Any Experience With Conrad Johnson ET3 Preamp?


Was wondering about this new entry level preamp which is supposedly a baby GAT.

Does anyone have any experience with it? There don;t seem to be any reviews as yet. Was thinking of perhaps matching it with a Krell power amp.

Mine just arrived yesterday. (ET3-SE)

I've always been a big fan of CJ or equiv. tubed front end to big solid-state amp.

Still only a few hours on it so I'll reserve final judgment for when it has a bit more miles on it.
I would be interested in any commemts on this new preamp from Conrad Johnson too. Rayooo any opnions from you woudl be appreciated.
I don't claim to be any kind of expert at reviewing audio gear. About all I can state for sure is that I know what I like and don't like in audio.

I've owned nothing but ribbon/planar speakers now for 20 years, which have always been driven by solid state pwr amps.

I despise overly bright, etched, detailed sound.
I love a nice tight focused sound stage, I'll take focus&depth at the expense of a little width any day.

liquid mid-range is by far more important to me than big-time nasty bass.

In general I'd fall into the tube camp, but I've never owned a tubed pwr amp, (unless one counts that old Moscode 300 semi-tube amp I owned many years ago)

The ET3SE has replaced a Classic SE most recently. Prior preaamps were unity gain buffered. (home built) and a another tube preamp.

Initially the ET3 sounded very much more detailed than my classic with little warmth.. I was worried.
Bass very similar to Classis, Soundstage width about the same, soundstage depth a bit more on ET3.

Fortunately, after roughly 10hrs, the warmth is coming on.
at this point the ET3 meets or exceeds the Classic SE in every regard in my opinion. The ET3 seems pretty dramatically more detailed, tighter focus and I get more sense of the recording space ambiance. Maybe the improved inner detail is responsible for all this. Fortunately this added detail is beneficial without making my skin crawl like is so often the case with laser sharp systems.

My general comment would be that the ET3 sounds less tube-like in one sense as it's for sure more detailed, but on the other hand it still has the warmth I enjoy so much.

I have the option to keep my ClassicSE or, keep the ET3. at this point it's no contest. keeping ET3

all of the above is of course IMHO, and surely YMMV.
Hey there Rayooo,

Just wondering if you decided to stick with the ClassicSE or, keep the ET3...
I noticed that your system link still shows the Classic?
The CJ ET-3 SE exceeds the classic se in every way ,
More Teflon caps, vishay resisitors , the best preamp under $5k you are likely to hear.
I have the ET3 and love it ...with a EAT 6922. Only minor issue I have is its not dead silent.. I get some hum in my system.

Mind you - that could be anything.

Other than that - great unit and highly recommended.

EAT 6922 transforms it.
Rumpole and Rayoo, I'd appreciate your thoughts. I currently have a classic SE that I'm auditioning and was thinking of exchanging it for the ET3 non-SE.

The thinking behind my decision is I can upgrade parts through Conrad to the SE when funds fully permit. I'm wondering how close the Classic SE sounds to the non-SE ET3.

I would like to add I'm really enjoying the Classic SE, but wonder if the Et3 might be a better long term decision.
After reading ET3-SE reviews I took a 3hr ride to Spearit Sound in Mass. for audition. The CDs I brought were more enjoyable, less fatigueing compared to my solid-state Bryston BP-26. I was sold. My 1st impressions at home after ~2 days are terrific. I don't miss any trait of the ss Bryston. The detail, impact is still there plus realism, bigger stage, harmonically rich mids, more music meat on the bone. I think CJ hit it out of the park with this one- value,gorgeous sound, no noise,no balanced circuits, and a managable single tube. Nice to be immersed in music again.
I feel the ET-3 SE offers the best of both worlds-tube/ss.
I own the ET-3 SE. I have owned many preamps (Adcom GFP-750 blue board, CJ PF2, Rogue Metis, ARC LS26, and McCormack LD-2). These are all great preamps with distinctly different sound. To me, the ARC LS26 and CJ ET-3 SE are in next level sound above the others (and cost much more). The ARC LS26 is more flexible with gain selection, balanced, etc. They both sound outstanding. The CJ with an upgraded tube (like Gold Lion specially selected by Jim McShane) just has that "right" musical sound with all the detail, instrument/voice soundstage placement that you don't want to turn off. You just want to close your eyes and enjoy.

Warning: you need to burn in for 300 plus hrs.
Has anyone compared the se and non se versions? Are they close in performance, or is the se on a much higher level? I heard the non se and was quite impressed.
Hawk28. Sorry, I have not compared the standard to SE. You can always upgrade to SE later if you think you need to move up in performance. I don't think the upgrade is much more than the price difference between the two units.
I auditioned a ETS SE for a weekend and came away less than thrilled. The sound was like a warm misty summer morning. It was a great effect, but it wears on you. I just could not get around the slower, more edge intangled, heavy and less detailed soundstage. And yes, my sample was noisy, too. At the end of the session, the left channel tube started scratching and sizzeling bringing the audition to a standstill.

So, the unit clearly wasn't 100% prior to the outright tube failure, but it had a LONG way to go to be what I would be happy with long term. I used Dynaudio C4's and they are pretty unforgiving if you have a unit that lacks clarity in presentation. Switching back to my XP-10 was a HUGE change in detail and speed and maybe too much, even. But, the two units live at opposite ends of the sound spectrum. I'm still looking for a middle ground pre-amp (possibly a RLD-1 with a 2012 series platinum SMc mod).

I'm not against tubes at this point, I just haven't heard the tube magic yet that would make me accept the more temporary performance peak of tubes. Tubes just change more and faster than SS. The newer single tube per channel SS (I think J-FET) output tube units seem promising, though. They seem to try to manage what is good about tubes and remove the bad (poor ability to drive longer leads).

If you are looking at the RLD-1, have you looked at the LD-2 with the CJ Teflon upgrade. The LD-2 has the SMc upgrades already (I believe). The Teflon cap upgrade is another step forward. I owned the LD-2 and it is very nice but I don't think it will match the Pass XP10. XP10 is $5250 retail. It is at a high level (price) even compared to the ET3 SE.

In the audition, you need to confirm a few things on the ET3 SE.

1. It needs 500 hrs on the Teflon capacitors for the sound to fully bloom. This is the misty morning or a bad tube.

2. It is a very high gain preamp as is all zero feedback tube designs (25 db gain - pass xp10 has only 10 db) If you have a high sensitivity amp you (under 1v for full power), you may hear some hiss with high sensitivity speakers. This is not a good synergy for the system.

3. You need to make sure the tube is good. I had a couple problems with the tubes on mine. They are inexpensive tubes. . They are $16 tubes. You may want to make the investment in auditioning from Jim McShane in a gold lion tube.

I had the MAP-1 (6 channel version of the RLD-1) and it was great. The LD-2 was a step improvement (the factory upgrade with teflon caps by CJ will take it to a new level after 500 hrs) and the ET-3 SE is Large step forward with a good tube and 500 hrs. The Ld-2 will be dead quiet. The Et3 SE may have a slight hiss with a high gain system but sounds better than the LD2. Keep in mind the Pass is 25% more expensive, I am sure it is a great preamp. You may want to keep it.

Happy hunting ont the RLD and LD2. This may be the sound your looking for. If you really want something in the ET3 SE sound quality with tubes, you should look at an ARC LS26 as you can lower the gain to keep it quiet like a SS but with the Tube magic. I owned one and it sounds great and is very flexible. Again, this would be a $6k preamp . Best regards.
Well, I sent off a RLD-1 for the 2012 platinum upgrade. OK, the box, PC board and remote are about the only things that aren't changed. Yikes! It's been since November, as Steve is cranking on his VRE-1C for the show(s). Can't say I blame him. I hope it adds some body and warmth to the sound. It may not be the end-all, but then I can't afford what probably is! Steve seems to have a good ear, so I doubt it will be a mistake. The XP-10 isn't a mistake, it's just TOO good on certain types of music, and that makes it TOO detailed on others. I'm trying to split the difference some.

But still, preamps are seriously overlooked on their sound quality. It will be a haul for thr RLD-4000 (about what I have in it) to break in. I'll just sit that Sony tuner on as station in the basement and walk away!
Good luck! I am sure it will have outstanding sound quality. Let us know.
Proud new owner of an ET-3. I searched high and low for several months. Been all over this site reading and looking at what's available used here also.

Decided to pull the trigger on a new demo unit that had been out on display for less than a month. Happy Birthday to me. :)

My immediate response was open, defined, balanced, and gentle on the ears. Feel blessed that I could afford this pleasure and cannot believe I waited so long.

I know this is entry level but for me I finally reached out to what I wanted without compromising on lesser gear.
Concur with above, this is the best pre amp under $5K.
The Rogue Athena can be bought for $4 k and change and get the Mundorf Silveroil cap killer preamp even without the cap upgrade
Mundorf Supreme caps come stock.
Bought used ET3SE from audiomart , this is definitely not past break in period yet. Comparing it my earlier classic SE earlier, it sounds more detailed. Classic sounds better for now but I will reserve my judgement for post break in period, will report back.
Diwakarv what is the verdict?
It is more detailed for sure and sounds more like SS pre amp ( it's output stage is FET anyways ). I had to tone it ( harshness) down replacing input stage 6922 EH with Amperex USP CEN 6922.It was surely needed. It is still very detailed compared to Classic and definitely a worth upgrade. My comparison point is with classic SE.