Conrad-Johnson Classic Preamplifier Reviewed

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Conrad_Johnson_Classic_Preamp.gifWhen a company whose history is filled with award-winning products creates a product named Classic, you know it must be something special. The $1,750 Classic from Conrad-Johnson is their entry-level tube line-stage; it is also available with a phono stage for $2,500.

The Classic is the culmination of everything that C-J has learned over its storied thirty-plus-year history, in a package priced within reach of nearly every music lover. As this is a budget-oriented product, one could assume that the designers were forced to work with lesser-quality components or perhaps skimp on sound quality. This is Conrad-Johnson after all, so that's just not going to happen. The Classic is filled with all the good stuff you would expect in a C-J product, including precision, metal-film resistors and polypropylene and polystyrene capacitors. The heart of the line-stage is a single triode amplifier direct-coupled to a high-current output stage. The phono section adds two triode amplifiers, separated by a passive RIAA equalization network. Both circuits operate with zero feedback and are designed to faithfully recreate the natural textures, harmonies and spatial information from any recording. The Classic provides five single-ended inputs and a pair of outputs should your system include bi-amplification.

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• Find an AV receiver to pair with the Classic.

There is no defying the laws of economics, however, so certain features are missing on the Classic that you will find on its more feature-laden siblings. Most obvious is the lack of a remote control and the understated though still handsome styling. The face is finished in classic Conrad-Johnson champagne, with the rest of the chassis black. Two large knobs provide source select and volume control functions. A sturdy toggle switch controls power and a single red LED indicates that the unit is operating. The Classic is beautifully crafted with heavy gauge materials, built with the intention of being passed down for generations.

Read about the high points and low points of the Classic Preamplifier of Page 2.

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