|Conrad Johnson Premier 17 LS Stereo Preamplifier|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers Stereo Preamps|
|Written by Bryan Southard|
|Sunday, 01 July 2001|
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After adequate break-in and warm-up time of over 50 hours, I loaded the vocal delights of David Sylvian’s Dead Bees on a Cake,, (Virgin). In the opening cut "I Surrender," the vocal textures immediately captured my imagination. Sylvian’s voice seemed to take on a life of its own. The vocals had a very silky three-dimensional sound. When compared to how the song played on my similarly-priced reference, the Sonic Frontiers Line 3, I found the vocals to possess less leading edge detail, yet the Premier 17LS version sounded more natural in many ways. There was a distinct sweetness that lured you into the music. For the first several days, I felt that perhaps the Premier was compromising available reproduced information when compared to the Sonic Frontiers Line 3. I found myself focusing on information that I would have otherwise heard with the Line 3. Soon thereafter, I was focusing on the larger picture and was inspired by the 17LS’s truly palpable midrange and its ability to involve me.
I next delved into a recent favorite from Matt Nathanson. His recent release Still Waiting for Spring, a pop/folk compilation that provides a great mix of acoustic guitar, vocals and cello. The 12-string guitar had terrific body and a decisively warm tone. The results were similar to previous findings. The Premier 17LS lacked fine details, such as string resonance and high-frequency decay that I experience in the Line 3, but it had an overall presence that was unmistakably engaging. In the cut "Little Victories," the cello had a warmth and naturalness that I favored over the Line 3.
When compared to the previously-reviewed Audio Research LS15, a lower-priced tube preamplifier that has since been replaced by the LS16, I found the Premier 17LS performed at a considerable higher level in every respect. The Premier 17LS has a much more refined presentation than the LS15, providing greater detail and additional transparency. It must be noted that the Audio Research LS16 retails for considerably less at $3,000. For a direct comparison, you would want to consider the similarly-priced Audio Research LS25 at nearly $5,000.