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One of the rules to synergizing is to compensate for the weaknesses of one component with the assets of another. The easiest example of this is related to tonal balance. If the system is slightly thin and lacks bass foundation, we try to pair it with loudspeakers whose bass is bigger than usual and cabling of the same character. This is commonly done and works well. But we mustn’t forget that this just compensates one flaw with another. Yet unbelievable results can be achieved doing that and it has to be admitted that in the basic, mid and even basic higher price ranges, it cannot be done differently. Each component there has definite flaws which need to be worked around.

But it is different in the hi-end and top hi-end. There we cannot talk about flaws. Although there are no ideal devices, compared to lesser components what remains is personalities rather than flaws. Such character should not be seen as negative because all else would be plain nothing. At the very top of today’s audio (this is of course a temporary state but I need a reference point), we can only juggle with character by making individual choices. There is no place for compensations. We cannot forget about the very basic truism that every flaw (defined as a visible departure from neutrality and ‘naturality’) is a shortcoming communicated as a worsening of the sound. When with a top device there is lack of treble, we cannot compensate with brighter cables because we immediately will get a bright sound.

The Jota shows its hi-end soul to perfection. This is a fantastic, very well-tuned amplifier with a sound that ties it to the best amplifiers in the world known to me: the PAT-777 Harmonix/Reimyo and Ancient Audio Silver Grand Mono amplifiers. In terms of timbre it is closer to the former while on speed and resolution the latter. Now two short sentences about power. As is commonly known, power spoils a man. The higher an amp’s power reserves, the better. I experience this every day with my Luxman M-800A, which seemingly has unlimited resources. But when we talk about the most exclusive hi-end, it turns out—and this is just my opinion, not an axiom—that the low and ultra low-powered amplifiers based on the 300B tube (8 watts from a single tube or 16 watts from a paralleled pair) or 2A3s (3 and 6wpc respectively) sound best. Only they can deliver the resolution, palpability, speed and breathtaking realism to make the reproduced mechanical events almost true. But there is a price to pay. Those are low-powered amplifiers and some things cannot be achieved with them.

Please do not get me wrong but one thing has to be put straight from the very beginning: Low power is a flaw. It is not a characteristic to take for granted but a shortcoming. To reproduce real dynamics and power, big full-range loudspeakers require high power and this cannot be overcome. We can of course try to connect to the amplifier high-efficiency loudspeakers (e.g. tube friendly designs) but in my experience, this is not an ideal situation and distortion from such speakers is so significant that it destroys the positive aspects of such solutions. For me the deviations from neutrality in such loudspeakers are quite annoying and I believe that classic boxes with modern drivers are much closer to the dream of the perfect sound.

On the other hand, the sonic character of such systems can be incredibly engaging and I fully understand people who choose that route. Still I will repeat that for me, this is a sideways and not forward step. It’s why a combination of low-power amplifier and high-efficiency loudspeaker is only a half measure. But aside from that, I do not see any other flaws. It’s why powerful triodes like 845 or 211 are not my kind of tubes. I am not convinced by them and I always miss something in their sound which the 300B and 2A3 have. Hence I approached the Vaic tubes with some reserve. It is in fact a beefed-up 300B and could mean compromises of one kind or another. But not in this case. The Jota showed my Luxman how a complicated multi-layer sound machine compares to a very basic circuit on harmonics etc.