ARC amplifier with Conrad Johnson Preamp

Hello guys 

Finally I’m starting to rebuild my audio again.

I sold all my gear few years ago and just kept my ARC ref75se power.
now I’m looking for shelf speakers and preamp

I have found Conrad Johnson Premier 14 at a decent price ..

Have anyone here ever experienced ARC with CJ

its always the fight between the two I wonder how they do together ?


thank you!


I think you'd get much better results by using the Ref 75SE with a balanced preamp, such as an ARC Ref 5 or Ref 6. The CJ is single-ended.

Finding a good deal shouldn’t override what sound characteristics you’re looking for.  The CJ will likely have a much warmer/less detailed sound than your amp, so if that’s what you’re looking for it might be fine.  Personally if you like the sound of your amp I’d be looking at preamps from ARC, Atmasphere, LTA, Backert, etc. that are more neutral like your amp, but again it all depends on what sound you’re looking for.  FWIW, and best of luck.

@cleeds I thought the same thing but I emailed to ARC and they said

should be zero problem with that. I can buy

something like cardas cga adapters, (not sure if I’m allowed to link it)

or go with ARC BL1 adaptor box or some active direct box.

@soix well you definitely have a good point there, I’m gonna listen to the CJ premier 14 this Sunday.. but sadly not with my amplifier..

anyway I have another deal for ARC ref 3 but more than double the price and I’m a lil bit on budget so I might have more room for better speakers with CJ pre.

also I like my system more on the sweet side.. I just hope the CJ enough detailed


anyways ref3 is interesting , tho I think it’s an old pre and I’m not sure it’s worth investing on it 3.5k while cj less than half.

I wonder if anyone have ever tried mixing the two because I don’t find any info on that.


I thought the same thing but I emailed to ARC and they said should be zero problem with that.

Yes, you can make the two work together, but you won’t get the best results from either, imo.

@cleeds it might be true , tho ARC said the only down sound will be loss of volume level. I asked few other folks and they agreed on that not decreasing the sound quality. But TBH you might be right , no real clue over here.😅

I have owned both the ARC ref75se and CJ Premier 14. The two brands work well together it gives you a ying and yang combination. Subsequent CJ pre-amps have better defined bass than the 14.

@welcher firstly it’s great to hear that!


1 cj premier 14

2 cj 17ls

3 cj et6

4 arc ref3


1 cheapest 4 most expensive.

take in consideration that if I buy the the premier 14 I have around 1.7k-2k more left for a better speaker. But tbh I don’t have a clue if the arc ref3 is worth or not . If it is maybe I should go with it.
which 1 would you think will benefit the most??


I heard the et6 doesn’t have the same sweet tubey sound as the old cj

The CJ Premier 14 is a sleeper and will out perform many new preamps in the sub$7500 space. The board floats and has 4 screws that hold it place for shipping. Very musical and detailed. Very easy to just sit back and listened to. I liked it better than my ET 5 and used it for many years. The Premier 17 is a good second choice. However the Premier 14 uses 6GK5 tubes, which are hard to find. Upscale Audio has a stock of NOS so does one dealer in the UK. Call Upscale to make sure that you can get a back up supply of the tubes. It is easy on tubes but NOS can get noisy. 

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I would second the Premier 17 recommended by @cellorover. But the newer the CJ preamp the less of the sweet tubey sound you will get. CJ preamps have relatively high gain (25 - 26DB with 14 to 20 volt output). You should double check to make sure they will work with your source/amp/speaker combination.

I personally would not get the ARC ref3. If you do get the Prem 14 PM me.

@welcher the defined bass is might be a concern. Since the ref75se is great overall I feel like it’s bass control isn’t the “best” , don’t get me wrong it’s nice but it’s quite big and not as tight , I remembering hearing the ref75se into some Ayre , while the Ayre was controlling everything in amazing and perfect way and was super tight the ref75 didn’t , tho the75se played my soul.

anyway I didn’t understand from you .. would you pick the 17 second or would you pick it over the 14?


@cellorover TYVM for this information, I haven’t heard anything yet but no clue why I feel like I’m drown towards the 14 , price wise also a factor. Also I can upgrade it (at my country) or even send it to CJ and still end cheaper than the ref3.

I would really like to know what more people about think about the RCA to XLR from your personal view, and which way would you convert it 


Using the Cardas adaptors will not do anything to the sound. You can always change amps in the future. But the second part of your post has not been answered.

By shelf speakers, I assume you mean monitors. What is your budget and music preference?

@cellorover thats really good to know. My only concern is how it will impact the input impedance?

basically I’m looking for monitors , I listen almost to all type of music so really mixed genres overall. I thought about some Sonus Faber monitors or Proacs. Badger is around 3k.

Im trying to settle on a preamp between the :

CJ premier 14 , BAT 31SE , ARC Ref3


@cleeds i guess you are probably right about matching a balanced pre.

the ref 5 non se version is far away from my budget, and even the ref3 is stretching me in a way that I’ll have really small budget for speakers . 

the only balanced pre I can think of rn which entering is BAT vk31 se

The CJ will be more open and cleaner than the BAT. Cannot comment on the ARC.



I had the CJ-PV12L and regret not trying replacement tubes. It had two issues that didn’t get resolved in the shop. audible noise at low volume also channel imbalance. it has a balance control, and the noise didn’t increase with the gain, so could "compensate" but got good trade-in value so tried one chassis Rogue Chronus. Not convinced that I got back the 3d soundstage and separation of instruments. I am considering going back to tube pre and ss amp. The CJ was nice, even with the midfi Rotel 1080 amp. Had B&W 683 at the time.


I cannot comment on the pre-amps you are considering because I have no experience with them; but I would consider buying one that is fully balanced. I'll either be buying the new Don Sachs/Lynn Olson preamp (once specs are published) or the Atma-Sphere MP3 for my own use. Let us know what you have left over for bookshelf speakers, that I can make some recommendations on.


@vthokie83 i would go for Atma 3 but there is only 1 available in my country and it’s not from reliable seller I don’t trust him that it’s fully operational gear.


im in a big crossroad but I hope I will solve it. Maybe I’ll audition the premier 14 with my amp and see for my self. I’ll keep you guys updated.


regard the speakers.. let’s say if I get the cj I have around 2-3k budget left.

my room is going to be dedicated and treated it’s 3.45m x 3.70m .. it is actually a bit bigger because there is an entrance (it’s a small living room at the second floor)

hope you can suggest me on some interesting speaker, I’m looking to buy them used of course to maximise my budget.

I thought going with monitors but since I’m gonna treat it I might as well find a smaller floor standing like Proac D20r