Sam Tellig, February 1996

Sam Tellig returned to the Jadis SE300B in February 1996 (Vol.19 No.2):

Of course, I rushed into print last month with my initial write-up on the Jadis SE300B—I wanted Stereophile readers to get the scoop. Next month, in this very rag, Monsieur Scull will give you the full poop on this fabulous amplificateur francais. Meanwhile, I've had four more weeks to live with the pair.

"Any tube trouble?" Frank Garbie, the importer, wanted to know.

"Not yet," I answered, and yumped to call Yon-o-Ton (footnote 1).

"Yes, tube tsouris all right. One of the Esti 4300 BLX tubes failed on me, and the other tube it was paralleled with was glowing red-hot. It even singed the top of the tube cage. I've replaced them with other 300Bs."

Sure enough, I removed the tube cages over the 4300BLXs on my pair of amplifiers and noticed that on the left channel amplifier, one toob had gone dark and the other 4300BLX was glowing super bright and running extra hot trying to compensate. It's sort of like Siamese twins, Cheng and Eng—one dies, takes out the other. I switched off the amplifiers and replaced the Esti 4300 BLXs with two pairs of Golden Dragon 4300Bs.

All right, I told myself, these things happen, especially with a new model. And a new tube. Still, Jadis should have known about the apparently high failure rate with the 4300BLX tube (footnote 2). At least Jadis should have let the amplifiers run in for 80–100 hours with all tubes in place. Maybe they did.

So, with new tubes installed, how does the amplifier sound?

Still glorious. I hear all the harmonic beauty that's typically associated with a 300B amplifier running in single-ended mode with a degree of transparency that's at once quite startling and seriously addictive. Warning: Listen to these amplifiers and you may find it tough to listen to other amps, despite the drawbacks.

Drawbacks?

You didn't tell us about these last month, Sam.

It's true. I was in such awe of the sound—experiencing such ecstasy, as my pal Harvey Rosenberg would say—that I couldn't hear any drawbacks, or bring myself to admit there are any. But in common with other 300B-based amplifiers I've encountered, especially the single-ended type, the Jadis SE 300B is—well, a little lacking both in dynamics and weight in the upper bass and lower midrange. At least, that's the way it seems with the amplifiers on the Manleys

As it happens, I still had the pair of Manley SE/PP 300B amplifiers on hand, and, as soon as I could tear myself away from the Jadis SE300B, I tried those with the Compositions. Even more than the Thiel CS.5s, the Compositions revealed the much greater delicacy and resolution of the Jadis amplifiers. Still, especially considering their price of $3500/pair, the Manley amplifiers were excellent, too. Some resolution, some transparency was gone—but still I heard much midrange magic.

Now, of course, the Manleys have more power on demand—a claimed 36Wpc instead of 18W in single-ended mode—when you switch into push-pull. So I pulled on the Manleys (you push to get out of push-pull) and tried them in the more muscular mode. Dynamics improved greatly, the lean sound was no longer so lean, the resolution was almost as good as it had been in single-ended mode, but some of the palpability was lost, the soundstage was flatter, and there was less air there (whew!). Of course, this is the neat thing about the Manleys—you can use them any way you want, single-ended or push-pull, without or with varying amounts of feedback.

Drawbacks
But if the Infinitys reveal the amplifier's glories, they also reveal its drawbacks. (I hate to use the word "flaws.") Unless, perhaps, you get them on a pair of super-efficient horn speakers, as J-10 has, the Jadis amplifiers are not the most dynamic speakers, and—well—in absolute terms—they just can't get it up in terms of bass and lower midrange drive. Are you surprised? I'm not. I've heard more or less the same thing from other low-powered single-ended triode tube amplifiers in other circumstances—although the switchable SE/PP Manley amplifiers seem to get it up more than most, even in SE mode.

When all is said and done, though, I can easily live with the combination of Jadis and Infinity, and love it. The Jadis amplifiers have harmonic delicacy that you just have to hear. What's more, the Jadis amplifiers have a way of opening up—I know of no other way to express this—that's extraordinary even according to the standards set by other Jadis amplifiers. The Jadis SE300B's breathe—and I do mean breathe—such life into the music that the effect, despite diminished dynamics, is as close to live as I've ever heard from reproduced sound.

This, generally speaking, is what 300B-based amplifiers do so well: they breathe life into the music. But the Jadis amplifiers breathe more than life into the music; they impart light as well. This is how I would define ultimate transparency—life and light, not just bags of resolution and detail. With light, you get more than palpable presence—an amplifier can sound "dark," yet still conjure up very convincing audio images, and also sound harmonically correct. Light is something else. I can't use any other word. I turn on the Jadis amps, and as with no others in my experience, the music is illuminated from within.

I just mentioned this to Yon-o-Fun, who's finishing up his own review—coming next month. It seems that we've independently reached the same conclusion about this light-from-within business. Like I said, this phenomenon is especially dramatic with the Jadis SE300B amplifier. Turn on the amps, let them play music for a while (better to let them warm up at least a half hour; an hour is better) and the room is filled with sunshine.

You really do listen to these amplifiers at your own risk. When I substitute other amplifiers, the light goes out, the clouds roll in, and the joy begins to dissipate.

Another drawback—if you can call it that—is that analog appears to outshine digital through the Jadis. It's not that the Jadis makes digital worse—far from it. It's just that analog, even not-so-far-above-average analog, sounds richer, fuller. For the most part, I've been using a very modest analog setup through the Jadis: a Goldring 1042 cartridge, retailing for $275, in a Rega Planar 3 turntable (with RB 300 arm, footnote 3), a long discontinued NYAL Moscode SuperIt, and a Purest Sound Systems Model 500 passive preamplifier.

The lack of dynamic drive? I'll tell you: it's less of a problem with my analog than it is with whatever digital I've dropped into the system so far. Oh well, you can't have everything. If I want orchestral music, balls out, I'll take our seats at Carnegie. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I'll look for ways to compensate. Cables, different CD players and processors. More LPs!!!!—Sam Tellig


Footnote 1: In Russian, Jonathan is "Yon-o-fun," my wife, Marina, points out.

Footnote 2: Alema UK, manufacturers of the Audion amplifiers, knew about the problem and stopped using this tube. When I saw the Jadis SE300Bs fitted with this tube, I assumed that Jadis knew and the problem had been sorted out.

Footnote 3: "Fabulous combination," says Goldring importer Roy Hall. "And you can print that, because I don't sell Revolver turntables anymore."

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Jadis S.A.R.L.
Bluebird Music Ltd.
310 Rosewell Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4R 2B2, Canada
(416) 638-8207
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COMMENTS
soulful.terrain's picture

Another great piece written by JS.

Sumflow's picture

It seems to me it would have more validity if you had someone like  Roger Waters, or Neil Young saying that it sounds like he intended when he created the original in the studio in the first place.  Otherwise what do you have?

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