Jadis SE300B monoblock amplifier Page 2
The MI Ag works at least as well on the Wavelength XS monos, and we'll see what happens with the Audio Note Kasai. I'll try them with push-pull eventuallyI've got another bi-wire pair so I can waffle up the big Avalons with them. (For the 20/20 on Ulrik Poulsen and his amazing flat cables, cast an eye at my accompanying interview.)
The amplifiers were positioned on Michael Green Designs Tuning Amp Stands, with a trio of Audiopoints beneath each amp.
Other widgets in play included the by now de rigueur MIDAS Tube Dampers (from Bluenote SAS, Firenze, Italia) on the input tubes, and a Shakti Stone on the cap of each power transformer. Now, while the Dampers are Euro'screet and looked cute hugging the input tubes, the rather unattractive dark rectangular lump that is the Shakti Stone really took away some of the beauty of the amplifier to the eye. You'd better know they work, otherwise...And they do. To what effect? In a wordfocus. (I rarely put things in a word, what?)
The Short Form: Glamorous, sexy, seductive, emotive, emotional and dynamic, so gorgeous you just want to bed it now! Sorry, I lost my head. But...that's the point. You want to know what the sound of the Jadis SE300Bs was? It was the sound of music (with apologies to Julie Andrews.)
In some ways, this was a difficult review to write. Normally, I'm picky, picky, picky. "Forget it. Take this amp, please. Close, but no cigar. Closer, have a cigar. Gets really close, but..." In fact, during most of the review period, even as I was enjoying these amplifiers immensely, I thought their sound was just too good to be true. They sounded wonderful on the Eurythmies all the time. If they're that attractive, I thought, they must be colored in some consonant way with the music. But I was wrong.
Let's zoom in and see where this confusion stemmed from. The Jadis SE300Bs' bass was extraordinary for single-ended, parallel or otherwise. Punchy, differentiated, controlled, and of an excellent overall character, it never disappointed. At the lowest late-night listening levels, as mentioned, it could sound small and rather inconsequential. But at anything approaching normal volume and beyond, I had no complaints. Haydn, Mahler, Poulenc, Ellington, Art Blakey, Art...of Noise? Take Dead Can Dance. Please! I have to tell you, I stayed away from DCD's Into the Labyrinth (4AD 45384-2) with the Cardinals on the Reference 3As, but this group returned to our loft with a vengeance after the Eurythmies were installed.
While Into... was impressive on the Wavelength amps, listening to it on the all-Jadis system was phenomenal. As knockout as that was, when I spun the LP version on the Forsell Air Force One with the Clearaudio Insider, things got out of hand. There was a moment when I thought, "This can't be happening!" It sounded so wonderful, powerful, overwhelming, palpable and so bloody acoustic and enveloping that I didn't want to believe anything could be so wonderful!
There was magic in the air. All the little pieces fitting just so, like a jigsaw puzzle. NOS GE inputs, Tube Dampers, Western Electric 300Bs, Shakti Stones, Audiopoints, Tuning Stands, Goertz MI Ag (the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place), the Mook'd Eurythmies, and the all-Jadis front-end. You know, in the search for those ecstatic moments of musical magic, I've spent hour after (push-pull) hour tweaking the system like a man obsessed, no detail left unturned. We would impress the hell out of visitors, but I felt that, as special as it was, the real magic only made an appearance from time to time, when everything was just so. But now, hour after hour, day following day...magic, seemingly on tap!
Let's change-up to something less otherworldly than Dead Can Dance, like the new Holly Cole release, Temptation (Metro Blue CDP 8 31653 2). This CD is a complete success, in my view. Well-recorded right out of the box, no reservations about the sound this time, nothing to get past. It's entirely less sibilant than her earlier releases, for example. If you're reluctant about getting your feet wet Cole-wise, start with track 6, "Invitation to the Blues," which sports a telling and reverberant acoustic bass. Or try track 8, "Frank's Theme," with a powerful and fulsome piano stretched by pianist Aaron Davis, who covers the strings with one hand while playing with the other. This technique creates an intriguing, muted, modernesque hammered sound. The integration of Cole's voice with the powerful acoustic presence of the piano and the bass in such a huge soundstage was a wonder to enjoy. She existed so touchingly in front of meespecially on track 3 "Jersey Girl" (hah!) It was so...filling.
Listening to Holly's smokey voice, I jotted in my notebook that the Jadis 300Bs "...develop a sense of pace and rhythmical movement of such harmonic and musical integrity that you can find yourself ravished by the sound. These amplifiers are the very embodiment of all that is sex, seductiveness, attractiveness, and wildly gyrating pheromonethey are romance and life. They are love." Well, it must've been late...."They sound extended, fast, open, clear, creating a huge ambient soundfield of great delicacy and nuance, detail and slam in the bass. Everything sounds quick as it comes in life, so accurate yet totally musical. The Jadis amplifiers are so...endearing."
I enjoyed every vocal I spun on the system without fail, CD or LP: Sara K.'s terrific new release on Chesky Tell Me I'm Not Dreaming (JD133) that I wrote about at such length in my Wavelength review; Bill Henderson's beautifully recorded Live at the Times (Discovery DSCD-779); "Love for Sale" on Blackbird by the Siri's Svale Band (SON CD 2001); and Ellington's and Sinatra's Francis A. & Edward K. (Reprise 1024) was just plain killer!
Speaking of ravishing vocals, I'd drop The Intimate Ellington (Pablo 2310-787) on the Forsell/Insider combo wearing an innocent smile when I wanted to reduce our guests to blubbering audiophilus protoplasmus. Ellington vocals, you ask in confusion? Yes, yes...you must find this record. It's "just" a Pablo, no audiophile pretensions, but on the first cut, side A, you'll find "Moon Maiden." It's listed as "Duke Ellington, celeste and vocal, 14 July 1969." Ahhh, such unmitigated pleasure must be illegal! Duke purrs this warm, sweet little ditty at you, for you it would seem, and with such...intimacy. His great charm is wrapped around each luscious syllable. His voice was so well developed it seemed to go well beyond the notion of artifice and the recreation of sound to some special existence on a higher musical plane. The celeste sounded shimmering and communicative, an active vocal counterpart to the Duke.
I appreciated this beautifully developed ability to portray human voice even on modern digital productions. Listen to track 7, "Muddy River," from Laurie Anderson's great release Bright Red (Warner Bros. 45534-2)she gets my vote for Babe of the Year (after Kathleen, of course!). I was struck how distinct and easy it was to follow her voice as she twined with backup vocalist Phil Ballou (any relation to Cat?), their voices elegant, melodic, and harmonic, backed by a contrasting military drum line. Or try track 11, "In Our Sleep" with my main man Lou Reed. It's a sonic treat listening to them both sounding so effortlessly expressive. This close-in vocal expertise is hardly at the cost of larger ambience retrievalthe extreme 3-D musical effects in track 12, "Night in Baghdad," are impressive, enjoyable and very participatory. Visitors in the Ribbon Chair always yodeled, "Listen to that!" as it played. (We like to have fun around here!) On a more serious note, the giant acoustic and powerful slam of the timpani in Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (UK Decca CS 6885) was entrancing.
Part of the wildly attractive sound results from the snappy dynamics that keep everything on time and pace with great élan. While the overall pace and timing of the Wavelengths are as natural as music, the Jadis amplifiers more easily started my foot tapping with their sharply defined rhythmic drive. The Goertz cable was particularly well adapted to passing along the signal unaffected. Certainly the SE300Bs sounded faster and more alive than the Wavelengths, if a touch less transparent.
In fact, the Jadis amplifiers always sounded like they had a very light flywheel when it came to tracking the signal. This is something common to all the single-ended triodes we've heard so far, but especially so with the Jadis. That, combined with the beautiful tonal palette and the giant acoustic they generate, contributed to the uncanny sense that I was listening not only to the master tape (one goal of High End), but actually transcending the mechanics of reproduction to the acoustic event itself. Now, that's progress.
As regards the inner illumination of single-ended triodes I described in the Cardinal XS reviewtheir Unbearable Lightness of BeingI'll say that as beautiful, luminous and approachable as Sara K. seemed via the Jadis, it was a bit less in evidence. The Jadis's presentation is made up of a combination of a degree of this special single-ended interior luminescence (still way more than push-pull), combined with a chrome-like reflective sense of a light shining upon the mids and highs from without. I don't mean this in a pejorative way. Chrome...as in a sculpture by Jeff Koons, for example. Shiny, sexy, sleek, seductivenot metallic sounding by any stretch of the imagination, horrors the thought. I don't think the amplifiers were capable of it, unless we're talking about the shimmery sheen of a brushed cymbal, in which case they can sound metallic, but only as they should. And magnificently so.
If blame must be apportioned for the greater amounts of push-pull like exterior lighting supplementing the that special triode luminescence from within, it might be laid at the SE300Bs' parallel single-ended configuration. As Gordon Rankin had mentioned to be his experience, a parallel design is great for dynamics, but he suggested you lose something of the clarity and information in the midband. I don't want to make too much of this, but clearly it is so.
Listening to Sara K. on this all-Jadis system was close in experience to the Cardinal XS amplifiers had managed that had so knocked me out before. In fact, the Jadis amplifiers sounded much more visceral and less ephemeral than the Cardinals, but at some pricethe French amplifiers lacked some sense of ultimate resolution in the midband which the Cincinnati Cardinals managed to portray with such consummate skill. In this way, Gordon's amplifiers were certainly more pellucid and ultimately transparent down into the very weave and texture of the sound than the Jadis amps. But also at some costthe Cardinals' presentation was somewhat removed from the sharp end of emotions. They were more aesthetethe thinking man's ampswhile the Jadis were more pelvic! (But never gauche or unrefined.)
With its wonderfully recorded vocals and terrific acoustic bass, "Love For Sale," on the Norwegian Blackbird CD, sounded less restrained through the Jadises, more dynamic, exuberant and sexy. The highs were very open, refined, and sweet, but at the same time, compelling, grabby, and startlingly attractive. According to my notes, I was once again feeling that in some way, I'd never heard this recording sound so well. The balance of sound achieved by Jean-Paul Caffi with these amplifiers is stunning in its total naturalness, ease of presentation, exuberance, and nuance.
Yes, the minimalist two-gain-stage Wavelength XS monos do exhibit ever so slightly more of the detail, texture, and soft molecular inner illumination in the sound. But on balance, the Jadis amplifiers come across as more involving. The Cardinals may direct-connect to your higher-order brain functions, but the Jadis SE300Bs speak as well...right to the heart of your emotions. On balance, given the ravishing sound the Jadis amplifiers do make so supremely well, I'd say...I can live with it.
This is not to say the Jadises aren't capable of delivering the velvet in the midrange, either. Listening to Kjell Fagé;us on Opus 3's Lonely Souls, Solo Sonatas for Clarinet (CD19406) was like taking a warm sonic bath. His clarinet was so supremely resolved by the Jadises, so lush and harmonic, so present, that it almost had me in tears. Or you can hear these lovely midrangey qualities when listening to Dr. John's Afterglow (Blue Thumb BTD-7000). He sounds so warm and sweetc'mere bubie, time for a noogie! Or on Gene Ammons's Gentle Jug, a two-LP Prestige set (P-24079) that sounded so warm, inviting, musical, and ambient that I just had to stop what I was doing as it played and let the music wash over me. Languidly, soothingly, and splendidly.
Rather than continuing to rhapsodize over the midrange and the highs, let me just tell you, they were sublime. Take my word for it, it's done better by none.
Over time, I came to realize I always scribbled such adjectives as "sexy," "glamorous," and "attractive" in my listening notes because the SE300Bs on the magnificent Eurythmie IIs always delivered the full measure of music to my ears, brain, and heart. The amplifiers were not editorializing or colored in some "nice" way. They sounded seductive because music can be seductive and glamorous. Or sad and elegiac. Or magnificent and breathtaking. Or (your key musical adjectives here). They're life, they're love, their voice is the limitless joy of music itself.
I know I'm in front of something special when equipment under test demands a reevaluation of my entire relationship with music and its reproduction in the home. This, the Jadis SE300Bs in conjunction with the Jadis Eurythmies have done. I don't know what it all means yetwe'll see what happens when I go back to push-pull after the Audio Note Kasai review up next. These are interesting times.