CJ premier 8 - please share your comments

Hi - I am evaluating/listening a pair of CJ Premier 8 at home this weekend (dealer is sellinfga his demo pair).

I am not familiar with the CJ line (never had any amp/preamp from them before). I will kindly appreciate your valuable experience/insight regarding this amps. (please check my system description)

I must decide if I am keeping them or not next Monday !!!

One of the great tube amplifiers from any manufacturer, and one of the best amps C-J ever designed. A true classic. Extremely well made, with high quality parts, and very reliable. C-J still provides complete tube sets.

These should be a very nice match to your Avalons, with tremendous bass authority and still with that wonderful C-J midrange naturalness. These are competitive with any large tube amp made today (but without the ultimate transparency and speed only available from OTLs). And, when wired in triode (the 8XS model as delivered from the factory) these are absolutely stunning but at about 1/2 of the output power.
enjoyed them for several years purchased them used had never heard them before purchasing them was extremely pleased when I heard them play those first few notes definitely was the best amplifier I ever heard at that time. they are extremely musical sounding amplifiers with very few identifiable flaws. excellent bass,very well balanced dynamically from top to bottom,excellent midrange. Oh they are very reliable also usually left mine on continuously tubes last about a year this way. would like to hear a pair again on my current system someday definitely.
I have the 8xs(factory)----Not only am I tube junkie; I'm a triode junkie as well.---Everybody I know that owned the 'A' version 8's sold them. Most 6550 amps don't give me what I like--compared to el34's. To me the sound is very different---used with a friendly-load speaker. I owned the 5's and had them converted to triode---Eerily close to the 8xs with "all the right tubes"---At the price of tubes; I never 'just' leave them powered up.
Thanks, here are my observations so far:

a) very clean and life-like midrange reproduction
b) nice roundness to accoustic instruments
c) excellent pitch reproducing piano and female voices
d) not very good control and bass tonality compared to the X250
e) not the same degree of soubdstaging and dynamic handling as my reference amp

I have today as the last to make up my mind, as-of-today I am leaning towards keeping the x250 and save $3000.00 in the trade.

I agree with all the comments above. One of the truly great amps (tube or SS) of all time. Al colleague of mine uses them to drive the top end of the same speakers I have...the Infinity RS 1-B's.....truely magical!!!

I would agree with all of your listening observations, with the exception that I am puzzled by two: I would have expected superb soundstaging from the Premier 8 and at least very good dynamic handling, with perhaps better microdynamics than macro. But, as always you have to make the choice based on what you hear in your system, and where your listening priorities fall.

Thanks for sharing your observations! Just goes to show that Pass Labs gear is well designed and executed.
Further observations:(4 hours before SuperBowl)

Midrange (voices and strings for example) are much more life-like than the PASS, which sounds a tad analytical and cold.

Bass: A little "hangover" in the bass is coming from the CJ, tubes are Sovtek so there is room for improvement there.

Highs: both very well reproduced (Pass & CJ) but different. Pass amp delivers excellent transients and attack, CJ reprpduction is a little coloured, silvery and sustained, really nice as well.

Bottom Line as-of 4 hours prior the SuperBowl: The CJ is equalizing the race, I sit there and enjoy music instead of pinpointing sonical articfacts.

Thanks all, please keep comments flowing.

sovtek? the stock factory 6550 tubes should be GE manufactured maybe that's why the soundstage is as you are describing doesn't match the sonic soundstage description as excellent by rushton or I. In my experience the sovtek tubes are adequate sounding at best definitely believe the Conrad Johnson supplied GE tubes would definitely sound better.
Yeah .. it was strange for me as well finding out that Sovtek tubes were installed in this amp, and they have un-even lettering as well so I am pretty sure there are room for improvements there.

What about Svetlana tubes for this amp, are those a good option?

Further Comments (3 hours prior SBowl)

a) Midrange thru the CJ is very clean (I can follow lyrics easily)

b) A little "boominess" in the bass compared to the PASS (this should be expected right??)

Will try Rock and Alternative this next hours, I have been playing mostly Jazz and Latin (Yo-Yo-Ma Brazil, etc..).

In the bass, you may be hearing room interaction more than a characteristic of the Premier 8s, assuming your speakers are still positioned as shown in your system picture. With the Premier 8s, you may have not "boominess" but actually more accurate and fully fleshed out bass that is now revealing that the speakers are too close to side and rear walls, or that the distances should be more different one from the other than now. Having the speakers right in the corner, as shown in the picture, will not be kind to a smooth bass response. If you have enough width, try moving each speaker towards the center by 6-12" and see what happens to the bass.
Rushton - Agreed with your note regarding spkr positioning, but the pic is a little misleading since the left speaker is almost 1.5 mt from the back wall and 1 mt from the left wall- I have nearly 3 mts between the spkrs so I would try pulling them INSIDE the listening room first to see what happens.

I have a friend who owns the Premier 8's in a very well tuned set-up.Rushton's comments are quite accurate regarding the merits of this really fine product.However my friend is using his CJ's to drive the mid/tweeter panels of his speakers above about 100 hz,so I cannot comment on his lowest frequencies,since he uses solid state Krell stuff for his Lows.The rest of the range is superb with these amps.Every accolade you care to ascribe to the sound.As far as your current speaker set-up is concerned,I am intimately familiar with the Eclipse's.I have a friend who owned them for 6-7 years.I currently own a pair of Avalon Ascents,that I drive with a modified Rowland 8t(2 chasis,second houses newer switch mode power supply,formerly battery).Based upon what you claim about your speaker positioning I would have to refer you to the EXCELLENT owners manual that came with these(ECLIPSE AND ASCENT).Here Avalon goes into great detail about optimum speaker placement,stating that you should not have too great a similarity between side and back walls.You are too close to the undesired locations to have optimum bass response.My speakers(That follow the exact same set-up distances as yours, are 8 feet from back walls and 3 1/2 from side walls.My friend's Eclipse's were 3 1/2 feet from side walls and 6 fet from back walls.Since these are sealed boxes with a low "Q" damping of cabinet,the bass can be superb if room loading is utilized properly.Avalon SPECIFICALLY claims that you should NOT have the side and back parameters too similar or you risk lower quality bass performance.Read the book again,or ask Avalon for a copy,if you bought the speakers used,and never got it.It is really an eye opening read,regarding some of the more popular,and actually less accurate designs so in vogue today.I suspect your amp issue will go away when you do so.In either case both the CJ and your current amp will be superb.Good luck.
Thanks sirspedy - Yes, I know the booklet and read it (this is my second pair of Avalon spkrs, first I got the Avatars some years back).

Problem is that my listening room IS also the living room, not too much room to play with (I won the battle with my wife of not placing ivory elephants on top of the spkrs already !!!)

Saying that, I also feel that I can play with some inches here and there and tune the speakers to a better positioning, taking into consideration all your comments here.

Thanks again.

BTW - I managed to extend the trial with the dealer for a couple of days more.

Last day listening notes :

I think I have now a clear perspective of the differences between this very good amplifiers (I love this hobby!).

The PASS amp is really one of the best SS amps I have had in my system (just second after the Gryphon Anthileon I had some years back with Avalon Avatars). It has a great grip of the musical performance, exploding dynamics but easy to the ear, Very liquid midrange presentation and very neutral.

The CJ amp is a surprise for me, I have had many tube gear and never lasted for a long time with me due to their intrinsic euphonic presentation. The CJ is not a neutral amp, but it posses a magical presentation that makes me enjoy the performance, the lyrics, the strings--- the musician intention. It lacks the bass control and extended highs of the PASS, and I am having a hard time of deciding which to keep!!! (I need to plunk 3KUSD + the X250 to keep the CJ.)

A will appreciate a final word in this thread prior my decision, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience on all the above messages.

Fernando, it seems that you do indeed have a good grasp of the differences between these two amps. I don't think I can help you any further on the choice you need to make; that choice will depend on your listening/sonic priorities.

As you say, the Premier 8 is not neutral in the way of the Pass, nor is it a classically tubey sound. There are some other tube amplifiers that are more neutral and that may have greater bass control (examples, Atma-Sphere MA-1/MA-2 OTLs, BAT 150se, C-J Premier 140), but that is not your consideration today.
One way to get this estimate would be to check with C-J on the current cost of their replacement tube set: RTPR8 (with 6550 output tubes):
703-698-8581 or service@conradjohnson.com
Fernando,before spending any further money,why can't you ask your wife if you could move the speakers out into the room for one day,just to hear the different perspective.My friend's wife was very against him doing this,since his was,also,a living room.What we(some audio buddies)did,I admit, was to take a chance,and,"PLAY WITH FIRE"at my friend's house.Over a course of a couple of listening sessions we moved the speakers out one or two inches at a time.She didn't notice until a few weeks later,and,by then it was her birthday,where my friend bought(bribed)her a beautiful bracelet.P.S.The speakers stayed further out!Sometimes being an audiophile requirs some degree of cunning,and creativity.Good luck!Oh,yeah,I forgot to mention that "begging" helps too.I've done plenty of that over the years.
ever heard the VTL 450 signatures? I've owned the premier 8 and the 450 never at the same time but I believe the 450 is the better sounding of the two especially if the 450 is the infini capacitor version it has better bass control also.
sirspeedy - good advise, thanks - yes, I have also used some guerilla tactics to have a piece at home for the system (which has a large footprint I must say). I will definitly movethe speakers to obtain additional benefits from the CJ.

I had an Audio-buddies party last night, we played with different combinations and I think white smoke appeared !!, I will look for keeping the CJ, retube both units and enjoy.

Thanks for your help (all).

Mejames - The VTL signatures are not currently evaluated in my available options, but I must say that I have had some VTL (60-60 deluxe and triode 75) and Manley gear (Wave preamp, classic 120). I liked their sonic presenation, but decided to move along since they were quite euphonic in my system by that time.

By the way,Fernando,and,unrelated to your amp issue,the Eclipse speakers are absolutely a fabulous choice.I really believe my friend made a mistake by selling his pair,although he won't admit it.As I'm sure you already know they have SOTA soundstage(especially further out into the room),are very good at detail,and fabulous in timbres, that sound like real music.I don't believe that there are many of today's "hot selling" speakers that outperform them,but,you probably know that already!
Problem !!!

Some guys at AA are warning me of the retubing process of CJ Premier 8s.

They say it is not just plug new valves and bias them thru their little screw that each valve has, and that I will be crying for such a terrible task.

DO you share this opinions ???
don't agree with that in my experience I purchased 16 matched 6550 GE tubes and the necessary input and driver tubes matched also from ARS tubes just installed them and biased them as usual no problems whatsoever.
The "guys at AA" either don't know what they're talking about or they have some other agenda: pure poppycock as to any difficulty. If the caution is over cost of retubing vis-a-vis a solid state amp, sure, there will be more cost over the life of the amp due to retubing.

No, there was not a cost issue but a design consideration from their perspective, AA = audioasylum.com.

They called it an "engineer nightmare" biasing amps like that.

I am really liking the sound of this amp, I will ask the dealer to re-tube it for me (at my cost if I keep it) and let it run for a week just to make sure everything is OK.

6550 tubes:

Other guys at Aa told me that the best option would be a 6550 fying c tube from Svetlana (St. Peteesburg plant), since the regular svetlanas are really sovtecks relabled from the US importer. (????).

The said that the GE valves are not good at the frequency extremes, and the Tungs are the best but pricey.

Any comments?

Deal is almost closed! Iam keeping the CJ Premier 8 and trading in my good PASS X250, The CJ is inanother league in terms of musicality, mated great with the Eclipses and... well.. I liked it a lot.

Thanks for your feedback folks, helped me a lot.

You are doing the right thing. I had a listen to PASS X350 and the prem8a's were better in every respect except the pass was quieter.
Thanks for the update, Fernando. Congratulations! And welcome to the land of tubes! (I would have nothing else in my system for exactly the reason you mention: musicality. Tubes continue to do for me what solid state just cannot begin to touch.)
Do you still have your premier 8'S. I just purchased a pair with new tubes and am not very impressed. It is sounding better by the day as tubes break in (from CJ). Just curious, what pre did you serrle with. Thanks!