Visitors to the Jolida room could be excused for wondering for a minute if they’d arrived in a DeLorean time machine with Doc Brown and actually were at AXPONA 1974.
But no, my iPhone still was getting a signal and reading 2016. Yet, in front of me was a modern-day version of the old-school quadraphonic system — one with a circuit designed by Jim Fosgate to boot.
Jolida, which is changing its name to Black Ice Audio Solutions, offered a peak at its new F360 tube preamp ($999, shipping in September). The unit offers tone controls, a “soundstage expansion” button and — get ready to go “Back to the Future” — outputs for front and rear channels. A built-in matrix-style decoder straight from the 1970s, courtesy Mr. Fosgate, creates the quad illusion.The company had two systems in Chicago. The most interesting one featured the F360, connected to two Jolida 1000 P stereo tube amps (100 watts per channel, $1,999 each), a Black Ice tube phono stage, also designed by Fosgate ($1,200, due in September), MBL 116 Elegance Radialstrahler speakers ($32,000 a pair) in front and MBL 126s ($13,000 a pair) in the back.
Two VPI turntables, a red Scout and a tricked out Avenger, stood atop the rack.
A Led Zeppelin track — fitting for the audio time period evoked — showed the system could rock. The MBLs produced a powerful sound for their size, although the bass was not as well controlled as it could have been, and the highs showed some edginess when pushed.
The four-channel soundscape, thankfully, was rendered subtly, rather than with the ping-pong effects and too-loud rear channels of yesteryear. Two-channel snobs likely will smirk at Black Ice’s moxie to bring back quad, but the reasonable price of the F360 preamp should make it an interesting toy for fun-minded hobbyists and those who still have a soft spot for the wrap-around sound of their high school system. As I remember it myself, four-channel was the only way to listen to records like Queen’s “A Night at the Opera.”
Galileo, Figaro. Magnifico!