JAS Audio GP-120 Integrated Amplifier, GP-120CD CD Player and MM-3 loudspeakers
JAS Audio GP-120 Integrated Amplifier, GP-120CD CD Player and MM-3 loudspeakers
A Neophyte’s Adventure
Over the years, I slowly drifted away from my love of music. I stopped going to live performances and even stopped listening to my favorite records and CDs. It’s always been in my heart, body and soul, but something changed. To put it in the simplest of terms: life got in the way. I thought I lost my love of music until I met music aficionado Clement Perry (who just so happens to be my neighbor too). Unbeknownst to me, this would be the first step into the wild and crazy world of high end audio.
During the past year, CP (as I call him) introduced me to Stereo Times contributors Ron Cook, Billy Drummond, Dan Secula, Dennis Parham and Carlos Sanchez. With each introduction to these gents and their respective systems, I found myself getting more and more reconnected to my music. Collectively, I found these guys to enjoy a camaraderie and a passion for music that eclipsed anything I had seen. But while each has a great sounding system, I also came away with the impression that deep pockets were required if you wanted a high fidelity system. But CP saved me from these thoughts. He turned me on to some entry-level high-end audio components that could achieve great sound at an affordable price. So he says.
Over the course of several months, as my pursuit for music enjoyment, purchasing and listening started growing – bordering on the obsessive/compulsive (I can’t count the amount of jazz CDs I purchased in the past twelve months), I began writing about my musical insights to the quarterly column on Stereo Times as well. Serendipitously, CP, noticing my musical mania, asked if I would like to “test drive” some really affordable high-end components and possibly even write a review. Of course, I said “Yes!” He went out to his car, popped the truck and before I knew it, we were unpacking boxes. When we were finished, two nice looking components emerged; The JAS Audio GP-120 Integrated Amplifier and the GP-120 CD player: the subject of this review. They are part of JAS Audio’s new “Green Power” lineage which according to JAS Audio consumes 20% less power than other similarly powered high-end audio products.
The first component CP set up was the 120 watt per channel GP-120 integrated amplifier. The GP-120 retails for $995 and is well built, considering the price. On the back, there are provisions for four inputs, a set of main–ins (which JAS Audio curiously calls pre-ins), and lastly there is a set of pre-outs and a handsome wireless remote control.
Next up was the $950, JAS Audio GP-1.0CD CD player. The GP-1.0CD is a robust CD player weighing in at 17 lbs and uses a Philips transport and laser mechanism said to provide stable signal reading and low signal loss. It features an audio grade toroidal transformer, 24 bit/192kHz upsampling, Burr Brown PCM1798 D/A Convertor, and a dynamic range of 105 dB. It’s a nice looking top-loading unit that, like the GP-120, has a silver faceplate and black anodized chassis. When the GP1.0CD is perched atop the GP-120, they make a handsome pair. Operating the GP-1.0CD is fairly simple. Just slide open the glass lid and insert your disc. Closing the lid starts the disc spinning, and as expected, opening the lid stops the disc.
Perusing the JAS Audio website, it’s apparent this Hong Kong based company has been quite busy manufacturing affordably-priced electronics that extends from tube amplifiers and loudspeakers all the way to high-end cables, AC conditioners, audio-racks and even add-on ribbon tweeters! Sensing this company builds almost everything for the audiophile on a budget (like me), never once did I get the feeling that these components were cheaply made. In fact, they looked a lot more expensive than I had presumed.
For my first listening test I played music through a pair of Revolver “Music 3” Loudspeakers (a CP loaner), which are 89db efficient with an 8 Ohm load, hence a good match for the GP-120’s 120 watts. Listening to the popping, smooth-jazz favorite, Norah Jones’ Feels Like Home [Blue Note], my first impression of the JAS Audio duo was as subtle as a brick upside the head. Music sounded, well, like music. It was subjectively smooth, and had excellent imaging. Compared to CP’s rigs, we (my husband Richard and I), in fact did notice some excessive treble energy at the top-end and not nearly as powerful and tight a bottom-end, but I attributed that more to the lack of burn-in. As time and more music played through this musical duo in our living room, the more excited I became over the sheer enjoyment I was feeling. Richard, I should add, was also an audiophile back in the day (early ’90s) and although we no longer have McIntosh gear adorning our living space (wired via Kimber PBJ), he hasn’t forgotten what a high-end system ought to sound like. Anxiously awaiting to say something over the course of the evening, Richard stated that “whatever this is, it is excellent sounding!” Admittedly, Richard was afraid of asking the price of this rig and for weeks I didn’t say a thing. I wanted him to hear what something so affordable could sound like before asking him what he really thought owning a rig like this would set us back financially. Having gone from an over-the-air radio broadcasts via a Sony boom-box to this JAS two-piece rig proved utterly sweet and revelatory on so many different levels. I am amazed and somewhat embarrassed to admit that life and other pursuits had gotten in the way of my real passions. Admittedly, I’d almost forgotten how important those passions once were. I recall getting excited over the amount of clarity, focus, dimensionality and transparency heard in all those other big rigs. Now these important audio catch-phrases are making their way into my own living space… and caught both Richard and I by complete surprise.
Music-wise, a personal favorite of mine is by Phil Collins’, The Very Best of Phil Collins – In the Air Tonight. Listening to various tracks on this album, I literally heard more air in “In the Air Tonight” but without that over-abundance of brightness I first heard. The JAS combo sounded wonderfully delightful through voice and threw a pretty nice image of Collins and his deft skills on the drums right there in my living room. Another one of my favorite tracks is “Black Magic Woman” by Carlos Santana off his album Abraxas [Sony]. Played through the JAS Audio GP-120/1.0CD duo, the track sounded much more vibrant with more prominent percussiveness than I knew was on this CD. The JAS GP-120/1.0CD duo’s mid-range was satisfyingly rich on Santana’s guitar as if the engineers wanted to highlight how good Santana sounds. The top-end became a little aggressive when I played the system louder than it wanted to go. But sometimes, I just get too carried away by this duo’s smoothness which results in my grabbing the remote and upping the volume. Yeah, things do become a tad harder on the ears, but considering the price I find it hard to fault. My guess is many products in this price range (and more expensive) exhibit similar if not more constraints when played beyond their normal range. When we were really enjoying the music and playing it at normal levels, Richard and I became even more impressed with the overall relaxed feel and presentation of the JAS GP-120/1.0CD duo.
Enter the Dragon: The JAS Mini Monitor 3!
With about two-months of listening under our belts, CP called me Thursday afternoon and asked if were ready to partner the JAS electronics up with a pair of loudspeakers specifically designed for them: the $949.00 JAS MM-3 two-way monitor loudspeakers? When I asked why hadn’t the speakers been included the first time, CP in a straight face stated “then you wouldn’t know what was doing what!”? Finally, I get the chance to hear how good either the Revolver Music 3s or the JAS combo are, respectively. Ok, now I’ve got to compare the slightly smaller but ruggedly built JAS MM-3s against CP’s long time reference monitors. One thing’s for sure, both Richard and I fell in love with this combination.
I’ll say this right off the bat, the Zebra wood finish of the MM-3s is really pretty. Richard thinks it’s a bit overkill and thinks it draws unnecessary attention (as if it were a piece of furniture). The look is a little boxier, overbuilt (at over 25 lbs per side), and although slightly shorter, they’re nearly 5 lbs heavier than the Revolver Music 3s. The MM-3s are two-way monitors, built in separate enclosures with the tweeter above the mid/bass enclosure. The MM-3s are uniquely designed around wooden support beams that also appear to serve as mini-stands themselves. CP, who says they look like miniature Goldmund copy-cats, placed them on the same stands (Target 24″ tall) the Revolver Music 3s had rested on for the past eight or so weeks. Cabling throughout was Entreq Audio Konstantin series of Sweden.
The last CD I listened to was the first played and that was Sade’s classic “Keep Looking” from her Stronger Than Pride CD. I don’t know how or why, but this was an entirely different presentation. Sade was more out in the open, centered between the speakers, but clearer too and her vocal phrasings had more richness. Her band seemed ever more present and somehow kept themselves in the background. I love the acoustic guitar riff on “Stronger Than Pride.” Here, the plucks sounded more dynamic, cleaner with more background ambiance as if everything was being handled in a quieter way. What clearly made me feel the MM-3s were an ideal match for their electronic was the beautiful the hypnotic track 4 Haunt Me. The spacing of Sade’s voice, her inflections gave me goose bumps. I think the MM-3s are superior in detail and retrieve more information from the electronics they were designed around. For example the opening to Haunt Me never sounded so long, so melodic and so new. I swear, I got up off the couch and stared directly into the MM-3s. I am not certain if the MM3’s are better than the Revolver Music 3s since they too can elicit some serious emotions as well. But I will say that I enjoy listening to music through the JAS MM-3s more because they sound closer to the real thing. It doesn’t hurt that they were also designed to play together although I will admit to thinking I was closer to heaven than ever listening through the Revolver Music 3s as well. Now I understand why CP and his crew has always got something new to listen to.
The GP-120/GP-1.0CD/MM-3 trio, in terms of sound quality, far exceeded their $3k asking price (Richard, just based on the looks and performance estimated the system would set us back about $7500.00). I also think they’re attractively built and aside from the speakers, do not visually overwhelm you. The fact that they consume 20% less power than other audio gear without egregious sonic penalties is icing on the cake. My hat’s off to JAS Audio for a smart and attractive design and top-notch performance. Highly recommended!
Technical specifications: GP1.0CD
Power requirements: 110/120v 60Hz (Internally set for country of use)
Power consumption : 23W max
Frequency response : 1 Hz – 20 kHz ?0.25 dB
Output : 2.50 V RMS at 1 KHz, 0 dB
Output mode : Coaxial output
D to A: 24 bit – 192 KHz Burr-Brown PCM1798
THD : < 0.0008% at 1 KHz, 0 dB
THD + NOISE : > -105dB
Mains Voltage : 110/120V North America @ 60Hz
Weight: 7.7 Kg (16. 95 lbs)
Dimensions : (W x D x H) cm 43.5 x 34.5 x 8.2 (17.1 x 13.6 x 3.2) inches
Remote : JAS Supplied
Price: $999.00 USA
Technical Specifications for SP-120 Integrated
Power output :120W(4 Ohm)
Frequency response :20Hz-25KHz+/-2dB
Input impedance :47k Ohm
S/N ratio :102dB
Net weight :12.5Kg
JAS MM-3 Specifications:
Frequency Response: 45Hz-24kHz
Nominal Impedance: 8 O
Power Rating: 20W-120W
Dimensions: (W×D×H) 200×320×386 (mm)
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