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CAF 2015: UHA and Jolida, Masters of Analog

UHA-1974

Greg Beron is a patient man.

The proprietor of United Home Audio, Greg has been the rock to my railing storm of protest, indignation and outrage. Well, okay — I’ve been nothing like that in my approach to analog tape in the 21st Century, but I may have been a bit whiny. And rightfully so, I will hasten to add! Yes! Why because? Well, if you must know, it seemed pretty silly to still be pushing tape at this stage in the game. I’ll insert a boat-load of hand-waving at all the protestations sure to arise by floating that (lead) balloon, but the point is, analog — at least these days — is all about vinyl. Not tape. Vinyl. Am-I-right???

Well, fine — yes, vinyl is a “throwback” too (sorry, Mr Fremer) and yes, I’m sure analog tape (still) has it’s devotees — but the point I was trying to make all those years ago to Greg was that the analog ship has largely sailed. I mean, hadn’t it? We’re all about digital and DACs these days. Pushing tape in the face of the DAC revolution seems more than a little obtuse, no?

As I mentioned, Job Greg has been very patient, at least with me. Over the years, he’s built a movement around the renovated and modernized tape machines that UHA has been offering. He’s built that movement audio show by audio show, playing his one-off master tapes until the wee hours every Friday and Saturday night at AXPONA, Newport, CAF and RMAF. He’s done this with this Buddha-like calm and general placidity.

Why, you ask? Because he knows. What does he know? How awesome analog tape can sound.

My objection to tape, aside from the perverseness of it all, was how fussy it seemed to be. Guess what? It’s not fussy at all. In fact, it’s pretty freakin’ easy. But there’s also the expense of it all — tapes are hundreds of bucks each. That’s a lot of dough for a single album! Of course, vintage LPs of particularly high quality are that and more. But there’s also the machines — there aren’t any! Well, except for the ones UHA has been carefully rehabbing and warrantee-ing for the better part of this decade.

Yeah, I’m out of excuses. Which may be why Greg loaded me up with one of his entry-level machines and a box of tapes on Sunday and said “good luck!” Bastard. So, yes, there will be a lot more to say about this experience soon.

In the meantime, let’s talk about CAF. Greg was, obviously, showing off his one-off master tape collection on one of his prized machines. The price of the top-of-the-line models has grown, keeping pace with his exploration of all the esoteric little upgradable bits (better caps, better pickups, better isolation, external power supply, &c), and tops out at about $25k for the Phase 12-OPS, the unit with all the bells-and-whistles — but the cost-to-entry is dramatically (like 1/3rd) lower.

Also in the rack, a set of Jolida Luxor Series KT150 monoblocks driving a pair of MBL 116F Radialstrahler loudspeakers from MBL ($30,000/pair).

Jolida was also sneak-peeking at a pair of low-cost widgets coming out of a joint venture with Jim Fosgate. The first was in the rack, and for lack of a better description, I thought of it as “spatial enhancer” (my words), that allows many non-360° radiating speakers to sound more 360° by adding in multi-channel phase info. The demo was suggestive but not particularly overwhelming on the 116F’s, but I suspect that a more modest 2-way would (virtually) blow out some walls. Another forthcoming widget will let users radically drop cross-talk in their vinyl rigs — that could be really interesting. Jolida expects to offer the device both as a standalone and as a feature in a forthcoming phono stage.

While I was in the room, I got to “wander” through a mix-tape (ha!) of Ozzy, Dire Straits, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. I heard liquidity and ease, with good detail and better-than-average spatiality … this was a marvelous blend of features brought by the source and the speakers/electronics. I loved it.

Let me encourage you — if you’re heading to an audio show, and Greg happens to be running his late-night demo? Go. There’s usually tasty adult beverages, the night will last pretty much forever, but the music quality is absolutely first-rate.

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About Scot Hull (979 Articles)

Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.