I havent heard the CJ, but have you considered the BAT Rex Pre-amp? Their sound is more laid back than ARC imo and might be worth looking at too.
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VAC Renaissance preamps are not compromised by the remote control. The remote works on mechanical actuators that are not in the circuit, and perform the same functions as operated by hand.
The VAC is another preamp you may wish to consider. A big plus in my book is the volume control which is not stepped.
A deal breaker for me with the CJ, is all their preamps invert polarity.
Thanks everyone for helpful suggestion. I was thinking about BAT for awhile but have not had a chance to audition it yet. A local dealer was trying to get VAC here but supposedly VAC told him that they are already at full capacity in their production line so they are not looking to add another oversea supplier at this time or something to that effect.
Syntax, I hope you read my post a bit more carefully. Remote is certainly a plus for me, but I also could use more than 3 inputs. If you stop being a sarcastic and actually pay attention a bit more, you could be a bit more useful here. If you think warm and tubey sound is inferior, that's your choice, I was not asking for your critique on my preference for sound.
Rhljazz states that
"A deal breaker for me with the CJ, is all their preamps invert polarity."
With all respect, could you please explain to me why this is an automatic deal breaker in considering conrad-johnson preamps when all that is needed is to reverse the speaker cable leads either at the amplifier end or the speaker end? I'm not aware of any sonic consequences of the reversed polarity if this is done.
"A deal breaker for me with the CJ, is all their preamps invert polarity."
It was a deal "maker" for me. Their ART and ACT 2.2 only have "one" gain stage and invert, I would assume the same for the GAT. Don't see any drawback, do see a benefit. Everytime you do something to the signal (like add a gain stage) you mess with it. Maybe it's audible, maybe not but I like the idea of "less is more". Like Joe said, just reverse + and - on the speaker cables. If you need to worry about things, rumor is that a great number of recordings are out of phase to begin with.
Remotes: non-issue if done right.
we've both posted on AVGuide regarding CJ GAT which i also am researching carefully.
I feel pretty sure about going for the GAT...i have been a CJ fan for well over 12 years, and owned 3 pieces in that time...amp and 2 pres...current is ACT2.
Spoke with dealer of Zanden, Wavac, Shindo...and astoundingly relative to these 3 reference pres (which he sells)...he said to go with GAT (and he does NOT sell it!)
That said a lot to me...seems he felt it was the right blend of natural tonality, with detail/extension, and neutrality/linearity of the spectrum.
Meanwhile, what specifically were your impressions of ARC Ref 40 vs Ref 5? i have heard Ref 3, Ref 5...so you observations/comparisons are greatly welcome! (if it helps, i also know CJ ACT, Evo 202, Evo 2 reasonably well.)
I had ARC Ref3 in my system for about a year. Heard Ref5 a few times and have 2 friends that have Ref 40. Basically Ref 5 was a tad better than Ref 3. Ref 40 is quite a bit better but in the wrong direction for me. I am not a fan of thick, syrupy, bronze coloration, nice big fat midrange with less extension at both end of spectrum, I do like a bit more warmth and full body sound that tube equipments give in comparison to solid state. I find Ref 5 well extended, excellent detail but left me a bit cold. Ref 40 is more full bodied,smooth, but still a bit on the lean side. Almost like it traded some of the tube virtue for extension,speed, detail and neutrality. In comparison, Lamm is a bit less opened but has the kind of midrange that I like, very full body but not at the sacrifice of detail with good speed, sweet midrange and excellent tonal density but in no way, syrupy.
From sonic standpoint, I have nothing to complain and would gladly settle for it. I never implied that I would trade remote control capability for sound quality as Syntax seemed to suggest. I suppose JV's blog regarding GAT got me interested since it sounded like GAT did not sacrifice as much of the tube's virtue as ARC in order to gain extension, detail, dynamic range or bass capability. Anyhow, my 2nd phono stage will arrive in a couple of months and I will run out of inputs on Lamm. So once my dealer has GAT in, I would definitely give it a listen and see if it might be a good replacement for Lamm.
Curious if anyone has compared the BAT Rex to ARC 40th, CJ GAT, Joule LA450. The Purity Audio Silver Statement also looks very interesting.
For me, the greatest asset for the BAT, and the reason I am not in a hurry to tempt fate, is the ability to quickly flip a switch between a key set of tubes. It really provides 2 distinct flavors: (1) a more harmonically rich and warm sound with more emphasis on the midrange, (2) a more clear and dynamic sound with greater extension and imaging capabilities. I find that all my recordings fall within these 2 camps, to achieve the most realistic sound.
So I finally heard the GAT. Frankly, it blew me away. The guys in the room said it was by far the best CJ they'd heard, and it certainly is the best CJ i've heard (i've owned two...PV14L and ACT 2). Here's my notes:
- transparent to invisible...i've not ever felt that a pre was invisible until this one...
- i think it has to do with extreme alacrity...its so fast, it does not feel like the component is taking in a signal, processing it, and then having to 'push' it back out thru a series of cones/speakers. music just seemed to fly/breathe effortlessly (with no resistance) thru the component if that makes any sense.
- it is also very even across the spectrum...super balanced
- it is also very, very quiet...which means you really do start to hear your music as if for the first time with all the new detail
- the extension of the unit is far greater than the ACT 2. it ain't close, and i like the ACT 2
- dynamically, you understand quite quickly the ACT 2 is very limited (which i already knew)
- finally, CJ left their DNA in the unit...it always manages to feel completely at ease and completely natural (which the ACT 2 does not in comparison)
i have heard Ref 5 and liked it a good deal more than Ref 3 which i respected but could not love, possibly for reasons not dissmilar from your own.
GAT is a CJ, and its natural tonality is just that, natural and not strident/forced linearity. Pls let me know when you've heard it for yourself...just make its been playing for at least 400-500 hours before you do...Myles Astor uses it as his reference (over the ART 3), and is adamant about this. Others have said the same.
I owned the ACT 2 Series 1, and i will say, the GAT crushed it. not close. The GAT is way more extended, has superior micro and macro dynamics...and extension. Which means the super treble comes out where you never even heard it before...but it also sounds so easy/natural on your ears, you realize the ACT 2 was "wrong".
Plus, the midrange magic is back in a way the aCT 2 does not quite deliver...at least not in comparison. And the noise floor is so low, the decay is remarkable. when you hear clapton, you can hear the voice in the back of his throat, and you can hear his throat roughness...as opposed to just the words and his breath. its crazy.
And it is more natural sounding...in a way i did not fully appreciate the ACT 2 was lacking...until i heard it in my own system. Crazy...
Jafant, I agree with you about the ACT 2.2. Mine seems to keep sounding better and better as it ages.
Lloydelee21, I "think" I agree with you too (about the ACT 1). I say think because while I never heard the original ACT 1, I did have a CT-5 which reviewers and CJ themselves said was so close to the original ACT, and at a much lower price, they had to completely redo the ACT into a series 2. CJ has said that pretty much the only thing the ACT 1 and 2 have in common is the faceplate. Probable why sending them the 1 to upgrade to series 2 cost 5000 dollars.
So, based on what I have actually owned, the ACT 2.2 was a huge upgrade over the CT-5, so I would assume over the original ACT also.
I love CJ preamps. Besides the ACT 2.2, I have an ART 2 and ART 3 in my other 2 systems. I've given some thought to replacing the ACT 2.2 with the GAT but the ACT is so nice. Then I think about swapping one of the ART's but then there is something very special about them too. One day I hope to be able to demo a GAT and see for myself what it's all about but I'm completely happy now so, the push isn't there.
Anyway, we all have our individual tastes. Some will prefer a 6h30 based pre (ACT), some the 6922 (ART), and some the GAT (6922/mosfet). Viva la difference.
I have read Myles thoughts about the GAT and know he loves it. At this level, I think it gets very personal and of course there is the amp/speaker/room interface so even the same person might prefer one of these top pres over another depending on what it's put into.
I do envy you when/if it comes to trying different 6922's as you will only need 2 and I need 10 :(.
Lloyde, on average, I would say that the sound at the HK show was quite disappointing. Arrakis setup was with VTL 6.5 pre and MB 450 monoblocks. The first day the sound was aweful. The second day was somewhat better but nowhere near what a smaller Rockport could do when properly setup. Wilson Alexandria/Boulder, Audio Note Kondo setup did not do any better either.
Lloyde, my speakers right now are Magico Q3. I was using Lamm M2.2 with Usher Be-20 before that. Before Lamm, I was using ASR Basis Exclusive II. I heard Lamm ML2.1 with Be-20 before. Very nice midrange, more delicate and more detail than M2.2 hybrid that I am using but it just was not enough to drive Be-20 and most likely Q3 adequately on big orchestral work or rock. I never heard Gryphon though.
Sounds like an amazing setup!!! Yes, i would imagine you need more current/power to drive the Q3...very tough impedance load down low...3 ohms or lower, as i recall from reading about them.
i have not heard Lamm...only read quite a bit about them. Sounds like the purity of tonality combined with extension and power is a unique and rare combination they deliver. FYI (in case you're curious), Gryphon is probably a similar rare mix, with slightly greater emphasis on power, given it is SS Class A 100 watts (doubling all the way down to 0.5 ohm load and doubling again for peak dynamics...so 4,000watts/0.5 ohm load).
I have read the Lamm 1.2 Ref probably edges out the Gryphon on purity of tone (Jeff Fritz)...enjoy!
Q3 certainly can use power but Lamm M2.2 is adequate to drive it as long as I use high impedance mode (220 watts into 8 ohms, 440 watts into 4 ohms). Low impedance mode with 220 watts into 4 ohms, 440 watts into 2 ohms with more bias into class A, give a touch better liquidity in the midrange but dynamic and bass suffered quite a bit. Lamm certainly cannot quite compete with high power amp such as Karan, Bryston monoblock, Plinius monoblock that I heard in term and dynamic and bass but its midrange and high frequency are something else and it is a lot of fun to try out various 6922 input tubes to tailor the sound to your liking. I heard Q3 driven by Soulution 710 and personally prefer Lamm over Soulution. However, I am not seeking out the absolute neutrality and transparency sound as I prefer musicality and beautiful sound (to my ears at least) over all else.
Since I have a good selection of 6922, GAT is definitely very tempting. If you can't find pinched waist Amperex, Mazda is pretty good alternative. Kind of a compromise between Mullard and Telefunken, in a way. But Pinched waist Amperex has much better extension at both end than any tube I tried with robust, full body sound not so soft or overly warm and mellow like Mullard.