I'm in a preamp pickle: ARC Ref 1 VS CJ 17LS


I have my preamp choice nailed down to an Audio Research Reference 1 and a Conrad Johnson Premier 17 LS. I would appreciate some opinions about this choice that may help me decide. Additionally, the Audio Research is about $700 more. Both are used.
My system:
Thiel 3.6
Clearaudio Performance SE with Maestro
Audio Research PH5
Classe CA-2200
Current pre is a Cary slp 308
Thanks in advance
Bill
bill10907
Hello Bill-

nice system you have there, Thiel speakers are my reference as well -models CS 2.4 or CS 2.7- I also like CJ electronics. Until I can demo an ART3, my CJ reference would be the ACT2 Series2 model.

Regarding ARC pre-amps, the last 2 years I have spent much time w/ the REF3, REF5 and REF5SE. While I have not auditioned the REF1 model, I can suggest the REF3.
I can very strongly suggest the REF5 SE, I know that it is more money, this is a long-term keeper and money well spent, IMO. Keep me posted, share your thoughts and Happy Listening!
From what I've read they are both good preamps. I've owned a couple of the Audio Research preamps but not the CJ.
The CJ will give you a warmer sound I believe.
I would go with the CJ. The ARC has the drier house sound that is part of the ARC legacy. The warmer sound of the CJ will complement your system nicely.
Wow! You could hardly pick two more opposite end of the spectrum candidates to choose from. The yin or the yang, chocolate or vanilla?

ARC is very fast, articulate and transparent, but can sound thin, brittle and hard in the wrong system. CJ is very sweet, warm, and musical, but can sound slow and lifeless with the wrong gear. Looking at your list of equipment, I would go with the CJ, as it may help to tame the Thiel's.

Cheers,
John
Good call John, I have always had CJ preamps in my system, until recently, with my Thiels. I never went higher up the food chain that a premier 14, I beleive the 17 started CJ into the more "revealing" sound.
I owned a 17LS2- if you can find the "2" I would say go with that. It was hands down the best preamp I ever owned. Before buying it I compated it to a very highly touted $16,000 preamp. It wasn't even close- the 17LS2 trounced the other preamp.

ARC stuff tends to be drier, but the 17LS and 17LS2 were CJ moving away from the quintessential CJ golden sound.

Like I said, a terrific preamp.
Thanks for your opinions. I think I'll look for a CJ.
Although I have heard that the ARC stuff can be harsh when listening for extended periods, I suppose I was just dreaming that they softened up with a "REFERENCE" preamp.
I've owned the CJ17ls and pretty familiar with most ARC gear.

Most people giving you advice aren't really knowledgeable about what they are saying.

Here's the first and PRIMARY questions to ask if you are considering the 17LS:

1. Will you be running long interconnects from it to your amp?
2. What is the input impedance of the amp?

Probably the only downside to the 17LS is that it isn't balanced and can't drive long cable runs to the amp as well as other CJ preamps like the ART. If you're using low capacitance cables and short runs, then the 17LS is a great option. You will be getting essentially the same performance of the legendary ART at a fraction of the price.

As for ARC gear, you can almost NEVER go wrong with them either. It will give you balanced outputs, which could be an advantage.

Both pieces would have more in common than dissimilar as they are true reference level preamps.

BTW, the 17LS has one other quirk that may bother some people. It's resister ladder volume control clicks at each change of volume.

Personally though, I'm wondering why you feel the need to change preamps from the Cary.
Yes, the 17LS clicks. Might bother some folks-
11-27-14: Bill10907
Thanks for your opinions. I think I'll look for a CJ.
Although I have heard that the ARC stuff can be harsh when listening for extended periods, I suppose I was just dreaming that they softened up with a "REFERENCE" preamp.

That's alright Bill, we can all dream. ;^)

11-28-14: Labtec
Most people giving you advice aren't really knowledgeable about what they are saying.

Well I guess we could have asked your question number 1, cable length. However, many of us non-knowledgeable buffoons know how to perform a basic Google search and find out that his amp, the Classe CA-2200, has an input impedance of 100K ohms, which shouldn't be an issue with any preamp, and answer your question number 2.

Actually, the question that probably should have been asked, which is more important than either of your two questions, is: Are you looking for more resolution or more musicality?

IF he really NEEDS to run balanced, which is highly unlikely, I would recommend BAT over ARC, UNLESS, he is looking for detail, detail and more detail.

Some folks do like ultra high resolution. I've seen folks pair Thiels, ARC and Nordost cables. It's enough to make most folks ears bleed, but in the end, you pays your money, you makes your choices.

FWIW, I've owned CJ and ARC preamps, as well as VAC, Cary, BAT and a slew of SS preamps.

Cheers,
John
11-28-14: Jmcgrogan2

"FWIW, I've owned CJ and ARC preamps, as well as VAC, Cary, BAT and a slew of SS preamps."

I know John but apparently you are still a knucklehead... :-) although I have always benefited from your advice....guess I am a knucklehead too.
Hey Jerry, you knucklehead, what Thiels are you running now? Still prefer the 3.6's, or have you swayed back to the 6's?

I see that your fellow Volunteers, Adam and Dennis, are both Mac crazy guys now too! LOL!
John I have the 6's back in you knucklehead, I have taken your advice and stopped switching out 200lb speakers on a whim!

You know what they say once you go Mac you never go back!
The things I read on this forum are absolutely comical.

First of all, Jmrgrogan2, I guarantee you didn't look up the input impedance of his amp BEFORE I said anything. If you did, anyone knowledgeable about the 17LS would have still made the comment in case he decides to ever change his amp.

Secondly, if you find your ears bleeding with ARC and Nordost combinations, then I'm an super eager for a picture of this complete system setup and what source you were using.

Anybody who screws up an ARC + Nordost combination to where "your ears bleed" has no business giving advice on this forum...Sorry to be harsh, but the level of ridiculousness on this forum has to stop!
Close, but you got that one letter off.
It's actually once you go VAC you never go back. ;^)
Hey Labrec, you're right, the level of ridiculousness on this forum has to stop!
So why not just stop posting, then us grown ups can talk rationally. Sorry to be harsh. :)
jmcgrogan...maybe you should re-read the Subject of the post.

It asked for opinions between the Ref1 and 17LS.

I stated previous ownership of one, asked questions about why he is changing, as well as provided questions that would help him choose the right option of the two.

You just provided ridiculous hyberbole about the brands, mentioned other brands not even asked in the subject, and clearly have zero experience with either product that the original poster asked about.

You're welcome to keep posting if your goal is to make me laugh more, but you're not helping the original poster with your hyperbole and primitive understanding of the brands in question.
VAC has always been on my short list for preamps, but I have never seen one live. Even at shows..

Labtec, you threw the first blow and took the thread down this path. You accomplished your goal.