the conrad-johnson story

In the mid-1970s, two economists—friends and serious audiophiles—Dr. William Conrad and Dr. Lewis Johnson—were highly dissatisfied with the commercially available equipment of the time and were also perplexed and challenged by the readily apparent sonic differences among components in their own systems. What made these two classic tube systems sound so different? Could the virtues of each be somehow combined? Not content to merely speculate on such issues, Conrad and Johnson decided to systematically investigate by developing and refining a vacuum-tube preamplifier.

The resulting conrad-johnson preamplifier was immediately recognized as a state of the art contender and catapulted Conrad and Johnson into the audio industry.

The most important legacy of conrad-johnson design’s beginnings is the basic methodology which took shape in the course of the development of that first preamplifier. This methodology has enabled conrad-johnson to develop new products which have routinely been ranked among the most musically satisfying. Few other manufacturers have so consistently received such high praise for their products.

Interview with Bill Conrad & Lew Johhnson

design philosophy

The sole legitimate function of a stereo system, from modest to state of the art, is to enable the listener to enjoy the emotional experience of music performances.

conrad-johnson’s R&D efforts are concentrated on developing audio components which offer increasingly exact recreation of live music performances without interfering with the enjoyment of the music. This pursuit demands dedication and a genuine love of music that is impossible to hire, which explains the fact that in those few companies which succeed in producing musically satisfying components, product development is inevitably dominated by one or two individual personalities who are inextricably identified with the company.

key product introductions


conrad-johnson preamplifier

This all tube preamplifier, later named the PV1, immediately established conrad-johnson as a significant player in the high-end audio arena.


MV75—our first power amplifier

The success of this product did much to ensure the long term viability of conrad-johnson design.


Premier One

A high power, 200 watt per channel, all tube power amp, and conrad-johnson’s first “state of the art” product. In the 10th Anniversary issue of The Absolute Sound magazine, the Premier One was credited with being the finest sounding amplifier of that decade.


Premier Three

The Absolute Sound named this all-tube preamp the best sounding preamp of the decade.



A highly successful all-tube preamplifier that found its way into the reference systems of many reviewers of the time.



Under our motif brand name, the MC7 established our credentials as designers of high-end solid-state products. Solid-state products have since become a lasting and important part of conrad-johnson’s line.


Sonographe SD1

This low priced cd player was widely regarded to be the equal of the most expensive cd players at that time. It marked the company’s entry into digital products.


Premier Seven

A full featured dual-mono preamplifier, the Premier Seven was labeled the best in the world by prominent reviewers.


Premier Eight

an all tube 275 watt mono amp maintains conrad-johnson’s claim to state of the art performance in amplifiers.


Anniversary Reference Triode Preamplifier (ART)

This all tube line-stage preamplifier has been identified as the best sounding line-stage available by many of the industry’s most prominent reviewers.