Preamp thoughts- Conrad Johnson ET7 S2 V McIntosh C2600

I still haven’t found a preamp I can live with after parting company with a Allnic Audio L-5000 DHT some months ago.

 I had a brief and enjoyable affair with a nice Electrocompaniet pre, which was wonderful in many ways, big, bold, warm and luscious - but ultimately lacking a little in resolving powers. A step up to their latest iteration is a tempting possibility.

Another short encounter ensued, this time with a more integrated solution, a Devialet Expert Pro 220 CI..... nope, not my cup of tea.

So, Conrad Johnson ET7 S2 V McIntosh C2600.

Anyone have any experience with both of these units and care to shed light on strengths/weaknesses one versus the other.
i like big, warm, bold but with extension, air, ambience, detail etc. My Allnic was almost perfect in so many ways but a touch too neutral. 
I’ve looked closely at a lot of preamps including Aric Audio, MicroZotl, Don Sachs, and now the more mainstream units from CJ and McIntosh.

Phono, DAC not necessary but I would like a pair of outs for subs.
Preamp to pair with Thor TPA 60 KT77 monoblocks, but other amps, including solid state will come and go (part time reviewer).
Speakers are Dunlavy SC-III or Castle Harlech or any of a variety of other speakers that come and go. Vinyl mostly, some digital via Aurender N100H / Moon Audio 380D. PSA P10 to keep everything clean.

Up to around $6k on the used market but flexible.

Thanks for any input!!


I have the older model C2500 preamp and find it quite neutral. It is dead quiet with excellent dynamics.  It cost me $4200 used and worth every penny. 
I had not listened to McIntosh for years, but the MC275 VI got my attention. I almost bought one for a third system. So, this lead me to listened to some of their other products. Based on the price, the C2500 is a very good preamp, but to my ears, its could be better - cleaner on the bottom end and a more open on top. For the same money I would get the Herron 360. The CJ ET7S2 is more expensive than both and is 2x your 6K budget. I used an ET5 and a Herron VTSP3 for years. The ET7S2 is many steps ahead of the ET5 and is closer to the GATS2 in its performance (read the reviews, they are spot on). The ET7S2 could easily be your last preamp. If you can find one used (probably no less than $7500), go for it. But if your budget is set, go with the Herron. The real question is whether a new preamp will make you want to change out your Thors. 
Just a thought since you like the Thor sound someone is selling a TA-100 preamp and a pair of TPA-30 monos. You could possibly get him to part with the preamp separately.

Never heard Thor and no relation to the seller just remembered seeing that ad.
In general, I prefer the CJ products over the McIntosh but I would have no problem putting a McIntosh tube amp in my system, which currently has CJ tube's.
@jond  Thanks for the link. I did own the TA-1000 preamp at the same time as the Thor monoblocks, and whilst it's an excellent preamp, particularly for the low $2k's that it seems to fetch, it isn't the best preamp in that price range by any means.
The Thor monoblocks on the other hand....I've yet to hear anything that comes close. I've had some similarly priced SS gear that's well-reviewed and respected and the TPA-60's have been in a league above. So I'm just trying to find a preamp that makes me feel the same way I do about the power amps....
I sold a CJ CT-5 a while back and it had that nice liquidity that I'm looking for. So I'm thinking the ET-7 might be a safe shot. But then I've never owned a McIntosh and some of the reviews on their newer gear seem really positive....

@cellorover  - Thanks, that's good feedback on the ET-7MKII. 
Rooze. Glad to share some thoughts. IMO, the ET5 with a Mazda 7308 NOS or Cca NOS is better than the C2600 so maybe that is a baseline for you. The Herron gives the ET5 as good run for the money, and may edge it out. Then there is the ET7S2. As I said, it is a budget call. Enjoy the journey.

@rooze What did you end up going with? 

I've found myself in the same boat.  ~$6k used budget and I also owned a CT5 that I really liked and it paired superbly with the Luxman M800a, which I have incoming, when I heard the combo 12 years ago.  So I was thinking ET7 S1/S2 would be a safe bet.  But I've also enjoyed some of the newer McIntosh stuff, namely the MC452, so looking into the C2600 brought me here.

@eugene81 I had a brief spell with a ET5 then moved to an Emotive Audio Epifania. The ET5 was typically CJ, nice mids but lacking in resolving ability, just not very transparent.
The Emotive Epifania is the best I’ve owned. A notch up in transparency and dynamics than the Allnic L5000 DHT. A fantastic preamp. I’m thinking of another change pretty soon and the new Allnic L10000 is on the list. My days with CJ are probably over unless I downgrade at some point and go back to a CA200.


rooze that Emotive Epifania looks lucious!   I'm still using a CJ ET5 myself with a Seimans NOS - always been a big fan of CJ preamps.  

It mates well with my Allnic H3000 phono stage and Thiel speakers.

My short list now includes the Emotive and the ET7 v2.  

Nice I've ogled Emovitve Audio preamps more than a few times they look like great designs!

@rooze You've sparked my interest in Allnic, so I just pulled the trigger on an L-3000 MkII to get my feet wet.

@eugene81 Good luck with the L-3000, I'm sure you'll love it. I've had their A-6000 300b monoblocks for a couple months now and they're tremendous. I've had three Allnic products and they've worked reliably, sounded wonderful, and are excellent value.

Let us know how it sounds!


@rooze I’ve been running the L3000 MkII with a new-to-me Luxman M800a power amp for a week and it is easily the best sound I’ve achieved in my system. I tried running my dCS Paganini DAC directly to the Luxman and a significant amount of the magic was lost. The L3000 is the most transparent tube preamp I’ve had, but also brings a massive soundstage, sweetness, finesse, presence, long decay, etc. For the past couple of years I’ve been trying all sorts of integrated amps and even power amps direct from DAC. This was after a several years-long hiatus in the hobby, and the Allnic is making me realize that I’ve forgotten how much a good line stage shapes the sound of a system.

Anyway, thanks to you I’m now a big fan of Allnic and will probably end up hunting for a DHT.

@eugene81 Glad to hear your Allnic pre is working out. I've had the same experience as you trying to run directly from a digital source to a power amp, counter-intuitively it always seems to sound worse.

Allnic gear is a real 'sleeper' in the high-end world, it should be far more prominent than it is.