AUDIO EXPERIENCE FROM FRANCE
You cannot discuss French HIFI expertise without bringing up Jadis, a brand that has become one of France’s most shining examples of tube technology on the world stage. Often referred to as the “Rolls Royce” of tube amplifier manufacturing, Jadis has been creating high-end devices since 1983.
A family affair
Everything started in a village near Carcassonne. A perfectionist who is passionate about electronics and amateur radio, André Calmettes is a self-taught expert in tube technology (which is mainly used in homebuilt radio devices). Coming from a modest background, he lacked the resources to buy a tube amplifier. He therefore made his own, an amp that he tweaked and improved bit by bit until he ended up with his first prototype. He invited his friends and acquaintances to give it a listen. Soon, by word of mouth, the product found new converts. His reputation became established, in France and beyond. I asked one of Calmettes’ sons, Jean-Christophe (who is currently the company’s technical director), about the company’s beginnings and the difficulty of becoming successful in the age before the internet. He comments, “Actually, I think we were better off because of it. Quite frankly, the internet has also had negative effects: it has allowed mediocrity to flourish! In those days, you had to pick up the phone, take to the road, and make the rounds of retail outlets, which were often owned by truly passionate audiophiles. You had to network, engage in discussions, promote your products, and get people to hear the difference in quality. That is how we began to build our customer base.”
In the 1980s, Calmettes met another audiophile, Jean-Paul Caffi (who was a pharmaceutical sales rep at the time), who took on responsibility for the commercial side of the business. Together, they founded Jadis. Today, Liliane Expert, who has worked at Jadis for 20 years, has taken over the company’s reins and is moving it in new directions. Jean-Christophe also tells the story of Jadis’ first exportation efforts: “Our largest distributor in Asia was Taiwanese. At that time, he worked in the cotton industry. However, he was a major audiophile, as was our distributor in China, who had gotten his start in the electronics industry. We were lucky to meet these passionate, engaged individuals who breathed life into our products in their own ways in their respective sales regions.”
A company 100% “Made in France”
For over 30 years, Jadis has adhered to the same approach—love for a job well done. Although the company has grown to comprise 12 employees, its directors insist on pointing out the craftsmanship behind all its products: its amplifiers are carefully assembled with high-quality materials (such as gold, non-magnetic stainless steel, and ceramics). Jadis has always applied the strictest standards when selecting its components; it has even resorted to manufacturing its own transformers, whose coils are wound by hand using a special, secret technique. The frames are built by a company located near Montpellier, and the tubes are imported from Saint Petersburg, which is home to one of the few producers of high-quality tubes. The capacitors come from France and Italy. Many of the smaller components are supplied by a French company but, in all likelihood, originate in Asia. Once the components and parts have been carefully chosen, they are subject to hours upon hours of tests, a painstaking process where nothing is left to chance. Indeed, the devices are assembled using point‑to‑point wiring to do away with parasitic effects.
With their chrome and gold finishing, Jadis amplifiers have a distinct look. Their aesthetics have a truly timeless appeal; they are a treat for the eyes as well as the ears. Their precision and quality are immediately apparent. Liliane Expert, Jadis’s manager, remarks: “Our products are available in around 40 countries, and the company has an excellent reputation internationally, notably in markets in Asia (50% of sales) as well as in Europe and the United States (the other 50% of sales).”
Although the company’s name was chosen to elicit nostalgia (“jadis” means “in olden days” in French), that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t remained abreast of technological trends and changes in how people listen to music. Jadis currently sells 29 different devices, most of which are amplifiers and preamplifiers. However, they also produce a CD player, the Orphée, which features symmetric tube output; a tube DAC the JS1 MKIV; and a vinyl record player, the Thalie. Finally, it is worth pointing out that their latest integrated amplifier model (Jadis i50) comes equipped with a USB digital audio input that allows the user to connect the device directly to his or her computer.
In contrast to certain tube-based products made by competitors, Jadis’ electronics are designed to be truly user friendly. They can be put to work in many different configurations. For instance, they can be paired with numerous speaker models, as long as the latter’s sensitivity levels match the amplifier’s power. Over the next few weeks, I will be lucky enough to audition a Jadis amplifier. I will share my impressions with you in the early fall. Temperatures and tubes are going to heat up this summer!