Jadis I-35 integrated amplifier Page 2
I used the Jadis I-35 with my usual source components, supplemented with a Sutherland Engineering Insight phono preamp loaned to me earlier in the year; the Insight was typically set for low gain and high impedance, and preceded by my Hommage T2 phono transformer. Loudspeakers were my Altec Valencias (16 ohms) and our review pair of DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96s (10 ohms). During the review period I avoided accessory AC cords, accessory fuses, isolation devices, tube rolling, burn-in recordings, and all manner of isolation devices.
I did, however, perform one seemingly unrelated task during the I-35's first afternoon in my system: Using a recipe acquired from Chef Google, I cooked my first petit salé. This traditional dish of green lentils and salted pork (the name means "little salty") was introduced to me by Stereophile reader and Paris resident Mark Donen, whom my family and I had the pleasure of meeting in July.
Although I don't care at all for background music, the stuff is not without its place, especially when running-in a new component prior to review. So it was that afternoon, when I performed all of my lentil-soaking, carrot-chopping, pork-salting, and bay-leaffinding chores to the sounds ofyou guessed itthe well-known Mozart à Paris, brilliantly reissued not long ago, on seven LPs, by the Electric Recording Company (Pathé/ERC DTX 191-197). But there was a catch: Just as I find when my own Shindo preamp and amps are in the system, those Mozart recordings were impossible to ignore when the Jadis was doing the amplification honors. Time and again, I found myself interrupting my work to sit in front of the music system (which is around the corner from the kitchen). Equal parts annoyed and impressed, I had to turn off the music until dinner was served.
Once I'd settled in for serious listening, the I-35 stood in unmute testimony to the folly of confusing a thing's sound with its appearance: The large, heavy Jadis sounded, if anything, just a bit lighter and sunnier than averagebut never inappropriately so, and never to the detriment of the performance. The amp curled itself, gracefully and prettily, around the electric melodies passing through it, preserving subtleties of timing and nuance without sacrificing force. It was identifiably tubeyin the level of the saturation of its colors, and in the consistently organic, nonmechanical manner in which it played lines of notesyet it never sounded colored.
With the Elgar Violin Sonata, performed by violinist Midori Goto and pianist Robert McDonald (CD, Sony Classical SK 63331), the Jadis sounded different from my usual combination of Shindo separates, but just as satisfying in its own way. The piano's first arpeggio in the Romance: Andante was as deliciously physical as with the best amplification I've heard: no small feat. The sound was tauter than that of my Shindo separates: a little less full and rich, but with betterand, it must be said, widerspatial distinction between the two instruments. The system's sense of momentum, with the Jadis, was just about perfect, and dramatic peaks sounded easy and human. Absolutely lovely.
At the other end of the spectrum, the decidedly harsh cymbals, gritty guitar sounds, and mildly shambolic tempos throughout Big Star's surprisingly good In Space (CD, Ryko RCD 10677) maintained their characters, texturally, timbrally, and temporally, without taking on added distortions of any form. The music rocked, and sounded both tuneful and impolite, as hoped. In somewhat the same vein, notwithstanding the excessive (if artistically applied) compression in the original recordings, the Jadis sounded wonderful with the mono version of The Beatles, taken from the boxed set The Beatles in Mono (CD, Apple 5099969945120). The electric bass on every number throughout this album sounded almost perfect: just the right color, tautness, touch, and rhythmic aplomb. I wouldn't have minded just a little more bass weight, but the listening experience never left me wanting. I wanted, again, a little more bottom when I listened to "People Get Ready" and other selections from Aretha Franklin's Lady Soul (LP, Atlantic SD 8176), a recording on which there is no more important musician than Tommy Cogbill, the studio great who, with fellow-bassists Duck Dunn, Chuck Rainey, James Jamerson, and Carol Kaye, helped define the sound of American pop music in the 1960s.
The Jadis sounded magnificent with Lovro von Matacic and the Czech Philharmonic's peerless recording of Bruckner's Symphony 5 (CD, JVC JM-XR24203): one of the best-sounding digital recordings in my collection, if only for the staggering quality of the music it contains. As with the other recordings I've chosen to describe the character of the Jadis, this one is characterized by supple melodic lines, brisk tempos and sudden changes of tempo, and a general level of sonic invention that is anything but static; to say the Jadis satisfied is stronger praise than it may at first seem.
Yet the Jadis didn't require complex arrangements, or even a terribly wide dynamic range overall, to impress with its musicality. Throughout the blessedly simple album Red Headed Stranger, by Willie Nelson (LP, Columbia/Impex IMP 6004), the Jadis I-35 maintained its focus on three things: the realistic portrayal of the tone of Nelson's voice and nylon-string guitar, and the convincingly supple, forward-leaning, nonmechanical portrayal of melodic lines. This is not to say that the French amp let everything else go to hell in a handbasket: It simply played music in such a way that secondary concernsbass depth, stereo imaging, etc.were given precedence over the primary concerns. Compelled nevertheless to comment on the amp's spatial performance, I would say that the Jadis I-35 offered quite respectable stereo imaging, with, as suggested above, a very good and clear sense of the spatial relationships between different sounds in a stereo recording. But it lacked the last word in the size, scale, and depth of the performing space: Recordings noted for being "stereo spectaculars," such as the classic recording, by Ernest Ansermet and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, of Falla's The Three-Cornered Hat (LP, London CS 6224), may not, through the Jadis, set high-end hearts a-flutter. But I was thoroughly happy.
During its time in my system, the I-35 delivered every bit of the presence, tone, and texture that I would hope to hear from a contemporary tube amplifier: no small feat in itself. Yet looking back on my listening notes of the past couple of months, I see that most of my observations have more than usual to do with music, and less to do with sound, per se: a good sign.
Indeed, although my preference endures for the sound and the presentation of my own reference electronics, the Jadis I-35 was good enough at playing musicat drawing me into the melodies and harmonies and rhythms and ideas captured in my recordsthat I wasn't watching the clock (or the calendar), waiting for the review period to end. This is a damn good amp for getting to the essence of music.
I haven't heard much else from Jadis's current product line; I have no idea whether or not the I-35 is representative. But the I-35 makes me want to hear more from Jadisand I hope that I will. Life is short enough as it is.