Article By Scott Faller
To the average audiophile, the name JoLida should be no stranger. Mike Allen, founder of JoLida, has been designing and manufacturing tubed and hybrid amplifiers and source equipment for quite some time. Over the years, I've had more than a few pieces of Mike's gear through the old homestead. The most recent pieces I've hosted were the JoLida JD 300B and the JD 1000A. Both of them were nice sounding amplifiers. In years past, I've also played with the Response Audio modified JD 301 hybrid integrated amp and also the JD 302 EL34 integrated that one of the local guys owns.
It's kind of a fun story, a couple of years ago I was hosting a Christmas bash for our local audio idiots (I include myself in that description TYVM). Several of the guys brought some guest gear. Mark B brought is Sophia Baby and Mike D brought his JoLida 302. As the afternoon blurred into evening, the effects of the single malts started to set in. The next thing we know, we've got both pieces of guest gear on my workbench and the soldering iron is heating up. What we ended up doing to both amplifiers was removing the coupling caps and replacing the existing caps with some nice sounding alternatives. As I remember, Marks Baby Sophia got some Solens MKP's and the JoLida 302 received some AudioCap Thetas. While I was in the JoLida, I soldered in some el-cheapo Nichicon .15/400v film bypass caps on the power supplies.
When Mark brought the Sophia to the event, he had mentioned that he was thinking about selling it. The Sophia is a nice looking little amp, but the stock sound didn't move him. When we plugged the Baby back in after replacing the coupling caps, you could see Marks face light up. The sound of the Baby had been completely transformed. The exact same thing happened with Mike's JoLida. The little 302 went from a nice sounding amp to something pretty darned special sounding. To this day, neither of the guys have traded off their amps. And for that matter, I doubt either of them will ever get rid of them because they like the sound of them so much.
The reason I tell that story is because it brings me to the factory modified JoLida 102B. Mikes amps have been very popular amongst the audiophile crowd. They are decent sounding and extremely reliable. The other attractive item about Mikes amps are they are easy to modify to gain a fair amount more resolution from them. In fact, there are a couple of ‘modders' out there who are doing just that. These guys are taking Mikes amps to the extreme. They are replacing the stock parts in the JoLida amps with expensive parts like the V-Caps and Riken Ohm resistors.
Mike Allen of JoLida has some very strong opinions when it comes to the sound of his amplifiers. He's gotten his hands on a few of the ‘modded' units and given them a listen. And quite frankly (as he'll be more than happy to share), he doesn't like the way they sound. In turn, Mike has decided to do his own factory mods and offer them to us, the consuming audiophile. These factory mods are quite similar to the aftermarket guys. Now, Mike doesn't go quite as far as they do but quite honestly, Mike is going to get you 80% of the way there. Know what else? Mike only charges $100 bucks for the factory mods. Since he has to solder the parts in anyway, he's just charging (basically) parts costs plus a reasonable mark up.
In turn, Mikes factory modified JoLida amps are going to be voiced to suit his ear. Mike Allen has chosen to use Riken Ohm carbon film resistors in the signal path, Angela Instruments Tin Foil, SCR polypropylene capacitors as coupling caps.
The JoLida 102B is a classic EL84 (6BQ5) push pull, Ultra Linear design. This circuit design is simple and very reliable. Mike applies a little less than 7db of feedback on his circuit to help stabilize along with raising the damping factor just a bit. JoLida uses printed circuit boards in their amplifiers and this one is no different. As many know, Mike custom designs each of his transformers, power and output. No off the shelf Hammond's for JoLida. Mike has his transformers custom wound around a core of German, grain oriented, silicon steel. I'm here to tell you, JoLida does not skimp in the least when it comes to iron. This little amp's footprint barely larger than a piece of 8.5 x 11 notebook paper and it weighs almost 19 pounds. I'd be almost 75 percent of that weight is iron. This is a very good thing.
On the back side of the amp you'll find a pair of 4 and 8 ohm gold plated binding posts along with four pairs of gold plated RCA inputs. On the front of the amp there are only the three chrome plated metal knobs for Selection, Volume and Balance. One thing Mike has designed into his most recent update to this amplifier is he has added a top access point for setting your tube bias. This is darned handy as I've had to reach inside some of his amps while they were upside down and turned on to adjust bias. This can be more than a little menacing for the tube newbies out there.
Over all, this amp is quite the little ‘looker'. It's very attractive in brushed aluminum with chrome knobs and feet. It's amazingly small an as such, I doubt that you'd get much static at all from your wife or girlfriend about its looks sitting on a shelf or out in the open.