite of dry: rounded, slightly soft edges while at the same time dynamic & hard-hitting...a very pleasing sound IMO).
I was so impressed by the NOS 19 that I purchased the DAC 19, the non-oversampling variant of the same design (also from Magna HiFi).
New, shipped to the US, one of these units is ~$900. You can find used DAC 19's from 2015 onward (the latest software generation) for ~$600-$650.
BTW, either of these units can be configured with 2 X RCA output pairs--an extremely useful feature, at least in the desktop system, where I have one pair driving a headphone amp/preamp (to powered monitors + sub); and the other pair driving a 2nd headphone amp. After living with this convenience, I wouldn't want to do without it....
The cheapest Lampizator dac (Amber) starts at about 1200 euro and they have the sound I think you're after. Audio Note UK (not AN kits) also make excellent "analogue-sounding" dacs but, I think, not in your price range. However, you could probably find one secondhand. Another option would be the Line Magnetic LM-502CA, which would be around $1000 secondhand. All of these offer a non-fatiguing sound with excellent timbre.
Have a look at Darko Dac Index at http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/the-darko-dac-index/, warm ,lush ,and dark are literary examples he commonly uses in reviews.
I have a Audio-gd DAC and I like dealing direct with this company. Their customer service responses are timely, within 24 hrs, friendly, and they offer custom options with some gear.
Disclosure: I rep for both of these DACs, but I chose to do so because of their performance and actually make very little money on sales
I third the MHDT suggestion, they sound perfect, and the Border Patrol DAC is also a great one.
Some really good deals on Wavelength DACs going around right now as well, and I highly recommend them (I don't sell them). I had a Brick for a long time that I would still have if I didn't need more input options.
Regarding DSD and MQA . . . just get a good recording and immerse yourself. If I have to listen to someone ask what file type is playing before they actually listen to the music, I will probably just grimace internally, but I'll want to scream.
I have the Mytek Manhatten I and would not describe it as warm, lush, or dark. More like a antiaircraft searchlight and and an XRay machine combined in data retrieval—if it’s on the recording, you will hear it, now matter how submerged. Beautiful recordings will sound that way, but it doesn’t prettify ugly sounding ones
For SPDif the Rega DAC-r using filter 3 and fed via a Belden 4794R cable (with a BNC to RCA adapter at the DAC end) this combo let the emotion flood out. When first tried using a Chord Shawline it failed to excite but with the Belden (~$20 from blue jeans cable) it came to life. I fed it from a Naim Core, I never tried USB its USB imput.