Help me choose a Conrad Johnson pre-power

I currently use a superb Wavac EC-300B SET amplifier. Whereas I thought this will probably be a very long term purchase, my Tannoy Turnberry speakers seems not very happy with the 10 odd watts that the Wavac produces. At this point I may have to give up the amazing Wavac and look around for a more powerful valve amplification.

I recently heard a CJ classic preamp + Premier 11 power amp driving a Tannoy and it was superb. I did not really expect a high powered tube amp to have such speed and coherence. I have come from the Naim/Linn background so speed and timing is paramount to me. That CJ combination did everything that a Naim does but infused a glow and natural warmth that is only a valve can do. The Wavac I use takes it to the next level by making it even more honest and pure. However it probably doesnt feel at home with my 93 db sensitive speakers.

When I look at the CJ line of equipments I feel lost among so many models. My budget is about $10k for a pre-power combination. I am more inclined to buy pre-owned so even the older models can considered.

Based on some research I have done on internet, here are the options:

1. Classic SE
2. ET3
3. ET5

Power amps:
1. Premier 11
2. Premier 12
3. Classic 60SE
4. LP125m
5. LP125sa

At this point the last thing I want is a mismatch in pre-power combination. I do not exactly know which pre-power combination would give me the best bang for the $10k sum.
The most obvious combination to me is the ET3 + Classic 60SE. Both are current models and matched to each other by the company. However my budget might permit me to go with ET5 or LP125m too. That is where I need help from the more experienced members here.

Please help me choose a pre-power from Conrad Johnson.

BTW, I listen to all kinds of music from Mozart to Metallica.
There is currently a pair of LP125m's on this site for sale; no affiliation with the seller. And as far as a pre goes I would go as far up the line as funds would permit so of those on your list I would chose the ET5.
If you are simply looking for more power than the Wavac SET integrated amp that you are currently using and want a very nice matching preamp and power amp, I would recommend you try to get a listen to the VAC Sigma 160i integrated amp.

I'm not trying to throw you a curveball, I just thought I'd throw that option out there, since if I were looking to spend that kind of money around and desired good synergy, that is where I would look. The Sigma will put out a robust 85 wpc and lists for $10K, though I have heard rumors that the list price has gone up recently. Happy Hunting.
Yes the VAC is now $12K and there is a special edition available for $16K.
01-29-14: Czbbcl
Yes the VAC is now $12K and there is a special edition available for $16K.

Thanks Czbbcl. Jeez, I just can't keep up.
Don't feel bad I only know this because I was interested in the unit to replace my Cary SLI-80F1 until I found out the price. I then decided to go back to separates.
What bothers me is that I have seen a couple for sale on the used market for $8K that were over a year old. The seller's were listing $12K as the new retail price, even though it was $10K when they bought it. Just one of my pet peeves.

I'm currently running separates myself, with a Cary SLP-98P as a preamp. What separates did you wind up going to?

To be honest though, I do still consider going back to an integrated amp, as my current separates are not quite as musical as the VAC Avatar Super integrated amp that they replaced.
I have a Pass XP-20 and I am looking at the Pass XA Series.
I am going with ss as I had a couple of scary incidences
with a couple of power tubes (not cj). I would like to make
an integrated work simply because of the smaller foot print.
The VAC unit does look nice and I am sure it sounds great
but $12K seems a bit over the top for a 80wpc tube
integrated. I was also considering trying the Audio Research
VSi75 but haven't heard much about it. I have a dealer local
but he wants a deposit to order one with no return policy if
I don't like it.

I am driving a pair of focal monitors 1007Be's which are
fairly efficient at 89-90db/watt. So high power really isn't
necessary and I don't listen at high levels.

I have had cj (both tube and ss)in the past and really like
their equipment; very reliable and great customer service
plus it sounds great.
For what it's worth, I sold a pair of CJ Premier 12 monoblocks after a friend brought over a pair of SET amps (845 output tubes) he had built, to compare against the CJs. He built me a pair and I still have them, after 10 years.

On the other hand, I did like the CJ Premier 17LS2 (the "2" is vital) and kept it until I felt the need for polarity-switching and replaced it with an Aesthetix Calypso. The 17LS2 and CT-5 sounded exactly the same to me, in my system.

IMO, if you switch from SET to push-pull tubes, you'll surely hear the difference right away and it may not be a pleasant experience.
@Czbbcl, interesting, good luck with your hunt. I have always preferred the sound of VAC over CJ gear, but then I tend to be drawn to soft dome tweeters which can sound dark with CJ gear. I'm sure that CJ probably sounds better with metal dome tweeters like your Focals. We probably have similar tastes, just get there different ways.

I am also running a SS amp now, Coda Model 11, 100 wpc Class A. I have been mulling over going back to a tube amp because I do miss that "fuzz on the peach" sound, but horror stories like yours tend to make it more difficult. LOL!!

I agree with you on the price of the VAC integrated amp, at $10K it is very interesting, at $12K, not so much so.

Hi John


I hear you ! I love the look and sound of a tube amp and have considered going that route; but my wife would not be happy. She saw first hand what happens when a power tube lets go as it happened right in front of us. It was a good thing I was there to flip the power switch.

I have not heard VAC equipment but I am sure it sounds great.

With kind Regards
Hi Chuck,

Yeah, I imagine that would be a bit scary. Do you have any idea what caused it? Did you just fire the amp up, or had it been running? I've been using tube preamps for over a decade now, but I only used tube amps for a couple of years, two different tube amps to be specific. Though I never had any problems myself, I have heard of others having issues. I would also be afraid of any collateral damage that an amp blowing up might do, like taking out a speaker. You didn't have the issue with the SLI-80 did you? Because one of the amps I'm considering trying is the CAD-120S to mate with my SLP-98P F1. The 120S has a LOT of tubes, 8 KT88's!

That's probably one of the reasons why I'm running a SS amp now myself. Though I do miss that tube bloom. Both of my tube amps were push-pull designs. My current speakers may be candidates for a SET amp, I have to admit that trying a 300B amp does tempt me. LOL!

A friend of mine has an Allnic T-1500 integrated amp, which also looks very tempting to try. As you can see, it costs a bit less than the VAC too. It doesn't have the power that the OP is looking for though.

You have several options, as well as upgrade potential. The Classic series is nice, but the ET is better.
MF2550SE with ET3SE
LP70 with ET3SE
Premier 11 with teflon cap updrade and ET3SE (this would be close to 90% of the LP70 option and would give you a low profile power amp if that is important)
If you want to pass on CJ, Octave integrated, or the new BAT integrated.
Your speaker is listed as 8 ohm. CJ only has one set of outputs usually set for 4 ohm, but can be factory reconfigured for 8 ohm. Do you know how the Premier 11 was configured? That is something to take into consideration during your search.

Yes it was and it was a capacitor and a diode that failed twice within a short period of time (94 days). And for some reason the fuse didn't blow the second time it failed and caused the power tube to light off.

The Allinic Amp looks good and I have read that it sounds good as well.

For the EC300B:
1. Choose the right 300B tube.
2. Try out many 6L6GC tubes.
3. Try and get the NEC 6RR21 tube in liu of the WE 435A. The NEC if far ahead from sonic perspectives.
I ran the ET3SE with a classic 60SE for a year. last week I traded the tube amp for the new MF2550SE- nice having the extra power back. Sounds like an upgrade to me for sure.
ET5 and LP70 and then roll the 6922 to Ampex 7308.
just seeing this and curious what route you went. i personally like the se versions for long term keepers. so like Tamulet I'd think in terms of the ET3se and Classic60se. Should be well under $10k at or -- if you call and ask what they can do for you :-)