|Kenwood KR-V5580 circa 1996|
Having grown up some, I could care less about features. I don't want surround sound - not 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 channels of anything - I just want flawless stereo sound. Walk into any high end audio shop and their premier product is typically McIntosh, a bajillion dollar setup before you even have speakers. What makes it sound so magical was their epiphany that tubes sound better than transistors. It's a warmer, richer sound than any other tubeless amp, and an entry model will set you back about $2400 for the pre-amp, maybe another $3500 for the amp, and then some seriously fancy speakers to match. Nice sound, but is it worth that kind of coin? Not to me it isn't. I like music as much as the next guy, but I don't think I'm going to hear the nuances between that and a cheaper competitor. So I set out on a quest to find a better tube-based integrated amplifier. "Integrated" means that the pre-amp and amp are in the same box so that you're buying one unit and not two.
|Jolida JD801BRC Integrated Amplifier|
|Atwater Kent Model 10C Radio, circa 1924|
The Jolida build quality is not something that you'd find in your mass-produced iron from China - these aren't made by the thousands. They do contain some high quality tubes that provide depth and warmth of sound and feature a faint glow when warmed up. The unit features a power switch, a volume knob, and an input selector for four input sources. Done. No stupid features, absurd displays, configuration options, etc. You add speakers, it amplifies the input source, and produces amazing sound. It's even nice to look at. Tubes need to be replaced from time to time and they're not cheap, but outside of that there's no reason why this unit wouldn't last a lifetime. Weighing in at 47 pounds, one can actually feel that shortcuts were not taken.
The lesson here? Made in China is not always something to be wary of; the Chinese are producing some pretty amazing stuff at great prices, from audio equipment to furniture to cameras. Just read about it and do your research; in this instance you can have some pretty high end kit for about 1/5th the cost. May this be the last receiver I ever own!