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David Kan
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Turntable/Tonearm/Cartridge: Denon DP-59L/DL-302, Rega Planar 3/RB300/Elys
Digital Source: Micromega Microdrive and Variodac, Marantz SA8260, Philips CDV770, Deltec Little Bit DAC, Deltec PDM Two DAC
Preamp: Dared MC-7P, KingRex Preamp, KingRex PREference
Power Amp/Integrated Amp: Elekit TU-879S
Speakers: Klipsch Synergy F2, JohnBlue JB3, Loth-X BS1
Cables: Clearaudio Silver Line interconnect, Dared OFC interconnect, Deltec Black Slink interconnect, Luscombe LBR-35 interconnect, JohnBlue S2 speaker cables, OCOS speaker cables by Dynaudio, Aural Symphonic Digital Standard digital cable, Audience Conductor “e" speaker cables and interconnect
Power Cords:
Aural Symphonic Missing Link, Ensemble Powerflux, Symphonic Line
Power Line Conditioning: Tice Power Block IIIC, Monster Power HTS-3500 Mk II (modified by NuForce), Monster Power HTS-1000 Mk II
Room Size: 15’ x 13.5’ x 7’/8’ diagonal setup / 11’ x 18’ x 7’/8’ opens to 18’ x 19’ x 7’/8’, long wall setup, carpeted concrete slab floor, suspended ceiling and all walls finished with drywall (basement with small window on one side, which is concrete foundation wall with insulation).
Review component retail price: $2,188 (optional upgrades available)

With a footprint of 7" by 10.5" and weighing a mere 11.4 pounds, the JohnBlue TL66 is one cute little tube monoblock with a style all its own. I personally miss the earlier production’s unique bronze-yellow scheme now replaced by conventional black.

The cosmetic layout remains the same however. Power switch, volume knob and RCA input socket are located on deck to optimize short signal paths while the IEC power socket and speaker binding posts are logically assigned to the rear. Factory-fitted with NOS Russian OTK 6L6 power tubes also known as PAДИO 6n3cE (my personal favorite), the amp also accepts KT66, KT88, 6550 and EL34 all interchangeably thanks to auto bias. Driver tubes are NOS Sylvania 6AU6.

As I reported in my 2008 Best of Year discoveries, I found in Tommy Wu, designer and owner of JohnBlue Audio Art, a sort of artist. And there’s a strong audiophile DIY spirit inside and around the TL66’s black sand-blasted steel chassis. Minimal cosmetic touches here and there are somewhat improvisational.

The very classy JohnBlue plaque is golden and the slim tapering volume knob silver. The knob’s tiny engraved position marker looks très chic in daytime but becomes illegible in dim lighting when the naked blue LED indicator takes over like anti-aircraft glare. (My counter measure is to put a flat plastic ring around the knob marked with a more legible dot.) Some might think that volume control for a power amp is one devil they don’t need. I personally don’t mind especially for monoblocks as attenuators serve for left and right channel balance. That aside, you have the flexibility of feeding signals directly off a source. Volume control is by Japanese Blue Velvet Alps.


Inside, 'simple is beautiful' rules. There are less than 30 components and extremely simple point-to-point wiring. As the website claims:"Internal parts employ an eclectic mix of audiophile-grade German, American and Japanese parts that offer an unsurpassed sonic experience. The amps are hand-made in Taiwan. Compared to equipment that is supplied with standard current-production Chinese or Russian tubes, our amplifier uses NOS OTK 6L6 (circa 1980s) for its power stage and NOS Sylvania 6AU6 driver tubes for the driver stage. The output transformer is hand-wound by Mr. Lee, the inventor of the famed 'Litz' winding technique.

"Internal components consist of NOS Frako capacitors originally made in East Germany. The horizontal champagne and gold-colored audiophile Frako and Roe caps are often seen utilized in Studer CDPs. Frako and Roe capacitors are technically alike though Frako is less bright than ROE. Frako is renowned for its midbass punch and subtle airiness. The main coupling caps are of the proprietary JohnBlue brand Mr. Cable. AC power filter caps are audiophile-grade Hitachi, BHC Aerovox or Rifa supplied by special order. Other parts include carbon and Allan Bradley resistors, pure virgin and OCC copper wires for internal point-to-point wiring and Wonder Solder for all contact and lead points."

Technical specifications are conservatively rated as a max output power of 6 watts, frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz ±1.5dB and output impedance of 8Ω. Initial auditions partnering JohnBlue S2 speaker cables and JB3 widebanders were astonishing. The 3" drivers were packing incongruous energy from the mid to lower bass. Yes, I do mean lower bass especially with the hand-picked demo CDs Tommy had supplied.

The surprise element persisted with the bigger drivers of his JB4 speaker. The overall tonal spectrum was well-proportioned and the soundstage had incredible breadth and depth. But the most overwhelming aspect was the uncontrived valve bloom that set the right balance between old fart’s excess and young gun’s snap. Harmonics were magical. But one thing bothered me. I emailed Tommy: "One of the monoblocks suffers microphony. When touching the volume knob, top of the caps or chassis near the volume knob, there are echoes coming through the speaker. When I swap the driver tubes, the effect moves to the other amp. So I guess it's just the tubes?"