jolida 202 or 302?

I'm considering either the jolida 202 or 302 amp (which, by the way, easily beat all the ss I've tried in the price range). I've heard only the 302 and a modified 202 (by underwoodwally - top notch, highly recommended). Reportedly the stock 202 and 302 sound very similar. True? If so, why would anyone spend the extra $ for the 302? There's only 10W difference (40 for the 202 and 50 for the 302) which is hardly audible. THe 302 has balance control, but it costs almost $150 extra. Is there something I'm missing? (I do have quite inefficient speakers, but I don't listen very loud, have hardwood floors, smallish room - and besides, 10 watts difference?)
Hey, try the 102! I played around with one when I was "between" systems. The 102b is a pretty nice amp for the money, even in stock form! Really, it's a lot of fun. Personally, unless your loudspeakers are grossly inefficient (e.g., less than 87 db, I would go with the 202 over the 302--I've heard both, and I would save the money and roll your tubes on the 202 and get a big fat cheap Belden power cord. That's my tuppence.
First off, I prefer the sonics of the EL34 Jolidas(202/302) to the EL84 based 102 by a very wide margin. Not to mention, the extra grunt they offer to drive a wider range of speakers.

Secondly, the 202 versus the 302...

I think the 202 may have a slightly sweeter sound, when used with the right tubes. Also, I find the 202 to be much more attractive. If I was driving an efficient pair of speakers in a small room, and knew that was all I ever was going to do, and the difference in cost was much greater than $150, I would opt for the 202.

In any other situation, the 302 is the wise move. By far. Why would anyone opt for the 302 over the 202? Easy, the transformers are larger in the 302. Transformers are the most costly, most important, least appreciated component of a tube amplifier. In my opinion, $150 for a pair of larger transformers is not cheap, it's a steal.

Just what do better, larger transformers buy you? Increased bandwidth, more solid bass, more power, more headroom, better able to put power into more difficult impedence/phase angles, better ability to drive a wider range of speakers, etc.

Use the power ratings as a reference only, not the absolute. They will serve you better as knowing which amplifier is stronger than the next. A 10W rating may seem insignificant, but is more ad copy than anything else. I always use power ratings, ESPECIALLY on tube amps, as a guide, not a definitive. I don't listen to 8 Ohm resistors, and I don't know too many others who do anyway. Even if the 302 measured 10W different than the 202(which I would doubt in the first place), music would prove the 302 more superior to the 202.

The effect of better/larger transformers can never be overestimated.

While it may be true that you cannot hear a difference in the setup you are listening to, I can assure you that if you compared them in a few different rooms, using a few different speakers, the $150 difference would seem like a deal you just can't refuse.
Well put Trelja.
Thanks. I'll get a chance to do a head to head of the stock 302 and 202 next week. I've been inclined to follow Crazy4blues advice and get the 202 spend the extra money on tubes, etc (in part, I admit, because that extra $ is easiler to slip by without spousal approval. She already thinks I'm nuts for what I want to spend on the 202. A character in a book I read said that the greatest blow to male independence was the disappearance of separate bank accounts.)
Judasmac, I misread your original post. I thought you had efficient speakers, but you clearly stated your speakers were inefficient.

Based on that, I think you opting for the 302 is even more imperative. Transformers, plus the number of tubes, are the only means a tube amplifier can cope with a difficult loudspeaker. In fact, I would see if you could audition your speakers with either of the amplifiers. Otherwise, you'll soon be starting a thread where you are inquiring about a more efficient pair of loudspeakers for your Jolida.

While I may be one of the biggest fans of Jolida on Audiogon, they do not sound good when driving the wrong loudspeakers. Case in point, two weeks ago, I paired the 302b up with a pair of speakers I was auditioning which I was thinking about in my second system. I wanted to use the Jolida, as I consider it a baby Jadis made in China. Believe me when I say that the JSE Infinite Slope 4 turned an amplifier I highly regard into one that sounded poor. It was like a wheezing asthmatic trying to run up a San Francisco hill. And, the Infinite Slope speakers supposedly present a pretty friendly load. The combination simply did not work.

Please note in the very same room, I have personally heard the very same Jolida sound about as good as things ever get driving the heck out of a pair of Totem Arros. Just a better match.

I guess my overall point being that I can fully understand your wanting to get into tube amplification. Particularly, the glorious sound that can come from an EL34 tube amp. But, almost any amp running just 4 EL34 tubes, Jolida 202, 302, or otherwise is not fit for driving an inefficient pair of loudspeakers. The combination will not come to life, and you will wonder, in your disappointment, why you found the amp so special during your audition in the first place.

That being said, if you are looking for tubes for the Jolida, I highly recommend either JJ or Svetlana EL34. I personally prefer the JJ, as I find them to offer a better tone and bass response. The Svetlanas will give your amp a sunny disposition that is classic tube. Just about anything you plug in will be an upgrade of the small tubes.

Yes, my speakers are inefficient (maybe around 86 - they're Tangent RS4s). But I have auditioned the 302 and the modified 202 with them, and I've not heard them sound so good before. So I'm sold on the tubes. It's true that I couldn't really crank the volume, but I don't do that much in any case. I figure I rather sacrifice the ability to crank as high as I sometimes (but not often) like in order to get that sound I heard from the Jolida. I did THINK I might have detected more headroom with the 302 over the 202, but wasn't sure why it should be noticible with only a 10W difference. (Besides, I auditioned a 40W Arcam that seemed to have no trouble with these speakers at the levels I listen to, so I figured I must just have been hearing what I expected to hear in power difference between the 302 and 202.) Hence my thread.

So, Trelja, your response begins to explain to me why I might not have been imagining things when I thought I detected more headroom with the 302. Right? It's not simply a matter of wattage (or the way it's measured, anyway)?
One more thing... Being new to tubes, I have lots of questions. How much difference could tubes make in making the 202 (or 302, for that matter) sound more powerful? For example, KT88s?
Hi Judasmac,
tubes can make a significant difference (Tube Rolling) but it's a very system depending thing and also of personal likings. And it's best decided by you after you hear different tube brands...
I went to my friend place yesterday,I heard the integrated
jolida tube amp $950, and jolida cd player for $900,I
am making a guest, the sound is the most live and most
natural sounding, I heard, The whole system is most
likely 5k, When I heard Eva Cassidy, I thought, She is
in the room with her band, Scary knowing, she is dead
years ago.Soorry I have not heard the 202 203, but
Jolida product shocks me,NO RELATION TO JOLIDA.
Jayctoy, was it a hybrid you heard (tube preamp with a ss power amp)? Maybe the 1501 or 1703/4? Definitely try the 202 and 302. I listened to the 1501 ($650-750 new) and thought it was a nice amp, but the all tube 302 was just qualitatively different. Superior, more natural. I wanted to like the 1501 (more power and a remote), but the choice was obvious after hearing both.
Judasmac, it looks like another tubeophile is beginning to emerge.

Tubes can make a profound difference in an amplifier. In order of priority, I would say either circuit design or transformers are the most important aspect of a tube amplifier, depending on the day, followed by tubes themselves. Except in very rare cases, one does not do anything about the circuit or the transformers, so that much is set. Where most of play around with tube amps is tube rolling. It's analogous to maybe a meal. If one orders a cheeseburger in a restaurant, you might not be able to do much about the patty or bun. However, you can paint a wide spectrum of tastes depending on the cheese, sauce, or fixings. Cheddar, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and mayo sure tastes different than tomato sauce with mozzarella.

How do tubes sound different? Some are punchy, some are soft, some are more neutral sounding, and some may be sunny and warm. If you are looking at a Jolida with the stock tubes, you will realize some very real gains by moving towards European tubes. While I have few complaints regarding a stock Jolida used in the right system, they really seem to open up with a tube upgrade. Again, I think the sound definitely takes a definite step up with either JJ or Svetlana EL34, which you will prefer is dependent upon you. And, don't forget the small signal tubes, as they are very, very important. I prefer to get the right output tubes first, find where your tastes lie, and then take it to the next level with the small tubes.

Incidentally, don't neglect a power cord upgrade, either. In no way do I recommend buying a power cord that costs more than the Jolida itself, but a nice homemade power cord, or something good you can find under $150, perhaps a $50 Absolute PC, is definitely the way to get as much out of the amp as possible.

I believe you may not be able to use 6550, KT88, or KT90 tubes in a 302b without modification. I may be wrong, and in fact, hope I am. The amp that uses these larger tubes is the 502b, and I think may have some different components, even though they are same component otherwise. Incidentally, I do not recommend the 6550 based 502, its sonics are much inferior to the EL34 based 202/302 products. I firmly believe the extra money and power the larger tubes offered in the 502 is more than mitigated by its poorer sound. From recollection, the 801 seemed to correct most of what the 502 took away, but some will still always prefer the magic of the EL34.
JMac, I think the integrated I heard is hybrid,There
is transformer noted behind.I really like the sound.
but the Joilida JD100 sounds so live,no elegant sound,
no sweetnees, no smoothness,just sounds the players,
are in the room.
I have owned several different Jolida tube amps. Here is my assessment. Jolida jd102 - very nice, uncolored sound, good bass for such a small low powered amp. Jolida 202 - very sweet sound, kind of rolled off in the bass and highs, but everything in between is great. Jolida 302 - better bass, drives more speakers, sounds great as well. Jolida 502 - very powerfull bass, less liquid mids, a little bit less musical, but still very enjoyable and very powerful. Jolida 801 - too analytical, somewhat etched highs, very powerful bass. I had a pair of the 801's and I sold them. I prefer the 302 out of them all. I really found some good sound with the 202 in the right system, and the 102 is awesome if you don't expect too much from it.
Whatever JoLida you buy, live with it a while and then get the factory upgrade. Just now getting an upgraded 502B w/KT88s back into my system. After it first came back some months ago, I was not impressed at all but only listened to it for a few hours. Took it out and continued with an EL34-based hybrid I had. Circumstances recently forced me to put the JoLida back in and over the last several nights, it has been quite a wonderful revelation. The JoLida factory ugrade is probably the best couple hundred bucks I've spent on stereo so far.
I used to have the 102 and the 302 and I agree with the previous reviewer that the sound of the 102 is really nice and that is IMO due to the EL84 tube but, the amp still sounded thin even with high efficiency speakers when I played it loud. If you don't insist on it playing loud often, then go for it!
I also had the 302 after downsizing from the Rogue Cronus and the 302 was about 70% of that amp but it really lacked in inner detail compared to the Rogue. Now, I have the ASL 1003DT for $499 from Upscale Audio and I am very happy with ASL as it is not overly warm or noticeably slower like the Jolida was for me but the most inner detail for the money and great mids, highs, and good bass (not fat sounding). Good luck with what you want to try next!