Mcintosh C220 vs CJ ET-2

I am getting ready to buy a tube pre-amp to go with my pair of Monarchy SE-100 MK2 monoblocks. These drive NHT VT 2.4 speakers.

I was researching the McIntosh C220 and I went into a store... The guys there reccommended a Conrad Johnson ET-2 over the McIntosh and said it will go better with my speakers and my turntable (MusicHall MMF 5.1 with Goldring 2200 MM cartrige).

They claimed that the Conrad Johnson pre-amps have more defnintion and are true "audiophile" equipment....

Q1. Why is the Conrad Johnson considered audiophile quality and Mcintosh C220 not?

Q2. The price point is similar - so is one truly "better" than the other... I know I know that "depends" on how it sounds in my system... but I am curious to hear what others think...

Thanks in advance for your responses...


That's crazy.

A preamp of this price point should offer balanced input options. Maybe they are referring to phono section only. The CJ may have different options for the high gain phono stage suited for use with low to medium output moving coil cartridges with rated output of 1.0 mV or less. The low gain stage is recommended for cartridges with output above 1.0 mV.
Is it because the store you visited had a CJ and not a Mac?Just a thought.
Q1. They both are great. Quit believing everything a dealer tells you.
Q2. One of them is better. Which, as you said, will depend....

Your curiousa about what others think. I've had Mac's top preamps for several generations from the C28 thru the C200 and tubed C2200. I think they are great. I now have CJ's ACT2.2 and ART 2 and they are the best I've heard.

I don't think you will go wrong with either.
Onemug has good advice. Listen to the equipment not the dealer. I used to go to a local dealer and no matter what I mentioned, if he carried it, it was perfect for what my needs were. If he didn't carry it I got the stories. I used to carry it but too many problems, etc. As far as your concerns here. Q1: I beleive some of the magazines and many owners catagorize McIntosh as audiophile. Q2: there will be a differnt sound both being high quality. The decision will be what your ears like between the two. I have only heard one CJ Pre-Amp and cannot tell you the model. I have owned many McIntosh pre-amps but never tube. You really need to hear the two. One thing I will point out is that it seems that Mcintosh retains it's value better in the used market.
Also the service from McIntosh is impeccable. But that opinion as you may have gleened already is somewhat biased.
Bottom line the CJ dealer was selling CJ that day.
Don't you have to use the balanced ins on the Monarchy amps for them to run in mono?
Thanks everyone for your responses. Ironically, this dealer was both a McIntosh as well as a Conrad Johnson dealer. He did say that it was "easier" for him to get a Conrad Johnson. He also said that the phono stage on the C220 was very basic and that the CJ provides more options.

The Monarchy amps are single ended (SE-100) the SE stands for single ended, so it actually does not need balanced input. I do not know if they need it to run in mono....

Give the dealer a break, there are many audiophiles that feel that Mcintosh products are good but not leading the field in terms of ultimate transparency.

If you look at the ET 2 parts quality and design topology it is an impressive piece of hardware. CJ feels that balanced circuits cost more and complicate the design with very little real improvement for home environments.

Also the CJ is a purist design without any embellishments which are usually found in a Mcintosh design.

Personally I would take a CJ any day of the week over a Mcintosh, I would take a CJ, BAt, or Audio Research tube amp over a Mcintosh tube amp, and I would take a Balanced Audio, or Mark Levinson solid state amplifier over a Mcintosh.

If you look at the design topology of most solid state amplifiers they are direct coupled designs, where most Mcintosh amplifiers use an auto transformer which gives the amplifier the ability to easily push power into any load however an auto transformer is not necessary if you use a big enough power supply. The upshot much a direct coupled amplifier has much greater clarity.
Audiofreakgeek: Interesting statements. At the $3.5-$4k price point, in your opinion how does the Mc 275 compare to CJ, BAT, and Audio Research? Not much embellishment going on for the 275.

I did read somewhere the LS26 sounded much better in someone's system than a C220 he had, but then again synergy is important. C220+MC275 is a very nice combo. Likely the LS26 + an Audio Research amp would also be better than combining pre and amp from these two different brands. Then taste is also important.

Now which of these preamps sounds better with your Monarchy amp is just a guess on everybody's part unless they have tried it. Can you ask your dealer for an in-home audition of the two products you are considering??

Enjoy the search!
I am an audiophile (at least that is what my wife says as she looks at the Big Rig)--and I use a Mac c2300 and MC 501 mono power amps. I am neither a doctor nor a lawyer (that is what your dealer may be referring to--mac was branded many years ago as hi-fi gear that only people in those professions could afford and thus was not audiophile grade but more "look what I can afford" gear).
So it looks like this is what is coming down to.... I am moving overseas (AUstralia) in the next year, so I will need something that can do both 110v and 240v.

There is no such thing... so I have to rely on the manufacturer to make the conversion for me - otherwise I will be hooking them into a step-down transformer, and I dont trust them... not with a tube amp...

McIntosh wants me to work through their Australian dealer - I contacted those guys and they were not even familiar with what the C220 was!!!

The Conrad Johnson, on the other hand, had people that knew what they were talking about and very familiar with my request.

So I guess that narrows down the field for me...

thanks everyone for your input...
Not to confuse you since you seem to have decided...

I am a Mac fan & love their products. I went down the same route few years ago & was thinking of the c2200. After much contemplation & researech I bought a Supratek Chardonnay & it's made in AUSTRALIA! For the price, looks & performace this is very hard to beat.

You can read tons of discussions on Audiogon itself if you search for 'Preamp Deal of the Century', longest thread on 'gon & leave about 3 months if you plan to read through :)

The only problem though is I think it's not been produced anymore. You may find it second hand or drop the guy a mail when in Aus.

I love it & no regrets at all! Just wanted to share my experience. Good luck.
Thanks Dilly.. I will check it out.
i used to have an audio research preamp and now I have the Mcintosh c220. I also have a MC275 and I listen to my music a lot. Today for over 8 hours of non fatiging bliss. When I had Audio Research and Levinson, this never happened. Th Mac stuff makes me want to listen to my music. It is that simple. I have never enjoyed my music so much. the C220 is very neutral and not buttery like some of the other tube gear. Anyone who looks at the C220 know it was made for music. The simplicity of the phono stage is probably better than a complicated one. To say that McIntosh equipment is not "audiophile" quality is a joke at best. Sounds more like jealous companies that wish they were McIntosh.