Hovland v. c-j 17LS

Of the two pre amps mentioned above, which one is more transparent as a line stage. I saw the inside of the Hovland pre and without the phono section this thing does not seem worth the 5K asking price. And the Hovland transformers seem so small whereas the c-j seems to offer more parts and bang for the buck. Would like to here from owners or audtioners of these two pres. Thanks!
I'm sorry to say that I've never heard the Hovland, but I have had a 17LS for about a year now (first on my block to have one) and can talk a bit about its performance. So far, I'm extremely pleased with it. The sound is classic CJ (warm, detailed, smooth) but is somewhat livelier, and a little brighter than the older Premiere 14, and has an excellent soundstage. I'm not sure that I categorize the 17LS as being especially neutral (overall, CJ tends not to be), but it does bring out some of the very best in many of the classical pieces I listen to. For rock and techno however, CJ in general might not be the best match (ok, go ahead and let me have it…). Also, and I'll admit that as a purist I fail completely, I can't really live without a remote control, which for me is one of the nice features of the 17LS.

I took a peek at the Hovland web site (they're still using the free site they get from register.com apparently -- very tacky) and from their descriptions I'd say that their product is likely to sound very different from the 17LS. It may be difficult to arrange, but an audition of the two will likely be required if you're seriously interested in them. It should be easy enough to find CJ dealers, but I’m not sure how readily available the Hovland is for auditioning. Anyway, it’ll be interesting to hear from folks that do have some experience with these two.

Good luck,
Thanks for your input ken!
I have not heard the Hovland either, and also own a 17LS. I find this preamp to be, in one word, magical. Or, if you prefer, musical. It's an audio cliche, but with this baby in my system, I stopped listening to my stereo and found myself listening to music. It is very well built, and I too can't live without a remote. I never thought I would spend this much on a preamp, and so I also took into consideration the longevity and integrity of the company I was buying from. Good luck.
Kw6: I happened to hear the Hovland yesterday in a casual audition and was favorably impressed. If you live in the NY tri-state area, Audio Outlet in Mount Kisco has both the Hovland and the CJ units in the same room, that would be a place to audition both at the same time.
Thanks Rcprince! I did not know AO picked up Hovland.