Jadis JA 200 monoblock power amplifier Jonathan Scull Review

Jonathan Scull reviewed the Jadis in March 1994 (Vol.17 No.3):

Kathleen and I were catching up on our favorite "Mystery" detective one evening, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, in an episode in which Inspector Japp taps his nose, gives Poirot a look, and says, "Better to let sleeping dogs lie, eh, Poirot?" Poirot twitches one of his immaculately cared-for moustaches and delivers a wonderfully charming malapropism, "Non, non, non, mon ami, between reviewers, there should be no sleepy dogs!" Well, he didn't actually say "reviewers"...

The Sleepy Dogs I refer to are the gorgeous, $18,990/pair Jadis JA 200s and the somewhat negative review they received at the hands of DO (Vol.16 No.11). After reading his words, I feel compelled to say, "Non, non, non, mon ami..."

Le setup
Because the JA 200s are very sensitive, setup is critical. In my system, the tube-bearing output sections sit on sand-filled Bright Star Big Foot D-7 bases with no footers under them. When I place the importer-recommended Harmonix RF-66 Large Tuning Feet under the chassis, the 200s shout in the highs in a most unbecoming fashion. In fact, Kathleen walked into the loft after they were placed there by the importer, Victor Goldstein, and said, "What happened to the highs, cheri?" (She calls me cheri. [blush]) The Harmonix feet work, but not automatically to best effect under everything. They do work wonders under the Jadis JP 80 preamplifier, and should be thought of as required equipment under that suave boulevardier. Perhaps they'd work under the 200s mounted in another fashion than we have them here. You must experiment.

Required too for the JP 80 is a full complement of Ensemble Tubesox to damp the microphonics of those top-mounted, out-in-the-breeze glass bottles. If you run this preamp, don't skimp on the details: use a quartet of Harmonix RF-56 Tuning Bases at the corners of the chassis top.

The power-supply chassis of each 200, supported on Arcici SuperSpikes (points removed), sits behind the output section on the floor—but not just plopped down anywhere, mind you. The tubed output section of each channel sits on its stand angled in toward the other at the front in a "V" configuration to minimize amusical magnetic-field interference. The power supplies and output sections should never be located next to each other in parallel fashion together on the stand, or even perpendicular to each other—except possibly for photography, where all those tubes and transformers in such close proximity look so attractive. Angled, that's the trick. The power supplies sit in a "V" fashion relative to each other as well, but the "V" is at a different angle of incidence than the output sections.

Stop glaring at the page and crumpling the edges of the magazine—this isn't just my imagination. How and where you mount high-end equipment of this pedigree and capability is of paramount importance. At first I placed the power supplies and output chassis next to each other on the Bright Star stands. They looked good but didn't sound great. Separating and arranging them in the described fashion immediately improved the sound, both in soundstaging and in the highs, where an unexpected but slightly hard quality had been disturbing me.

Not long ago, a heavyweight, hot-running solid-state Eurocruiser amp arrived chez nous. Thinking I might arrange the amps to easily change back and forth between them, I moved the output sections of the 200s from their "V" configuration and placed them parallel to the outside right and left edges of their stands, plonking down the European Hernia Inducer between them, its feet straddling the stands. Forget it. First of all, nothing is easy about swapping tri-wired XLO, but more importantly, the 200s sounded simply dreadful with that huge chunk of foreign matter sitting between the output sections. In fact, even the solid-state amp sounded better when the 200s were moved away from it.

I've also ordered a pair of Maple Butcher Blocks to drop onto the tops of—or to replace completely—the Big Foot's top plinth. I'm sure this will have as positive an impact on the sound as it had on the Forsell CD Air Bearing transport, which received similar treatment. Tuning Tip for the '90s: Maple Butcher Block!

Le powair cord
The JA 200s are just as sensitive as the rest of the Jadis line about the quality of electricity they're fed. Just as you wouldn't offer a beautiful, alluring Frenchwoman a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich for lunch, you're obliged to give the 200s the best juice possible to extract the glorious sound they're capable of. Power from my two 30-amp, dedicated-line, hospital-grade outlets is carried to the 200s via TARA Labs Affinity solid-core power cords, which have been in my system for some time. I consider the Affinity one of the better-sounding power cords on the market. I've popped their casings and lifted the grounds at one end, as the 200s sound best when floated—otherwise, an annoying buzz intrudes. Similarly, the JP 80 MC sounds best with the ground floated. These cords are available from Matthew Bond at TARA Labs, with a switch to disconnect the ground. In my experience, power cords can make an enormous difference in sound, and not just on tubed equipment. This is especially true for front-end components: CD transports, DACs, preamps, and turntables—they're all candidates for experimentation until you find the right combo for your system and ears.

I've had excellent results with the Affinity, Marigo, XLO, MAS, T&G, Grace, and even some old Tiffany cords that I use in emergencies—all produce easily perceived changes in sound. It's simple enough these days to try power cables at home, so experiment and decide for yourself. In any case, with the TARA Labs cord (and other treatments covered shortly), I noticed no grit or grain in need of cleansing or hosing down, as was apparently the case for DO, and which prompted him to use line conditioners. Harmonic textures were as rich as is possible without being positively gagging!

During a visit in which we discussed arm setup on the Forsell Air Force One turntable, Peter Forsell said the 200s had "lots of body." It may be true, as DO avers, that RF in the power cord injects grunge into the sound—the Affinity power cord's solid-core weave is designed to reject such effects (to which braided power cords may also be subject). Whatever the case, experiment and trust your ears.

Le conditioning
About line conditioning: If you own the JA 200s, or are lucky enough to be contemplating buying them—in fact, if you own any Jadis products—Don't do it! I've tried several different types of power conditioners with the 200s, the JP 80 MC, and my Defy-7 before them, and the best conditioning for any Jadis product is no conditioning.

This is no trivial matter. I'm not condemning all line conditioners in general—I believe in them. The MIT Z-Stabilizer works wonders here with the stereo Euroamp, cleaning up the overall presentation and moving the image back a good foot or two. If I had access to a second Z-Stabilizer, I might try it with the monoblock 200s, but I can't imagine them sounding any better than they already do. The API Power Wedges were mandatory in my system until we installed two dedicated, 20-amp quad sockets for the front-end and two 30-amp quads for the amps. It's highly system-dependent—I know some audiophiles with dedicated lines who wouldn't consider their system complete without one or more of the ubiquitous API power packs in place (they also do wonders for video). I've also used some Tice TPT-treated "adjustable" extension cords and power extenders to good effect. But for all this, the 200s are best left alone, save for one SRMMT (Scull-Recommended Major Mandatory Treatment): Andy Chow's Original Cable Jackets.

To tweak to absolute best effect, and to overcome the truly overwhelming New York RFI Nasties, we've installed the wonderfully effective grounded Original Cable Jackets (see JE's review in Vol.16 No.11) on the umbilicals between the power-supply chassis and the output sections, on the power cords from wall to amps, on each of the three pairs of the XLO tri-wire setup, and on the long run of XLO Signature interconnect from preamp to amps (as well as throughout the rest of the system). RFI doesn't stand a chance—its absence is keenly noted. Take 'em out and noise, hum, grunge, grit, and other unappealing environmental and line-sourced gremlins rear their ugly little heads.

Les dots
Another possible source of grunge to be concerned about is microphonics. While it's true that these amps are simply magnificent to look at in gold-accented, polished stainless steel and black, with double rows of glowing output tubes, imagine the micro-level vibrations taking place in all those glass bottles. In my efforts to wring from them their very best, I got down on my hands and knees and added a Marigo Labs 6mm VTS white Circuit Tuning Dot to the bottom of each output tube—placed on the bottom, plastic plate in the "empty," 6th-pin position. These little sandwich-like damping dots pushed images back even farther than before, and reduced a trace of sibilance on a couple of otherwise reference-quality CDs. I was a little shocked by the change they made.

When experimenting with these dots, you must take care not to overdo it (as I did), or you'll wind up overdamping the highs. I'd been warned by Marigo's Ron Hedrich (after I'd applied the larger dots, of course) that the 6mm dots might be too much. And so they were: an entire layer of upper-octave information disappeared with their application. Back on my knees before the French Audio Icons, I popped out each of the 20 tubes, pried off the 6mm dots, and replaced them with the smaller 4mm dots. These did the trick—the highs were restored, and the images continued to form well back in the soundstage. The slight sibilance was still nowhere to be found, and the transparency was definitely enhanced. I also added small dots to the center bottom of the 12AU7 input and to the 12AX7 drivers on each side. I'll be trying more of these dots on the preamps soon, and will report on the results in a future issue.

For the last smidgen of tweakishness, I added an Ensemble Tubesox over the input 12AU7 at the rear of each amp and placed one Mpingo Disc between the twin sets of binding posts. But in spite of all the efforts I've made to wring the last smidgen of performance from the 200s, those opposed to such terminal tweaking should still get fabulous and musical performance with a little attention paid to power and placement.

Le build et le son
The Jadis JA 200s are magnificent amplifiers. The Poirot analogy works once again. Think of a time when greater care was taken with design and construction—no matter what they say about parts quality or measurements, when I see their beautiful, architectural forms allied with those glowing tubes and imposing transformers, I realize they're objects of beauty that even the ever-fastidious, Art-Deco Poirot would've approved of. When I gaze into the open bottom of a JA 200 and see the point-to-point wiring and copper bus bars all laid in by hand—not a circuit board to be found—I know I'm looking at something special.

And the sound. They threw a fabulous, wall-to-wall soundstage. How perfectly they developed the original acoustic. How deep behind the Avalon Ascents the oh-so-solid and palpable images formed in the room. How those big, imposing speakers just disappeared. How natural the sound. How easy it was to follow the musical line and fall into the music. How deep, controlled, tight, and satisfying the bass. How magnifique the midrange—the traditional strength of the Jadis presentation. How full and satisfying the lower midrange. How open, airy, how right the highs—not at all hard, but very extended and natural. How involving their presentation. How full, how harmonically correct, how wonderfully compelling. How magical.

Le point-counterpoint
As you can see, I agree with Monsieur Deek on many points: The JA 200s do excel at re-creating and lighting up all the nooks and crannies of the soundstage, back to its farthest recesses. We agree that their detail retrieval is without peer, with a wealth of information presented to the listener without resorting to an over-etched treble range. We agree that they cover transient leading-edge attacks with ;aelan and sparkle, but avoid any general sense of upper-octave aggression. We also exhibit no sibling rivalry when it comes to the bass, agreeing that, for a tubed design, bass definition and extension are excellent. We further agree on their magical presentation of bloom, with no apparent congestion or stress under duress—well, almost no stress. As TJN's measurements show, the 200s aren't 200—if you push 'em to the wall with Nina Hagen or some other high-decibel headbanger, you can make 'em yell oncle, but you'll wind up in Mel Brooks's High Anxiety Sanitarium if you listen to 'em for long at that volume.

We start crossing lines when we trip over that esoteric power cord lying on the floor. It's not that I think RFI and power-line–borne grit and grain are not issues (with any component)—they certainly are, especially here in New York, the Electrical Hash Capitol of the World. DO and I just choose to go about dealing with Grungus disgusticus in different ways. Largely because of the electrical sensitivity of these French Wonderamps, I think careful power-cord selection and the application of a number of strategically placed Original Cable Jackets are the more subtle and effective ways to go. Although line conditioning seems to have dealt with DO's grit'n'grain issue, it seems that this approach had a disastrous effect on the lower mids, the midrange, and the upper midrange, which DO found wanting in his experience with these amps. Operation a success—patient dead as a doornail! The use of planars rather than classic dynamic drivers and a different overall system balance may account for the obvious discrepancy in sound we experienced.

I heard the 200s' praiseworthy abilities in the lower midrange while listening to "Get Out of Town" from the Great Jazz Artists Play Compositions of Cole Porter LP (Riverside RS 93515)—Herbie Mann doing his thing on bass clarinet, hitting the lower midrange (and the midrange) in spades! I played this little number through the JP 80 MC for JA and RH when they were visiting, and I think they'd agree with me that, of all the things these amps sounded like, "a midrange as glamorous as a sewing machine" and "lean, lower mids" just weren't two of them. In fact, JA got a little miffed at me for pulling the LP off the Forsell Air Force One Mk.II/Grasshopper Gold before the cut was done. (I am vairy braive in fhront of zee edi-tore, no?)

But, as DO correctly pointed out, these amps aren't "classic" tube-sound engines. If a recording was lean or without soundstage to speak of, that's what I heard. Stringent and bass-blitzed? I got that too. If the midrange was nothing to speak of, the 200s didn't artificially lush it out. But on the better material—both CD and LP—bliss.

Another example of their lower-mid/midrange glory in the analog domain (phono stage supplied by the All-American CAT$s1) was demonstrated in an off-the-beaten-path Japanese RCA, Sonny Meets Hawk! (RJL-2521, originally released as LSP-2712)—a Sonny Rollins/Coleman Hawkins Tenor Giants lovefest. I picked this one up at the Jazz Record Center on 26th Street for fifteen bucks, but didn't expect much.

I was wrong. These two superb musicians sounded as if they were in the room right in front of me—and what a huge, spacious room it was! (If my landlord could see what has apparently become of the loft's speaker end, he'd plotz!) The giant acoustic was perfectly natural and bloomy, with a wonderful sense of air, separation, space, and energy. What presence—it was electrifying. Of course, the CAT made a presentation somewhat different from that of the JP 80, but I'll have more to say about the differences between these two thoroughbreds in another article.

Turning now to the upper mids, another area where Monsieur Deek finds fault with the suave JA 200s: I decided to make some notes using CD as the source, to ensure that the test was as difficult as possible. (Read into that what you will, but surely the Analog Brigade will be the first to admit that the upper mids are where CD loses it to LP.) I used the Sonic Frontiers SFD-2 (reviewed by RH in Vol.16 No.12) and the Timbre Technology TT-1 DAC (review up and coming) to unscramble the digits, via both the JP 80 MC and the CAT. I used the Esoteric P-2S, the C.E.C. TL 1, and the Forsell Air-Bearing CD transport to spin the discs. Listening to the completely charming and civilized Haydn Piano Trios by the Kalichstein/Laredo/Robinson Trio (Dorian DOR-90164, DDD, Fiber Optic) recorded at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in Troy, NY, I was hard pressed to criticize the sound as DO had done. Certainly the violin was not gray or dull, and no matter how hard I squinted at the soundstage, I could discern nary a dark cloud overlaying the mix. Rather, Jaime Laredo's violin sounded sweet, naturally resonant, beautifully spotlighted, and well balanced against the violoncello and piano.

Knowing that JA, our Editorus maximus, has a soft spot for Brahms, I put on an Austrian import: the Trio Pro Arte's recording of the Complete Piano Trios, Vol.1 (Bis CD-98, AAD). Brahms certainly was feeling—ahhhh...so romantic. The Scherzo of the Trio No.1 in B, Op.8, was so masculine and sweeping, romance dripping from each stroke of the violin's bow. The upper mids were glorious, open, blooming, rosiny, with a white light of emotion that seemed to leak from the high-watt sound of this fabulous piece. "I say, Poirot," as zuh Captain Hastings would say.

Practically beside myself from the Brahms, I decided to risk all and play what I consider one of the most romantic pieces ever written, Franck's Piano Trio, Op.1 No.1, rendered by the Munich Piano Trio and imported by Koch International (Calig CAL 50864). The Andante con moto left me weak and breathless. When I found myself standing, frenziedly singing with the melody and air-conducting like crazy, I decided to stop listening and type my notes. This CD hits all the areas found wanting by DO—the violoncello was superb, the piano wonderful, full, and powerful, the violin stunning. I needed a drink. The 200s delivered searing emotion on this demanding piece—regardless of which front-end I used to drive them. I love it!

Le finale
On one LP after another, on CD after CD, the Jadis JA 200s demonstrated their astonishing ability to deliver top-quality bass, flesh out the lower mids, and present the most luscious midrange, upper mids, and treble regions we've ever had the pleasure of experiencing with any amps so far. I'm leaving the door marked $Bultimate open, okay, mes amis? There'll always be other contenders for the throne, and I hope to listen to a particular pair of these "other" champ amps soon. Ahem.

In the meantime, I'm proud and happy to own the Jadis JA 200s as my reference amps. The joy they give is the knowledge that another musical thrill will always be only a flick of the switch away.—Jonathan Scull

Jonathan Scull returned to the Jadis in April 1994 (Vol.17 No.4):

This dedicated, well-heeled audiophile employs two pairs of JA 200s in his home system: Gold Lion KT88s for the bass panels of his DAXed Divas, and Tungsol 6550s on the midrange/tweeters. His stuffers included a pair of NOS AEG 802S input tubes to displace the Gold National 12AU7s that lived there before. To choose a partnering driver (to replace the stock EI 12AX7), I had the delectable job of listening to the differences and choosing between gift pairs of ECC83s from Siemens and Telefunken, and Mullard M8137s. Ho! Ho! Ho! Merrrrry Christmas!

I wound up with Ausbert's recommended setup: the 802S followed by the Siemens. The German Gold National/EI ex-Yugoslav combo had lots of punch, but could've been a smidgen more subtle. The overall presentation became more refined and delicate, while still allowing for appropriate slam—as when my Fave Wild Babe (after my wife, of course) Nina Hagen makes it onto the system. The Tellies were a touch too refined and polite in conjunction with the 802S, but worked nicely with the Gold National input. The Mullards were punchy, like the EI—a touch more refined, but not so delicate as the Siemens. My Amsterdam-bound–by–business friend has promised me more goodies from those far shores to juice up the 200s. Lift up your "Tung" and say "Sol."—Jonathan Scull

COMPANY INFO
Jadis
US distributor: Bluebird Music Ltd.
275 Woodward Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14217
(416) 638-8207
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
mrkaic's picture

"I've never been a fan of the 6550A, which is really not an audio tube at all."

How is the audio vs. no audio tube supposed to matter? Correct me if I'm wrong, but what matters for amplifier design are the characteristics of the tube, e.g. plate current vs plate voltage etc.

Incidentally, I remember reading a rather disappointing review of a Jadis amplifier on this website. (https://www.stereophile.com/content/jadis-se300b-monoblock-amplifier-mea...) Why no measurements here?

supamark's picture

This review is like 25 years old, and if you really want an answer to your question about why Mr. Olsher doesn't like certain tubes you can find him at The Absolute Sound, a rival magazine that prides itself on reviews based only on listening - they don't need, or want, your stinkin' measurements. They'll loooove you over there...

NB - I like measurements.

mrkaic's picture

Thank you for the information. I will try to contact Mr. Olsher. I'm hope he will be glad to explain his views.

John Atkinson's picture
mrkaic wrote:
Why no measurements here?

Our image archive only goes back as far as October 1995, when we started producing Stereophile using DTP. (DeskTop Publishing). The Audio Precision test files for the JA 200 weren't in my archive for some reason, so I had to look for the original workbook. Unfortunately, when I found it, it turned out TJN had saved the files on a 5¼" floppy disk and I no longer have a drive for that format.

I didn't want to hold up posting the review to the website, so we did so before I could scan the original printouts of the graphs and formatted the image files. I have now added the measurement sidebar with all of its graphs.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

mrkaic's picture

You make a super valid point -- some important information might get lost because we no longer have drives to read old magnetic media. I ditched my old floppy drives a few years ago and maybe it was not such a good idea.

Best,

MM

tonykaz's picture

I've only ever had one Tube Amp that I could love, it had EL34s.

I've sold the entire 1985 line of Conrad-Johnson Amps that had 6550 output tubes, these Amps were OK but not beautiful like the little EL34 based MV-45a.

Mr.JVS in Port Townsend is about to report on these Jadis Amps. , I'll bet that he can't love em enough to own em.

Tubes run great until one day when they don't, a good SS Amp runs great for decades.

Tony in Michigan

ps. 6SN7 pre-amp tubes are the way to go

Charles Hansen's picture

While the Jadis preamplifiers had very "standard" circuit topologies, their power amps (at least of that era) were different than anything else I had ever seen before. Specifically, they used *positive* feedback to increase the overall gain of the circuit.

(This same techniques was used in many old radio receivers of the '20 and '30s, where it was called a "super-regenerative" design that was almost completely supplanted by the later and superior "heterodyne" design - which was called "super-heterodyne" for purely marketing reasons! One did not want to go backwards from a "super" circuit to an "ordinary" circuit, regardless of which was actually better - ain't marketers slick, even back before WW2? We have Edward Bernays to thank for much of insanity of today's modern society.)

In the Jadis audio power amplifiers, the positive feedback increased the gain for a different reason - so that they could use more *negative* feedback without adding another gain stage or reducing the overall gain. A bizarrely interesting and uniquely French way of doing things differently. These twin feedback colorations were responsible not only for the Jadis's unique sound, but also helps explains its extraordinary sensitivity to AC power line conditions (including line conditioners and power cords).

Bit of obscure audio history for you there, and a large tip of the hat to Ken Stevens of CAT for explaining it so clearly to me. Enjoy!

EDIT: Apologies for the "history lesson" error. There never was a "super regenerative" radio receiver - only a "regenerative" one. The term "super heterodyne" was coined by its inventor, Edwin Armstrong (later to invent frequency modulation, or FM). The "super" part was short for "supersonic" (he actually meant ultrasonic, as supersonic means faster than the speed of sound). "Hetero" means mixed, and "dyne" is from the Greek word for "power" (dynamo, dynamic, dynasty - even "dynamite").

tonykaz's picture

Thanks for the explanation.

Now, can you help explain the Jadis Price Structure? if there is one.

Any typical Retail item will have a 20% of Retail Sale price as Cost to Manufacture ( Proctor & Gamble are at about 9% ).

Importing adds another layer of Costs.

These Jadis things look rather Industrial, almost like something we'd find in a Sears Silverstone Stereo Console.

What is so darn compelling about these Amps?

Tony in Michigan

Charles Hansen's picture

I'm not sure there was much different about Jadis than any other imported audio product. As you note, shipping and an extra layer of profit for the importer adds to the cost of almost all imported products. The hadis amplifiers were expensive to build because of three major things - their massive transformers (both power and output, which were far larger than found on competing products), their meticulous point-to-point hand wiring done by French (not Chinese slave labor), and finally the polished chrome-plated steel chassis - also requiring a lot of hand labor.

For those with an eye for those details, they are as impressive (if not more so) than a 1" thick front panel. It's mostly just cultural differences that have us pay attention to certain details and notice the value therein, I believe. Victor Goldstein may have had a slightly higher distributor margin than typical, but not by much. He was based in New York and had to have a full-time technician of Chinese descent to repair and maintain them. (They had a lot of reliability issues!) I've forgotten his name, but after Mr. Goldstein stopped importing Jadis, his former technician (Da Hong? Ming Da? or something similar) used to both modify Jadis amps and also build his own amps from scratch. You will see the technician's name mentioned in the old TAS digest-sized issues when HP would review the Jadis amps.

The compelling thing was their sound. I think the JA-80 (single pair of output tubes) was more successful, and I heard some absolutely amazing sound from those amps. Hope that helps.

tonykaz's picture

Ayre takes "Digital Product of the Year"

Congratulations

Tony in Michigan

ps. thanks for your exotic amp comments. I've sold Tube gear and kinda agree with y'all on these things being what I call twitchy and prone to blowing up. phew ( keep u'r fingers crossed )

Having said that, my 1960 era Mac Tube Mono amp never blew itself up, nor did any of the Audible Illusions I sold ( thank god ).

I've heard horror stories about big Tube Amps.

I sold Electrocompaniet and didn't at-all miss the 'variables' of having to cope with tube gear.

I was once importing Tim De Paravicini's various tube Amps and didn't have a blow-up problem but they were waaaaaaaay over rated and didn't sound all that wonderful compared to a conrad-johnson Mv-75a. The Mv-45a was a sweet-hearted little charmer that I wish I still owned one of.

That gorgeous and charismatic sound quality you refer to is a rare bird. I had a local technician that would modify any used tube pre-amp he could get his hands on, his modified stuff would blow the doors 'Off' any of our Retail Showroom Products. His secrets were; especially fine resistors, expensive/exotic Caps. and Russian Tubes. His stuff typically had a short half-life.

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