IMO, the 16ls is a much better (sounding) preamp than the 17ls. If you want sweetness and prefer the "warm side of netural," find a 16ls Series 1; you will likely prefer it to the Series 2.
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Absolutely - a Premier 16LS, series 1 or 2 will be a substantial upgrade. I lived with a 16LS series 1 for several years and used it with both Premier 12 mono-blocks and with the C-J Premier 140. The only thing that caused it to leave my system was the ACT2. Compared to the 17, the 16 offers better nuance, detailing, dimensionality, and low-end articulation. Previously I have described it as a preamp with soul.
The 16LS (1 or 2) goes farther toward timbrel neutrality than the 17. When you ask if will the you lose the relative sweetness of the 17, my experience says the 16 will give you a better idea of what the actual music sounds like. If the music is sweet, the 16LS will let that come through. It adds less artificial coloration than the 17. That said, the 16LS (either 1 or 2) remains on the yin side of neutral. Compared to, for example, the ART or ACT2, you realize the 16 is tonally slightly darker/warmer.
I had the opportunity to buy a brand new 17 at a *very* attractive price. It is a wonderful preamp. But I held out until I could afford a 16. In no way am I knocking the 17. But in today's used market the price differential makes a compelling case for the 16.
The Premier 16LS loves good NOS tubes. I had luck with mid-60's to early 70's Amperex 6DJ8s and 7308s as well as Valvo branded Amperexes (Amperexi?). Telefunkens work well too. Siemens are fine, but my ears were never satisfied with more than one Siemens per channel; two or three were a bit too lean and upward tilted.
In your 12s try the Sylvania 6CG7 or RCA clear top 6FQ7 phase splitters in conjunction with a GE or RCA triple mica 5751. The small tubes can make as much difference as the power tubes. I preferred the GE6550A power tubes with which the amp was originally voiced, versus say the Svet 6550C (which do sound better in the 140).
Go with a ct-5 or act since you seem to have the money. With all the rest of your component, why stop to an old 16 technology when you can have the best of the best, Put your money where your mouth is. If it was me, I would go with an act without hesitation. With already Dirondo, Cabasse and Jadis in your chain (wow), this is the only logical choice you MUST go for. Believe me, dont waste your money on a 16 and buy the best money can offert. You will have no regret and thank me for ever.
My experience is with the 17ls series I. I have heard the series II but not in my system so my comments are limited to the 17ls I as it compares to the 16ls II. The 16ls II is much more detailed at all frequencies and more musical with a much deeper soundstage........a substantial improvement over the 17. However; the sonic signiture is similar, so if you like the 17 you will love the 16.
As for tubes I use EH 6922 gold pins and feel they offer the best all around performance. I have tried other tubes such as JAN Philips and JJ Teslas but ended up going back to the EH. I have never experimented with what I call the exotic NOS tubes because of their price and limited availability. Hope I could help.
If the 16LS2 has the teflon caps that are in the 17LS2, you may be better off with
the 16. If not, I'll bet the 17LS2 outperforms it. Mine (17LS2) sounded at least
as good in my system as a new CT5 and MUCH better than a CT6. However, I'm
pretty sure the Old Stock Mullard 6DJ8 tubes in my unit -- after a lot of tube
rolling -- are making the most of this peamp. They certainly make it sound a
bunch better than it did with the original EH tubes. For what it's worth. Dave
The 17lsII has the teflon caps the 16lsI or II does not nor does the 17lsI. What limited listening to the 17lsII I did do, it did not seem to have the extension in both high and low frequencies that the 16lsII has, the mid range detail was close.........but in the end (IMO) the 16lsII outperformed the 17lsII. But again this was with limited audition time and not in my system.....so take it for what its worth. Also the MSRP's for the two pre-amps were pretty far apart the 16lsII was about 2500+USD more than the 17LSII if memory prevails.
I'm with Tim here, If you want to keep the sweetness of the prem17 and gain dynamics and musicality, the prem 16 is the way to go.
the CT5 and ACT2 go a bit too far to neutrality for MY tastes but I would go back to a prem 16 any day.
You may notice that cj now have a ART3 using 6922 tubes. Read that want you want between the sound of 6H30 and 6922's.
Nice review on the PH7. You make me want to go out and listen to it. A little more musical meat on the bones, while maintaining the Xono's bass control and quietness sounds almost perfect.
Did u buy the PH7 or are you staying with the Xono?
Hey Shane - Thanks. I bought the PH7. I don't know if it has the gain for an XV-1, but its worth a listen. Works really well with the Orpheus. Biggest diff from the XOno was less grain, more detail and really excellent harmonics - and yeah it is quiet. Got a huge power supply. But not as flexible for gain or loading which some folks need.
Wrt C-J gear and Teflon caps, they do make a significant difference and C-J has adopted their use for their upper echelon pieces. In my opinion a Premier 16 with or without Teflon caps is still a league beyond any version of the 17LS, even as good as that preamp is. Or put differently, the 16LS is closer in sound to the ART than to the 17LS.
I'll agree with danthemannn that if you can afford a CT-5 (around $7.5k iirc), it is certainly worth a listen. To look beyond that level would, imo, mean taking a serious look at your amps. I loved the Premier 12s, but they are definitely closer to the s/lush warmth of older CJ gear and through them you won't benefit from what a top-tier preamp (like the ACT2 or REF3) brings to the table in terms of micro-dynamics and superior timing. If you plan to hang on to the 12s for a while, a used 16 may be a better value. Just my opinion.
At $25k each only 25 ART IIIs will be made. I think it is largely a commemorative piece to celebrate C-J's thirty years in business. I haven't seen the inside of one, but my guess is that CJ uses some of the newer componentry in the ART III that they are using in the ACT2.2. The ART III may turn mythic on us if we never see a formal review - which we may not. That it could be $10k better than the ACT2.2 is hard for me to imagine. But its the high-end so logic and proportion go down the rabbit hole. ;-)
Well...A littlelate in the game, but i'll add my own 2 cents. I has a 17 ls1 for 3 years and really liked it. I thought it was grainless and superb in the midrange. I toccured to me that I was not getting the bass slam, dynamics, high frequency extension that I got from A sonic frontiers MK2 that i had previously owned. The Sonic has a massive power supply and more tubes. Anyway, after having countless conversions with knowlegable people, dealers and(including a leading frontman for cj). I was steered away from going to the 17 ls2 because the differences were not that great for what I was looking for. I finally purchased a 16 ls2 and wow!!! Sounstage, Bass slam and high frequency extension was just what I was looking for. On poorly recorded material the 16 ls2 may to reaving compared to that of the older 17ls, but in the long run when you put on some of your better recordings you can't help but notice how much better the 16LS2 is. I never did get to listen to a 17 ls2 because of the innavalabilty of dealers in my area. I feel that even though I bought the 16ls2 without even hearing it, I made a great decision. I hope this helps other people who are trying to decide on whether to get a 16 ls2 even if it is now a liitle bit older.