What are the best hybrid and otl tube amps under $500?

what are your thoughts? don’t just say a model because it’s under $500…if you mention why, justify why you think it’s deserving. if you think a model is deserving but has cons, share them as well please.

you can mention used, but I’d like to keep the items as new at the budget level specified.

Liquid Platinum is the only one I know and own. Can be found around the $400 region often on places like Head-fi. Best amp I own and pairs so unbelievably good with my T1.2 and Aeons. Single ended is typically not as powerful as the balanced port. Haven’t found really any issues with it… sounds more like a solid state with some added tubeyness rather than a tube amp. Really opens up my headphones and adds quite a bit more clarity and warmth to the lows and mids. I think one of the cons though is I don’t think it sounds as good on my warmer headphones that have some dark tendencies like the tygr300r. It just doesn’t sound right to me same with the nighthawk carbons. Does great for bright headphones or more balanced


indeed, however I’d like to hear of options that are ‘new’ within the budget.

Bottle head crack with speedball if you want OTL in this price point, it’s hard to beat

ZDT Jr, only available used and transformer coupled
Shortest Wave 51+, I think he’s still got parts for 20 he’ll sell, transformer coupled

Things I haven’t heard
Schiit’s valve amps
Tor nick
Little Dot various
Little Bear various

Things I have and think are passable
Dark voice, it’s OK for the price
Massdrop CTH, it’s OK for the price
Loxjie p20, it’s pretty terrible

Things to consider if it’s an audiophile $500
Liquid platinum
Feliks Echo
Tor Roger


how is the Valhalla 2?

How’s a bottle head w/o speedball?

Since you mention the Tor amps, have you heard them? Since i want to upgrade my Darkvoice to end of this year i was thinking of an Roger Amp because they are available in europe. Other thing is the Crack. Crack is a no brainer i guess, but its USA aswell, so taxes and shipping push up the price i guess.
Feliks Echo seems pretty good too.
Interested in this topic aswell.

I think I covered this in the Bottlehead Crack thread.
It’s still a good amp, better than a Dark voice, but it’s not particularly refined, doesn’t control the drivers as well as with the speedball. The speedball is a significant improvement IMO.
There are people who prefer it without speedball, so YMMV.

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I have not, I was considering getting a Roger or a Balanced, but about the last thing I need right now is another <$1000 tube amp taking up desk space.
I believe @M0N has heard the roger, but I don’t believe it was for an extended period.
For point of reference, tube amps under $1000 I have on my desk right now.

Bottle Head Crack with speedball - would strongly recommend, it’s competitive with anything under $1000 with the right headphones
Haggerman Tuba - would recommend, would take it over the BHC if you prefer a dryer sound
SW51+ - competitive with the Tuba, at a lower price point, but not readily available
Eddie Current ZDT Jr - Only available used, great bargain at the price, would take the others over it.
Liquid Platinum - Good clean hybrid, not a big valve sound see my comments on it in the forum
MassDrop CTH - Ok for the price if you neeed a hybrid

I think that’s it right now.


Thank you.

I know they’re out of budget…but any experience with MAD amps?

in your opinions, especially those based on experience, what are the step ups from the following:

Crackhead Bottle w/Speedball
Monolith Liquid Platimum

Better than the liquid platinum? Blasphemy! lol actually curious on this one though. Honestly curious as to what people consider to be the best hybrid tubes based on budget.

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I’ve heard and keep on hearing really good things about the Liquid Platinum. For a OTL i would go with bottlehead crack. I got the Darkvoice but i dont think it really competes with those

Never got to really use the Liquid Plat when I had one for a short time, but just bought a Hafler HA75 v1 that should be a pretty interesting hybrid to play with that I hope competes. Originally retailed for $1300, but can now be found in the $500 range here and there. It has a tube buffer circuit in the case enclosure with adjustable feedback and cross feed.

no idea what ‘adjustable feedback and cross feed’ mean’/ EIL5?

There’s a dial to adjust the level of negative feedback being used, which is what determines the level of ‘tubiness’ that comes through. The crossfeed is a control that lets you determine how much to allow the left/right channels to bleed into each other. This is designed to mimic listening to a pair of studio monitors, and from what I’ve read is supposed to help improve staging.

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I can’t really comment of direct upgrades, amps just sound different to me.
There are higher tier OTL amps like the Glenn’s (a which I haven’t heard).
The original Cavali Liquid Crimson would be the obvious step from the Platinum (it’s the amp he based the Platinum on).

There is something of a no mans land in the 1-2K range, and arguably it’s worth holding out for the step into the $3K+ range, because it opens up a lot more options.
The higher tier A&S, DNA, Eddie Current, Decware, MicroZOTL, Woo, amps are all very good and very different to each other, and I’m just scratching the surface of US Made bespoke amps. You also have none US made amps.

Tube amp designs haven’t fundamentally changed in 50 years, but it’s all about the details.

Bottlehead and MAD both have several models in the $1000+ range, most of them are for high impedance headphones, but they have some that use a different tech that let them behave like a hybrid, yet actually aren’t.

Feel free to correct me if im wrong but that appears to be an unbalanced tube amp? I don’t see the tubes either to switch them to a seperate sounding tube. Color me confused due to inexperience with these style of tube amps.