CJ's True work of Art, it's a passion nothing else!

Big Dog RJ

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Well maties, eventually made it there & back.
It was a very tiresome journey, I just hate long haul flights, can't stand it! The service was great and all that but after 3.5hrs I started getting leg cramps and passing too much gas... even though I stood up walked around for about an hour it didn't help. Plus my big butt was always in the way for the drinks trolley to pass through or if someone wanted to use the loo. Spending quality time with pops was well worth it and he was really surprised to see us! That was the plan. I dearly miss him though, I also miss the warmth and culture of our people, which you will never find in Aus. It's a completely different planet but this is our home now. Hasn't changed much since I last visited in 2012 but Spore truly has! It's vibrant as usual and they thrive on duty free markets with chaos!

There were quite a number of top tier private demos I attended, which I could make a movie out of but I'll stick to the core topic. Just to mention: the Diptyque ribbon panels by the French team, driven by Jadis Mk2 80 monoblocks were superb!!! It really makes a wonderful addition when driven properly, and especially high performance speakers. That addition is all about dynamic swings, limitless extensions and start - stop acceleration, my goodness! The best part is the Diptyque panels aren't too pricey either. No where near Alsyvox or the Clarisys line and still perform exquisitely!
So, I can confirm that if you're looking for top flight options in top line panels, Alsyvox, Clarisys and Genesis are always available but for a fraction of that price, I sincerely believe Diptyque takes the podium. This for sure will be on my next short list, most probably when retirement is due. Hopefully hearing is intact!

Some of the other combos I really enjoyed were the Dartzeel driving Alsyvox and the Solution gear driving Magico's Another fabulous experience was CH Precision driving Focal's. This particular set-up also had the top of the line VAC Statements but no Genesis though... looks like by the time I got there they were sold, I don't know. Overall, top flight stuff without a doubt and very pricey even though it's supposed to be duty free. Add shipping and handling charges plus other costs insurance... it's a BIG spend. I was surprised to see many well known gear quoted at nearly half the price of what I'd pay in Aus... so that part was very very tempting but the added shipping costs and our customs duties is not an easy gig.

So this particular set-up I know extremely well and my good mate has been adding all sorts of gear to his collection, having the Alsyvox, and ML Statements parked in another room, it was a full CLX & BF212 set-up. Had two BF212's, one per channel and also included a Reel to Reel deck by Teac. There were a few others by Revox and Teac but that R2R source was something awe-inspiring! Fantastico!

The ART108A's matched with the ART88 is probably that perfect combination money can buy in terms of pre-power finesse! It doesn't get any better than that, and it easily surpassed my benchmark of 40% in improvement, no doubt.
Having all the glory and wonderful presentation in full 3D holographic detail and bliss, there's one major factor I noticed. Sometimes on certain recordings, background tunes, such as brass, piano or strings or other instruments aren't that profound. They're there but sort of linger in the background and sound bit thin or just plain flat... I'm not sure if this is the source, cables or anything or the gear... not really sure. Anyway, with the ART amps, these background tunes are all there! It has a full lifelike presence and doesn't sound thin or flat. It also varies according to the tune and has superb affects in terms of dynamics or transients when called for. Overall, just a joy to listen to, fabulous! Then of course there's the most neutral part of these ART amps, they completely get out of the way, nothing seems artificially enhanced or sugar coated, just pure pure music. I'm very glad I demoed high quality recordings, both on R2R and vinyl. The TT used at the time was the Michell Orb, one of my favourites of all time. A superb TT for the price. Obviously it all depends on the components etc., I guess sky's the limit.

The Class A power of the ART108A's is really tops! This is serious Class A power, doesn't flinch one bit and I'm surprised how chief designer JF manages to incorporate the KT88 in this particular type of Class A topology. Most KT88 configs I've heard are either soft or very relaxing but certainly not these! They have all the power and brute force typical of KT120's or KT150's but I guess with a velvet touch that makes these amplifiers so lovable. Just glorious!

Then there's the outstanding ART88, outstanding is truly an understatement, I really don't have any words to describe it. The ART88 is truly by far the best in Class I've heard to date! It's all tube design can very easily be matched with the ultra-high-end and it doesn't cost as much as the ultra-high-end. So I guess, if you're financially sound and can afford it at this level, this is one SUPERB preamp! Mighty finest in SOTA.

I'm thinking that those background tunes coming out in full swing must be a factor of the ART88... don't know.
At first glance, it's not much to look at compared to the GAT, ACT2 or CT5... those preamps look like spaceships, really special ART Deco I must say. Only when you get really close to the ART88 and touch & feel, oh boy! We're in for a fabulous night. I was up listening till 4am and spent the night then it was all done & dusted, we flew out. Then I realised, caught in the glorious moments ... I didn't take a single damn photo! Uh, must have been too busy enjoying those finest finest tunes!

As for me, at this stage I've achieved what I was after. There are quite a number of areas I could further improve on and then spend another fortune and be broke! Rather, focus on life and health in general, family and loved ones and at the same time enjoy the music. As of now, it's mighty good enough for me. So I'll pass on this particular upgrade but I must say though, it was very very tempting ... oh well, perhaps in another lifetime.

Cheers to all and keep safe.
Woofty woof'n! RJ
 

Another Johnson

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Glad you’re back safe and sound. Sounds like a great trip!
 
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LL21

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Great thread Big Dog RJ. So...naturally some questions!

1. If you were to be given a panel for free to keep...how would you rank them ones you heard? In other words, set aside money or distributorships (for now) and just focus on quality of sound...was there a particular design that you found you liked the most?

2. On amplification, were you able to compare the CJ dynamic pair with anything else? If not, any instincts about any comparisons if perhaps you have heard the speakers elsewhere with different amplification?

3. Finally, you have been clear about the state of CJ's latest references being a far and away best for CJ. And I have to concur that my instinct (not being a technical person at all) is that Jeff Fischel really is a gifted, passionate and totally straight shooting engineer and audiophile. So I could well believe what he has done with his latest works.

Can you be any more specific about HOW and WHERE you find these references to surpass their predecessors?

Thanks!
 
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Big Dog RJ

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G'day L, glad you liked the post, and amongst others as well, cheers! It was a very short trip, managed to spend quality time on a few top auditions. Overall, the pic I've posted here was the best of all. Spending those few days with pops was a trip down memory lane. We spoke about so many things from Apogee's, to Thresholds Stasis SA/12e amps, CJ's Prem8A's, our beloved Infinity's, our dealership years, and the glory days of rugby. I'll miss him very much and thought this pic deserves a mighty WOOF compared to any other highebd audio gear.

I'll keep it brief as possible:
1. Although I have a passion towards stats, and just adore the CLX's, there's simply no other speaker system I rather own at this stage, there are a few I'd like to have as a secondary system.
Alsyvox is that one, it's just superb and extraordinary in every aspect. High efficiency, not difficult to drive, thanks to the Neodymium's and an excellent build and finish. Exotic to the core!

It's a bit difficult to rank other panel types, mainly because of so many variables... but I must say, Maggie's take the podium in terms of vfm. Other ones, such as Diptyque and GT Audio Works are tops! And mustn't forget Sanders ESL's, his former models were known as Inner Sound, and they were very good! My only disappointment was not being able to audition any of the Clarisys line, none were available, so I wouldn't know how they stack up to the well recognised panel systems. Perhaps on my next round, hopefully one of those chaps may have one.

2. CJ's top of the line ART Class A gear:
This particular series is truly top class! From the ART27A to the ART108A's, there's absolutely nothing lacking. The only issues may be for those who prefer XLR connections and a fully balanced system... CJ amongst a few others, simply don't provide XLR connectivity. Whether there are compromises between SE and XLR, I can't say. As long as you keep things simple, short signal paths and good grounding, either config should prove effective.
My main focus on that trip was to experience CJ's top of the line, since in Aus we don't have the full line up. The other main point of interest was for me to directly experience these amplifiers on CLX's and since my good mate had that very system, it was a marvel to experience!

Similarly, if those amplifiers can effortlessly handle the notorious impedence swings that stats put forward then I'm sure these amplifiers can very easily handle a vast range of speakers, mainly due to its Class A designed Output stage. Even the smaller ART27A can pack a serious punch but when I first auditioned it, it was driving the Avant Garde Duo XD's, another superb match!
On an earlier occasion, I've auditioned the ART150 driving ML Ren15a's, which was fantastic! Also have auditioned Pass Labs XS300's driving ML Neoliths and Pass Labs XA160.8's driving the Ren15a's. I also really really enjoyed my time spent with the Vitus SS-103 and the PL XA60.8 amps driving ML stats. So if and when the time comes to divorce the tooob camp and head back to SS-ville... I'd be deciding between the PL XA60.8 or the Vitus SS-103. Or whatever models are available during that production run.
I'm not sure if the above addresses your question 2...I just tried my best to answer.

3. CJ's Class A amplifiers:
All of CJ's gear, that is mostly their power amplifiers are Class AB. Some of their previous SS gear, such the MF2300A, Premier350 and MF2550SE have a bit more Class A bias before switching into AB. Apart from measurements, you can certainly feel the control, authority and total grip these amplifiers have on difficult loads. At the same time, their effortless power and finesse... along with that sheer sense of musicality. It's limitless!
Before JF took over, it was primarily Class AB on their tube gear as well. Even their top of the line preamps were all based on Class A circuits. The last time I had my CT5 modded by my CJ techie, he showed me the circuit first hand and explained the differences between standard tube circuits and Class A tube circuits. It was truly a remarkable thing to see up close.

JF has been with CJ Design long enough to fully understand how and what exactly is required to surpass every top model they've ever produced. They did have a few prototypes but it was never finalised. Until JF took over the full ownership and design, he was able to focus on a handful of selected gear. Something that has to impress and truly shock the heck out of the norm... this is the new ART Class A series.

It's superb in very sense of the word "amplification." From the neutrality in tone to the naturalness, getting totally out of the way, as if there's no preamp at all... then powering, controlling and effortlessly driving the speakers to dynamic levels that I've not experienced yet being so musical at the same time, is just a heart stopping experience. And I'm thinking, the better or higher quality gear you'd partner with CJ's Class A series, the more that level of performance is enhanced! For example, CJ used to have Wilson's (Slamm) as their main reference speakers. Many many top line CJ Premier series amplifiers were voiced around the Wilson's. Well that was a few decades ago... now JF exclusively uses Zellaton speakers, and although I've not heard any of their top line, only the lower end versions, I can confirm they are another unbelievable match with high quality tube gear. The Zellaton speakers are very high performance systems, SOTA at its finest!

Anyway, now that I'm well aware of what JF is capable of and how he manages to do it with the well known KT88 tube is mesmerising! No fancy SET design here, no other bells or whistles, just a simple damn tube circuit, executed with the highest quality parts, and having the shortest possible signal paths just sounds right!

Here's pops, the only regret I had was that he couldn't audition CJ's top of the line with me. At 90 it's not easy to be flying around long haul. Heck! Even for myself, big dog frame... those planes are getting smaller & smaller each time I fly. I can't be getting any bigger... ? hell no!

Cheers to all, and keep safe! This one's for pops.
WOOF! RJ
 

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LL21

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Thank you, Big Dog RJ. Very detailed, very enthusiastic and colorful descriptions of the CJ experience. Having owned CJ for nearly 20 consecutive years, I have some appreciation for your experience, but have not actually heard any of JFs designs which have been released since he firmly stepped up to the helm.

Sounds like he has thrown down the gauntlet. Fantastic.

And yes, I do know he really really likes the Zellatons...I remember him telling me about them once on a call. Great to hear he has since gone on to use them as one of this tools.
 
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LL21

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And great family picture!!!!!
 
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Ron Resnick

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Nice to finally see a photo of the Big Woof!
 
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Ron Resnick

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I kind of lost track of conrad-johnson after I sold my PV10.

Who owns the company these days?

Are they keeping it "artisan," or are they trying to grow?

The new Art88 sure looks like a big-bore contender!
 

Another Johnson

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Jeff Fischel is owner. He was head technician before the transition from Bill and Lou.

It looks like a one man show to me. He’s concentrating on his high end ART line. Also has entry level products in the $6k to $15k range. The ART line is often limited to 250 units of any given model

All single ended. Simple circuits with very high quality parts.

Very limited dealer network… many, if not most dealers are “mom & pop.”

FWIW, RJ is one of their biggest fans having at one time had a familial business relationship with CJ.
 
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LL21

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I kind of lost track of conrad-johnson after I sold my PV10.

Who owns the company these days?

Are they keeping it "artisan," or are they trying to grow?

The new Art88 sure looks like a big-bore contender!
My impression of Jeff is that he was one of the guys behind some of their more recent and successful SOTA designs before Bill & Lew retired.

Several years ago, he bought them out, now owns the business, and is committing CJ to absolutely SOTA greatness while also keeping the business itself and what is stands for entirely consistent with both the original down to earth ethos of its founders...and also his own personality and how he presents himself.

I really like Jeff's approach, and have found a similar quiet, down to business, down to earth approach in Robert Koch of Robert Koda. I also observe the same of Yamada San of Zanden. Very purist, very very committed to quality and to reliability.
 

Ron Resnick

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Thank you, Lloyd.

Did it trouble you to be using single-ended into the Gryphon amplifiers?
 

LL21

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Thank you, Lloyd.

Did it trouble you to be using single-ended into the Gryphon amplifiers?
Not at all. I spoke with both Gryphon's technical department (I think Flemming was aware as well) and Jeff Fischel about it, and both were happy that it worked well. Sound-wise, I thought it was an awesome combination and in fact used it for 10+ consecutive years: GAT 1 + Antileon then Colosseum and then GAT 2 + Mephisto.
 
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Big Dog RJ

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Yep, that's about right as AJ ( Another Johnson), and LL have stated above.

Also just to add, back during the ownership of messers C & J, there was a much wider range. This included the PV, MV, Premier and Sonograph series. After that the original ART preamp was introduced, followed by the ACT2 and onto the CT and ET series line. Just about this point, when the next generation of ART series amplifiers were introduced, along with the LP series, Classic series, and GAT preamps did C& J decide to go fishing! JF was already lined up to take over, since some of his creations date back to the mighty Premier 8A monoblocks, so who better to pass the reigns onto... JF! He really knows and understands Classic tube circuits, which were developed since the 50's.

Now, with JF taking over, he decided not to have such a wide range and I can see why. The PV, MV, Sonograph, Premier, CT, and LP series have all been discontinued. So, if anyone is interested in CJ's lower end gear, they would have to buy vintage gear. Nothing wrong with older gear, as long as they're upto spec and well looked after. A few parts, such as Caps and resistors can be replaced, of course with tube maintenance and even the older gear will perform wonderfully!

Now, they make only a handful of products, offering just one or two entry-level series, with the rest being top of the line ART series. JF's focus has been entirely on a different approach. To redesign and create truly remarkable level of tube gear at its finest! This latest ART series developed entirely by JF is no ordinary tube gear, simply because in order to surpass any of those previous series CJ offered, JF had to make it extraordinary! There was no other way.

At one point I was quite disappointed to see the previous series of gear slowly fading away...and got discouraged for those looking to aspire towards CJ. Back in the day, if you worked really hard and saved a few pennies, there was very affordable highend gear that money can buy. However, considering now and the way things are going in our topsy-turvy world... there's no way I'd spend over 110grand just for a pre-power combination, no chance Charlie!

Nonetheless, for those who can afford such lofty gear, and still manage to live a normal life (pay the mortgage, buy groceries and look after the family) then by all means go for it! I've auditioned all of these top line ART series gear at length and it's truly awesome! Then again, even the previous CJ gear is still just as good, very high quality, a high level of performance and most importantly a fine level of musicality. So as far as I'm concerned, I'm not going to engage with the latest and the greatest. What I've put together since June 2004/05 and now having a full array of CJ tube gear driving CLX's, is bloody good enough for me!

Now I understand how exactly JF created the newest ART series gear, keeping everything in mind with relation to the classic tube circuit and executing it in true Class A topology is no easy task nor comes cheap. So very well done to JF,
I sincerely believe he's a legend! And most importantly CJ is definitely in very very good hands! Without a doubt.

Cheers to JF!
And do enjoy those fine tunes!
WOOF! RJ
 

Another Johnson

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BTW: Currently CJ has about 5 employees. Most have are long term staff.
Good to know. The D&B and other business directory services I’ve researched (in 2022-2023) have had Jeff, the part time office person (Jasmine), the retired Bill Conrad, all long term. The other two may be assembling and/or repair? I did not realize that they were full time since CJ seems to use a batch building strategy. Certainly support for warranty and out of warranty repairs and upgrades could be a full time activity.

In my opinion, Jeff has a great eye for layouts and topology. And his parts are worthy of pride. The proprietary CJ-D Teflon capacitors are legendary.

I was a dedicated aficionado for 35 years. I suggested them to @Ron Resnick during his recent tube amp search, but the post did not gain legs.
 

zermatt

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They have a R and D engineer. He does the CAD work and new COTS products (connectors, resistors, etc) investigations. BTW: I will have a ART phono after today. I will report back!
 

Big Dog RJ

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They have a R and D engineer. He does the CAD work and new COTS products (connectors, resistors, etc) investigations. BTW: I will have a ART phono after today. I will report back!
ART phonostage! Oh nice one maaate.
That's the only ART component I've not yet heard. When I headed out last July, the ART phono-preamp wasn't yet released, so that was still in the making. Funny thing is, all my dealer mates in Spore were talking about one to compliment the full ART line-up... and there you have it!

Should be outstanding! One chap has reported back on CJO forum, says it's a marvel! As it ought to be. Do let us know how it goes and your findings. Brilliant
Cheers, RJ
 

Another Johnson

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They have a R and D engineer. He does the CAD work and new COTS products (connectors, resistors, etc) investigations. BTW: I will have a ART phono after today. I will report back!
Maybe the new R&D engineer will be a candidate for the next transition when Jeff retires. It would be comforting to know that there is an heir apparent. Right now CJ’s future appears to be inextricably tied to Jeff’s.
 

zermatt

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I think Jeff will be around for the next Ten years.

I can say that finding Engineers interested in Audio interested in tube audio is outside the norm today. Most electrical engineering are new hires across the US foreign students. US Collages do not teach vacuum tube technology. I work in the Sat Comm. industry and speaking from day to day experience. I bet they do in Russia!
 
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Salectric

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The CJ website is pretty decent but I wish it had photos of the interiors.

The description of the ART88 doesn’t tell me much about why it’s so superior to previous CJ efforts. Haven’t they used nude Vishay resistors and CJ’s proprietary capacitors for many years? What’s different about the latest model?
 

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