I don't really know but C-Js have their own "house sound" so if you like their sound you would like it, I'm guessing.
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I have a c-j TEA1 series III, and before that I had a TEA2MAX. Both Audio Research and Conrad Johnson make top level kit and are definitely direct competitors. Over the years both have improved with every new product produced. Both sound exceptional. The newest stuff is absolutely neutral, gone are the days of tubey warm, mushy bass etc. Frankly the TEA1-III into their GAT2 line stage is the best I have ever heard. C-J has given me exceptional customer service as well and my local dealer is fantastic. And that is the reason I have an all c-j system today. Audio Research makes wonderful stuff too. and if you have a good dealer you can't go wrong with them either.
The build quality of ARC equipment was superior to Conrad Johnson years back. I do not know how they run today. I have an older ARC phono stage and am extremely happy with it, so much so that I have had it for 20 years an am not yet ready to give it up. I did own a Conrad Johnson preamp back in 1979. I modified the heck out of it. It was a lower cost item than any ARC equipment and was built as such. I switched to a Van Alstine unit after a year or so. But, that was when CJ was just starting they have made significant headway since then.
Thank you for the responses.
I think I need to rephrase my question.
I have a CJ ARTsa amplifier, A CJ ET7s2 preamp and an Audio Research Ref 2se phono preamp.
My question is would it be beneficial to switch the Ref 2 phono pre to a CJ Tea 1 if I could make the move for minimal additional cost? Would there be more synergy having all CJ components? Would I get better sound or simply a lateral move?
The set up sounds great but always looking for improvements.
I would expect the CJ to sound perhaps a bit more romantic and the ARC a bit less Tubish. But you really need to get a CJ in your system and make that evaluation for yourself. Tastes wander too much for anyone to give you accurate assistance. Lord knows I have been unhappy with many pieces over the years. Sometimes you have to bump your nose and move on. If you can get a return policy on the CJ buy it, try it and if you don't like it return it.
what mijostyn is trying to tell you is that when you are playing with gear at this level, ’better’ is very much in the eye (or should i say ’ear’) of the beholder... it is system dependent, taste dependent, synergy dependent... there is only one way to find out... compare both in your system
as a side note i would concur with the other opinion below that the ’house sounds’ of cj and arc have greatly converged over time... both are quite neutral, image big, with excellent extension both in treble and bass, minimal mid/midbass bloat