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Tubes Asylum: REVIEW: Jolida JD102B Integrated Amplifier (Tube) by WPM

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REVIEW: Jolida JD102B Integrated Amplifier (Tube)

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Model: JD102B
Category: Integrated Amplifier (Tube)
Suggested Retail Price: $550
Description: 20 wpc integrated tube amp/ 4pcs. EL84s/6BQ5s, 2 pcs 12AX7As
Manufacturer URL: Jolida
Manufacturer URL: Jolida

Review by wpm on February 01, 2004 at 16:41:34
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for the JD102B

I recently took the plunge back into tubes after coming off a Musical Fidelity A300 integrated amp and Magnepan MG-12 loudspeakers. I was interested in a low powered tube amp to mate with a pair of high-sensitivity loudspeakers, as I’ve heard so much about the synergy between the two. To make a long story short, I was offered a great deal on a Jolida JD-102B integrated amplifier, from Tom at GT Inter-Trade, so I bought the amp sight-unseen (and unheard). I previously owned two other Jolida JD-502 amplifiers, but this did not prepare me for what the JD-102B had in store.

The first thing I noticed, upon unpacking the amp, was how small it was. It is little more than half the size of Jolida’s bigger integrated amps, but no less well built. In fact, it is actually very well built considering its diminutive size; it also packs a considerable amount of weight, too, thanks to its over-sized transformers. The amp utilizes two EL-84 tubes per channel, themselves only slightly larger than the input and driver tubes within the same amp, and its output is rated at 20/25 watts.

Set-up was a breeze thanks to Jolida’s, always thorough, instruction manual, and I had the amp up and running within minutes. The rest of my system consists of: Castle Acoustics, Pembroke, loudspeakers; Teac PD-H500 reference series CD player; and cabling from Audioquest (Type-4 speaker cables, and Quartz X3 interconnects).

I let the amp cook for about one hour after bias setting, before inserting the first CD, so everything had a chance to settle down a bit. The moment of truth had arrived. I queued up Sade’s No Ordinary Love, from the album Love Deluxe, thinking to myself, could 20 watts do any justice to a pair of floor standing loudspeakers, as small as even the Pembrokes are. The answer to that question was an unequivocal, YES.

Immediately, the sense of rhythm and drive of the music was evident, as were layer upon layer of ambient texturing. Sade’s voice had never sounded so good; it was silky smooth, yet retained the hallmark depth and raspiness she is known for. The soundstage was wide and deep, cavernously deep; much deeper than the Maggies were able to portray when connected to the powerful A300 I had just let go. I could hear instruments and sounds at the very back of the recording venue, which gave a very good impression of how the players were arranged within the studio. This may be a testament to the Pembroke loudspeakers as much as the Jolida, but the effect was alluring never the less.

The succession of other tracks on that CD revealed the same thing, over and over: Chimes, woods, and subtle thwacks of percussion, floated endlessly around the room, while Sade’s powerful yet sultry voice fronted each mix with enervating energy. I could clearly hear the air and space surrounding each instrument, as well as the resonance and vibrations they created. Never before had I heard the air inside the congas as they were being hit, like I did with the little Jolida. The size of instruments now took on a new meaning to me, as did the way each were being played... simply magic.

The JD-102B has the uncanny ability to effectively recreate the scale and weight of instruments, too. Pianos, for instance, sounded full, deep, and rich in the lower registers, while the higher notes rang out with smaller, yet sweetly detailed, clarity. The piano itself taking up most of the soundspace when the recording allowed. Plucked strings had real snap and body, while strums of the guitar filled its cavity with deep, woody tones that could be heard welling up inside. No one instrument dominated the others, and all sounded appropriate to its size. Again, this may be attributed to the speakers, but one cannot deny the synergy between the two.

Another impressive feature of the 102B, and most startling to me, was the way it handled the lower frequencies. One would have thought, indeed, expected an amp with a mere 20 watts to be somewhat lacking in low bass recreation, but the Jolida was certainly not. When the recording allowed, the little Jolida plummeted the depths and was only restricted by the limits of the speakers themselves. Bass sounded deep and full, with tremendous impact and definition.

When assembling this system I had ventured into the notion of eventually needing a subwoofer, due to its small size and limited power output capability. Boy was I wrong, thankfully. Not only do I not need a subwoofer, but in no way does this system leave me wanting for more bass. Bass is simply rendered with such realism and impact that one could easily forget there are lower notes.

CD after CD, song after song, I found the Jolida presented music in a cohesive and natural whole; neither aggressive nor laid-back. One could listen, quite literally, for hours at the way it seductively envelops the listener. It paints its silky textures onto a velvety canvas with such convincing ease that one sits there marveled by its liquidity and see-through transparency. No one part of the audio spectrum stood out above the rest save, perhaps, for its amazing bass quality.

I have not enjoyed listening to music this much for many years, and I can see a close relationship building between this Jolida and I. If you value music for its ability to stir emotion, then you owe it to yourself to audition this little amp. Often overlooked by perspective buyers, the Jolida JD-102B deserves serious consideration by anyone looking for a great, low-cost amplifier of impeccable quality. You will not be disappointed.


Product Weakness: None at the price point.
Product Strengths: Synergy with the loudspeaker. Warmth, liquidity, and the ability to envelop the listener on rich music.

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Jolida JD-120B
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): None
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Teac PD-H500
Speakers: Castle Acoustics Pembroke
Cables/Interconnects: Audioquest
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Jazz; r&b; pop; rock
Room Size (LxWxH): 18' x 15' x 8'
Room Comments/Treatments: Fully carpeted
Time Period/Length of Audition: Initial observtions
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Jolida JD102B Integrated Amplifier (Tube) - WPM 16:41:34 02/1/04 ( 8)