Review: Jolida JD-1000a Tube amp
I recently purchased a modified Jolida JD1000a integrated amp and thought perhaps someone out there who was considering this amp would want a report. I am Canadian, but since most of you reading this will want to deal with US dollars I will quote any costs in greenbacks. I purchased the amp from a fellow who goes on Audiogon by the name of “underwoodwally”. His company is known as the Graham Company and the modifications are done by the Parts Connexion in Ontario. Chris Johnson, the founder of Sonic Frontiers is a founder of the Parts Connexion and designed the modified version of the amp. It is currently on special for $1990. I bought their demo for a few hundred off that price. You can look on Audiogon for a detailed list of the modifications, but essentially the four preamp section tubes are replaced with Electro Harmonix versions, all the hook-up wire is replaced with Cardas cable, the power supply is upgraded, and most of the caps and resistors in the signal path are upgraded with high quality components. There are other vendors of this Jolida amp, and undoubtedly other modified versions as well from very reputable dealers. I am not affiliated with either the Graham Company or the Parts Connexion, just a customer, but both gave me excellent service and advice, and I would buy a product from either company again with no hesitation. They sell what they say they do, deliver it on time and want you to be happy.
The Jolida replaces a Krell KAV 300i integrated. The source is a Consonance Reference 2.2 CD (with tubed output stage based on the Sovtek 6H30) and the speakers are Joseph Audio RM 25si Mk2’s. The Krell was a very good amplifier. I am not upgrading from some mass market junk. That said, the Krell is nowhere near as good an amp as the Jolida, not even close. I have heard a number of amps (both integrated and separates) in the $2000 - $5000 price range over the years and never recall hearing anything better than this modified Jolida. I cannot comment on the sound of the stock Jolida as I have never heard one, but based on reviews on Audioreview.com people seem to really like their amps, especially with a little tube rolling to replace the stock Chinese tubes. The modified unit retained the 8 stock Jolida EL34 output tubes. I ordered some Siemens NOS EL34’s to replace these, but due to back ordering they took about a month to arrive so I was able to listen to the amp with the stock drivers for a while. It was wonderful then, very musical, with plenty of bottom end. Imaging was superb. When the Siemens tubes were installed I could immediately tell the sound was somehow even clearer, like another veil had been lifted allowing me to hear into the performance even further than I imagined possible, but the bottom end seem a tad bit lighter. However, after 5 – 10 hours of listening the tubes really started to blossom, developing a more solid bottom end. I now have at least 50 hours on the Siemens EL34’s and they are pretty well broken in. Midrange is indescribably good and highs are very sweet. Cymbals sound like cymbals should – not tizzy. You can hear them resonate. Imaging is simply superb with a very large soundstage and good depth. The Josephs are sound staging champs and this amp really lets them shine. There is ample bass and it is very tight. This amp can easily make your speakers disappear. As usual, a good stereo upgrade allows you to hear things you never noticed in your recordings. The Krell could image, and play all the right notes, but it just had no soul compared to this amp. It just couldn’t provide the detail like the Jolida. With the Jolida you can easily hear the resonances in the bodies of acoustic instruments. Percussion instruments are simply arresting. Vocalists sound like they are in the room with you. IT IS THAT GOOD. I listen to all sorts of music. Acoustic music from David Grisman and his Acoustic Disc label, lots of jazz, lots of Bach, and some good old rock and roll. This amp is at home with Bach or the Grateful Dead or Pink Floyd or Patricia Barber or….well you get it. With a lot of other pretty good amps including the Krell, you listen and think, “What a great amp, I really like the way it does this or that...” With an amp like the Jolida you just start listening to the music. You don’t get up and fiddle with the volume to get it just right, you just listen to the musicians.
In my opinion, we tend to get hung up on specifications – many of which are sonically meaningless. For example, the Jolida is rated at 100 watts/ch at under 1% THD and 150 watts/ch max power output. The Krell was about twice as powerful and boasted almost unmeasureable distortion. Noise and hum on the Jolida are 85 dB down and the Krell was probably rated at 95 or 100 dB. When you put your ear within 12 inches of the speaker you can hear a little hum and noise with the Jolida, but you have to be that close. It is insignificant. So my point is that the Krell blows the Jolida away on specs. So what. In an A –B comparison I can guarantee you that 99 out of 100 people would rather listen to the Jolida – by a wide margin. Are there better amps? Of course. There are always better amps – even if you have already dropped very big bucks there is always something better. If you have an unlimited budget and want to entertain that never ending pursuit of sonic nirvana I have no doubt that you can find a better amp. However, this amp is so good I really can’t see why you would bother. Are there amps in this price range that are this good? Probably – especially in the used market if you snoop around here on Audiogon. I’m not going to get into the tube vs. solid state debate. I am sure there are some fabulous solid state amps in this general price range that I haven’t heard. All I know is that this modified Jolida completely surpasses my old Krell in every regard. When I bought the Krell I also listened to amps by YBA, Classe, and Simaudio and chose the Krell so I would expect that the Jolida would also sound better to me than those amps. By the way, I really liked the Simaudio moon, but it was too expensive for me…..However, your associated equipment, and most importantly, your ears undoubtedly vary from mine….
Caveats…well, this Jolida is big, heavy (about 55 lbs.), and will heat a small room. It is not bad to look at, but you don’t see the tubes. It does have a nice faceplate though. There are 4 high level inputs and no phono stage. That is easily remedied with a small outboard phono amp should you be into vinyl. There is no tape output, but I had a set of jacks added for a small price. If you are into bells and whistles, remotes, home theatre pass through, etc… look elsewhere. If you are into music this may be your amp. When you hear this amp you will not care about anything but how good it sounds. Another positive is that it has a very nice, smooth, quiet, and non linear potentiometer. I find that I do most listening between 9 and 11 o’clock on the volume control. High noon is pretty loud on my Josephs. The Jolida is rated at 100 watts/ch and by my ear it can easily deliver these. Unless you have extremely inefficient speakers this amp will have no trouble whatsoever driving them to very loud levels. Even better, it sounds fabulous at low levels after the kiddies are in bed. As you can tell, I really like this amp and see no reason whatsoever to look for another one for a very long time. It was a steal at what I paid, and at the $1990 price for the modified version it is still a great deal. This is a seriously top end amp capable of amazing sonics when mated with a good source and speakers. I can’t imagine $2000 getting you a better amp either as an integrated or spent on separates. In my opinion that $2000 puts you in the same league sonically as the $5000 - $10,000 equipment. More expensive equipment may have a better fit and finish, but inside this modified Jolida amp has very top end components and sounds great! Happy listening!
Consonance Reference 2.2 CD player, Joseph Audio RM25si Mk2 speakers.
No recent tube experience, just my brother's old Dynaco Stereo 70 many years ago. Recent SS amps were Krell KAV 300i, similar models by Classe, YBA, Simaudio.