Cannot comment on the CATs (the last CAT amps I heard were JL-1s, and they were extraordinary in some respects but overall a little tilted to the bright side for me--that might have also been in part attributable to the Wilson Grand SLAMMS they were driving), but the Lamm "house sound" is a fine blend of technically superb performance that doesn't lose the music. I'd say that they probably are a little rolled or dark in the highest frequencies, at least the L2 preamp I heard in my system and the ML 1.1s I own, but they have a midrange to die for. I doubt you could go wrong with either of these electonics, but I would suggest at the prices involved you really should hear each and make up your own mind, as they do have different sonic signatures.
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One of my dealers claims that the CAT amps and Wilson Grand Slamm have some of the best synergy he has ever heard in audio. I do not remember which iteration of the Grand Slamm he was referring to, however, as that speaker changed over the years. Likewise, the WattPuppy 6 and 7 are different from the Grand Slamm and different from each other, so it is hard to say how helpful this recommendation is.
That said, the CAT amps are phenomenal (my best hi-fi friend has the JL-1 Limited Edition monoblocks) and will compare very favorably to any of the Lamms (or any other amp, for that matter). While Lamm makes really good gear, if I had to choose between CAT and Lamm amps with limited information, I would choose the CAT. The JL-2 is incredibly powerful and can drive really low impedences, so there is probably no need for you to buy the monoblock versions (JL-1's or JL-3's).
PS - I understand that the top Transparent speaker cables work really well with Wilson speakers, so you are probably off in the right direction there.
WOW, tuff choice...Both, are very good in there own right. I also concur with Essentiaalaudio assessment of the JL3's you can't go wrong. A good friend of mine uses the CAT's with his Merlin VSM-MX's and the results are nothing less than spectacular! (although, I perfer My TRL's) But, just to throw in something a little different into the mix. Some of the best sound I've ever heard come out of a Wilson 7 came about by way of a Halcro mono Amp/pre combo. The synergy is unreal! On vinyl, female vocalists WERE in the room, so much so you could actually smell the perfume they were wearing...Another, very good alternative could be the famed Jadis 200's that sound has taken best of sound at the CES shows a couple of times. These opinions are mine and my intent is not to confuse the question at hand, only to offer some other options you may have not considered. Because, after all this is a very personal and subjective decision. Let your own ears be the judge, but try and listen, to as many combos as possible before you spend all that hard earned money.
I would not be surprised if the JL-2 exceeds the performance of the standard JL-1 monos, as it has the upgraded circuit board. However, the $50k Limited Edition JL-1 monos are a different story -- the outrageous parts quality and kryptonite output transformers that all that money buys put them in a different league.
You never did get back to me about the differences between the JL-3 standard and signature versions, by the way.
Thanks and best wishes.
Raquel: I apologize for not responding about the differences between the JL3 and JL3 Signature, although I asked my CAT dealer friend and haven't received a reply (how's that for a feeble excuse?). One of the significant differences are the output transformers, I can assure you of that. Exactly what the differences are, I can't say. As far as I know there are other differences to justify the $8K premium over the standard JL3s. I'll send my friend a reminder and see if I can't come up with a more definitive description. I imagine Ken Stevens might say the JL3 Signatures are a step above the JL1 LEs. I'm pretty darn sure Ken will go on record saying the JL2 outperforms the JL1s, due in part to the use of Teflon circuit boards. It's an exciting sounding amplifier.
As an owner of the JL-3 Signature amps for almost 6 months I am still so very impressed with this product. I have not been able to find anything on a JL-3 non-signature model so perhaps this was a first generation of a JL-2 mono design. With the JL-1 signature, I understood this to be a more beefy output transformer than the standard JL-1 to accommodate more difficult speaker loads. And since I did not expect to own any crazy speaker out there, I was thinking a non-signature JL-3 would have worked for me due to a lower cost. I really like the idea of mono amps and Im sure the JL-2 would have sufficed, but when I a good deal on the JL-3 signature came my way, the temptation was just too great.
The JL-1 L.E. is the JL-1 Signature with refinements having much to do with the transformer materials that Mr. Stevens spent a lot of R&D time to perfect. I found the information on Arthur Salvatores site covering the different JL amplifier versions to be of great value. Mr. Stevens letter to Mr. Salvatore discusses the major differences made to achieve the L.E. model.
Notice that Mr. Stevens response indicates that the technology from the L.E. is now in the JL-2 & JL-3. Who knows all the specifics, but I think it is a fair assessment to say that the additional $20k cost of the L.E. was to pay for the improved transformer R&D and to provide this to a few people willing to pay the price to get this last effort by Mr. Stevens in his JL-1 product. Now with this design effort as part of all new JL series amps, the cost is not so prohibitive.
There seems to be a consensus that the JL-2 is a major sonic improvement by all who heard it vs. the Non-L.E. JL-1. The Soundstage website CAT factory tour article,
http://www.soundstagelive.com/factorytours/cat indicates that the $12k JL-2 replaced the $30k JL-1 Signature monos. How often do we read that a company brings on an improved product at such a drop in price? very rarely! and I commend Mr. Stevens for making such an awesome performing product affordable to so many more audiophiles. It also states that the $30k JL-3 signature replaced the $50k JL-1 L.E. I highly doubt that Mr. Stevens would bring on a new statement product that is sonically inferior to his previous statement product. And again, it is at a significant price drop.
One post on Audigon that Mr. Stevens contributed to is the following:
Mr. Stevens writes about the JL-3 being far more linear than the JL-1 and much more energy storage than the JL-3. Whether or not the JL-1 mentioned here is the L.E. is not relevant to what he talks about in this thread.
There seems to be a lot of focus on the $50k price of the JL-1 L.E. which would indicate this is still THE top JL amp. The text in the above links would indicate that the JL-3 Signature has (for many reasons) indeed has displaced the JL-1 L.E. as the best amplifier released by Mr. Stevens. Of course only a direct shootout between the two models would put such a discussion to bed.
I feel there is often too much focus on the issue of what is best. And I would say that for most systems out there, most likely mine included, the JL-2 and the JL-3 signature would essentially be the same most if not nearly all the time. I suspect the big difference would come with very complex and dynamic material.
No matter what CAT you end up with, you are going to need a dedicated line for the amp. These things draw a lot of current when initially powered on!!! When I wrote to Mr. Stevens about power requirements, he was very helpful with ideas on what I needed. He suggested one 30A circuit would suffice for the two JL-3s provided I waited 5 seconds but not more than 10 seconds (due to the steady state current being drawn by the first amp) before turning on the second amp. I already had 2 circuits available and so I upgraded the wiring to 10GA and put in two 30A breakers. No more flickering lights or tripped breakers ..and no more counting seconds between powering up amps. 8-)
I would personally have a concern with driving Wilson speakers with CAT amps. I found WP 5 speakers to be so very analytical and sterile. They were however incredibly resolving and dynamic, both of which are also major strengths with the CAT amps. And the CAT amps do not at all have a lush warm sound often associated with tube amplifiers. So this combination could almost be too much in the neutral/resolving direction with perhaps a significant loss in decays, volume of space, etc. There is quite a balancing act to achieve all these qualities and I would be cautious here unless the latest WP6 and WP7 speakers have come a long way in the 3-dimensionality dept. since the WP 5. But something like a tube preamp could resolve this issue as well.
So what can I say...your answers came very quick. Thank you very much to all.I am first time on this forum.
To Mang53: I have friend who have WP5.1 with Tenor 75Wi and Transparent Reference MM cables. For my taste the sound of his sistem is incredible-musical,rich-full,air and super dinamic with sounstage to die for.I have the same music taste like him.For him the Halcro and WP7 combination is to steril so I suppose for me,too.
To Jafox: thank you for your answer but If I pick WP7 then I can not afford me JL-3s but JL-2 Mk2. I will see and give my report as soon something serious happen.
Ah ja, my friend of which I spoke have problems with Tenors 75Wi because they dont give WP5.1 enough power when listen on more then medium volumes-big classical music and rock...
I had the JL 1 sigs for about 3 years and the JL 3 sigs for about a year and a half,the difference is not subtle as a matter of fact it is huge.I have compared the CAT gear to everthing I could find Lamm,Aesthetix,Nagra,conrad jonhson,mark levinson and nothing beats the CAT stuff.I am using Avalon Diamond speakers and a Cat ultimate2 preamp.The difference between the JL3 mk1 and MK2 is the use of black gate caps and some other changes,I have not heard them but Ken said it is a worthy improvment over the JL3 mk1 and I have no reason to doubt him,he is usually pretty accurate.I would recommend the CAT gear for any application.
Sorry guys, but I am not sure I well understood the matter: is the JL-2 more or less powerful than the previous standard JL-1 ? For what I read the JL-2 should be a 120w stereo instead of 100w mono... I also noticed there is a 300w hc JL-3 at a lower price than the 200w JL-3... I'm more than confused. If someone could explain me better the differences between the amps mentioned, I would be grateful.
Thank you all, Luca.
Well, then it's settled...The 7's, with Transparent Audio Cables. The rest is subjective, as you can see a lot of great options are out their. The reference to the 5.1 sound of being steril with the Halcro's? perhaps...I never cared for the 5's, for me just to analytical and loose in the bass region's bottom octive (16-30hz). The 6.& 7. series however are VERY different critters, and someday I will have a pair for myself (Ferrari Red). But, again its a question of taste.
"I highly doubt that Mr. Stevens would bring on a new statement product that is sonically inferior to his previous statement product. And again, it is at a significant price drop."
Sure he would if he couldn't make money selling $50k amps. Given that there are only a dozen LE's in existence, that would seem to be the likely scenario.
Raquel: I don't think it was ever Mr Stevens' intention to sell $50k amplifiers for the long haul. Nobody survives on this very long. He simply needed to recover the R&D costs for the all-out assault to develop the finest output transformers that I suspect he was very eager to do. Surely a lot of different materials, topologies, etc., were tried and ultimately not acceptable until the one finally to meet (or come as close as possible at the time to meet) the desired specification.
We all know a lot of software is re-written and much hardware is thrown in the recycle or trash bins for the sake of R&D. The cost of time and parts to build a production unit does not at all reflect the cost it took to get there. And with a "limited" production run, the recipients of those units pay a high cost for any improvements.
Do you really think there is a $20k, a $10k or even a $5k cost in the ultimate hardware/materials updates to the JL-1 signature to make it an L.E.? Of course not! The sonic improvements from this effort could be phenomenol. But the price here is all about R&D costs to achieve that last improvement of the JL-1 before focus was to shift to the next generation amplifier. I suspect the ultimate cost to push this new technology into the later models was rather low once Mr. Stevens had the materials and process in place.
Rather than wait to recover these costs on later amp designs, several JL-1 amps were obviously available for a "limited" production run with the latest transformers. And no doubt Mr. Stevens made other improvements that he had discovered along the way. It is how engineers work. 8-)
Once the L.E. costs were recovered, the Signature and Limited Edition suffixes could be removed as the new JL-2 and JL-3 models were soon to follow. And now we have already seen a JL-3 signature appear that according to Brian is $8k more than the standard JL-3 with most likely improvements beyond just the output transformer. Again, I am not surprised as I have read many articles that Mr. Stevens is constantly improving his products but does not follow each update with a new model suffix nor with a higher price that we often see elsewhere in this industry.
Do we need to learn of a L.E. model at a much higher price to finally feel that the JL-1 L.E. has been replaced by a new top CAT amp? That seems rather silly. Perhaps when Mr. Stevens is eager to do another all-out assault with one of his designs, it just might end up in a new model at a lower price than the current top model. So what will it be...a $40-50k JL-3 L.E. or a $20k JL-5 stereo amp that takes the current JL-3 signature to the next level? I think we get too focused on the model designation and the costs here.
One final thing: When an engineer designs a state of the art product that takes the world by storm, as surely did the JL-1 in all its versions, that engineer does not simply stop there. There are always things to improve upon. I have never heard of an engineer to be satisfied to simply say, "hey, I did the best once, now second best at a lower cost will be fine from here on". There's simply too much drive to continue to do better and even at much lower cost. And this is the JL-2 and JL-3 series.
Schorly; did you mention the size of your room? if so, i missed it.
with Watt Puppies there will always be a benefit to more power. based on your sonic priorities (including micro and macro dynamics and a live soundstage) the amp choice will be highly room size dependant. in a fairly small room WP's will boogie on the M1.2's.......but if your room is large it will be marginal for macro dynamics and therefore stage size.
i owned WP's (3.2's, 5.1's and 6.0's) over a 6 year period in a smallish room (12' x 18' x 10.5') and listened to many different amps on them......even in that size room some amps just could not get them going.
most real world amps will work on WP's......just not in every room or to every taste.
My room have dimensions 7,8m X 4,2m and is 2,5m high.
I heard that CAT power amplifiers drive capability is very good so I suppose it will match my room dimensions with WP6 or 7.
One more question: How would be sonicaly if I put CAT jl-2 Mk2 and Lamm L2 reference preamplifier in the sistem with WP6 and Transparent reference XL(MM technology) or would be better to pick CAT Ultimat Mk2 or even Manley Steelhead which is phono and active line preamplifier together?
Schorly: Let me atone for the earlier digression.
I have a close friend who used an L2 with JL-1 Limited Editions and all Transparent Ultra cabling on Salons. Sounded spectacular. The L2 is a solid-state preamp with tube power supply. The output impedence averages 150 Ohms -- it can drive any amp. It will outperform all current and past production CAT preamps in most systems (as for the new $15k CAT preamp -- who knows). As for the Manley, there are differing opinions on how it performs as a stand-alone preamp.
I will alert the friend I alluded to to this thread and see if he has anything to add (he replaced a CAT Mk. III with L2, which he replaced with a Meitner DCC2 that is fed by a Steelhead).
Schorly, I am the friend to whom Raquel referred. I don't think you can go wrong with the Lamm L2. It is an outstanding preamp, and, based on my personal experience with my system, the L2 certainly pairs well with the CAT amps (JL-1 LEs in my case).
As for the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various former and current production model CAT amps, I would tell you that it is easy to find people who are willing to express opinions on the topic, but it is a rare find indeed to find an unconflicted party who has comparative listening experience with the CAT JL-1 LEs and the current production model JL-3 monoblocks. I have not had the good furtune to listen to these two amps in a comparative listening situation, and I have yet to find anyone other than Ken Stevens himself who has been fortunate enough to have this experience.
The JL-1 LE amps are said to contain very special, irreplaceable, hand-wound transformers that are critical to the performance of the amps. Whether this transformer and the other expensive parts in the JL-1 LEs resulted in an amp that is superior to the sound of the current production model JL-3s is a question few can objectively answer.
Schorly, you are correct about the CAT amps accommodating only single-ended interconnects. For that matter, while the Lamm L2 includes balanced outputs, it is inherently a single-ended design. I had excellent results when running my Lamm L2 into the CAT amps using a 35-foot pair of Transparent interconnects.
I don't have any technical expertise regarding just how long your interconnects can be before you will begin to hear a degradation of signal quality. I know at least one golden-eared member of our community who indicates he can hear the inherent degradation in sound quality whenever interconnects exceed five or six feet in length. On the other hand, conventional wisdom says that single-ended interconnects are essentially as good as balanced interconnects all the way up to about 50 feet of length.
I should also note that the Lamm L2 is a solid state preamp (the tubes are in the power supply), and it features a low (150 ohm) output impedance. As such, it can drive just about any amp and any cable at very long lengths. Nonetheless, regardless of which components you ultimately choose and regardless of whether you run balanced or single-ended cables, it is only common sense to keep your interconnects to as short a length as can practically be accommodated in your listening room set-up.
Schorly: I use a 25' MIT 350 EVO cable from an Aesthetix Callisto to the CAT amps and this too works very well. For awhile I used a 14' NBS Statement with an XLR-to-RCA adaptor into the CAT but of course only one of the phases of the Callisto's balanced output was being used. This too worked out very well. I don't think there was an issue of cable length but rather a different sonic character between the two cables: a little more midrnage warmth with the NBS and a little more top-end resolution and openness with the MIT.
Bob: I assume you are in Cincinatti with your Audiogon member name. I wish we lived closer as I'd be so eager to lug over my amps so we could get an opportunity to hear the two models in one system.
Jafox, yes I live in Cincinnati. I would really love to hear the our two CAT amp models in a common system. If you lived nearby, I suppose we would have to draw straws to see who would have to do the lugging - or, better yet, we could take turns hauling the amps to the other's listening room to conduct two comparative listening sessions. I gather, however, that this is all fantasy as you are not located in the near vicinity?
Brian: That is an amzing idea you are thinking as I was thinking exactly the same thing. Wow, weird!
Bob: I need to go to Chicago to drop off a turntable to be repaired by Brian's friend and I figured that since I will be there, I might as well take the CAT amps too. And then when I read your interest to also hear these two amps, I was thinking Brian's place would be perfect.
My system here is on the warm and bloomy side with some compromises to the ultimate in neutrality and resolution. Dynamics and contrasts are very good but not quite excellent. Brian's system has much more resolving and dynamic capability so this should really show the strengths and differences of each of the CAT amps.....and in comparison to the Atma-Sphere amps. This would be a very cool opportunity to hear these amps in a state of the art system.
My only concern is that we might triple his monthly electric bill in just one day. Hopefully there are one or two spare 30A circuits to use.
So gentlemen, let me know if this sounds possible in late July or early August.
Well in all fairness to Bob, I can relate to the hassle of having to haul these beasts around. And with this taking up most of 2 days with travel and several hours of listening, that's tough for anyone to do these days. It's easier for me as I already was planning to make the journey, and I previously mentioned to Brian that I would bring the amps with me. If I had not planned for nor had a reason to drive to Chicago other than for this listening session, I'm sure I would have replied much the same as Bob did above.
As for the outcome in the listening session, we all have some expectations here. And we would certainly hear qualities from Brian's burned-in Atma-Sphere amps driving the U1s that exceeds either of the CAT amps.
With or without the opportunity to hear these two amps at one time, Bob and I both realize how fortunate we are to own these amplifiers.
Schorly: I would not suggest a passive preamp with the Lamm LP2. I own that unit and, while I think it's superb, it only has 57 db of gain in the MC stage which, on some records cut at low levels and at least with my Koetsu RSP (admittedly low output), is barely enough to play them at reasonable levels, even with an active preamp. I think you will need the extra gain you get running that phono stage through an active line stage. I can vouch highly for both the Lamm L2 and Jadis line stages with the LP2 Deluxe (the synergy between the LP2 and my JP200 is shockingly good).
Rcprince: I know it is better with active line stage but I can not afford me active preamp right now.
I dont have Lamm LP2 Deluxe, but I am searching for phono preamp for Kuzma Stabi Ref. and Airline combo.
I have read only the best about Lamm LP2 Del. phono preamp so I have put it on my short list.
Have you suggestions for me about other phono preamps?
And put some words about differences between them.
Schorly: Rcprince raises a important issue on gains. Another product to consider is the Aesthetix Io. The Io has capability up to 80db gain. The non-signature model comes up now and then on the used mkt for much less than the LP2 deluxe. The Io has an awesome portrayal of space and decays but has a higher noise floor and is not quite as resolving as the more costly units. Lots of opportunity with tube changes to really get this unit to sing.
For even less cost, the BAT VK-P10 is a wonderfully musical unit. It has a gain in the low 70 dbs with the internal step-up transformer that I found to not get in the way of the music. It has a lower noise floor than the Io but not quite the 3-dimensional qualities described above.
John's suggestions are excellent--the IO was the principal unit that I was considering along with the Lamm, decided I couldn't fit the two chassis and I liked the lower noise floor on the Lamm. And, best of all, you can get one, if it turns up used, with an excellent volume control (two huge volume pots), so you won't need the passive or a line stage, if all you listen to is vinyl. A friend of mine got one of the early ones, has had it for many years and still loves it.
Good suggestions from both, since I will not need any active pre.
So lets sum up: Kuzma combo with Aesthetix Io phono with volume pots to CAT JL-2Mk2(JL-3Mk2) to WP 6(7) all wired with Transparent Reference MM cables! Something is missing...
The cartridge! What is your suggestion, which would match idealy in this set up? If,then I preffer more warm sound not cool and analytical. The best would be neutral.