Tale of the preamps

I ahave recently been bitten by desire to add greater detail to my system. I believe the musicality offered via Jadis JP80MC pre may be limiting frequency extremes and inner detail. I own CAT amps and Eidelon...I believe neither of these components are lacking in bottom extension nor well defined presentation. I have owned the Jadis for 5 years or so, with no desire to surrender the music for hi-fi. But....a friends system, Eidelons/Atmasphere MA1s/Wadia exposed an inner detail which gave birth to a new itch. The CAT ultimate has been strongly suggested, but some comments allude to a cerebral rather than visceral interpretation. Any suggestions, especially from those who may have heard the Jadis are appreciated. The world of give and take.
Siddh: I've been tempted by the transparency muse from time to time since I got my JP80 about 9 years ago, but I've never changed after listening to other preamps of the like you're mentioning, even though they do certain things better. I do think the JP80, in its original form (I don't know about the current versions, which use different capacitors for the power supplies), does slightly roll off those frequency extremes and may slightly blunt the leading edge of transients. I think it does have ultimate transparency, but you have to listen more closely to hear it, as it probably does have a higher noise floor than some others in its class. Partially as a result of these shortcomings, I had mine modified by Andy Bouwman of Vintage Tube Services a few years back in a manner that kept its sonic character intact, made it even more grainless and natural but also improved the frequency extension, particularly in the bass (my system goes down to about 18hz). Even without the mods, though, I probably would not change preamps, this one just sounds so natural and right that I can live with its faults, particularly since the bulk of my listening is classical. I would say that the CAT is an excellent piece, and may work very well with those amps (how much did you have to brace your floor for those beauties?) and speakers, but you should try to get one for an extended audition, then switch back to the Jadis and see how much you miss what it does right. My decision has always wound up to give up a little ultimate resolution and fidelity to the source I'm listening to for the naturalness and musicality of the Jadis and its fidelity to the original musical event. I'm curious to see how you come out on this one; you really can't lose at the levels you're considering.
HI Rcprince,

Thanks for input. I have read the opinions of others with similar experience when the Jadis is modified. When I spoke to Andy he expressed his admiration with this piece, but added the changes were neccessary to attain a clearer, less colored picture. Apparently, he no longer involves himself in such endeavors. Have you knowledge of anyone who does? How expensive was the modification, and are you at all concerned with Jadis policy regarding warranty? Obviously, at 9 years not much is left on warranty, but Northstar seems very accomodating. Lastly, how great an improvement have you realized with the mods? Have you had any long running experience with the Ultimate? Rumor has it, CAT manufactured the Ultimate to emulate the musicality of the JP80 without sacrificing detail or frequency extension.

Thanks again for your shared experience,

Siddh, I would be very careful in changing a chain that has kept me happy for a long time. As I remember the JP80, it plays music "beautifully". IMO, the CATs --pre/power combo-- play music "handsomely, with gusto"; with one I forgot shortcomings and was drawn to the music, with the latter I was happy to notice the strengths. (not sure I'm making sense here...)

If you switch to Ultimate's line you will have more analysis. The Eidolons are very analytical; but they're also musical. I think you're now enjoying the musical Eidolons. My opinion: make sure it stays that way, with added analysis, if you change your pre...

Good luck!
Steve: Other than Da Hong, whose modifications in my view change the character of the Jadis and may no longer be available (and may not be that well-executed, judging from at least two separate sources), I don't know of any modifiers of Jadis equipment. Andy's mods were expensive and probably voided any warranty I had left on the preamp, but it was well out of the warranty period anyway. The downside to them is that now, other than Andy, there are very few techs willing to work on the unit, because space inside is limited and Andy had to use a lot of it--it is certainly not neat and tidy. In theory this could also make it more susceptible to noise, although I haven't noticed that. The upside is better frequency extension at the extremes (this may be due to some Audio Note bypass caps he put in), a bit more transparency and a virtual elimination of the last bit of "electronic" sound that the unit had (which wasn't that much to begin with). The improvements on an objective scale were not cost-effective and certainly were no more than subtle (except perhaps in the additional bass extension), but I consider them worth it subjectively because, as a bit of an obsessive compulsive, I'm somewhat nuts I guess.

When you look inside the unit, you'll see that a lot of the capacitors and parts appear to be nothing special and could be replaced with better ones, but the danger there is that (in my view) the Jadis equipment in large part was designed by ear and when you change the parts you can change the character of the unit. I only agreed to let Andy do his mods because he assured me the character would not change and because he did them at my home (stayed over a few nights), we listened as he did them at various stages to be sure I was happy with the sound and he agreed to undo them if they were not to my liking. Without those conditions, I'd be hesitant to have your unit modified, and even then you'd have to weigh against that the loss of any remaining warranty you might have and the possibility that no one will want to service your unit if something goes wrong. I'd therefor advise you against modifying the unit--you might want to consider a JP200 instead, the one unit I'd consider to replace mine.

Unfortunately, I have no long running experience with the CAT Ultimate except on short demo at a dealer. Prior CATs impressed me, but more from the intellectual rather than emotional standpoint. If the design goal was as you noted above, it should be a great piece, and definitely worth an extended listen. But heed Greg's advice, make sure you don't lose what you like about the Jadis in exchange for improved resolution. Hope this all makes some sense.
If I'm you, I will add a pair of silver interconnect(Kimber KCAG) between the preamp/power amp to give the overall presentation a bit more transparent and detailed. Stay with the Jadis preamp, it is a very excellent preamp. It takes a lot of time to make the whole system sounds right. Switching preamp is not a very good method. As your music listening experience became more mature, you will find that the original Jadis's sound is the sound that you like the most..........
Siddh..I don't have experience with Jadis but I did once own and love a Cat SL1 MK3..and with careful tube rolling
you can probably get sound you are looking for from it..to my ears, the CAT was revealing but not analytical as some people say, very neutral presentation, not overly euphonic, a very hard peice of audio to critisize..the Ultimate can only be better..there are some who say that the pre and power should be of the same manufacturer..if I were in your shoes, I'd pick up a used CAT Ultimate (there is one on auction right now) before selling the Jadis and compare them side by side for a month or two, if the CAT dissapoints (which I doubt), you should get most or all of your money out of it.
Siddh, are you sure the added transparency you heard at your friend's home was not the result of the Atma-Sphere MA-1's? No intention to cast any doubts as the the CAT amps and Eidolons, but the MA-1's do have a tendency to be just a might transparent in their own right.
I had my friend, with the Atma-spheres drop by tonight. We listened and found the force...or better stated, the solidity, especially in the upper bass through midrange, more pronounced with the CAT/Jadis. In iteration, the definition and articulation does sound tampered with. Minutely muddied, but muddied none the less. As if, attaining the music AND the inner detail must maintain a state of juxtaposition. The physics involved may limit the two co-performing on the same stage. This may offer some explanation as to why some solid state has moved closer to tubes while some tube designs have evolved into units of greater detail.

Gregm, your point is well taken. The music should and must be the foremost objective. Unfortunately, when listening to live music, even when set way back from the orchestra, the body of the instrument's output clearly expresses the tiny nuances. It's not hidden, nor need it be searched for. It comes part and parcel....a most basic and essential element. So sacrificing the often taken-for-granted detail for over-all musicality, somehow creates an innate dichotomy.

Cable hopping I don't believe can resolve, but merely mask or re-interpret. Fine thought, Rushton. Not only are the amps an added variable, the front ends also differ. And, of course, listening rooms. Jman, your suggestion may be the course to pursue. Without trying the Ultimate it will stand only as theory.

Thanks to all. I am interested to learn of your theories regarding this apparently elusive "absolute sound"

Honestly, you are doing yourself a disservice in using the MA-1s if you don't listen to the Atma-Sphere MP-1 preamp. IMO, it is MORE IMPRESSIVE than even the amplifiers. A-S phono section destroys any iteration of the CAT--again, IMO.

It goes w/o saying of course that quality SILVER cables are needed in such a system. Wireworld Gold Eclipse or any of the top Siltechs would be my first choices.

There ain't no going back once you've heard this setup, devastating on each of the speakers (Kharmas and JM Lab) that I've heard them on.
Seems like you've done the tube thing and are starting to crave more detail and insight into the performance. Not that you can't get there with tubes(which the CAT Ultimate and Atmasphere MP-1(I'm assuming this is also tubes?) may very well do), but detail is more the forte(in general) of solid state so why not just try it to see how it works? As you mentioned, as ss and tubes units have evolved they are starting to converge somewhat, which is a good thing in my opinion because the newer formats, as they evolve and improve, are going to demand a more detailed but smooth and fully fleshed out presentation to reveal their full potential. In short, as recorded material improves(both in quality and amount of information stored) neutrality will become a more highly valued characteristic.

Anyway, I'd suggest finding a dealer who carries higher quality solid state products(sorry if the Atmasphere is ss--then this is redundant) and take home a demo unit or two. My first recommendation would be something like a Pass Labs unit as they are very neutral and revealing yet refined. If this goes too far in the other direction at least you have a solid reference and benchmark on the other side of the sonic spectrum from which to compare and proceed with other options. It doesn't cost anything(except gas and time) to demo, and I think this perspective would prove invaluable in helping you ultimately know for sure what your best option is. Best of luck.

Hi Steve. Not having any experience with Jadis, Avalon, Wadia, Atmaspehere, etc., I can not comment on the pros and cons of all the components discussed above. But I too went through a ton of listening when I was looking for the ultimate musicality to replace my wonderful ARC SP-10 of 9 years. So I understand all the effort it takes to find a preamp that retains that magical musicality that so few really have.

Concerning the Jadis JP-80, go to the Audio Critique website, http://www.high-endaudio.com/index_ac.html. There is lots of information here as the owner is a JP-80 fan. And he does modifcations to this unit. Read what he says about the JP-80 under "Recommended Components". You might be able to get what you want done on the JP-80 from him.

One other question here that nobody has addressed: if you are only using CD as your source (no mention of phono) why bother with a preamp or line stage at all? There have got to be some attenuators that you could use that would remove a lot of electronics and cabling from your system if all you have is CD as a source.

Here is another site: http://www.tweakaudio.com/
Click on "Products", then "Ultimate Attenuators". I talked to the owner of this company last week and wow, he has so much valuable information. So much to learn from his website too. He is a CD specialist so maybe this will help you a lot too on this.

Most of the people that posted here have audio systems yet another level beyond mine (ARC LS5II/PH2/DAC3II/VT130/ Maggie3.3 and soon to be a used Versa Dynamics 1.2. As I am more a phono guy, my focus is a bit different than others, but we are all after that musical event that often stops us in our listening room and gives us just a second or two pause to make us think it's the real thing. These times are when we know we've put together a great system.

Hope this helps.

Thanks for the website info. I intend to contact them this weekend. The majority of my listening is vinyl, thus the need for a quality phono stage.

I have little experience with ss pre's other than at audio shops. Detail in spades, but often on the analytical side. I am also a freak on imaging and depth of sounstage. Good tubes create a body I have not heard captured by ss.

John, let me know how you love your Versa table.

I have to agree with Tim,

I love the Pass Lab x series pre-amp. I have an x-2- It's 80% of the x-1. The x-1 is warm and tubelike, without the hastle of tubes.

You get to have your cake and eat too.
i had the jadis jps2 and ja 200s awsome combo. maybe try the jadis amps.cat amps and preamps are awsome as well. and of course the atma- spheres. i know every body is sick of me talking about them but tube research has no compromises. i dont think i have ever heard the pass labs warm and tubelike though. by the way nice system. you also said you did not think cables would make a differece. why dont you try straight wire serenade. for the money it is awsome.
Please, everyone, Siddh listens to classical on an analog system and loves his JP80. Don't tell him to listen to SS amps or throw some "transparent" silver IC in the mix; he's past that.

Siddh, you need to seriously ask yourself why you want to change your JP80, given its high musicality. Yes, objective factors such as transient attack can be improved, but at what cost?

"Craving detail" does not necessarily impart greater insight into a performance. You asked about philosophies on listening, etc...OK, I'll try an integrated response.

When you first sit down to listen, your consciousness is in a certain state, namely, a thinking state. As we listen to the music, a "musical" stereo piece will, or should, catalyze a movement of our minds from this thinking state into progressive states that are characterized by an absense of thinking.

Interestingly, these states - cognitive and trans-cognitive - impart their own perceptions of the music's truth. For instance, when you first start listening your thinking is object-orientated because the nature of human cognition is dualistic and object orientated (evolution produced this as a means of better identification of prey, and our culture of object accumulation reinforces and reflects it). In order to perceive objects better, our minds focus on the visual cues that bound that object from the surrounding space. This is the reason why when we first sit down to listen, we focus on the "edge boundaries" of the sound projections (and also explains why some people's stereos pump up image defintion into a nearly visual experience and why the present language we use to describe sound uses predominantly visual metaphors, ie. detail, transparancy, etc.).

As you seep into the music, however, your mind "lets go" of its desire to objectify sound (which, you will note, is not an object at all). In other words, you become more receptive to that which is outside. In this sense, the stereo is not the cause of the movement of the mind into deeper, more trans-cognitive states, but merely encourages it; you have to allow it. This progressive receptivity experiences the truth of music, and these experiences that are beyond the grasp of thought we label with the abstraction "musicality". We know that we have experienced an event of musicality, but because language is dualistically-based and requires thought for its expression, we have a difficult time describing states that are experienced beyond thought (hence, the difficulty of moving past our present language to describe sound vs. the experience of sound).

Now let me bring this back to you. While increasing detail can provide its own truths, many times the increase of objectification of sound creates a situation where the mind thereafter becomes focused on the sound-object and does not seep deeper into the music. In other words, increasing focused-upon detail at shallower levels of the mind many times inhibits the mind's releasing of that objectifying thought; detail inhibits receptibility to musical meaning towards deeper levels. This is why a person who is attached to his analytic mind constructs a stereo that is impressive in objective ways of detail, etc., but whose stereo is also "sterile" or "mechanical" (this also explains why detail-orientated stereos sell in shops well; because the listener/buyer listens from a shallower mode of perception. And also explains why double blind tests don't work; because the pressure of listening in test situations stimulates the thinking mind which then weights its perceptions towards detail). You have a preamp that excels at catalyzing your mind towrds deeper levels, but, when you are not listening, your everyday thinking mind is telling you that you need more detail (you never think detail is lacking when you are deeply into the music, do you?). So, basically, you have to decide "who" is the "you" who listens to the music?

Here's a hint. Notwithstanding Descartes assumptions, the non-thinking state is prior to thinking. When you listen to music, you are returning to the silence that is your a priori state. Which is why all of us want to have a more "musical" stereo. If you become "receptive" to the answer - your answer - without thinking about it too much, I think your answer will come to you...

As a practical matter, the JP200 would seem a logical choice, albeit an exhorbitant one (and, boxes, boxes everywhere!). The only pre that touches the JP80's line/phono stages in terms of musicality is the Supratek Triode Syrah (with Black glass KenRad 6SN7's). It exceeds it IMHO.

Sorry for the length of the response.
Oh, not again! You don't think during an emergency stop of traffic, do you? You just do (step on the brake)! ;-)
Oh, 6ch, you are so easily brought into the web of ideas that you decry. You braked again right here...

Don't be attached to idea; don't be attached to not having ideas.
6ch: this is the second old thread that I was on that I see you've gone back and found. Why are you doing this? Muralman, the person who you allied with in our last conversation together, was doing the same thing in this same time window. Why? I will contact you directly to find out.
Siddh, the details on your friend's system came from the Wadia.