Preamp Gain issues with high efficiency speakers

Hey all,

Been having a hard time with my system lately.

I recently got a pair of Zu Soul 6 that are 100db efficient. My power amp is a Conrad Johnson Premier 11 (70wpc) and my Preamp is a Conrad Johnson ET3-SE that has 25db of gain. Source is a streamer (PI2AES) with Denafrips Pontus II DAC, but it is the same regardless of source.

My issue is that even at 1 out of 100 on my preamp, the volume is still quite loud. If I were to turn it up to 30, I would be well north of 95db.

Due to a new baby, most of my listening is at low volumes.

I have been using in line attenuators but I feel like it adds a slight veil to the sound of the music.

I swapped out my Preamp for a Schit Sys passive pre and I could only turn the knob to maybe 7 or 8 pm before it was LOUD. I figured with a passive no gain pre I would be able to have more control over the volume, but this was not the case.

Is this Amp just a bad match for my speakers? I have read that it is better to have your pre running closer to 40-70% so that you are not attenuating the signal too much but I can barely get it to 5-10% before its quite loud.

Any insight, recommendations would be appreciated!









i've also found that in-line attenuators (in my case, rothwells) had a subtle but noticeable affect on the sound, esp. at the high end. that said, i'd also be inclined to try a different passive pre. luminous audio, for example, will match your pre to the speaker efficiency, amp input impedance/sensitivity and source output voltage. i dunno what their return policy is, but they're pretty regular guys and make a good product. 

This is a battle you just aren't going to win with your current gear.. The bandaids mentioned above will help but it doesn't sound like that's a route you want to go. 


I went down this road with la scalas, kt88 push pull amp, and Doge preamp. Tons of gain in the Doge. I tried everything and in the end it really comes down to the right equipment for the speakers. 

Knowing what I know now I would have went low power with low gain or no gain preamp. 


A solid SET amp with a high quality preamp that's low gain should get you there. Sayes or Radu amps/preamps have been fantastic in my systems. 

Good luck on the journey, and congrats on the new little one! 

Unfortunately when you get a component on one end of the audio spectrum… like really efficient or inefficient… a really low power amp… etc. Then you end up committed to carefully swapping out supporting equipment. Then the next move is really hard to make… if it is to switch things out, then you are locked into the strategy.


Band-aides degrade sound… components not really built for your speakers degrade the sound. Your preamp and amp are world class stuff… but not ideal for your speakers.


OP, I would carefully think about the long-term. Would you like to be using these really high efficiency speakers or others like it in 20 years? If so, swap out your amp and maybe preamp to feed your speakers. If not, consider swapping the speaker for mainstream. Otherwise you can end up in a situation where just everything has to get swapped out.

While, it will depend on you. I would cut my losses and swap your speakers for those that sound right to you and are mainstream. But if the speakers are your cup of tea, then swap out your electronics. Lots of research will be required… otherwise you could easily choose an amp that suits your speakers but not the preamp… and maybe not the DAC… then you have a real mess.

I can tell you other top linear tube audio , with top Lundahl transformer preamp 

call Mike at Audio Archon great preamp and several settings for gain actually 3 with a dip switch ,get the 6 sn7  tube , but also has 2 other tube  choices 4 tube total 

you tube has a-great review  breakdown and is superior to the CJ pre in several areas.