Resolution has more than one meaning

Resolution. What do you mean by it? That depends. The dictionary goes from "motion, proposal" to "intent, resolve, determination" to "solution, working-out". The audiophile obsession is of course with higher magnifying power. To resolve not a problem though perhaps there is a problem in this approach somewhere. To instead penetrate finer and finer layers of micro-information buried in the noisefloor. Interesting how that particular meaning is quite divorced from the more common usage of the word.

But even as an audiophile term, there are multiple ways of aiming it. Resolution to obtain more data? Resolution to get closer to the live experience? Those are not automatically synonymous. In fact, they can be mutually exclusive. But neither do they have to be, as though cursed into eternally locked confrontation via some stupid definition.

The three-dimensional holography and razor-edged images from maximized data density through digital interpolation are, I hate to remind you, an artefact peculiar to so-called "highly resolved" playback. They're not part of any live event. However. If you're predominantly a visual participant, you may well benefit from such hyper-realistic add-ons. Such data may indeed assist you. In regenerating certain portions of the original's visual dimension that are plainly missing on the audio-only disc. Note how "pinpoint imaging", "soundstage accuracy" and "placement specificity" are visual descriptors. They fill in the sensory blanks created by the microphones. Mics, after all, are blind as bats. The only sensory stimulae they capture are of the forth --the aural -- kind. Imagine attending a concert without your eyes, nose, skin and tongue! An experience so much the poorer for being restricted to only one of our six-or-more senses...

Now what if you're a different type of listener? One who habitually closes his eyes during live music anyway? One who listens with his ears and heart to automatically abandon the eyes in trade? What type of playback resolution do you require, to help recreate the feeling dimension of the concert?

Dynamic resolution? Rhythmic resolution? Emotional resolution?

What if the visual listener felt as though his hyper-realistic rendition brought him closer to the live even? If it didn't matter that it didn't sound like it? What if the better-than-real elements created his bridge to suspend disbelief? Spanned the chasm between this-is-fake to this-seems-real? Does it really matter then if measurable (objective) reality and feeling (subjective) conviction didn't coincide? 

Let me ask this differently. What's more important - a virtual clone that sounds like the real thing? Or a less precise rendition that feels more like it? And does that make it less or more precise then?

Stop in your eager tracks for a sec. Admit that resolution exists in many different forms. Contemplate what high-resolution means to you. There are no 'rights' or 'wrongs'. You can't fail with the wrong answer. This ain't an exam. There are, however, 'rights' and 'lefts'. Different ways to get to the same -- or different -- destinations. Their validity and appeal are inextricably tied to individuality. To nervous systems and synaptic patterns. To different trigger points. To different expectations about what should be triggered in the first place.

Relaxation? Transport? Intense stimulation? Mental appreciation? Emotional self-forgetfulness? A state of charged excitement, a release of aural n-dolphins? Sonic bubbly that leaves you warm, fuzzy, mellow and happy?

These questions lead to today's review subject, the Jolida JD-100 Vacuum Tube Reference CD player. It endeavors to add (supplement?) harmonic bloom, timbral richness and "analogue smoothness". To balance/offset digital nasties. Whether you consider these contributions extraneous and conceptually flawed (I want what's in dem pits, nothing more, nothing less) or a welcome relief from relentless data overload (I want to enjoy the music, not suffer it) depends. On your priorities. On your system. On whether the majority of your recordings are fatally handicapped or wonderfully balanced.

In short, it depends on many things. None of which I can qualify for you. I will of course tell you what the JD-100 did in three of my systems. Then it's for you to decide whether its brand of resolution -- and make no mistake, the JD-100's got rez to burn -- then you must decide whether this tubed contender's take on the rez-question will get you farther away -- or so much closer -- to the fundamental reason why you're listening to music in the first place.

Not his brother's keeper

Jollda's first CD player was a funky-ass mass-market jobbie with a tubed output stage and -- according to dealer friends -- atrocious reliability, poorer cosmetics and very iffy, plastic-flimsy construction. It was a goner and gone it is. Cain slew Abel. Nuff said.

The surviving brother dubbed JD-100 is a beast of entirely different stripes. Constructionally, it's a beaut. Build quality is he-man massive. No plastic in sight. That includes the remote. This object of literal overkill will shatter tiles and hamsters when dropped. The grained aluminum facia is hefty, classy and silver, with the words "Vacuum Tube Reference CD Player" in elegant cursive font to the right, and the logo and brand name to the left of the central drawer/display.

Thus symmetrically divided into equal thirds that continue with the inner layout, this facia gives you the power button with blue LED and the headphone jack with manual pot in its left field, five round push buttons for open, start/pause, stop , < and > in its right. The somewhat noisy drawer in the middle forecefully opens/closes in less than 1 second, TOC's displayed in less than 2. Ditto for cueing up any track regardless of where on the CD it's hiding. Impressive? You bet.

On the rear, two high-quality RCA output pairs, and one RCA digital out offer all the requisite connectivity. An IEC power inlet lets you fret over which aftermarket power cord to add. The remote's a lethal weapon in weight and heft. 24 exposed, positive-action silver balls act as the command triggers for all the usual functions. Those include on/off (off = standby and confirmed by the power light turning red); programming; repeat 1/all; random; remaining time current track/all tracks; intro; and direct track access 1-10 and 10+.

The programming protocol is simplicity itself: Hit program; enter the direct track access numbers in the sequence you want; push play. To confirm, the red letters PGM appear as well as those tracks in the block dispay you've entered.
Operational quirks? None. Unlike with certain ideosyncractic players (I won't mention names) the JD-100 starts playing a track simply when prompting its track number on the remote. No need to be redundant and hit "play" as well. The display is pale blue and displays a disc's contents in a 4x4 block of track numbers. Whatever track is presently playing blinks its number like a slot machine announces "Bingo, you've won."

Cool feature for future MkII version if Jolida paid attention to reviewer requests? Display dim/off. Minor nit? The intensity of the power LED. It'll leave a permanent ghost spot on your retina if you stare too long.

Impressions based on functionality and aesthetics? Zero complaints. Major applause. Home run. Even rapping the center of the chassis top didn't elicit the usual cheap sheetmetal "boiiinnng". Instead I got a satisfying "bonk". TIme to go bonkers on the innards which benefitted from Chris Johnson's PartsConnexion Level 1 Mod. Yes, that's Chris, original founder and former prez of Sonic Frontiers. Say hello. Here's the list of goodies he installed:

Audio Note Tantalum 0.5-watt resistors: 6 x 1K; 2 x 15K; 2 x 100K; 2 x 47K; 2 x 100R. Black Gate N and C grade electrolytic & Multicap PPMFX grade metallized polypropylene capacitors: 2 x 10uF/50V BG-C; 2 x 0.0033uF/600V PPMFX; 2 x 0.01uF/600V PPMFX; 2 x 3.0uF/200V PPMFX; 2 x 3.0uF/200V PPMFX; 3 x 100uF/50V BG-std; 2 x 10uF/50V BG-N. Black Gate diodes: 4 x SF4007; 8 x ultra-fast, soft recovery Hexfreds in power supply.

Additionally, he installed 4 sheets of Sound Coat (that's why the chassis was such a dead ringer); 2' DH Labs pure silver output wire on hot and ground legs; 1 pair of all-copper Vampire RCA jacks; 4 small EAR Sorbothane footers; 4' TRT Wonder solder; two matched Svetlana 12AX7 replacement tubes. 4 hours labor.

Jolida's 18-month factory warranty extends to these modified players.

Now I gotta cheat. I haven't heard the stock player in non-modified form. Chris claims that his mod lowers the noisefloor for blacker blacks and enhanced detail and ambience retrieval; adds smoother yet more detailed sonics with enhanced dynamics; improves tonal balance; firms up images; dramatically improved bass to transcend "flubby" one-note anemia and now sound more like solid-state in that arena. So sez Chris. I won't be able to confirm the before-after observations. All of my comments are beaucoup après.

Exclusive is as exclusive does

The Level 1 mod on the JD-100 is exclusive to Walter Liedermann of The Graham Company in Roswell/GA. Walter was one of the original partners in HiFi Buys, a 10-store $100 Million/year chain in Atlanta. Then he went solo. He's presently a partner in and conducts his personal audio business as "underwoodwally" on-line. And no, there are no plans for a Level 2 mod. This nomenclature was chosen to differentiate the present mod package if/when another mod were to become available in the distant future. Call it a contingency plan for unlikely eventualities. Chris and Walter feel that the present upgrade maximizes the player's intrinsic potential without redesigning it from scratch. Why go ape just because you can?

How much? Hey, don't you want to know how it sounds first? How much? Okay, okay. The stock JD-100 retails for $900. The mod is $500 after January 1, 2003, $450 until then. This is exclusive of freight to and from the PartsConnexion's Canadian haunt where the mod ins installed. If you purchase an already modified unit from The Graham Company -- the only place that sells it -- the intro special throughout December is $1,210 delivered anywhere in the Continental US (excluding Alaska and Hawaii where shipping rates increase). That's $1,160 before freight. The price will increase to $1,250 + freight in the New Year.

Should you blackmail Santa into getting you one if you promise not to rat on his squeaky wheels?