G’day maties!

From down unda, where the grass is green and the soil is red… and of course Melbourne- the best city in the world!

Been a while since my last post, cannot even remember when, feels like a year or two.

This is a dedication to mostly Conrad Johnson specialists, and to those who have used or acquired NOS tubes along the way.

Since departing with my beloved CAV45 (the most wonderful well-balanced tube integrated amp I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning) and venturing back into the pre-power config, now using the Classic 60SE once again, I was on the look out for a preamp that can match the sonic qualities of my previous ACT2.

Looked far and wide, over the hills and through the woods, and after trying quite a few superb preamps, I eventually settled for a beautiful PV15. This was the last “PV” series made by CJ just before their launch of the “ET series”, and the reason for choosing this particular preamp to match superbly well with the Classic 60SE is of many reasons:

1. This PV15 still has that golden glow of yesteryear that CJ was known for-musicality at its best. Call it coloured, caramel affect, who cares, the musical combination with the Classic 60 is marvellous!

2. Fitted with a pair of GE M8080’s which were well over used, required changing. So temporarily I fitted another pair of GE’s whiles my special order for the original Mullard M8080 was being processed by CJ (took a while but was worth the wait).

3. Final reason: simple circuitry, minimum parts (line stage only, no phonostage), easy to handle remote, and does have balance control- for those quick sound checks and finer adjustments… does make it handy.

Based on the above 3 points, most of the newer CJ pre’s don’t have much of that golden glow, neither do their latest power amps. However, after careful listening and trying numerous combinations, I figured if you were to try out an older pre with the power and finesse of their newer power amps, this combination just might provide a wonderful balanced sound of musical bliss, and that's all she wrote!

I must say, the ET5 was a superb combination as well as the ET7 would provide that very high quality sound. However, for me at this moment in my life, I have come to a point where this so called “high-end” audio industry must be justified by price vs performance factor. This is basically from the many experiences I have had through the decades of owning top end gear and eventuating into simpler forms of systems that not only give far more musical satisfaction but also help you save a whole lot more for finer things in life, such as family, building a home, and upgrading your cartridge.

Referring to point 2: this was the most amazing musical experience I have had to date!
CJ shipped across some very rare NOS Mullards, paid a pretty penny for this pair. It was like unwrapping something from the Raiders of the Lost Ark… The tubes came in an old white box, where each tube was covered in some very old type of paper that virtually crumpled whiles unwrapping. Checked the dates, looked like somewhere between 1976-78, the lettering was so faded, I think it was probably 1980. Anyway, I placed these in and thought what’s all the fuss about NOS… wow! Now that’s what I call “musical justification!”

Points as follows:
1. The holographic imaging is deeper and wider, has a superb sense of space along with the right sense of scale.

2. The transient response is smoother and has greater control coming from the power amp. There is no sense of “forced transients” or “overblown” impact, rather a sense of more natural tones, and when called for in the music, does deliver the impact only when needed. This is what I refer to a well-balanced sound, which allows you to relax and listen and most of all enjoy your music, rather than always be on edge…

3. The greatest factor, which leads to the most significant experience, is the noise floor. It’s extremely quiet, far quieter than the ET5 or the ACT2. I also tried the ET3SE, although a wonderful design in its own right, does not have balance control, only found on the ET5, ET7 & upwards. Therefore, describing the sonic attributes as above, considering the percentage of performance, this has gone up by around 60-70%, actually closer to 80% I would say.

In the past, what I have noticed from changing preamps usually amounts to a small factor of performance, somewhere between 10-20% in sonics but certainly not these Mullards! The whole presentation is truly remarkable, and delivered through Martin Logan stats, that level of transparency is highly revealing!

Do I miss my ACT2? Yes, sometimes, then perhaps an ET5 or ET7 would be the answer… unfortunately these preamps in Aussie land are priced in the upper region, which I will not spend on, although very accessible. If I was to out-class this performance by quite a margin and be able to justify the performance factor in that upper 70-80% region, that would have to be the GAT /GATS2.

Therefore, the point I’m trying to make is for those who have quality preamps, and are trying to venture towards upgrades or that ultimate one, don’t stress! You never know what you’ve already got, until you provide it with the best. Some careful listening and critical placement, and choosing the right tubes, may actually get you to a level of performance that you thought was only accessible if you had the extra funds, definitely not so!

Another PV series from CJ that I have enjoyed in the distant past was the PV12. It had all of that glorious golden glow, and partner this beauty with one of their newer designed power amps, will definitely provide that finer balance. Call me old fashion or whatever… but when you here this combination, you will recognize it straight away, and there is something very nostalgic about this sound. Whether it is “accurate” or not, I wouldn’t know but one thing for sure is “it just sounds right” indeed!

Cheers and all the best to the remaining PV series, Vintage at its best!
RJ