VTL 5.5 VS CJ Premier 17

I have CJ electronics in my system comprising a PV-14 LS2 preamp and a 2500A power amp. I recently tried a VTL TL 5.5 preamp and thought it provided a lot more dynamics, more precise soundstage and air around the instruments. Although the highs of the VTL were a little more extended than my PV-14, I thought both had similar signatures with a sweet overall presentation.Which I like.

I haven't tried a Premier 17 ls or even a CT6 in my system and live away from CJ dealers. The VTL 5.5 has a lower MSRP than both upgrades I could make with CJ. Should I grab the VTL without looking back or should I go for a Premier 17 or CT6 and grab one without giving it a listen ?
If you are thinking of going with Vinyl, you can get a the VTL 5.5 with an execellent MM, or mid-high output MC phonostage which will save you the cost of a set of interconnects, powercable, and rack space. This can be added later by VTL I believe also. I enjoyed my VTL 5.5 when I owned it. I can't speak for the CJ premamps other than it was more transparent than my CJ premier 14 preamp.
No experience with VTL, but if you're going CJ, I'd recommend the Premier 17LS2 WAY ahead of either the original 17LS or the CT6. The teflon caps in the 17LS2 seem to make a big difference. Mine slaughtered a CT6. Good luck, Dave

I'm glad you could answer my question. The Premier 14 is highly recommended to me by older buddies who live by the "old" CJ sound. I never heard one. Are you saying the VTL 5.5 would be of the same type of sonic signature with a little more focus ?

And Dopogue, I am in fact looking at the Premier 17 LS2 as an alternative but knowing it would be more expensive on the used market.I have to admit you have posted a lot on that unit and contaminated me with your conviction !
Geez, sorry :-)

Don't listen to the guys promoting the Premier 14. I had one for years while my audiobuddies bit their tongues (as they told me after I got the 17LS2).
Well,you have to know the old geezers really miss the old tube sound. And you will probably admit CJ has gone neutral for the last few years to a lot of people's dismay.

As for me, I'm back to audio and I'm actually into the CJ sound. But I'm still exploring to find if another type of sound could satisfy me. I've tried an Aesthetix Calypso in my system but found it too detailed in the highs for my taste although it is a superb machine. The VTL 5.5 is close to what I'm accustomed to and it gave in my system what I'm looking for : more dynamics and more air between instruments than my actual CJ preamp. But at the price it is for a new unit, I wonder if it is superior to the CT6 or even the Premier 17 LS knowing very well the LS2 is better.

Really? "The old geezers really miss the old tube sound." I'm 78. Where does that put me? Oh, and I love my Calypso.

Yeah the CJ Premier 14 is a very warm preamp with the traditional CJ Premier 11/12 sound of the EL34's... The Resister volume control is physically really loud and it doesn't provide a wide range of increments. The newer CJ gear is more transparent and more neutral. Since you have compared it, the VTL 5.5 is also the more romantic of the VTL preamps in sound (it's not warm) but when you hear the VTL 6.5 (you realise what it does wrong(only if you have 20hz speakers the bass is a little flabby but it could have been my input tubes..)) The VTL 6.5 is a STUNNER!!! But it better be for the price it commands, the VTL 5.5 with a phono preamp is a bargain!
HAHA Dopogue,

Well my old geezer buddies are both over sixty and miss their Premier 14s. I'll have them look at this thread and ask them to finally evolve !

Regards !
Andr, don't give up on the premier 14, I've had one for years. I am a fan of the CJ musicality matched up with the articulation of a solid state amp. The premier 14 would be a big upgrade to the PV14 in every respect.
FWIW ... I heard some cj systems not long ago... the 14 preamp, the 17, and one of the ct's... the $7k one, and the preamps were on various cj TUBE amps… the CT was on the new 170 wpc tube amp from CJ.

If neutral is the goal, these newer tube units from CJ sure offer that. If I hadn’t seen these were tubed units I’d have said it was all solid state gear from the sound I heard. Given that I’d opt for SS, this was at a dealership too, BTW. I wasn’t impressed…. Apart from the fact the 170 wpc CJ amp was driving some Quaad looking black speakers … from Australia I think.
Seriously, the difference between the 14 and the 17LS2 is not between a tubey and SS sound. I never found the 14 especially tubey and I owned it for 6 years. Not a bad linestage at all, though some of my more critical audiobuddies would beg to differ, but the 17LS2 is simply more open and dynamic with better bass and all-around more musical, however you define that. Part of the difference is the tube complement. Whatever you think of the 6922/6DJ8 family used in the 17LS and CT6, they're a darn sight better-sounding tubes than the 6GK5s used in the Premier 14. Dave
Told you Dopogue. Your conviction is awfully contaminating. Can't argue with you. From what I understand, from you and my buddies, Premier 14 is the last preamp of the old CJ sound. Long time adepts of this brand consider it as the last affordable (on the used market) bloomy, syrupy CJ preamp. For them,everything after that one became too detailed, focused, in brief too neutral and SS sounding.

I'm kind of stuck in the middle. My buddies have been of CJ for more than 20 years and they are the ones that introduced me to tube sound, their own tube sound. But it doesn't mean I am a pure CJ adept and I'm exploring. For the time beeing, I've discovered the VTL 5.5 is the closest thing to the old CJ sound with a little less roll off in the highs. It's dynamics and airness is probably close to a CT6 or 17 LS1. But how far is it from those, sonically considering the MSRP is lower than the CJ's. I know, mainly from your comments, that the 17LS2 is going to bring everything further. It is a classic and a long term investment but will it chase out my good buddies from my listening room ? HAHA that could be a break ! I know it is going to be more neutral, more neutral than the 17 LS1 but I don't know by how much.

The thing that confuses me is the fact you changed from your praised 17 LS2 to a Calypso. Now that one I've tried in my system and I got fatigued in 10 minutes. Much too detailed in the highs for me. I couldn't hear the richness of the midrange anymore, totally eclipsed by the incredible dynamics in the high and lower frequencies.I'd probably appreciated it more with some tube rolling or cable changes but still. If you tell me the 17 LS2 represents the rest area between a syrupy Premier 14 and a Calypso, well I know at least on which road I will keep rolling.

Thanks for all comments until now !
I would go for the cj 17lsII or step up to a 16lsII if your budget allows. No experience with VTL. I have a 16lsII running into a premier 350 but prior to the 350 I had a 2500A and it was a beautiful combination.
Okay, fair enough. I got the Calypso here on Audiogon at a price enabling me to flip it if -- compared side by side to the CL 17 LS2 -- it didn't sound as good. My sole reason for getting it was that I was sick and tired of switching speaker cables to effect polarity changes.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I found that I liked the Calypso, sonically, better than the CJ. It must be at least partially a system synergy thing, since I've heard none of the negatives you ascribe to the Calypso. Tube rolling did help -- I'm now using Mullard E88CCs and Tele smooth plate 12AX7s (two each) in the Calypso and these are the same Mullards that were in the CJ before I sold it. Two Calypso bonuses for me: Its paralleled XLR and RCA inputs/outputs have been a boon, especially with an Otari tape deck that sports only XLRs. And Jim White of Aesthetix has been both accessible and responsive, even on weekends when I had questions.

But if the Calypso is not an option for you, I can strongly recommend the CJ 17LS2. Sorry I can't help with the VTL comparisons. I did NOT consider the Premier 14 "syrupy," just not in the same sonic league as the 17LS2. Good luck, Dave
I have tried a Calypso also (two of my friends have them) and tube rolling (except the latest tubes Jim has sound great) is a requirement. Plus one of my friends had your CJ 2500A amp (with a transformer humm that CJ would fix saying they all do that...he sold it) as good as that amp is I bet the Calypso was showing you how digital you digital front end is....

What is your front end? As you start to get to these truely great preamps they also reveal all the flaws in a system instead of masking them in syrup.

Like you already found out system synergy is key, I had a huge ground humm that I couldn't cure with the Calypso in my system but it worked perfectly at my friends house or I would own it.. bargain component.

The LS16mkII is another great preamp if you need single ended only.
Andr the premier 14 is FAR from syrupy sounding, it is the closest thing CJ got to solid state sounding prior to the original LS17. It will melt your ears if the recording or an upstream component demands it. OHO it improved dramatically on the warm sounding CJ pre's prior to it, but managed to keep that luscious CJ midrange and improve on extension and air. I'm not trying to change your mind, VTL 5.5 is very nice, I just prefer CJ preamps and the premier 14 in particular. Plus, I don't change equipment very often, I've had Thiel 3.6 for 10 years and the premier 14 for about 9 years...thats a lifetime in audiophile years!
Thanks for all your answers.