Yes, there is a difference. But as wonderful as is the CT-5, the CT-6 sounds pretty darn good and is the better value of the two. In my opinion.
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You will have to ask Bill or Lew the specific reasons why these two products were released in the same time period at the upcoming CES show in January. I believe that they were appealing to two different markets: the CT-5 to the A.R.T. inclined crown, and the CT-6 to the budget/high-end crowd, where CJ has always excelled IMO but seldom sells enough units to be profitable.
Both amps are excellent. But in my opinion the CT-6 is simply too close to the sound of the CT-5, compared to the difference in original price. It's an even better bargain now, as the street price seems to have depreciated a little more than the CT-5.
I wouldn't kick either one out of bed.
I owned the CT-6 and listened to the CT-5 quite extensively when I was thinking of upgrading. No comparison between the two IMO. The CT-5 is much more refined, with more extension at both ends, particularly the bass, again IMO. But unless your looking for the more "modern" transparent CJ sound, do yourself a favor and look/listen to a Premier 16II. Hand's down the better pre.
I guess I would qualify as a owner of both the CT6 & CT5 so I will comment. I owned the CT6 with a pair of Harbeth SHl5's and it was an outstanding performer. I then switched to a very revealing speaker and with the CT6 something was missing. I then bought a CT5 and with my new speakers the magic was back. Moral of the story if you have really revealing speakers the CT5 will shine otherwise the CT6 will sound great with a less revealing speaker.
Ah, the one of the joys of being an audiophile... the luxury of arguing over which great preamp is "better".
I have heard the Premier 16 (not a MkII) on several occasions, and I concur that it is a great amp. Without having heard them together, I would say that the Premier 16, Premier 17 and the CT-5 all share a very similar sound. I will leave it to each person to decide which is "best".
But I will add again that, IMO, the CT-6 has very a very similar sonic signature, just not as much of it. It is really a remarkable Preamp for the it's price on the used market. If one can afford one of the more expensive models, then please do so.