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Esi Juli@ Audio Interface

Posted

Pros: sound quality, simple flawless Linux install

Cons: Windows drivers

Edited to reflect observations after extended listening.

I just installed this sound card and was pleasantly surprised at the sound quality. The reason I bought this card is because its unbalanced analog outputs were praised by The Absolute Sound and that is how I use the card. Their praise was well deserved. It normally sells around $200, I picked up one lightly used (still in new box) for $150.

 

My computer is a Dell with i7 4770 processor, 8 GB RAM, SSD, running 64 bit Ubuntu (my primary OS) and Windows 7 (which came with the Dell).

The Juli@ worked perfectly right out of the box in Linux. It was recognized by the ALSA drivers.

Installing on Windows 7 was a nightmare - multiple reboots, duplicate drivers appearing, etc. Reminded me why I stopped using Windows a few years ago.

 

Source sounds were CDs in the computer player and WAV files ripped from CD to filesystem. Full quality with no compression or equalization applied.

Software I use for listening is VLC player with no eq or other processing.

I ran the output of the Juli@ to my Headroom Maxed out Home amp and listened on Audeze LCD-2 and Sennheiser HD-580 headphones.

Musical sources were mostly acoustic music recorded in natural spaces: chamber music, ancient/medieval, classical, both small and large ensemble.

I also listened to some jazz and hard core rock, for example Swans The Seer.

 

The sound quality is surprisingly good - even excellent. I didn't know it was possible to get sound this good from a computer. It's detailed but not bright or harsh. It has deep bass with grip and control but not bloated. It resolves complex music smoothly without any veil. Even nasty harsh sounding industrial heavy metal like Swans was resolved well - some sources make it sound like a shrieking ear bleeding cacophany but the Juli@ captured the sound with all the harshness the recording engineers intended, yet adding none of its own. And it did equally well at the opposite end of the musical spectrum that I usually listen to: the resonance and purity of Cecelia Bartoli, the grittiness of Gillian Welch, the sweetness of Les Violons Du Roy. It has neutral tonal balance and realistic voicing on natural acoustic instruments. As I listen to mostly acoustic music recorded in natural spaces, midrange smoothness, clarity and natural voicing is critical for me and the Juli@ delivers.

 

One minor shortcoming in the Juli@'s sound: when turned to max volume, it does not quite have dead silence; there is a bit of low level buzz which is most likely due to insufficient regulation of the computer's relatively noisy DC power. But it is very low level and does not impair listening because to hear it you have to turn the volume up to levels that would make your head explode if the music kicked in. I haven't measured its level but based on experience measuring these kinds of things before it's about -90 dB.

 

The Juli@ has a high output level from the analog unbalanced jacks. I used the standard Linux ALSA mixer to drop the level about 6 dB to get a reasonable volume knob position on my MOH amp, which has relatively high gain. I don't listen to music at 100 decibels.

 

The Juli@ sounds as good as any CD or DVD player I've heard at $1,000 and under and better than some above that price. But it's not surprising since the most expensive parts of any audio component are the box (aluminum panels, displays, knobs) and the power supply. A sound card needs none of that (though it does need power regulation). A $1,000 audio component probably has less than $150 of parts on its circuit board. The rest of the price is in power supply, box, and moving parts that a sound card doesn't need.

 

The Juli@ has a unique internal reversible card so you can get unbalanced analog (in and out), or balanced TRS 1/4" jacks (in and out). It also has digital outputs, coax (in and out) and optical (out only). I used only the analog unbalanced outputs. With an output impedance of 100 ohms, it's designed to drive an amp, not a set of headphones directly.

 

Overall a great purchase, one of few high end sound cards having excellent quality analog output rivaling the best audio components. I gave it a slight ding for the noise floor - even though it's too low level to impact listening. More important than the noise floor is the sound quality, which is extended, natural and clean, good enough to be a primary source. For the price, it's a tremendous value.

Esi Juli@ Audio Interface
By:
Description:

Converters 24-bit Sample Rates 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192kHz Analog Input 2 x 1/4" TRS phone OR 2 x RCA phono (swappable) Analog Output 2 x 1/4" TRS phone OR 2 x RCA phono (swappable) Digital Input 1 x RCA coaxial S/PDIF Digital Output 1 x RCA coaxial S/PDIF 1 x Toslink optical S/PDIF MIDI In/Out Yes Sync In/Out S/PDIF Headphone Output No THD + N -94dB @ fs=44.1kHz Dynamic Range A/D: 114dB D/A: 112dB Frequency Response Not specified by manufacturer System Requirements Mac: * G3 or better processor * OS 10.1 or higher only * 256MB of RAM minimum * One available PCI slot Windows: * Intel Pentium III CPU or equivalent CPU * Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP/Vista/7 * 256MB of RAM minimum * One available PCI slot * Hard Driver supporting UDMA 66/100 and 5400RPM Linux: o Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) compliant

Details:
DetailValue
BrandESI JULI@ AUDIO INTERFACE
EAN8809105160402
FeatureMME, DirectSound, ASIO 2.0 and GigaStudio support
Height20.08 inches
Length16.93 inches
Weight1.01 pounds
Width10.63 inches
Labelesi
Manufactureresi
MPNESI_JULI@
Package Quantity1
Product GroupCE
Product Type NameCONSUMER_ELECTRONICS
Publisheresi
Studioesi
TitleEsi Juli@ Audio Interface
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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