Conrad-Johnson PV14L Preamplifiers

PV14L

tube preamp

User Reviews (13)

Showing 1-10 of 13  
Ed P.   AudioPhile [Feb 18, 2015]

Wonderful sounding preamp. I put a set of Mullard tubes in it which CJ themselves sells. Thought the sound was a bit thick with rolled off highs. Bought some early 90s vintage 6C4 Westinghouse tubes for $2 ea. from tubeworld and wow, these tubes really added a lot of air and bass slam that I didn't have before. The preamp was much better but still had a hardness in the midrange. I swapped out the four output coupling caps for some DynamiCaps. Now we have something special. Extended highs, liquid midrange and rock solid bass. You NEED to try this mod. You'll need two 4uF and two 0.1uF caps.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Tom Brown   AudioPhile [Jul 24, 2007]
Strength:

It just sounds right. Really right.

Weakness:

This preamp used a tube that will never be produced again, so buy the preamp and a large supply of the NOS Mullard tubes to keep it running for many years. C-J sold me a matched pair for $42, but Watford Valves has them for much less in unmatched pairs.

I have listened to more expensive audio gear, but I have have never had a better musical experience. When I get ready for perfect audio gear, I will become a million selling writer and purchase something from FM Acoustics. Then I will know I have the best and most perfect audio gear. Until then, I have the best preamp for making me want to vegetate in front of my speakers and just soak up the glorious sound. This is a preamp for music lovers, instead of just those who listen to their gear and suffer from audio nervosa. I have no intentions of ever selling this preamp. I bought 5 extra pairs of tubes to allow me to literally wear it out. It uses a very unusual tube that was never used in the days of classic tube gear as far as audio goes. It's a British military tube that was built to incredibly high standards by Mullard and is quite simply the best 6C4 tube variant that was ever produced. C-J bought up a large supply from the British MOD, and so now we have this wonderful tube preamp for as long as those tubes exist. Those tubes will never go back into production, as the cost would be too high. The build quality of the tubes is quite evident and far better than the RCA 6C4 type I also bought a pair of for comparison.

Customer Service

C-J service is top notch. Period.

Similar Products Used: Nothing else in this price range that I ever heard can truly compare.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Philco50   Audio Enthusiast [Feb 04, 2005]
Strength:

It just sounds right, like the company slogan says. It sounds like it just lets go of the notes. Nothing is forced or fake sounding. Very high quality of circuit components.

Weakness:

I wish it had a better remote than the flimsy plastic wand.

Fabulous sound. Very detailed with very little of the old C-J golden tube glow. The sound is very close to neutral and wonderfully detailed and lively. The music pulls you in. Almost entirely free of any listening fatigue. I have heard much more expensive units that sounded no better. Mine has the upgraded NOS Mullard M8080 tubes.

Similar Products Used: I never owned anything else quite in this range. I beats everything else that my friends own.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Audionut36   AudioPhile [Aug 08, 2003]
Strength:

Musical Level/balance control Number of inputs

Weakness:

Uses the out-of-production 6C4 tube Remote is so-so

I was looking for something a tad more musical than my Cary, and the PV14L Series II did the trick. Not only that but I got a preamp with a killer level/balance control and more inputs.

Similar Products Used: Cary SLP-50B AR LS-15
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Will Daddy   Audio Enthusiast [Apr 25, 2003]
Strength:

Characteristic "warm" tube sound Excellent soundstaging Great looks!

Weakness:

Cheap remote Slightly warped case

A couple of months ago, I made the jump from mass market garbage to high-end sound, so that will be the perspective of my review. If you like tube sound (and boy do I) then you will like this preamplifier. Soundstage is open and airy with rich, warm tube sound. The break-in period is very reasonable and the unit warms up in about 45 minutes. In comparison to the Musical Fidelity A3.2CR (a very good preamp), I preferred the richer, warmer sound of the CJ. Very comparable sound to the Audio Research SP16L preamp; you wouldn't go wrong with either. As noted in many other reviews, the remote is very cheap and I'm a bit disconcerted that the unit doesn't quite "sit" level on the rack, but those are minor complaints. If you can stomach the price of good gear, abandon your mass market electronics!

Similar Products Used: Musical Fidelity A3.2CR Audio Research SP16L
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
3
sirini mupparapu   Audio Enthusiast [Jan 19, 2003]
Strength:

Quiet, versatile. Get the MKII upgrade. It's worth it.

Weakness:

Remote. But it works.

Ahhhh, It sounds great. The CJ costs a little more than some of the others, but It's a better product IMO. I have reached nirvana with this piece and have the best of both worlds. Presence, soundstage, tone, warm sounding, it's all there. Power by a Solid state power amp, It makes great music. Using the bypass (Home theater) feature allows me to connect my Lexicon MC-1 preamp to it and use the front speakers for both Music and HT. My vinyl sounds muy bien and my movie watching hasn't missed a beat. Versatile, sweet sounding and when warmed up it's hard to imagine any better sound. (I should find a woman like that) Coltrane and Miles never sounded so good. BTW, using the home theater bypass allows the use of your sub woofer. Real nice.

Similar Products Used: Lexicon MC-1, Parasound Amps, Music Hall, Celestion speakers,
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
Philip Canard   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 15, 2002]
Strength:

The best at this price point when all is considered. The full-featured remote control capability is something you will never give up once you get used to it.

Weakness:

There are none provided that you install the correct type of low-noise preamp valves. A zero-feedback design cannot reduce any noise that is not part of the audio signal. You will have to be careful in your selection of proper valves if you buy from a source other than CJD.

This is an update of my earlier review. I called up CJD and complained about the noisy valves in my PV14L. Knut Ryerson sent me a pair of NOS Mullard M8080/CV4058 valves under warranty to replace the ones installed. Customer service is a top priority at CJD, and the company is very stable unlike many of the other "latest and greatest" that the audio review mags tend to hype up. CJD is truly a class act. The NOS Mullard valves are very quiet and ultra detailed with no harshness to the sound. Knut said these were the best of the 6C4 family of valves that CJD had ever found. Guitarists and organists that use Ampeg and Hammond amps would probably agree, as Watford Valves of England says they are the best and most detailed of the 6C4 types that they sell. I bought 8 valves from them at a cost of around $112 including carriage. They are exactly the same as the CJD valves, except for slight lettering changes and the fact that CJD did not test them. Watford Valves has a good test facility, so you can order with confidence, or go with the CJD valve set for the best warranty. As I mentioned previously, since 6C4 type NOS valves are still readily available at decent prices, you can afford to experiment and stock up on the best ones. The designation of PV14L is no mistake; it is basically an economized version of the discontinued Premier 14 preamp that introduced the 100-step discrete resistor attenuator that operates under microprocessor control and allows very fine 0.7 dB steps and very wide volume range, unlike most other stepped attenuators you will see, even very expensive ones. The sound is captivating and utterly musical, easily 5 stars at this price point. If you want better sound, with no increase in remote control capability or input/output versatility, then go for one of the MUCH higher priced Premier models. The PV14L is surely a giant killer and easily worth the upgrade cost from a new PV10L preamp (go for a used PV10 of whatever version you need if you are cash strapped). I plan on getting the EV1 phono stage by late summer at the latest, and will post a review afterwards. The PV14L is a modern classic and easily destined to be one of CJD's most popular models of all time. It certainly deserves to be. Please note that it is a hybrid design as it uses an FET source follower for low output impedance.

Similar Products Used: B&K Pro-10MC, Hafler DH-110, homebuilt zero-feedback mu-follower tubed preamp.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Philip Canard   Audio Enthusiast [May 18, 2002]
Strength:

Quality construction, not considering the remote. Wonderfully rich and smooth (but lively) CJ sound that will seduce you. Easily 4 stars for sound in the absolute sense. Made from top shelf components that will last a long time (no electrolytics to go bad after a few years of steady use), so 5 stars for value at this price point. Good looking. 6C4 NOS tubes are still readily available and cheaper than most, so you will not break the bank when you decide to experiment with tube rolling.

Weakness:

Better get an extra remote if you plan on keeping this preamp for many years. It''s the only chintzy looking thing I have found so far. The balance control is not available on the front panel, you must use the remote. Sound will not be as good as any current production CJ Premier tube preamp that eliminates the cathode follower by using several triodes in parallel.

Right out of the box, this preamp was performing like a champ as soon as it had warmed up. It''s not perfect, but better than you would expect for the price paid with all it''s features. The main nit I have to pick is the fact that there is more noise than my homebuilt premap has when the volume is cranked all the way up. It is not noticeable at normal listening levels and it is tube noise rather than hum. One channel is a bit worse than the other, but still not noticeable from listening position. Rich, smooth, dynamic, and detailed is how I would describe the sound. Having a full-featured remote control (volume, seven inputs, balance, and mute) is icing on the cake, even if it does look chintzy. The nice thing is that it is very light, slimline at just over an inch wide, and ergonomic. Mine works OK, and that''s the most important thing. Maybe CJ would sell you a machined remote from one of their Premier preamps if you coughed up a couple hundred bucks. I like not having to get up to adjust anything, and that''s better than having an oversized machined remote that only does volume like I saw on some preamps. This preamp seems to be made well enough to last me the rest of my life if I chose to do so. The RCA jacks look really nice, and the unit is triple fused. The preamp mates very nicely with my CJ MF2250 amp (another giant killer at the price. See the MF2250/MF2500 reviews). The sound is quite lively without being irritating. My homebuilt preamp uses zero feedback, lots of film caps, regulated and pi-filtered B+ and regulated heater supplies, and NOS RCA tubes. It compared favorably to a CAT SL1 when we compared them in the same system one night at an audiophile meeting with Steven Stone from Stereophile in attendance. Well, the PV14L sounds similar to my unit, so I know it is competitive with an early CAT SL1 unit. You may find an early CAT SL1 on the used market for the same price, but you do not have the remote control features or warranty. Time passes without notice as I find myself lost in the music. This unit does not use the Premier type of gain stage where several triodes are run in parallel in order to eliminate the need for a cathode follower. Nevertheless, it sounds very good indeed. I doubt you will find a better sounding preamp at this price with as many features. CJ chose 6C4 tubes that are still readily available and very cheap as NOS items

Similar Products Used: B&K Pro-10MC, Homebuilt zero-feedback tube preamp, Hafler DH-110.
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
j ragan   Audiophile [Aug 23, 2001]
Strength:

warm but accurate, beautiful soundstage, takes "edge" off
some older, "digital-sounding" CD's

Weakness:

Chintzy remote

I previously was using a Krell KAV 300i integrated to run a pair of Revel Studios. About 2 months ago I upgraded to a McCormack DNA-2 power amp, and compared the C-J PV14 pre-amp to the Krell 300i (which can also function as a pre-amp). I preferred the C-J, albeit by a relatively small margin (i.e. the Krell certainly didn't sound bad). Overall, the upgrade was ca. 75% from the McCormack and 25% from the pre-amp, judging by this comparison (i.e. as soon as the McCormack went into the system I heard a tremendous difference, whereas A/B comparisons between the Krell and C-J were smaller differences). I found the C-J to have a warmer sound, particularly on older, "digital-sounding" CD's, which were much less fatiguing on the C-J. The Krell was the C-J's equal on bass speed, definition, and punch, but not superior (perhaps a higher end Krell pre-amp would be). But the soundstaging, imaging, and tube warmth of the C-J coupled with the solid-state McCormack power amp was overall a better combination, in my opinion.

Similar Products Used: Krell 300i
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Glen Brown   Audiophile [Aug 30, 2001]
Strength:

Wonderful sound stage. Takes the edge off of hard sounding
cds. And sounds great with my maggie 1.6 speakers

Weakness:

The cheap remote came that came with it, but the place I purchased it from gave me the rc 20 remote that goes with the next step up in the pre-amp chain and it seems to be cut from a solid block of metal. One helluva remote!

The sound is rich smooth and mellow. Sound stage of the insturments were very precisely define and not smeared. This preamp increased the amount of time that I could listen to badly recorded harsh sounding cds four fold!!!!
The PV14 preamp combined with the Conrad Johnson MF 2500 power amp and my Sony 777sacd player and 1.6 magnaplaner speakers that I have are a match made in heaven.

Similar Products Used: Adcom 565, Rogue 66, Nad 118
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
Showing 1-10 of 13  

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