conrad johnson GAT vs ACT 2 series 2

Have any agoners had listening experience with these 2 preamps that would allow you to share your thoughts about the differences between them? i have never seen a comparison. thanks ray
Hi Rlw3,

I owned ACT 2 and upgraded to GAT about a year ago. i have not heard ACT 2 s2, but have owned CJ for well over a dozen years straight so have some reasonable familiarity with the sound, and also nearly upgraded to spoke with many people.

Compared with ACT2:
- one enormous difference is treble...the ACT 2 actually sounds hard and strident in comparison. i heard it when i first bought aCT2...but quickly adjusted. But i NEVER realized how hard it would be in comparison to GAT which is 25-30% more detailed, but 100% more natural, fulsome and yet clear.

- Noise floor is next...supremely quiet. I have 95db speakers and not a whisper when the unit is at a deafening 60 with no signal coming thru. Ear within 7 inches of tweeter.

- This gives a more transparent sense of space, detail...but it also allows the natural CJ tonal beauty to come thru without sounding 'laden' with golden hue...this is in my experience a true first for CJ at this extreme level of performance. Incredibly clear but still with far more natural CJ beauty than ACT2.

- Next, the overall balance of the unit is better in terms of even delivery across spectrum. 20% better?

- Extension in treble is better, and bass (very good in ACT2) is probably 15% lower with definition

- Words of advice: power cables matters less here than on other products, and u will need to seriously step up to improve on the stock cable. i do use PAD Dominus. EAT Tube dampers are a MUST...the stock Electroharmonix can get noise...i use Amperex 6922 PQ US White label. Finally, try using HRS nimbus couplers/damper...also big improvement. This a tremendous unit outta the box...these are just improvements for your consideration.

my two cents. ask if any other questions. good luck.
I think Jeff Dorgay? has a review coming out soon. Jonathan Valin also reviewed...available on I dont think JV compared with aCT 2..but i bet Jeff will since he had ACT 2 as his reference for a number of years. FWIW, i have spoken with him about my observations above. You'll see his own observations in the review which i will not share until he has published.
ACtually, Jeff Dorgay's review is out. download it at

You will see his review is similar to the above.
Thanks Lloyd, I tried some expensive shunyata and synergistic research pc's without success when i had my previous speaker a von schweikert vr 35 and found them to be worst than the stock cord. 2 of the sr cords work great on my simaudio w7 and supernova so we are talking synergies. The one cord the act 2.2 did seem to like that had a little improvment was a shunyata copperhead which are pretty cheap-go figure. the act has not liked any of the footers i have tried so far. (it is in an arcici suspense rack). thanks for your thoughts
Hi Rlw3,

You might also wish to try the HRS nimbus couplers and damping plate.
Lloyd I may chech out the hrs thru cable company. The series 2 was good sized improvement to the1 so I still wonder how close it gets to the gat? Did you use the hrs with the act as well as the gat with good results. Please describe if you have time. Thanks ray
Hi Ray,

Check out the review from Jeff Dorgay, who apparently did not wish to upgrade to ART 3...but he did find the GAT more compelling as i understand, having spoken with him. GAT better than both it seems. (i have never heard the ART 3). I did not find ACT 2 as sensitive to HRS/without HRS as the GAT. I wonder if 6N30P tube is less microphonic than 6922? Cannot say.
6922 tubes seem to age fresh to merely good in fairly few hours compared to my 6h30p which have stayed much more consistent. Thanks ray

I hope you will get a chance to listen to a GAT before you sell the ACT 2s2. I think "some" may prefer the ACT. It's getting pretty personal at this level. Even the speaker of choice may lead you to preferring one over the other.

I have not heard the GAT but hope to one day. I have found the TOTL CJ preamps to be "best of breed" for me. I do own their ACT 2.2, ART 2 and ART 3.

My systems are balanced to my satifaction now. Could it get better? Maybe. The one thing that gives me pause about the GAT is the solid state (mosfet?) buffer stage. Even though it's not technically a gain stage (good thing IMO), the signal still goes thru it. I have no doubt that the GAT is a world class preamp but I just don't feel the need to make a change.

So, you may prefer the GAT over your ACT and so might the vast majority but I always remind myself when reading opinions/reviews: 95% may prefer the GAT, I might be in the 5% that hears the ART/ACT 2.2 as the better preamp.

Good luck. If you ever get the chance to compare, please let us know what you think. I'd personally be interested.
Hi Onemug

Let us know if you hear it...i can see you are quite experienced with CJ! I have spoken with 3 people who know/liked/owned the ART 3, and all have moved across to the GAT. I know that does not mean you still wont be the 5% who prefers that ART as you say...and i respect that choice entirely!

But if you do hear it, would appreciate to get your thoughts, as i have owned ACT 2, but never heard ART 3. Thanks.

You're a good man. Always enjoy reading your posts.

I mentioned speakers having an influence on the choice. For almost 2 years I had a pair of SF Guarneri Homages and and a pair of Guarneri Mementos at the same time. I ultimely kept the GH's. Knowing what the GM's sounded like, and if I would have kept them instead, I would have tried the GAT for sure.

Should the GAT ever happen, I'll let you know.
Thanks, Onemug. Ditto. FWIW, I know the GHs well...and i tell you, those are one seriously memorable speaker. My favorite of all the SF speakers i have heard/owned. (i have not heard Aidas or the Sonus Faber/Fenice)...but i have heard nearly all others. There is something magic about those GHs. Enjoy.
I have not had good luck with 6922 based preamps which seem to wear out quickly and will most likely stay with the 2.2 . The only pre that has me curios is the simaudio p8 since I have a w7 amp and supernova CDs. Thanks, good listening

Part of that "magic" you and I hear with the GH's crosses over (for me) with the ARTs.

The GM's sounded great with the "right" ss amp. I have had "the ooohs" with the GH's using 300b SET's, a 300b pp, a Bedini 45/45, and the Pass XA30.5. They seem to bring out the best in each amp.

Same with the ARTs, they have worked well with any of my amps.
Thanks Onemug...good to know and will keep that in mind if i ever get to hear ARTs.

Rlw3 - what other CD players have you heard besides the Simaudio Supernova? Was interested in how they compare against others. have read good things about it. have you heard the 650D or 750D? thanks for any guidance.
the only other high quality cdp i would recommend is simaudio's first generation 2 box top of the line unit. sorry i dont know name. a friend of mine has this and i am always impressed by it
You may want to go to It's a site dedicated solely for CJ onwers and members may be able to offer some insight into their experiences as well. I use more vintage equipment, PV12 and an Evolution 2000 amp, but I love the CJ sound.
Not sure if this is too late. I had the original ACT2, ACT2.2 and then the current GAT.

The ACT2 back then was the most neutral preamp I had ever owned. It was smooth, quiet, and with good detail, great micro dynamic, and big soundstage. Nothing special. Overall a very nice preamp.

The ACT2.2 (that I bought, not upgraded from the original) had more detail than the original. The ACT2.2 was a bit more dynamic and more transparent midrange. Transient attack was quicker and sharper. The original ACT2 was reticent and polite in comparison in the transient response department.

Now comes the GAT. Compared to both the ACT2 and ACT2.2, it is way more dynamic, huge soundstage, extremely extended and smooth highs, incredibly transparent across the whole spectrum, deeper and stronger bass, more body and texture for the instruments, the lowest noise floor of the three. Detail is quite close to the ACT2.2; but the detail is easier to notice with the GAT due to its ultra transparency. Jonathan Valin's review on the GAT was right on. I agreed with him.

To me, the dynamics, especially macro dynamics, and transient response are jaw dropping with the GAT. So far I can't find any fault with this great preamp.
Hi Audiolui,

Totally agree with you. I would add, also having owned ACT 2, that the GAT's treble is another league entirely. i remember upon first bringing the ACT2 home (which i enjoyed immenseley) that the treble was stiff...i eventually forgot about it as i got used to the other beautiful elements of the ACT2.

Once the GAT came in, the treble of the ACT2 seemed downright chilly, not just stiff. Almost strident in comparison (almost). The GAT's treble to my ear is that beautiful, fluid, and yet far more nuanced, detailed and yes, way more extended.

Enjoy yours!
Agreed. I went from act2.2 to gat and the gat made the act's treble seem quite shrill/strident. Gat is a lot more natural, delicate with more body and a lot more gutsy bass. The sound is warmer and less steely. Also the gat makes far better sense of everything. Going back to the act2.2 it can actually sound muddled with some music compared to the gat. There is a big difference between the two imo/ime. Very different sounding preamps.
Congrats, Lotus. Enjoy!