Trying separates for the first time

Well, I'm taking a big audiophile step and moving to separates after various integrates. I have a McCormack DNA 125 coming tomorrow that I bought here on Audiogon. Friday, my Conrad Johnson Classic 2 arrives. Can't wait to see how it all sounds. I've been using a Simaudio i-1 for a while - it's a great integrated, so I'm keeping my expectations tempered. I'm sure I've opened the floodgates to a whole new level of neurosis…love this hobby! I'll keep you all posted on how it comes together.

Best, Scott
What's the rest of your system?
It's a primarily analog system:

Speakers: Tekton M-Lore

Phono: Marantz TT-15s1

Phono Stage: Vincent PHO8 or Jolida JD9 MK2 (too much gain for my integrated, will see if it works with the CJ pre)

Digital: Marantz SA8004 (I only listen to CD/SACD from time to time an no computer audio)

Cabling: Mix of Silnote, JW Audio, Clear Day, Grover Huffman, Triode Wire Labs - mostly modest but good performing cables.

Hi Scott,

I see you're slipping a tube in the chain with the CJ Classic 2. I like the strategy of using a good tube preamp into a nice solid-state power amp. It's always worked well for me.

The CJ apprears to take a single 6922 tube and you can do some tube-rolling with that. The Siemens gold-pin E88CC tube is a good replacement and of course the trusty Amperex JAN 7308 gold-pin might be the best of all. Have fun!

I agree with Plato that pairing a good tube preamp with a solid-state amp is a good idea. Whenever I used this type of setup (VTL tube pre with an Aragon ss amp or the VTL with a class D amp)) it's sounded more dimensional and palpable, more like you're in the room with the musicians.

You may want to check to make sure the input impedance of the McCormack amp is about 10 times the output impedance of the CJ preamp; this is called impedance matching and is important for making sure the CJ's volume control use is optimized and for best performance.

Congrats Scott! Let us know how you like the sound.

What ever happened with the humming Coincident amp you had?
You're right Noble100.
Only problem is a SS amp will pass DC from a blown tube and often take a speaker with it. Lost a nice pr of Rega ES-3's that way.
Thanks for the responses, the tube recommendations, and the guidance on the preamp matching. I did check the compatibility of the preamp and amp, and they should be a good match from what I can tell. Of course, the proof will be in the sound.

I hooked up the DNA 125 last night using the pre out on my simaudio, and the sound was very impressive - better soundstage, smoother and more detailed highs, greater ease to the sound. There was also a bit more body to instruments and voices. I can only imagine that the CJ preamp will take things even further (it should arrive tomorrow, so I'm clearing my schedule for a long weekend of listening :)).

The Coincident Dynamo was repaired by Coincident (the filter caps were the problem). I should be getting it back at some point soon. I'll try it with the CJ preamp and as a stand alone (it has a volume control) to see what combination works best. I think it will be perfect for a small office system/headphone listening.

I'll keep y'all posted.

Right you are, Schubert...

The line-level section has a single triode amplifi­er also direct coupled to a high-current output stage. These output buffer stages minimize the output impedance, making the Classic-2 compatible with nearly all installations, including those requiring long lengths of interconnect cable. DC plate voltages are supplied by a very low impedance discrete regulator, designed to prevent the power supply from imposing its own colorations on the audio signal. A regulated filament supply further isolates the unit from ac line voltage fluctuations

A clean signal, but be cautious of high voltage peaks; eg, Telarc 1812 Overture.
I got the CJ preamp last Thursday and spent much of the weekend breaking it in, trying different cables, etc. I have to say, I'm very impressed by what I'm hearing. And the CJ and the Marantz TT are still both breaking in, so things should only get better. Transients are very lifelike, and there is an openness and ease to the sound that I've never heard before. Instruments sound more real, and voices are spot on. I'm still learning about how to set up a turntable, so I'm sure that the Marantz could use some tweaking. Overall, though, I'm very pleased. I also have some Harbeth P3esrs on the way that will eventually be in a bedroom or office system, but I'm looking forward to breaking them on my main system. From what people have told me, they might just say put.

Hope all is well with everyone. Back to Coltrane….


Glad to hear you're liking the tube pre with the ss amp. Seems like Schubert had a very bad experience of a blown tube taking out his speakers. Terrible and I'm not going to say it's not possible. Blown tubes are typically much more common in tube amps than preamps. The only comfort I can offer is that blown preamp tubes resulting in blown speakers is not a common issue although always a possibility. I used a tube pre with both a class A/B and class D solid-state amps for a period of 10 years and never had a blown tube.

The harder part, IMO, is knowing when tubes need to be replaced. Tubes wear down so gradually, over such a long time span, that degradation in sound is hard to notice and you become accustomed gradually to the slowly degrading performance. You only become aware of the extent of the degradation in performance once the tubes are replaced. I found it's better to replace the tube(s) after a specific time, say every year, than to rely on your ears. When you listen once the fresh tubes are installed and broken in for the required duration, the improvements are very obvious.

I hope this helps you a bit.