Thanks for the replies.
I am well aware $300 (even for a used unit) is not enough moola for a great preamp. However, I read from here and there on the forums little Chinese preamps or some DIY kits sound fantastic. Some even $50! Now, I am not saying $50 preamp will sound as good as CJ but can’t it even come remotely close? YS-Audio is a good example. Although I haven’t heard one, an audiophile friend was going to (maybe even he was at one point) be their US distributor. He was telling me it was an amazing preamp.
Sure, I can go little more on what I can spend but I am thinking unless I spend a good amount of money, (maybe $2K-$3K) I will not even hear a difference.
Argghh I wrote a long response and thanks to Audiogon deleted all of it!
@roberjerman: I hear you! I have tried almost all Class D chips. They have something that I do not like in the highs which I cannot pinpoint. However, TA2022 chip from Tripath (only this chip) is different for me. It has the closest sound to Pass Labs Aleph 3 which I once owned (I feel weird using Nelson Pass’ name in the same sentence with Tripath but this is what I hear). I think Sphinx has Hypex UCD180 boards (they are from NL, MAYBE their boards are made in China or at least most parts are from China) and I have heard their "better" Ncore NC400 and I still liked the TA2022’s sound better. My brother who actually owns the NC400s fully agrees with me but he still likes his Pass XA 30.5 better.
@ebm No, I have not seen it sold for $300 but have seen it sold for $350 (fully working). You just need to wait. Actually, today someone purchased a PV-5 below $500 (no not $499, below that)! So, yes it is possible.
Saw this for sale... it's no CJ, but might do what you want:
For a few more bucks, this might work, too:
And here is a SS designed by CJ:
And for a minimalist design:
No idea if this one is any good or not:
If you can spend a bit more, it's hard to see how you can go wrong with this one:
Disclaimer - I haven't heard any of these, but at these prices, you should be able to resell them for most of what you paid.
I have the CJ classic 2 SE preamp paired with the CJ 2275 SE amp driving Magiies and I absolutely love the song. This CJ setup I have is entry level in their line up and I always wonder if there higer end models will sound any better than their entry level line up. I always wonder how it can get any better than this.
@shrapnel Perhaps your system is right where you want it to be. cj stuff has always had a specific sonic signature that renders a slight honey-like sweetness to the music. The cj trick is having that along with the detail their gear renders. Good stuff, indeed. If you haven't already done so you might experiment with footers to further "tune" your system.
@shrapnel Fair question! What I mean are vibration/resonance absorbing/defeating products that your components rest on, on your rack instead of the components resting on their own feet. It is one of my favorite tweaks to play around with. I’ve got a bunch of Black Diamond Racing cones and pucks most of which are in the closet as I have found them to impart a "glare" to the sound. Like many enthusiasts, I’ve tried sorbothane sheets and pucks as well. They have sort of an opposite effect on the music as they "dull" the sound and rob it of dynamic swing.
What I’ve found to be best in my system and set-up are Herbie’s Audio Labs Tenderfeet, both regular and firm versions. The regular Tenderfeet are good for taming an amusical brightness to the sound without robbing it of its life. The Firm Tenderfeet are better under "warmer" sounding pieces of gear.
I also mix and match the Firm and Regular Tenderfeet to get just the right sonic balance. I would be willing to bet your cj gear would like the Firm Tenderfeet. I will include a link to Herbie’s site. I would encourage you to email or call Steve and Robert Herbelin, the proprietors of Herbie’s. They will advise you based on your system and listening preferences. I’ve corresponded with them many times to great affect. They will not just try to sell you their most expensive products. They want you to be satisfied with their products and consider them for your future needs.
Hope this is helpful.