Conrad-Johnson PV-9 Preamplifiers

5/5 (4 Reviews) MSRP : $2950.00

Product Description

vacuum tube preamplifier

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Reviews 1 - 4 (4 Reviews Total)

User Reviews

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

Date Reviewed: October 19, 2015

Bottom Line:   
While this is a current impression (October 2015) of a vintage pre-amplifier, the Conrad-Johnson PV9a, it is an observation of what can be achieved by upgrading this venerable product. It is by chance that I came upon it after a member of our audio group passed away and it was offered for sale directly to members. I was the only one that expressed any interest much to my surprise particularly considering the price that it was offered for. I had always lusted for this particular CJ after reading the Stereophile review in the late 80's and besides, I already had the PV5 at that time and had also owned an PV7. To those familiar with CJ, there is a musicality that these preamps offer to the music that is so compelling, the "golden glow" a coloration of sorts but very appealing to many myself included. These designs appeal to the joy of listening to music.

What caught my fancy with the PV9 was it's huge power supply and the lack of electrolytic capacitors in the power supply, all polystyrenes. After receiving it and putting it in the system I was very impressed with the large sound it presented, also if aural memory serves me correctly, an improvement over the PV5, more detailed and more realistic. I was not completely satisfied as that for all the things I really liked I felt that some of the music was still being hidden and not coming out in comparing to current designs, more expensive of course. I DID however consider it an improvement overall to the Supratek Syrah I also own and several others I have been recently auditioning in my system, better image focus and more accurate soundstaging, more natural timbre. Considering what I spent on the unit and the pluses, build quality, power supply and the wonderful phono stage I started looking into upgrading it.

There were really only two choices to me to consider performing the upgrades, Conrad Johnson or Bill Thalmann of Music Technology in Virginia. CJ has a package deal and there were other things I wanted performed that they wouldn't do in addition to the cost which includes replacing the very large coupling caps with their proprietary teflons. So that left Bill who proved very sensitive to what I was looking to achieve, improve the clarity, dynamics and resolution at the frequency extremes without losing that CJ sound. Bill, who was Technical Director of CJ from their inception to when he left to start Music Technology seemed the logical person to perform the work since he was deeply involved with the design of their products during this era. He indicated that it was rare to see a PV9 coming in for upgrading but he seemed really excited in what could be achieved with the large case and the power supply.

I finally received the preamp back after 2 months of anticipation. My trepidation, concern that I might end up with something so different than what I started with was realized, it was different, SO different but not in an ambiguous way but almost an epiphany. This was short lived (3 days) when the stories of how new capacitors, particularly teflon can go through "changes" well it happened, out of no where, the sound became a bit edgy and 2 dimensional and the intrinsic warmth all but disappeared. Crazy I thought, how can this be? I mean in the middle of a listening session. I though I was going crazy so I put in some recordings that gave me a positive impression initially and still the same results. I decided to let the unit burn in with a signal from the CD player playing continuously. When I listened again 2 days later things were back to that goodness I initially heard but BETTER. I really am going crazy!

In any case I now feel confident that there is a break-in period that will have to be endured until the capacitors finally stabilize which is a big relief. Now to get to the specific improvements that can be expected from upgrading this unit in the hands of a master like Bill. Greater upper frequency extension without brightness or glare but plenty of air, much greater dynamics, both micro and macro, improved bass with greater resolution of low level details. The biggest deal is that the resolution is so improved that timbre is more true. Image focus and soundstage layering is improved as well, a greater natural ebb and flow to the music, so very sweet it is. The sum total is that this exercise has turned a very fine sounding vintage product into the most musically complete preamplifier I've had the pleasure of listening to in my home by a VERY significant margin. Something to consider if you own a PV9 or considering an older CJ. A very good way to economize but attain an ultra high level of musical satisfaction. Starting with a classic design and with better passive parts what can be achieved might end up well beyond your expectation.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   Pre 1995

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Jeff Phillips a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: October 23, 2000

Bottom Line:   
My piece is the PV9-A, which uses 6FQ7 tubes instead of the 5965 in it's previous incarnation. Having owned quite a few of CJ's preamps, this one is my favorite! Coming along on the heels of the Premier 3, the PV9-A retailed for about $2995.00, rather pricey for the PV series. However, it sounds like it should have sported the Premier badge. The Premier 3 had a smoother, less detailed sound. The phono section is truly wonderful. There is plenty of gain for all MM and high to medium output MC cartridges. I use a step-up transformer for my lower ouput moving coils to great effect. Quiet operation with a detailed yet smooth sound makes this a keeper. Highly recommended for the vinyl lover! The Audio Research SP11 Mk II is gray and harsh-sounding in comparison.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   Pre 1995

Price Paid:    $800.00

Purchased At:   internet ad

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by Ralphie a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: February 27, 2000

Bottom Line:   
I didn't realise what I was missing until I bought this preamp. In a word- delicious!
I have to agree with the last review (Hi, Tony!)- with classical music this amp is truly breathtaking. In fact it excels when the musicians do. When you put on a recording by a great artist you are aware of their presence-just like you would be at a live concert! And this doesnt just apply to classical performances. All music sounds better, and great musicians sound , well... like great musicians!
The bottom line? This is a beautiful piece of kit, which will bring you closer to the music and the performers. I keep meaning to write to CJ and thank them!....

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1995

Overall Rating:5
Submitted by tony esporma a an Audiophile

Date Reviewed: February 28, 1999

Bottom Line:   
I've had this baby for over ten years now. I have listened to various Audio Research preamps and to several high end solid state preamps as well.
To my ear, nothing touches the sound of the PV-9's phone preamplifier. Any
one who has a good turntable and a collection of records should listen to
the sound of a CJ preamp.

The sound of the ARC SP-14 is also very seductive, in fact it came all down
to a toss up between an SP-14, a CJ PV-10 and the CJ PV9. The ARC was a bit
too analytical for me, and since I was mixing a system with an ARC power amp
and a pair of Acoustic Energy AE-1s, I felt the all ARC front end was a bit
too 'bright' -as bright as tubes can get.

The PV10 was quite good too, but the PV-9 simply sounded better. It outdid
the competition on dynamics, deep end and soundstage.

For jazz and rock, the SP-14 was better -I think. But for classical music,
the PV-9 simply puts you there. Classic Mid Hall sound that reminds you of
the richness of sound and senses that you get at a concert hall.

Have you ever seen an austere sound hall? Usually they are decked out in the
finest veneers, richest reds and warmest lighting. It balances Sostakovich
and makes Tchaikovsky a bit too syrupy.

That's the PV9. A concert hall sound in the house.

For all these years, I've noted that the ARC and CJ sounds have evolved
towards more neutrality, but the sound of the PV-9 has staid truest to what
I hear from my season seats at OCPAC. And that, folks, is the truest
measure of the High End.

Amp wise, I think the PV9 does better with ARC's stuff. An all CJ system is
too syrupy, and all ARC system is too analytical.


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Duration Product Used:   an Audiophile

Reviews 1 - 4 (4 Reviews Total)

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