Looking for recommendations for integrated with a more “organic” sound.

Hello all,

I hope that you are all doing well, and that I might tap into your collective knowledge base and experience to find a new amplifier. 

Current system includes Bluesound Node2>Denafrips Enyo>Dayens Ampino>Zu DW6 Superflys. I stream probabaly 95% but maybe 5% is vinyl or CD. I sometimes use it to watch movies in 2.0, but that’s not my main concern. 

I’m really enjoying the sound of this setup. Very organic with nice harmonic richness. Surprisingly good bass extension and smooth and pleasant highs. Imaging is good. 

What I would like to do is preserve that natural and organic sound, while also adding more inputs (Ampino only has 2) improving bass definition/control and impact, and perhaps elevating detail retrieval. I would trade a bit of smoothness for a bit more HF extension. A basic remote is also on the checklist. 

My budget is maybe $2500, but I’m not in a desperate position, I could potentially stretch it a little if I wait. 

New units are preferred, but I would consider used if it achieves my goals. 
I’m open to SS or tubes, but cost of the tubes is a concern. I’m susceptible to tuberoll-itis. Speakers are pretty sensitive, so mega-watts are not required. 

The system is in a medium sized living room which has 9” ceilings and is open to a kitchen and dining room, so there’s lots of volume. Most listening is at moderate volumes, but I’ve been known to crank it on occasion. Musical tastes are extremely varied. 
basically, I’m looking to maintain the organic tone and natural presentation while improving performance, adding input options (3 minimum) and adding remote. 

I don’t want a DAC, but a better-than-basic phono stage would be a bonus. I’m more interested in performance than features.

Is there anything out there that might fit the bill? 

Thank you in advance for your input. 




Subjective, like everything.

Tube amp to my ears.

Tube everything-preamp,amp and phonostage.Tube FM tuner also, in my case.

No particular brand suggestion, there are plenty of integrated options in your price range. Used especially will get you something nice. 

Perhaps a Sugden? Phono stage, no tubes but you would never guess there isnt a tube in there somewhere.

unison research integrateds use tubes in the preamp stage thy can come with a phono stage

they are hand made in italy and have enough power to drive most loudspeakers


dave and Troy

audio Intellect NJ

Unison Research dealer

Sansui integrated of the golden era ... AU series or the alpha series...

I never look back...Unrivaled controls varieties and flexibility ...

Ratio S.Q. price is over the roof...

I dont need to upgrade...At the price paid i am in fear about any upgrade....Anyway i dont even imagine one...( i tried to upgrade my Sansui  alpha amplifier serving my headphone with a tube top dedicated amplifier and pre amplifier a microzotl, i send it back after one hour)

Read acoustics science basic which is not about mere room acoustic and quit audio reviews purchase spree...😊

Audiophile experience at 1000 bucks is possible if we know how...

ghasley - 

I have heard good things about Sugden. I see there are a couple used units out there.... Tempting. Thanks for the input!


mahgister - 

I hadn't really given the "vintage" option much thought. I have a number of older units, but TBH the upkeep can be a drag.

How would you rate the reliability and upkeep costs?

You must know a competent tech to put some vintage in a well working state...

But even with these cost a Sansui alpha can beat most competition in the ratio S.Q. price...

I was lucky i know a tech who did well at low cost for my Sansui AU 7700... The more recent Alpha 607i does not need more than a few adjustment...

Read about the alpha series....

You will pay way more than their cost to beat them...With luck and it is related to your specific needs you can buy an AU series piece at low cost.... Alpha series are costlier and Japanese had not sold them much outside Japan because of the Yen level at these times...

Read about them... Dont buy in a hurry....

My first amplifier was a low cost Sugden...😊

mahgister -

I hadn’t really given the "vintage" option much thought. I have a number of older units, but TBH the upkeep can be a drag.

How would you rate the reliability and upkeep costs?

Agree on the recommendation of the hybrid Unison integrated as it’s got tubes in the input stage and MOSFET solid state output that’s high biased toward Class A-type sound. As the tubes are only on the input side so they should last a long while and probably are not overly expensive to replace. That’s a very nice combo of design features for what you’re looking for, and there are reviews out there that’d be worth reading. This authorized dealer offers free shipping and a 30-day return policy…

Hope this helps, and best of luck.

I would look at the more expensive Lebem tube integrated.  One of the best sounding integrateds I have ever heard.  Almost makes me want to trade my McIntosh SS integrated for one.  Note I said almost.

Not sure of your price range, but I just bought a pair of PS Audio BHK 300 Mono block amps and their BHK preamp. They both have tubes inputs and Mosfet outputs so you can get the best of both worlds especially tube rolling.

All the best.

Thanks for a host of suggestions, folks. Several I’ve not considered before. 
I appreciate your input very much. 


Have you considered it might be your speakers more than the amp holding things back? 

The Gryphon audioDiablo  is a great start, Dartzeel is another 

for much less money Aesthetix  mimus is verygood and uses 2 small preamp tubes .


I'm very pleased with a Rega Elex Mk4,that to my ears sounds quite "organic." If you could spring for the Elicit Mk5, that would be better. Both have a very good phono section.

Hi there I’m not sure if you’ll find one in the us and unfortunately you’ll have to get a separate phono stage but if you can find a Graaf gm50b or the gm50b mkii even better I think it will have the sound that you are looking for and blow the socks off most of the competition hopefully you do a bit of research into this amazing amplifier and good luck in your search for your next amplifier 

Another hybrid amplifier you might consider it the Pathos Classic Model One MKIII. 

I once owned one and wish I never sold it. It would be in my living room system driving my Tannoy Sterlings now. 

Luxman 507x or 509x/z. We still do not know your budget. The thing I love about Luxman integrated amps is they can be an amp/ preamp/ or an integrated. They have optional tone controls which is great for not so great records, and can push most speakers. I hope this helps  

I am not sure what would or would not qualify as "organic." If you are looking for what some people term a "musical"  as opposed to a precise presentation, then class A amps, Musical Fidelity A1 or possibly a Sugden A21 SE Signature might fit your description. The Sugden has only line level inputs, so no phono stage, and you would probably need a phono preamp if your turntable does not have one. The Musical Fidelity has a phono preamp. Neither amp has a lot of wattage--class-A and all-- but both are known to drive difficult loads well. I have a Sugden, running with a pair of JBL 4349s and am very happy with it. With Zu speakers, I would think you would have no problem. The Musical Fidelity is very well reviewed in its current version. I wouldn't worry about the heat factor, yes, they get warm, but if you aren't stuffing your amp inside a rack with no ventilation, it is no problem. I don't think it is much different than AB amps I have had (with more power.)

A used KRELL k300i integrated at around $5-6k is a Class A (mostly) with a smooth buttery sound, with decent details, and powerful. The DAC module is OK and super convenient. It also has great ROON READY integration with built-in RJ45 streaming. You can improve on both the DAC and streamer (go fibre). However, that would not be an essential thing to do since the DAC module is rather good.

If "organic" matches my definition a pre-owned Norma IPA-140 is a stellar but slightly over budget($2500?) option

Thanks all, for your additional suggestions. 
I guess I buried the lead: budget is around $2500 so some of these are out of reach at the moment. 

Lots to look into and research. 

thanks again. 

Rogue Sphinx v3 - phono pre-amp that supports MM&MC - universally regarded as the best budget integrated or step up into Chrono, etc.

Sugden A21SE integrated already mentioned.  It’s really that good.  I’m listening to the older version right now through ATC 7 baby monitors.  Class A amplification is quite remarkable…..when done properly.  Best of luck finding your sound.

@mboldda1 I’m with you.  Reading AND math skills fail!  At least the Sugden suggested can be found used for the $2500 and possibly a bit more stated by OP.

I have a Margules ACRH3 hybrid integrated. IMO has a beautiful organic sound, musical and solid. The MM phono preamp is excellent. It’s been discontinued as Margules has rolled out a new version, ACRH4. 
a couple that have been mentioned I have wanted to listen to, the Sugden, Lebem and PS Audio. I believe all can be found “pre-loved” within your budget.

I love how people want a better piece of equipment and then they give you the budget and it’s WAY TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE and you can’t have better for that price!

if your budget is $2500 that means the damn thing cost $500 to build there is zero room in that budget to make anything but the chassis of a good piece of equipment with no room in your budget for any electronics to go inside at audio grade levels!

if you want a decent integrated amplifier, you need a budget of at least 10-20 grand. I’m sorry anything under that your getting av receiver Best Buy level parts.

Many people here have put together budget and mid-priced systems that they enjoy by creating a pleasing, synergistic whole, often by trial and error.

Some sound like parrots indoctrinated by reviewers and sent out into the world to show us the light.


if you want a decent integrated amplifier, you need a budget of at least 10-20 grand. I’m sorry anything under that your getting av receiver Best Buy level parts.

Respectully, the above statement is untrue. Certainly there are better devices at various escalating price tiers, but to say the OP’s efforts are futile to try to improve his/her system at the stated budget isn’t helpful and just isnt true. There are gains to be made and there have been many helpful suggestions.


@doyle3433 unfortunately, there are no Lebens at or even near the OP’s stated budget. Additionally, no inboard phono stage on any Lebens.


@earworm22 hang in there. You can accomplish your goal, just be patient. Find a Naim, Sugden, Rega and perhaps even a Unison Research in your price range with a phono stage. Buy from a reputable seller and recognize that many here are chirping their own gear or exercising that their definition of great is better than everyone else’s. With the Zu speakers, a little current will benefit the tonal balance and whatever you end up getting doesn’t have to be your final destination. You will learn along the way what checks your boxes and will inform your future upgrades. Everyone’s advice, especially mine, is worth exactly what you are paying for it….zero. Some is worth less than zero…LOL.

He must think very highly of my Dayens Ampino. Apparently, nothing under $10,000 is an improvement. 😉

I will add an anecdote from my own experience. When I picked up my Volti Razz speakers from Greg of Volti, we listened to music well into the night. First it was on a pair of prototype flagship's he has been working on to update the Vittora. A top hifi experience in my life for sure. He switched between Border Patrol power and a Cary SLI80HS. Then we did the same with a pair of Razz. Both power units sounded excellent to my ears. The control, the sweetness and refinement, the musical and open soundstage. What struck me was what I can only describe as the presence of the human voice floating in the room, right in front of me. The chest cavity sound of male voice.. Were there differences between the two amplifiers, sure. But were the differences necessicaily negative, not in my book. As I understand it the price difference between the Border Patrol and the Cary is about $5k.. I was so impressed with the synergy between the Cary and the Volti I ordered my own. I am thrilled I tell ya!

I look at it like this. Would I love to have a Porsche GT3 RS? You bet your sweet ass I would! However what I can afford is a Mazda MX-5 from the 2000's and a Triumph TR6 from the 70's. This does not diminish my enjoyment in the least, in fact I might argue that i enjoy them more since I've wrenched extensively on both of them, and I don't have a panic attack while driving, afraid someone immersed in their phone is going to hit me. 

As my daddy used to say... "It's more fun to drive a slower car quickly, than a fast car slowly". 

Anyway what do I know, I'm just a guy who likes pie. 


Are those pictures over your stereo the "Big Boy" locomotive my nephews love to talk about?

Sounds like you have great sounds.

@mboldda1    Yes, the Norma IPA-140 usually sell for around $4k in top level condition. I did let the OP know that it was slightly over his budget but in return you receive top level sonics and build quality that few new < $10k integrated amps possess.

@jetter Thank you my friend. My system is always a work in progress and it works for me. Other than the music itself, I really enjoy the process of hunting down, researching and getting to audition gear.

The two prints I have hanging are from my dad’s old office. He was a steam locomotive fan. My brother and I have many fond memories visiting museums and attending train shows with our pop. I believe one is a Berkshire class, the other I can’t remember off hand. I’m not sure if they were considered to be in the big-boy class. You gave me an excuse to do some research!

I hesitated to mention this because of its cost. But it fits so well with the sound quality you are looking for and is a very high quality component. Maybe you could take your time and look for a used unit: Audio Research I-50 ($6K new). Even if you decide you could not afford one, I highly recommend finding an audio store where you can listen to one. It would at least make an outstanding reference for you to judge other units.


How does one bias the tubes in the I50? Is it user performed or take it back to the dealer?

That is a good question. It is recommended when changing tubes. So that is 2,000 hours for the 6550WE tube and 4,000 hours for a 6922 power tubes. They say a technician. I saw the procedure it is not hard. But there is high voltage inside the chassis long after the power is disconnected. I think they do not want anyone to electrocute themselves. When I was working that would have been about every 2.5 years.

Yamaha is about the only SS option (with sensible power) under $2500 that meets your sonic objective.

Scrolled through most of the comments, Im surprised no one mentioned the Technics SU G 700 MkII

That's a very good point @tweak1 

I am intrigued by the Technics. I think the 700 and it's bigger brother are fine looking pieces and from what I read, sound wonderful. I've been hesitant to try a class D or any variation, maybe I'm showing my age.. Maybe I'm just sitting on the fence about them until i feel confident that they've worked out all the bugs and are here to stay. 


Ive been in the hobby for 6+ decades. Done my share of tube and class A/AB. I moved to class D over 10 years ago with W4S, PS Audio, and of late a EVS 1200 by Ric Schutz, based on dual IcePower AS 1200 modules and lots of his special pixie dust. I also have a LSA Voyager GaN 350. Both are exceptional amplifiers, regardless of type

I am really interested in the PS audio integrated. Price is good too.. may be my way into class D. Apologies to the OP, a little sidebar.

It’s interesting that not many people around here appear to be have turned on to the Lyngdorf approach to Class D design.

There are too many different aspects of how their TDAI integrated amps are both different and innovative to mention w/o writing a real long winded post.

But I will mention their Room Perfect software because I read so many reviews and articles before I dropped the bucks and It’s almost unanimous that they do it better. The results allowed my speakers to really sing. The way it integrates bass, especially, is like wow in effect.

Ok, I will mention one more unique feature and that’s their “voicings”. I would call it an audiophile version of tone control.

The vast majority of the time I leave mine on the Focused (listening position) and Neutral setting, which is like the name imlpies neutral, because I get a very nice and balanced sound out of my equipment. But the Voicings allow me to add more bass or more bass x2 and it’s entirely innovative, how they do it … not by adding one iota of bass frequencies, but by employing a sound curve that takes some of the mid and higher frequencies out of the curve. It illustrates the curve on each of the settings.

My understanding is that Peter Lyngdorf likes to call the TDAI amps a Power Dac and that the electronic design is the equivalent of a wire with gain, how it operates in the real world.

This is not your father’s Class D. And very interesting that more folks haven’t turned on to the innovative approach because it’s uniquely cool. There’s a little brother and big brother, essentially, and they both produce exactly the same sound excepting that the big brother has both more power and more adaptability.

Reason I shared all of this is that a number of the reviewers commented on how organic the sound is, which seems to match what you’re looking for.

Hi all,

Some very interesting suggestions here. Thank you all for your contributions.

As for Yamaha, I actually just sold off my A-S1200 as it does not pair well with my Zu's IMHO. Sounded much better with the Wharfedales I had previously. The midrange is much too thin and it lacked low bass weight for me.

I didn't mention it before, but I am not looking at class-D at the moment. The one amp I tried was impressive in many ways, but an even worse match and after talking to the manufacturer, he agreed that high impedence speakers tend not to pair as well with some class-D amps.

With different speakers, however, I could definitely understand the advantages of a well-implemented class-D design.