Conrad-Johnson ET-3 – High End Stereo Equipment We Buy

McIntosh is one of the most dependable brand names when it comes to high-end audio systems. For years the brand has been recognized by audiophiles throughout the world as equipment that delivers clear and consistent quality in music. McIntosh is probably best known for its amplifiers and preamps, but the company produces many other components and parts for stereo and home theatre.

What are the specs for the Conrad-Johnson ET-3?

25 db
Maximum output:
20 Vrms
utput impedance:
100 ohms
less than .15% THD at 1.0 Vrms output
Frequency response at unity gain:
2 Hz to more than 100Khz
Hum and noise:
98 db below 2.5 v
Tube complement:
1 x 6922
ET3 Optional Phono Stage High Gain Version:
ET3 Optional Phono Stage Low Gain Version:
RIAA Equalization:
+/- .25 db 20Hz to 20kHz
Hum and Noise:
-80dB relative to 10mV input
phase correct
Tube Compliment:
High Gain Version - 3x 12AX7, Low Gain Version - 2x 12AX7, 1x 12AU7
13.125D x 19W x 3.315H inches
Total Weight:
13 lbs.

What else to know about the Conrad-Johnson ET-3?

"CJ has a design philosophy of “less is more.” They’ve been quoted as saying that a design is finished when no more parts can be removed. By minimizing the parts-count, more of the design budget is available to optimize the quality of the remaining components.

This philosophy is evident in the ET3 line stage preamplifier. The large white cylinders in the photo are Teflon capacitors. They are some of the most expensive available, but CJ considers them justified for their dielectric properties and their sound. Also in use are low-noise, metal-film resistors. The parts quality is evident in the low noise floor of the ET3 and in its lively audio presentation.

The ET3 is also fitted with a resistor-ladder, relay-switched volume control. Such a control costs significantly more than the variable-resistance wiper controls found on most preamplifiers (even the most expensive ones), but results in more consistent channel-to-channel balance throughout the entire volume range.

Attention to detail is also present in the smaller things. The gold-plated input and output jacks are of very high quality, and the vacuum tube (a single, dual-triode 6922) is fitted with a pair of flexible ring-dampeners to suppress tube microphonics. I can’t say that the ET3 is a neutral component. Its unique sound signature is audible on every recording. So if you’re one for whom fidelity to the original recording is paramount, you’ll not likely find this preamp to your taste.

I’m a bit surprised at the ET3. The special edition version of this preamp is on most everyone’s recommended-component list. But given the treble emphasis and midrange dynamic exaggerations that the base ET3 model exhibits, I wouldn’t necessarily consider this model a high-end contender. Since I haven’t heard the SE version, it may be significantly more neutral than the base model.

This is not to say that the preamp doesn’t have its charm – only that it isn’t sufficiently neutral to have a long-term place in my system.

If, however, you are looking for a high-resolution, fun-sounding take on music, and rock music in particular, then the ET3 provides it in spades. You’ll be listening more loudly to all your music just because it just sounds so good." - Secrets of Home Theater and Hi-Fi Review, Young & de Silva

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The following images show actual Conrad Johnson equipment purchased by StereoBuyers.