CJ ET3SE OR 16LS Series 2


I'm a complete neophyte -- especially when it comes to tube gear. I'm currently looking for a tube preamp to replace my "first system" solid state integrated. My budget is $3000 or less (would love to be less!). So, I'm looking to find something used, most likely. After a lot of reading, I'm pretty sure I want to get a used CJ ET3SE. But I wonder if I might not get more bang for the buck waiting in the weeds for a good 16L Series 2 in my price range. Other preamps I'm also considering: McIntosh C220 and 2200, Van Alstine FET Hybrid, Joule Electra LA 150 MKII.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to audition any of these. So, I'm really hoping for some input from people who have heard first hand and can provide advice.

Thanks so much!

My current system: Magnepan 12s, Linn LP12 (rebuilt Valhalla, Cirkus, Ittok, Adikt), Musical Surroundings Phonomena, NAD C320 BEE with power bypassed for a pair of Outlaw 2200 monoblocks.
I had a 16LS, followed by an Art, both series 1. The 16 handily beat my Prem 14 it replaced. The jump to the Art was smaller, so the 16 IMO was the sweet spot in that line. I have not heard the series 2, or the ET3SE.

I have owned a great variety of cj preamps over the years. A couple of questions:

Do you need a phono pre? if so, the ET3SE with phono is the most economical way to get great sound in a cj set up. The ET 3se is very very good.

If phono is not needed, in my humble opinion, the LS 17s2 is the biggest bargain in the lineup. The 17s2 if you can find it, is one of the first to use the teflon caps. The 16s2 did not have the teflon caps. Of course they are hard to find. The ET 3se linestage only is still a great bargain and one I think you would enjoy. It is also a more modern piece with less age issues.

Thank you both for your insight. This is very helpful.

I currently have a phono preamp I've been pretty happy with (Musical Surroundings Phonomena), so although I'd love to get a built-in CJ phono stage it's not a must-have.

Sorry to be so ignorant, but what exactly are the age issues with preamps? Is it technology or just wear and tear? In other words, is a newer amp like the ET3SE perhaps going to be less problematic? Or were you just referring to performance enhancements a newer unit may have versus an older one.

Again, much appreciation for the advice!

Both preamps are very good but I think you really need to do some listening before you buy anything. There's no other way to get it right. That said, if you are in a position where you can't demo, either one would be a huge improvment over your NAD. But that's just my opinion. Yours is the one that counts.