In response to the title of this thread:one that makes great music. Ok my vote goes for C.J.ls16 aka the baby art. Saving for one.
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Haven't heard the top of the line stuff from Conrad Johnson, but the current mid level stuff is not what I'd call transparent. Very musical (a CJ PV3 was my very first "high-end" preamp and caused me to get the terminal disease called audiophilia obsessive disorder -- ie. hooked on audio). I use an ARC LS15 with NOS tubes now and feel it to be very transparent. Not as richly colored as the CJ stuff, but very nice. A good friend has an LS25 of which I am very familiar with in my system and it is quite a bit better (and more transparent) than my LS15. I can't see how you'd go wrong with any of the good CJ or ARC gear. BTW, I used to own ML ReQuests and the LS15 worked well with them, though amp matching is the bigger challenge with ML's. The Premier 11 is great and probably sounds wonderful with the Aerius. Avguygeorge? What? They let you in here?
Hey,cuz!! yeah,you got a keyboard and a password;where you can go is limitless. No discrimination here.With Martin Logan,the amp is the more difficult choice.those 2 om loads(some drop even lower) require brute force with finesse.As my astute cuz has already pointed out.Oh,the Jadis jp 80 mk2 for 20 grand---thats a good pre amp too.
Of all the ones you mentioned the CJ 16LS is by far the best. I have not personaly heard, but I'm told it is 90-95% of the $17,000 CJ ART. It will offer you more resolution & detail than the others along with that uncomprimised magical midrange that CJ is so famous for. Of course it's not cheap to buy or retube. On the used market you'll find them going for around $4,200.00. One you did not mention & you may want to consider is the Joule Electra LA-100 MK111. I know it will kill all but the CJ 16LS. It will offer the same amount of resolution, detail & 3 dimemtion that the CJ does, but is maybe just a tad warmer. You may prefer this with your particular speakers because they are so revealing to begin with. In additon, you can pick up a Joule for a fraction of what the CJ will set you back. I seen them on the used market from anywhere to $1400-$1900 range. Just make sure it's a MK111. Good luck & happy listening.
I own an ARC LS-25 and I love it... I feel it is pretty neutral... A friend of mine and I did a "shoot-out" with ARC pre-amps on about 60K of other gear, and the ARC Ref 2 was the best!! Between the Ref 1 and the LS-25..... If you like more detail, the LS-25 is the way... If you want a bit more "tube seduction", try the Ref. 1. Between the LS-25 and the Ref 1 -- if they weren't together, you probably could tweek the one to sound like the other with NOS Tubes (Amperex). I have not heard the CJ gear... but others tell me they are a bit colored and provide a "lush" tube sound.
I haven't heard the new, high end CJ preamps. But, in my opinion Greysquirrel hit the nail on the head. ARC for neutrality, C-J for more tube sound. Tube amp w/ML speakers? They need a lot of current(low impedence) to come alive... I'm a certified tube nut, but tubes don't work for everything(they just don't pump current into low impedences). But, if you like the sound of this match, go for it.
Hi T-bone, May I suggest an audition of the Balanced Audio Technology 50se? In my opinion it's a giant killer! I compared the 50se to the ARC Ref 1 in my system, and to my ears the BAT won hands down. I think you should audition the pre-amps in ? in your system, trust your ears and decide for yourself which you prefer. Please keep in mind the cables and "amp" used to drive the Martin Logans. Martin Logans are very picky about the amp they are partnered with do to the impedance load they impose on the amp. This is only my opinion but to my ears compared to the other pre-amps listed the 50se will outperform them even at under half the price of the most expensive one listed. Another pre-amp to consider would be the CAT. I haven't heard it recently but I think it's more than worthy of an audition. Good luck and enjoy the journey! Take care, Tom
I must comment on what some are saying about CJ having colored sound. After owning several models (PV-8, PV-12AL & familiar with the PV-5 , Premeir-14, the 16LS),yes indeed the older models were quite colored, but not the new ones. In fact many CJ lovers prefer the older models & find the newer models to be bright sounding, when they are in my opinion much more nuetral sounding offering a much higher level of resolution, transparency & 3 dimention. I think you would be hard pressed to find a better more nuetral & transparent sounding preamp than the 16LS. Not to mention the synergy it would have with your Premier 11A.
I recently purchased a Welborne Labs Reveille Tube Linestage and love it. In a short review from the current issue of Positive Feedback magazine the editor, David Robinson, described this unit as having "low noise, neutral, with decent gain, precisely what you want in a fine preamp". I would describe the unit as being smooth, detailed with excellent bass reproduction. List price is $2,295. It also comes in kit form.
"Sagger" is correct. New CJ has added low level resolution and lessened upper mid euphonics than earlier "golden" hued models (or even "dark" to some). Bass still a wee touch plummy, but exceedingly truthful. ARC - all of the new ones (which is why the iterations of REF I to II happened so quickly and why the VT 100 needed new caps & dampers) - are upper midrange challenged in a mechanically tinged way. If you run their pre's with ss or ARC amps or 6550-based amps, you wont notice the difference (please, ARC owners, save the railing). Like CJ, Joule is very dimensional, and each, with proper matching equipment, is capable of enveloping the listener. However, with that said, I believe Joule is a touch better with the illusion of the farthest depth field (which you probably wont hear without SE triodes and the right cables). "Sagger" again correct on "warmth" on Joule, or rather, apparent warmth. I would attribute it to lessened energy in the upper octaves combined with a still slight plummy tendancy in bass octaves that can be amplified in effect with wrong equipment (but still, like CJ's, very natural). On Joule, "Sagger" correct on model number (Mk III). Mk I's are vague and soupy, almost compressed; Mk II's much better, particularly at frequency extremes; but, Mk III with different driver tube in output stage & Purist silver wire to brighten things up just a tad on low level detail is best, and particularly regarding rhythmic energy in bass (also drives cable better). A fair price for well cared for Joule is $1800 and a no-brainer: hard-wired, NOS tubes et al. CJ has better name recognition and, accordantly faster resale, but a few more rubles. Properly matched, I dont think the Joule is lesser compared to the CJ's, even more liquid, perhaps, but less versatile from system to system. Joule REQUIRES a very good power cord to sound its best in midrange weight and rhythmic pace (another $500, remember...) .I havent A/B'd cords on the newer CJ pre's. Original copper Electraglide cord is good bet for both at $240 used, but a lot of people ga-ga now on the new Shunyata stuff, so you might ask around about those. Good luck!
Sagger, I'll defer to you on the neutrality of the current models of CJ. I do think that from a transparency standpoint, an ARC LS15 does sound more transparent than say a PV10. Perhaps that is due to (as Asa said) the "challenge upper midrange". No fight here on that. I've found a synergistic match in my system and I have ALWAYS enjoyed CJ gear, so as I said above, you can't go wrong either CJ or ARC. I have not heard, but hear from others, that Joule is top notch as well as CAT. Good luck.
Asa you obviously know JOULE. It's really a sleeper & earns it's reputation purley by word of mouth. I found out about JOULE through a friend. Someone who's owned the BAT's, CAT's, ARC's, CJ's & just insisted I listen to the JOULE. Long story short, I own a JOULE ELECTRA LA 200 MKIII & prefer it over all of the above. Guess what my amp is Avguygeorge...You got it, the CJ Premier 11A. Their a great match although I'm seriously thinking about replacing it with a pair of JOULE VZN 100 OTL's (I figure if the preamps that good, the amp must be a killer too). Asa, the reason I recommend the MKIII is because it matches up better with most amps. The MKII is pretty much sonically the same, however it had difficulty driving amps with a 50K or less input impedance (they wouldn't play loud at all) Anyway, Jud corrected that with the MKIII. Your comment on name reconition is a good point. Altough JOULE has been around for 10 years, most audiophiles don't know about them, but if you read carefully you'll find they are a stand out at most of the shows. Well Avguygeorge, I think atleast two of us recommend the JOULE. In my opinion it is the best sounding not to mention the prettiest by far (if you care about looks). Second choice would be the CJ. My least favorite is the ARC (sorry ARC lover's).
Had a run of ARCs, auditioned the BAT 50SE against my c-j 14LS and the new 17LS--the BAT was a bit aggressive for me. Have auditioned the c-j 16LS and feel it has everything I need in our system--more transparency, even better mids, more bass clarity, even better staging and imaging; exceedingly musical--truly, a mini ART; the 17 is a lesser step up (6-6922s as opposed to 4-6GK5s in the 14) and if you're going to upgrade, make it a major upgrade if you can afford it, IMO. CAT not up to 16LS in our system. A bud runs the Joule MKIII and loves it. Audition, if you can all the units you have in mind. Synergism is all of it. BTW, I'm running a c-j MF-2500 with Avalon Arcus speakers. Balance of front-end (tuner, CD player is Accuphase). Good luck
tube pre-amp plus solid-state amp? i was also hoping that would be the ticket. years ago, i auditioned an ar sp9-mkll - it was so dull & slow, i passed. i really *wanted* to like it - it was so cool-looking! ;~) this was w/an adcom 555 amp & thiel 3.5's, both known for their tendencies to be bright, so ya'd think the ar would have balanced it - no such luck. i can't comment about any other ar stuff, or any other tube preamps - *except* the brand-gnu rogue audio 99, deluxe *magnum* version, that i just got this past thursday nite. well, it's a *lot* better than that sp9 was - great soundstage depth, airy highs, * very* detailed - from the midrange on up. the bass, however, is totally awol, and what little there is, it's very inarticulate. perhaps this will improve when it's broken-in? i don't think so - i've never heard of this aspect of a pre-amp changing much during break-in. and, i'm not talking about head-banger-electronic-type bass, either. listen to the bass on patricia barbour's *inchworm* & *ode to billie joe* on her "cafe blue" album - the bass was *fantastic* w/my linn kairn preamp. in all fairness, tho, my system's lo-end is a pair of bridged adcom gfa555's driving a pair of vmps larger subs, x'd over at 60hz. monitors are meret re's, bi-amped w/a pair of electtrocompaniet amps. maybe other less full-range systems wouldn't even be aware of this preamp's bass deficiencies, but for me, it's a sho-stopper. regretably, this is going up for sale, less than a week old... see audiogon classifieds for specifics. anyone know of a reasonably-priced tube preamp w/an *accurate* low-end response?
re: rogue 99: i may have early-called it - after ~100 hours of burn-in, the bass response *has* markedly improved. still not as tight as the linn kairn, but good enough that i have decided against selling it, considering its exemplary mid-range ease. (and my wife sez i can't, if re-hooking up the kairn is the alternative!) and, who knows - perhaps the bass will improve even *more*...