CJ ACT 2 v. VTL 7.5 v. ARC Ref 3

I am thinking of moving to a replacement tube pre with remote. My current Wyetech Opal, which is awesome and which I love dearly, has no remote and back problems are now leading me to a pre with remote.

I have a CJ PF-R in BR system and like the "old" CJ sound -- to a point. Have not heard VTL 7.5, but have heard an ARC Ref 1 and it seemed a bit on the sterile side. Don't know Ref 3's "character"

Any comments on strengths/wealnesses among these 3?

Krell 300cx amp
Dodson 218 DAC
CEC TL-1X transport with RAM mods
MAC MR80 tuner
Von Schweikert VR5 HSE spkrs

Valhalla, Elrod Statement and Sig PC's
Stealth Sextet Digicable
Valhalla, AQ SKY IC's
PAD Venustas spkr cables
Original Shunyata Hydra

Thanks for info. This will be a traumatic change.

I am not a CJ fan. I had the ARC Ref2 in my house for a week. It vas very good but not great. I do not know how the Ref 3 compares to the 2. Never heard the VTL, but owned the BAT51SE for a while. It was a superb pre-amp. Only sold it to get the new Dartzeel pre-amp, which makes everything else I heard sound veiled (Dart lifts many veils), unfocused, grainy and electronic.
the cj would be the one to get. one of most neutral cj pre's ever. the problem with the above mentioned dartzeel is twofold......long term service is a big question mark for the money spent, and the resale is tragic (check audiogon used)..... sonically the cj is warmer than the arc or the vtl......but not the blooming type of warmth associated with vintage cj.
Neal, I have taken delivery of an ARC Ref 3 in January and am absolutely enthrolled by it. My search has lasted about three years, and has included several linestages, including VTL 7.5 and ARC Ref 2 Mk. 2. I did not consider CJ ACT 2 in the end because I wanted to create a fully balanced system. ARC Ref 2 Mk. 2 I could never decide if I liked or not. VTL 7.5 was marvellously musical but a little overly sweet with slightly dampened transients. Please note that my listening experience with VTL 7.5 was in the Summer of 2004. Since then VTL seems to have introduced an update to the 7.5, hence my impressions may no longer be completely uptodate. My search for a linestage picked up in tempo during last summer. I have created a relatively long discussion thread on my experience that contains lots of interesting comments from a number of very excelletnt audiogoners. You will find it at:
I'd be glad to add any info you will still need.

As a Krell 300cx owner in the market for a new preamp, I too am interested in your question.

In your experience, are there any problems with mating a Krell amp with a tube preamp? Do you need to engage a coupling capacitor to block the dc as recommended by Krell?
To all,

Thanks for your advice. I should add the BAT to the list. Guidocorona, I will check your link. Reading others' comments and getting a cross-section of impressions is very useful because listening to these pre's in another system is not really very revealing on how it will sound in one's own.

Scott, I originally bought my Krell as a 200c and used it with a Hovland HP100 with no problems. After a few weeks I had it upgraded to a 300cx at Krell and they did the internal adjustment for tube pre's. No problems using it with the Wyetech Opal, which is single-ended so I use Valhalla's with an XLR on the amp end. I have heard of others who used the 300cx with tube pre's without the internal adjustment and have had no problems. I think you have to check whether the impedances match up but I do not have the technical knowledge to elaborate. You might want to just give Krell Tech Support a call or send an e-mail. In my experience they have been very responsive.
Hi Nglazer,
I compared CJ ACT II to ARC REF3 in my system. I bought ARC Ref3. Can't comment on VTL 7.5 or BAT

Let me know please what Valhalla and Elrod Statement power cords connected to in your system?

Eugene, could you comment on the audible differences between Act 2 and Ref 3, and what where the key factors that made you decide in favor of Ref 3?
I also was able to auditon both the CJ and the ARC Ref3 in my system at the same time from two different dealers. I found them both to be first class pre amps. However, I went with the ARC. As good as the Act ll was, it did have the CJ house sound which is a little to warm for me while the ARC simply disappeared.
ARC3 had better image density, presented lager, deeper soundstage and had better harmonics. On some CDs instruments seemed better separated with CJ. But overall Ref3 was a clear winner.

There were two more candidates during my test – Aesthetix Calisto Signature and dcs Elgar DAC with variable output. Aesthetix couldn’t compete with others with its factory Sovtek tubes. In regard to dCS Elgar, it was connected directly to CAT JL2 and on some good recordings surpassed my system with Ref3 in it. But that was only with two CDs out of ~ 30 good recorded CDs I played those days. dCS could never play piano right and didn’t present soundstage as good as preamps did.

Other components during auditioning were:
Avalon Eidolon
Meridian 508.24
Stereovox IC and speaker Cable
Nordost Vishnu, Shunyata Anaconda Alpha and NBS Serpent power cables
Thank you Eugene for your findings!