Sam Tellig, January 1996
You, being a normal person, may find this hard to believe, but hi-fi rags have been known to try to scoop one another with reviews of certain high-profile products. For example, I'd lusted the Jadis SE300B single-ended triode amps since first seeing them in the Juin-Juillet 1995 issue of Haute Fidelite, France's best hi-fi rag. "La magie des 300B," the cover line read. Inside, Messrs. Jean-Philippe Delandre and Alexandre Geoffoy went nuts over the amp"Vous l'avez compris, mon enthousiasme est sans borne," said one of the two (not sure which) at the close of the article. Puissanceah, umpower of these superbes blocs mono? Ten watts per channel.
Jonathan Scull, who also received a pair of these amps for full-scale review, will fill you in on more of the details next month. The amps use two 300Bs per sideactually 4300B LX tubes, made in China and a variant of the 300Band no overall negative feedback. The plate voltage on the tubes is kept reasonablearound 350Vso the tube life of the 4300B LXs should be long. My own experience? If 300Bs don't blow up in the first 80100 hours, they may be good for several years.
The tube complement consists of one 6SN7 tube in the gain/driver stage and two 5R4 WGY power rectifier tubes (les valves redresseuses). Oh, yes, le prix de la paire? $13,000. Mon Dieu! That's $650 per watt per channel. Beaucoup d'argent.
I read the Haute Fidelite review on a flight back from Paris, and got on the phone to the US distributor, Fanfare's Victor Goldstein, as soon as the plane landed. Surprise. He knew nothing about the amps.
I knew something was amiss.
What was happening, perhaps at that very moment, was an overthrowa coup d'etatwhereby Fanfare was fini (now becoming the jadis Jadis distributor) and Northstar Leading the Way, Inc. was the new star. As soon as I caught up with Northstar's Frank Garbie, I ordered a pair. "I want them, Frank," I said, lust in my voice.
"Not even hearing them."
"That's right. I've been bitten by the 300B bug, I've seen the photos, and I want these amps."
Which is how I came to get what Frank says is the first pair of SE300Bs shipped out in the United States. (J-10, who was on vacation at the time, got the second pair, days later.)
I was going to hold my review so it appeared the same issue as Jonathan's full-scale write-up. But then I had a phone conversation with Monsieur Scull.
"Bonjour Jon-a-ten. Comment ca va? C'est moi, Sam."
"You couldn't fool anybody with that fake French accent. Me and Kathleen least of all."
J-10 (J-Dix seems more appropriate in this contextalmost sounds like Jadis) informed me that a pair of the SE300Bs had gone to another magazine. And they were planning a feature review.
"Fie on them," I said, "Can't let them scoop Stereophile."
So, with J-10's approval, I'm breaking this a month early. His will be a feature review and mine isn'tit's just a foreplayI mean, a foretaste. Plus, J-Dix will have a total scoop on the new Jadis Eurythmie II speakersso far as I know, no one else in North America has a pair.
"You're buying these amps?" Marina wanted to know.
"I've already bought them."
"These amps are not cheap," observed Marina. [long pause] "I want a shuba."
"What's a shuba?"
"A fur coat. You promised me one last year."
"But that's so...politically incorrect. What'll I tell Gordon Rankin if he finds out I bought you a fur coat?"
"I still want a fur coat."
"To wear to Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center?"
"Why not? A lot of people still do. I can wear it to the restaurant in Brighton Beach. How can you take me to a Russian night club in winter wearing a cloth coat?"
So, you see, the Jadis SE300B cost me not just the amps, but a shuba to boot. What's more, I feel so guilty I'm going to have to give $1000 to Gordon Rankin anyway. Maybe he can donate it to Friends of Animals.
Enough fooling around.
At $13,000/pair and 10Wpc, the Jadis SE300Bs had better be killer amps. They are. They have that ability, unique to Jadis, of making other equipment sound just a little bit...crude.
I had the very same reaction to the SE300Bs that I had 10 years ago when I first heard the Jadis JA-30s in my system (still among the best-sounding in the Jadis line, and currently available at $7900/pair). The JA-30s had a refinement that other amplifiers lacked. Jadis has done it again with the SE300Bs.
I'm not putting down the Manleys, mind youremember, they sell for about a quarter the pricebut the Jadis SE300Bs are clearly superior. Their most obvious characteristic is the remarkable sense of spaciousness, of airthat's partly due to their superior resolution. The Jadises resolve so much detail that the effect is nothing short of astoundingand yet, such is the glory of Jadis that all of this detail is rendered in the most musical manner imaginable.
I can hear it most dramatically with violinssolo violins are harmonically rich and sweet, as they are in real life. Listening to string quartets played on the Jadis SE300Bs is an experience that can get you very close to a live performance. By contrast, other amplifiers, to some degree or another, appear to have a level of electronic grungeeven single-ended amplifiers using the 300B output tube. This is completely missing with the Jadis SE300Bs. "Grainless" has been used by critics beforethese amplifiers give new meaning to the word.
And you know that if the amplifier is so good with strings, it'll be superb with voices, tooand with other instruments. Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holidayall came to life with an immediacy, a live quality, that was truly remarkable.
The Jadis SE300Bs achieve all of this without rolling off the top endthat may be why there's so much air there (footnote 1). You get treble extension without any treble hardness. Brass can have a thrilling yet natural edgethe way it does in a concert hall. Triangles have the requisite sparkle.
And the bass?
Extended, tight, fast, butat least with the speakers I've tried so far, the admittedly inappropriate Thiel CS.5s and the Infinity Composition Prelude P-FRsthe bass can be a little lightweight. It'll be interesting to try other speakers, and since these amps are mineremember, I bought themI'll have opportunities. The French reviewers noticed the same thing about the bass. Quoting from the aforementioned article in Haute Fidelite (again, my translation):
"...the bass will be lightweight if the speakers aren't efficient enough. Even though the Jadis is certainly, subjectively speaking, the most powerful 300B-based amplifier ever constructed, it is not capable of driving just any speaker. An efficiency of 92dB seems to me to be the reasonable minimum, but each extra decibel is good to have, especially to get more level in the bass."
By the way, Jadis recommends using this amplifier with speakers rated at 98dB or higher. This may be excessive, and the recommendation may owe something to the fact that Jadis is trying to create a market for its super-efficient Eurythmie II horn speakers. The French reviewers used the Jadis amps with a speaker called the Nemo Altair, which they imply has a 92dB rating. I tried to locate an importer for this speakerno luck. Meanwhile, I tried the Jadises with the Thiel CS.5s (rated at 87dB/2.8V/1m) and with the Infinity Compositions (a measured 96dB/W/m).
Curiously, the Jadises fared better in the bass with the Thiels. The bass was rich, full, well-controlled...until the amps ran out of power. The Compositions, much leaner-sounding by nature, sounded a trifleand I do mean a triflelean with the Jadises. Still, the sound of the Jadises/Compositions was stunningespecially the sense of air there. Other amplifiers driving the Compositionsthe Manleys, the Quicksilver M-135 monos that I wrote about last monthsounded veiled and closed-in, even a little claustrophobic, by comparison.
I've had the Jadis SE300Bs for only a couple of weeks, and they're undoubtedly still breaking-in. I'll have more to say in the future as I try them with various speakers. But it's already become obvious that it's very difficult to listen to most other amps with the Jadises in the house. The resolution, the sense of space, the harmonic integrityall these qualities combine to make the Jadis SE300B perhaps the finest amplifier I've ever had in my system.
Yes, it puts out 10Wpc. (It sounds like more.) And unlike the Manleys, it's difficult to find the right speaker to match it with. But the sound is so extraordinary, even with inappropriate speakers, that it's worth trying to find speakers that accommodate the amp, not the reversewhich I think has been going on for far too long in audiophile-land.
Manufacturers? I want speakers92dB or betterthat will work well with the Jadis SE300Bs, because this may be the world's best-sounding amplifier. Are you listening?Sam Tellig
Footnote 1: The reviewers in Haute Fidelity thought the treble was "perhaps lightly attenuated." (My translation.)