Juicy Music Audio Blueberry Extreme: A Review

Discussion in 'Equipment Reviews & Opinions' started by styler, Jul 19, 2005.

  1. styler

    styler Super Member

    Messages:
    1,439
    Location:
    a turkish prison
    Disclaimer: I am an unabashed JMA fan, and have no negative to report. I have compared this preamp to limited products, 2 solid state preamps (McIntosh and Blue Circle) two integrated amps (one Blue Circle and one Creek) and tube (restored and upgraded Dynaco). Some more expensive and some less so. I declare the BlueBerry Extreme the hands down winner for overall performance. I have never received a Juicy Music Audio product at discounted prices or been compelled to write a review.

    I bought a pair of Klipsch La Scalas from a local gentleman well known on the Klipsch board, and he was using a JMA Peach. He had specific needs that dictated the use of the Peach, most significantly he did not need a phono stage and had long cable runs. He recommended the BlueBerry (BB) and I visited Mark Deneen's www.juicymusicaudio.com website. I eventually purchased a BlueBerry and it has since been upgraded to the "Extreme."

    I love this preamp.

    Many people were/are put off by the color combination on the standard BB, I found it refreshing and atypical. I like the use of wood and appreciated the avoidance of the black or silver box. To me this showed a fair amount of balls given that JMA is a new company, and its looks might scare off some buyers. If it looks unusual, it had better be damn good.

    Another fact that I appreciated is that the design, sound, and marketing all ultimately relied the designer, Mr Deneen. Its rare that one person stands so visibly behins the quality of their product - no saying the penny pinchers forced a change or wanted to substitute a cheaper part (other great examples are Gilbert Yeung of Blue Circle, and Craig Ostby of NOS Valves). Granted their products arent cheap, but they are personal pursuits which carry their reputation, love of music, and must provide their livliehood (incentive!).

    Now to the meat:
    Build: The BB Extreme comes in BLACK which was much requested over the blue, red, and yellow scheme of the original BB. I originally attemtpted to keep the same faceplate but was told this was not an option as it may confuse others down the road. One nice feature of the BB is access to the electronics of the preamp. Two bolts come out and the guts of the preamp slide out the rear. On visual inspection one sees the 5 tubes including the 12x4 rectifier. The Extreme version has a compliment of NOS tubes that vary from one piece to another. Most impressive is the size of the power supply! Its a tube rectified and choke filtered power supply with HUGE auricap capacitors (much larger than the ones on the already robust power supply of the original BB). Other signs of excellent parts are the ceramic tube sockets, Apls vol. control, and Hovland coupling caps). The tubes are well spaced out, easy to access, and easy to identify. All is contained in a solid and very attractive wood case. The front panel on the Extreme is black and gray. One of my few nitpicks of the piece is that the color scheme does not provide enough contrast making markings somewhat difficult to see. But hey, its meant to be heard not seen.

    Sources: VPI Scoutmaster w/ Shelter 90x; Lector CD 0.6t
    Amps: NOS Valve VRD Monoblocks
    Speakers: Shahinian Arcs
    Music: Classic Records new Neil Young Greatest Hits 200g SVP vinyl; Richard Thompson's Old Kit Bag on 180g vinyl; Leo Kotke Great Big Boy CD; Blue Tofu CD.

    Sound: Damn good! In comparison to the solid state preamps, the BB is warmer, darker, and just as refined. The use of the word dark is difficult. I like darker sounding units, I cant stand thin or airy. However, I dont mean for "dark" to be a "coloration" of the music. For me, dark is deep, it has bass, soul, and warmth. The darness is not at the expensse of any other property of the preamp. The highs are precise, articulate, and never shrill or sibillant. Listening to the cmybals on Neil Young's Cowgril in the Sand had a space and lightness that I've never noticed before. The electronic highs on Blue Tofu were smooth and detailed. The bass on all accounts is outstanding and probably the single most obvious difference from the original BB. Its more focused and deliberate with better presence. To me accuracy is relatively difficult to speak about. Without an acoustic chamber orchestra, jazz quartet, or folk band in my man cave all I can say is that I believe the BB Extreme allows the music to come forth and raise the hair on my skin. Either I'm crazy or I was hearing cymbals and triangles I hadnt heard before, while at the same time noticing the bass improvements.

    In comparison to my full solid state set up, I would say that the speed/pace is different. Some reviewers go on and on about speed and pace of high powered SS amps, I honestly dont notice a big difference. The sound is different, perhaps the transients of my SS set up are a touch more precise, but I dont believe this is necessarily a good thing. Although I am proud of the McIntosh and Epos set up one room over, I find it slightly more fatiguing - this may be a speed/pace issue. Whatever the case, I do not fatigue to the VPI, Lector, BB Extreme, VRD, and I do with the McIntosh Epos. This phenomena is more apparent at higher volumes, but my tube system runs nearly the entire time I'm home. That said, listening to RT's The Old Kit Bag, which has many fast and articulate passages, I never found the BB Extreme to be lacking. All detail was there. One could easily hear the refrain of the stand up bass, the subtleness of the hammered dulcimer, and vocals were rich and clear (anyone that doesnt have this LP MUST GET IT). Even with pieces like Hendrix Live at the Fillmore, I never once felt the presentation or speed were suffering on an all tube set up. It was fast, powerful, detailed, and emotional.

    One place I noticed a big difference was organ passages. The short intro to Steely Dan's Babylon Sisters is as real as anything I've heard. Female vocals are exquisit, and Janis Ian never sounded so good! Nver was there a hint of syrup. Instruments like background soprano saxophones, tamborines, triangles, soft muted trumpets, mandolins, and harmoniums were easily identified. Thus, absolutely no lack in detail.

    In comparing identical pieces of music on CD v. LP, I definitely noticed a difference. However, most of my LPs are remasters and high grade vinyl, and the Shelter 90x is a true stand out. However in judging the phono stage to that of Blue Circle's superb BC 27 pi, the BB easily held its own. They sound different but one is not necessarily better than the other. I preferred the BBs low output stage for jazz and rock, and the BC 27pi for classical/orchestral, and electronica. But i'm splitting hairs. I could easily live with either and judge the BB the overall winner given its part of an all in one package. A side note is required... At AK Fest, listening to high output cartridges, many preferred the BC 27pi, to the standard high output stage of the BB (I have the "Cream" option for low output moving coils). But, I did not specifically compare this as I do not have a HO cartridge right now.

    Lastly, I can unequivically state that the BB Extreme is a great product. One will get an extremely well built preamp. Warm, nonfatiguing music; excellent detail, and excellent customer support - when you call JMA you get the owner/builder/designer. He has been extremely helpful in guiding other audio purchases, and never given me any bad audio advice. Further, he is a site sponsor, and I think many othjer AKers who have heard the BB will agree it is a fine product. I strongly recommend this product to all. If there are any AKers in the Little Rock area, I would be happy to provide a listening session. I will endeavour to bring it to the next AK Fest....

    Sure there's likely better products but the point of dimishing return always sets in, for may its at a price point lower than that of the BB Extreme. However, I have no plans to change my source, preamp, or speaker selections, these will likely be with me for life. I have amps that I alternate at times, and have yet to decide what MY ultimate amp is. Right now I prefer the VRDs, but have yet to hear my Blue Circle that may soon arrive.
     

     

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  2. Filmboydoug

    Filmboydoug Nikko Freako

    Messages:
    2,631
    Location:
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    Hey Styler, very well written, thanks!
     
  3. reyneman

    reyneman Requiescat in pace

    Messages:
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    Nice, styler :thmbsp:

    Now I wish more than ever that I could have checked out a BB.

    I'll find one to 'borrow' one of these days, your great review has piqued my interest.
     
  4. charlieboy

    charlieboy Active Member

    Messages:
    199
    Location:
    Central California
    Great read. I've tried the peach and since I'm a large amount vinyl I might go the BB w/cream someday!
     
  5. styler

    styler Super Member

    Messages:
    1,439
    Location:
    a turkish prison
    BB Extreme

    man i love this preamp! had to say it again. sweet, lush, and detailed!!!!
     
  6. blackwatch26

    blackwatch26 Member

    Messages:
    76
    Location:
    Little Rhody
    My Blueberry Extreme will be here early next month.

    I have been enjoying my BB for a bit over a year now. It is a great pre for not a lot of money especially at Mark's new price. Some of his thirty year old Paragon designs sell for as much as a new BB on the used market yet the Blueberry uses more modern circuitry and higher quality components.

    I talked to Mark about modding my original BB. He said don't do it and made me an offer I can't refuse. :thmbsp:

    Now, all I need is a better LOMC. Sheltor 501?

    Rick
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2005

     

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  7. pocketchange

    pocketchange AK Member

    Messages:
    461
    Location:
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    Blueberry Extreme (new) or VTL TL5.5 (used)

    Anyone had the occasion to compare these two?
    I'm leaning toward the Blueberry but have a friend
    that is selling his VTL5.5 which I have listened to for many hours (and it sounds great).
    Never listened to the BlueBerry, can't find one in my neck of the woods!
     
  8. luvvinvinyl

    luvvinvinyl Lily! Staff Member Admin Subscriber

    Messages:
    25,759
    Location:
    South of Detroit
    Maybe Juicy Music has customer info and could point you toward a nearby customer.
     
  9. SixCats!

    SixCats! Super Member

    Messages:
    2,544
    Location:
    Maine
    Hi all,

    I sure would like to see a QUALITY, SIMPLE, STRIGHT FORWARD and
    OUTSTANDING SOUNDING JMA Integrated Amp...perhaps something on the order of a PP 10 to 20 Watts per channel Integrated unit for use with efficent Speakers. Heck, there are some folks who just can not afford (nor want to spend) $2,000.00 (after taxes and shipping) for a stand alone Pre amp. Something to compete (and SURPASS) the likes of a (for instance) a JOLIDA 102B. Anything in the works ?

    Regards,
    SixCats!
     
  10. Grumpy

    Grumpy Krusty old SOB! Yes, I own Audiokarma Staff Member Admin Sponsor Subscriber

    Messages:
    25,495
    Location:
    Texas
    The blueberry is 1495 plus shipping and add 300 for the extreme version. Now if you don't need a phono the Merlin runs 795.

    I don't think Mark is currently producing any amps but ya never know.
     
  11. luvmy92

    luvmy92 New Member

    Messages:
    15
    Location:
    Central FL
    His amps should be ready for production in the next month or so, but they will not be cheap from what I hear. I think they will be in the $4k range, but I'm sure will be well worth it. BTW, I bought Styler's VRD's and have a JMA BlueBerry Xtreme for my front end (driving modified Klipsch La Scala's), and can honestly say it don't get much better than this.

    Mike
     

     

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  12. Gridslayer

    Gridslayer This and that... Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,142
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    I've had the Blueberry Extreme with cream for a while now and love it. I know the phono stage is good, but just how good? I'm running a VPI Classic I with Lyra Delos through it, and really like the sound. I've got the upgrade itch and wondering what I'd need to get to get any improvement... thoughts?
     

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