Conrad Johnson – an American Classic High-end Audio Equipment Manufacturer

When one thinks about ‘classic’ American high-end audio equipment manufacturers one automatically thinks about Conrad Johnson.
There a particular sound or ‘voicing’ that one associates with American audio, it’s generally full, bloomy, delightful through the midrange and extended in the bottom end. It contrasts with the UK sound, which is generally brighter, more detailed and more extended in the highs. The Conrad Johnson sound is the American sound, they’re one and the same.

Around since the mid-seventies and founded by two serious audiophiles – Dr. William Conrad and Dr. Lewis Johnson, Conrad Johnson have become an established landmark in the American high-end.
In the 70’s Conrad / Johnson launched their assault on the market by refining a vacuum-tube preamplifier. This device became the benchmark for amplification and set CJ aside as the new leader in the audio industry.
Over and over Conrad Johnson have been able to reinvent the company and develop new products which have routinely been ranked among the most musically satisfying, not just in the USA, but world-wide.
It was 1977 with the emergence of the first all-tube preamplifier, that PV1 when CJ first hit a home-run in the audiophile market. Later, in 1978 came the classic MV75 power amplifier. The MV75, perhaps more so than any other Conrad Johnson product, cemented their place in high-end audio history.
And the products keep on rolling. 1979 saw the release of the CJ Premier One, their first venture into the high power arena, a 200 watt per channel all tube power amp and credited by The Absolute Sound Magazine as the finest sounding power amplifier of that decade.

1983 – Came the Premier Three and the PV5 along with more accolades from the audio press.
Over the next decade CJ hit the market with classics such as the MC7, SD1, Premier 7, Premier 8, and in 1997 the jewel in the CJ crown, the Anniversary Reference Triode Preamplifier (ART). Still regarded to this day as one of the finest and most natural sounding preamps, this all tube line-stage design is fast become a collectors item on the high-end stage.
In the mid 80’s, Conrad Johnson effectively cast of the branding of being an all-tubed amplifier designer and released the MC7 phonostage/preamplifier

The Conrad Johnson design philosophy is to “enable the listener to enjoy the emotional experience of music performances”. It isn’t surprising then that vacuum tubes feature heavily in their designs. There are many varied approaches to tubed amplifier designs and modern day iterations in many instances tend to try and mimic the sound of solid state amplification. But not CJ, they remain committed to unveiling the true heart and soul of a tube design in each of their products. Rich, emotional, full bodied like a fine English Port.
What the future holds for this American icon is uncertain. Will they continue to remain true to their roots or bend with the winds of change. Change, in the audio industry, tends towards convenience over ultimate sound quality, but it is unlikely that we’ll see any such compromise in Conrad Johnson audio products.
It is to be hoped so, anyway.