“It’s not a CD player! It’s a DAC with a built in transport”
“So it plays CDs then?”
“Like a CD player!”
“Well, yes, but it has digital inputs, lots of them”
“Like a CD player with digital inputs?”
“I .. er… it.. Yes. Ok, it’s a CD player with inputs. But really it’s a DAC, it’s been designed as a DAC with a built in transport, the DAC functionality came first”.
“Ok, I see. That makes more sense”..
And so the conversation goes when I try and explain this thing to anyone fool enough to ask me what I’ve been reviewing recently. The DAC/CDplayer/Transport in question is from American “toob heads” Jolida. Jolida’s stated mission (yes, that’s like a mission statement) is to provide high end sound at affordable prices. When you read my review of the Integrated amp, that will make a lot of sense, this review however is for a high end sounding bit of kit at a high end price. At least, to me £2650.00 is a high end price for a Cd player.. I mean a DAC.. oh I give up, I’m going to call it a digital source from now on, ok?
Whatever you call it, it’s a very practical device. It really is an upsampling DAC (with USB, Toslink and Coaxial inputs – USB: 24/96 up sampling to 192 Hz Toslink and coaxial: 24/192Hz) with a Phillips transport and Both XLR and RCA analogue outputs. It also sports a brace of digital outputs (Toslink and Coax) and is therefore equiped to fit into any system in almost any configuration.
This slightly confuses matter for me. But I took the view that as Jolida has gone to all the effort of building gourgeous windows into the roof, through which one can view the beautifully crafted valve output stage (2 x 12AU7 preamplifier vacuum tubes, 2 x12AT7 driver vacuum tubes and 2 off 12AX7 driver vacuum tubes), and installed a really high quality display in the front, it seems obvious that this is a CD player first and DAC/transport second. That said, I did, of course, plug my squeeze box into the coaxial inputs and make use of it’s DAC functions.
So, how does it perform as a CD player? Well it perfoms as it should for £2650.00, in that it’s an extremely rounded performer. It does have a little warmth to the sound and those fascinated by measurements are unlikely to enjoy it’s slightly fruity sound (but then, those that spend their lives measuring kit rarely buy hifi anyway). As someone that’s recently been converted to the dark side (vinyl) I have been struggling to enjoy my extensive CD collection as much as I did before. CD to me lacks life, it can be too sterile an experience and my experiences of real music are rarely like that. Music to me is not something that should be clinical, or – dare I say it – too High Fidelity. A live performance is one thing, but personally I don’t want that in my house. At home I want enjoyable music which can either be played in the back ground, or sound dynamic and fun when turned up loud. In this respect the Jolida hit the brief. For me, the slightly coloured “warm” sound was an absolute positive and highly enjoyable. The valves did their valvey job of projecting voices in a clear and enchanting way, while the digital side did it’s job of retrieving detail from the disk.
I’m always impressed by a solidly built bit of kit, it inspires confidence, I don’t doubt for a minute that this confidence has a positive effect on one’s appreciation of music. Most of us audiophiles are dreadful worriers.. is that cartridge flat? Are those speakers toed in enough? Should I hang a rug on that back wall? All of which detracts from the enjoyment of the music while listening. As we slowly address all of these issues we feel things improve. Both because of the real, engineered solution and also because of the calming effect on our particular pecidillos. The Jolida CD player does that. It’s build and quality inspire confidence, put one at ease and allows us to simply enjoy the music.
And enjoy the music is exactly what I did. Everything from Faure’s Requiem to the Manic Street Preachers. Curtis Mayfeild sounded warm and inviting while Leftfield’s Leftism thundered along – Release the pressure was great fun, thunderous bass but it never lost control. There was a clear “rounding” of notes, leading edges weren’t soft, but they were easier on the ear. However, it still has dynamism, perhaps not Naim levels of pace rythm and timing, but it’s no slouch. With classical music and Jazz the warmer presentation really came into its own, but I’d hate for you to think this thing won’t rock. It certainly does and you can listen for hours. Weaknesses? I struggle to point to any really, some might call it warm, and they would have a point, but normally that warmth comes at the expense of detail. Not here, the Jolida manages to present detail and to give dynamic performances edge without ever sounding dry or edgy, a rare trick in my experience.
Unsurprisingly, with lossless files being transmitted from my Squeezebox there was little or no discernable difference. The sound is every bit as warm and inviting. it is a hugely enjoyable listen.
This is not a budget device, but it is a hugely practical and wonderfuly fluid sounding device. And with build quality like this it’s hard to see that much is likely to go wrong with it. Fans of hard slamming rock might not get quite enough excitement from it (although it faired well enough with Led Zeppelin II), yet for most of us this could possibly be the last CD player you ever buy (until they release a newer shinier one and you get that itch again of course), and so it’s value seems very fair at the price.
I recommend a listen and I strongly suspect you will see many more hugely positive reviews in the press over the coming months. Nice looking, solid and fluid sounding CD player? Yes please!
Discuss the review here
For more information speak to Robert at Aired Audio