pf logo POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 24
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jasmine audio

the LP2.0 phono stage

as reviewed by Lester J. Mertz

 

 

 

 

LESTER J. MERTZ'S SYSTEM

LOUDSPEAKERS
DIY - 1. LJM Originals, Transmission Line w/ Dynaudio 17W75 and Morel MDT30, 2. LJM Modified, BK16 – folded horn w/ Fostex FF165K and Peerless Soft Dome, 3. LJM Originals, Floor Stander, w/ Vifa P17WJ and Vifa DX25SG, 4. LJM Modified, Dynaudio "Aries" – (currently on loan to Tim Stant), and 5. LJM subwoofer, w/ Audio Concepts AC12.

ELECTRONICS
Blue Circle BC21.1 preamplifier, Linn phono stage, and Sonic Frontier Power 1 (55w) with Svetlana's 6550c Output, and 6N1P Drivers, B&K ST 140 (105w), and Sound "Valve 110 SE" (on loan from Fred Kat) amplifiers.

SOURCES
Arcam CD 33 T, Linn LP12, Grace 707, Signet Mk 110 E (mc) into Monolithic PS 1.

CABLES
Audience Au24 (on loan from Keith Oyama), Ridge Street Audio Design, "Poiema!!", DH Labs Air Matrix, DH Labs Silver Sonic, LJM, RS microphone, Maple Shade Double Helix, Synergistic Research Active Looking Glass, van den Hul The Second, van den Hul D300 Mk III Hybrid interconnects. van den Hul D352 Hybrid speaker cables. Blue Circle, BC02, Kimber Kord, Synergistic Research, Active, AC Master Coupler, and LJM Originals, Marinco Plugs w/Belden 14-AWG AC cords.

ACCESSORIES
Acme Audio Labs, cryogenic treated outlets and Hubbell, outlets, Mod Squad Tip Toes and cones, Mana Sound Frame, FIM 305 (roller balls), Vibrapods, Maple Shade Iso-Blocks, Maple Shade Maple Boards, Marchland XM9 electronic crossover, Boos Blocks, Rock Maple Granite Slab, Target Stand TTSA5, LJM Wood Blocks/Equipment Stands, VPI 16.5 (record cleaning machine).

 

The Jasmine LP2.0 is a two-box phono preamp for both moving magnet and moving coil cartridges. One box is the phono stage, the other is the power supply. The handsome gray boxes are nearly identical in size, with thick, rounded metal plates on the top and bottom of each unit. The phono stage has a rotary switch for impedance loading of 30, 100, 1000, and 2500 ohms, and a toggle switch for selecting either mm or mc cartridge. The power supply connects to the preamp by an umbilical cord with screw locks on each end. Once the units are connected and the power cord is plugged in, the unit is always on—which is a good thing, because the sound improves noticeably over time. The units supplied to me did not have the same graphics—the power supply had a block-letter logo on the rear panel, while the preamp had Jasmine's distinctive cursive logo. Both units had a back-illuminated blue Jasmine logo on the front panel.

The owner's manual suggests that the units not be stacked. The previous reviewer apparently did not read the manual, as the preamp had marks made by the power supply on its top plate. I placed the units horizontally, as recommended, and did not experiment with stacking them to see if it would change the sound. I should note that the feet (like those of the Jasmine Piano integrated tube amp) left marks on my wooden shelf. You may wish to guard against this, as I did, by using a business card or something similar under the feet.

My turntable is a 1975 Linn Sondek LP12 with Grace 707 arm. Everything sits on a short, English-style turntable rack. There are cones under the turntable, which sits on a one-and-three-quarter-inch rock maple cutting board, which sits on a custom rubberized cork and maple block, which sits on the dedicated rack. Mapleshade's brass carpet piercing spikes anchor the whole thing. I've spelled all this out because my experience is that everything affects the sound. For more than fifteen years, I used a Target stand that had a top shelf specifically made for turntables. I thought that this was the way to do it, and most of my audiophile friends still use something similar. Perhaps they would rather let sleeping dogs lie, but after reading many articles about placing your turntable on a separate stand, I finally tried it, and WOW! What was I waiting for? If you are a record lover, and can afford it, order a separate turntable stand immediately. It may make more of a change in your analog sound than a new cartridge!

My cartridge is a Signet (Audio Technica) 100E, a low-output moving coil that is unusual because it has a user-replaceable stylus. I'm on only my second stylus, but don't play LPs as much as I used to—I've gotten spoiled by the convenience of CDs. The main reasons for keeping this cartridge are its great sound (especially with piano and guitar music, which I love) and its extremely low surface noise. One of my audio friends has six cartridges that he uses on a tonearm with a removable headshell. When he heard the Signet, he said, "Don't change a thing, especially the cartridge." The prices of the best cartridges are beyond my means, so I continue with the Signet. (By the way, I use a VPI 16.5 record cleaning machine religiously.)

My phono gear may be passé, but most of my now-ancient LPs sound excellent. Many sound better than CDs, particularly those special audiophile records and the ones that I have not worn out or abused. I make it a policy to play a record only once a day, with absolutely NO repeated playing of the records I think are special. I use CDs to repeat tracks when I want to compare gear. The reason for this is the cartridge down force, which works out to thousands of pounds per square inch! The down force generates heat, and actually deforms the grooves. After a short time, this process begins to permanently deform the grooves, destroying micro-details like the sustain of a note or chord. Treat your records kindly and they will reward you for a lifetime.

Audio Technica recommends a 10-ohm load, and I experimented with both the 30- and the 100-ohm settings on the Jasmine. The 100-ohm selection gave a weighty and slightly bloated bass sound, and slightly more surface noise than the 30-ohm setting. The lower impedance gave slightly less bass emphasis but a better overall balance. The first recording I listened to was an old favorite—Saint Saens' compete piano concertos played by Aldo Ciccolini with the Orchestre De Paris conducted by Serge Baudo (Seraphim). Since this is a four-record set, I changed phono stages with each record, comparing the Jasmine to the Monolithic phono stage. The Jasmine has much more gain (70 dB), which was a real plus in some ways, but made it necessary for me to adjust the sound levels every time I switched units. The Jasmine had a bigger bottom end, but lacked some of the definition of the tighter-sounding Monolithic.

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli is my favorite pianist, so I pulled out his performance of Debussy's Children's Corner (Deutsche Grammophon 2530196). This is a beautiful recording that captures the pedal sustain that CDs never seem to get right. Michelangeli's recordings appeal to me because his subtle touch on the keys draws me into the music. The piano was rendered beautifully by both phono stages, with the Jasmine sounding slightly more forceful and dynamic compared to the Monolithic's sweeter, more polite midrange.

Tracy Chapman's first album on Electra is a sensational album with studio-quality sound. The almost overwhelming bass of the first cut, "Talkin' ‘bout a Revolution," is a good workout for your woofers. The Jasmine had more bass, but it was not as defined. The soundstage was a little constrained, and lacked the explosive kick that I am used to, but the unit's high gain allowed it to put out party-time sound levels with this toe-tapping masterpiece. Later that week, after a continuous warm up of both phono stages, I pulled out some other pop classics, including Lyle Lovett's Pontiac and Bonnie Raitt's In the Nick of Time. The sound of the Jasmine had improved noticeably, but the midrange lacked the creaminess and sweetness of the similarly priced Monolithic. The Jasmine's slightly rolled off top end may be an advantage for those who own one of the hot-sounding cartridges made today.

The Jasmine sounded just fine with my older records, but lost out to the Monolithic. The LP2.0's harsher midrange was especially noticeable on modern, super-clean recordings. I was originally told that the price for the LP2.0 was in the $600-to-$800 range, but a recent review in a "tree-wasting" audio magazine stated that the list price was $1500! (The actual retail on the LP2.0 is $900 US - Dave Clark). That price puts the Jasmine into a much more competitive class, and I wonder how it would make out against the E.A.R. or Linn phono preamps, which would be very stiff competition. Les Mertz 

Jasmine Audio
web address: www.jasmineaudio.net

Hawaii Audio
TEL: 808. 739. 9553
web address: www.hawaiiaudio.com
email address: audio@hawaiiaudio.com

 

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