Old School

Conrad-Johnson PV-1 Preamplifier

The audio world is sometimes wacky indeed. In the first issue of TONE-Audio, this column featured my first real high-end preamplifier, the Hafler DH-101. Always the packrat, I recently found a box with a bunch of old receipts, for you guessed it, hi-fi gear. As it turns out, before I got my hands on a Conrad-Johnson PV-2, I actually owned a PV-1, Conrad-Johnson’s first preamplifier. To be historically correct, this preamplifier was first introduced as the Conrad Johnson Preamplifier in 1977 and then a bit later renamed the PV-1.

I bought mine in the fall of 1978, along with my neighbor Tony, and our mutual friend Jon, who was working for the local CJ dealer. What are the chances of three guys living within two blocks of each other all having a PV-1? Actually Jon bought his a bit earlier, convincing Tony and I that we needed one too. Already, the upgrade bug had bit! I ended up having the PV-1 for about a year before trading up to the new PV-2, but Tony hung on to his for a long time…

Working on my review for the flagship CJ preamp, the ACT2 (soon to be the ACT2/ series2), why not revisit the beginning of the gene pool? A quick check on EBay revealed that PV-1s were selling for about $400.

A quick call to Jon, now at Ultra Fidelis in Milwaukee, Wisconsin proved interesting and odd. “Wow, you are in luck; Tony still has his and he finally wants to trade up. I’ll box it up and send it your way!”  Back then, I had lent Tony my box to ship his PV-1 back to CJ for repairs and by the time I thought of getting it back, I already had a PV-2. In the old days we weren’t so mental about OBM.

His PV-1 arrived on my doorstep a few days later, with everything in good visual order. As strange as it is to get a one owner PV-1 over 30 years later, from the guy that used to live down the street, the plot thickens. When it arrived, it was not only in the original packaging, it was in MY original packaging! The world of high end audio is indeed wacky.

I immediately put it in a system and fired it up! A few minutes later, I was listening to vintage Conrad – Johnson sound; definitely a much warmer tonality than my ACT 2, but engaging, as all CJ components are. That this preamplifier survived all these years with no more than a tube change or two is a solid testament to Lew Johnson and Bill Conrad’s build quality. And a wonderful memory.

-Jeff Dorgay