CJ vs. BAT vs. THOR preamps, who's best?

Looking for some input as to which of the above's top of the line, past & present preamps provide the best overall flexibility, and sonically involving presentation? ...and have the best support. Likely one of these will be paired with at least a solid state amp... possibly a tube as well if I bi-amp. Currently using VR4 JR's and if these change it will be to a little more efficient set of loudspeakers, but likely as close to full range as is possible.

I lean towards the euphonic - romantic side of things sonically speaking. And, 'gasp!' a bit towards the darker side of neutral... with needs being, very good to great bottom end and natural earthy sounding mids - no extension in the high end arena really necessary, just sweet and balanced on the whole.

I've got the VK5i, heard the TA1000 mkII, and know little about the CJ end of things other than that they invert the signal during it's development and only the BAT can afford one the use of a balanced setup... gotta go single ended with the others.

...again, support & flexibility with different amps are almost as if not as important as the sonic signature, to me.

Thanks in advance...
Ive heard CJ and Thor,both beautiful sounding preamps,,geuss it would come down to which one suited your taste,and other gear,from what i can recall the CJ was a little more romantic with a beautifull decay,,Thor ,a little more neutral and very captivating,Let us know how things work out
I have owned the Thor, CJ LS16 MKII and others. Love the Thor, but the CJ was just pure magic. So organic and musical.

The CJ would be my choice. I had both in my system at the same time and the CJ had more body and texture with all of the detail of the Thor. The Thor had more "jump" or better pace. Both great to be sure. I just think CJ makes the finest pre's going from the 16 on up!

I haven't heard the Thor, but I owned the CJ Premier LS16 mk II and the BAT VK-51SE. I choose the BAT. The CJ was a little sweeter in the mid's, but the BAT was much better dynamically (including the bass). Both were very good preamps, and it will depend on what you want most. I loved the vocals on the CJ, but music sounded much more lively through the BAT. Ultimately I kept the BAT. YMMV.

Thanks, Bill, and John.

wow! given what I've found out first hand in the BAT gears reproduction of music I'm a bit flabergasted to hear that another and yet, sweeter mid can be produced, apart from BAT.

I enjoy all sorts of music. All sorts. Except 'Hip Hop' & 'Rap'. ain't real big on monks doing mantras either... but mostly I live in the Blues, Jazz, Vocals area of music... though if it be a good recording, I do enjoy it immensely. Whatever the genre... even opera & classical. That's a big strectch for me as I've been known to say in the past, when asked aobut what music I have on hand, "I have both kinds, Country... and Western'. Long time since those days, though.

Mating to the solid state amp well seems the issue as personally I think any ov the three pres would float my boat, so to speak. My local CJ dealer is mostly a tube type. All the way. It's doubtful he'll ever have the P350 on hand at the same time as say a LS17, or CT6, so finding out about that part continues to elude me...

So about the service end of things and matching to solid state amps with any of these pres seems the question that is foremost my concern.... Anyone know which of these pres should not be mated to a SS amp? (likely either the BAT vk600 or CJ Premeir 350), and for a time right off, the BAT vk500 I have now)....???
I think synergy has a lot to do with the sound, and if you do decide on a CJ preamp I'd highly recommend mating it with the 350. I know a bigtime CJ fan, who moved up from a Premier 16LS mk II/Premier 8 monoblock setup to an ACT2/350 and couldn't be happier. He claims the 350 is the best sounding CJ amp he's ever heard. He's a 20 year fan of CJ, and knows Bill and Lew personally.

That said, I was running a pair of Clayton Audio M100 monoblock amps at the time of the CJ/BAT preamp testing that I mentioned above. The M100's have a rather low input impedence, which would favor the BAT, since it has a lower output impedence. Perhaps if I'd heard both preamps with the CJ 350 I would have choosen to keep the CJ instead of the BAT, who knows? Yes, the CJ does have a sweeter vocal range than the BAT, but in my system, the BAT did so much other stuff better (dynamics, power, soundstage, etc) that in the end I choose it. Since then I've mated it with a BAT VK-600SE and haven't looked back. I running fully balanced with a BAT VK-P10SE w/ Super-Pak phono stage and a VK-D5SE w/Super-Pak and I'm very happy. :-)

The CJ was very good, and came in second in my preamp search last year. I went through preamps from Mark Levinson, Krell, Threshold, VAC, CJ and BAT, all in my system. The BAT VK-51SE was my personal favorite by far. The CJ was a distant second. However, like I said, if I had it mated with a CJ amp, perhaps the results would have been different.

I listen to mostly jazz, blues and folk, and I do admit that on most vocal material the CJ was the best preamp. However, there's more to music than the vocals, for me anyway. The CJ just could not boogie like the BAT. As always, YMMV.

The BAT preamp run balanced would sound best with your current BAT amp. It's a shame your dealer won't carry a 350, since I've talked to many who swear it's the sweetest sounding SS they've ever heard.

You have a tough, but fun decision to make as to which direction you want to go musically. The 'house sound' of CJ is very sweet, inviting and extremely musical. The BAT 'house sound' is BIG, dynamic and powerful. Not that the CJ doesn't do dynamics, or the BAT is not musical, because they do. I would think that the rest of your system would decide which is a better fit.

Since you only do digital, and are using the VR-4 JR's, I think you may prefer the CJ. My friend had a pair of VR-4JR's (he's since moved on to Revel speakers), but from what I remember of his VR-4JR's they were very quick and dynamic, but a bit lean. So the added warmth of the CJ may work better in your system than in mine. My speakers (Verity Audio Parsifal Encore's) are very warm and sweet, and enjoy the added punch and life of the BAT equipment.

It seems like we have similar musical tastes, but different systems. There is more than one way to reach musical nirvana. You've choosen three very interesting paths. Only one that you know. Just one word of precaution, sometimes the best is already in front of you and you don't know it.

By that I mean that before starting my 7 preamp world tour last year, my preamp was a BAT VK-31SE. I was sure it was my preamp that needed to be upgraded. Over the next 6 months I bought and sold 6 preamps (I kept one). Many were big dissapointments. It was after the first two preamps came and went, rather quickly I might add, that I realized I'd made a mistake selling the BAT VK-31SE. My final choice really did come down to the CJ 16LS mk II or the BAT VK-51SE.

So if you're happy with the music you're hearing now, save money and buy more software.

Sorry for rambling,

I've used a CJ 17LS on my BAT VK500 without a problem.
This would be a nice combo if you like a more relaxed
and slightly laid back sound. If your considering a
CJ preamp I would recommend a listen to the CJ CT-5.
I just replaced my 17LS with the CT-5 and the difference
is huge. I think a Premier 350/CT-5 combo would be very

Good luck
Well, I'm sorry it's so long before getting back to this thread... but thanks Cmach, and John..

Following a recent trip to the nearest CJ dealer my thoughts as to buying CJ's newest offerings have sorely diminished. Could wwell have been the setup.. synergy... or the mix. Nothing jump[ed out at me and said, "buy me!". Nothing. I wound up the auditions with the CT5 & 70wpc tube amp, CJ's replacement for their vaunted 60wpc unit. using the Cary hybrid CD player... and some quasi Quadd speakers from Austrailia... real pretty and pretty expensive too... On the whole it just didn't grab me. About as neutral a system as I had experienced. the dealer did say both pre & amp had the recomended 100 hours on them... I think they needed twice that or more... the sound was quick, open, extended, with decent bottom end given the plannar speakers sans sub... Nice enough though for the cost of the items together and their place in CJ's line up, well, lets just say I've a far more involving system. Warmer, richer, better imaging, and far better bottom end resolution, with greater presence in the mids too... not counting wiring for the cost of the CT5 ALONE.

...as John said so aptly,
"...Just one word of precaution, sometimes the best is already in front of you and you don't know it."

That's a big 10/4!

Not having the ability to just pick up and go as most do, finding out by comparison what level of system I have, has been sorely overlooked. Things are quite good at blindjim's house. Not perfect, just very good. I'll take that... for the time being and be satisfied with 'tweeking' things a bit with wiring, stands, another sub and such. I'm even more accepting of the JR's now... as they are finally broken in and sounding much better... but a few more db's of sensitivity would be nice.. say 90?

The dealer was quite nice and helpful, as always.. and we decided the only true way to determine what's what, is take a 'whatever' home and try it there... that's the ticket. ...and I just might, given the above posting to the effect that a single ended pre works good with the balanced BAT amp I have... that was/is a big concern for me.... as wholesale changes can not be made now or in the near future... so now, with a new & different set of NOS tubes and searching for some IC's between BAT & BAT, I'm pretty satisfied with my gear.

That's my problem as I see it... having the notion that the grass is always greener on the other side... it ain't always... and I've found if I'm thinking the grass is greener on the other side, it's time to water my own lawn.

With the thor gear I heard some time back, being the best "That's the ticket!" sound I've heard in over twenty years, I'm going to wait a while longer... My amp, as far as amps go, is near new being just under three years old... my pre is solid and does a great job. the CDP is quite nice and would require me spending mucho bucks to improve upon... so yep... gonna stick with what I've got and just tweak it a mite. ...although another 'door' may well have opened as I've found out that 'V.A.C.' ala Mr. Hayes, is not terribly far away either... and that's a balanced configuration too. Super! What does a VAC pre soundlike? Given their pricing, I'd say it ought to be hot... though given my latest audition of similarly priced units, then again, maybe not quite as hot as I imagine... we'll see. Hopefully.

Thanks, everyone... really. it's a tremendous ehlp to me to have those personal experiences related.
RE:VAC - best preamps I have heard, including Thor, BAT and CJ, for sheer palpability and musicality it doesn't get much better, at any price. Very involving sound, as if you are really "there". Started with a Standard LE and now have the top of the line Phi 2.0, mated to a McCormack DNA-500 amp. Sheer magic. Kevin is also one of THE nicest, most service-oriented people in audio and a real pleasure to deal with. He really stands behind his gear and he will work with you to match your preferences with what he has available, if there is a fit.

You owe it to yourself to go visit, especially if he's nearby - it will definitely be worth your while and may be quite eye- and ear-opening. Talking with him really helped me tremendously. Also, his products are built to last a lifetime - truly world-class equipment.
I have never heard the top of line BAT, CJ, or Thor pre-amps you are talking about, but I will tell you the Fplanner2000 knows what he is talking about. I have just added a VAC Ren Mk2 pre to my system, and it is amazing. Micro-dynamics and detail up the ying-yang, without any hint of analytical/hi-fi-ish sound. Involving without being romantic. And it can run balanced or single ended (inputs and outputs). Highly recommended.
Well Jim, I owned a VAC Ren MK 2 for a couple of days, I bought it used on AudiogoN, but it must have been defective.
While it did sound very good musically, I could not touch anything on the front panel, mute switch, volume control, selector switch, nothing without getting a loud crackling sound come through my speakers. So I sent it back....long story.

One note though, the VAC is not fully balanced, only psuedo balanced. That means it doesn't have a fully differential design (same circuitry for + and - legs of each channel). It merely has balanced input jacks which it then converts to single ended once inside the preamp/amp.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, I'm just making sure that you know.

John- Either you have a very highly charged personality ;~) or the pre must have been defective. During dry days this winter I get a little static "snap" when I touch a switch on the front panel nothing through the speakers, thats for sure. Too bad you had a problem with yours; my system is really singing these days.
In terms of your initial inquiry and the concept of mating tube pre w/ SS amp, my dealer has successfully matched VTL preamp with Ayre amp for a very involving sound. Lots of detail, good extension at both ends of the frequency spectrum, and a really musical midrange.

The VTL 7.5 is amazing, but very expensive. I've yet to hear but would be really interested in their new 6.5 which is supposed to get you much of the way there for much less coin (comparable to the units you were looking at.) Ayre to me seems to present the best of both worlds -- an almost tube-like musical presentation with plenty of SS oomph. Cardas cabling, I think.

All in all, a sound I could live with happily for a good, long time!

You just thought you were safe and satisfied. In the words of Michael Corleone, "every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in!"

Happy listening
Swampwalker, I'm sure it was defective, as my wife assures me that I certainly do not have a highly charged personality ;~)

It's a shame, because when listening while using the remote and not touching the unit, it definitely had big potential. I thought it sounded better than the CJ 16LS mk II that I had, but I prefferred the BAT VK-51SE. The VAC was a bit more refined, while the BAT was more dynamic and powerful. It comes down to personal choices and system matching me thinks.

I am not sure I can add much more to the above posts (particularly jmcgrogan's), except that I've owned both the BAT Vk-5i and the Thor TA-2000. To give you an idea of my sonic biases, I preferred the Thor over the VK-5i in all categories (e.g., tonality - which was more natural and extended, particularly in the upper midrange to treble- imaging, micro and macroynamics) save one: the Thor was just a touch noisier than the BAT VK-5i. In my system, I also found the Thor was a little more versatile when used with other amplifiers (including everything from an Aragon 4004 Mk II to Conrad Johnson Premier 8XS's to CAT JL-1's), whereas the BAT performed at its best for me only when paired with BAT amps in a balnced configuration. However, either one could be used with a solid state amp, particularly given the matchings that you propose. I never had any problems with either preamp, and found their respective companies to be both very accessible and willing to answer questions.

As to BAT's and CJ's top of the line units, while I demoed the VK-50se (one of BAT's previous top of the line), I was not sufficiently enamored of its sound to pursue further investigaion, and felt that the cost difference in upgrading from the VK-5 to the VK-50 was not justified. Moreover, given your stated preferences, I think the VK-5i more closely matches your desire for a euphonic-romantic presentation than the VK-50, which was more neutral and detailed than the VK-5i. (However, these opinions are based on one extended listening session with the VK-50se, so take that opinion with a large grain of salt).

The CJ ART/ACT preamps, on the other hand, are among the finest, if not the finest, active line stages I have heard. They provide everything you are looking for - sweet, balanced, a touch romantic, with natural sounding mids and authoritative bass, - but still are outstanding at resolving low level information, and present an extended, airy, and grain free treble. Thus, I would urge that you give tham a listen, if possible. (I would also suggest you skip the CJ 16LS, and go straight for the top of the line CJ units.)
thanks Fplanner, Dogfish, swampwalker... and John.. man I like that swampwalker handle... I keep thinking about the comic book character Swampthing".... well, anyhow... thanks... and John I've decided on one of the MIT ic'S BETWEEN PRE & AMP... it'll be one of the Magnums, not sure which.. probably the '2'... the shotgun 2 in there now is very good.

Psuedo balanced, or flat out & straight up balanced, I think regardless it's in the mix wether or not it'll work for my tastes. I'll just lug the amp with me. I'm fast getting to the notion (only took 30 yr.), it don't matter the science behind it. I'm not so arrogant as to 'need' a particular configuration inside, to be OK with what happens outside, but I do deeply appreciate the heads up on that aspect.

So that's where I'm at.. and for the time being, satisfied with what I've got now.. save for the sub and PRE TO AMP ic.

But things don't last forever. good or bad. Recalling another bit of wisdom I got here, having the 'additional' piece on site is a better way of making a good decision... so I may well end up with two pres... beats me. though my paths are far more defined now.. choices are clearer too. It's as always for me and some like me, simply a matter of time... and even that may shorten up a mite, should fortune smile in my direction.
Blindjim ain't bad either ;~). Are you?
cj pre amps are no longer sweet and romantic. I have had the ACT 2 and CT5 in my system for the last 2.5 months and I am afraid to say they are now too neutral, for my tastes at least. I found neither really posess that great midrange warmth or any bloom cj has always been famous for.
I own the cj prem350 and have previously owned the prem 16 and prem 8a's so it is with more than a little dissappointment that I sent both units back after a very long audition period.
Personally I found a friends little Cary SLP 98 more musical and better at being a tube pre amp than the cj's. It has nice tube warmth and makes all recordings fun to listen to.

If you value strict neutrality you will like the new cj pre amps, however if you like a little tube warmth and bloom, look at the prem 16/ART or look elsewhere.

It's the alledged "SuperTube". I've heard similar responses from folks when BAT first went to it, and Audio Research and CJ fans say the same thing. The 6H30 tube that they all use now is more dynamic and powerful, the 6922 tubes had more of the midrange bloom that traditional tubes were known for.

Personal tastes and system matching will dictate which tube sounds best to you.
John. You may well be right. If that is the case, I guess I don't like the "supertube"
Swampwalker... yeah, mostly. Legally, yes. Entirely, no. Can't drive anymore... except a riding mower, and a jet ski slowly...and only in open waters. haha. The PC does talk though.

downunder.. dead on. The dealer told me when I remarked about the overall lack of warmth, that Lou Jhonson said the CT line especially, is the "most neutral preamps we've ever made." .. and so much for the legendary CJ pres. A new path is taken and a revered one now gone. They have decided to cast their lot into the arena of neutrality. Along with countless others that intend to offer up similar sounding units. I've nothing against neutrality. Not at all. My tastes lean me towards an older sort of sonic embrace. Lush, rich, wet, and warm, with resolution detail and inpact enough to become involving... and as of late with my last little comparison shopping for happiness in the guise of getting another preamp, I found that simply with a different set of tubes, and a new IC from pre to amp.. I have all the above, save a touch more quickmness. that last item is not actually a good enough reason to drop 6 to 11K on another pre. That new set of NOS tubes has solidified things quite well. The upcoming MIT IC (renting the one I have now), is simply ridiculous. I'd never have tought a lesser level of IC, especially in between the pre & amp to be quite so good a match. though I do have another MIT in the system as well.. and the latest addition of some Sig 10 speaker wires has been a nice one too. I've actually been able to take off the grills from the JR's for the first time ever.

So in fact it would appear my complaints/desires for another level of performance have been realized at this point... and for way less than the cost of a new pre. Though one never knows what winds may blow their way. So long as it ain't just the need/desire to change for the sake of change, I'll be fine. thanks a lot for the input/insights... all of you have saved me tons of 'ducats'. and it would seem the answer to this thread, now, is the Thor. Mr. Marks product maintains the lush yet quickly nimble magic that sounds so appealing to me.
Blindjim- Bummer about the blindness but kudos for the truth in advertising (grin). Never heard a Thor. Nuetrality is over-rated if it eliminates the emotional context of the music. Good luck, let us know how you progress with the Thor.

Well, thanks much for all the info. I surely do appreciate it as always.

Now, near a year later though not quite, the die seems cast. there really is no 'best' whatever the device. Certainly some have performance levels that are well above average, yet 'best' terminology is a misleading tag in an audio system as the integral word here is "system" which infers some degree of synergy of the whole of things.

OK. Good. When you hear that synergistic cohesion perform at a level that immediately upon hearing it you know the sound is one of those, "that's it.". sounds, why not then obtain the thing?

Consequently, my most recent audio epiphiany was hearing the thor TA 1000 and the Thor monos (30wpc) on the VR4 JRs... with Audience wires and a tube CDP. Apart from the amps, obtaining the Thor pre would put me quite close to that fascinating sound.

By all rights at this point an original Thor TA 1000 MK II should be delivered to me shortly.

My single concern was/is compatibility with my balanced only amp. Electrically? probably no. otherwise? We'll see.

Then there will be all the which wires? which tubes? Isoing? ...etc.

Just thought it only fair to show some closure, my sincerity, and my gratitude.
Congrats Jim, let us know how it sounds when you hook it up. Is the user interface better than your VK-5i? I know that was one of your reasons for changing.


We're still in the same boat there. Just volume. the esthetics changed, there are less tubes, likely as I recall it not as great a degree of warmth or darkness in the sonic envelope, and there are two pieces now instead of one, to give me fits isolating. But no. No greater flexibility for me. it seemed just not in the cards this time 'round. So be it. I foresee a major step up in sonics though, and I’ll take that every time.

Flexibility is nice. Quite special. Looked forward to it. But the bottom line is what is "to me" that I can do? given a choice I feel I made the proper one. No less functionality and if it's half the results from the all Thor deal I heard, it will be a delightful change.

All accounts point to the thor TA 1000 MK II as being superior to the non MK II in all aspects. Given that and this one has the Gold inlay, knobs and such... the added improvements in speed, bass resolve and transparency of the mids was better by some good measure than that of the BAT VK5i, no matter what I did to it. I took some time doing a lot to it as well. But no dice. The TA 1000 is clearly on another level. Probably has something to do with it being more money, huh?

I did however try to do something in regard to a sideways step with added flexibility. I even auditioned (if you can call it an audition) locally of the Ayre K 5xe SS pre.

The dealer for Ayre in my town, (Audio Visions South) sells also wilson, ML, krell, etc. They were kind enough to let me listen to a grand total of two songs. Well almost two. The salesman halted the Gordon Goodwin track part way through as he said he had no more time. It took two hours for them to give me that much of a break. I had to make an appointment for this episode too. I sat patiently and waited for almost nothing. Wilson Sophias, Ayre 7 CDP, Ayre 400 wpc monos, and all Transparent wires.

Twelve minutes of music wasn't enough for me to decide. though I was asked to decide 3 times before they ever played a track off their CD. I had brought my own but they weren’t interested in me hearing familiar music I guess.

Lets put it this way. right now? My HT receiver as preamp to my BAT amp does a better job by far. That's only if you actually want to hear the soul of the music and have more than a two dimensional sound stage. Obviously Audio Visions South feels 10 or 12 minutes is enough for someone to make a $3,000 decision. I simply do not. They did me no justice, nor did they give the Ayre products they represent justice. Not even close. they did offer me $50 off on it, so I did get pretty excited by that. it was the poorest exibition of equipment and professionalism I've seen in over 30 years. A home audition was mentioned but cost $150 IF I didn't keep it. No mention of the time frame however. I would gues it would be a whole day though, given the length of the in store demo.

things always work themselves out. always. later that day, other Audiogone members pointed the thor out to me. i made contact eventually, and here we are. I'm way ahead quite soon, they got what they deserved from me which was nothing. though I do feel bad Ayre was so wrongly exibited. they deserve better I’m sure. Anyone deserves better.

Audiogone, by far and away, continues to out distance themselves from some of the established high end audio store fronts simply by providing a resource for those "GENUINELY" interested and sincere buyers who have long since become tired of the arrogance and elitist attitudes some ‘dealers’ display so commonly.

So many positives came from that debacle. I saw the Sophias for the first time. Found out what sort of value they constitute. Removed them from my short list of speakers. Transparent as well. So in all, there was indeed gain. I suspect I should now be owing that dealership a debt of gratitude, rather than disgrace. They saved me much time and lots of money in the long run. All in all an eventful week has passed.
I wish I could say that this story surprised me, but it doesn't. And some people wonder why bricks and mortar stores go out of business. I don't bother much anymore.

IMHO, the Ayre would have been the only product that would have interested me in that store. You may want to e-mail Charles Hansen of Ayre this story. He seems like a 'good guy', and may be 'GENUINELY' interested in how his products are being represented. I would anyway.

Good luck with the Thor, and let me know how it sounds.


Thanks John ...and thanks for the video of miles and John C. that was super.

I've thought about relating this incident to Ayre... though they directed me to this place and said many people have positive things to say about them on the warranty forms they submit.

I sold a pc to a member that is local. he picked it up today. He is far more well versed in what other high end audio dealers about the country are doing as he is a frequent flyer, so to speak, and agreed wholeheartedly with me as to the treatment he received from them as well. He was taken aback by this dealer’s incredible lack of a customer friendly stance.

The most fitting phrase is "They believe the world to be filled with diabetics, and feel they have the only insulin". Such a posture is indeed a poor one. A true shame.

I have to think as yourself that as so many other store fronts of high end audio are now attaining the bulk of their receipts for HT sales and installations, actions of this sort are surely contributory to 2 channels decline in popularity and likely demise.

It is ironic that such great designers and engineers as are the muscle and sinew of the industry have to allow skeletons such as these, to now and then become their sales structure.

I will give the dealership credit for one thing though, they didn’t try to move me off Ayre and onto another product line. I’ve spoken with some sellers (a far better term than dealer), that right off , have told me after I have specifically asked to hear a certain thing… “No, you don’t want that… you wan’t a xxxx”. the greatest power there is in the universe is 'mind reading'.

I’ve never been much good at that mind reading thing but apparently, once surrounded by magga buck audio gear on a daily basis, special powers are acquired… far beyond those of mortal men. Again, not privy to telepathy myself, I did have a vision prior to leaving the store. I saw them losing $3000 that day, and some other amounts down the road. Clear as a bell.

Gee. Maybe I do have some power. I have the one power they will find as their Achilles. The power of choice. As all consumers do. I think it trumps their’s.

The singular power, just that one special gift, required to obtain my money, and my continued business was humility. Too bad.

It was left off their short list. More's the pity.
01-30-07: Blindjim

Thanks John ...and thanks for the video of miles and John C. that was super.

I've thought about relating this incident to Ayre... though they directed me to this place and said many people have positive things to say about them on the warranty forms they submit.

No problem with the video, it was fun to take a peek of MTV before MTV.

The fact that many people say positive things on the warranty forms simply reveals that those who give their money to this store are happy. It does not show all the money this store has turned away. Maybe they don't want to be bigger who knows. I do think enough of Charles that I'd let him know my opinion. Classy manufacturers welcome even negative feedback, as they realize that no one is perfect, and it only makes them stronger. If all of the negative experiences go unreported, then problems are never addressed. Though I have no respect for the store that you dealt with, I have enough for Charles and Ayre, that I would just offer them my impressions of how this dealer displayed their products.
Mention your friends reaction to this dealer as well. I would think that Charles would want to properly display his equipment. Who knows, he may even offer you an in-home demo for free.


I'll give it some thought, John. I hate to wind up getting a rep as a trouble maker or whistle blower. I think by and large the makers are aware who are their better bets. It shows in their orders of pieces from those self same makers. I tend to think the makers have resigned themselves to it. A necessary evil. Business is business. I'm unaware of any maker of high end audio that once a dealership is found out to be less than friendly, or high handed acting towards the consumer, or even those which are wildly unethical, that they would pull their line from them.

competition is great. Dealerships in high end don't see it that way. Instead of boone, it's bane in their eyes. they lay in wait for the consumer who will simply 'lay down' for them... or those who are either fearful or ignorant of the web. The dealers sure fear it too. Those uncompromising attitudes do hamstring earnings in fact. So be it. Word of mouth and the power of choice will spell out what the future holds for them.

The disadvantage that comes to you and I, is the increase in price and less availability. More sales, means more demand. Greater demand means greater production. Those steps equate to increases in profits. Profits allow for more funds being cast towards developments in design technology. Advances in technology will become more cost effective.

More production, means more employment. it also means more proliferation of the products in demand and therefore less cost per item produced. Sure would be nice if the $10,000 items were only $6,000... and the $6000 were $4000... and so forth. A higher level of standards would be had by more people. More people having a higher level of gear more reddily would induce more exchange. More word of mouth. More...

Instead of the now so escalating costs we endure as the rule. those spiraling costs of equipment, the separatist attitudes of the dealers, fuel the waning interests of exceptional audio and the industry itself. Higher prices suits less people. Less people is less people. That path leads quickly to an end as it proposes a built in, predestined finality.

So to echo the words of that ill fated soulful little wailer from Port Arthur Texas, "Get it while ya can"
01-31-07: Blindjim
I think by and large the makers are aware who are their better bets.

I disagree. I think they only know what they are told. If everyone says they're great, they can start believing their own press clippings. They cannot go by sales alone, since markets in different areas will provide different quotas. For instance, a store in Mississippi cannot be expected to sell as many preamps as a store in New York City. That's enough about that though.

As for your utopian high end philososphy, yes it would be nice, but don't hold your breath. Like it or not, the glory days of stereo are gone, at least in the USA. Here is a quote from Steve Keiser, the 'K' in B&K, and the designer of the legendary B&K ST-140 amp. This interview is from May 2006.


The industry has changed since the B&K days. The addition of home theatre has had an enormous impact
in that now a video component has been added to the total home entertainment experience as well as the
addition of surround sound.

Actually, this means that dedicated music listening audio systems are loosing favor to home theatre, since
the various surveys that I have seen have revealed a steady decline in two channel audio for the last 20
years. The number of dealers retailing audio-only two channel equipment continues to dwindle, and the
perspective buyers and market for two channel equipment is also depleting. Still, there remains an
opportunity for manufacturers who are manifesting the highest caliber of performance they can possibly
muster from their designs, and these companies can have a shot at being successful. It is exceedingly
less likely, though, that an up and coming manufacturer (like Luminance) can be financially successful in
the long run, because the available market is about 75% smaller in the U.S. than when B&K was launched.

On the other hand, there exists today an international market which has largely supplanted the U.S. market
for most companies. So, factoring in the availability of the entire world at manufacturers’ disposal, the
market share to date is probably about 75% that of when B&K was launched, so the probability of success
for new companies is only slightly diminished as compared to 20 years ago."

Now that is only factoring in HT as a competitor, add in the Ipods and the new Microsoft Vista as entertainment competition, not to mention whatever another couple years down the road brings, I don't see mass production quantities of stereo equipment increasing the near future.

Not a pessimist, just a realist.

BTW, if the Thor doesn't quite work out, you may be interested in checking out the Audio Horizons TP 2.0. I know a couple guys who have sold some very expensive preamps who are raving about this factory direct unit. From what I understand, they have also just added a remote control. As soon as they come out with a fully balanced model I'll have to place an order.


John, Utopian? No. I'm from Tampa. Don't that make me a Tampan?.. In fact, I'm an idealist. it sucks but there you go. Optomistic pessamisim.

I saw that bit aobut the in home audition. When they make xlr? OK. For me, when they make remotes... but it's no matter now. I dun done it. The MK II should be shipped out today. So now I start out on a whole new journey. hopefully the BAT will work with the Thor. God I hope so.

I just figured it this way, "When you hear something that just knocks you out, it might be a good idea to have that thing instead of trying to resemble it with other stuff."

And, brother, it did knock me loopy... but only for the past three years... and I don't think it was set up as well as it could have been.

Mr. K, is onto something there. Hope against hope, it's likely going as he said. eg. Janis.
Well actually Jim, Audio Horizons does offer XLR inputs and outputs via balanced transformers, like VAC. Not 'true' balanced for sure, but they claim it does make a difference. Funny you should mention it, they have just started shipping units with remote controls too.

Hopefully you'll be thrilled with your new Thor. I just threw the AH in, just in case. I know someone who says the AH TP 2.0 smoked his CJ Premier 16LS mk II, FWIW.

Figures. Now they tell me about the remote. Super.

Well OK. I got my story, and I'm sticking to it.

New gear stories, hmmmmmmm. those sorts of statements scare me. Just like in review mags. The reviewer just falls over a thing saying it ain't going back. Sure enough, a couple months later it's in his litany of gear.

Of course talking with some makers of that same gear about reviewers in general as I did the other day, asking why no press on your 150w monos? i was told mostly because getting it back from reviewers is like pulling hens' teeth anyway, and some want even greater 'acomodation discounts' than are offered if they choose to buy it. Also they don['t handle it usually with any great care so it gets a bit beat up.

Far more than one has related that same story to me. things lose some credibility IMO when someone offs an $8K piece for $2K it plain doesn't make sense to me.

I find both this and your thread on SET amps very interesting. Unlike other postings where someone would say, like you did, that they favor a "romantic" sound and something "darker" than neutral, you also follow up by saying what you have heard. That is extremely helpful and illustrative, because what I call romantic and darker than neutral can be completely different from someone elses idea of the same. Absent any other clues, my idea of romantic and dark sounding would be, for example LAMM, certainly not Thor or BAT.

Given your preferences, I would suggest you also look into the Audio Research Reference 3 (MUCH more "romantic" and less edgy sounding than anything prior in their line), and the VTL 7.5. Both are also very flexible and versatile and have amazing range of remotely controlled features (so too the Bat gear).
Far more than one has related that same story to me. things lose some credibility IMO when someone offs an $8K piece for $2K it plain doesn't make sense to me.

I agree to some extent, but I do consider mark up when looking at the list prices. Because CJ has to include dealer mark up (40%), advertising and marketing (40%), in their retail price, I figure the $8K CJ preamp could be had for $3K tops if selling factory direct. Now figure that the new AH owner spent over $3K with all of the upgrade packages, and it doesn't surprise me at all. You are basically comparing identically priced units. The CJ just cost more because you pay for the dealer mark up and advertising that gets you the glossy rags reviews. Pretty basic really.

You have to compare apples to apples. Comparing a famous brand $8K preamp to another famous brand $2K preamp is one thing, and I agree with you that many times a great reco here is just because the owner of the $2K unit cannot afford the $8K unit, so he claims his $2K unit outperformed it. However, do not underestimate the cost of doing business, and therefore underestimate the value of a factory direct product. Comparing the list prices in this situation is like comparing apples and oranges, IMHO.

can one of these preamps be the best, when they all sound different ? what does best mean ? what are the criteria for sonic excellence ?
Blindjim, John's advice to report the incident to Ayre might help the guys at AV South realize they could improve their sales techniques. I had a poor experience there myself years ago. I wanted to audition an Arcam 9 cd player, but I was told they didn't intend to have one on hand to audition and I'd have to pay in advance before they'd order one. I complained to Arcam and stirred up a hornet's nest apparently. George the owner called and apologized, they were a lot nicer the next time around. Even offered free home audition for something else later. It was deja vu all over again though when I went in and tried to audition Magnepan 3.6's last year. I was told they didn't stock them, didn't know when they'd ever get them, but they'd call me when they did. That was eight months ago and still no call.
John... you got a point there. Ego's a big deal with some folks in this hobby. A big deal. your point is quite valid though... if everything is on the square. I'd have loved to have tried out a thing which would have saved me a grand and some... for sure. i'd not do it now though. i'd feel way bad knowing I've already made a decision. sure wished I had known about the damn remote thingy sooner. I'd have taken a shot too. But I'm big on "Things always work out" so perhaps they did, huh? we'll see soon enough.

Don't hold your breath. i was in there a couple years ago for a look see at a Linn int. When I saw it, and was told it needed special spkr wire connectors, and later found out the 75wpc were into 4 ohms vs 8. I declined. called back and said as much. During that deal they had some Revel studio 100s on clearance. $8K.. played it on the ayre gear then too. No dice for me. so they told me about the same thing you said. They were getting 3.6s in a couple weeks and to hear them before making a choice. I quit holding my breath before i got to the door. the Studios? they played them like they would blow up if played for more than 2 minutes. Apparently they've not made any changes in how they feel an audition should be done... I've had sneezes that took longer to finish.


Now some year and change later, i sought herein to provide some closure as to the fact I wasn't wasting others' time, and tell all what I ultimately decided upon. That's all. to be sure during that time, I also learned much as to the objectivvity surrounding components. I ammended that misbegotten entry above.

But you are indeed correcct. Who's best is only answered by the buyer. The owner... and maybe not even then as more compromise went into the buying decision than was wanted for whatever reason (s). I apologize. Again. Eye of the beholder, and all that jazz.

The only pre I could not check out was the BAT. Also, had I not tried something different and found it to work beyond my expectations, and then sold my dear vk5i, I would not have put myself into a position to bet another either. I had to give myself a reason to "get off the dime" and do somethign. Taking action as is so appropriately espoused here, is indeed the best way to know. As my friend John says all the time... do the Audiogone "Buy & Try" shuffle. then, you know.

Well, you'll know some waht better... but I believe from experience, you'll only know for sure after doing the "mix and match" shuffle with wires on it too... and isoing... there is more to this deal than simple swapping of components in and out of ones' system to get the very best from them, as we have all seen. Everything makes a diff.

Truly, there is no 'best' there is only best for you. you gotta make that call. No one else Most times. I did buy the BAT gear only from other's opinions. they weren't a bad choice. Not at all, but I sure did a lot of other stuff to them afterwards.

Should I copyright that 'AudiogoN Buy & Try Shuffle' phrase?

John :)

it's all your's John, help yourself.
cj has too soft a sound like macintosh bat reeks musically
and do know thor but stick to names you can resell and trade up one day. May I suggest the CAT ULTIMATE which is probably the best on earth for the price, and even the phone stage rocks!dynamic and musical and accurate. for better sonics always stick with tubes if you can. GET
vAC 160 MUSIC BLOCKS with the cat or cd direct and no pre..you will be happy...
Well we've moved on now... for good or ill and for a time, the TA 1000 MK II is runing the show.

I do like the notion of the VAC blocks however. A lot... but i think I'm going to need a gun.

TA DA. The TA 1000 MK II is here, and it WORKS.

The subjective answer to this thread is forthcoming. I do admit from the begining of this thread to this time, some amount of learning has taken place.

What is "Best" has truly just one answer, and must be applied by the purchaser. Duifferent, better here or there in some respects? Those determinations are subjective as well... yet are more applicable. This 'inherent ambiguity' of decided levels in performance promotes interest and experience as its fallout.
What ever happened between you and the Thor? I read a review you did on it. What tubes did you prefer with it?