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How to make your LPs sound better than ever

Jolida's JD-9 phono preamplifier, is a bona fide high-end sound component that won't break the bank.

High-end audio doesn't always mean the most ridiculously expensive gear, just gear designed with sound quality as the top priority.

Mainstream audio products aren't designed that way; they're sold mostly on the basis of features like Bluetooth or AirPlay that consume an ever larger part of the design engineer's focus and budget. No, high-end audio in its purest form is all about superlative sound. Jolida's JD-9 tube phono preamplifier is such a design.

The Jolida JD-9 phono preamplifier Jolida

The selection of newly released LPs is growing day by day, and I loved Nick Lowe's "The Old Magic" LP, but with the older, pre-1980s LPs you can be sure they're not overcompressed or Auto-Tuned to death. Analog is always more organic and true to the original performances. For me, that, more than anything is what keeps me interested in vinyl. In the days before Pro Tools and computer-based recording systems, the band had to perform. Nowadays computers are used to make technically perfect, musically boring albums. Not always, but too much of the time.

If you already have a decent-quality turntable and phono cartridge, a great phono preamplifier should be the next, most logical upgrade step. I've always admired Jolida's budget priced tube electronics, and one of my audiophile friends bought Jolida's JD9 phono preamp a few years ago, and he loves it. Now that I finally got my hands on one to hear it in my system--with a VPI Classic turntable and Van Den Hul cartridge--I know why he's a Jolida fan. The JD-9 certainly feels solid, it's beautifully built. The JD-9 doesn't have a volume control, you'll need to partner it with a stereo preamplifier or integrated amplifier.

It can be used with a wide range of moving-coil and moving-magnet phono cartridges. Being a tube preamplifier, there's always the concern of tube "noise" lurking in the background. I found the JD-9 to be quiet, and I never heard any noise while listening to records. That said, if you want the quietest possible preamplifier, buy a solid-state one, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a solid-state preamp that sounds as good as the JD-9 for $499.

I think tube components sound more like music, and less like hi-fis trying to reproduce the sound of music. That's why 40 years after the transistor supposedly made tubes obsolete, audiophiles and musicians are still buying tube gear.

The Rolling Stones all-analog 1974 album, "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" had the sort of weight and power that's lacking from their digital albums from the 1980s. In any case, the JD-9 only amplified all that's good about the Stones. But to test my theory about the sonic superiority of analog Stones LPs, I jumped ahead 20 years to "Voodoo Lounge," and the digitally recorded LP's sound was definitely cooler. This proves that the JD-9 is transparent enough to highlight the differences between analog and digitally sourced LPs. So you can't say the tubes are making everything sound rich and warm; the JD-9 tells it like it is.