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More voices
It so happened that former 6moonster and current PFO writer Jeff Day, having just completed some at-home evaluations of three USB cables, offered to stop by the next day to do a comparison of them at our place. Or so he thought. Before we could address the concerns on his chart, there was a differential diagnosis to which he'd have to attend. Between the two of us (or is that five now?), we've had about a dozen well-respected phono stages in our homes because we often abuse each other's ears and systems for the sake of ... uhhm, veracity. Over the last few years the list would include the Manley Steelhead, TAD Groove, Art Audio Vinyl Reference, Herron Audio VTPH-1C and Audible Illusions M3A with gold phono board, plus units from Audio Horizons, Fi, Plinius, Lehman, Shindo and Leben.

First up was Lightnin' Hopkins. Jeff sat transfixed, which is rare. When the first side was done, he commented, "It really nails the guitar sound. And the flow is first rate". Next up we had Starker playing Bach. Jeff described the illusion as "exceptionally realistic". When we followed that with You Get More Bounce with Curtis Counce, Jeff looked less enthusiastic. He opined that "the change of meter and overall complexity of that jazzy interplay was not well translated, rhythmically speaking." What? Huh? Leave it to the good Dr. Day to speak at a 22nd grade level (according to the SMOG index). On a Sunday, no less. Sacrilege! "It must really favor solo instruments and vocals," he concluded.

Oh. We see. "Could be" say we, "although that really hasn't been our ... erm, my experience, overall. Of course ... ahem ... I was besotted with the body of the sax and the tone of the drums on that track, so much so that I never gave a conscious thought to PRaT." I hung our head. "Let's give some classical a whirl; that should tell us more about the complexity factor." On went the 1960 recording of Scheherazade led by Reiner in Chicago. We listened all the way through in blissful silence. "So much for that theory," laughed Jeff. "That was nothing short of excellent."

Before Jeff arrived, we had casually dropped a silk handkerchief over part of JoLi's front panel. He now wanted to know what was what. When Reviewer asked him what he thought the unit he had heard might retail for, he demurred. "What if I told you it cost less than $3,000?" He smiled a very big smile. "What if I told you it cost less than $2,000?" His eyes got big. He chuckled. "What if I told you it cost less than $700?" He laughed out loud. Then, he stopped. Abruptly.

Fast forward one more week or so. Blind Bill visits for dinner. You may recall that he also joined me for my evaluation of the Dodd Audio preamp back in May. You may further recall that he was surprised and impressed as we compared the Dodd and my reference deHavilland UltraVerve. "It's interesting, the differences. I'm getting some mental pictures and there are some real differences - but both are very good." For Bill to pronounce something as 'very good' is an event. Honestly. He even reserves modest praise like that for his favorite pianos. So, who would have guessed that the word "excellent" and phrases such as "truthful timbre" and "realistic presence" would shoot out of his mouth on this night? And even if they did, so what? Here's what. Within days, Bill put his $1,800 Wright Sound Company AG also known as the Silver Top phono stage up for sale on eBay. This after exacting a promise that we would set him up with a JoLida/tubes/damping combo. We told him that Christmas wasn't very far away and that Santa would make his wish come true, perhaps even early. After a few more listening sessions, Pete decided he had to have one as well. His current reference? The Herron Audio VTPH-1MC. There's another person Santa can check off of his shopping list.

Case closed (and screwed down)
Yes, it's fun to spread the good karma. Before the rest of us could say Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo, Joy Seeker was dialing for JoLi twins. One of the major design criteria for JoLida products is value. And, they define it thusly: "This is balance between the actual cost of the system and how often it is used. Value is when the system becomes a part of the fabric of the person's quality of life." As Reviewer wraps up this case in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, we're listening to side A of Etta James' How Strong is a Woman, an album that Joy Seeker recently dug out from the not so great to listen to since we went hifi archives that had developed over the curse (now that's Freudian!)... I meant to type 'course' of several upgrades about ten years ago. You know exactly what we mean by that, don't you? When despite profound convictions about your latest acquisitions, you display qualities of secretiveness or suspicion when questioned about them. Don't you?

Speaking of psychopathology -- and for the sake of just one more point of reference -- let's agree that 1) ambience is the aurally perceived impression of an acoustical space such as the performing hall in which the recording was made and that 2) ambiance is the feeling or mood evoked by an environment. I value both and the JD-9A is a rare find not because it does both (which it does), but because it does not favor one over the other. It does both very well. We found it equally articulate and expressive. So when you consider the ambience/ambiance continuum, it does not highlight the space and draw us in more academically than emotionally. Nor vice versa.

We'll sum up thusly: JoLi (as Joy Seeker came to call her) is like so many other things in this ward we call life - including much more spendy phono stages. She is not perfect. Neither are they. She is exceptionally present and balanced when it comes to delivering the musical goods. She is mesmerizing in her ability to convey recordings in a way that will put a smile on our face most every time we push her turn-me-on button. JoLi knows how to deliver space, pace, drama and tone. And, as a bonus, she's a bona-fide bargain. Did we mention that all the characters in this study exhibited numerous clinical indicators of increased pleasure most every time they listened to a slab of black licorice through this device? Yes, we did. But that had little to do with the price. They simply did when they simply could have done without. They could have stuck with what was already satisfying. Plus, Languid Man could then have avoided taking pen to paper. But share the findings we must. Today we award a super value Realsization Award to the JoLida JD-9A and conclude this review with the following words: We own one.
PS: If the intended meaning of the term realsization has you uncertain, click on the award graphic for the dedicated page with the definition and previous winners.
Quality of packing: Adequate.
Reusability of packing: It might survive a couple more shipments.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: No issues unpacking; we have no intention of repacking.
Condition of component received: Mint.
Completeness of delivery: Complete.
Quality of owner's manual: Adequate.
Ease of assembly: None required.
Website comments: Generally informative, easily navigable.
Human interactions: Dealing with Walter Liederman is always a pleasure.
Pricing: Level of music-making per dollar spent is basically off the charts.
Final comments & suggestions: None.
Jolida website