Conrad Johnson's Sonographe SA-250 or the SA-400?

Both of these amps unlike the MF series are Bipolar design rather than Mosfet. Although the Sonographe products are considered entry level for Conrad Johnson, there is nothing entry level about the sound quality or build quality! In fact I prefer the Sonographe sound to the MF series, maybe because I prefer the Bipolar sound now. Anyway I have owned more amps than allowable by law so when I first aquired an SA-250 I was immediately struck by the level of sound quality that it possesed. In fact this was exactly what I was looking for. This was an amp I could live with for a long time. From what I've gathered, the SA-250 was rated a Stereophile class B component, does anyone pay any attention to these ratings? Eventually I wanted more power & purchased the SA-400. Called CJ and they told me the sound of the SA-400 was identical to the SA-250 but with more power. I can now confirm this to be true. Conrad Johnson products are an excellent investment & the Sonograhe line is no different. Don't hesitate to give these amps a try, as they are major bargains on the used market.
I've had my SA250 for a couple years now, and also agree that this is a very good sounding amp. Seems like i have read that mosfet amps are sweeter sounding than bipolars, but the sa250 is one sweet sounding amp !
I had a Sonograhe SA 400 for about a year. I agree
with everyhting you have said. They often get overlooked
but I think they represent tremendous value in the
used amp market. I upgraded my SA 400 to a BAT VK500 and
although the BAT was better I was surprised at how close
it was to the BAT in many areas. Very tube like presentation
with plenty of control in the lows. One of the better
bang for the buck amps out there. Enjoy yours.

Cmach, your right, the Bat is most definately an upgrade from the SA-400 but more expensive. If I'm correct the Bat is a zero negative feedback design & uses only one gain stage, a superb amp! I know both the SA-250 & SA-400 are not a zero negative feedback design but a minimal negative feedback design (a good thing as well). Don't know how many gain stages the Sonographes employ. I would love to give the Bat a try one day but for now I will enjoy the SA-400. But I thank you for the heads up on the SA-400.
Rcziech, as an audiophile you should be congradulated on keeping one amp for two years, a true testiment to the sonic attributes of the SA-250.

Got a 400. Just bought a Plinius SA102. The Plinius sounds damn good, its dynamics in class A are amazing. They slam you back to the wall. But - I blew some fuses in it (my fault) and have the CJ hooked up now - backup! The Plinius is a better sounding amp - but if I ran low on cash and had to sell it, I'd be just about as cool with the CJ. Just a damn good sounding amp that I bought for $600 used. With Dynaudios + Supratek Syrah, vinyl and digital.
Hi Goatwuss, your very fortunate to have the SA-400 as a backup amp to your Plinius. My wife won't let me keep more than one amp at a time if it just lying idle unless I can hide it. Anyway I look at the SA-400 as a tube amp on steroids as it definately does sound very tubish. Connected to a quality tube preamp the magic starts there. Anyway you also very lucky to have paid only $600.00 for the SA-400 as I just recently purhased mine for $775.00 shipped. However it is in mint condition.
I bought a SA-250 a few months ago.I love it.Great sound,dead quiet,plenty of bass.Before that I used a couple int amps while they did sound good,no comparison using a 40 watter to this amp.I guess it is no comparison,but power is power and 125 watts is quite nice.Really does not run warm either.I think if you want the 400 you probably have some hungry speakers.I would consider it high end also,I think alot of products out there you can call mid fi,they sound good but dont take you to this kind of sound that the Sonographe can.
Coffeey, I am driving four large horn loaded speakers (300 lbs each) that have a combined total of eight 12" bass drivers. Although the SA-250 did a fine job driving these sensitive speakers, the SA-400 did it a little better. Your right both amps (SA250 & SA400) run very cool, even driving a 4 ohm load. These amps do offer a very respectable high end sound and are the type of amps you will have many serious listening sessions with, especially with a good front end. If you don't need anymore power than the SA-250 I would most definately stay where you at, as the the 250 may offer just a tad bit more transparency but both amps do excel in this area.
Maybe you have read how i like the Arcam cd 92,also have legacy studio monitor speakers and a cj sonographe sc26 preamp.I absolutely love this system.
Maybe you have read how i like the Arcam cd 92,also have legacy studio monitor speakers and a cj sonographe sc26 preamp.I absolutely love this system.
Just a question,does anybody know the differences between sa 250s.I have heard they made 2 different editions of the amp.Also does it differ with faceplates,mine has a silver faceplate.Thanks
Coffeey, you have the same older unit I had. If it has the two prong power cord that would confirm it. Your amp sounds spectacular but not too long ago Conrad Johnson offered a limited upgraded version that would have a captured three prong power cord. It also had some circuit upgrades done to it. Is this newer model better, who knows.
hey phd,3 prong power cord on my unit,if that goes for anything,i think i have heard both ways as far as binding posts go,red black black red,also red black red black,so who knows,all i know every time i fire it up it blows me away with its sound.
i just had to write again,first thanks to everybody who writes about this stuff,it totally fasinates me,but isnt it interesting the interest people have in this hobby,what a cool thing.
Coffeey, looks like you have the newer model! My SA-400 has the three prong plug as well. These differences probably should be addressed to Conrad Johnson for more accurate information. You can e-mail them as well. Enjoy!
Here we go again ,was there 2 versions of the SA-400?
Coffeey, I know less about the SA-400 than I do the SA-250. But what I do know is that they both offer a warm sound with good transparency & detail. These amps offer high end sound for less & I'm laughing all the way to the bank. Purchased another tube preamp to try on it. I anticipate excellent results.
ya,i have definitely enjoyed my trip to the bank with my sa 250,I bought it for 450.Also this makes me quite happy,i bought a Sono cj pre amp sc26 off Ebay months ago for 150.00.i swear you can put stuff and sell stuff on Ebay and have no freakin idea what it will ever go,that place is big time unpredicable.Of course you can put a reserve on your sale.Plus I think people on Ebay sometimes think that they should get stuff for free,rant over.
help someone?

the red 'on/ warming up light" is always ON.
no more green, yet it seems to be working well.

Red is supposed to be on,i never saw a green light ever when i had my amp on
Coffeey is 100% correct, there is no red warmup light that turns green on the SA-250 or SA-400. Both amps power on instantly and the light is red only.
do any of you sonographe heads out there have preamp recommendations to mate with the sa-250 and a pair of thiel cs1.5 speakers?

right now I am using the wonderful Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 but I am curious to know if a CJ pre or a solid state Sonographe pre would be better. I don't know if a SS CJ pre would be more warm than the SF hybrid tube pre as SF always made very neutral gear. I am looking to emphasize the warmth and transparency of the SA-250 I have. Since my Thiel's are about as neutral as they come I don't think that many pres/amps will be able to fully take that character away from them.
I had goodluck a few years ago with a CJ PF2L preamp. The SA400 and PF2 were my introduction into higher end stereo and I still remember how good they sounded. I have heard the PV10 preamps and did not care for them.
what are you using now Samzx12?
Also, CJ recommends turning the amp off at night but I've found that the amps sound best when run 24/7.

I just replaced a Sonographe SA-120 with the larger SA-250 and the SA-250 sounded lean and lackluster in comparison to the warmed SA-120. I'm near my first 24 hrs with the SA-250 and it's starting to sound as good as the SA-120...

before the 18 hour warm up the instruments were lifeless and lacked the weight and body that they had with the SA-120

any thoughts gentlemen?

As it stands I'm going to keep leaving mine on and save on electricity in other places. :P
I have tried alot of preamps but one of my favorites was the VK5i I just sold. The best combination I have had was the 5i and VK55 amp.

I downsized my system somewhat and now I have a Cayin 265Ai Class A integrated amp.
that's a pretty $$ preamp : )