JH Audio Layla (Reshelled by Naga Audio)
The Layla is JH Audio’s flagship piece, built for professional mixing and mastering. The immediate difference between Layla and Lola lies in the top-end. The Layla has a more reserved treble, which results in softer transients and a slightly darker tone. The Layla’s top-end is more linear, which results in thicker notes with more apparent textural detail. On the contrary, the Lola’s top-end is sharper, more compact and more articulate. Listeners accustomed to immediate clarity will probably gravitate more towards the Lola’s presentation. But, the Layla’s is more discerning; shifting (for better or for worse) from one recording to the next. The Layla also has a more visceral, physical sub-bass than the Lola. Again, it has an emphasis on rendering textural data, while the Lola’s tighter, airier response has cleanliness and clarity in mind.
In the midrange, the two possess completely different timbres. The Layla adopts a fuller profile with thicker lower-mids and a more relaxed upper-midrange. Vocals sound richer and more euphonic. You definitely get a lot more harmonic content here. The Lola’s midrange is much lighter and breezier. Those thicker, chestier notes are a lot more laid-back, so vocals sound breathy and clear, but with that wet resonance that D.O.M.E provides. This is also responsible for the Lola’s more apparent sense of depth. Oftentimes, the Lola’s lead instrument stands on its own two feet as a tactile, corporeal body; just ever-so-slightly cohered to the stage by its warm glow. The Layla’s by comparison sounds very much coalesced to the rest of the ensemble. The Lola’s sharper top-end gives the midrange sharper contrasts too, as well as clean air.
Astell&Kern Rosie by JH Audio ($899)
The Rosie is an Astell&Kern-and-JH-Audio collaboration product. Based on the legendary JH13, it remains one of Jerry Harvey’s most underrated designs in my opinion. The Rosie and the Lola actually have relatively similar signatures. It’s a lightly warm shade of neutral with an airy, spacious midrange. The Lola takes it further in that regard. There’s more air to its mids, while the Rosie’s has a fuller 1-2kHz region; a slightly chestier, more muscular response. The Rosie’s fuller fundamentals give instruments like low-tuned snare drums more density and weight, while the Lola’s response favours lighter instruments like violins and woodwinds. Those instruments almost float in mid-air within the Lola’s soundstage.
In terms of stage expansion and stereo separation, the Rosie comes admirably close. But, the Lola does have the edge in rendering spatial cues. Instruments further back in the mix sound more resolved and solid. There’s a more defined contrast between the instruments and the black background on the Lola. This is because of its more energetic, sparkly top-end. Up top, the Rosie is smoother and more forgiving, while the Lola has that slight hint of glare around 6kHz, as well as a crisper upper-treble. This makes instruments like hi-hats and cymbals sound more tactile on the latter. And, it gives the low-end more clarity too. But, it doesn’t gloss over any of your recordings’ inherent peaks either. So, if you’re after the smoother, more laid-back one, the Rosie is your pick. The Lola is for those after airiness, sparkle and clarity.
The Lola is one of JH Audio’s most exceptional pieces yet. In a world where tonal diversity has neared stagnancy, leave it to the industry’s pioneers to deliver something delightfully unique to the table. Like the meaty, muscly Diana I heard last year, the Lola’s magic is in the midrange. The balance between resonance and air is unprecedented. Instruments flaunt depth, cleanliness and nuance, brought together by D.O.M.E’s sweet, summery glow. The low-end is one of the most life-like and clear I’ve heard yet. And, the top-end is articulate, well-extended and quick-paced, if a tad unforgiving. Last but not least, you also get JH Audio’s plethora of proprietary tech. Like a fine wine, the Lola continues to prove that JH Audio only top themselves with age. I’ve truly loved my time with it, and I can’t wait to see what else Jerry Harvey has in store.
JH Audio products are available to demo and purchase in Singapore via their authorised dealer AV One @ The Adelphi.