Jolida JD100 little tube rolling comparison...
Hey fellas. Here's my sound setup:
ONIX Reference 3 Speakers
ONIX A-120 MkII Integrated Amp
Jolida JD100 CD Player
CinePro Power Conditioner
ONIX SP-200 Speaker Cables
ONIX Blue RCA Interconnects
Here's my test material:
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik - Tracks: 2, 3, 6, 10, 12, 14
Dialated Peoples - Expansion Team - Tracks: 2, 4, 6, 10, 14
Hieroglyphics - Third Eye Vision - Tracks: 3, 8, 11, 14, 17
Face to Face - Big Choice - Tracks: 1, 3, 5, 8
Anti-Flag - Mobilize - Tracks: 1, 3, 5, 6
I finally got in a couple pairs of mainstream tubes to play with in my Jolida to see how I could improve, or at least change it's sound. Before I start let me say one thing... tubes can make all the difference.
I was working with the following tubes:
SED (Winged-C) 12AX7's
The reason I set out to play with some tubes was simple, I wasn't totally pleased with the Sovtek's. They had some very fine attributes, but as I'll explain they had some short-commings I wanted to try and eliminate. So here goes...
I'll close each section with a ranking of some various categories on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is horrible and 5 is exceptional.
These are the tubes that came in the player, but I swapped em out for my own pair of the same. The Sovtek's have very good treble attack, they rarely make you feel like they're too bright and cause you to cringe, but at the same time they provide exceptional detail. The bass impact of these tubes is also superior, they recreate very punchy tight bass. The soundstage with these tubes is pretty wide, and is deep at the outer edges creating decent wrap-around, but the depth collapses dramatically as you listen closer to the center image. The imaging is fine, not incredibly focused, but not what I would call average or poor. These tubes seemed pretty thin in the mid-range, vocals tended to be presented behind everything else, and as such they were often drowned out to a degree I wasn't pleased with on tracks which tended to be what I'll call "musically busy". In complex sections of a track where lots of sounds were playing these tubes didn't do a very good job of maintaining separation of tones and thus the stage became a blur of sound rather than holographic.
top-end - 5
mid-range - 3
mid-bass - 4
low-end - 5
imaging - 4
stage width - 4
stage depth - 3
SED (Winged-C) 12AX7's:
These tubes are made by the old Svetlana folks as I understand it. I selected them in part because they are used as upgrades in a few Level 1 and Level 2 mods that can be done to this player, and because I didn't come across anyone who'd tried them out yet and posted about them on the net. These tubes have treble attack every bit as good as the Sovtek's, perhaps slightly better, but still without creating that piercing brightness or grain that is common to typically getting the kind of top end resolution that these tubes provide. There is incredible shine and separation of sounds at the top end such as with cymbals and top hats. They are slightly less refined in the lower extensions of bass. They create the impact and the punch, but the tone tends to linger a bit too long in my opinion. It's not horrible, but it is more "tube-like" than the more "SS-like" presentation of the Sovtek's in the bass region. The mid-range presentation is as phenomenal as the top-end. Very liquid and forward, vocals always seem forward of the stage a bit, and the depth created is impressive. Even during busy sections of music I never felt like I was straining to pick the vocals out of the mix. The soundstage was very wide, creating incredible wrap around. In addition to being wide, the stage was very deep all the way from the outside to the center. The stage had a generally holographic feel to it no matter how complex the music, and the image was very well focused.
top-end - 5
mid-range - 5
mid-bass - 4
low-end - 3
imaging - 5
stage width - 5
stage depth - 5
These tubes are also used by some shops in their Level 1 upgrades of this player, so with that as well as being recommended by several people currently using them in their Jolida's, I decided to pick em up and try em. These tubes are as many people have said, they're a little warmer than the others. The detail in the top end is there, but you have to listen for it a little harder to hear the little nuances on some tracks. The midrange is pretty full and liquid, though these tubes presented vocals more clearly and with separation than the Sovtek's did they still weren't the improvement that the SED's provided. These tubes are very authorative on bass and mid-bass. They really thump without too much flub, and in some cases I'd almost say they were too boomy on a few tracks, but for the most part they had great extension and well above average detail and tightness. The soundstaging was a lot more like that of the Sovtek's, except that they sort of flip flopped. The stage wasn't as wide, but it was consistently deeper. So it's a matter of picking your poison I'd say. The imaging was better than the Sovtek's and I'd say pretty darn near that of the SED's, and perhaps a match for them. On busy tracks the separation on the stage was better than the Sovtek's, but not quite that of the SED's consistently.
top-end - 3
mid-range - 4
mid-bass - 4
low-end - 5
imaging - 5
stage width - 3
stage depth - 4
Each tube was certainly unique, for now I'm trying to choose between the SED's and the Electro-Harmonix's. I like the bass performance of the EH's compared to the SED's, but I like everything else about the SED's better than the EH's. It's just a matter of trade-offs I suppose. All three tubes are decent in their own way, the Sovtek's aren't a bad choice for stock tubes, and I'm glad that Jolida seems to have moved to using them as stock tubes. If you listen to a lot of musical performances with not a lot of vocals, and the music tends to not get as complex as a lot of punk and funk music can be then these are probably a very good choice. The SED's and the EH's are certainly better suited to music with a lot of vocal accompaniment. I'd say if you tend to listen to a lot of rock, funk, punk, blues, etc. that the SED's are a great option, about the only place they don't shine is on bass heavy stuff like hip-hop. The EH's on the other hand deal with low bass better and I found I prefered them for that on many of the hip-hop tracks.
I'm hoping that I can either find a way to get the SED's to tighten up the bass a little bit, though I have no idea how, or find a tube that can do everything that the SED's can, but doesn't sacrifice low end bass clarity and tightness.
Please by all means if you've done some of your own rolling feel free to post your results here. I think pretty much all Jolida owners, and even potential future owners would love to get as much info about tubes usage in this player as possible.