Bad Experience with Conrad Johnson

For many years I have admired Conrad Johnson products and waited for the right opportunity to try them out.  Fortunately, I was able to get a great deal on a mint condition ET3se preamp and MF-2275 power amp. 

Overall, I enjoyed the sound of this combo but then I started to have issues with the preamp and then the company itself.

After I spent much time with the ET3se preamp I became to feel that it was a flawed product.

When I first listened to the preamp, the background noise was very loud in both channels, even at low volume.  The preamp came with stock tubes which were EH6922 at the time.

I then tried two new pairs of 6922 tubes (JJ Tesla and Mullard) and I could still hear the background hiss in both channels.  On the Tesla tubes, I could also hear a pop in the speakers every time I adjusted the volume up and down with the remote.

Another problem I had was during the power up/warm up process.  When powering up the preamp I could hear music (not source dependent) even when the unit shows zero volume. Then if I turn the volume up then back down to zero; no music was heard.

So I called Conrad Johnson for help.  The new owner of the company, Jeff Fischel, answered the phone and proceeded to help me.  From the very beginning of the call I started to feel very uncomfortable.  He was talking to me as if I was a child, in a very condescending tone, telling me what I was doing wrong and how I should operate their products.

When I described the issues I was having, he said they no longer use 6922 tubes and only recommend NOS 7DJ8 tubes from Philips and Matsushita, which are more rugged for his preamp.  I then asked him why normal 6922 tubes do not perform well in the preamp.  He said it was because they run the heater voltage to the tubes much higher than the 6922 spec, the NOS 7DJ8 perform much better.

Jeff was right.  When I tried the Philips 7DJ8, the background hiss went away in both channels.  But the question I ask myself is what happens when all the NOS 7DJ8 tubes are gone, you have to just deal with background noise?  What kind of product design is that?  Through other research I found that this preamp just eats up tubes, even the 7DJ8.  Eventually they will also develop noise over time. 

So in summation, I think the ET3se preamp is a flawed product.  It is a high-maintenance piece that is quirky and you just have to come to terms with its issues.  I am so glad I did not pay full retail for this preamp.

Now on to the other bad experience I had with Conrad Johnson, the company.  Once I had all of these issues with the preamp, I decided to sell both the ET3se and MF2275 power amp.  I did not have the original boxes so I called Conrad Johnson to see if I could purchase replacement shipping boxes for both of them.

I had the ill-fated pleasure of speaking with their shipping clerk, Jasmine.  You will not believe what Conrad Johnson wanted to charge me for shipping empty replacement boxes:

ET3 - $55 for box, $70 for shipping ($125 total)

MF2275 - $95 for box, $70 for shipping ($165 total)

That's right folks, Conrad Johnson wanted to charge me $70 for shipping an empty box.

I was willing to pay for the boxes and offered to send them shipping labels and have UPS pick them up for me.  They did not want to work with me.

Here was the final response from Jasmine at Conrad Johnson:

"Box, packing and shipping is not negotiable. I think it's best you purchase them at FedEx as it seems to suite you best."

It is clear to me that Conrad Johnson is not the same company since Bill Conrad and Lew Johnson left.

Needless to say, I will never buy (new or used) a Conrad Johnson product again.


@wkass.." I decided to sell both the ET3se and MF2275 power amp.".


Did you share this story with the new owner before they bought it from you?



Sorry to hear about your experience. I know that I read on the Upscale Audio website years ago that they wouldn’t sell tubes for c-j gear. I guess because of the same problem that you had. I don’t understand why anyone is making preamps that go through tubes like that.

c-j isn’t the only audio company that gives customers the kind of treatment you got, but it’s still not excusable. I completely understand your being angry. I suggest that you pass along the 7DJ8 info to whoever wants to buy the preamp just to keep your own ethics out of the tank.

Thanks for passing your experience along. It’s good to know this stuff.

Post removed 

They did not care from the start, designing the product, just to play better with increased heater voltage is not so consumer friendly. There are not not the only ones though that followed the same technique. 

Still you could try to insert 6n23p that has a wider working window 5-7volts compared to the much narrower 6922 tube.

But still you cannot name a 6922 circuit that performs out of range for the certain tube.

6n23p is THE tube for those preamps.   Last a long time.   Sounds like that one tube was too much hassle for the OP.  

Save the box is the lesson learned here....

I had a problem with another hi-fi manufacturer that I will not name here. I went through similar steps that you did as I was very unhappy with the performance and customer service from the company. I ended up selling the gear back to the manufacturer because I didn’t want to lie about all the issues I had to a potential buyer, thus passing on my headache to them. Lost a fair amount of money and lesson learned..... much, much time goes into research now. Anyone can still get stung though....

It is a fair question... did you tell the buyer about your issues?

As much as all the space they take up, I still have all the original boxes, receipts just in case of a repair need. Thanks for sharing. 

I don't see the NEED to have the original boxes for returns  in need of repair. Though other than fit. (styrofoam) of the component so that it doesn't bounce around.

As far as I'm concerned as long as you send the item in two boxes one inside the other for return, who cares?

I once ordered boxes for a customer to ship his McIntosh preamp and amp and they were around $300.00 each. This is not peculiar to CJ products.

Hifiguy42. +1

Ditto for Bryston. I bought a box for an amp a few years back. As I remember it cost me about $110-$120, including shipping. I was informed that sending in equipment in a non-Bryston box was a little perilous because, if the outer box showed any damage Bryston might not accept delivery, and my equipment would be returned, unopened. I did ship an amp to them in a non-Bryston box, but I had to agree to purchase a new Bryston box for the return trip. No so bad considering the amp was about 18 years old and they fixed it up, under warranty.
On the other hand, I once sent a piece of equipment in to Bryston in an original box that looked pretty worn. Bryston did the warranty work and sent it back in a brand new box - free of charge.

A long way to say, keep your boxes

on a slightly more serious note...

-- when needed, i have bought original shipping boxes before with manufacturer foam inserts for specific gear (c-j, arc, pass, ps audio, vac)... with shipping they have always been in the range of $80-150 depending on size and complexity of the foam protective system used

-- for c-j gear, they engineer first and foremost for best possible sound, and so they decided to run the et series (single 6dj8) linestage tube section at 6.3v heater (this is exactly high limit of the tube heater spec, not over it) for ideal sonic performance - it was a such pleasure for me to change over to the et series (et5 for me for several years, and now the et7-ii) using its single tube, whereas i came from the premier 16ls2 (6x tubes) and art (10x tubes) - this made tube rolling so much easier, cheaper and fun

-- over time, it became known to c-j and et series users that regular 6dj8’s would sometimes get noisy in 6-8 months with intensive use, still a very small price to pay in money and inconvenience ... running only a single tube, so compared to an art, you got 5-7 years of tube life using the same 10 6dj8’s, so aggregate tube cost is the same ... but c-j acknowledged the issue and suggested use of 6h23p or 7dj8/pcc88 equivalents, which, btw, are relatively plentiful and cheaper than top grade old stock 6dj8/6922’s -- and these tubes with the stronger heater element last years remaining dead quiet so long as you bought a good one to start with

all this said, for a high end tube gear user to belly ache like this about a single tube wearing out and paying for some oem shipping boxes is, well, ’funny’ (being nice here...) -- indeed first world problems and sense of entitlement we have here!!!

I'm sorry for your negative experience.

As a point of reference, the shipping charges for the cartons are not out of line these days and the cost of the boxes themselves are reasonable for high end audio.



Thank You for sharing your experience with Conrad Johnson.


Happy Listening!

Boxes have gotten expensive and so has shipping. Sorry you had a bad experience but you seem to be overreacting just a tad.

Here was the final response from Jasmine at Conrad Johnson:

"Box, packing and shipping is not negotiable. I think it's best you purchase them at FedEx as it seems to suite you best."

Terrible spelling of “suite”. Definitely a terrible company 😳😱🤔🤷‍♂️🤯


On a serious note, whether you ship empty or full boxes, shipping costs money. As shocking as this sounds


@wkass i cant believe they answered the phone. i called, emailed, called, emailed, left messages with a very basic question, and they refused to even acknowledge my atempts to contact. they made no effort to return my contact. i finally got a real person on the phone, and there was some more agitation on my end to speak with someone who could answer a simple, basic 2-part question. when i got the person on the phone they werent entirely cooperative, but eventually i steered them towards actually answering my simple, basic, 2-part question. 

man they suck. thank god the top conrad johnson tech in the US no longer works there. 

To those of you who asked, yes I did inform the buyer of my experiences with the preamp and what to do to get the best performance.  I pointed him to Parts Connexion for the Matsushita 7DJ8.  So thanks!

Hi roxy54,

No crickets here.  I have a day job so my apologies for not responding back in a timely manner.

Hey jjss49,

I was just trying to share my first experience with CJ products and that it was not a good one.  You might think that this case was trivial or that I am an entitled moaner and that's your opinion.  But I am sure I am not the only person who would complain of a high-end tube preamp that:

-  has so much gain, that I have to use the variable volume control on my music streamer to just control volume.

- always has background hum with standard 6922 tubes and reduced tube life.

- has audible clicks in the speakers when you turn volume up and down because of tube noise.

- that has music playing when the volume is at 0 on power up. Have to cycle power again to get volume display to work again.

If I would have known of these issues with this model, I never would have purchased it.  Lesson learned.

And as for the shipping box issue, it was not so much the cost of the boxes, but how I was personally treated by CJ.  I am a big believer in the Golden Rule.  Treat others the way you want to be treated.  For what it is worth, I have had nothing but great customer support from Rogue Audio and VTL.

Hope everyone has a great and safe Memorial Day weekend!

With regards to CJ. -   I would like to state that there are a few companies that really value their customer. One in particular, is Van Alstine. Frank Van Alstine is all about customer satisfaction.  An email from my wife was received and returned by the owner Mr. Alstine. He spent time discussing the product that she had written about and HE wrote the email.  To say the least we purchased the integrated amp and could not be more pleased by his professionalism, respect and honest concern for the customer.  In the end they do exist.

@smerk Exactly, could not agree with you more.  I have his SET 400 power amp. 

By the way, I hear he is having some healthcare issues right now so I hope he gets well soon.  Take care.

I am sorry you made a bad decision on a 10+ year old preamp that was out of production. Also very sorry they took your call and answered your questions, even though you were apparently slow to understand the answers.

I am very sad that they had boxes for the equipment and sold them to you for what seems to be a reasonable price considering the components had not been produced for more than a decade.

I hope you have better experiences in the future.


Well, thank you for that wonderful insight.  You are such a cute smatchet.

Hi there cheapskate.

I agree with most here re the boxes.  The prices are not unreasonable for large hi-tech boxes that will protect these products correctly and the associated handling costs.

And OP should know that overland shipping is priced by volume not by weight.  So the fact they are empty makes no difference.

And why didn't he audition the amps???  Then he would have heard the noise and this saga would have never happened.

As a manufacturer, we typically do not order many extra boxes so they become one off orders for units that are no longer in production, plus the box manufacturers are not always in business making the same products so prices can be that high. If you were concerned about shipping, you probably could have arranged to have them shipped to you by opening up your own FedEx account.  Shipping these says has become very expensive for nothing boxes.

Designs change over time and while the preamp probably was competitive back in the day, parts, tubes, etc., all change hopefully for the better.  It is hard for a manufacturer to fix an old issues and in your case offered a solution that did not require you to send them the unit and perform any type of repair.

Overall I do understand your frustration, but they seemed to have answered your question and offered a solution.  They even answered the phone. Maybe not White Glove service but I would say they did respond and offered an easy solution to your issue.

Happy Listening.


@wkass ,

I've nothing of value to add to this discussion, but thanks for teaching me a new word; 'smatchet.' And the clever context in which you used it!

For whatever it's worth, I had to have some work done by Bryston  on my BDP-2 and they could not have been better to work with. It was sort of startling how friendly and helpful they were.

@richiekess +1

That has been my experience with Bryston also, above and beyond any other customer service I have encountered.



I own a gat2, and it’s a great preamp. No tube noise and I use original stock. Make sure the router is located far far away from the preamp as this would cause interference as these are radar tubes.

I have called the company before and sometimes don’t return the call. But they have a very challenging job to deal with all these incoming calls using a skeleton crew I am sure.

I wonder what tubes might be better with the gat2 as I may have to get them replaced soon. I also wonder if a power cord change would be worthwhile but the cord provided seems to be very good. The interconnect cables i use are transparent ultra and they seem nice, pair is listed at $1800 for a meter.

Boxes are very expensive, never ever throw hifi boxes away.

I now have to think about preparing lunch.

it's been a slow few days on the forum, wild comments about old members and scolding one for finding 70 dollars high for shipping. 

I know you are (most of you) super rich and don't care. But shipping is for most cases BY WEIGHT! And I just checked, a box this size ships from Boston to San Diego or Miami to Seattle for 23 dollars by UPS. I gave it the exact size and a generous 12lbs.

70 dollars is f-d up. These companies have UPS and Fedex accounts and can ship at discounts. What CJ was going to charge for was handling. e.g. Jasmine to walk back to the storage get the box, fill out and print the form and leave in the corner for the shipping company to pick up. Which is not a criminal act, it's fair to charge for her time but certainly not the norm in this case and she should have called it that. 

I have been printing my own shipping labels on parcel monkey for a decade and nobody has refused it. It makes their lives easier, saves them 3 minutes of filling out the form. Of course I am poor, and I don't understand how the World works. (If I did, I would be rich :)  ) 

It seems very expensive indeed for the boxes and shipping, as my Dad used to say "they got you by the short hairs" . The FedEx store or UPS store may be a better option. It will suit you fine. 

You are very welcome. Have a great weekend!



Well, thank you for that wonderful insight.  You are such a cute smatchet

What I don’t understand is why would a tube that costs twice as much and lasts half as long make such a huge difference in a preamp that was designed for 6922 tubes.  Yes the 7dj8 is it is a better sounding tube, but the difference between 6 and seven volts shouldn’t be the answer. 


What CJ was going to charge for was handling.

Yeah, that’s why it’s called “shipping AND HANDLING”. Never heard that before?


And of course, if you don’t like the price, don’t do it. Why the protestation?

70 dollars is f-d up.

Really? If that cost will save you hundreds of dollars in selling your components by being able to charge hundreds of dollars more? I do not understand. Too much protesting or protestation. Again.


Or.. You keep the original box. Which I do. I learned the trick 20 years ago. How tough is that?

Of course I am poor, and I don’t understand how the World works.

But you drive a Porsche ( or a Ferrari, I don’t really remember)? 911. Obviously nothing wrong with that, kudos for killing it! It’s just a matter of the priorities where you spend that $70 (seventy American dollars)


Exactly! They should call it shipping AND HANDLING. But they didn’t. Read the post. They said "SHIPPING".

If they said SHIPPING AND HANDLING. that would have been different.

And yes, 70 dollars for the 23 dollars actual cost is unreasonable. I do not understand your point, shipping is SHIPPING. It’s an expense, it’s what you pay for a THIRD party service. Not the seller! It has nothing to do with how much it saves or makes for the buyer.

If they charged X for the box for your reasoning, that would make sense, I see ZERO logic in your arguments.

I do not drive a Porsche nor a Ferrari. I never could have would have said that. In fact, I do not own a car. Luckily I don’t need one. I am happy on two wheels, my 300 dollar bike.

@thyname I clearly said: calling it shipping and handling and charging $70 is fine. Calling it shipping and refusing the buyers label is dishonest. It's a communication issue, not a business policy issue.

I do not drive a Porsche nor a Ferrari. 

Apologies. I thought you were an active participant on a “911” discussion 

I am happy on two wheels, my 300 dollar bike.

Three hundred American dollars on a bike?!? Last time I checked on my local Walmart bikes were way lower than that! You have been scammed! 🤯



I think that you mean brakes @grislybutter , but for $300 I guess they aren't hydraulic disc brakes.


I am sorry to hear about your experience.

On the other hand, Conrad Johnson is a small company producing extremely good audiophile products. It does not excuse poor customer interactions… but on the other hand they do not have the volume to allow negative financial transactions on components produced a decade ago. Maybe the person you talked to was having a bad day.

I have a friend that is a dealer. He had to get boxes for a set of Sonus Faber speakers. It cost $900… most of it was shipping… from Italy. I am sure CJ came up with a formula to cover their costs… regardless of what they labeled the expense.

In general, audiophile equipment is incredibly reliable. I have owned different components for a couple decades over the last fifty years and never had a failure (Sonic Fronties CD transport aside). Conrad Johnson makes incredibly great audiophile equipment… I want to point out audiophile… as in expensive. So, while failures are rare, you need to understand, this is expensive stuff, and penny pinchers is the audience they cater to. 

I coached a friend of mine into buying a Conrad Johnson preamp and amp thirty years ago. He replaced the tubes about ten years ago. He has loved the system from the first day. This is the typical story.

shipping from Italy is an entirely different adventure though. I regularly ship from and to all over Europe, India - the shipping business within the US is a breeze and a fraction of the cost compared to World-wide shipping.

It's a pretty amazing system (I used to write code for a logistics company's routing components) and Amazon further revolutionized the already super efficient chain of moving boxes.

I splurged on the bike. It has breaks!


Walmart bikes have no brakes? Shocking!

Hi There clearthinker,

What's with the judgement bro?

Riddle me this Batman. Someone has a preamp in San Francisco for sale but the buyer is in Texas.  How does the buyer listen to the preamp first before buying.

@thyname it was a joke. I realize audiophiles have nearly zero sense of humor but that won't prevent me from trying

@grislybutter : what were you protesting about? Tell me again. I lost track. Bikes? Or why you only have one Ferrari instead of four? You always protest.

The OP refers to having purchased a mint condition set of amplifiers. That implies that they were purchased second hand. The OP might clarify.

The OP called the company and received valuable technical advice.

The OP's request for empty boxes was positively responded to and boxes were offered, noting that the manufacturer has no obligation to supply boxes as a separate item.

As regards the price, I'm sure the company will put a margin on anything it sells as indeed it needs to if it want's to stay in business.

It looks to me as if the OP was well and fairly treated by the company.