c-j buffs: MV-55 vs. Premier 11a

Anyone auditioned (preferably owners) conrad-johnson's two recently discontinued stereo tubed amp offerings head-to-head in the same system? I am an MV-55 owner who is very happy with the sound (fed from my c-j PV-8 pre-amp, through Thiel CS2 2 floorstanding 3-ways via all-Cardas Cross), but may be needing more power soon, and am considering the Premier 11a. I know the Premier ought to be better in theory, but apparently some folks have demurred - true or not, and if so, why? Also, anybody tried rolling tube types on the 11a? All input from those with personal experience is much appreciated! Thanks, Alex
Neither. Search out Premier 5s (monoblocks). IMHO, the best Premier-series amp they made. The last to use EL-34s unless you get the special edition Pr. 8xs (at $10k+/pair). the EL-34s sound a lot better than the 6550/KT88 stuff CJ uses in the later amps. Premier stuff is a class above their already good normal line. Premier 5s can be had from $1500-3500 or so, per pair.

I cannot comment on the MV-55 but I've read good and bad on it compared to CJ Premier 11a. I am using the 11a with Svet KT88's and I truly love the sound even though the Svet 6550's weren't bad. The KT88's have a bit more midrange and higher treble but not bright. I haven't tried swapping any of the signal tubes (5751 & 6FQ7) yet. The Premier 11a drives my Thiel CS 1.5's just fine but my larger ARC VT100MKII has more punch and better dynamics. If you like the CJ sound, you probably won't like ARC. I'm still undecided but the ARC just doesn't sound much like a tube amp so why bother? I think you'll benefit from the added power of the CJ 11a for your 2 2's.

For the price I feel that a used 11a is a bargain especially when compared to lesser popular brands that have hit the market in recent years. CJ has been around for a couple decades and the build quality on their products is superb. As a CJ owner, I probably didn't have to convince you of that. I would gladly pay $1600 - $1900 on a used 11a before I spent that much on a new tube amp of lesser quality (won't mention any brands but there are several out there and many of the owners complain that tube gear in general is unreliable). If you buy a used 11a ask about its age. These amps have been around since the early 90's and a newer one will likely be in better shape and well worth a couple hundred dollars more vs. shopping for the lowest price. The 11a will say 11a on the label behind the amp even though the front panel simply says Eleven.

On another note, I found my 11a combined with my PV-14L preamp (not to be confused with Premier 14 preamp) rolled off the highs and lows a little more than I liked. I sold the PV-14L preamp... Its probably a better fit for a system that is very dry or lean in the mids. I have since experimented with the Adcom GFP-750 SS preamp and the ARC LS16 tube preamp. Both of these were more neutral than the PV-14L. The ARC LS16 was a better match for my taste. I still have that nice CJ sound from the 11a w/o rolling off the highs and lows too much. The SS Adcom actually had a broader frequency response high and low with better punch than the ARC LS16 but it didn't have the transparency, air, and soundstage of the LS16. The only reason I mention the preamps is because you might find a huge difference in sound going from a "PV class" CJ preamp to another brand. My PV-14L combined with the 11a had too much midrange and and not enough highs and lows. I haven't tried any "Premier class" CJ preamps... might be a different story compared to their PV preamps.

I'm happy with my gear but I think I need bigger speakers. And like you, I really like Thiel. I'd love to try a set of 2.3's or 3.6's someday. Have fun!
You have a very similar system as I got(same speaker and I have Premier 11a). If I have to choose, I will choose Premier 11a especially if you own the Thiel 2.2 as the 11a really is a match in heaven with the 2.2. MV55 is good but not as relax and effortless if you crank up the volume or listen to soft rock.
I've owned both and used them in the same system. I found the 11a to be much much better than the MV-55, all the way around especially in the bass.
I had an 11a for 2&1/2 years and really enjoyed it.
Then I got a BAT VK-60, and that's a very big step up.
The price for an 11a and a vk-60 are now really close now in the used market.
I owned both the 55 and the Premier 11A at the same time. Speakers were stock Acoustat 1+1s. I found the 11A superior in the bass: tighter sounding, but not too tight and of course it had more power.
However in every other way and overall I clearly preferred the 55. Through the 1+1s, it was richer, brought out the lower mids, and was generally more musical.
Update, inspired by Billimbriale bringing this thread to my attention again: I indeed moved to a larger room last summer and needed more power (boy, did I need more power!), and solved this by going to VTL MB-185 Signature monoblocks. These not only took care of my power desires for all but the most irresponsible of volumes (which my speakers can't do anyway), but they improved on the MV-55's sound quality across the board. I think I would have had to have gone to Premier 12 mono's to compete with C-J, but even those are less powerful and more expensive. (For the record, the preamp is now a Levinson 380S and the speaker cables Acoustic Zen Satori, both clearly improvements as well. And I can finally play with power cords on my amplifiers! :-) Thanks again to all who responded! (Some of whom I haven't seen posting for quite a while now...)
I had posted a similar thread a while ago
I don't have a personal experience with the 11s, but from what I read, you will get more power and bass with the 6550, but you will loose the liquid midrange and highs of the EL34 out of the MV-55. Now if you are lucky, you might find a premier 11Xs which I believe are modified to accomodate EL34s. The solution I decided to go with to increase power was to ad a MF2250 to run the low end and anjoy the MV55 for the mids and hight (bi-wired configuration). great combo IMO. keep us posted of what you endup doing.

Shahens: For me, the sound trumps debates about tube types, something I find not to be as pertinent to the sonic result as the circuit those tubes are employed in (including the power supply and output transformer). Thus my VTL MB-185 Sig. mono's, which also feature Svetlana 6550C output tubes like the C-J Premier amps (but aren't used in the same way, not being wired in ultralinear and utilizing less feedback, among other differences), can beat the little EL34-equipped MV-55 stereo (non-Premier) amp in every subjective listening catagory. This includes the VTL's superior mids and highs, not just the bass - the whole spectrum is simply more natural, transparent, and capable, be it tonally, dynamically, texturally, or spatially, and in all matters of resolution, cleanliness, and precision (which is as it should be for 2 1/2 times the price). It is also true that the VTL's are not as overtly "tubey" in character, but only in the senses that they lack spurious colorations and distortions by comparision, and are simultaneously more extended and authoritative - things you would expect from amps with more power and better, larger output transformers, and factors not having to do with tube type.

I say this as someone to whom the MV-55 came as a personal revelation at the time I got it in terms of purity of harmonic structure, spatial naturalness, and lack of 'electronic' artifact. I've tried to quit using the term 'liquid' (and 'bloom' as well, if I ever did), since I have no real idea what that means for musical sound, but if you define it as not being able to as easily hear the machine interposing itself between you and your music (as opposed to defining it like 'warmth', an overlay of which the VTL lacks by comparision - to its distinct benefit), then that would describe what I've heard since moving up from the little C-J, an amp I'm nonetheless still fond of, and whose relative failings are never too unattractive to love in spite of having gotten myself a better mirror.

Anyway, getting back to your point, whatever sonic differences may exist between the standard and 'XS' versions of the various Premiers could just as easily have as much or more to do with the fact that their EL34's are connected as triodes - rather than pentodes as with the regular versions' 6550C's - than with the two output tube types per se (BTW, that's a change the VTL's can accomplish at the flick of a switch with their own complement of 6550C's). I would fully expect any of the Premier amps to be more competitive with the VTL's in my system (the most natural counterpart being the 12's as I wrote above), but if anybody really feels that the MV-55 betters the 11a in any ways, then that assumption may not be as warranted as one might think. Anyone with direct experience comparing the VTL Signature mono's against similar-rated C-J Premiers in the same system is encouraged to chime in...