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robertaz
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Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7

First timer here. I'm looking for a few expert opinions on which of the above amps I should grab. I've read great things about the Prima Luna line and I've also heard the CJ, which I think sounds really sweet.

Has anyone here heard the PL's and a comparable CJ amp? Do you have an opinion on which sounds better? I listen to pop & rock primarily with a 10% dose of piano jazz thrown in.

Thanks!

R

Stephen Scharf
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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7

I would get the CJ, if I were you. The PL stuff is beautifully made, but I would go with what you know. If you heard the CJ and liked what you heard, get it.

This a tangential anecdote, but I recently auditioned a Prima Luna Prologue 3 pre compared to the Antique Sound Lab OTL32 preamp, and the ASL sounded markedly better. I also auditioned a CJ PV12 pre the following weekend, and preferred the CJ to the PL preamp. The PL sounded dark, thin, and compressed by comparison. The high-end store I patronize carries PL, as well as ASL, Jolida, Joule Electric, and Wright Sound Lab. They've sold *1* PL ProLogue 3, but they sell a lot of ASL, Jolida (mostly integrateds for use as power amps) and George Wright Sound Labs stuff. Their view is that the only folks who come in that are interested buying PL are the "review hawks".

You can't always go by what you read, or more to the point, what you don't read. Makes like Jolida, Wright, Spectral, Viva, and Antique Sound Lab really don't get reviewed in the magazines, or if they do, it's exceptionally rare. When's the last time you read a review of a George Wright Signature preamp in one of the magazines? For example, you'll never read a review of a Jolida product here...even though they make superb, sweet-sounding, and musical products.

robertaz
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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7

Thanks, Stephen. I appreciate the comments.

You're certainly right about some much lesser known names being great products. My concern is separating the products that are really good vs. the ones that simply try to sell themselves based on their "esoteric" names.

I live in Toronto, where the number of high end stores has dwindled over the last few years. Trying to find a retailer that carries some of the names that you've mentioned is virtually impossible, so I try to read as many reviews and user comments that I can before narrowing my list.

Names like Cayin, Prima Luna, Mystere keep coming up. Then I read comments from those who like CJ, Audio Research, Levinson & classic Marantz amps. With retailers carrying at best two of the above brands and often no more than one retailer in the area carrying the brand, it's difficult to make an informed decision.

Roberta

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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7

I am very, very surprised that Jolida isnt talked about more. I have been nothing short of floored at how great my new 102b is..(bought as a stop-gap to get me through until my mastersound is repaired..but now ive decided to put it in one of my two main systems) The products are well-priced, rugged, and have many years of research behind them.,...and the sound..so sweet.

I guess the statement "In the high end, one pays for the
price" is more true than we realize. a 600 dollar amp just cant be good, can it?


Quote:
Thanks, Stephen. I appreciate the comments.

You're certainly right about some much lesser known names being great products. My concern is separating the products that are really good vs. the ones that simply try to sell themselves based on their "esoteric" names.

I live in Toronto, where the number of high end stores has dwindled over the last few years. Trying to find a retailer that carries some of the names that you've mentioned is virtually impossible, so I try to read as many reviews and user comments that I can before narrowing my list.

Names like Cayin, Prima Luna, Mystere keep coming up. Then I read comments from those who like CJ, Audio Research, Levinson & classic Marantz amps. With retailers carrying at best two of the above brands and often no more than one retailer in the area carrying the brand, it's difficult to make an informed decision.

Roberta

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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7

As an aside, I own a PL Dialog II. The sound when I first bought it was no better than the Jolida I replaced. After a month of serious break in, there was simply no comparison, the PL blew the old amp away and has only gotten better. (and that says a lot as the Jolida was very nice indeed) It is also VERY easy to tube role the PL, so, in my modest system, I am very happy with the PL and do not expect to replace it for a VERY long time.

I believe how it will sound is very dependent on the system it is used in, like most tube gear.

robertaz
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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7

My system is very modest (and quite old) as well. I have a pair of B&W DM-6 speakers, a C-J PV6 pre, an Ariston RD110 with a Linn Basik arm and Sumiko BPS, an old Luxman tuner, a Nak 582Z tape deck (rarely used), a JVC XLZ 1050TN CD player, an Oppo 980H (used as a CD player as well), Monster/XLO/Levinson cabling.

So as you can see, this isn't a high end system, but playing LPs thru the C-J pre and tubed power amp sounds really nice.

Now that someone else has said that he prefers the PL to the Jolida, my head is spinning.

R

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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7


Quote:

Now that someone else has said that he prefers the PL to the Jolida, my head is spinning.

R

Yes, but was he comparing a current Jolida to the Prima Luna or an older Jolida. Because it sounds like he might have had the Jolida a couple of years. That could make all of the difference.

Obviously your ears should be the final arbiter but Conrad Johnson is a long and distinguished history which means that there is a higher chance that they will be in business in 10 years making repairs (if necessary) much easier AND increasing resale value. Neither thing is of much concern if you buy things and use them until they wear out but if you're an equipment hopper who is constantly upgrading it might be something to consider.

I don't have any strong feelings in any of the three directions. Please take my comments as food for thought only.

ncdrawl
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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7

One probably could not go wrong with any of the following 3..

C-J
Mcintosh
Jolida

All 3 have been around a good while and are highly regarded. a quick google on any of the 3 names brings up a lot of hits. This bodes well not only for the chance that you will really enjoy the gear,but also for resale value(as mentioned) those guys have been around a very, very long time.

JIMV
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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7

Remember, I didn't dislike the Jolida...in fact I used it for a decade. The thing is, the PL is built much better, I can use different sounding tubes easily, it self bias's, and simply sounds much better in my system (PL Dialog II (using KT77 tubes), Rotel 1070 used as a transport into a Benchmark DAC1, Transparent interconnects, Old Audio Alchemy digital interconnect, Cardis speaker wires, Energy C2 speakers, Monster 2500 power and PS Audio power cables throughout). All told the system might cost $5-6K and it sounds good. My Vinyl system is much more modest built around a Onyko receiver, parasound Zphono, Thorens TD170, Ortofon Red, Maggie MMG's and mostly monster cables.

As I type I have Gordon Lightfoot on vinyl and loud.

Something to remember, the PL is not a very powerful amp...It would not play my Maggies but the Jolida did.

Stephen Scharf
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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7


Quote:
My system is very modest (and quite old) as well. I have a pair of B&W DM-6 speakers, a C-J PV6 pre, an Ariston RD110 with a Linn Basik arm and Sumiko BPS, an old Luxman tuner, a Nak 582Z tape deck (rarely used), a JVC XLZ 1050TN CD player, an Oppo 980H (used as a CD player as well), Monster/XLO/Levinson cabling.

So as you can see, this isn't a high end system, but playing LPs thru the C-J pre and tubed power amp sounds really nice.

Now that someone else has said that he prefers the PL to the Jolida, my head is spinning.

R

You have a fine system there already....just because some of your components are older doesn't mean they can't function well. I am using the same Rega Planar 3/SME III I bought in 1981. I've made some mods to it, but it still sounds pretty wonderful (especially with my cryo'd Grado Sonata).

Anyway, more to the point. If it were me, I would get the Conrad-Johnson. As Mr Lowry pointed out in a previous post, it is a very fine company with a well-deserved reputation for it's products. My experience with C-J's products is that they are very musical, sweet sounding products that you can live with for a very long time. A good friend of mine is using a Premier 3 pre and Premier 5 set of monoblocks that he purchased in 1983, and it is still one of the finest-sounding systems I have ever heard. I've never heard a PL integrated or power amp, but I was underwhelmed by the ProLogue 3. It was "Eh, it's okay...". That said, I've haven't heard the Dialogue II that Jim owns. One reason PL gets a lot of coverage is that it is very, very well-marketed and also beautifully made. But what looks good and sounds good can be two very different things. There's no doubt in my mind that the (modded) ASL OTL32 I auditioned trounced the ProLogue 3 for sound quality.

Regarding the Jolida, I own a Jolida 801A 70 Wpc integrated. While it is a very fine integrated, it really shines when used as a power amplifier. The CJ PV12 I auditioned was using it as a pre to drive the Jolida as a power amp....that was impressive. We did the audition the day I bought the Jolida; literally with the tubes brand-new, they were not even burned-in yet. Regardless, you haven't heard how good a Jolida integrated can sound until it is used as a power amp driven by a quality tube preamp like a CJ or ASL or Wright. There's some synergy in that application that is really quite, quite special; this is partly due to the fact that the pre stage in the Jolida is a passive preamp. We found that the best setup driving my Dynaudio Audience 72s was to turn the volume all the way up on the Jolida, and then pad the volume on the CJ PV12. Using this setup let the Jolida provide full current to the Dynas to let them really open up and bloom. After listening to this set-up, I finally understood why the shop I bought the Jolida from uses them this way (as power amps). When I bought the Jolida, the sales person told me: "Yeah, it's a quite good integrated; but when you drive it with a good tube preamp, it REALLY sounds good. And he was right. You might think that using an integrated amp as a power amp is a bit unconventional, but store I bought my Jolida from is known for trying unconventional approaches, they are only motivated by what sounds good, not what conventional wisdom or the magazines say.
They also don't have an agenda. For example, they don't carry every model of a product line, only the ones that sound good. For example, they don't really sell Jolida preamps because they don't like what they sound like. For that matter, they don't carry all the Jolida integrateds either, only the 102B that NC has, the 202A, the 707A and the 801A I have. They don't like the sound of the middle-range 302 and 502 series Jolidas.

This is why I'm presently shopping for a preamp...to drive the Jolida integrated as a power amp. I'm considering a no. of preamps, from the ASL OTL32 to the George Wright Signature to the new Conrad-Johnson Classic. And my Jolida sounds even better now, even currently using it as an integrated as I just put an entire cryo'd set of new tubes in it: A matched quad of the new-issue Genalex Gold Lion KT88's in the output stage, and a set of NOS military Tung-sol 6SN7s and a Chinese AX7 in the input stage. Once I start using it propery, i.e., as a power amp with a good tube pre, it should sound quite special indeed.

But that CJ PV12 I auditioned the day I bought the Jolida worked SO WELL that I can't get it out of my mind....I'll probably end up buying it. It also sounded pretty outstanding with my vintage HK Citation 12, too.

Stephen Scharf
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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7


Quote:
I am very, very surprised that Jolida isnt talked about more. I have been nothing short of floored at how great my new 102b is..(bought as a stop-gap to get me through until my mastersound is repaired..but now ive decided to put it in one of my two main systems) The products are well-priced, rugged, and have many years of research behind them.,...and the sound..so sweet.

I guess the statement "In the high end, one pays for the
price" is more true than we realize. a 600 dollar amp just cant be good, can it?

No, of course not. It's only $600!

All joking aside, I am not at all surprised how good your little Jolida is. The store where I am shop really likes Maggies and Jolidas. Everytime I come in, they are playing LPs with an entry-level Clearaudio TT, a Grado Reference Sonata, one of the Jolidas and a tube preamp, a pair of Maggies, and it sounds great. Very, very musical, even though there's massive MBLs in the "expensive" room, they are always listening to music with this setup in the "budget" room.

Stephen Scharf
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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7


Quote:
Remember, I didn't dislike the Jolida...in fact I used it for a decade. The thing is, the PL is built much better, I can use different sounding tubes easily, it self bias's, and simply sounds much better in my system (PL Dialog II (using KT77 tubes), Rotel 1070 used as a transport into a Benchmark DAC1, Transparent interconnects, Old Audio Alchemy digital interconnect, Cardis speaker wires, Energy C2 speakers, Monster 2500 power and PS Audio power cables throughout). All told the system might cost $5-6K and it sounds good. My Vinyl system is much more modest built around a Onyko receiver, parasound Zphono, Thorens TD170, Ortofon Red, Maggie MMG's and mostly monster cables.

As I type I have Gordon Lightfoot on vinyl and loud.

Something to remember, the PL is not a very powerful amp...It would not play my Maggies but the Jolida did.

Looks like a damn-fine sounding system, Jim. I am sure it sounds good from your description. And this is just the point; you don't have to spend audiophile-grade sums of money to have a musically-compelling and rewarding system. My system is fairly comparable: a vintage 1981 Rega Planar 3 with an SME III holding a Grado Reference Sonata, the Jolida JD801A with an upgraded set of tubes, a Pro-Ject Tube Box II phono stage, a pair of Dynaudio Audience 72s I bought as a dealer closeout for $1300, and a $35 Sony Playstation 1 as a CD player. Audio Advisor/Audioquest Black Mamba II IC's, a pair of Zu Wylde IC's for the TT I bought on a one-day Thanksgiving sale (normally $340, I paid $130 for them from Zu, how's that for an audiophile-grade markup???) and a pair of Anti-Cables for $70 round out the system. Like you, I have probably a little over 5 grand total in the system, and it is a very musical, sweet, and easy to listen to system. I certainly could pay more for all the equivalent components, but I don't know if I would have a more enjoyable experience than I do now. The biggest improvements I've made to my system was the Grado Sonata, and a Groovetracer subplatter I installed in my Rega. The Dynaudios are really nice too, smooth and silky, they are the first speakers I've owned that literally do not drive the cat out of the room.

robertaz
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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7

I'm not a fan of the McIntosh sound, but I'll certainly consider the other two.

My main concern with the Premier 4 is that, from what I understand, that amp is very fussy as to which tubes it can use. There's 600 volts going thru that beast and supposedly only tubes purchased from CJ don't cause problems. I've also heard that CJ now only sells tubes in complete sets for that amp.....at $500 a pop!! That seems ridiculous to me. The Prima Luna appealed to me because of its flexibility with tube rolling.

However it will obviously come down to the sound. The CJ sounded beautiful, but the above tubes issue will certainly deter me from moving forward.

I guess I need to search around to see if I can find a dealer who sells any of the recommended amps and one that will lend me one for a few days to use in my system.

R

mrlowry
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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7

A number of tube amp manufacturers suggest that you buy tubes from them because they like to test them. Plus many NOS (New Old Stock) tubes that people like to use to tube roll haven't aged as gracefully as people would like to think and aren't reliable. Or they aren't capable of the higher plate voltages that the design may require. Since tube failures can lead to damage of the other parts in a product which then a consumer might expect the manufacturer to fix under warranty their position is completely understandable. If you call C-J they might give you the reason why they have that position and let you know if there are spots in their products that it is OK to use for tube rolling.

JIMV
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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7


Quote:
a vintage 1981 Rega Planar 3 with an SME III holding a Grado Reference Sonata, the Jolida JD801A with an upgraded set of tubes, a Pro-Ject Tube Box II phono stage,...

That is one heck of a vinyl setup. I am envious, and still having problems with mine (it distorts on some records for no apparent reason)

I cannot comment on the playstation.

Quote:
I have probably a little over 5 grand total in the system, and it is a very musical, sweet, and easy to listen to system. I certainly could pay more for all the equivalent components, but I don't know if I would have a more enjoyable experience than I do now. The biggest improvements I've made to my system was the Grado Sonata, and a Groovetracer subplatter I installed in my Rega. The Dynaudios are really nice too, smooth and silky, they are the first speakers I've owned that literally do not drive the cat out of the room.

My audio tweaking is over for a bit as I have wiped out the budget for a while, though I am thinking of a tube buffer between the phono amp and the Onkyo receiver (a Grant Fidelity)

http://grantfidelity.com/site/B-283+Tube+Processor+Buffer

JIMV
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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7


Quote:
The Prima Luna appealed to me because of its flexibility with tube rolling.

That is a big advantage. It comes with KT88's which are very good for the highs...very clear, clean and extended treble. I also have a set of KT77's (in the unit now) that produce EL34 type lushness but has a BIG sound stage, the only change in my system that has extended the sound stage beyond the speakers in my nearfield setup.

All I need to do is pull out the one set of tubes and put in the other, then turn on the amp and instant change. There are a good number of tubes I could sub which makes the amp really very pleasant to work with.

I have never been able to afford CJ product but it has one heck of a reputation so either setup you desire should be pretty good.

Just do not write off PL product...as I said, to me it sounds far better, is better built, and is VERY easy to use.

OH, the complete set of KT77's I bought from Upscale Audio cost around $200, the KT88's less.

robertaz
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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7

Hi Stephen,

I am curious as to why you would want to use the integrated Jolida as a power amp. Did you buy the integrated first and then decide to use it as a power amp, or do you believe that the integrated amp is better than Jolida's power amps?

R

Stephen Scharf
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Re: Conrad Johnson Premier 4 or Prima Luna 6/7

I think Jolida's dedicated power amps are quite a bit more money; their monoblocks are $5K a pair, IIRC. Using the JD801A integrated was a very affordable way to get an excellent Class AB1 70 Wpc tube power amp for $1550. The high-end shop I bought it from doesn't carry all of Jolida's products, only the ones they are of the opinion sound good. And they are relentless experimenters, and found that using the 707 and 801 as power amps works really, really well when driven by a first class tube preamp. They actually buy a pallete of JD801A's at a time, and through my own personal experience, I trust their opinion about what sounds good. Everytime they have told me an approach or a product sounds good, they have been right in my experience. So, I trust them when they tell that a particular application (like using a Jolida integrated as a power amp) works well.

I don't have a preamp for it yet, so I am presenty using it as an integrated amplifier. Still shopping for a preamp; that's why I am still thinking of the C-J PV12.

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