Sonic difference between the CAT JL2 Sig & CAT JL3

I am looking for direct comparisons of these two amps, preferably, in the same system. I spoke with Ken Stevens at length today and he was adamant about the ability of his amps to significantly (his words were "STOMP") outperform anything out there. I would like to know in what areas the JL3 outperforms the JL2 Sig. Is it in all areas, or more significantly in particular areas. I think Ken mentioned bass extension for example. It would have to be a MAJOR step up to justify the cost differential and HEAT differential. The rest of the system is CAT Ultimate MK2 pre, Audiologic 24MXL DAC, CEC TL2 transport, Manley 350 amps (the weakest link) amd Avalon Osiris speakers. Everything is wire with Stealth top of the line cables. My room is 31' X 19.5' with a ceiling that starts at 8' and slopes to 13' symetrically. Any relevant input is appreciated. I hope the thread stays on point though and doesn't turn into a pissing contest. Thanks. Bart
The Osiris is power hungry, the more the better. Hence I would recommend the JL3, even though its nominal rating isn't that different from the JL2 Signature. However, the JL2 Signature sound is more refined. Frankly, because you haven't cut corners elsewhere in your system I would suggest the JL3 Signatures, or if you choose to biamp (or does the Osiris require more than two amplifiers if multi-amping?), go with JL2 Signatures.

Perhaps Jafox will chime in here, since he owns JL3 Signatures and has heard the JL2 (not Signature).

Wow, I am envious. The big and beautiful Avalons. Maybe I can bring the amps and aesthetix preamp and you bring the speakers and we can have quite a concert. 8-)

As I recall from following the Avalons over the years, the Ascent and then later the Eidolons needed powerful amps, typically reported ss amps, to really come to their full potential. But with the big Avalons, don't these have the subwoofers with accompanying sub amps? If so, these speakers could be much easier to drive than their smaller sibblings. None of the Avalons have any nasty dips in their impedance curves which makes it equally nice. This opens the door for consideration for either the JL-3s or a pair of JL-2s.

I have wanted to hear a head-to-head of the two CAT amps but logistics have just not allowed it .... yet. Maybe I will get the chance this year. But in this case, it would be the JL-3 sig vs JL-2 std models which both have the same capacitor types. Here it would come down to the potential of greater dynamic contrasts, ease, perhaps low-end control, etc., rather than much if at all any tonality or resolution differences.

The JL-2 Sig has the latest cap changes as does the JL-3 Sig MK II. These model suffixes get to be a little complicated! I have held off with the MK II update only because of the concern of shipping the amps back to CAT. This is almost something I would deliver myself to avoid the potential of damage. And for now, what the JL-3 sigs do for me leaves me little wanting for more tweaking to them other than getting the updated circuitry to better handle tube failures. And a CAT dealer can do this with some parts changes. I understand this latter work is standard to all CAT amps delivered now.

In my smallish room, 13x18x7.5, the single JL-2 would be plenty to bring happiness with the SoundLab A1s. But I bought the JL-3s with the intent of them being my last amp. I have bigger and greater plans for a larger room in the future. And I have felt that it would most likely only be Avalons that would displace the SoundLabs from my system. So I bought the JL-3 with all this in mind rather than to my specific needs at the moment.

With the money you are looking to spend, and having premier speakers in this wonderfully sized room, you need to find a way to hear these amps for yourself. A single JL-2 might be a good start if cost is an issue. But ideally, you will want one amp per speaker to truly get the separation and subtle details that I have no doubt your speakers are capable of. And then it comes down to a pair of JL-3s driven full range or a pair of JL-2's biamped. There's just no way to know how the outcome would be unless you tried it right then and there. I would love to have the opportunity to hear this. Either way, it's the same number of tubes so plan on listening to your music in summer clothes. 8-)

The current top of the line model, the Sentinel, has built in bass amplification, but the Osiris does not. A description of the Osiris can be found online.

John: Just you wait! You haven't heard the system :-)

Have any of you tried VTL 750's or 450's in this wonderful system? I am curious how these amps stack against the CAT's and essentially what are the differences? I have heard the 750's with Sound Labs and Kharma's with excellent results.

thanks. Louis
Brian, I spoke with Lucien (PR for Avalon) and he informed me that he had heard the Osiris driven effectively (not high spl's) by the twenty something watt Audio Note Ongaku.
The speakers are a very benign load. I should have spoke with Lucien before pouring through all the agon posts regarding the Osiris. I mistakenly thought the Osiris was a difficult load and rushed to buy something that could drive it so it could be positioned properly when delivered.
I bought a pair of Levinson 436's for sale on agon. This is the first ss amp I have used in over twenty years and not a very good one. After I spoke with Lucien I yanked the Levinson's and put the Manley 350's in. They drove the Osiris with much greater authority than the megawatt Levinson's. They bettered them in all parameters but especially in the bass (that really surprised me). I am trying to put my last system together and so far I have the speakers and cabling (John when you hear the Stealth Indras and Dreams you will know you have found your last set of cables, they are ORGANIC!). I will be trying the Nuforce 9 SE's in about a week. They come with a thirty day money back guarantee so why not. has just reviewed them check it out. They might be good summertime amps. If these 7.5 pound monos turn out to be as good as claimed they may save me twenty grand and massive electric bills. By the way they recommend Stealth cables for them. I'll post again when I hear them. If they are not world beaters I will try to pick up a JL2 Sig on agon. I think our sonic tastes are similar John. And since you have done the research I'll probably look for a used Aesthetix Callisto down the road (when funds permit).
I only use cd's (I am confident they will surpass lp's before I die). Louis, I have used several different VTL amps during the last decade and while they are good values, I don't think they will fare well against the CAT's and others. Thank you all for chiming in and I'll keep you posted on my progress. John thanks for the email and let me know how the Stealth audition goes.

Wow, roaming around on the Avalon site makes me feel like a kid in a candy store. These things are works of art.

Bart, there might be some value to further research the VTL 750 amps. Albert Porter has had these for a year or so, and after much tube experimentation, he is very excited with their performance. He uses two pairs in his system. And he is a heck of a nice guy here so he shuold be able to give you some insights as to pros/cons of these amps. I have pestered him to try a pair of JL-2s in his system just to get an idea of the CAT vs. VTL sound but getting a pair of CATs is not an easy task and again, he really likes the VTLs.

And concerning the Callisto, I love this thing. But it took me a year, and for the Io as well, to go through a lot of tube trials to really get this thing to perform like nobody's business. And a quick look under the hood by Steve Huntley of GNSC here in MN shows there is much to be improved in these units with significant parts updates, wiring changes, etc., that far exceeds their "Signature" updates. But before you lock yourself too tight on the Aesthetix train, I hope you can try other models in your system vs. the UII.

As for the Stealth, when the Io and Manley Ref DAC return from their GNSC updates, and the JL-3s back from their mods, I will be ready to try some of the Stealth Dream/Indra vs the Dominus throughout the system. I will certainly let you know how that all works out.

Bart, FWIW, I've been driving my JL-3 Sig's with an ARC Ref 3 for about a month, and I consider the match to be pure heaven. Earlier tried a C-J Act2, but I greatly prefer the Ref 3 with these amps.
Thanks for that comparison Klinerm. There was another poster, David Shapiro, who owned Osiris for four years and ended up with the Boulder 2060 amps driven by the ARC Ref3
which he said was a match made in heaven. I guess the Ref3
works well in different settings. It is definitely on my list of preamps to audition. I also haven't ruled out the VTL 750's for an amp audition. I bought the Tice Power Block and Titan combo from Albert Porter about 15 years ago. I agree he is a very nice guy. There must be some audiogoners out there that have compared the VTL 750/450 to the CAT JL2/JL3, maybe they will chime in, or do I need to start a new thread?
A few related thoughts,that I hope is basically related to Bart's subject matter.
I own Ascent Series II's(as you know,Bart).These were first heavily recommended to me,by Michael Gindi,who I knew some years back.Lost touch,over time.
He had the same previous speaker,as me(Infinity Beta).He was in love with the musicality of the Ascent's and ran a few amps on them,as he was a reviewer and was privy to a good amount of equip.I know he settled,for a time,on the Jadis JA-200's.UNTIL THE CAT CAME IN,ONE DAY!!He went wild over this amp(it was the single chassis model,then).
Obviously the CAT works well with this pedigree of Avalon(the Osiris is a fuller,more built up version of the Ascent,yet shares similar "voicing" choices.
The Avalon's at that time worked fabulously with the Rowland amps of that era.I have had my "two chassis" 8t modded four times,and a fifth mod being done,now,to stay abreast of technology,and keep the "very tube-like magic" the combo has.REALLY!!I am hard pressed to ascribe a specific coloration to the amp's sound,in the "tube vs solid state" category.I LOVE the finest tube units,yet there has been REAL increases in true musical performance(timbres,and harmonic naturalness)from the best SS designs.
Now there is the ergonomic aspect of simply enjoying your system,with regards to keeping "the heat factor" at bey.This really is a BIG deal,in the long run!!
For that reason alone,I must heartily recommend Bart give a listen to the ASR Emitter amp.Though my recommending this is definitely not set in stone!
I have heard it on the BIG(gigantic) NOLA Exotica Grand.It is everything one has read/heard about it.Low maintenance,and think about long term product happiness,from an ergonomic,real world standpoint.NOT alot of heat,the most extended highs I have ever heard(by far),and 280 "Osiris loving" wpc.BALLS to boot!!
As for the low power tube amp(Kondo/Ongako) working satisfactorily on the FABULOUS OSIRIS,please give me a break!I love this amp,and have heard it.Working well and being "ideal" are two different things.
About four years ago,the Ascents(though discontinued at the time)were demoed at the Tokyo Hi Fi show using the Ongaku amp.It won best sound at show,from what I read,at the time.Do I really believe I could get the most dynamics from such a combo?No,but there is definitely a harmonic beauty that would be hard to match.A question of priority,I guess!Forget about Mahler,or "The Who"!Yet Joni Mitchell would sound great!
Yes,the Osiris is not a tough load,but if one wants to get the "absolute max" from it,in terms of dynamic capability,and harmonic purity(not easy),you really MUST do some legwork,and listen for yourself.Also,ask yourself if "long term" pleasure relates to ONLY sonics,or is the "comfort factor" of HEAT going to be a long term issue.
I would LOVE to try some of the better tube units,today,but having heard almost everything available in the NY tri-state area(in other systems,unfortunately)I really(without the common rationalism factor)don't think I'm missing out,and I may decide to listen at "any time" in July or August,when temps run "not too cool".My "tube's at any cost" friends basically close down during those months.A/C or not!
As to the new Avalon line.Wonderful stuff,as is SO many other products(take a gander at the 60,000 dollar Peak Consult Diablos...7 ohm load,and a 94 db rating!!!WOW,WOWEE in a real-world -room dynamic latest wet dream)yet the newer Avalons are a much more demanding load,and will surely demand much more from the selected amp.A big deal,at this level.The marketing guys won't linger,too long,on that.

BTW--had my pre/phonostage completely rebuilt by Steve Huntley.Expensive,and worth every cent!!

Best to all,and sorry for my length!!
Sirspeedy, I purchased the pair of Ascents that Michael Gindi used to write a review for Sounds Like magazine. I really liked that mag and Gindi's reviews, too bad they didn't last long. Bill Wells who I think published that mag bought the pair Gindi reviewd and I bought them from him. I know the Rowland amps work well with Avalons and other speakers. I heard Rowlands drive the Eclipse at the 96 NYC show, extremely detailed, delicate and musical. There is a agoner that is selling the ASR Emitter 2 for a good price but it is a 240vac model. I would have to run a 240 line which isn't out of the question. I have emailed him a couple of times. He wants to replace the ASR with a VTL 7.5 and Rowland 302. That Peak Consult sounds like a keeper. It would be nice to have the kind of flexibility in amplification selection that speaker will allow. I expect the next Home entertainment show will be in NYC and I can check out some possibilities. I am working backwards from the speakers and have the cables. The next step is the amp or possibly preamp. I'll due the front end last. I recently bought a tube tester and have learned that a bunch of the NOS tubes I have purchased are bad, another reason to consider SS if I find something that has the liquid presentation that tubes offer. I realize that the Ongaku would not be able to do dynamics and slam factor effectively on the Osiris. I was just relaying the story that Lucien told me to dismiss all the posts I read about the Osiris being a very difficult load, it is not. BTW Sirspeedy have you heard the CAT JL2 Sig and or JL3? There is a dealer in north Jersey I am thinking about visiting. I guess I would suffer with the heat if the tube amps I audition better the SS.
Bart,I have only heard the CAT at trade shows.I had NO problems with them,and do know many posters love them.Also,please ONLY take my scribes as "opinion" only.I surely have no intent of coming off as some expert.Also,my phonostage is a hybrid tube unit,and I have done extensive NOS experimenting.It IS REALLY WORTH experimentation here,as this is the first place the signal starts from.For me(though I do have a wonderful Levinson 390s).I realize you have exclusive digital.

BTW Bart,and sorry to be such a "Nudge",were your Ascents ever updated to the later tweeter/woofer mods.Just curious,as the review pair Ghindi had were one of the very first units made.He subsiquently got a later model for personal use.
I had the two mods done about two years after buying them,and the difference was really significant.

Also,the publisher of Sounds Like was Jeff Goggin.A really nice guy,who once got me over to Sea Cliff(HP was away)for an interesting listen.

Sirspeedy, I never had my Ascents upgraded (I was never aware there was an upgrade). I know that they made the umbilical cord go directly into the speaker cabinet on later models. I liked the fact that I could remove mine and use three short runs of whatever speaker cable I was using at the time. Back to the thread title. I spoke with Ken Stevens again today and asked the question directly about differences between the Cat JL2 Sig and JL3. He said that the bass was better on the all JL3's but that the JL2 Sig beat the JL3 (not the JL3 Sig MK2)in all other areas.
He said that the JL3 Sig MK2 in addition to having better bass was more transparent than the JL2 Sig. So that is his assessment of these two products. I am thinking that I will opt for the JL2 Sig for the following reasons:Less than half the cost, half the heat, half the power consumption. The order I listed the reasons are probably the order of importance. I may change my mind though since I am trying to assemble a system that will last at least a decade. Incremental changes are costlier in the long term.
Patience is a monetary godsend in this hobby. If you can wait for someone with much deeper pockets than yours to get bored with his JL3 Sigs you can have your cake and a paper plate to eat it off! Jafox if you see this post, which JL3's are you using? I think I understand why there are no direct responses to the JL2 Sig vs JL3 question is that the JL2 Sig is a brand new product and I think the JL3 Sig MK2 is also a relatively new release. Bart
Hi Bart - I have the JL-3 Sig but the original (MK I), not the MK II. The JL-3 Sig MK II like the JL-2 Sig has many passive component updates which could lead to major improvements in midrange and treble clarity and resolution.

In a recent upgrade of my Aesthetix Io at GNSC with many capacitor changes, these same improvements were heard in the upper octaves but there was also a significant improvement in the bass. This was the one area that I did not expect to benefit from these changes. So the component changes in the latest round of CAT amp updates might benefit in the same way.

It should be no surprise that the bass (and I would also suspect the dynamic contrasts) would be superior on the JL-3's simply due to their doubling of power tubes. And I believe the power supply in the JL-3 is beefier as well. And then take the same component changes to create the JL-3 Sig Mk II and it is no surprise that this model once again sits atop the product line. But even with all these upgrades, and benefits of the JL-3 over the JL-2, the original JL-2 amp is something I could easily live with and be very happy with forever. It truly is that good in what it does.

Maybe next year I will update my JL-3's as I want to focus on getting my system cables finalized. And then a little more effort into room treatments and component isolation. It may sound so incredible that I will not want to ship the amps off for the upgrade at all. Perhaps a super-duper tonearm upgrade would make more sense. It just never ends.
Face it, John, you'll never be done :-) There's always something. Perhaps the journey is at least as enjoyable as reaching the destination. But I think I'm just about there this time, honest! Dude, ya gotta hear it, it's spooky.
John,who are you kidding!!Once a dedicated(hooked)audiophile "knows" of an upgrade path,there is NO way to rationalize NOT doing it!! -:)
Yet,you already knew this,before posting!!

Funny guy you are, sirspeedy and Brian too. But you know something guys, I really am close. I am pretty sure that anyone out there with one of the CAT amps has a weaker link in their system than the amp. So there's little need to fuss over moving up to a Signature or Mk II etc. If a CAT amp needs to be sent back to the factory for a repair, then an upgrade could also make sense while the unit is there....otherwise I am very fine to leave my CAT alone.

As for upgrading other components, I am content here too. Look at all the fuss with the digital stuff: EMM, Esoteric, MBL, etc. These guys are spending a fortune for upgrades here. I may be running with a 10 year-old Manley Ref DAC, but what Steve Huntley at GNSC just did to this thing for under $1k is nothing short of a miracle. An update with a ton of coupling caps, a couple of signal-cap value changes in the audio circuit, some line filtering, output stage filtering, chassis damping, etc., this thing can so easily compete again with the $10-20k units out there. Even Steve said when he heard this, "where did you get this thing?" He too was mightily impressed...and equally surprised at the results after his first level of updates. And he has seen and heard all the good stuff come across his bench.

And just last week he did the same with the first pass on my Aesthetix Io. And again, for under $1k. You don't get this kind of component upgrade performance for under $5k when you change to another component.

I feel I have found a handful of products out there now that are incredibly musical. Each of them had some areas that their competition outperformed. But the core of the sound of the products I chose did something very right at the start. And now I have discovered what a master engineer can do to some of these products, by addressing some weak points that were due to cost-cutting measures before. And in 5 years when the next generation of high-performance passive components come along, I will consider this option again. I'm pretty much done with these silly $5-10k component changes. They just don't make sense any more - the recent upgrade experiences have made this very clear to me.

The size and heat and tube costs for the CATs are a pain. The size of the SoundLab speakers are a bit of a pain....and the need to tweak their bias and calibrate their levels when the weather (seasonal) changes. The multitude of chassis for the Aesthetix and all their tubes are a pain. But only when something comes along that matches these components' performance and resolves these issues will I change anything. Yep, I am a very happy camper now. I need to replace my aging Clearaudio linear tonearm and resolve some remaining cable issues and that's it. If only I had a bigger room! Sigh.

Good post John, I am of like mind. I am trying to do this right at the least expense possible (used) and relax and listen to music for a decade or so. I have decided on what amp and pre I will use, the amp: CAT JL2 or JL2 Sig and Emotive Audio Epifania pre. I'll get the amp before this year is out and the pre in about two years or less if I see one used (unlikely). Enough users of Avalons have told me that they will not sound their best with SS (except Spectral)for it to sink in. So I am stuck with the heat of tubes. I'll do my digital last, when people start dumping their Zanden for a reasonable price. Steve Huntley sounds like a good upgrade resource, I'll keep that in mind.

Bart, are you selling a pair of Sonus Faber Amati for 9000 dollar? The posting mentioned that shipping is from EU and original accessories contain remote control. These look funny. I just want to make sure you are the one who is posting the ad and not somebody who is misrepresenting you.
Why post to an old thread with a question tha has nothing o do with the original post from six years ago?