Conrad-Johnson MV60 power amplifier Page 4

Drat. Now I'm going to have to keep the 17LS. Think how many pounds of hanging beef I could have bought with that money! I may be eating macaroni and cheese instead—or Russian pilmyeni.

For analog, I used a Shure Ultra 500 cartridge in an SME 309 tonearm on a modified AR ES-1 turntable, into an AcousTech PH-1 phono stage. For digital, I used a Rega Jupiter CD player. Speakers included the Quad ESL-988, Triangle Celius and Zerius, and, briefly, the MartinLogan Ascents (in the living room, using the MV60 with other electronics).

The MV60 performed just as Bill and Tor had said it would: more like a Premier Eleven A than an MV55. Compared to the MV55, the highs were extended and the amp got a tighter grip on the bottom end. The improvement was not small. I also noted greater resolution of low-level detail and ambient information. Especially when used with the Premier 17LS line stage, the MV60 gave wonderful layering and depth to the soundstage. And, of course, there was the harmonic rightness of tubes.

However, those expecting a clone of the MV55 might need a period of adjustment. That amplifier had a way of rolling off on top, softening the bottom end, and rubbing the edges off any harsh recordings in the midrange. The MV60 was far more revealing—mostly for the better, but occasionally, with certain recordings, for the worse.

Compared to the McIntosh MC2102 amplifier (which, at $6000, costs more than twice as much as the MV60), the C-J had what sounded like a slight accentuation of the upper midrange. The Mac produced a somewhat more relaxed sound. Which amp was "right"? Danged if I know. I do know that I could live happily with either.

The McIntosh MC2102 gets 100Wpc from a quartet of more powerful KT88 or 6550 output tubes, while the MV60 delivers 55Wpc from a single pair of less powerful EL34s. In other words, it could be that the Mac sounds more relaxed because it doesn't drive its output tubes so hard.

But I keep coming back to the fact that the Mac costs twice as much. For $2795, I loved the Conrad-Johnson MV60. And I found I had enough power—except with the MartinLogan Ascents, where I would have welcomed an even tighter grip on the bass. With the Quads, with the two Triangle designs, the MV60 had all the power I needed, as well as good bass control, excellent top-end extension, and great resolution.

Do be careful about your source equipment. If you have the money, it wouldn't be foolish to mate the MV60 with the Premier 17LS line stage. Most likely, though, people looking for a matching preamp will consider C-J's PV14L vacuum-tube line stage, which goes for $1995. Unfortunately, I haven't heard it yet.

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