CJ preamp upgrade suggestions

I'm currently considering upgrading my PR16LS2 to one of the following: ET5, ACT2S2 or GAT (the GAT would be a stretch). My system consists of an Esoteric K-03, CJ PR16LS2, CJ LP140M monoblocks, Focal Electra 1008 BE monitors, JL Audio F110 sub, Siltech IC and SC, Running Springs Haley power conditioner and Acoustic Zen Gargantua and Krakatoa PC. Our listening room is 20x22 feet with 9 foot ceilings. We listen mostly to jazz and love vocals and acoustic instruments. Periodically we listen to classic rock and larger scale classical music. I'm at an age where I intend this to be my final set of system upgrades. Your thoughts are appreciated.
Since no one is chiming in I will try to help or at least give you my thoughts. I had a premier 16ls2 for a couple of years in my system and it is a very good pre-amp. The later models with the teflon caps will be more detailed and a bit quicker whereas the 16 will posses more of the older cj house sound (smooth and a bit on the warm side). So it really depends on what you are trying to achieve.

to my ears, the best CJ pre for me, has been the Act 2 Series 2. Keep us posted.
Hi Czbbci, Thanks for taking a moment to give me your thoughts. What I'm in the process of doing is what I hope will be my final system overhaul. I continue to update my system having just purchased some Siltech Forbes Lake G6 Signature interconnects and a pair of Focal Diablo Utopia III monitors to replace my current Focal Electra 1008 BE monitors. What remains is a speaker cable upgrade (most likely Siltech) and the preamp.

I like the 16S2. I consider it quite musical and easy to live with. What I'd like is more detail, a larger, better defined soundstage and greater dynamics without sacrificing the musicality and ease of the 16ls2. My impressions based upon what I've read or been told are: 1. The ACT2S2 will give me more of what I'd like. 2. However, it won't be as dynamic, detailed or have as good a soundstage as the ET5. The ET5 however, will be more analytical and perhaps less easy to live with than the 16ls2. 3. The GAT will provide all of what I'm seeking, but at a much higher price.

If someone has direct experience with these three and feels they can calibrate the differences between them I'd appreciate their thoughts.
I believe a person that goes by the moniker "onemug" has had experience with most or all of the cj pre amps you mention. Perhaps you can review his threads for some insight or try to e-mail him.
A word of caution,the Focals can sound really aggressive/bright with some components.Hopefully you'll be able to audition before purchasing.
Thanks for the input guys. I'm directly familiar with the sound of Focal BE monitors (Electra and Diablo) and how they match with CJ tubed gear. I'm not similarly familiar with sound of the three candidate CJ preamps I mention, thus I'm trying to gain more insight. The idea of seeking onemug's input is a good one and I appreciate the caution about Focal's sensitivity to aggressive/bright upstream components. Thanks again.
I upgraded from a 16 series 1 to ET5. I enjoyed both and could happily live with either one. With the ET5 you will get a more dynamic and better defined sound stage. It is a little dryer sounding than the 16. One big advantage to ET5 is that it only uses one tube and greatly reduces the re-tubing costs. In the end I am glad I made the change.

System: Wilson Watt/Puppy 7, Cary 805C, CJ ET5, Berkley DAC, CJ 15 series 2, VPI TNT 3.5 turntable
My GAT arrived yesterday and I have about 30 hours on it. I'm surprised by how good it sounds already and also how it's midrange retains the musical qualities and ease of the 16LS2 it's replaced. I was hoping that would be the case and I'm pleased. The GAT also is displaying its superiority in terms of dynamics, extension at the high and low ends and greater clarity and detail. From what I've read, it will begin to really blossom around 170-200 hours and then continue to improve for another 300-500 hours.
The GAT now has approximately 280 hours of play time. As sources I've used our cable company's music channel signal, a system break-in disk that came with my Esoteric K-03 player and a variety of music played on the K-03. As expected the GAT has improved significantly. In comparison to the 16LS2 it is more quiet, far more resolving and dynamic, the bass is deeper and more coherent, highs seem more extended and are more detailed, the midrange is even more effortless, the soundstage is wider, deeper and more 3 dimensional. Music emerges from a "blacker" background and instrument and vocal images exist in their own space. Also, the absence of grain is noteworthy.
I've ordered some Stillpoint Mini Ultras that should arrive next week. I'm currently using a Symposium Segue shelf and RollerBlock Juniors under the GAT. The Stillpoints will replace the RollerBlocks under the GAT and I will install four Stillpoints under the K-03 and the LP140M monos. I'll move the RollerBlocks under my RSA Haley power conditioner. So far, I'm pleased. I also will be adding a second 20 amp dedicated circuit to power the LP140Ms within the next month.
Future projects will be to experiment with other tubes, resonance control shelves and room acoustics. I'd be pleased to receive the thoughts of others that have experience in these areas. Thanks.
Mfoley3, warmest congratulations.

I run a similar system with CJ GAT, ART Monoblocks and the Diablo Utopia also.

Coincidently, I also use Stillpoint Mini Ultras under the GAT.

If you are looking for a more liquid and airy sound, consider using Telefunken E88CCs for the GAT. Provided you don't have a microphonics problem, I've also found removing the supplied tube damping rings to be helpful.
Hi Erictech, thank you for your response. I'm very happy to connect with someone having experience with a system similar to mine! A couple of follow-on questions: 1. In the area of tube rolling, I'm a complete newbie and any info. is particularly appreciated. Did you experiment with other tube types and also can you recommend a reliable source? 2. Have you tried a platform under your GAT? 3. I'm currently using an Acoustic Zen Gargantua power cord on the GAT and the stock cords on the LP140Ms. Have you experimented with the power cords for your GAT and ART monos?
Thanks again!
Nicely done Mfoley.

Did you get any chance to demo an ART3 pre-amp. A little dated, I know. I would love to hear one of those wonderful CJ pre-amps. Keep us posted as your GAT breaks-in. Happy Listening.
Hi Jafant, I did not have the opportunity to hear an ART III. I relied primarily on information from various forums and input from CJ and a CJ dealer to make my decision. Also, I found very few ART III for sale and their price was near that of a GAT. Ultimately, I concluded that the GAT was the "safest" choice.
Hi Mfoley,

1. I've not tried other tubes besides the stock tubes in the GAT and the Telefunkens, but I've done a fair bit of tube rolling in my previous ET3SE. The Genalex Gold Lions are another good alternative, especially if you are looking for a denser and more midrange centric sound. I bought my Telefunkens from Parts Connexion.

2. I've not tried platforms, but many footers I tried actually made the GAT and ET3SE worse. The Stillpoints were one of the few that improved things without taking too much away. However, placement of the footers is critical. The best for my Stillpoints were 4 pieces, two behind and two in front. The front two are directly underneath where the tubes are, while the back two are slightly further in.

3. Both the GAT and ART respond well the power cords. The GAT uses an Acrolink Mexcel 9500 while the ART monoblocks use Acrolink 7N-4030 in my system. Another power cord that worked quite well with my Classic 60 SE which I previously owned is the AET SCR AC EVD. I appreciate that most of these cords are quite hard to find outside of Japan / Asia. Other cables which I thought worked quite well were AZ (which you have), and HiDiamond. I can't remember the exact model, but it was about USD 800. Siltech SPX-800 also sounded quite good.
Hi Ericteh,

Thanks for your response.

1. I will wait for the break-in process to finish before I change the tubes and will try the Telefunkens.

2. My Stillpoints are due to arrive this Thursday and I will follow your placement suggestion. While I was at it, I also ordered two sets of (4) Ultra SS, one set for each speaker. I will try those after I've experimented with the Ultra Minis under the electronics. You mention that your Stillpoints experience with the Minis resulted overall in improvement. May I ask you to describe the pluses and minuses? I will also try the Stillpoints under the GAT with and without the Symposium shelf and will report back on my experiences with the above.

3. As far as power cords, I'm glad to hear that you've had a good experience with Acoustic Zen. So have I and will purchase some for the LP140M monos. I'll bet your ART monos are wonderful. I've not heard either them or the LP275Ms, but understand they are wonderful. A friend has the ARTSA. I heard it a year ago when it was paired with an ART II. It was excellent. He has since had the ART upgraded to the ART III specification by CJ. I have not heard it since the upgrade though.

Thanks again for the information - very helpful!
Ericteh, Are the Telefunkens you are using current production or NOS?

Upscale Audio recently purchased a large quantity of brand new, never used NOS NIB (new in box) Telefunken E88CCs and is selling them for a very good price. I would strongly recommend that you try these in a preamp of the quality of the GAT. I can't guarantee that you'll like them but you owe it to yourself to give them a try.

If you buy new Telefunkens elsewhere, make sure they are not the JJs labeled Telefunken currently being manufactured. I haven't compared them but I think most would agree the JJs are not Telefunken quality tubes.
While you're at it, call Kevin Deal at Upscale and discuss what you are looking for in the sound of your tubes. Some people don't like Kevin's manner on the phone, but Kevin knows tubes and tube gear and is a straight shooter, maybe that's why some people don't like him.

He has a great selection of NOS tubes and the best testing gear. You should be able to find the perfect tubes for your GAT along with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are getting what you paid for.

I have no connection to Upscale and have never met Kevin.
Hi Tomcy6,

Thanks for the tube info and source recommendations. I'll call this week and speak with both parties. Some years ago, I did speak with Kevin. I found his manner aloof, however he seemed very knowledgeable. I've since then read and heard good things about him.

Thanks again!
Hi Mfoley,

The Telefunkens are NOS (not the current production by JJ).

Most ball bearing isolation devices I've heard bring good speed, focus and resolution to a system, but with a tendency to make the overall sound dry and a bit too analytical. The Stillpoints bring all the benefits to the table, but have a surprisingly liquid and smooth top end. However, placement is critical. It takes days of experimentation to find the exact location.

Although using just 3 makes it easier to balance, I found that using four Stillpoints to sound better. They are height adjustable so levelling them is possible.
Hi All, I now have about 500 hours on the GAT and I'm very pleased. Concurrent with the break in of the GAT, I've also been breaking in the LP140Ms (they now have about 400 hours on them) which were purchased new and also new Siltech 770L speaker cables (that now have about 300 hours on them) With all of that happening simultaneously, I can't really differentiate among the three in terms of specific sonic impact. However. I'm very pleased with how everything has come together. The sound is highly detailed and dynamic, imaging is very specific and well defined and the soundstage is deeper, wider and higher. Most importantly,instruments and vocals are rendered accurately (at least to my ear) and overall the system is non fatiguing and a pleasure to live with.
I've added four Stillpoints Ultra Minis under the CDP, Pre and amps. I also added 3 Rollerblocks under the RSA Haley power conditioner. The result was an immediate improvement in imaging, soundstage, dynamics and an even quieter background. I had also purchased Stillpoints Ultra SS (4 for each speaker), but those have been returned for exchange as their thread size was inappropriate for the Diablos. I expect to have the correct ones in three days.
I have not yet experimented with the sonic effect of the Symposium shelf under the GAT. I also have not yet added a dedicated circuit for the amps, nor have I ordered the Telefunken 6922 tubes from Upscale. I'll update this post once I have.
Glad to hear that your system has come together so well M. That's what we're all after, that elusive synergy that makes all the trouble and expense worth it.

When you start experimenting with tubes, just have an idea of what effect you would like the tubes to have on the sound of your system and I'm sure you can find a tube that works for you. It may or may not be the Telefunkens, but talking to Kevin is a good place to start.
Hi Tomcy6, while I am quite pleased with the system, I'm also sure that different components might have yielded an even better result. However, given my strong product biases and lack of desire to do extensive A/B comparisons, I'm pleased with my results. I will call Upscale tomorrow and try to speak with Kevin directly regarding the sonic characteristics of the Telefunkens and will also inquire about the strengths and weaknesses of other 6922 alternatives. Thanks for your advice, very helpful.
A quick update - I received the Stillpoints Ultra SS with the correct sized threads. I installed them a week ago and have listened since then. While I don't listen as attentively as many that participate on this forum, I'm confident that the Ultra SS under the speakers have made a noticeable improvement. Like with the minis, the soundstage is a bit larger, deeper and better defined. Images are more specific, transients are cleaner, the bass is tighter and better defined and I believe the same is true for the higher frequencies. Live recordings, acoustic instruments and vocals are more realistically renedered. Interestingly, even poorer recordings seem to have benefitted as their imperfections are less noticeable and irritating. I spoke with Upscale last week, unfortunately Kevin was traveling. The fellow I spoke with highly recommended the telefunken 6922 and they arrived this afternoon. I expect to install them in a few days. I also haven't gotten around to arranging the installation of a dedicated circuit for my amps. I'll provide an update once I've gotten a sense for the new 6922s.
Mfoley, How have the Telefunkens worked out for you?

any tube-rolling suggestions for a CJ ET-5 & ET-3SE ?
Thank You and Happy Listeing!
Hi Guys, I'm pleased with the Telefunkens. The bass is tighter and seems more extended, the midrange is more open, dynamics are improved and the soundstage is more believable. Vocals and acoustic instruments sound wonderful. The only downside is that poorer recordings seem to have a bit of "tizziness" that I don't recall with the stock tubes. Upscale recommended their Telefunken Platinum version for use in the higher end CJ preamps such as the ET5. The cost is $10 per tube I believe. Overall, a highly recommended tweak.
Hi Mfoley,

I'm glad the Telefunkens sound good to you. Telefunkens are known in audiophile circles for their clarity, neutrality and long life. While generalizations don't tell us what a given tube will sound like in a given component or system, it sounds like that description could be what's causing the tizziness on poor recordings. Maybe you're just hearing some distortion that is on the recording.

I would first recommend that you give the tubes and GAT a little time to settle in or break in, which I'm sure you were going to do anyway. Then, if you decide you want something a little warmer or more forgiving, there are plenty of tubes that fit that description.

Enjoy your music!