The following submissions are for the 'Readers Who Want to be Writers' Contest. The authors are not Staff members of Positive Feedback.
Jolida JD9 Phono Preamp
I do not have the time or resources to indulge in my audio hobby as much as I would like. I have a career, family and bills to pay. Even if I could spend a large portion of my discretionary funds on high end audio gear, the thought of purchasing uber-expensive electronics and explaining to my wife that we can't afford to take that vacation this year or we didn't save enough in our 401k, is simply not worth it to me. Therefore, I generally purchase used or inexpensive components that I can tweak to make better. So, when I see reviews and comments about over achieving "budget" components, I take notice. Case in point: Jolida JD9A phono preamp. At just over $550 it is indeed a "budget" component.
Enter the Jolida JD9
My system consists of the excellent Musical Fidelity 3.2 integrated amp, with built in MM phono stage. This is an excellent amp with tube-like qualities. It drives my Usher X719 speakers with excellent results. The built-in phono stage is good, but there is obviously room for improvement. I know my Origin Live Aurora turntable, OL Silver Mk II arm and Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge can sound better given a more sophisticated phono stage.
I visited my local audio dealer who suggested I upgrade to the Jolida JD9. I have read several positive reviews so it was an easy sale. Plus, it was inexpensive enough that I would not feel guilty for buying one. Moreover, rumor has it the Jolida responds well to tweaks and upgrades.
Anticipating delivery of the unit, I read up on various tweaks that are recommended for the Jolida. I purchased Mullard cryo'd tubes to replace the stock Chinese tubes, Herbies Halos to go around the tubes, sound deadening panels for the trampoline-like metal cover of the Jolida, Vibra-pods to place under the feet and a Shunyata Venom 3s power cord to feed it.
However, I decided I would play the unit stock for a few weeks before installing any of the tweaks to judge the effectiveness of each tweak made.
As reported, the Jolida sounds pretty good right out of the box. Whenever I insert a new component into my system, my first choice in music is always Abby Road by The Beatles. Over the years I have come to know this LP very well. The first song, "Here Comes the Sun", always lifts my spirits and provides a reference for me to gauge the sound of new components.
On the first notes of the song, when Paul's bass kicks, it became immediately apparent the stock Jolida was a big improvement over the built-in phono stage in my MF 3.2. Every aspect of the sound quality increased. Veils were lifted, details emerged, the sound stage was bigger and more focused, and there was a sense of air around the instruments (even if it is artificially created in the studio).
Excited by the results, I swapped out the stock Chinese tubes for the cryo'd Mullards. No we're getting somewhere. This was a HUGE improvement. The Mullards were clearly a far better sounding tube, and transformed the sound of the Jolida to a level commensurate with the improvement of the stock Jolida over the built-in phono stage of my MF 3.2. Again, every aspect of the sound quality increased. More air, more detail, extended highs and extended lows. I listened to Ella and Louis Together Again, which never sounded so intimate. My parents were visiting, who commented that the music sounded so clear. The musicians sound like they are in the room. Mt folks couldn't get over I was playing an LP. The sound was so much better than they remember (my folks are decidedly non-audiophile types but they do love music). This leads me to another aspect of the Jolida. When the Mullards went into the Jolida, the noise floor was significantly reduced. These tubes are quite and smooth. The result is a clearer resuscitation of the music coming from the speakers. Perhaps the greatest improvement I heard was to the soundstage. It was focused, stable and holographic. My Usher X719's disappeared like never before.
I installed the rest of the tweaks, all of which added a little bit more air and focus to the music. The most significant tweak was swapping the Mullard cryo'd tubes for the Chinese. The least significant tweak was the Shunyata power cord. Now, I believe the Shunyata products are great and I use one on my amp with good results. But on the Jolida phono stage, in my system, I was not able to detect even a minor improvement in the sound. Still, it didn't seem to detract from anything, so I kept it in. Your results might vary.
In total, the above mentioned tweaks are worth every penny. The Jolida performs well on all types of music: large scale rock, intimate guitars, violins, solo piano, and orchestra. All music I played through the Jolida sounded natural and organic. Like music does.
The Jolida is a great budget component that I whole heartedly recommend. I plan to live with it for years. Cheers.