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  1. #31

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    I rolled some Psvane tubes in the Jolida. The sound difference was astounding.

  2. #32

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    I apologize for this review taking so long. It’s actually been done for a little while but I just had to find the time to decipher my notes and sit down and type this out. I had planned to do it from the balcony of my rental in Key West, but I should have known better. I like you guys, but any of this was the furthest thing from my mind ;)

    Also, many of you who know me, already figured it would probably take me a long time to actually following up on the whole thing.

    OK, so where to begin? How about with operation and mechanics.

    EE: As stated before, this thing is solid. Perhaps the nicest fit and finish. Certainly the most solid feeling. A few taps on the top felt solid. Although it is the smallest, which I loved, it is very heavy. Nice and beefy. It feels as though its just full of junk. Wall to wall. Very nice. The tubes are housed under some spring loaded housings and are accessible w/o removing the cover unlike the other tubed dudes. Very nice!I might have preferred a couple tubes sticking out of the top to match all the other minimax gear, but that is a nitpick. Fit and finish is excellent. All materials feel thick and hefty. Even the coated steel feels very nice. As far as operation there are some functions you may love or hate. First, the display is dim. Quite dim. Very nice for dark listens, but moderately challenging in full sun. Also the display is behind a mirrored plate. Looks great, makes it tough to read in daylight, but manageable. Also like other audiophile CDP’s ive use, there is a discernable click when switching tracks. This is some kind of purposeful thing you hear through the machine and not the speakers. Apparently it’s there on purpose. Also, upon inserting the disc it begins playing. It doesn’t cue up on one, it just starts going, so you beter be ready. :D Lastly, the transport drawer is slow. And not terribly slow, just comparatively slow. The others move so quickly, it’s just very noceable. Also the drawer is super quiet. Slides out with no clunk, no whine, no annoyances. Very nice! This is the only unit that will play HDCD. Good luck finding one! ☺

    Jolida: Fit and finish here is also very nice. While it certainly feels like quality materils and finishes, it doesn’t quite have the (figurative) polish of the minimax but it is certainly no slouch. Fit is very precise, everything is aligned extremely well and operation is excellent. As I mentioned in a previous post, the buttons are disconcerting on the front of the unit, and I actually cringe when I think about having to use them. I’m neurotic about things like this, so if things like that don’t typically bug you, please disregard. The display is nice, the blue is not too bright nor is it too dim. One thing of import here is that this was the only tube player that had a standby mode. By using the on/off button on the remote, you put it in standby or on. The button on the unit is a hard on/off. The EE only has a hard on/off on the unit, no power button on the remote. The Jolida tray is similarly slow to come out comparatively but a hair quicker than EE. Also of import was the fact that I had more issues of reading a disc with this unit than any other. Discs consistently skipped if I used so molder ones from my college years, or ones that my wife abused in her car. Also, the time between inserting a disc and it recognizing the track information was the longest of all players. It averaged probably 8 – 10 seconds. This unit exhibited a quiet whine and clunk of the transport tray as it slid around. Nothing noticeable.

    Opera: beautiful almost white aluminum. Three buttons flanking either side of a black screen and simple tray. Very minimalist. Very much my style. Very sharp. It’s a couple pounds lighter than the tubed colleagues but hefty and solid. The case felt more resonant when tapped on. Lighting on screen was nice. A good blue that is similar to the jolida. The drawer is quick in and out in a snap with next to no noise except an occasional loud clunck as the aluminum face of the transport slams into its countersunk home. Data retrieval was speedy and all around great performance mechanically.

    MF: What a brute. This thing is heavy, thick, and unapologetically dense. It shows off it’s use of thick aterials. I’m sure many people like it. It’s just not my style of industrial design. Although it seems that the majority of audio designers have are stuck in the late eighties/early nineties for design sensibility. Maybe its their audience, maybe its them, I don’t know. At any rate, the fit and finish is excellent. Tight seams, very nice buttons, great operation, and a transport drawer so fast its likely to break your wrist if you’re not careful. Seriously the thing just feels eager to start playing. This and the EE tied for quickness of data recognition, no sooner had the MF ripped the cd from my hand than it was up and displaying all the track info. Almost instantaneously. This was the same for the EE, but the tray was so mauch slower it doesn’t seem as exaggerated. Display is blindingly bright! But this can be dimmed in 3 steps to very comfortable levels.

    Denon: cheap looking plastic aesthetics. Fit and finish is decent. Fit more so than finish. The construction feels and looks solid. I have seen erniejade’s 2910 in black, and it a nicer looking piece to be fair. I silver, it really exaggerates the plasticky nature of this unit. Display is nice. Comfortable to read. The tray is fast and noisy but not annoyingly so. The display can be toggled on or off. Unlike the others, this unit will play SACD, DVD-a, etc.
    design is where science and art break even.

  3. #33

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    Brian, I'm Back! Give me a call, maybe you could drop by Monday night! I have everything up and running right now since theyve been unplugged for 2 weeks. its good to be back ;)
    design is where science and art break even.

  4. #34

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    cds used were a mix of pretty much everything. But in order to do an accurate a/b(/c/d) I made 5 copies of the same mix CD made from AIFF files of songs I am very familiar with. I then cued all players to the same point and started them simultaneously (almost). I then could switch back and forth midstream in any configuration to compare any to each and get a very realistic grip on what the differences were. I'm going to say on the front end, there were no winners or losers here. they were all fantastic.
    I'm not going to speak much later about the Denon so I will do it now. This player is really quite good. I never had a true appreciation for it until I could put it up against the others. For a SS player that can be had for <$200 it's a no brainer for the beginner breaking into audio mid-fi. For redbook it is somewhere between good and very good. lets say it gets you 75% of the way there, whih is a loooong way in the audio world as many of you know. Is it perfect? no way. does it look ugly? you bet. But if you have $150 and need a cd player and there is any posssibility you may do SACD or DVD-a in the future, theres no choice. it does a decent job of trying to impart an analog sound without losing great detail. I think, here, it does a pretty good job at it. I found that you need a fairly revealing system to motice much of the differences of it and the others here. It did tend to be a little bit more brightand some how less detailed, but al in all it was very nice sounding. I was quicker to fatigue with it, but on a pair of polks, I think that would be less likely to happen.
    design is where science and art break even.

  5. #35

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    laptop is about to die and im not yet home. I will resume a bit later.
    design is where science and art break even.

  6. #36

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    NO ! you were just getting to the good parts, don't leave us hanging !

    Looking forward to the rest of the review.
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  7. #37

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    I'd take the Jolida with a better tube although I don't care for either of them.

  8. #38

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    Can we get some pics of the units as well? Front and back maybe?

  9. #39

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    I am suprised to hear you had an issue with the Jolida reading or speed. Mine reads faster then the Denon and will read disks that the Denon wont. My Denon drawer speed is also slow. .. Reallllyyyyyy slooowwwwwww lol The denon I can hear the disk spinning outside of the unit ( not through the speakers) and feel the vibration on the unit when i put my hand on it. On my Jolida it is more resistant to vibrating on the outside. Strange...

  10. #40

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    Monday is cool but i wont be able to till around 7 if that is ok?

  11. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by erniejade View Post
    I am suprised to hear you had an issue with the Jolida reading or speed. Mine reads faster then the Denon and will read disks that the Denon wont. My Denon drawer speed is also slow. .. Reallllyyyyyy slooowwwwwww lol The denon I can hear the disk spinning outside of the unit ( not through the speakers) and feel the vibration on the unit when i put my hand on it. On my Jolida it is more resistant to vibrating on the outside. Strange...
    I have the same "disk spinning" noise problem with my Denon DVD-1720. I use it only as a backup for the discs my Playstation won't read, so I put up with it.

  12. #42

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    Ok, so I don’t know if it’s possible to drag this out anylonger. Haha.

    Let’s jump right in.

    LISTENING:

    I started each listening with the Denon as I have had this one the longest and have been quite used to it. I would switch in a pattern like this: a>b, a>c, a>d, a>e, b>c, b>d, b>e, c>d, c>e, d>e, and then variously as required.A quick note about the Pre-CD24 preamp: It is a VERY capable preamp. I felt that it was doing a great job of staying out of the way of the sources.

    Switching to the opera from the Denon was interesting. It was like those scenes in some cop action movie where theyre looking at a surveillance tape and the detective says “enhance” and the tech slaps some keys and the picture clears up to show the killer. Sibilance was brought down and sounds became cleaner and a tad more weighty. Also, the soundstage widened and deepened. It was as if the producer panned the channels a tad more in their relative directions from center.

    Moving onto the Minimax exhibited very subtle differences from the Opera. There was a noticeable warming. Night and day? No. It was still very detailed but noticeably the sharp edge of a hot guitar lead, or blat of a trumpet, or sharp “SSS” of a woman’s voice was attenuated. All signs pointing to the “tube sound.” The sound characteristics were very much what I was expecting for MiniMax, Completely enjoyable. Soundstage was comparable to the Opera.

    From there I moved to the Jolida. This was one of the most noticeable different players. The sound instantly got thick and warm. The sound just sounded fat. Like it was pouring out of the speakers like those NOVA videos of magma to the sea. Interestingly, detail was still pretty good. But this player doesn’t seem to feel bad about it. What it lacks in detail it makes up in emotion. I wish I had a better way to describe it other than emotion, but it’s the only way I can convey it. I could see why so many love the player. It’s kind of like SDA’s. The sound is expanded which results in some lack of detail but what it is achieving makes you forget what you are missing. It was like a warm comfy audio blanket and I often found myself near dozing off.

    Before I passed out I switched to the MF. Talk about an auditory culture shock. I shot up instantly. Where the Jolida is a warm log cabin, fire ablaze in front of your feet as you lay back on your bearskin rug, the Musical Fidelity is a The Farnsworth house. A glass home with sharp modern lines full of steel leather and polished travertine. The swelling comfort turned into exact shapes. Sounds that were just 8 feet wide were precise points in space in front of me. Detail was razor sharp. The Muscal Fidelity is a surgeon cutting each sound out with a scalpel. It was very engaging and commanded attention.
    design is where science and art break even.

  13. #43

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    I will try to the players on common characterists:

    Detail (1 least – 10 best)
    Den - 7
    Opera – 8.5
    EE – 8
    Jolida - 6
    MF - 9

    Soundstage width (1 least – 10 best)
    Den - 7
    Opera -8
    EE - 8
    Jolida – 9.5
    MF – 9

    Soundstage depth
    Den - 4
    Opera - 7
    EE - 7
    Jolida - 8
    MF - 8

    Sound warmth (9 bright, 5 neutral, 1 dark)
    Den - 7
    Opera - 4
    EE - 4
    Jolida - 3
    MF - 5

    Fit & finish (1 least – 10 best)
    Den - 6
    Opera - 8
    EE - 9
    Jolida - 8
    MF - 9

    Design (1 least – 10 best)
    Den - 2
    Opera – 8.5
    EE - 8
    Jolida - 6
    MF – 6.5

    Function (1 least – 10 best)
    Den - 5
    Opera - 9
    EE - 8
    Jolida - 8
    MF - 10
    design is where science and art break even.

  14. #44

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    Pros/Cons

    Denon:
    Pro: i have a new respect for this player. It holds it’s own pretty well for being able to be purchased for ~$150. For that price it performs very well.
    Cons:
    The ugly duckling. Remote. Tough to fully setup without a monitor.

    Opera:
    Pro:
    Analog sound without maintenance of tubes. Beautiful styles. Superb detail. Easy listening. Excellent bass
    Cons:
    I don’t have any cons for this player. If you like tubes or SS you should really like this player. It isn’t molasses-ey rich, nor is it obsessively detailed but it does everything very well.

    EE:
    Pros:
    Best blend of SS clarity and bass with a hint of tube warmth. This plays well with all styles of music. I enjoyed it very much. Beautiful looking. Comparable performance to the Opera. A little bass-light (could be tubes)
    Cons:
    Dim lights during daytime play.

    Jolida:
    Pro:
    Emotional. You certainly “feel” the music. Most enveloping soundstage. Good seperation. Bad recordings sound good.
    Cons:
    A bit too relaxed for my taste. Heavily colored, but thatis what people love about this player. Great recordings sound good. A tad flabby (could be tubes)

    MF:
    Pro:
    Best detail. Very precise with a lack of sibilance and fatiguing characteristics. Very clean clear sound. The highest quality recordings sounded best on this player. Excellent for critical listening. Bass tightness is crazy good.
    Cons:
    Very revealing (good and bad). Bad recordings sound bad. Remote is cheap compared to unit
    design is where science and art break even.

  15. #45

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    enders, ill get some more pics up when I can.
    design is where science and art break even.

  16. #46

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    Great writeup!! When I first got my jolida I said the same thing that it was almost too warm and I wanted more detail and top end out of it. That's when f1 suggested the ei tubes I now have. It cleared the tubbyness up and tightened up the bottom.

  17. #47

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    Yeah, simply changing the awful stock Chinese tubes in the Jolida improves the performance dramatically. Also, upgrading the power cord nets a huge improvement as well.
    'Political Correctness'.........defined

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  18. #48

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    Absolutely excellent reviews. Now this is something I'd use to help me purchase an piece of gear.

    I have to ask, which one are you keeping? That will tell us a lot ;)

    Based on your reviews, it would be really hard for me to choose any of em'. If I had to choose from your list, I would probably grab the Opera. I really love the emotional pull from the Jolida, and would normally go for the piece that provided that sound, but the flabbyness is a turn off (lol).

  19. #49

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    The fat sound was exactly what I initially experienced with the Jolida using the stock Chinese tubes; the Psvane tubes put the Jolida on a diet without killing the huge soundstage, what a wonderful upgrade.
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  20. #50

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    Cool review, one must realize when it comes to tubed anything, the tubes can make a significant impact on what comes out the end, and most come stock with crappy or just ok tubes.

    Did enjoy the review, you obviously spent some time with the players. That EE I had a feeling was going to be a sleeper as well.

  21. #51

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    Good review. Look forward to the pics when they come.
    Last edited by EndersShadow; 02-06-2012 at 10:08 PM.

  22. #52

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    Great review of some nice pieces. Thanks. The one thing I can take away from some of this is that I would really "dislike" the sound of the Musical Fidelity--overly etched sound that reveals everything and can make half my CD collection make me feel like cringing! No thanks! I'll stick with "fat" and "warm"!

    That said, some people can't get enough of that kind of sound! Where's Mantis? lol

    cnh
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  23. #53

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    cnh, I can assure you, the MF is not etched in its presentation. Hopefully erniejade will comment a bit later. He just left my place after a couple hours of giving them a thorough run through. The MF is very precise and revealing, but not etched. The high end is not fatiguing at all. And trust that if they were, the Emerald Physics would let you know.
    design is where science and art break even.

  24. #54

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    tony, We did some rolling tonight on the Jolida. It cleaned up a lot of the muddiness, which was driving me crazy. It's still a bit diffuse with the EI's in it now, but much tighter than before. Unfortunately we didnt have tubes for EE to roll. I will have some this week and will report on the results. I know the EE is something special, but I am sure some fresh tubes will help.

    One big shocker tonight was the HDCD performance of the Denon. It surprised us both. It was quite good.
    I am convinced the Denon is a great deal. I know I've said it before, but honestly it is. And with the upgradability of it, its probably one of the best audio deal in the entry level market.
    design is where science and art break even.

  25. #55

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    Well done, nr. I liked those Svetlana tubes but perhaps they've gotten long in the tooth. I'm surprised by the comment about the drawer, as I always found the speed and power with which it opened to be somewhat frighteningly fast and strong.

    The JD200 does sound different than it's predecessor, seemingly providing even greater depth and analog linearity. This one is a tube roller's dream, or nightmare, with six tubes inside of the box.

    Great descriptions of the the units. Excellent value to the forum, imo.

  26. #56

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    L&C, you are right about the drawer. I looked back at my review of it, and I wrote from the wrong notes. The drawer on the Jolida is indeed very speedy. The EE was a bit slow and the Denon tray crawled out almost begrudgingly.

    I'm certainly not disparaging the svetlana tubes. My wife liked them the the most, and they were very pleasing. Very ambient and super expansive. But just not my style. A little too fuzzy and feel-good for my tastes.

    And thank you for your kind words. I hope it helps people. As I was saying, I think these are all fantastic players, and it all depends on what type of listener you are. Hopefully I conveyed that message.
    Last edited by newrival; 02-07-2012 at 11:46 AM.
    design is where science and art break even.

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    Newrival, thank you for inviting me over! The test was fun and definitely interesting!

    1st up was the EE Minimax. It was a solid player but, to me, it had a bit of distortion and the vocals were a bit recessed for my taste. I think if we could have tube rolled it, it might have changed the outcome of this but for this test, it was my least favorite player as it stood without tube rolling on redbook NON HD cd. I am not saying that this might not be a stellar player, but without tube rolling it, I cannot say. Do I think its worth picking up and tube rolling YES heck yes. I would take a chance on this unit and tube roll it in a heartbeat. You can hear the potential but, its not quite there so again, I am going to say the tubes that are in it are holding it back. Looks wise, I think it looks great. Easy to place either on top of something or in a rack. It is a great looking unit.

    The Jolida before tube rolling, If the EE was a warm spring day, then that same warm spring day, open up the window and feel the breeze come in through the window! The sound all of a sudden sounded like it came from every direction. The vocals, guitar, organs just all of a sudden poped out with a wide wide soundstage. The bass was tubby, flabby and annoying i would guess between the 60-200 hz area. Now for this unit we did tube roll. I had some Sovtek tubes I had in my Jolida before I got the EI tubes that sounded way better than the stock ones but wasnt the sound I was looking for.

    The Denon, on redbook ( I own a 2910, and a jolida myself) was to me more in line with the EE Minimax as far performance on redbook cd's. It is a solid player for the $ especially in the used market. Actually if you go between the Denon and the EE, its a fair fight on redbook. Both against the Jolida without tube rolling, this one would boil down to personal preference. Without tube rolling, the Denon was more neutral but, how can I put this?. In a way boring to me next to the Jolida. Again the Jolida has a much different sound where things pop out at you instead of just being there. Again this is on normal redbook cd. NOT hdcd or sacd.
    The Musical Fidelity player.. Well, it had the best of both worlds. It was clearer, than all 3 players but, the sound stage of the jolida was wider. I will say on a good cd, it is awesome but, on a bad or even something that was recorded mediocre, it made it sound worse than it was or should be. The highs were crisp but never once got fatiguing? Have you ever had a cd ( non remastered,) of something and then the LP of the same thing, the LP 1st thing to me that pops out are how much crisper the highs are. Dave Brubeck time out cd non remaster vs the LP comes to mind. ( yes the remaster cd was better but I?m just trying to make a comparison ) The Jolida sound stage was wider though? like 10th row at a concert vs 1st row where the sound just seemed to be in front of you when your 1st row, but 10 rows back it seems to be a bit more expanded. On a side note of the MF, for those who are just joining us, this is a PREAMP / CD COMBO UNIT! The preamp on this unit is wayyyyyyy better than expected. Like shockingly good!


    Give me a few to write up part 2

  28. #58

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    More about the MF combo unit, if you are looking for a great cd player and a preamp, do not hesitate to grab the MF cd-24. The preamp is solid, clean, not colored, and good looking to boot. A solid value on the used market in my opinion.

    Round 2 next up.

  29. #59

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    So which one do I choose??

    I don't know! haha. I haven't yet. It's really quite difficult. I may keep 2 because of that fact that the differences really ARE that large to justify it. The MF does precision so well it's breathtaking on ultra-fine recordings, and a tubed player really is nice for "romantic" non-critical listening. When you just want to "feel" the music.

    -If I were only going to buy one player and be done with it, it might be the Opera. It does everything well. I don't think it outperformed all others in any one area, but it just did everything well. I would especially want this if I didnt want the maintenance of tubes. Or just want to turn it on and immediately listen for 30 minutes then shut it off.

    -If you want the in between tube/ss type of feel (clarity of SS with slight warmth of tubes) and want to have the control offered from tube rolling, then I would choose the EE. If you have a bright system, this would be a good choice. Also the EE would be a good choice if you have HDCD's or you want a good headphone amp for CD listening built in.

    -If you have tube amps and/or pre and could use some definition, then the Opera or MF would be for you. If you like the ultimate in clarity, dynamic range, bass extension, and control, then Musical Fidelity has got your number.

    -If I were just getting started in audio or had a limited budget of <$300 for a player, I would choose the Denon.
    design is where science and art break even.

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    ej, thanks for chiming in with some great insight! looking forward to part 2.

    I think your point of view will really be helpful to people in the market.
    design is where science and art break even.

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