Hi Steve, this is a difficult question. The CJ 12 monos are way too colored for my tastes. The ARC would be more to my likeing because they have IMO, less coloration. I really wouldn't use either in my system. If rich, warm laid back, plump bass is your kind of sound, the CJ may be just what you are looking for. They are very forgiving and most recordings will be gentle,with much less tension. The ARC are a bit to dry, less warm, and much less forgiving than the CJ IMO. Both can be just what is needed depending on what is important to you. I hope Tubegroover responds to your thread. He will lead you in the best direction for amplification for those very fine Merlin speakers. Try the Berning and I think it will make your decsion a very easy one. Good hunting. Your system is excellent, and deserving the best you can offer it. BERNING! Though opinions may differ, you already have a very good amp. Just not my cup of wine. Don't be surprised if you get ten or more different opinions. Mine is just one of many to come.
I hope whatever amp you choose brings you closer to the music.
I do not know about the amplifiers but the Nordost Blue Heaven ICs are a little thin for my taste, I would change them first, try Acoustic Zen WOW ICs for about $150 each used.
I would think they would do very well with the rest of your components especially with vinyl. Yes, soundstaging is one of CJ's strong suites. I do not agree with Brulee about CJ being too coloured.I have always found CJ equipment to be extremely accurate with most other equipment being too sterile and uninvolving. I have considered buying a pair of 12a's myself...3500 I feel is a good price for a pair of 12a tubed mono-blocks. However, I believe I will hold out for a pair of 8a's or maybe go with one of CJ's new tube amps.
Agree with Philjolet.
ARC is more transparent, so you probably can tune the sound by changing your interconnects and cables. Nordost is on the opposite side of what you are moving to based on your description. Use a warmer IC and cables first, see if you like it or not, cheaper test. Merlin is transparent also, so you need warmer ICs. Try some cables first, if not work, then pre/power amp's.
i would prefer the cj as well. the twelves are awsome amps. i also agree that the 8s if you can swing it are much more dynamic. good luck on your search.
Thanks for all the advice. One thing I'm wondering is: can one assume that a tube amp from one mfg. with a given # & type of tubes, will have roughly the same power output as an amp from a different mfg, with the same # & type of tubes? I know that is somewhat simplistic, & would also depend on the power supplies used in each case. I'm asking because, my ARC VT100 has 8 6550 output tubes, & the Premier 12's have 4 6550's per side. Can I assume that the VT100 & the P12's would each have about the same power capabilities, say if I use them with my M802's which like quite a bit of power? (A reason I'm a bit doubtful of the wisdom of this move--altho I'd be changing amps to get a different sound, more power would be nice too). BTW I made note of the suggestions to change wire, & to hold out for Premier 8's.......I think they might be too heavy (90 lbs. each) to be practical unfortunately.
thanks again, steve
Paul McGowan commented on another Audiogon thread that his reference amps are the ARC VT-100 mk. 3 and Sonic Frontiers III monoblocks, so a PS Audio HCA-2 amp may be a powerful, cost-effective option falling somewhere between the ARC and CJ.
Hope this helps!
Steve your set up is exccellent, cables IMHO is the answer
first your amp ARC is a very good one.Why make big change
I agree with philojet,and bluefin,I would recomend Harmonic
tech truth link,or pro silway, or siltech, nordost blue
is on the thin side,TRY AUDIOQUEST lapis,diamond,opal.
I'm with Brulee on the CJs being too colored. In my amp search i listened to the 12s, the vt100, a pass 60 watter (forgot the number) an wound up with vtl 185's. A used pair of 185s should be in the $3k to $3.5k range. The VTLs are a tad warmer than the ARC, especially in triod. the bass remains very solid and tight, midrange is very lifelike and open, again especially in triode. soundstage is wonderfull but i think i'll blame that on my dunlavy's.
The tetrode/triode switch is a wonderful feature i don't think anyone else provides. For small group acoustic music triode provides a sence of realism that cannot be found in tetrode. Tetrode about doubles the power and provides the thump that's needed for orchestras and electric music.
as a comment to jayctoy's cable suggestions: i use the truth links on my system because of the bang for the buck being very high, especially on the 4m run i needed. The pro silways II worked well between the amp and the pre (VTL 5.5)in combination with truthlinks upstream, or between analog and the preamp. putting silways between digital (ARC CD-2) and the pre, however, was pretty harsh, to the point where the harshness could not be outweighted by the added airyness and detail the silways provide. bass is a bit tighter with the silways as well but not as deep.