This handsome CD player is swimming against the tide of today's mainstream digital component marketing, which is focusing primarily on the high-bit-rate SACD and DVD-A software formats and multi-format "universal" playback machines. At $900, the JD100A is what I regard as "affordable," although its Red Book-only (the Sony/Philips specification for 16-bit standard CDs, not the sayings of Chairman Mao) playback capabilities might seem to put it at a price vs. features disadvantage against a legion of inexpensive combo players from the usual brand name suspects. But value in audio is often more than skin, or feature, deep.
JoLida's goal here is clearly a musical presentation that is not typically "digital"-i.e., at least in the lower price ranges, clear and detailed, but often somewhat "cold" and emotionally uninvolving. The JD100A is remarkably seductive, and consistently draws me into the music it is playing, whether classical, jazz, rock, or what have you. Its personality is -- yes; I'm going to say it -- rather analog-like.
That quality begins, I think, with the player's primary gain stage built around two 12AX7A tubes. Moreover, the audio circuit comprises discrete components, with none of the op-amps that make up the signal path in most mass-market big-brand-name players. A high-resolution Burr Brown 24-bit/96kHz DAC chip performs the digital-to-analog conversion. Two substantial transformers and a solidly constructed and well-damped chassis account for the player's unusually hefty 22 lb. weight.
The transport is the familiar Philips CDM 12, which although not exactly silky and luxurious in its action is recognized for providing decent sound and reliability. The remote control wand is more than I would expect at this price point: black anodized metal with clearly identified chrome-finish ball-bearing buttons, and heavy enough to subdue an intruder. It supports the usual remote functions: 24-track programming, direct random track access, search, track and disc repeat, etc.
I do wonder why JoLida, instead of laying out the direct track access numbers in the usual telephone keypad format, decided to put the INTRO button where the 1 usually goes-thereby shifting every digit to a non-intuitive spot. Weird, and I never really got used to it -- especially when listening in the dark as I prefer.
Connections are basic: IEC AC power jack, Toslink and RCA coaxial digital outputs, a single pair of RCA analog outputs. A nice touch for headphone fanciers (I am not one) is a front-panel headphone Jack with its own playback volume control. That could allow the JD100A to function as a stand-alone private system in, say, a dormitory room.
Setup And Listening
After several weeks of secondary system break-in time (somewhat longer than I expected), the JD100A went right into the reference system-where, by the way, it was the lowest-priced item in the audio chain, cables included. For several weeks I used it two ways: as a transport for the fabulous Dodson DA-218 DAC, and as a stand-alone CD player. (Come to think of it, the Dodson is kind of a spiritual cousin to the JD100A, also being a Red Book-only design.)
As a transport the JD100A is competent but nothing special. I didn't expect it to compete with my highly hot-rodded Sony SCD 777 SACD player or Pioneer DVD player. But a stock Arcam Alpha 9 CD player-to be sure, itself almost twice the price of the JD100A, also clearly bettered it as a transport. How much does that bother me? Not a bit. The JD100A is first and foremost a player, and in my view the digital out is really just a convenience.
As a CD player the JD100A gets two different verdicts. It will surprise no one that by left-brain audiophile checklist criteria it can't hold a candle to the Dodson DAC or my extravagantly upgraded Sony. Comparing frequency extremes, dynamics, inner detail, soundscaping-all the elements that make up the numerical ratings at the end of the review-those 10-times-more-costly thoroughbreds stomp all over the poor little JD100A.
But after a couple of weeks of righteous left-brain analytical comparing I decided to just listen to the JD100A on its own for a while. And before I knew it that "while" had stretched out to more than a month. Although I could recall the differences between the JoLida and the high-priced spreads, it just didn't happen very often. Serving as the digital source in this highly revealing system, the JD100A was always at once lively and relaxing, letting the music unfold naturally. This player, I realized, is a terrific right-brain (intuitive, emotional, pleasure-seeking) machine.
I guess I would be shirking my duty if I failed to mention that the JD100A responds quite well to certain basic tweaks. It faithfully mirrors the sonic properties of three different aftermarket power cords, a couple of which cost more than the JD100A itself. It also benefits from sitting on four Vibrapods, sounding slightly firmer in the bass and airier in the highs. Adding the new Bybee Slipstream RCA Magic Bullets (reviewed in February by Max Westler) between the JD100A and the VTL TL7.5 preamplifier produced a dramatically more vivid and immediate presentation. I have no doubt that a bit of tube-rolling could produce some intriguing effects, although I did not experiment with alternative tubes. No doubt my esteemed colleague Dick Olsher could offer some good suggestions.
Who Needs It?
I have a vision of the ideal JD100A owner. He-or quite possibly she-loves listening to music and wants good-looking, good-sounding gear, but is free of the afflictions of audiophilia nervosa and stereo-system-as-status-symbol. Depending on age, maybe this listener started with vinyl and eventually gave in to the ubiquity of CD. He or she has over the years amassed a pretty good CD collection, has already been through the newer-is-better remaster/reissue duplications of CDs already owned. He or she is not thrilled at the prospect of dealing with new formats that require buying unfamiliar new components -- especially at the prices the new discs are going for.
If any of the above strikes a chord with you, I strongly recommend that you check out the JoLida JD100A. It looks good and it's good to the music. For the right listener it's a heckuva value!
Type: CD Player / Transport
Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz (+-0.5dB)
Signal to Noise Ratio: > 102dB
THD + N Distortion: < 0.01%, 1kHz
Channel Separation: > 96dB (1kHz)
Line Output Voltage: > 2V, 47 Kohms
Digital Output: 0.5Vpp, 75 ohms
Headphone Output: 35 mW, 32 ohms
Power: 110V or 220V AC 50Hz/60Hz
Power Consumption: 20 watts
Dimensions: 17 x 12 x 3.5 (WxDxH in inches)
Weight: 22 lbs.
Warranty: 18 months