CJ presents another control amplifier classic- CAV45

Feb 3, 2012
614
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Melbourne
#1
hey folks and all cj enthusiasts, introducing the new Cav45!
I just happened to come across this on a snap at cj owners.com; looks superb! Really like the new caps on the trannies, for once they thought of doing this up neatly rather than the ugliness exposed in classic 60 (although the Classic 60 sounds awesome) This one looks far more retro, EL34's always had a superb midrange and remarkable soundstage. Perhaps I'll give this a quick check out if and when it arrives in Aus down-unda.
cj also seems to have a new website layout, looks great! Much easier to navigate and scroll through, it's simple enough.
Good stuff indeed, if anyone has heard the Cav45, please give us a demo.
cheers, RJ
 

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Feb 3, 2012
614
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18
Melbourne
#2
Greetings! and the music plays on...
sad in one way, my last piece of cj gear, the Act2 was sold to one Very lucky new owner. The classic60SE was gone in just the first week it landed at my dealer's place, however both these owners had different power amps/preamps. I would have preferred if just one person had the opportunity to get both pieces in one go but that was not the case.
Anyway, on the happy side the CAV45 is on order. For the time being, the little Jas 300B has been going great on the Quads.
no issues other than lacking a bit of dynamics and control in the bass when turned up a bit.
Excellent for late night sessions though.
As soon as the Cav45 arrives on deck, will try best to report on every aspect of its sound. The pricing is also perfect and I strongly believe this is one tube integrated that is going to be very hard to match all round. Arc does a similar integrated but costs nearly double for a 60/70 watt amp with kt120's. Perhaps the kt120 is the added cost associated with higher grade transformers, not sure. one thing I am sure about is if cj were to introduce a "SE" version of the Cav45 with kt120 delivering around 60 plus watts then certainly the price would be up there.
Cheers to all, and in spite of no cj gear in my system for now, the music plays on...
rj
 
Feb 3, 2012
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Melbourne
#3
Finally the CAV45 has been ordered, will arrive in 3 weeks after much contemplating...
The dealer chap and I are still a bit hesitant with El34's in the bass region, and both feel that it will not be able to deliver the kind of bass from KT120's.

Having said that, the Kondo Overture which uses EL34's was superb in the bass delivering a total of just 32w/ch, however pricing was at 30k! Don't really know what Kondo does with that EL34 but it was awfully good.

I also plan to drive the maggies MG3.7i just to compared it with the Classic 60SE. I am sure it would manage quite well but of course within limits. Perhaps a smaller maggie may be more approrpiate- MG.7 or similar. We'll see how it goes.
In the meantime I'm still using the Jas Audio 300B SET on the Quads, and I also have the ARC Ref75 for a little while on loan until the CAV 45 arrives. The Ref75 is one definite work of amplifier art! Sounds fantastic on stats, using the XLR adaptor cables and a simple pre from Sound Reference, not the best synergy but sounds marvellous.

Take it easy all, and enjoy your music.
Cheers, RJ
 
Feb 3, 2012
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#4
Another marvellous amplifier from CJ!

Well it finally arrived- hooray! What a nerve racking event that was, shipping, handling & the wait...
Took it out of the box last evening, and hooked it up and WOW! Very nice indeed!

Rated at just 45 w/ch of pure bliss from EL34’s, I knew straight away that this is going to be something good from the first note... The amp has a good healthy weight (around 20kg) and the chassis is exactly the same as the Classic 60 & MV60. Same basic circuit as the Classic 60, and the tube cage was the nice heavy gauge type used in their previous designs, not the flimsy ones. Sort of gives the amp an added overall stability for the front.

The transformers are much smaller than the Classic 60/SE, although the tubes are relatively the same for input/driver using triodes, plus a 6922 that is very quiet. I don’t hear anything of the usual “hiss” that I was used to with my ACT2 & Classic 60SE. The controls are very simple and have a crisp feel to it. The input selector has a wonderful solid “click” when making selections and the level control feels spot on whiles adjusting. I am wondering whether just 3 inputs would be adequate for multiple components but for me just two is fine.

Sound & performance: just for comparison, I found the sound to be similar to that of a Classic pre with the Classic 60 performance. The Classic 60 in triode version offers EL34’s and this was matched extremely well with the Classic pre. Taking this to another level with the ARTsa in triode mode using EL34’s, this is where I found the level of resolution to be surpassed. I know this may an unfair comparison, but I have heard it with my own ears, and really found the level of performance of the CAV45 to be bettered only by the ARTsa by a “far margin” compared to only marginal improvements over the other line up. No doubt these other amplifiers are well capable of further improvements over the CAV45 but for the value it offers, I strongly feel that the ARTsa in triode mode would be a worthy upgrade, and a very significant one if you were to follow that road.

Apart from that, if your system is very simple, and you don’t have an elaborate array of components to hook up, therefore by eliminating the line stage altogether, I feel that the CAV45 is the answer. It delivers superb musicality, and such a fine level of detail and resolution, what more is required?

Highs- very smooth highs, extremely relaxing and never harsh or overpowering, no glare or brightness whatsoever. The Cav45 delivers superb timbrel accuracy along with remarkable 3 dimensional imaging. From top to bottom, the scale is just superb! I could not find any flaws and it was well capable of driving the Quads (ESL2905) full range with ease. I have a relatively average sized room (not large), therefore this level of playback was more than adequate and it can play fairly loud when required without flinching.

Midrange- oh wow! This was the one main area I was after, and my golly does it produce some very sweat palpable midrange that is so captivating, you just cannot off the system... kept me up till 3am! The depth and full body is touchable; you can actually reach out and shake hands with all the performers. You can also tell, see and feel every breath of the singer. For example of Patricia Barber’s Cafe Blue, there is a track towards the end of the album where she uses body slaps and finger snaps as part of the music. This is SO real that you can actually visualise exactly where she’s clapping, slapping and snapping, it is so real and utterly transparent. Further on, the midrange tones of drums, vocals, strings and piano are just extraordinary in resolution and finer detail. Even the “salt shaker” can be visualised where the chap is standing and actually shaking this thing back & forth! Outstanding midrange along with those airy highs extends the performance to whole new level.

Bass- this was one area where I was really surprised! I didn’t expect much bass at all, infact I had already made an impression of loose, undefined and flabby bass. Oh! Was I wrong! The bass is very well controlled, tight and articulate. “Musical” and “tuneful” is what comes to mind and the ability to add even more resolution to the bass notes in all areas (upper-mid-lower bass). There was absolutely nothing lacking, and this amp was able to drive my Quads astonishingly well similar to the effect I had when I was using the Classic 60SE. The 60SE using KT120’s had lower bass and better impact, stronger bottom end with quite a lot of low level detail. I initially thought with the EL34, I was going to miss out on this. However, what the EL34 does with the bass is something quite different. It just doesn’t add more oomph or drops lower, rather it adds more musicality to the bass with a very fine line of resolution that allows you to actually see more through the bass, which I actually prefer over KT120’s. This is why I am so hooked on the sound of the ARTsa in triode, that is one superb all time amplifier.

All that I can say is, that this is the BEST purchase I have ever made in the history of CJ! I am absolutely thrilled with this amplifier, there really is nothing more than what is required from a true classic design in control amplification.

I highly recommend the CAV45 to anyone looking for simplicity/musicality/and superb performance in all aspects of music reproduction, it will certainly surprise you big time!
Cheers, RJ
 

bgiliberti

New Member
Mar 28, 2012
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#5
I wonder if they will ever offer an se version? Is there room for Teflon caps? (I believe they are larger than standard CJ caps?)
 
Feb 3, 2012
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#6
G'day mate,

Yes, we are all wondering and waiting for a SE version. My dealer mates' boss believes it won't happen because that would be merely an ET3 coupled with a Classic 60SE. He states that this would be only more affordable but wouldn't work out economically for CJ...
The CAV45 is exactly the same chassis dimensions as the Classic 60 & MV60, therefore there is plenty of room for an SE version. I would have preferred another pair of EL34's just to make it have more oomph like the ARTsa in triode mode, now that would be awesome!

One important thing I forgot to mention is that the CAV45 is a control amplifier. CJ has eliminated the linestage altogether, therefore there is no active linestage gain in the circuit. True this delivers cleaner sound and virtually eliminates further noise. This is good for source components such as CD/SACD's, DAC's, Tuners, DVD's etc. However, the problem I found is in the phonostage. Since I'm using a very simple Rega, the gain is very low and I find myself turning up the level quite high, which is something I don't like to do...

It also depends on the recording, on certain LP's it not too bad but still does require a certain amount of oomph that I would prefer, compared to digital playback.
On certain other recordings, I can only listen to limited levels since other things start to interfere such as surface noise and so on...
When I had the ACT2 with the Classic 60SE, I didn't have this problem at all and the Rega was more than adequate.

I believe a high quality phonostage such as a CJ. ARC, Allnic or any other with high gain would work fine. Now, I'm on the look our for a phonostage.
Any suggestions or best advice I could possibly make the Rega to work better?
 

bgiliberti

New Member
Mar 28, 2012
40
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#7
Sorry, I'm confused. I don't get the dealers's comment about the ET3 -- I thought the ET3 is basically a Classic with a remote volume control (slight;y better, but not much better). Also, can one expect a passive control amp work with a turntable/carrtridge? The audio quality is questionable even with a CD player, isn't it? I guess I don't understand what CJ is up to here....
 
Feb 3, 2012
614
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Melbourne
#8
Hi there mate, I can solve the confusion for you.

The ET3 is basically a Classic fitted with remote, however the ET3SE is a level above in overall performance. However, the Classic SE with phonstage is simply superb value overall and can equal the performance of the ET3SE but doesn't have remote (who cares!).
In my opinion having owned most of them and listened to every one of them, performance wise- there is hardly any improvement from the Classic SE to the ET5 (only minor variances in micro details). The ET5 is an excellent preamp but I feel for that true value for justifying the extra spend, it is the GAT/S2 that deserves recognition.

An ET5 could be well worth the quality and performance for a preamp that could would ever need. At the same time, even the Classic SE is all you would ever need- get my point?
Whereas to really cut the performance and take it to another level, it would have to be either the ACT2/S2 or the GAT/S2.

I just purchased Rega's top of the line phonostage called the Aria. It can accommodate both MM & MC and does have individual gain settings for various sorts of cartridges. It also has the ability to maximise the gain using the MC Input but with a MM cartridge. Since I just wanted to know the difference between the standard one I was using from Rega, and to compare the Aria's performance using the 2M Blue- the difference is quite significant! Later I will place back the 2M Black, and this will be even better.

I can now listen to realistic levels without having to go hard on the level control on the CAV45. The details, nuances, spacial cues, and depth plus greater bass output is outstanding on the Aria. Directly comparing specs, it seems to be nearly identical to the Rega Phono MM based on MM input. There are improvements in power supply, internal components, and better impedenece input/output settings. However, the most significant difference on gain is the MC input. The gain goes up by nearly 50%!

But as I always say, you cannot judge a component by specs alone, listening is the key, and from the moment I connected the Aria and it played the first note, the difference is quite apparent. Of course a higher end version such as a CJ or ARC tube phnostage would be even better but at the moment the Aria is mighty fine!

I highly recommend the Aria for those looking to upgrade to greater heights in playback levels with their phono on a fairly reasonable budget. Another great value product by Rega.
Cheers RJ
 
Mar 28, 2012
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#9
Thanks -- I think I get it. Another question though -- doesn't the passive pre-amp just cut down the gain -- in other words, I thought it actually did not "amplify" whatever goes into it.
 
Feb 3, 2012
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Melbourne
#10
yes that's correct. it doesn't have any active gain stage for line level inputs, hence all inputs are equal. I kind of miss the active linstage section but I guess this is more pure in terms of musicality. it drives quite well but based on my own experience with other power amps of similar rating partnered with an active line stage, the overall sound is more powerful and has more control over the speakers.

I'm comparing it to for example the mv60 and classic pre or the Act2 which I had for that matter. The overall drive and presence was far greater and it was also capable of driving maggies since I was also using an older mg3a along with Quads.

but what I find fascinating with the cav45 is the cleaner sound, there also seems to be more resolution in the micro level of details which makes the listening experience more enjoyable. not so much of oomph/thump or slam from this amp. very smooth relaxed type of performance. Absolute zero fatigue and there's something about the way it delivers music, it's hard to describe.

it's as if you really want more power and slam but at the same time when it plays tunes it's truly satisfying. I am not used to this type of sound since all my life I've been using pre-power. I guess I'll have to just get accustomed to this sound because whatever it's doing it's highly addictive!

I know what it is! its like one of those top voluptuous Venezuelan beauties caressing your forehead whiles your lying on her lap!
yes! that's exactly what it is... oh very nice.
Cheers mate, RJ
 
Mar 28, 2012
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#11
Advice?

Congratulations on your great setup.:cool:

Question: I was thinking of buying a Classic 60 to drive my Harbeth 30.0s. Since I have the Classic SE (line stage only) already, and really like it, I think it might make more sense to keep it rather than spring for the CAV45, but I'd be curious about your opinion. Do you think the ClassicSE/Classic60 would be a good combo? Also, should I spring for the SE version of the Classic 60? It's quite a bit more $$$, and I get at least some of the Teflon "transparency" already from the pre-amp. Or would you recommend going with the CAV45?
 
Feb 3, 2012
614
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Melbourne
#12
Hey mate, yes I remember you had the Classic SE pre, that's one superb preamp, my favorite of all time!

re. to which amp to go for, I'll send you a full comparison shortly since it's now 1:36am.
I'm heading off to bed after a superb rendition of George Benson's blue horizon on LP.
 
May 30, 2010
14,139
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Portugal
#13
IMHO you will need more time to evaluate the passive versus active mode. The DCS Vivaldi DAC is the ideal candidate to test these modes - we can switch by remote the full scale output to 6, 2, .6 and .2V and adjust the volume with minimal digital attenuation. The output impedance is 3 ohm, with plenty of current capability. I have been playing with the LP275m's with and without GAT, using it at volume setting of 67 (0dB, x1 gain). Although there is some apparent extra detail and immediacy with the direct connection, in the long term there are some others aspects, such as bass tune and naturalness , where the preamplifier seems to win.
 
Mar 28, 2012
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#14
IMHO you will need more time to evaluate the passive versus active mode. The DCS Vivaldi DAC is the ideal candidate to test these modes - we can switch by remote the full scale output to 6, 2, .6 and .2V and adjust the volume with minimal digital attenuation. The output impedance is 3 ohm, with plenty of current capability. I have been playing with the LP275m's with and without GAT, using it at volume setting of 67 (0dB, x1 gain). Although there is some apparent extra detail and immediacy with the direct connection, in the long term there are some others aspects, such as bass tune and naturalness , where the preamplifier seems to win.
You mention bass....it wouldn't surprise me if CJ's preamps have a slight bass boost "built in" so to speak. (My old PV-7 sure did.) It's amazing to me how even a subtle bass boost (or lack thereof) can affect the perception of the overall sound. I imagine a passive setup would have little or no such boost, as it does not amplify. Might this not explain the better "bass tune and naturalness" your refer to?
 
Feb 3, 2012
614
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#15
Ok I thought I'd send you a reply now as I won't be able to sleep since I am so passionate about cj and the way they make their gear sound special. and when it is special, it is really special!

I was going to write pages of comparisons since I have owned all these components but that has already been stated. so to make it as simple as possible, I am going to state an analogy.

it is like taking a ride to a place where we have the whole day to enjoy. we now have a Ferrari, a Porsche and a light aircraft.
Ferrari- classic 60se
porsche- classic 60
aircraft- cav45

1. if you are after that total thrill and exhilarating performance of speed control and immediacy, the Ferrari is the answer.

2. if you are after an equal level of excitement and exhilaration but with a slightly softer tone on the acceleration, the porsche is the answer.

3. If you are now after a more relaxed smoother ride (provided there's no turbulence) and you can also enjoy the view from up there virtually 360 degrees from nearly every angle, the cav45 is the answer.
and that view is the resolution!

after previously owning the classic60se with the Act2 that was probably the best I had in terms of that total exhilarating performance.

now after having experienced the cav45, I don't miss the first combo at all, Infact I'm quite enjoying the view (extra resolution and purer tonal accuracy).

Having said that, perhaps on a different system, I would still like to own the Ferrari...

another factor worth mentioning is the cav45 will suit relatively easier loads. Although it's handling the impedence swings of the Quads very well, and it would be a breeze on a Martin Logan hybrid due to their higher sensitivity and active bass. but the cav45 wouldn't perform too well on a full range ribbon transducer such as maggies or Apo's. These would still work but with limited output, unless the sensitivity ratings for such ribbons were way higher.

another aspect worth pointing out is that you have Harbeth's. I strongly believe that the cav45 with the Harbeth's will be just pure sonic bliss!

since you already have the classic se pre, it would make more sense to go for a power amp and either the SE or standard version of the classic60 is superb. The SE version would be your best choice on paper. However, after listening to it, comparing the EL34 & KT120, it depends on your preference in midrange and tone.

yes, as you have correctly stated your preamp is already the SE version. BUT the SE version of the power amp makes it a true Ferrari for that matter and is very exhilarating but can also be driven smoothly if you prefer. in which case why require the extra power?

I would try to audition all three amps so that YOUR ears have the closest comparison. I would also try it on the Harbeth's which would be the ultimate test and then you will be able to make a difference.

at the end you might just like all the amps because this is one enjoyable ride with either mode of transport you choose.
Cheers mate, and good night it's 2:30am
 
Feb 3, 2012
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#16
Hey BGiliberti,

did you decide on which amplifier you were planning on partnering with your classic SE?

have you managed to audition any of these as yet with your preamp?

I strongly recommend a personal audition and if possible on your own system as this will give you the ultimate comparison. no point of specs and other assumptions until a final listen.
let us know how it all works out. Cheers
rj
 
Mar 28, 2012
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#17
Hey BGiliberti,

did you decide on which amplifier you were planning on partnering with your classic SE?

have you managed to audition any of these as yet with your preamp?

I strongly recommend a personal audition and if possible on your own system as this will give you the ultimate comparison. no point of specs and other assumptions until a final listen.
let us know how it all works out. Cheers
rj
Thanks for your very thoughtful comments, which I need to process. As I live right near the cj headquarters, I happened to drop by there today to get some tubes for my Classic SE. They directed me to several local shops that can provide an audition along the lines you recommend. I will report back on my audition soon. Many thanks for your advice, which I really appreciate.
 
Feb 3, 2012
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Melbourne
#18
Hey BG, something just came to my mind when you mentioned CJ HQ!

Remember that dealers with varied system configs and sound enhancing elements, such as room & additional components etc., will alter the overall sound compared to what you may hear on your system at home. That is why I am very demanding when it comes to dealer auditions and usually take the unit home to try out, otherwise it is only a guideline at the dealers.

Since you are located next to CJ HQ's, can they arrange a demo for you perhaps with their Classic 60/SE amps? I know they have testing sessions when new products come out and sometimes they just sit back and burn in tubes or other similar products before being packed and shipped for final assessment. Many years ago when I visited, I listened to the Premier 8 mono's with Wilson's, very impressive! The system was also very simple and had no additional components whatsoever. Just a basic cd player (DV2B it was) with the ART pre and sounded wonderful!

If the dealer can show and explain what they're exactly using, keeping the system as simple as possible, then you can make a fair judgement on the overall sound. Sometimes these guys use Nordost Odin cables provided by the manufacturer, therefore making the sound superb! Hec in no way can any of these dealers afford Odin cabling, it would ruin their profits. Also check what type of AC power conditioning they're using, power strips and isolation devices, this also contributes a huge factor.

I know I sound paranoid but these are all artifices and "sound enhancing" elements, that add certain sonic qualities to the overall sound. Make sure they aren't hiding anything because after all YOU are the customer and if they want your business, they should be willing to cater to your exact requirements!

Cheers mate, and have a good one.
RJ
 
Feb 3, 2012
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#19
G'day mates, currently enjoying this wonderful sunny arvo with some great tunes!

Since the CAV45 arrived and has been settling in very nicely over the past few weeks, all I can say is that this thing is absolutely top notch! The depth, soundstage, layering of bass notes, extended highs and glorious midrange are just superb! I never experienced this with my Quads before, even when I had larger amplification with a separate line stage.

Having eliminated the line stage altogether, all it really does is control the output level with zero hindrance, lets more of the music through without any loss/gain whatsoever. It is sounding so wonderful, I have decided to hold on to my Quads for as long as time permits. Compared to the Martin Logan's (in a showroom) or average rooms, the depth is not so apparent compared to the Quads straight off. Careful placement and room interaction plays an important part in getting the depth of soundstage right.

Whereas the Quads have a completely different dispersion pattern. Due to the concentric anode rings, working as a point source, audio signals start from about 30cm from the back instantly adding to that depth, and only expanding with extra room around the panels. I have noticed that once you get this right, it is near perfection to the actual event.
With ML's this placement and room interaction matching can take quite a while to get it right, and most of the ML systems I have heard aren't quite there (other than of course Kostas CLX's, perfect placement and superb depth and layering).

Once the amplifier is matched well, with adequate output to your liking, you will know straight away that this is a very good match. Before, I used to experience bass as a somewhat "drummy" affect, the low end was not well defined. Using KT120's was slightly better but made everything full of bloom, and sounded fuller. Plenty of drive and had a good overall punch. The KT150 took the edges off that bloom and made it slightly more defined, especially in the bass but nothing extra special to be overjoyed.

However, this EL34 design of the CAV45 is simply remarkable. The highs are smooth and well extended, I am hearing finer details that I never thought even existed! The midband from mid highs down to mid bass is superb! The imaging and realism are so natural and uncanny, I actually stood up to shake hands with Kurt Elling last night! And the bass is so well defined, it is tight, well controlled and allows you to experience all the bass lines that ever existed on those tracks.

Last night I was up again till 3am, listened to: Kurt Elling, Cassandra Wilson, Carmen Mcrae, Kenny Burrell, Brian Culbertson, and the classics, such as Ella Fitz and Nat King Cole- absolutely wonderful! On Kurt Elling (Live in Chicago at the Green Mill) the bass strings and drum wacks are so real and live, full of energy but did not over-energise the room to an artificial effect. Kenny Burrell's strings sounded even more lifelike, and the accompanying bass lines were so well balanced, just sheer musicality.

The only level of performance that was higher than this in my experience was the CJ ARTsa (in triode mode) with the ACT2 or GAT. Again this was not a huge improvement in overall performance and absolute sound but rather more in terms of power and finesse. Therefore, for those who don't have elaborate systems, without multiple configs, such as audio and home theatre and extra crossovers, and can do with just three inputs (without linestage gain), I very highly recommend the CAV45- it will play just pure music!

It handles the Quads effortlessly and should be fine on other stats but I am not sure about large ribbons. I feel that larger tube amps (greater than 100w/ch) or ss class A/AB would be far better in driving and controlling ribbon transducers. With the CAV45 there is plenty of headroom and current to handle stats, and the "resolution" reproduced is something to experience. I really don't have anymore words to describe it in any other way, CJ has come up with a superb design with the EL34 at its best!

I have parked the Martin Logan journey for a while, as the Quads sound far more coherent and very real and lively with this new amplifier. I do know that the ML's would be more transparent, with more slam on the bass and can certainly go louder. I am not sure of what margin of improvement it is going to deliver until I actually try it at home with the exact same config. Of course the CLX is a totally different ball game but one that will take me quite a long time to achieve, therefore might as well just sit back and enjoy the music!

On a closing note, if you have a relatively easy load on your speakers, or stats, or quite a reasonable sensitivity rating (87dB or higher rated around the 8ohm mark), and you can live without a line stage/preamp- give the CAV45 an audition, it will outperform all notions that a line stage is required.
Cheers to all and enjoy your music, RJ
 

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