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.

Showing 12 responses by mfoley3

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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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!
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 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.
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.
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.