Conrad Johnson PV5 Tube Preamplifier

Imagine coming across this in a Craigslist or Audiogon ad: “Tube preamplifier for sale, used briefly 15 years ago.” 

Yowza! If you have any knowledge of tube amps or experience with them, you know there’s a lot to be worried about in that short sentence.

Of the many reasons to be browsing The Music Room’s wide-ranging and gem-filled catalog, the fact that we thoroughly check out and test every piece of gear is up there with the best reasons to do business with us.

Take this lovely vintage Conrad Johnson preamplifier I’m testing, for example. The above sentence came in the seller’s description, so I was justifiably suspicious when firing this up. Besides tube life, I’m thinking about capacitor values drifting when 15 yearsof storage is in play. Capacitors need to be used in order to maintain their precise values, although old caps can be “brought back to life” if they’re not too far drifted, simply by playing music through them for a while. I almost grabbed the variac (which would let me slowly bring up the AC voltage in case of a tube or power supply problem in the circuit), but there was confidence from the seller that the Conrad still works well, so I proceeded normally, the way any customer of ours would.

After waiting for the tubes to warm and hearing that big relay in the back “click,” all I can say about the sound of this preamp is… wow.

Wow. THIS thing has been sitting dormant for 15 years?? It sounds better than some of the pricey new tube preamps I test here. Wow.

What I’m doing, and what TMR is offering, is a full test of a component the way our customer would test it, with his (or her) expectations in mind.

Because of the circumstances, I’m letting this preamp play music for more than a half hour. From my research of it, I know it’s built with military spec parts all over, and it’s generally just completely overbuilt and durable. Still… it’s a tube preamp that, according to the seller, had been stored for a long time.

After 30 minutes of engaging, quick, expansive and musical sound from this old Conrad Johnson, I’m not just ready to give my OK, I want to write about this wonderful thing, and how it is a perfect example of how “curated, cleaned and fully tested by TMR” is the only way anyone should buy used high end audio gear.

Shop with confidence! And do check out this preamplifier, it is a certified Gearhead gem.