A little background to the amplifier (apologies to Joe, if I get anything wrong here). Joe takes a superbly built Chinese amplifier, in this case the Yaqin MC-100B, based on a 1960s push-pull dual mono tube amp design, using KT-88 tubes as the main amplifiers and 12AX7s as the input tubes. Build quality is exceptional and would require thousands of dollars if Australian labour was to be used to produce the same finish etc. On the other hand, Yaqin does not try to address the problems associated with a push-pull design (e.g. great impact but lacking micro details). At under $1K shipped to Australia, you'd hardly expect them to!
That's where Joe comes in. In the Mk1 version he made some major circuit changes and added in a few very clever bits of technology, resulting in a tube amp with the impact of a push-pull and much of the micro detail of a single-ended design. In the Mk2 version, just released, Joe has replaced the 12AX7s by 12AT7s and reworked the circuit for radically better sound. The cost to upgrade an existing Mk1 version was $300 or to modify a Yaqin MC-100B was about $1000 as I remember it.
It is funny how some things just happen together. I heard the JLTi amp at Joe's and started thinking about finally replacing my Arcam Alpha 10 / Alpha 9 combination, which has been my amplification system in one form or another for well over a decade.
I looked on eBay for the prices of Yaqin amps and discovered that someone was selling a JLTi Mk1 2nd hand. I couldn't resist! I won it at Auction and, after a few days of listening - it definitely did not sound as good as the Mk2 I'd heard at Joe's or at the ASoN presentation - sent it off to Joe for upgrading.
I've now had it in my home for a few days. It is hard to describe the difference in sound, and, surprisingly, I'm still coming to terms with some aspects of it.
The thing which is most striking about the amplification is how "honest" it is. This is a bit of a two-edged sword. For instance, my CD player (a modified Arcam Alpha 9 CD) is a very fine performer. But aspects of its performance, for better or worse, have been hidden from me up til now. Something I would call "digital edginess", which I have heard on lesser CD players (including more expensive ones), is much more obvious now than it was through the Arcam amps. A considerable veil has been lifted off the music, but that veil has also been lifted off the non-music. On balance, the CD sound is much better than before, but you can tell by comment that the amp is forcing me to reconsider the quality of my CD player. As for my tuner, it sounds absolutely fantastic, especially on 2MBS FM live broadcasts (my tuner is a Sansui TU-X701 which is a wonderfully musical tuner). I haven't switched back from my Alpha Genesis to my Shelter cartridge on my Once/PU7 turntable system, so I shall not make comment about phono yet, except to say that voices sound amazingly lifelike - beyond any sense of realism I got with the Arcams.
The JLTi is considerably noisier than the Arcam duo, most apparent when listening through headphones. But the noise is very easy to live with as the music sounds so much more like ...music.
More later as I experiment.
Edited by warrenmmmmm, 20 November 2011 - 07:53 PM.