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May 2002
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Enjoy the Music.com Special 20/20 Award
Silbatone Acoustics JI-300B Integrated Amplifier
Review By Steven R. Rochlin

 

Silbatone JI-300B Unit

  In the world of audiophillia, my mind tends to keep track of certain brands that i feel have potential when they are first introduced to the public. During the Winter Consumer Electronic Show back in 1998 (WCES 98) a pair of Loth-X loudspeakers was voted my best sound of show (see show report by clicking here). At that time Loth-X was a new and unknown company from Singapore. Since then i have watched this company expand to now offer a complete line of loudspeakers, turntables and amplification. Construction quality on all their products appears to be of the top-shelf variety (for the given price range). A choice of highly refined, if not completely custom (and costly), parts is also at the forefront of every Loth-X design. Loyal reader of Enjoy the Music.com's Review Magazine will recall my February 2002 review of Loth-X's Silbatone $30,000 C-102 battery powered pre-amplifier (review can be seen by clicking here) and Herb Reichert's review of their ION BS 1 loudspeakers. Yes, you read that correctly my friends. A $30,000 all-singing, all-dancing, ear opening and mind blowing sounding pre-amplifier. At hand today is their less expensive, if still pricey, integrated 300B based amplifier.

 

Loth-X's Silbatone JI-300B Integrated Amplifier

 

Like the $30,000 C-102, the $16,000 JI-300B chassis and knobs are precision machined from a solid aluminum block and, in turn, are hand finished. The chassis has an extremely solid feel, yet is lavished with seductive curves that harks back to the beauty of the fine Italdesign-Giugiaro with a touch of industrial design added for good effect. Knobs on the JI-300B are fitted with ball bearings for precise, yet smooth action and an ooh-la-la luxurious feel. Operating the Silbatone JI-300B brings about the same feeling of refinement as experienced with my Hasselblad 503CW or one of the many Patek Philippe timepieces. Of course outer beauty and superior operations are worthless unless the supporting parts are also of complimentary quality. It is the "heart" of the JI-300 that provides a glimpse into this piece's final music reproduction capabilities.

 

All Parts Are Not Created Equal
We all know that garbage in equals garbage out. Therefore the power supply consists of a unique rectifier-less design that is claimed by Silbatone to provide "high speed energy delivery on transients. Power supply impedance is fifty times lower than conventional rectifier/filter supplies." This is said to allow for a near equal to the superiority of using a battery based power supply as found in their top-shelf products. In fact the design within the JI-300B has a claimed impedance 1/50th that of a conventionally rectified power supply. Custom made parts for the Silbatone JI-300B include wirewound resistors, oil capacitors, and silver mica pieces. The custom wound output transformers employ foil winding technics combined with normal copper wires. The volume control is made by none other than the Ko-on and is of the 40 step variety (a version of which is found in the legendary $90,000 Audio Note Ongaku integrated amplifier). Rounding out this grouping of ultra-fi parts are the all silver RCA jacks and loudspeaker binding posts.

 

Loth-X's Silbatone JI-300B Integrated Amplifier


The front panel has two knobs with the input selection on the right and volume control on the left. In the back of the unit are five stereo inputs, monitor/tape output, and industry standard IEC power jack. A separate ground terminal plus a fuse holder are also supplied for user convenience. Six all silver loudspeaker binding posts allow for both 8 and 16 ohm loads (4 ohm tap available by special order). The tube compliment consists of two 5965, two 5687, and the unit comes standard with two Western Electric 300Bs.

 

Musically Speaking
There is definitely a "family sound" to the Silbatone products. i would describe it as a very smooth, musical with great inner resolution and the ability to decipher intricate musical passages. Of course using the Western Electric 300B for output tubes is advantageous for those who desire a glorious midrange and overall leaning to a more lush, rather than clinical, sound. As a self-indulgent tube head, after long listen to this setup the Sophia/TJ mesh plate 300B tubes were substituted. The lower and uppermost octaves were now more inline with my preferences with better overall extension and overall definition. The Western Electric 300B has a rosy tinted sound. Not that this is a bad thing mind you, it just is. With my reference loudspeakers, the Avantgarde Acoustic Duo 2.0 (2.5 perhaps as the bass amplifiers have been upgraded), the JI-300B was dead quiet.

Those of us with highly sensitive loudspeakers, such as the 103dB+ sensitivity of the Duos, virtually any noise from buzzing to background hiss becomes highly evident. Here is where the claimed 98dB signal-to-noise ratio of this integrated unit is a must-have. Sometime i cherish the days of 92dB or lower sensitivity loudspeakers. This hides all the background noise problems in lesser amplification devices. Of course the upshot of using the Duos is that if i have no noise problems, odds are you will not too. A reviewer makes some sacrifices when he signs on to this insanity. Back to the music...

Stringed instruments such as cello and violin were portrayed with a wonderful balance of string/bow and body. In fact the JI-300B excelled in this regard! Classical music from Bach to Beethoven was highly enjoyable affairs. the aural and textural "colors" were all brought forth with amazing grace and clarity. The main difference between the Silbatone JI-300B and my newly upgraded to current status Wavelength Audio Cardinal X-1 monoblock amplifiers (full review forthcoming) were in the more seductive tendencies of the Silbatone. Also of note is that midbass frequencies appeared to be more defined by the Cardinal. Not that one rendition is "better" than the other, it is more a personal preference of the so-called "more accuracy" Cardinal X-1 versus the musical leaning of the Silbatone. Of course the Cardinal does not include a pre-amplifier and therefore my conrad-johnson Premiere 17LS was in the signal path versus the JI-300B alone. i did try the JI-300B with the 17LS and this proved how transparent this critically acclaimed pre-amplifier is! While not up to the $30,000 Silbatone C-102 standards, it shows how being a reviewer has so many choices that can affect the overall synergy/sound of a music reproduction system. Perhaps having experienced many different products separates the men from the boys? Back to the music...

Initial transient speed was quite good, though the nod goes to the Wavelength X-1. Still, there was an overall feeling of being drawn into the music with the JI-300B whereas the Cardinal had a certain "flowing like a stream" with virtually no "signature" or "beat" sound of its own at all. When i refer to "beat", this seems to some insidious type of way an electronic component has the timing of the music not flow freely. Instead, there is something happening where the music appears to be not allowed to stream endlessly and instead is gushed out in micro-spurts. This may also explain why some people prefer vinyl over 16-bit/44.1kHz CD (and why higher resolution digital formats are winning converts daily).

As for imaging, the JI-300 is excellent. My review unit was capable of producing a wide and deep soundscape with the ability of bringing natural hall space within my listening room (when the source material permits). With wonderful microdynamics at hand, there was a grace and ease portrayed which brought a deeper personal involvement into the music at hand. The Silbatone JI-300B is one amazing unit at bringing about the emotional content within the source material.

 

Summing It All Up
All in all i feel this integrated amplifier is easily capable of portraying an enhanced emotional, musical reproduction. With an error on the side of musicality over extreme accuracy, those with systems leaning towards analytical or sterility may find the Silbatone JI-300B to be a great match. A type of musical equalizer at it were. Of course we can not simply overlook the stunning chassis and delectable mechanical operations of the front knobs. Did i mention the feel of those knobs are addicting! It is hard to say this $16,000 unit is a great bargain on a strictly sonic basis. There are other amplifiers that meet my preferences at lower costs. Of course they also do not look as lovely nor operate and sensually. Still, if you are in the marketplace for an integrated amplifier within this price range and desire great looks and operational feel, it would be hard to beat the Silbatone JI-300B. While you are at it, auditioning this unit with the mesh plate Sophia/TJ 300B is a must in my humble opinion. Of course in the end what really matters is that you...

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

Tonality

90

Sub-bass (10 Hz - 60 Hz)

90

Mid-bass (80 Hz - 200 Hz)

90

Midrange (200 Hz - 3,000 Hz)

95

High-frequencies (3,000 Hz on up)

90

Attack

90

Decay

92

Inner Resolution

90

Soundscape width front

95

Soundscape width rear

95

Soundscape depth behind speakers

95

Soundscape extension into the room

95

Imaging

95

Fit and Finish

100

Self Noise

100

Value for the Money

75

 

 

Specifications
Tube Compliment: two 5965, two 5687, and two 300B
Power Output: 8 watts per channel, two channels
Frequency Response: 10Hz - 30kHz
Signal to Noise: 98dB 
Inputs: Five
Input Impedance: 10 kOhm
Output Taps: 8 Ohm and 16 Ohm
Dimensions: 15.5" x 13.5" x 9" (WxDxH)
Weight: 49 lbs.
Price: $16,000

 

Company Information
Silbatone Acoustics
#1006 Byuksan Digital Valley III
212-13 Guro-dong, Guro-gu 
Seoul, Korea

Voice: 82-2-855-8410
Fax: 82-2-855-8412
E-mail: info@silbatoneacoustics.com
Website: www.SilbatoneAcoustics.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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