That’s not really the true ‘finally’ part. These were just the observations made by someone who’s seemingly most aware of dynamics, coherence, articulation and imaging. If I’d been wearing my ‘detail’ hat or my ‘rhythm’ trousers, I’d have been praising the GAT’s detail and its rhythmic properties. In that wholly positive respect, the GAT is protean in its shape-shifting; it sounds good to people especially in they way they want it to sound good, over and above all the other ways it sounds good.
The GAT represents the pinnacle of c-j preamp thinking, but it’s more than that. Over the last few years, the top preamp landscape has been largely redrawn, thanks to a crop of best-ever products. Ayre, Audio Research, Lyra and more have planted flags once more on this high ground. Now, conrad-johnson’s back in town!
If you follow top c-j preamplifiers closely, over the years, they’ve taken up less boxes and got steadily better. The Premier 7 of the late 1980s and Premier 7a of the early 1990s had separate boxes for each channel and a third power supply case. The ART (Anniversary Reference Triode) came along in 1998 to celebrate the company’s then impending 20th anniversary; this had a single preamp box and a separate power supply. Over the years, the ART went through a couple of significant revisions over the years, especially when the company’s original 250 models were expanded by a further 25 units in 2005’s ART3. Meanwhile the ACT preamplifier was launched in the early 2000s as the then-current, one-box limited edition flagship, followed in 2005 by the ACT2. Now, all of that’s gone… replaced by the GAT.
While it’s wonderful for a manufacturer, a retailer and a magazine to have a constant stream of new and exciting products to attract the attention of our respective clients, should a reference point has such a short time at the top before being eclipsed? If the GAT is reaching a new clientele, this isn’t a problem, but I can’t help thinking some of those prospective GAT owners will be considering an upgrade from an ACT2 bought just a few years ago. In fairness, I think most people would rather see the standard being raised by ever-better products whenever they appear than held back because of last year’s line-up, but too regular a series of upgrades can be a source of understandable frustration for those seeking the best of the best. And the problem is the GAT really is the best of the best.
In part, this is a problem of compulsion on the part of the listener (and, in fairness, the reviewer). You want the best and aren’t happy when the best that you own is superseded, making your product now the next-best. I have the same thing with camera lenses – my big Nikon 70-200 zoom has just been replaced with an improved model and, even though there’s nothing wrong with the five-year old lens I currently own, there’s a burning desire to trade up. My current 70-200 lens turned in stellar performance last year and it will do the same next year, even if there’s a more stellar body in the heavens. Sooner or later though, I know I’ll be spanking down the readies, because last year’s best is not best enough. I suspect exactly the same is true for the GAT. –Alan Sircom
Conrad-Johnson GAT Valve (Tube) Preamplifier
Inputs: five line level RCA phono, two processor/record RCA phono
Outputs: two preamp out RCA phono, two processor/record RCA phono
Valves used: 2x 6922 triodes
Gain: 25 dB
Maximum Output: 20V rms
Bandpass: 2Hz to more than 100kHz
Hum and Noise: 100 dB below 2.5V output
Distortion at 1.0 V output: less than .15% THD or IMD
Phase: inverts phase of all inputs at main out
Output Impedance: 100 ohms
Dimensions (WxHxD): 483x122x391mm
Net Weight: 15.9kg
Conrad-Johnson Design, Inc.
Tel: +44(0)208 948 4153