CJ's ET2 Preamp

Conrad-Johnson Design, well-known purveyors of vacuum-tube electronics, introduced the ET2 Enhanced Triode preamplifier, featuring a single-ended triode voltage gain stage direct-coupled to a high-current output buffer. For once, this is not another $18k preamp; the price is a relatively modest $3500.

Conrad-Johnson was also showing the CD2B ($8500), which marries a tubed analog output section to a DAC that handles both CDs and SACDs. Details were tantalizingly scarce, but Lew Johnson and Bill Conrad expect to ship the unit by "mid-year."

Since CJ always sets up a static display at CES, there was nothing to listen to—other than Conrad and Johnson—so Wes Phillips sat down and talked for a spell. “Other than designing four new products, what have you been up to?” he asked.

"I built Bill and me a music server," said Lew Johnson. ""I searched out special low-noise computers, put a few TB of storage in them, and output an S/PDIF signal to one of our DACs. It sounds pretty good, if you're not up to playing your records."

Any chance CJ might make a music server?

"We think that computer companies can do a better job of most aspects of that," said Bill Conrad. "And for a lot less money, too. But computer guys think that digital-to-audio conversion is a trivial matter, which it is not. Take the DAC out of the computer environment and use a good 'un—ours are pretty good—and you've got what you need."

So are you having fun with your new music servers?

"I need to get started on putting discs in mine," Conrad confessed.