I had a CJ Premier 17LS for a few years. I would describe
its sound as more laid back compared to some others in
its class. It does respond well to tube rolling but even
then it wont have that "in your face" sound.
There's significant difference between the 17LS (MSRP, $4500) and the 17LS2 (MSRP, $6000) due mostly to the teflon capacitors in the latter, and a TON of difference between the Premier 14 that I formerly owned and the 17LS2. I don't find it either laid back or excessively forward but it is supremely musical. A friend borrowed the new CJ CT5 and CT6 preamps from a dealer and my 17LS2 outperformed both of them in my system, probably because the CT5 wasn't fully broken in. I did invest in Old Stock tubes (Mullard) for mine which may account for some of the difference. Good luck, Dave
The Premier 17LS uses 4 6DJ8 family tubes. This means 4 of the same type of 6DJ8, 6922, or 7308. The type, brand, and variation of the tubes will definitely have an effect. Out of the box the 17LS came with Sovtek 6922s - these are decent tubes though they tend to be a wee bit mechanical/analytical sounding and their top end is not as sweet or extended as others. The Sovteks might yield a slightly forward soundstage, but not to the extent of moving the soundstage to the extent you describe.
My experience with the 17LS found it having a somewhat recessed soundstage - as if you moved farther back in the hall. This was in conjunction with a pair of CJ Premier 12 amps. Not recessed versus in front of the speakers, but simply further behind the speakers. I found the original Shunyata Hydra had a profound positive effect on the 17LS - much more so than on say a 16LS - it opened up the soundstage in terms of width and depth, gave a better sense of air around musicians, and brought the soudnstage forward some, so you didn't feel like you were in the balcony.
I have owned the CJ Premier 17ls and a custom Art II. CJ's preamps have a laid back, very dark sound. You get a beautiful musical picture but they lack that sparkle of a live performance. This is the reason I got rid of mine and got the Messenger Preamp.
Tube rolling will help a little. I recommend the E1 Elites if you can find them. Call Elliot Midwood with Acoustic Image and see if he has any left. 818 762 1501. Tell him Justin told you to call.
I owned a cj 17ls and liked it very much it certainly was not dark and laid back at least not im my system. If anything it is very detailed with lots of timbre around the instruments and exhibited very good sound staging. I sold it to my friend and moved up to the 16lsII which is simply more of the 17ls. I used EH 6922 gold pin tubes in both units and found them to be a very well rounded tube. Good Luck
I picked up a used Premier 17LS last spring and love it. I would say it is not dark sounding at all with Maggie 3.6's and a Bryston 4BSST. Lots of shimmer, detail, wide soundstage with good depth. I think that room size, and speaker placement constraints have the most effects on soundstage parameters. Also, I would define a laid back sound as a sound quality being relaxed, warm and less detailed. Probably not synonymous with a deep soundstage. All in all a very nice preamp.
I compared the 17LS to my new CT6. The 17LS was definitely more distant sounding, and not in the same league sonically to the CT6, which was much better. I can't speak to the 17LS MkII, which some here claim is superior to the original 17LS.
Read my review on the CT6. It does not have a recessed sound at all, yet it has a deep soundstage, deeper than any of other preamps I tried or owned. One of CJ's biggest strengths is how it recreates a 3-D image of each instrument, where you can hear the air and space around each instrument. This paints a wide and deep soundstage that separates images in a clearly-defined and natural way that sounds correct and easy-going. This results in a much less electronic, constricted, flattened presentation of other preamps.
The CT6 is not dark or lacking sparkle. There is detail, but not achieved by overetching or brightness. The midrange has some weight and body, which is a hallmark of the CJ sound. I find this combination closer to reality than other brands, and is bringing me much musical enjoyment.
I owned the 17LS and I thought it was a very good preamp. The volume control is wonderful and the minimal gain stages provide a transparent sound. You can change its coloration to match your bias/preference by using different types of tubes. I don't think it expands the sound stage beyound what is on the recording.
My main complaints were that it took at least an hour to warm up and sound good. The second was that it really took the leading edge off transients. This sounded to me like compressed dynamics.
Give it a listen if possible and see if it works in your specific system.
Guys, let me clarify something. The 17ls was my first, true, high end preamp. I loved it and I still think it is a good preamp. I think the Art II was even better. In fact when I a/b'ed it with the Act 2 it the Art blew it away.
However, CJ preamps have a sound to them which in my opinion, and that of others in the business, is a little dark, that is a little lacking in that high end sparkle. If you ever get the opportunity to hear or own the Messenger preamp you will know what I mean.
Having said all of that would I recommend the 17ls? You bet. It's a great preamp for it's price.
Your comments suprise me! You are the first one that I ever read making a comment that cj pre-amps are on the dark side and lack highend sparkle. I have read many comments to the contrary............but you hear what you hear. I have owned three of them and they have all been very detailed and dynamic........interesting. I have heard and read comments that the new cj products are tending to move away, and some would to far away, from their house sound. Anyway FWIW
Forgive me for not exactly answering the question, but, with so many opinions expressed here, I thought I might chime in. The best description I've heard re: c-j comes from fellow Audiogoner; Zaikesman, he described c-j as being "sunny". I have to agree. To me c-j is warm, yet not dark. C-J's tend to roll off the extremes, soften the transients and yet maintain midrange detail. The ss c-j's can be a little lean in the bass, the tube c-j's a bit over ripe in the bass. The c-j ss pre's can add just a tiny hint of sharpness in the lower treble. C-J's have the unusual talent of maintaining sparkle while avoiding brightness. I also find that c-j amps tend to add a certain burr to the sound, not enough to loose detail, but enough to deviate from neutrality. On the other hand, they maintain harmonic integrity. No gear is perfect, and c-j's faults tend to complement the music, certainly better than the all too common alternatives. FWIW,IMHO,YMMV,cliche',cliche',etc..