Sounds like you like the classic tube sound more than analytical sound. Assuming that the rest of your system and your room are similar in sonic character to the demo system you listened to, I think you should follow your ears and go with the unit that best communicates the music to you. Maybe the dealer will let you borrow the unit to make sure it works in your system? Don't worry about tube equipment with C-J, their stuff is reliable, well-supported and no problem to maintain other than changing tubes every few years as the manufacturer recommends.
Welcome to the world of the glass bottles Ndmaitre. I have a all tube rig presently and thought about going back to solid state. Alas I don't think so. I will however be changing my digital gear. My dac is a little behind and will be upgrading in the solid state mode. The rest stays tube and I hope your C-J purchase brings you a lot of musical days and nights.
buy the cj and laugh all the way home. it will be a great little preamp for you. also why not try a tube amp as well. you will be hooked for sure then. you also do not need near as much power when you run tubes vs ss. welcome aboard.
CJ makes good tube equipment. There are other companies out there that are also good. It's up to your ears. DON'T BE AFRAID OF TUBES, THEY WON'T BITE! I FIND THEM USER FRIENDLY.
I have listened to several Different Pr-Amps and when I heard the CJ premier 16MKII, that became my new Pre-Amp. Sound is great. This tube unit has very wide full sound stage with deep controled base. This tells me tubes can do it. Not sure how, but is for real. If you like the CJ sound may want to check out the 16MKII as well. Good luck
If you find a tubed unit that you like the sound of, buy THAT specific one. Tell the dealer that you want THAT one and tell him to take into account that it is a demo. If he wants to make the sale, he'll work with you. He might not have a demo unit until he can get another one in, but it is better to have an empty spot in the rack than to miss a sale.
Keep in mind that tubes don't last forever and you may have to replace them sometime down the road. As such, the sound of the unit WILL change. Luckily, tubes in pre's can last a LONG time, so this isn't something that you should worry about for some time to come. Sean
In all of this discussion, nobody has mentioned alternatives in the realm of tube preamps. Have you listened to VTL, Audible Illusions or the price champ Antique Sound Labs?
I find CJ over-rated and I used to sell it. Very good gear, just not reference to my ears. And unless they've changed their design philosophy, they tend to overdrive the tubes ensuring premature costly replacement.
Won't even discuss Krell here as they only anger me with their philosophy of design and marketing.
Everybody is right about trusting your ears. You are the only one who has to live with it. And no dealer is worth their salt if they won't allow you to borrow a demo of such an expensive item before purchase. Borrow that sucker!!
I concur with others, borrow it first and buy it if, and only if, it meets all your needs (price considering).
As for recommending others, I have a Hovland HP-100 and I am very happy with it. I have also read positive comments from very happy audiophiles with BAT tube equipment, a few about CAT as well, you may want to look into these as well.
Thanks first to all the advice you all have given.
I will be borrowing th PV-14L this weekend from the Audio Store to give it a whirl in my own system - although the set up at the store was the same as my own - with one difference I have B&W 803 Matrix II's and the store had N803's hooked up. I am looking forward towards some long listening!
I have heard/seen other tube pre's. The Audible Illusions Line 1 and 2 - can someone tell me why 2 volume controls??? The models I looked at also had no remote - yeah yeah I know but I want one.
I can honestly say the one set up I really could not stand was a Levinson set up. Also hooked up to some N803's - the sound never got out of the boxes - no matter how loud.
One thing I did want to know is...how often do you replace pre-amp tubes? and with what tubes do you replace them with - stock tubes or something else?
Again - thanks for all the help!
Erik: Sounds like a good dealer. I think the AI has two volume pots, one for each channel (like my Jadis) instead of a balance pot. Don't be embarassed about the remote, it certainly should factor into your thinking. As far as how long the tubes last, I think C-J should be able to tell you their estimate, which should give you a good idea, but I'd expect at least a couple of years from them. I've left my Jadis on almost continuously for the past year and a half with no great sound loss, although I use NOS Telefunkens, well known for their longevity and it's usually the powering up that wears tubes out more. I wouldn't worry about tube-rolling yet, particularly if you enjoy the sound of the preamp with its stock tubes. Live with it for a while, then when it's time to change tubes check the various threads here and on Audio Asylum regarding tubes, I'm sure there have been a lot of suggestions for the CJ preamps. I'm sure C-J will also keep its own pre-selected tubes available for purchase from them as well. Good luck!
Excellent advice re: taking that specific unit rather than a "new one." Bravo!
Not enough info... What were the speakers, source and amp? What size room? What are you using now?
Whatjd and others...
I am almost embarassed to tell you what I'm using now...but...
I have B&W 803 II Matrix speakers
Sansui G-5000 receiver - (this is leaving very soon)
Rotel 971 CD
Straight Wire Rhapsody II Interconnects and Speaker Cable
I bought a Krell KAV-250a last month so the Pre-Amp (what ever brand or model is ends up being) is needed to finish my basic system - I have plans for other units in the future (noteably some sort of Magnum Dynalab tuner :-)
My room size is 16.5' by 16.5' - square. Room treatment in medium furiture with pleated fabric on all 4 walls. Floors are hard wood with a 6'x9' oriental rug in the center of the room.
I like odd combinations of sonics: up-front and present but not schreechy or ringy. Precise highs, warm natural mids and penetrating but not boomy bass. I play pipe organ and direct chorale music so I listen to a lot or organ and choral CD's as well as a good deal of symphonic things.
Hope this helps all the curious and leads to some interesting ideas and thoughts....
Erik,..you're starting with some good components, and seem to understand where you want to go.
Some good advice above. So read, listen and trust your own ears and choices.