I don't know how old your ML 26 is or just how good it sounds, but personally I'd look for something a little later, as the Premier 10's design is now 13 years old. For instance, the Pre14 is 3-1/2 years newer and has remote control, and the Pre16LS is only 6 years old.
Then again, if the Ten is inexpensive enough, you just might buy it and LISTEN!
The premier 10 is a fabulous pre-amp. It is simiular to the 17, save for the lack of a remote. The body is different, but the electronics are very similar. It is a great way to get into high end tube pre's at a very reasonable cost. Look on a A'gon and they show up for less than $1200, a very good price.
I'd pay the extra money for a Premier 14, currently running around $1500. But then I have one and would never go back to a non-remote preamp. Good luck.
I am familiar with Premier 10,14 and 17 and my first choice
is the 14 with an after market ac cord,all those CJ are good candidate for,if you go with the 14 and want a special one just let me know.It is 1 hour job with a Dremmel to replace the captive ac cord with a IEC chassis mount.
i owned a premier 10 by CJ, upgrade to audio research LS 25 and then finish with a reference one...
i feel the CJ 10 is a lot less silent in back ground and i think your premiere eight deserve a lot better pre amp....
LS 25 was a tad less musical but more accurate but it is not in the same league if we talk about money on the used market...
if you ever go for audio research pre amp you could put in NOS tubes like amperex bugle boy to add more music
i like a lot CONRAD JOHNSON product because my amp is an EVOLUTION 2000 and it make a pretty good match with my REF ONE, i share acuracy and musicality
so good luck in your shopping and hope this help....
The PR14 is basically a PR10 with a remote. It uses the same circuit topology, a single triode buffered by a cathode follower and sounds about the same. This is a tried a true design that is still used by numerous manufacturers so I would not worry about the age. If you can live without a remote and the price is good I would try the 10.
The PR17 is a different beast, it has the same composite triode topology as the 16, ART, and ACT.
Thanks all for you comments. The Premier 10 was delivered to my home last night to try it for a whole week. It sounds very good (just 1 hour listening..) with all the virtues of a tube preamp (lush, musical, timbre) and better bass definition than I expected.
I would definitly try to move to an 17 or above later, I will post you my findings and how it compares to the ML No. 26. I need to decide next Friday...
Conrad Johnson Premier 10 - great midrange reproduction, lifelike presentation, shines on piano, vocals. A little rolled-off at the extremes and a little grainy compared to the ML.
Mark Levinson No. 26 - Excellent top end resolution, cymbals, claps soundvery realistic and well defined, better low end resolution with more dynamics/impact and free of grain midrange.
As-of-today - The ML looks like a keeper
Do you (all) agree with the above observations based in your experience?
Here's a can of worms for you, open at your own peril. Perhaps the tubes in the 10 could stand to be replaced. Your overall impressions don't suprise except for the grain in the 10.
The Prem 10 is really a 14 without remote, little to choose between them. I have heard both and bought a 17. It is better, but not dramatically. All are wonderful, musical Pre's with a magical midrange, you can keep your ARC's, they lack the CJ magic, to my aging ears. Enjoy the 10
There's a good-looking Premier 14 on Agon today for $1500. Can't imagine preferring a ML 26 to this baby, but that's a tube guy for you :-)
I am willing to like the Premier10, to my ears it is a very musical design, this unit is in almost 10/10 condition and midrange bloom is fantastic, but I am missing the extreme frequency resolution, speed and impact of the ML 26.
During the first days of trial, I thought I was used to the ML presentation, so I really tried to wash-out all previous misconceptions of the former preamp and really tried to be open minded about the sonic signature of the Premier10.
The Premier10 is not a bad preamp, it cost 50% of the street price of the ML 26 and is pretty close in many aereas and even better in some others, but as-of-today I think I will keep the ML 26 and wait for a larger CJ preamp opportunity someday in the future.
I will give the Premier10 this last 2 days (weekend) just to confirm the above conclusion.
Final Decision: I am keeping the ML26 and wait to get a Premier 17 or a 16 later on. The Premier 10 is a great preamp but it did not bring any substantial sonic improvements over my current preamp.
Thanks all for your feedback, it was very valuable for me.