Heard both, like the Vac a bit more.
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Proper speaker matching with the CJ Premier 11a is essential. I agree with "Jab" about the CJ sounding like it "had a sheet over the speakers" but I don't think this is the fault of the CJ. I noticed the same thing when I auditioned the CJ Premier 11a in a dealer showroom mated to a pair of somewhat large Avalon speaker - don't recall the model. I brought the demo amp home to drive my modest Thiel CS 1.5's and they sound incredible! No "sheet"! ;-)
CJ Premier 11a can take KT-88's... I'm using a set in my Premier 11a for slightly better bass but the stock 6550's weren't bad at all. AUDITION the amps with your speakers first if at all possible. Have fun!
I was in your exact position about two years ago. For high quality acoustic recordings you want the CJ. That is because it is smooth, musical, and when the recording is accurate the soundstage is really natural. The VAC seems to have a less laid back midrange with more "bite" and excitment. May be better for rock. My experience with VAC is just from the audition at my dealer. I went with the CJ because I am a soundstage guy and I like the gold faceplate. If I could afford the VAC with the blue tubes, now they are really cool :)
If I recall correctly, VAC use solid state rectification whereas CJ uses tube rectification. In any case, this would be consistent with my experience of the sound and power of these units. VAC have more power and precision for a given set of watts; CJ more musical and lovely with rich bass.
The "sheet over the speaker" is the experience of underpowering speakers with a tube amp, IMO.
Thiels need current to sound their best. I powered Thiel 1.5 with CJ 11a and it was fine but the switch to CJ 12's brought about an astonishing improvement, far more than would be justified by the increase in power. You can make Thiels loud with modest power but the tonal quality and bass control won't be there. Thiel 1.5 with CJ 11a might work fine in a small room, but it's a risk for a larger room.
I somewhat agree with the two comments above regarding CJ Premier 11a. I'm driving a pair of Thiel CS 1.5's and they do sound very good in my smallish listening room. These smaller Thiels do not require a lot of power and current and they present a relatively stable 4 ohm mostly resistive load. They do not sound like there's a sheet over them and in fact they sound better driven by the CJ than my previous amp, the 200w/ch Classe CA-200 solid state amp (sold it). A little more power might be nice and I'd love to try the CJ 12's someday but the Premier 11a drives the CS 1.5's to good volume levels. I wouldn't try a bigger set of Thiels with the Premier 11a but the modest CS 1.5's are a good match. The point being, try your short list of tube amps on YOUR speakers in YOUR home before making a final decision.
CJ Premier 11a and 12's use solid state power supply rectification as there are no rectifier tubes anywhere on the CJ chassis, just signal tubes and power tubes.