The Conrad-Johnson ET2 preamplifier occupies the middle tier of the current C-J line, between the entry-level Classic and the high-end CT5. I am purposely excluding the stratospheric GAT, because it is limited to 250 units that will go to some very lucky and wealthy owners. The $3,800 ET2 was designed to make access into the world of high-end tube preamplifiers more attainable, while maintaining the legendary performance that Conrad-Johnson is known for.
Cosmetically, the ET2 is a virtual clone of its beautiful sibling, the CT5, but only two-thirds of its height. Its face is finished in classic Conrad-Johnson champagne and features the attention-grabbing tube cage, front and center. The amount of machining required to wrap the face behind the cage in a semi-circle must be staggering, but it is absolutely stunning. The left side of the panel houses the power and input selection buttons, along with LEDs that indicate which input is operating. To the right of the tube cage is a large round display, which indicates volume level. Buttons for volume up and down, as well as mute, are located below and to the right of the window. Processor loop functions are below left. The overall design is classic, yet modern and sophisticated.
The ET2 was designed to happily coexist with a home theatre by providing a unity gain processor pass-through, as well as seven single-ended inputs. The analog crowd has also been remembered, as there are two optional $1,250 phono stage choices, high and low gain, to allow for perfect cartridge matching. Internally, the circuitry consists of a zero-feedback single-ended triode amplifier, using a high-current vacuum tube, then a buffer stage, which lowers the impedance to make cable and amplifier matching a non-issue. The simplicity of the circuit is a Conrad-Johnson trademark and helps preserve tonal accuracy and musicality.
Read about the high points and the low points of the ET2 on Page 2.