Comparison of Tube Output CD Players

I wonder if anyone has had an opportunity to listen to, and evaluate, the following relatively comparatively priced CD players which all incorporate tube output stages:-

Jolida JD-100A

Audio Aero Prima

Unico CD

Audio Note 3.1x

The Jolida 100A is also available with quite a number of mods by the "Parts Connexion", by "Underwood HiFi", and by Verastarr which are apparently "factory approved" since the original warranty is maintained. If anyone could
comment about these mods I would be very grateful.
I have a Jolida with Mullards and damping sheets (only mod). I love the player. Very airy and three-dimensional. It is so engaging. I often listen to it all day.

The Audio Note IMO is dead on accurate, and has better attack than the Jolida. On the other hand, it is not for me, as it brings the players into more of a straight line. It does not sound as three-dimensional, and all the air around the singer's voice disappears. It is a perfect reproduction of the recording, and not of the playing. In other words, it sounds perfect, but not alive. It is too slick and uninvolving to my ear, but would be ideal for just having music on while I wander the house.

Don't know the Unico.

If every dealer carried only one line, I've decided that it should be Audio Aero. This stuff does not sell well here in the US, and I just cannot figure out why that is. It is the most melodic and emotional equipment I've heard--both the Prima and the Capitole. In fact, I just returned from auditioning them, and the Capitole turned the Pass Labs X-160 monoblocks into silky smooth liquid--and I don't care for solid state! My next move from the Jolida will undoubtedly be to the Audio Aero. Just bought one of their hybrid amps, and it's one of the best sounding amps I've ever heard. Extraordinary products, in my view.

Hope that helps. Obviously, these are just my opinions, so keep that in mind. All are worthy of a listen, of course. Enjoy!

I don't want to side-track this thread, but i find Howard's comments about the Pass amps interesting. My experience is that they simply pass ( no pun intended ) what is fed into them. If you have a good source and preamp, you have good sound. If you've got problems, those problems are amplified. Evidently, the Capitole is a nice sounding piece of gear : ) Sean

I have heard several different Pass Labs amps in other configurations, and while I found them to be extraordinary SS gear, they just never reached me the way these did when I heard them today. From the combination of these particular components came a warm, tight, and utterly seductive sound. That Capitole was as I've found all the Audio Aero equipment to be--flawless. And if I had the dough, and a strong back, I'd have run off with those Pass blocks.
Hey Boa2,
How close is the Prima cd player to the Capitole? Care to define the differences/performance gap between the two of them?
I've only heard the Jolida from your list above. I currently own a Cary 308T (also tubed output) The soundstage on the Cary is terrific and it has more detail than the Jolida.

BUT the Jolida is one of the most engaging and musical CD players I've ever heard. As Boa2 stated above it is hard to turn off. A terrific CD player for under a grand.

I don't know the others, but when I heard the AN 3.1x Balanced my search for DAC technology stopped. It's hard to describe the difference, but Audio Note's filterless, tube/transformer coupled DACs made everything else I'd listened to until then sound sterile, uninvolving and lifeless. They have tremendous presence and soul, and give music a sense of life that for me is totally addictive. There are obviously players that others prefer for the price, but there seems to be a certain class of listeners for whom the AN approach is the most musically satisfying.
Wow 496,

Sorry it's taken me so long to respond. I don't do audiospeak very well, but here goes:

The Prima is not far off the Capitole, and IMO does not justify the price difference. However, it's like comparing the Western Electric 300B tubes to any of the current production of any other brand. You can pay 4X the price for the Western Electric, and many people (myself included) will say that if you have the $$$, that additional 10 or 20% (if you can quantify it as such) is worth it. I found the same to be true of NOS 2A3 tubes when compared to the excellent Sovtek's made today. And I would say the same about the Capitole. On the used market, they are maybe $4000, and if I had the money I would own one. For now, I own a Prima, and I can tell you that it is a significant step up from the Jolida.

The Capitole seemed to me to dig a little deeper to resolve everything with a bit more roundedness than the Prima. It offers a better placement of the instruments, although the Prima does it quite well. I should also say that I heard the two players in the store, but only the Prima here at home. And we have the worst room for listening.

The Capitole has the remarkable ability to toe the line between detail/accuracy and seducing you with liquid warmth. I simply could find nothing I would change about the player, as it presented the energy and humanity of the players in a way I've not otherwise heard.

Several other persons who own both players have told me that the differences are more pronounced when using each without a preamp, and that the Capitole is significantly better than the Prima in that regard. Both of them suggested, however, that when used solely as a player, the gap is narrowed. And I would agree, though as I said, if I had the money for the Capitole...

Finally, I will say that the Prima is one fantastic player. I have reached the point that I'm done with sitting in front of the stereo and picking apart every aspect of a component. I played music professionally for years, and love music for music's sake. This micro-analysis of the component can be altered if the air pressure changes, or if I have not eaten that day. I love the uncolored sound of the recording studio, which is why I lean towards the Audio Aero and not the Audio Note, for example, which I believe is the best at reproducing the music with perfection. However, I want the best reproduction of the performance, and not just the music, if that makes sense.

With that in mind, all I can say is that the Prima gets me lost in the music. When I sit and pick apart the system, it's like any relationship for me. It stops being fun, and I'm the observer at a distance. And I would rather be a player IN the game, so to speak. As Chet Baker might have said when turning on my audio system, Let's Get Lost.

Howard, thank you for your insightful comments on the Audio Aero players! You have really laid a lot of information out, in concise, understandable, clear and descriptive terms. Regardless of whether or not you can talk "audiospeak", you have done a heck of a job here.

I've always been interested in the Prima, but have only heard the Capitole. Along with just a very few other players, I have yet to hear digital sound any better than this.
Thanks Trelja, for the comments.

I agree with your assessment of the Capitole, and I absolutely love the sound of the Prima. I think that what often gets confused for 'natural' and 'accurate' is really the music being pushed forward by the component, and the space and air in the studio being compressed. Many people like this sound, but in my experience, the laid back, pocket playing of the musicians is only reproduced accurately when it is 'digitalized' as such. And the Audio Aero players do just that.
All the best,
Can you explain how the Prima was used without a pre-amp ? I have contacted the importer about this and was told that it could not be done !

No I can't, as I have not used it that way. This was how it was explained to me by another Prima owner who also had the Capitole. If it cannot be used in that capacity--that is, without a preamp--I apologize for his and/or my misinformation. From my personal experience, I can only describe the differences that I heard between the players, as I enumerated above.
Hi all,
The first generation of the Prima CD did have a volume control so you could connect it directly to your power amp. However the subsequent and latest version of it (which is I guess a MKII version but they don't use this nomenclature to account for successive versions) does not have a volume control. Nor does it have analogue inputs like its bigger brother the Capitole.

By the way, the dealer I bought my Prima CD from says that the Prima gives you about 80-90% of the Capitole's performance (although I wouldn't know how you can quantify something intangible like sound timbre etc.).

The other option you might consider is getting a first generation (MKI?) Capitole but be warned that there was some software related issues but it still sounds marvelous and has a volume control so you could get away without using a preamp is need be.

Hope this helps.

Thanks so much for the info. I never thought to ask, but when the Prima/Capitole owner spoke of the comparisons between the two when connected directly to the amps, he must have been referring to the first generation Prima. Whew! I thought that's what I had heard.