21 June, 2011

Overview: Jadis

Overview: Jadis
Aujourd'hui, Demain...mais Hiers?

Although I cannot be said to be a Jadis fan, I do have a fair amount of experience with the brand, having owned a few and heard many. This Overview is in preparation for a coming article that includes the newest, and most expensive, JP-800 preamp, matched with the mammoth JA-250.

Background
As with most French hifi companies, Jadis is more popular in the East and information is relatively lacking in English. The Official website is a pain, providing really not that much information, and I hate companies that don't provide some kind of information/support for their older and discontinued products. If you read French, the website has "Today, Tomorrow" as a Logan, but I say, what about "Yesterday"? Perhaps I can aim to provide a little information where Jadis fails. I don't claim to be comprehensive.

Chinese readers can look to some good profiles from Taiwan. Click even if you don't read Chinese, just to look at some of the pics:

Interview of Jadis founder 訪問創辦人 Andre Calmettes
Taiwanese u-audio profile of Jadis

Sonically, Jadis has evolved a little, but not much, over time, likely for the better. Most (if not all) older Jadis products are sonically too colored for my taste. Some old-time fans lament the change, but not me.

Jadis shall never be the most transparent, often even less so than vintage gears in good condition. Mostly, I prefer more neutral brands, like ARC. But Jadis did have/has a few good things going.

Preamplifiers
Although it is a truism that a good preamplifier is the hardest to design, in many ways perhaps Jadis excelled in this arena. Again, although they shall never be the most revealing, they remain musical, and that is important.

There is an interesting feature. In the costlier preamps, a dedicated tube buffer stage (can be switched off) is used to buffer the CD/digital input. While this confers benefits in terms of impedance matching etc, it likely comes at a cost. Many tube buffer devices have been made for digital (Musical Fidelity, Eastern Electric etc) but to these ears they are mostly failures, and gross failures at that (as a matter of fact, many so-called Tube DACs are just solid state devices with a tube buffer stage. If implemented right, the result can be excellent, but many fail. Audio Note, Sonic Frontier, ICL, VTL are some of the notable exceptions). When it comes to Jadis, let me just say some use the buffer and some don't. Think about this, if it is absolutely superior, why make it defeatable?

JP80MC, JPS2 The JP80MC (official info of current version) has almost legendary status, and probably deservedly so. Less known is the JPS2, basically a line version of JP80. Based on what I heard in NYC (see last post), these 2 are fine preamps that should hold their own against many a rival. The JP80 has remained in production for the longest time, but there were quite a few variations as eveidenced by the tube complement used. I think it shall outlast current and later flagships. It pays to roll tubes.

Here is one user's excellent review of the JP-80MC, with many valuable internal pics. Highly recommended. I'd also point you to Stereophile's review of MkII, which is notable for pointing out that the preamp is not for rock. Yes, Jadis shall never have the greatest speed nor the fastest transients.

DPL, DPL-2 These I liked. I did own the DPL-2, which I finally sold because there is just a trace of over-sweetness that nagged at me, and it was something that cannot be ameliorated by tube-rolling. Also, the leading edge is too smooth. Musical, yes, but not really faithful to the recording.

JP800 As the name implies, this is an updated JP80. Based on what I heard recently (report to come), this is a very good preamp with good detail retrieval. But a good buy? Hmmm...

Amplifiers
Before I begin, let it be known that most Jadis amps are operated in fixed bias. That means you should have matched tubes, and know how to operate a multimeter. What is deplorable is that Jadis provides no info on how to bias. Don't just prop tubes in! That said, they are pretty robust.

Here, I shall be brief. Let me state from the start that I am not a fan of parallel push-pull high-powered tube amps (and when it comes to that, I prefer ARC and VTL). They are good for driving highly inefficient speakers, but no more. Therefore, you will not get unconditional endorsement from me when it comes to JA-200/500/xxx.

Defy 7 Highly recommended. This is the Jadis amp that I really like. Relatively neutral, with awesome driving power, this is a bargain, 100 watts on the cheap. There are several iterations. The only drawback is that it is fixed bias, and adjustable only inside the chassis with a multimeter. And there is only one bias pot per channel (like most ARC amps), so you need matched tubes, in this case matched sextets. The Defy 7 was succeeded by the DA-7, and here's another fantastic review that brings much insight into the brand (Part I, Part II) that takes into account the history. Most valuable was the Biasing Procedure in Part II, likely applicable to other Jadis amps.

JA-30/80 These are probably the best Jadis amps. Strictly speaking, only the JA-30 qualifies. There are many iterations of the JA-30. The best is the oldest, using KT-88, and GEC/Genealex at that! They may not be the most transparent, but they do have the tube magic.

I have never heard Jadis' Single-ended amps (300B and 845), but I'd like to.

Orchestra You may wonder, this is an integrated, but it is not. See below.

Integrated Amplifiers
When it comes to Jadis, this is an interesting topic. While some of the most expensive ones are true integrated amplifiers, most cheaper ones are basically amplifiers with a passive volume, a la maniere des Japonais. Therein lies the secret: IMHO these are the most cost-effective Jadis amplifiers.

Orchestra This one is fascinating. This so-called integrated amp, which I once owned, is an amplifier with a passive volume knob. It is underwhelming as an integrated amplifier but over-achieving as an amplifier! Turn the volume knob to maximum and use it with a good preamp and you'd be amazed. Great driving power and value for money, but unless you have a digital source with higher than usual output level, use only as an amp, not integrated. I suspect most earlier DA models share the same characteristics. Their phenomenal driving power attests to high fixed-bias design and the excellence of their transformers. As a matter of fact, I think the Orchestra is a not just a poor-man's JA-30, but a very close approximation.

The original version of the Orchestra employs EL34, and that is what my view is based on. Later versions use KT90.

Here is a wonderful review of the original Orchestra. From this article, you can learn much about Jadis in general. Would all reviews be like this!

Digital
These can be dismissed out of hand. Basically, they are re-batched or OEM'ed Metronome, with "improved" cosmetics. Metronome is a curious brand; they are best played LOUD, and resolution is not of the higest class, but they do sound relatively analogue. Anyway, would you buy watches from Armani, D&G or whatever fashionable brands? No, stick to IWC or any venerable Swiss brands.

A Word about Cosmetics
I have a nagging suspicion that the chrome and gold looks cater to the Asian market, which is ironic as they get tarnished fast in the mostly humid climate. A cottage industry has sprung up on replicas of the faceplates. Advise: NEVER clean the gold plate with ANY cleaner.

Dissent
Despite my opinion that the transformers are mostly good, and despite Jadis' claim of a perfect record, there is a report on a faulty output transformer in a Taiwanese Blog by a small tube manufacturer/DIYer. Judge for yourself, but the pics are certainly fascinating!

My Choice
JP80MC/JPS2, JA-30, Defy 7, Orchestra (Amplifier)

Loudspeakers
While I doubt this is Jadis' strong suit, I cannot help but be fascinated by the alien-looking but not alienating looks of the (discontinued) Eurhythme , which I have never heard. Vive le horn! The much older and cheaper Orchestra loudspeaker looks like OEM'ed by Focal. The current Enceinte does not look too enticing.

2 comments:

  1. AnonymousJuly 03, 2011

    Dear Doctorjohn,

    My friend has a system consisting of Audiomeca Obsession II / Kuzma Stabi + Rotel RHQ-10
    -> Jadis Orchestra -> Focal Electra 936.
    Would it be worthwhile to experiment adding a preamp to this setup?

    ReplyDelete
  2. You didn't say what your impression of the system and your perceived weakness is. But here are my 2 cents.

    When it comes to the Jadis Orchestra alone, for me the answer is a definite YES, a preamp would GREATLY enhance the sound, bringing in much more control and perceived power that would benefit any loudspeaker.

    As for the system, it seems to have very high quality front-ends. I'd guess the Focal sounds not the most dynamic, and adding a preamp may not significantly change the basic presentation. In that case, a change of speakers should be considered.

    ReplyDelete