The Conrad-Johnson Evolution 2000 power amplifier is a beast of an amp, weighing-in at a shade below 115 LBS. It’s quite physically imposing too, its dimensions, for those trying to figure out whether or not it will fit in their rack are: 22D x 19W x 10H inches.

Aesthetically, it’s rather plain looking, clad with the standard Conrad Johnson gold faceplate, rectangular black box with modestly sized heatsinks to each side, and rather cheap binding posts to the rear. It has a captive power cord, which clearly won’t please many of the audiophiles out there.

Conrad Johnson Evolution 2000 Power Amplifier for sale

The raison d’être of the early 90’s built Evolution 2000 was as an all-out assault by Conrad Johnson on the high-end, high-power amp market – a zero-feedback power amp that could drive virtually any speaker with ease. My understanding is that the Evo 2000 was a cost-no-object approach to building a powerful amplifier that retained something of the CJ house-sound yet didn’t wimp out when up against a low sensitivity speaker load. To achieve this end they designed the Evolution amp as a hybrid, with a tube input stage and MOSFET outputs to deliver 200 watts into a 8 ohm speaker load. Of course taking the hybrid route created an amp that broke away somewhat from the CJ sound of the early 90’s era, it doesn’t quite have the warmth and fluidity of their pure tube designs.

CJ made a couple hundred or so of these beasts then ceased production due primarily to the high cost of parts and manufacturing. Nowadays, in a market gone crazy, this might easily be a $20,000 power amp, perhaps more.

Rear of Conrad Johnson Evolution 2000 Power Amplifier

How does the Conrad Johnson Evolution 2000 sound?

I would describe the sonic signature of this amp as bridging the gap between the classic Conrad Johnson sound of the 80’s and the 90’s generation of Audio Research Corporation products; which were less euphonic than CJ, more neutral and a little more true to the source. So it isn’t warm by classic CJ standards but it retains something of the tube presence and richness of tone that CJ were and are still famous for.

In many ways this amp has what I would call a modern tube sound and not the classic, lush tube sound of the 80’s.  It has punch and vibrancy with great detail and throws a huge soundstage, front to back and side to side. Images have space around them and there’s a great sense of ambience retrieval, though images are not quite as palpable as those rendered by some of the better all tube designs.

Buy Conrad Johnson Evolution 2000 Power Amplifier

On track 2 from the Dire Straits ‘Love Over Gold’ CD – Private Investigations, there’s excellent side to side and front to back layering of all elements in the soundscape, with realistic air and space around each element and a good sense of room ambience. The notes from Knopfler’s nylon stringed guitar stop and start with a realistic sense of dynamics, each note rendered with impressive leading and trailing edge, but not quite the fullness and depth of tone as one might encounter from a quality full tube power amp. The track’s crescendo is very impressive in the way it leaps from the speakers unconstrained and uncompressed dynamically. Even though most of my listening was done through the fairly efficient Dunlavy III’s (92 db), the amp sounds every bit as powerful as it looks and never appears to break out in anything close to a sweat. (it does run rather warm to touch, but never gets hot. Good ventilation is recommended).

The pairing of Dunlavy III and Conrad Johnson Evolution 2000 drew me toward selecting tracks with high dynamic contrast, John Williams’ ‘Rosewood’ CD is a veritable feast for the ears with the Evolution 2000. For example, the  percussion on ‘The Town Burns’ was simply startling; pure and uncompressed and leaping forth from the speakers with an incredible sense of presence and scale.

Tears For Fears Vinyl

Vinyl playback was a joy with the Evolution 2000 in the system. The combination of the Dr. Feickert Volare, Origin Live Silver arm and Ortofon Cadenza Bronze, breaths a much warmer and smoother sound through the Dunlavy III’s, than that from CD. My long time agony-album which I always use when I’m evaluating anything new in the system, is ‘Tears For Fears – The Seeds of Love’.

The album was recorded digitally then remastered / mixed in the analog domain. It can sound harsh, thin and compressed whenever there’s something not quite right in the system, be it an interconnect that runs a little too much on the bright side, or a power amp that runs a little too lean. With the Conrad Johnson Evolution 2000, each track was laid bare, each instrument and vocalist appeared in its own space in a deeply layered soundstage with no hint of dynamic compression outside of that inherent in the recoding medium.

Highs were crystalline, never becoming harsh. Lows moved plenty of air in the room and were tight and well defined.

Dr. Feickert Turntable Review

 

Conclusion

The Conrad Johnson Evolution 2000 draws on the many years’ experience conrad-johnson had already acquired back in the early 90’s with both vacuum tube and solid-state circuits.

It has seemingly limitless power into any sane loudspeaker load and runs true to the recording rather than saturating the sound with tube lushness.

It checks all of the audiophile boxes, such as transparency, frequency extension both high and low, soundstage in all directions, and delivers air and space around soundstage elements in spades. Its few weaknesses in some ways are also its strengths – it’s resolving and revealing of the any item in the system chain that is lean or edgy, including interconnects and speaker cables. It doesn’t have the classic tube sound, the euphonic lushness of its classic CJ brethren, as such it is free to reveal all of the subtle musical cues hidden behind the haze of a lesser tube amp.

If you can find one of these used for around $2500 or less, I’d suggest it’s an excellent buy.

Rooze

July 2019

Associated review equipment included:

  • Dr. Feickert Volare Turntable with Origin Live Silver and Ortofon Cadenza Bronze
  • Music Hall MMF 11 Turntable with Project Carbon 9cc tonearm and Oracle Audio anti-vibration kit, Goldring 2400 cartridge.
  • Cambridge Audio Azure 851C CD Player
  • Thor Audio TA-1000 MKII Preamp
  • Dunlavy SC-III Loudspeaker
  • Various interconnects including Bogdan Audio Toto RCA, Analysis Plus, Harmonic Technology ProSilway II
  • Speaker cables – Tara Labs RCS Master series, Paul Speltz Anti-Cables, AudioQuest Biwires
  • Live Edge Equipment Racks and Stands
  • Various room treatments, tweaks, accessories and bizarre audiophile paraphernalia.

Feickert Volare Turntable Review

 

From the manufacturer’s archives at https://conradjohnson.com/vintage-conrad-johnson-products/

The EV2000 offered the tonal integrity of the finest vacuum tube amplifiers combined with the speed and detail of superior transistor designs. Individual voices and instruments are faithfully reproduced and remain tightly focused on the soundstage no matter how complex the musical passage.

Features:

Inputs / Outputs

  • power switch
  • left and right RCA input jacks
  • left and right output jacks (5 way binding posts)

 

Specifications:

  • Power Output – 200 watts per channel from 20Hz to 20KHz with no more than 1% THD or IMD, both channels driven into 8 ohms.
  • Input Sensitivity: 900mV to full power
  • Response: 20Hz to more than 20kHz , +0, -.5dB
  • S/N Ratio: 96 dB relative to max output

Mechanical:

  • Dimensions: 22D x 19W x 10H inches
  • Total weight: 114 lbs.

Download Owner’s Manual