The tube amplifier market is full of boutique brands from around the world all with their own designs, audio profiles, and quirks. Linear Tube Audio (LTA) has been building preamplifiers, power amplifiers, headphone amps, and other high-end audio products since 2015. Linear Tube Audio MZ2 was the company’s flagship tube amplifier based on David Berning’s complex ZOTL technology. The original micro-ZOTL technology is considered by some as the best tube amplifier circuitry ever designed. Is this still true for the MZ2? Let’s take a look and find out.
Linear Tube Audio MZ2 Specs
Linear Tube Audio MZ2 Design
As to be expected with a high-end tube amp, the MZ2 features a basic, no-frills design aesthetic with no exciting design features. Having said that, the top of the MZ2 features a plexiglass top plate which allows you to see the tubes glowing in the belly of the MZ2. On the front of the MZ2, you’ll find a single rotary volume control, power switch, input selector and ¼-inch headphone output.
One thing to note is the MZ2 features an external power supply which some people might not like, however, I think this is a major positive. For one, it means the amplifier itself runs significantly cooler than other tube amplifiers because most of the heat is coming off the power supply. Secondly, because the power supply is separate, the amplifier produces almost zero noise – which is something I certainly appreciate. Linear Tube Audio supplies you with a high-quality power cable to connect the power supply to the MZ2.
MZ2 Inputs & Outputs
The MZ2 features 3 x RCA line inputs with a single RCA preamp output. In addition, there are stereo speaker outputs which can efficiently drive most bookshelf speakers from 2 to 16 ohms and above. As mentioned, on the front of the MZ2 is a ¼-inch headphone output which is capable of driving headphones from 16 to 600 ohms.
One thing audio enthusiasts will love is the ability to customize your MZ2 at the time of ordering via the Linear Tube Audio website. For output tubes, you have the option of the Tung-sol 6SN7 or NOS 12SN7. There are two major differences between these two tubes and yet, for the most part, they sound very similar (just don’t tell the audiophiles I said that). The first difference being the filament voltage which is 12.6 on the 12SN7 and 6.3 on the 6SN7. The second difference is the price with the 12SN7 coming in cheaper than the 6SN7.
Another option you have available is with or without a volume remote control. In both options, the MZ2 utilizes the Alps Blue Velvet pot with the volume control option using a motorized version controlled by an Apple Remote. Sonically, there is no difference between the MZ2 with or without volume control but it does add to the cost.
You also have the choice of the standard MZ2 power supply or the LPS+, more superior linear power supply. According to Linear Tube Audio, the LPS+ “is a much better supply utilizing super low ESR caps and a super low noise Belleson regulator”. It’s important to note the LPS+ adds an extra $650 to the price. This is only going to be necessary for the super audiophiles who are particular about every detail of their equipment and audio. If you just want a badass tube amp, then the regular PSU will suffice.
In addition to choosing a power supply, you also have the option of upgrading the power cable to one made of more superior materials and composites.
If you only wish to use the MZ2 as a preamp, you have the option of removing the speaker binding posts and replacing them with dual preamp outputs. This service is offered at no extra cost.
Lastly, you have the option of a plexiglass top plate with two 1.5-inch holes above the tubes. This is to allow for the use of tubes which are taller than the 6SN7 or 12SN7. If you’re a tube freak, this might be an option to consider.
What About the Sound?
Sonically, the MZ2 is an absolute dream to listen to. When you first listen to audio through the MZ2 you immediately realize why someone would consider this to be the best tube amplifier circuitry ever designed. Everything you listen to just sounds fantastic. The warmth and detail the MZ2 delivers is nothing short of breathtaking. Once you listen to the MZ2 you’ll be excited about what the amplifier can do for every piece of audio you’ve ever heard. Forget about any tube amplifier you have heard before, the MZ2 is completely different. Zero noise floor, unbelievable dynamics, warm, tight low-end, and a rich tonality that’s unique to the MZ2.
What’s in the Box?
Included with the Linear Tube Audio MZ2:
- MZ2 tube amplifier
- MZ2 external power supply
- DC power cable
If we were to give it a star rating, the MZ2 would get 5 out of 5 and then some. Not only does the MZ2 blow you away sonically but it’s just shy of $1,300 for the standard model. For a tube amplifier with such incredible sonic ability and customization, that’s unbelievable value for money you just won’t find anywhere else.