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Reviewer: Stephæn
Analogue sources: Nottingham Analogue Studio Space Deck driven by Walker Audio Precision Motor Controller. NAS Space Arm with The VTAF® from Pete Riggle Audio. Dynavector 17D2MKII, Dynavector 20xl, Denon 103, Audio Technica OC9 cartridges.
Digital sources: Wavelength Audio Cosecant USB DAC v3 (Transcendental 16/44.1 DAC module) fed by iBook G4 with dual 500GB LaCie Firewire drives; Tube Research Labs fully modified Sony SCD-2000ES (for SACD playback). Secondary: TRL-modified Alesis ML-9600 high-resolution master disk recorder.
Preamps: deHavilland UltraVerve; modified/upgraded Eastern Electric Minimax (larger PS, 12FQ7 ready, gain cut to 9dB); Herron Audio VTPH-1MC and Monolithic Sound PS-1/HC-1 phono stages.
Amplifiers: Wright Sound Company WPA 3.5 mono block and AudioSector AMP-1 integrated amplifiers. Secondary: Outlaw Audio RetroReceiver.
Speakers: DIY Altec 604 MLTL. Secondary: Zu Audio Druid Mk.4; Sound Dynamics RTS-3; REL Strata III.
Cables: DIY WM-XTC; Audience Au24 and Zu Audio Libtec cables; Audience Au24, Audience Maestro [on loan] and TG Audio Lab custom copper interconnects. Secondary: Analysis Plus cables and interconnects.
Stands: Two three-tier Grand Prix Audio Monaco units on GPA Apex footers
Isolation: Main: GPA Monaco. Secondary: Lovan Affinity Pro6 Series rack, Acoustic Dreams Dead Ball Isolators; Neuance platform
Powerline conditioning: BPT 3.5 Signature; cryo'd Pass & Seymour wall outlets; Audience, T.G. Audio Lab SLVR, Analysis Plus Power Oval, and Zu Audio Birth and Bok power cords [both on loan]. Secondary: Brick Wall PW8R15AUD
Sundry accessories: HAL-O® Vacuum Tube Dampers, Herbie's Way Excellent Turntable Mat, VPI 16.5 record cleaner, Shun Mook Valve Resonators, Auric Illuminator, and Walker Audio Vivid CD & DVD Enhancer.
Music makers: Epiphone Dot (Gibson ES-335 knock-off) and Chet Atkins CE (nylon-strung classical) electric guitars; Fender Blues Jr. amp; Privia PX-555 keyboard and 1906 Ellington upright piano.
Office system: Soundquest R601 Tube Hi-Fi FM/AM Classic Radio and a Gibson J-100 acoustic guitar.
Room size & treatments: 26' x 19' x 9' (a fractured 'L', nominally 16' x 19' with 12' feet of the 19-foot dimension opening to the 20-foot section of the 20' x 12' kitchen/eat-in area); concrete slab, sheetrock walls. ASC Tube Traps and Sound Planks, Echo Busters absorbers, Shakti Hallograph Soundfield Optimizers and Acoustic Revive RR-77 Ultra Low-Frequency Pulse Generator.
Review component retail: $450

Patient history
In May of 2006, I awarded a Blue Moon to the Art Audio Vinyl Reference. The review concluded with the words, "I want one." At the time, the purchase was difficult to rationalize but regret set in rather quickly. I spent the next two years kicking myself for sending it off to another reviewer at TAS instead of buying it on the spot and telling TAS to arrange for another unit. That's how these things go. Dammit! Since then, aside from my time with a subsequently reviewed Audio Horizons piece, I've been largely content with the Monolithic Sound PS-1/HC-1. It's something I kept after a survey of budget phono stages in 2001. While it is not perfect, I do love the suave and subtly hued presentation it delivers. Though it's not a dynamic dynamo, it respects meter. Over the years I've resisted numerous offers to sell it because it is very musical. When one considers the combination's $658 price tag at the time of purchase, one might call it a steal.

However, since moving from the Herron VTSP-1A/Art Audio PX-25 preamp-to-amp grouping to the deHavilland UltraVerve plus Wright Sound 2A3 monoblocks amalgamation, I've been in need of a bit more gain than the 53dB the Monolithic offers. Enter the JoLida JD-9A. Topping out at 95dB, it certainly addresses the gain issue. But, it was about then that the voices returned:
  • The Reviewer: Why bother? Does it have a prayer of pleasing these ears, spoiled as they are from listening to units costing 5 to 10+ times its meager price? I really don't think so.
  • The Hobbyist: It is fun to experiment with affordable gear. And there wouldn't much to lose from the experience when I turn the unit around on eBay. (So much for faith, huh?)
  • The Joy Seeker: I am quite curious about the piece. You never know. What if ...
  • The Languid Man: What-ev-er. I just don't want to have to commit to penning the review. Can I listen to some music, now? Please?

Before Hobbyist could even get his credit card out his wallet, Joy Seeker was dialing 1-770-667-5633. Thankfully, Walter Liederman of Underwood Hi Fi took the call and Languid Man put our money where Reviewer's doubts were. After all, no loan requested, no review required.

Preliminary diagnosis
Two weeks later, it was time to color Reviewer all wrong. With that accomplished, you might as well have added some insult to the very congenial injury. After all, we came very late to this party. If memory serves correctly, the JD-9 was introduced at CES in January of 2005. Yes, Reviewer was there, but Joy Seeker must have thought it was a vacation. We collectively missed the unveiling, probably due to a boisterous night out on The Strip with the boys. Anyway, since being introduced, the little JoLida has been a very popular item, no thanks to us. In fact, as far as we know -- for all the hype from owners who post with blissful abandon over the worldwide web -- there's been only one formal review of the device (see PFO, Fall of 2006).

The Prescription
JoLida is a privately held company that was incorporated in the state of Maryland in 1983. Until 1995, their primary line of business was the fabrication of vacuum tubes, cavities and assorted electronic parts. In 1995, JoLida launched a line of integrated stereo tube amplifiers in the US market.

JoLida JD 9A
Phono preamplifier that will handle MM, MC and dynamic head cartridges
Rated sensitivity at 0.25mV - 95dB.
Two Outputs: Low gain, high gain.
Adjustable with two outputs for lo/hi gain; adjustable settings for cartridge type
Gold-plated RCA input jacks
Low profile full body

Technical Specifications:
Frequency response is given as 5Hz to 110KHz (+/- 1dB)
S/N ratio: > 100dB
THD: < 0.02%
Input/output impedance of 100K/600 ohms
MM: 70dB, 5mV
MC High: 85dB, 0.5mV to 1.5mV
MC Low: 95dB, 0.25mV to 0.5mV
Input resistance: 100 ohm, 300 ohm, 1Kohm, 47Kohm
Input capacitance: 47pf, 100pf, 150pf, 220pf
Tube complement: 2 x 12AX7
Dimensions are 17 x 13 x 2" WxDxH
Weight 10lbs (14lbs boxed)
Warranty: 2 years parts and 'n' labor; 1 year or 1,000 hours on the tubes (whichever comes first)
Take home price? $450.

The Fee
You read it right. How's that for a sweet sliding scale? After burning it in for a week with the Hagerman Technology FryBaby, we invited our speaker-building partner in crime, Pete, over for the first listen to this unmodified, über-flexible overachiever. All of us spent several hours grinning from ear to ear. Was it perfect? No. Remarkable? Yes and no. Better than anyone has a reasonable right to expect for $450? For certain. The sound was life size, the presentation spacious and the pace admirable. The tone you ask? Convincing. Especially on guitar, vocals and cello. Unheard of in our experience at this price and more significantly, far beyond.