Jadis JS1 MkV Reference D/A processor Page 2

In my system, the Jadis DAC did two things remarkably, uncannily well. First, it created a vast, shimmering soundstage that extended across the rear wall of my loft and encouraged me to spend hours enjoying the magic of stereophonic recording. The scale of the sonic images was as big as the recording allowed. When listening to "Polk Salad Annie," from Walk a Mile in My Shoes: The Essential '70s Masters (RCA/Qobuz 16/44.1 stream), Elvis Presley's voice seemed to emanate not just from above my Altec Valencia speakers but from the intersection of the rear wall and ceiling, 15.5' above the floor.


The lateral staging was just as eye-popping: Ronnie Tutt's machine-gun drumming and the horns sounded like they came from 8' to the right of my right speaker. On the other side, James Burton's keening Telecaster and the ching-ching-ching-ching-a-lings and chika-booms of the Sweet Inspirations, one of Presley's two backup vocal quartets, were situated just as far to the left. Between them, an Elvis as tall as a Dairy Queen sang Tony Joe White's scorcher about a "wretched, spiteful, straight-razor totin' woman" who subsisted on cooked pokeweed, a plant that's edible when young but soon grows deadly. The track was recorded on stage at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, and I could almost see the spotlight and Presley's white sequined jumpsuit. The JS1's Technicolor presentation put me in the front row. Listening to it, I was having almost as much fun as the band.


Second, the Jadis portrayed instruments and voices with more tonal richness and vivid colors than I imagined a digital component could. Listening to "Ahir Bhairav/Nat Bhairav" from Call of the Valley (16/44.1 AIFF rip from Saregama CDNF 150008), one of the most influential Indian classical (more accurately light-classical) albums of the last century, I was captivated by the saturated tone of Brijbushan Kabra's slide guitar and by how easy it was to tell it apart from the more metallic sound of Shivkumar Sharma's santoor. But it was Hariprasad Chaurasia's bansuri, a side-blown bamboo flute, that thrilled me most: Though I've heard the recording many times, I'd never heard Chaurasia's instrument sound so starkly beautiful and unmistakably woody.

Throughout our time together, the JS1 portrayed guitars, saxophones, trumpets, drums, and other instruments with remarkable vividness and materiality, making listening to acoustic music especially rewarding. The French processor also excelled at tactility and presence. Listening to "Vieni fra queste braccia" from the 1975 recording of Bellini's I Puritani performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and the Chorus of the Royal Opera House under Richard Bonynge (24/96 FLAC, Decca/Qobuz), I'm always struck by the overwhelming range and power of Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti's voices, which are ideally suited to the bel canto material. Through the JS1, their voices sounded embodied and physical, a sensation that lent more humanity to the technically astonishing performances. The Jadis made the recording's ambient cues eerily present; singers moving across the stage became easier to follow. I might have actually flinched at the thunderclap at the beginning of Act 3.


The JS1's generous personality was particularly kind to indifferent and poor recordings, like Hejira, my favorite of Joni Mitchell's albums. Compared to Blue, an audiophile benchmark, Hejira makes Mitchell and her band sound remote, small, and tonally bleached. The Jadis performed a kind of sonic reanimation on this album: It supersized Mitchell to larger-than-life stature and restored the instruments' tonal heft and harmonics. Listening to the indelible title track, I marveled at the clarity of Mitchell's singing and the richness of Jaco Pastorius's melodic bass playing and was reminded that the performance—for all of Mitchell's genuinely profound lyrics—is actually a voice-bass duet. I choked up a little, because this was the finest sounding, most meaningful Hejira I'd heard, regardless of medium. Which brings me to a seemingly subtle point that's really not subtle at all: The JS1's ability to showcase flawed recordings in the best light never came at the expense of the music and always served to enhance my understanding and appreciation of the performances.

There's no perfection in the world of things, and the one area where the Jadis left me wanting slightly more is detail. I want to be precise here: The processor never sounded overly warm, congested, or lacking in resolution, in the manner of some tubed digital components from the 1990s. It was simply a matter of balance. As much as I loved the JS1's spatially monumental, tonally saturated sound and compulsive listenability, I sometimes wished it dug a little deeper into the mix. It was like enjoying a rich, barrel-aged Chardonnay and wishing for a little more acidity.


When I replaced the JS1 with my Sonnet Morpheus, I immediately missed the French DAC's panoramic, flesh-and-blood sound. In comparison, the Morpheus projected a smaller soundfield, sounded less colorful and textured, and in general seemed to be having less fun. But it also offered more apparent resolution without losing track of the music and kept me slightly more engaged. Another way to say it is that I preferred the sound of the JS1 but found the Morpheus's more insightful balance a little more to my liking. In the end, choosing seemed unfair: I wanted both.

In considering whether the Jadis constitutes good value, I had to lay aside some qualms. Let me explain. Personally, I happen to think that a piece of audio gear that costs as much as the JS1 should make you feel like one of God's own angels is lifting you from a feather bed and bearing you straight to heaven. Still, $20,900 is not an unusual price in today's market, and given the JS1's superb engineering, build quality, and musical aptitude, it doesn't seem exorbitant. What it does do is place the JS1 in a rarefied field: This amount of money will buy you a well-engineered, excellent-sounding DAC from the likes of dCS, Weiss, Meitner, Lampizator, totaldac, Mola Mola, and others. And while I haven't been able to hear them all in my home, I can confidently say that the Jadis JS1 offers something that, if not unique, is at least highly distinctive: a digital source that uses tubes to offer a rich, colorful, tactile, propulsive sound, state-of-the-art soundstaging, complete freedom from digital artifacts, and an ability to breathe life into just about any recording. If that's what you're looking for, a world of fun awaits.

Jadis Electronics
US distributor: Bluebird Music Limited
1100 Military Trail
Kenmore, New York 14217

georgehifi's picture

"where the Jadis left me wanting slightly more is detail."

For a $21k dac, the output impedance today is pathetically high and variable over the frequency range, and the bandwidth also way too rolled off -2db at 18khz already.

Great 20 years ago, but not for today.

Cheers George

Long-time listener's picture

Given that 21-bit resolution is now fairly common -- and you can get 21-bit resolution, combined with really excellent sound with the $700 Topping D90SE DAC for example -- it seems the solution would be for Jadis to up their game a little bit, digitally speaking. Put a 21-bit capable DAC in front of those tubes. Why only 18 or 19 bit?

Jonti's picture

Why not simply run a solid state DAC through an excellent tube preamp? That's what I do, and the results are very enjoyable.

Jack L's picture


This Jadis DAC already got a built-in tube preamp, delivering over 2.5Vrms enough to drive directly any power amps to their rated output power.

So nooo need any external tube preamp, pal.

Jack L

rwwear's picture

But you may still want a volume control

Jack L's picture


My "alternative" way is even much much more simple - go without any premp virtually.

My solid state 24bit192KHz DAC hooked up to my tube linestage (switched to PASSIVE bypass mode) electrically drives directly my tube power amps since day one a couple years back.

The music videos I stream always sound soooo DETAILLED, transparent & 3-D & sooo punchy powerful that the volume control never needs to turn beyond the midway.

As I always maintain: less electronics in the signal path, better will be the sound.

Listening is believing

Jack L

Jonti's picture

I can imagine how great your setup must sound, Jack. You're definitely onto a winner there.

I should clarify that my (solid state 24/96 Luxman) DAC is also hooked up to a tube linestage (EAR Yoshino), albeit one which feeds a Class A solid state power amp. At any rate, the sound this produces strikes an excellent balance between detail/resolution and transparency/musicality. To replace my DAC and tube linestage with this all-in-one Jadis would cost me 10 times what I paid for my gear, but I very much doubt it would sound 10 times better.

PeterG's picture

Thanks for the excellent review. I have not heard the Jadis, but it seems you've gotten at it's true character, with both plusses and minuses. Or maybe they're aren't plusses and minuses to all, but a better way for each reader to understand whether it's the right DAC for their ears

Long-time listener's picture

The way this review is written gives the reader a very clear idea of what he'd be getting with this product, for better or worse. The review uses language that is mostly confined to audio terms -- soundstage, insight, detail, color, etc. It doesn't confuse the issue with terms like "proletarian" that tend to obscure (sometimes one might think intentionally) what's actually going on, and doesn't lavish endless praise and expressions of wonder on the product (which has sometimes been done with products that end up in Stereophile Class B). Clear, straightforward, informative. Bravo.

shp's picture

"To the presumably clean output of the AKM4497EQ DAC chip, it adds low-order harmonic distortion and a random noise floor that increases in level at low frequencies. In other words: tube sound"

I think audiophilia needs a "tube screamer" for solid state systems to add low-order harmonic distortion and a random noise floor.
It needs to have at least one tube, but that might just be for show. The actual sonic affect could be done with DSP. Or go full on modeling and let the customer pick which classic tube sound you want to emulate.

JHL's picture

I think audiophilia needs a "transistor blender" for tube systems to add odd-order harmonic distortion and intermodulate music through the built-in random tone bleacher.

If it has at least one transistor the sonic affect will be inherent and guaranteed. Or go full on assumption-mode and let the customer pick based on having not actually heard great audio gear from across the ranges.

Jack L's picture


Well, if designed properly an anode follower beats any cathode followers in term of phase reversion, total harmonic distortion & gain control (over unity) using the NFB loop, PSRR, & consistency due to tube ageing.

If Jadis designers would copy Aikido linestage design : anode follower (1/2 ECC833) + cathode follower (1/2 ECC82) as output tube, the too low load impedance should not be an issue, IMO.

Jack L

hollowman's picture

It's a little weird that throughout the text of this entire review, there is NO mention of the Stereophile Jadis DAC review from March 1995, p.101: Jonathan Scull auditions the Jadis JS1 Symmetrical D/A processor & J1 Drive CD transport.
I don't think that review has been websited yet ???? It LOOKS exactly like this "new" model on the exterior .

That 1995 review is here: