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.

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