Octave Audio – Jubilee Monoblocks
First, a few words about appearance. Despite the fact that the preamplifier section has been shipped to the outer casing, its dimensions are not inferior to standard integrals. It is true that with monstrous monos it looks almost filigree, but when looking at the photo of the system, it is worth having somewhere in the back of your head the awareness that neither our ISIS on duty, nor the monoblocks dedicated to it are not the smallest, and to be honest, we can safely count them as a super heavy audiophile stratosphere. However, it will be reasonable to assume that no one in their right mind will try to put them in a micro-apartment of only 12 meters (in my time called a studio apartment), so there is no need to discuss the dimensions of the Nautilus set delivered by Krakow’s Nautilus, but just go to the details.
The front panel of the preamplifier is decorated with three powerful knobs responsible (from the left) for the operating mode, volume control and source selection. An interesting stylistic procedure is a delicate narrowing of the densely perforated body in order to obtain space for solid handles that make setting up and widely understood logistics extremely easy. Thanks to this, when looking from the front, we can see the classic shape, and only a glance from the side reveals the creativity of the designers. For an equally intriguing solution, you can also replace the standard surface with an element made of smoked acrylic, in which there are four function buttons and the company’s logo is engraved in the upper part.
The back wall also leaves no understatements and no impression of being unsatisfied. Switchable inputs and outputs in RCA and XLR versions allow you to connect the control unit to virtually any system, and the possibility of adjusting the gain and phase only broadens the spectrum of possible configurations. I do not even mention such trifles as the spacing between the sockets that allow you to connect virtually any “obese” plugs, because at these price levels it is obvious.
Contrary to appearances, soaring like the old WTC skyscrapers, Octave monoblocks turn out to be extremely positionable, because … they simply land on the floor. Thanks to this, we do not have to worry about the size of the table that can accommodate them, and only, only in a good mood (and cash), you can think about some solid, made-to-measure, solid platforms or even granite slabs. Speaking of granite, the appropriate 2 cm panel of course decorates the front of the monos, but its extension on the top plate, unlike the preamplifier, is not acrylic, but scratched aluminum with four function buttons, a bias control knob and a large, red display. In each of the above-mentioned monoblocks, the control panel is surrounded by two squares of lamps hidden behind solidly screwed to the body, densely perforated covers. There are versions based on 6550 and KT 120 tubes to choose from, and on my part I will only add that we have had the honor of testing the latter option. The rear wall offers widely spaced, double speaker terminals, RCA / XLR inputs with a switch that activates them and a toggle switch that allows you to switch the amplifiers in the so-called Ecomode mode. There were also screws for adjusting the bias of the tubes working in the output stage. The entire “calibration” procedure is described in detail in the manual, so I will not bore you with it. There were also screws for adjusting the bias of the tubes working in the output stage. The entire “calibration” procedure is described in detail in the manual, so I will not bore you with it. There were also screws for adjusting the bias of the tubes working in the output stage. The entire “calibration” procedure is described in detail in the manual, so I will not bore you with it.
And now for the best, i.e. the sonic qualities of the title amplification.
The preamplifier virtually eludes any judgments and attempts to qualify its impact to any sound category, because to put it bluntly… you just can’t hear it. It is and undoubtedly catches the eye with a futuristic shape, but it hides its presence on the track better than many businessmen with left income from the tax office. I have no idea whether this is due to the extremely low output impedance, a quad shielded transformer, or the presence of 100,000 μF filtering capacity in the power supply, but the fact of permanent transparency remains a fact. Interestingly, this transparency is not disturbed by the presence of four tubes (4 pcs. ECC 82), although it is not a surprise to the brand experts, because for many years Octave has a well-deserved reputation of the producer of the least tube-sounding tube amplifiers on the market. The “problem”, however, is that the Jubilee Preamplifier has as much in common with its lower-ranking siblings as the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse from VW Sirocco. Simplifying as much as possible and looking from the business side, it is also Volkswagen, but any comparisons do not make any sense. The same applies to monos, although to tell the truth, just before the listening session, I had some doubts when looking at the rows of KT120 tubes flaunting inside them. After all, we already had the opportunity to listen in our own eight angles to what the 120s implemented in but any comparisons make no sense. The same applies to monos, although to tell the truth, just before the listening session, I had some doubts when looking at the rows of KT120 tubes flaunting inside them. After all, we already had the opportunity to listen in our own eight angles to what the 120s implemented in but any comparisons make no sense. The same applies to monos, although to tell the truth, just before the listening session, I had some doubts when looking at the rows of KT120 tubes flaunting inside them. After all, we already had the opportunity to listen in our own eight angles to what the 120s implemented inMRE 220 and the old proverb says that you don’t enter the same water a second time. Fortunately, my fears turned out to be completely unfounded, because in this case it is not about what, but how to use it.
Since Jacek focused on nuances and mercifully saved the delivered set by playing at 50% of the output stage’s capabilities most of the time, I decided to “blow through” the system a bit. With monoblocks set to full (blue mode) “Live and Joyful in Charleston”The Angels sounded simply insane. We have not heard such holography and tangibility from the Isis before. Extremely ordered, precisely outlined phantom images allowed to indicate the position of individual vocalists with truly laser accuracy and, importantly, in this recording, also to observe their stage movement. Moving from foot to foot, rhythmic swinging to the rhythm of the music, it all happened before our eyes. Every rustle of clothes, shuffle with the foot, and finally such realistic applause that even Rubik would not have started meant that instead of two or three tracks, the entire album flew away. In addition, we found the usual deliberations on whether the presentation should be considered in terms of “we are there” or “They are here” to be completely nonsensical and purely academic,
However, the real ride without a handlebars was rewarded us with Nils Petter Molvær on the album “Khmer”. Although the 15 ”Isis bass drivers are not the smallest, the Octave powered monos were controlled by the best ceramics. Indeed, the seismic murmurs were not only heard well, but also felt. Their power and mass could almost be measured and weighed, because the atmosphere in the OPOS (Soundrebels Official Listening Room) thickened with every second filling every, even the smallest nook, with impeccably clean and almost unrealistically controlled sound. For the balance of the synthetic foundation, the parts of the trumpet were also perfectly reproduced, which cut the air with truly laser precision. The second on the track, the song “Tløn” simply pushed the limits of the possibilities not only of the loudspeakers, but also ours, we didn’t even count on venturing into. Zero distortions and the cybernetic, terminator-like, murderousness imposed on the loudspeakers by the German amplification made us quite imperceptibly approach the almost concert loudness levels. Nothing has sounded so loud and so good at the same time.
Of course, “Gladiator – Music From The Motion Picture” also appeared on the list of obligatory items to be auditioned . You could feel the power and a truly Hollywood momentum from the very first bars, but subconsciously we waited for “Battle”which has raised the already high bar of the accompanying listening experience for the future competition. The orchestra’s tutti clapped, the roar of the French horn pressed into the armchair and ruffled the bristles on its lower limbs. With such a repertoire and such rapid jumps in dynamics, thanks to the Octave Jubilee, you could feel for a moment like a supersonic fighter pilot exposed to murderous overloads, or an extreme roller coaster tester rushing at breathtaking speed to meet his destiny.
Mario Suzuki on “Master Music XRCD24: Touching Folklore Music Masterpiece” is a completely different aesthetic. Acoustic playing, and a spell could be given to four albums. Stunning timbre and detail went hand in hand with realism. The mapping of the dimensions of the instrumentation deserved only excellent notes. Only the best amplification can reproduce the virtuosity of a guitar trio in this way, and Octave achieved it with surprising ease.
At the end I reached for “The Wall” out of pure sentiment .Pink Floyd, which, even in spite of a significantly inferior realization, did not detract from listening. Of course, there was no question of chasing nuances and audiophile flavors, but the most ordinary fun of listening to a rock classic was undeniable. Octave did not torment a certain severity of the material, focusing on drive, emotions and even outstanding motor skills.
Switching the monoblocks to the “green” mode made the sound less competitive. It sounded good, but let’s be honest, if you at least once tasted the potential of full, unrestricted power, each time you switch to the “eco” mode will not be a pleasant experience. It’s as if we got a GT-R to “play”, and after a few wheels driven to the maximum, someone would forbid us to exceed 2500 revolutions. There is nothing to cheat – at this point, our personal preferences play the first fiddle, and as you know, tastes are not discussed. You do not even have to look far – Jacek was much more romantic and more relaxed, but in my repertoire I received a greater dose of adrenaline and octanes with gratitude. Maybe such aesthetics had something of a mad ride on the verge of common sense,
Now it’s time for a final conclusion. The Octave Jubilee is by far the best amplification I’ve ever heard. This is my completely subjective opinion and you may not agree with it, but I am asking you for one thing. If you do not plan to completely reevaluate the patterns developed over the years, if you do not want to destroy your own image of an extremely high-end absolute, then absolutely do not try to listen to the title pre / power Octave. However, if you take this risk, be sure that nothing will be the same as before.
|Jubilee Mono SE|
|The focus of German high-end audio manufacturer Octave is on serious and innovative development with an emphasis on uncompromising products. This is clearly evident in the company’s smallest model, the V 40 SE integrated amplifier, which embodies all the virtues of the Octave philosophy. Octave essentially optimizes the capabilities of each of its products to the maximum limit within the respective price range. While price will naturally affect the company’s development and production efforts, it of course also provokes the question “what if?”.
As an answer to this question, to push the limits, first provoked Octave in 1995: the company started thinking about an entirely new amplifier design. Thus Octave embarked on a most challenging project: a reference preamplifier.
It took over three years from the initial concept until the Octave Jubilee preamp was completed. It was the starting point of Octave’s highly acclaimed Jubilee series and remains in the range to this day – having been continuously optimized in accordance with advances in technical possibilities.
The great success of course spurred Octave to offer a reference chain of amplification. However, the power in an integrated or power-amplifier represents an entirely different challenge.
There is a very simple philosophy at Octave. Octave amplifiers are uncomplicated, reliable and sonically harmonize at the highest level with any loudspeaker in the world. This essentially means that Octave matches the stability and performance of the finest solid state devices, while the company definitely strives to offer more in some disciplines. Especially when it comes to dynamics and authenticity.
Octave’s founder and chief designer Andreas Hofmann is a profound lover of classical music (especially opera) and as such does not want to miss the full impact of a large orchestra. For comparisons in his own listening room, it helps to have the renowned Karlsruher Staatstheater nearby.
The requirements for the Jubilee line thus meant that Octave would need to break down barriers and overcome limitations of the venerable tube technology.
Octave has met this ambitious challenge for a long time. The company completely revised the classic push-pull principle with the first Octave mono amplifiers, the MRE 120, and subsequently developed it significantly further. Back then, Octave made it possible to overcome the known limitations of this seemingly maximized technology for the first time. And this approach promised further potential. After this experience and the pursuit of perfection, the pentode circuit has been optimized consistently. But this process went on for years until 2003, when Octave’s monumental mono power amplifiers set a new, higher standard in the power/output range: the Jubilee Mono. They were the perfect complement to the Jubilee preamp and remained a dream team.
Over the years, Octave has gained new perspectives thanks to further developing new advancements in technology, new components and the experience from the thousands of models it has built. There were also exciting new speaker models in the market. The results in all configurations were outstanding and showed the class of the Octave circuits. Over the years, the mono amplifier proved its impressive universal capabilities in all imaginable combinations.
For all these listening sessions – live and with the world’s most renowned speaker models – Octave was able to add further refinement and functionality. This, and the extensive experience the company had gained, allowed Octave to realize an even more profound revision of the Jubilee Monoblocs. The main focus was always the desire for more ease, an even more buoyant flow and a most authentic stage. The keys were again the dynamics and bandwidth. Thus, the Jubilee SE models should perform with boundless sovereign authority – without fuss or quibble.
Octave wanted a bit more than the already imposing 250 watts of the Jubilee Mono. But it took another 12 months before the elaborate concept materialized – in the same design and only with the little extra SE. But the sheer values made it unmistakably clear that the Jubilee Mono SE had moved the yardstick of many parameters dramatically upwards. Together with Octave’s characteristic, absolutely stable power, which drives the rhythm unequivocally with 440 watts per channel.
The technical requirements for this were immense. In order to realize this concept, extremely complex output transformers were devised. The winding of a single transformer alone takes a complete workday. The power supply goes beyond the traditional limits. An audible sound, when switching the unit on and off, is due to the professional protection relay. Of course one will also find all the typical Octave security features for a perfect safeguard in the elegant Jubilee SE mono amplifiers. Octave’s Power Management System ensures the gentle start-up of all operating voltages. That prolongs life for all components on one side and on the other side prevents inrush currents, to which a household fuse would react immediately. Even the innovative Ecomode circuit was implemented and thus the amplifiers automatically switch to standby when there is no input signal for more than ten minutes. The high voltage is switched off and only the input stages are still under voltage – quite audiophile.
Wonderfully simple and practical is the bias setting, although technically it is not a trivial feat with a total of eight tubes per amplifier. The setting is done via eight 10-turn potentiometers (one for each tube), as precise as the measurement itself. All this is rounded off by an accurate digital display on top of the chassis. There you can select tube by tube with an elegant rotary switch and then individually adjust them to the correct value via the potentiometers on the back of the unit. This facilitates the exchange of a defective tube as well as the change of the entire tube set to try different types. This is an advantage that one can enjoy in any integrated or power amplifier of Octave, as well as in the large monos. The distinctive sonic characteristics of different tube types (KT88, 6550, KT120, KT150, etc…) offers the opportunity to make an individual fine tuning in the chain.
The unique appearance, the elegant lines and first-class quality materials are not only due to the aesthetics. The massive materials on the front serve an additional function and purpose. They very effectively dampen the housing and prevent mechanical resonances. The combination of the fully-milled aluminium cheeks together with the wonderful stone in the centre of the front plate is a composition of superlatives. Special feet, which have been proven in protracted tests, perfectly complete the secure and stable chassis. Massive speaker terminals and gold-plated connectors of the Jubilee Mono SE amplifiers underscore the uncompromising approach and further confirm that nothing has been left to chance.
Octave was able to experience the result in many different configurations and the enthusiasm was always overwhelming. Because the power is delivered to the speakers naturally with such refinement, control and authority it conveys a quality not experienced with any other amplifier. This performance is accompanied by a rarely heard speed. The dynamic capability of the amplifiers is breath taking and evident with any speaker. At the same time, the two powerhouses recreate the expressive and so important midrange just as perfectly. The human ear is extremely sensitive and senses unnatural timbre as very disturbing. The naturalness of the Jubilee SE sets impressive new standards. The delicate high-frequency signals integrate seamlessly into the overall picture and unfold details as multifaceted as the view through a kaleidoscope.
A journey through the music with the Jubilee Mono SE is exciting and relaxing like never before: classic, modern, absolutely reliable, impressively innovative and sonically superior.