Conrad-Johnson ET2 Preamplifier Reviewed

Conrad-Johnson ET2 Preamplifier Reviewed

Aside from Audio Research and McIntosh there isn't a more renowned US based electronics manufacturer then Conrad Johnson. Their latest ET2 preamplfier sits in the middle of Conrad Johnson's lineup of preamps resting comfortably between their entry level Classic and CT5.

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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.

Additional Resources
• Read more stereo preamplifier reviews by the staff at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Explore amplifier pairing options in our Amplifier Review section.

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.

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High Points
- The ET2 is stunning to look and is beautifully constructed. Its stands apart from the rest of its competitors with an elegance that is hard to match.
- The ET2 was designed with flexibility in mind, including home theater pass-through capability, as well as a circuit design to virtually eliminate amplifier-matching issues.
- Simple circuit design interferes as little as possible with the source signal and preservation of tonal accuracy and musicality. 
- The ET2's build quality is off the charts.

Low Points
- If you have balanced cables in your system, then the ET2 will cause all sorts of headaches, as it's a single-ended-only unit. Your choices are to use adapters, which I personally despise, or buy new cables. I truly feel a preamp of this caliber should offer balanced options.
- The styling is very polarizing: you either love it or you hate it. Sorry, no other colors are offered.

Conclusion
The Conrad-Johnson ET2 is a beautiful preamp and should integrate quite easily into the most complex audio/home theater systems, provided you don't use balanced cables. The unit was designed by some of the best in the business and has the performance to prove it. If you are looking for a new preamplifier and don't mind a little bling on your equipment rack, the ET2 may be just what you are looking for.

Additional Resources
• Read more stereo preamplifier reviews by the staff at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Explore amplifier pairing options in our Amplifier Review section.

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