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Conrad-Johnson CAV50
22 Reviews
rating  4.82 of 5
MSRP  2495.00
Description: <li>Amplifier Power (ultralinear operation): 45 watts per channel from 30 Hz to 15 kHz at no more than 1% THD, both channels driven into 4, 8, or 16 ohms. <li>Gain (PRE OUT): 20 dB <li>Phase (speaker outputs): phase correct (non- inverting) <li>Phase (PRE OUT): phase inverting <li>Tube Complement: I 12AU7, 2 12AX7, 2 6SN7, 4 EL34 <li>Features: Six line level inputs, including one tape loop. Built in led bias indicators, for easy, instrument-free biasing of the output stage.


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Reviews 1 - 5 (22 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:3
Value Rating:5
Submitted by T Sloan a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: July 8, 2006

Bottom Line:   
Couldn't pass up a chance to audition CJ's classic integrated. I was impressed with its sound - smooth, warm & tuneful. Dynamics were a bit restricted - especially the bass which was not tight and punchy. Where it really fell short for my needs is on power and drive. When compared to my ARC Vsi55, it was so apparent what a lightweight it is - think Cary...Interestingly enough, the ARC is also rated at 50 watts. I think the difference is ARC's much beefier 6550 output tubes compared to the slim and slender sounding EL34s. The CAV 50 would probably be great with some monitors and the like.

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2000



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by R390LM a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: August 29, 2005

Bottom Line:   
I have to say that is one good amp. It's simple, straight foward, and outperforms its competition by far. I love it that it is an integrated unit and delivers a sound that stuns me everytime I turn it on. It may not be Class A on it's own, but with proper tube replacement and matching components (like my Rogers LS3/5A speakers), you can get Class A sound for a very reasonable price.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by Serge Ah-Hee a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: December 19, 2003

Bottom Line:   
Just a Note, I paid 3000$ Canadian

Incredible... I bought the CAV50 after listening to the Bryston 4B SST, 2B SST.
Before the purchase, I was listening music on the Marantz SR19 which drove a pair of Totem Model 1 Signature.

After listening to the CAV50, I can't stand listening to the Marantz anymore.

Anyhow, let's start with the Bryston 4B SST. I have to admit that it was the best solid state amp that I have heard so far. I listened to the Bryston 2B SST, the Arcam Diva 85w. The Bryston was very clear and dynamic. The soundstate was wide and the music was dynamic.

I thought that it sounded great until I listened to the CAV 50. It blew me away, espcially considering that the Bryston is a 300W, and the CAV50 is a 45W tube amp.

The CAV 50 has lucious voice and sweet highs. The image was quite wider, fuller , and the soundstage was 3 dimensional. You can easily perceive the layering of voices, and instrument. When listing to it, you can an eerie feeling, that the soundstage is full. There does not seem to be any holes in the imaging. The bass is very tight and controlled. Overall, the sound was warm as should a tube amp be. What I found amazing is how everything was coherent. I never understood what coherent and musical meant until I listened to it.

My definition of coherent is that all seem to flow smoothly, not mechanical. For example, in a guitar solo, the notes seems to flow one after another. The sound is liquid. The opposite would be a mechanical sounding voicing in which each note seems to be played independently, instead of a continuous flow of notes.

The CAV 50 is very dynamic. You can hear every guitar pluck. Drum and winds will hit you in your face. You swear that the singer is right in front of you. You can actually "feel" the voices and instruments. The amp realy open things up. Singers like Holly Cole really shine. For example, on "I Can See Clearly Now", there is a point where she sing with everything she got, i.e. a nice loud high vocal. Her voice felt like it would climbg without hitting a ceiling I never felt that it was compressed in any way.

Instruments are precisely located, I would even say better than the Bryston and much more than the Marantz. Before I got the CAV50,I tought that the Totem lacked bass. THe Totem's only go down to 50Hz, however, with the CAV 50, the bass was much more present, tighter and richer. Whatever bass the Totem can play, it does it superbly well.

The construction of the amp is quite simple: a volume knob, and a source selector. The Tube are quite something when lights are out!

However, if you have speakers that can go down in bass, the CAV50 may not be powerful enough. On a set of floorstanding Totem Forest speaker, the volume was not as loud as the Totem Model 1. I do not think that this amp is ideal for demanding speakers, but what a great match for the Model 1's.

I am addicted to the sound of this amp.

The combination of the CAV 50 and Totem 1 has so much potential when mated with better components. I listened to it a Arcam Alpha 9, and a Rega Jupiter. The sound just keeps improving. I have yet to find a plateau. I tried a pair of speaker cable, (700$/feet), and the sound just keeps improving.

And the final icing on the cake, I listened the setup with a Chord DAC64. Oh my god, the sound just gets better and better. When does it stop? I guess it depends of your budget ;) With the CAV 50 and Totem I plan to get a Regal CD player, and the Chord DAC , and I should then be in Heaven.

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2003

Price Paid:    $3000.00



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by duke_49 a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: February 14, 2003

Bottom Line:   
First switching it on i was allmost disappointed. the sound coming out of my proac EBS (the best affordable speaker on planet!)was too weak and smooth. because it´s my first tube amp i wasn´t used to the time burning in the tubes. my dealer told me to be patient ---this was a very good advice! after some hours of listening the sound got amazing! i´m now sitting hypnotized, listening to the music. last week i ordered nos tubes. i´m really looking forward to the time the tube will come to me.

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Used product for:   1 to 3 months

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2002

Price Paid:    $2300.00



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Lockleer lynnwood a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: October 22, 2002

Bottom Line:   
Wow, is this integrated amp surprisingly good for the price. I was really amazed at what a clear and musical integrated amp the CAV50 is, particularly with vocals. It's almost eerie how holographically the CAV50 can present vocals on a good recording. Vocals just float between speakers. Even after owning the CAV50 for six months, I still sit there amazed at the sound.
I've been using the CAV50 with a pair of B&W CDM1se's that I use in my second, smaller sound system. The CDM1se's are fairly easy to drive (and not bad sounding for the price), but just for kicks I tried the CAV50 with a pair of Thiel 2 2's that I often use in my more serious sound system. The Thiels can be a fairly tough load for most anything but bigger solid state amps, but very surprisingly, the CAV 50 actually sounded good and had no audible trouble driving the Thiels even at higher than normal listening levels. Of course, I didn't turn the volume up enough to try and shake the room, but then I wouldn't do that with any amp (I want to keep the hearing intact for the long run). Just making a point that this little integrated amp has a lot more guts than I would have guessed possible. Sure, there are better amps and integrated amps out there, but the CAV50 would be pretty hard to beat in its price range.
And as far a service goes, conrad-johnson is simply legendary. Good service is something you don't always get with some of the other high-end manufacturers (just read some of the reviews of other manufacturer's products on this website). Unless you're a damn good electrical engineer or an audiophile savant and can fix your own equipment, you should always give a few points to audio companies with a good reputation for service. Out of the box, one of the EL34 tubes that came with the CAV50 wouldn't bias properly no matter what socket I used it in (can happen with any batch of tubes), so I emailed cj. I live in Washington, DC, (near Fairfax, Virginia where cj is headquartered), and Knut (their service representative) drove a replacement tube over after work the same day. He followed up with phone calls and email.
I know I sound a little gung-ho about this product, but it's done nothing but sound wonderful.

Strengths:
Wonderfully transparent sound.

Weaknesses:
As noted previously on this site, it has no remote control (which apparently was a concession to keep the cost of the CAV5

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   1998

Purchased At:   do not know




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