ET3se

Feb 3, 2012
661
23
18
Melbourne
#1
Greetings from Melbourne, the most liveable city in the world!

Just a quick note to all that are looking out for a so called "entry level" preamplifier from Conrad Johnson; look no further the ET3se is fantastic!
I've had my ACT2 go up to Queenslandish for a check up; in the meantime I got hold of the ET3 "se" version. Wow what a great preamp indeed. It has a very simple circuit and just one tube (6922). It does not have the balance function, and only one main out. Other than that it is one preamp that is certainly not entry level...

The parts are top-notch; Teflon caps, metal film resistors, top line gold plated RCA connections, all the goodies. This obviously improves the sound compared to the standard ET3 version, which I did have for a very short while just for trial. I will keep this beauty for a few more weeks until my ACT2 returns.

I must say that this ET3se design is one that is going to be hard to compete with at its price point and performance. An excellent preamp to have in an any high-quality system!

Hats off to c-j on this one!
Cheers, RJ
 
Feb 3, 2012
661
23
18
Melbourne
#2
G'day mates,

Just got the ACT2 back from the doc, and sounds awesome! It was an internal fuse that needed replacing plus some areas cleaned up inside & out. Looks and sounds good as new!
Last week my daughter had her high school concert; she took part with a troop of trombonists, saxophonists, trumpeters, plus a small jazz ensemble (double bass, drums and trumpet). There was also an all female trio of performers; violinist, guitarist, and vocal, fantastic performance, and these are just high school kids...

What I enjoyed the most, like only a few other special live performances, was that the sound was totally un-amplified (for the most part that is). It was all there in the essence of the "absolute sound". Only one or two performances required a bit of amplification when required.
The music room was very well balanced and designed by a professional team of 12 people who are truly dedicated to live music. The seating arrangements have been well thought out where everyone gets a full view of the soundstage, therefore it is a fairly large room with good acoustics.

That night I came home, and turned up the system, and once again stayed up till 2am. However, this time there was no scotch or cigar involved because I had to report to work the next day. One thing for sure is that I did miss that "absolute sound" no exaggerated thuds, booms or un-realistic dynamics, just pure music in its full form.
Happy to have the ACT2 back!
Cheers to all and enjoy your music. RJ
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,935
143
63
#3
Congrats! Glad to hear all is okay with the ACT2...I have personally found the CJs extremely reliable over the last 15+ years that I have owned CJ...4 components and 3 of them were perfect before I traded them back in...and the current one so far so good as well.

How did the ET3SE compare with your ACT 2?
 
Feb 3, 2012
661
23
18
Melbourne
#4
Hi mate, yes agreed cj does make high quality gear. In this economic crisis we are having, I really wonder for how long original designs can be made in their original countries...

On paper it would seem a bit unfair to even compare the et3se with the act2. However, I must say at that price point for the et3se, it is an excellent value! Probably one of the best values in so called "entry level" in the high-end category. But entry level it is not!
I actually did not miss my act2 until it arrived. I could certainly make do with the et3se. But for that matter I actually preferred the classic se, which I had prior to the act2. The act2 I came upon by chance as I was actually going for a ct5.

Eventually I would have gone in for the gat, but the act2 will certainly do for now.
Overall between the two, I would prefer the classic se.
The act2 is in a different league altogether. ..
Have a good one mate,
Cheers, RJ
 
Mar 28, 2012
41
0
6
#5
....I could certainly make do with the et3se. But for that matter I actually preferred the classic se, which I had prior to the act2. The act2 I came upon by chance as I was actually going for a ct5. Eventually I would have gone in for the gat, but the act2 will certainly do for now.Overall between the two, I would prefer the classic se.
Hmmmm...I have the Classic-se now, but was thinking of trading up to the ET3se, mostly for the remote function, but I also was hoping for a significant improvement in sound for the extra money. Can you expand a bit on why you prefer the Classic-se to the ET3se, which I have not heard? Many thanks!
 
Feb 3, 2012
661
23
18
Melbourne
#6
Yes, this is an interesting claim that I've made, and one that is also quite simple in comparison.

In the past, evolving from the 80's and early 90's, and to the current offerings, I have found that simple designs are far better in presenting the audio signal in its purist form. This is exactly what Conrad Johnson believes in, hence every preamplifier offered from c-j is phase inverting, due to this simple design of having a single gain stage. Apart from this, I have found that preamplifiers without the use or function of the remote, would have simpler circuits (or less of) thereby producing a cleaner sound.

I found this particularly true when I was using the PV12, compared to the PFR. Then again the PFR was a SS design. Even Lew himself told me that this was a very close call, and that he actually preferred the PFR partnered with the Premier 12's. However, went on to say that the PV12 was a true "classic".

Therefore, comparatively when the Classic preamp was launched, not only did it have the "classic" look but also that "classic sound". To me the Classic preamp brought back all those wonderful memories of the PV12, and even bettered it with the "SE" version. I had the ClassicSE in my current system with the same Quads (2905's and MV60se), for nearly 6months, and I have not forgotten its sonic signature.
1. Very smooth and extended highs
2. A clear palpable midrange
3. fantastic bass

Compared to the ET3se, the ClassicSE did all of the above with more naturalness. It also had that special c-j signature sound; 3 dimensional and that enveloping warm sound. Don't get me wrong, the ET3se is an outstanding preamp for what it can do and the price tag. However, the ClassicSE is just simply a true "classic" in every sense of the word.
Having no remote - big deal! Like I said earlier this was one of my favourite preamps in my new system, and I wanted to venture towards a CT5 more because it just looked awesome, as well as sounded pretty good. Then came along the ACT2, and a whole new ball game kicked off...

I must say though, I never really liked remote and to this day I certainly do not! I think it's a lazy function to have to just sit on your ass and control functions. What happened to the good old days of turning that beautiful golden level control...
C-J perfected the relay switching and resistors on the gain stage for level controls, and first introduced it in the design of the ART preamplifier. Of course to this day, they have similar designs on their remote functions. However, nothing beats a true "classic".

In your case, already having the ClassicSE, I would certainly not go for the ET3se unless to YOUR ears there was a major sonic improvement. I would also suggest that you actually plug in the ET3se straight into your very own system, and not the dealer's demo or someone else's. Speakers, power amplifiers, and source equipment can be auditioned this way if there was no other way. However, when it comes to "front-end" equipment, such as the preamp, you must try it out in your system.

In conclusion, I would just hold onto my Classic SE, and save enough to one day go for the top-of-the-line, such as a GAT or whatever SOTA preamp c-j eventually puts in the future. For my system and listening taste, in order to beat the overall performance of the Classic SE by a "far margin", it would have to be the GAT or an ACT2. The other preamps would be just a marginal improvement, whether it is worth the spend is the question...

Cheers mate and enjoy that Classic SE!
RJ
 
Mar 28, 2012
41
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#7
Thanks for help. I am enjoying the Classic SE! It's a great preamp. BTW, the reason on the remote volume control, is that the knob on the classic is hair-trigger sensitive, making it hard to get the volume where I want it without getting up 5 times.. You move it slightest bit and the volume changes a lot more than you would expect, like they packed the entire usable listening range between 8:30 and 9:30 on the clock. Why not use more of the range? Apparently its a great CJ tradition -- my PV-7 was the same way.
 
Feb 3, 2012
661
23
18
Melbourne
#8
Ok fair enough. Then in that case the use of the remote would be a great way to deal with level settings. However, when I had the classic se this was never a problem. I guezs it may also depend on the sensitivity of the speakers, not sure. ..
This could also be the reason why c-j have gone into relay switching for level controls. Perhaps could well be, when I had the PFR preamp I did notice the tricky settings even though the pfr had a remote, it wasn't relay controlled.
Anyway, leaving that aside, in reference to the actual sound and the presentation you get from the classic se is marvelous!
To me the upgrade from a classic se to a et3se is not a major upgrade. I would consider the et5 an upgrade though. See how you go and check if you could get a great deal on either the et3se or the et5.
Cheers mate, RJ
 

class a

New Member
Jul 11, 2011
70
0
0
#9
This weekend I just took home a CJ ET-3 SE for a home demo tryout. The big problem I had w/it was the high level of hiss I was getting through my Aerial 6's. No problem w/my Audio Research Sp16. Could it be just a bad tube??
 
Mar 28, 2012
41
0
6
#10
This weekend I just took home a CJ ET-3 SE for a home demo tryout. The big problem I had w/it was the high level of hiss I was getting through my Aerial 6's. No problem w/my Audio Research Sp16. Could it be just a bad tube??
Can't speak specifically to the ET3 SE, but the ET-3 regular had a normal, slight tube rush, as does my CJ Classic SE. Can't really hear it more than a few feet away. But, just a question -- is there a separate tube for each channel in the ET-3? If so, a bad tube would hiss in one channel only. I surmise that you hear it on both. I don't know the circuit topology of the ET-3. I do know that they now use just one tube in the Classic SE, when they used to use 2, one per channel. Could be the same in the ET-3. They have tube diagrams on the CJ website.
 

class a

New Member
Jul 11, 2011
70
0
0
#11
Can't speak specifically to the ET3 SE, but the ET-3 regular had a normal, slight tube rush, as does my CJ Classic SE. Can't really hear it more than a few feet away. But, just a question -- is there a separate tube for each channel in the ET-3? If so, a bad tube would hiss in one channel only. I surmise that you hear it on both. I don't know the circuit topology of the ET-3. I do know that they now use just one tube in the Classic SE, when they used to use 2, one per channel. Could be the same in the ET-3. They have tube diagrams on the CJ website.
The ET-3 SE uses just one tube a 6922. I can hear the hiss from my sitting position w/my Audio Research SP-16 I have to put my ear against the grill to hear any tube rush. I'm taking it back to the dealer tomorrow as this was just borrowed for an at home demo to see how it sounded w/my system.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,935
143
63
#12
This weekend I just took home a CJ ET-3 SE for a home demo tryout. The big problem I had w/it was the high level of hiss I was getting through my Aerial 6's. No problem w/my Audio Research Sp16. Could it be just a bad tube??
A couple of thoughts:

1. Gain. The ET3 gain is 25db vs your ARCsp16 of 11.5db (i think i got that right, having just looked up online). If you have a high gain amp, you might be getting a bit more tube rush coming thru at low volume? i am no techie but just a thought.

2. In my experience, CJ GAT does eat tubes and they become noisy more quickly than my ACT2 or PV14L ever did. But once i replaced them, all quiet.
 
Feb 3, 2012
661
23
18
Melbourne
#13
Yes sir! Spot on Loyd!

The ET3 standard or SE version has a much higher gain than the ACT2 or most of the previous c-j preamps. That's just the way c-j has designed these new units plus does its magic with just one tube.
To add to that, if the sensitivity is fairly high on the power amp, say around 0.8 volts or less than 1volt to get it going, then this added high gain from both units will cause the tube hiss to be significantly more. However, this hiss should be apparent only on one channel, usually the left, and should NOT increase with volume level, rather it should stay constant.

And yes again, this hiss can be omitted by purchasing better tubes, or just a new tube from c-j directly. Also, tubes do not like to travel, especially in the air. They are very delicate musical instruments and can easily be ruptured or "stressed" in air freight, the best would be to hand pick them like a special strawberry from the plant itself and personally hand carry the tube home...

Yea right! How many of us have that luxury, this is why there are no guarantees on tubes. Plus c-j and many others use whatever tubes have found to be reliable, and trust those brands. Once you purchase the unit and bring it home, these tubes can certainly be replaced to the best that money can buy, and there are some very special tubes out there that do wonders!

BTW Class A, how did you like the sound of the ET3se compared to your ARC preamp? Did the dealer give you another unit to try out at home?
The ET3SE's sound will not let you down, it will add far more musicality and life into your system compared to the ARC, unless the ARC was of "reference" standard.
Hope you have a good one,

Cheers, RJ
 
Mar 28, 2012
41
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#14
Question

.... That's just the way c-j has designed these new units plus does its magic with just one tube. To add to that, if the sensitivity is fairly high on the power amp, say around 0.8 volts or less than 1volt to get it going, then this added high gain from both units will cause the tube hiss to be significantly more. However, this hiss should be apparent only on one channel, usually the left, and should NOT increase with volume level, rather it should stay constant....
Curious....how is it that a single tube configuration, which presumably is shared by both channels, would create more hiss on one channel (typically the left) than the other when it goes bad? I'm not challenging what you say, I simply don't understand how these single tube setups work.
 
Last edited:

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,935
143
63
#15
Curious....how is it that a single tube configuration, which presumably is shared by both channels, would create more hiss on one channel (typically the left) than the other when it goes bad? I'm not challenging what you say, I simply don't understand how these single tube setups work.
I have no idea either...except i have experienced it as well:

- for a few months, i had been replacing my CJ GAT tubes trying to find a pair that was absolutely quiet. I had an older one and a newer one...and i discovered my center was shifting to the left...so i had to turn the volume up on the right side more than the left (which fortunately you can easily do with the CJ GAT with separate attentuation for each side)

- It recently got worse, and bass was softening.

- i looked thru my papers and realized all my tubes were relatively new (less than 18 months old)...except the 1 TUBE in my Zanden DAC. a 7308...about 6 years old or more.

- As soon as i put it in, not only did everything improve...but 'center' snapped back perfectly and the volume on both sides of the CJ GAT is now equal again

Somehow, the 1 tube in my DAC getting old resulted in a different volume level from each side of the DAC...no idea why.
 
May 30, 2010
15,505
714
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Portugal
#16
Most of the time the main question when experiencing hiss with tube preamplfiers is the gain of the amplifier and the sensitivity of the speakers. As far as I remember you are using bridged amplifiers (this should raise amplifier gain by 6 dB) and the Aerial has a sensitivity around 90 dB - I can easily accept your system should be sensitive to a noisy preamplifier. The ARC SP16 is a very low noise preamplfier (96dB below 1V RMS output) the ET3 is rated at 90 dB below 1V RMS (98 dB below 2.5 V), a 6 dB difference in noise. Perhaps you can try different tubes - but 6dB is a lot. I hope I got my maths correct - I hate the small keys of my cellphone calculator).
 
Mar 28, 2012
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#17
Wouldn't the S/N end up the same though? CJ gear generally has the volume control very low at normal listening levels, due to the high gain. So the source signal sent to the power amp is elevated also - a wash, in other words, at normal listening levels.
 

class a

New Member
Jul 11, 2011
70
0
0
#18
I took the CJ ET-3 SE back today and we hooked it up to a Bryston 4B and a pair of Aerial 7T's. The there was no hiss. The dealer said there was probably an impedance problem w/my Thresholds. He said some NOS tubes might correct the problem but there was no guarantee. One thing about my local dealer, who I've been going to for the last 20 years, he's always insisted that I home demo a high priced item before purchasing.
 
Feb 3, 2012
661
23
18
Melbourne
#19
Curious....how is it that a single tube configuration, which presumably is shared by both channels, would create more hiss on one channel (typically the left) than the other when it goes bad? I'm not challenging what you say, I simply don't understand how these single tube setups work.
Yea mate, it's hard to figure that one out unless your a preamplifier designer. We wouldn't really know other than some simple tube theory. Even a good techie wouldn't exactly say why the hiss may shift to one channel.

I have owned nearly 10 different models of c-j preamps, (starting with the PV8 to the ACT2) and at one point or the other they all had hiss on one channel, always the left!
Whenever I checked this out with Ed at the time, he said this was a common thing and not to worry about it, unless the hiss increased with level settings. Then again one of the preamps, the Premier17LS never hissed. Similarly the PFR was also very quiet but had a noisy level setting, and my current ACT2 has its days, sometimes absolutely dead silent, and on certain occasions would hiss whenever it feels like...

I am about to change the tubes on the ACT2 since the previous set had a weak tube, plus hiss. I'm currently using the standby stock of 60NP's with gold pins, and they're dead silent!

The main design topology in using just one tube in the preamplifier stage is to keep the circuit as simple as possible, and have just one gain stage. So the 6922 being a reliable triode should do the job with a breeze. However, I really enjoyed the quietness with the Classic SE, which has a pair of Mullard M8080's Very vibrant sounding tubes, with a silent noise floor and smooth level control.

That c-j Classic SE was a very special preamp indeed!

Cheers, RJ
 
May 30, 2010
15,505
714
113
Portugal
#20
Wouldn't the S/N end up the same though? CJ gear generally has the volume control very low at normal listening levels, due to the high gain. So the source signal sent to the power amp is elevated also - a wash, in other words, at normal listening levels.
Unfortunately no. The attenuator (a potentiometer that reduces the signal amplitude) is fitted before the active element that generates the noise, and we get all the hiss at any volume position. So the hiss level is almost independent of the position of the volume, as the source signal to noise ratio is usually very high.

Most Audio Research preamplifiers (and perhaps some others) are an exception to this rule - if you reduce volume to 0, the output muting relay shorts the output and any noise completely disappears.
 

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