Jasmine TA24J vs Jelco SA750D comparison
Author: Brian Date Posted:14 April 2021
A tonearm with removable headshell now available.
When Jelco advised that their company was closing down last year I started looking for an alternative supplier of tonearms that have removable headshells at a reasonable price. Although it might be argued that a fixed headshell provides more rigidity and therefore better performance the convenience of being able to easily change cartridges (mounted in a headshell) is a very useful function, especially for a dealer like me who is constantly testing cartridges (back from the Garrott Lab, new brands, etc).
I came across Jasmine Audio several weeks ago. Their website advises that they have been in business since 2001, although initially manufacturing for other brands. Since 2008 they have independently designed and produced products under their own brand name. Although skeptical, my desire to find an alternative manufacturer after Jelco's demise led me to contact them and place an order for a replacement for what I have found to be the most popular Jelco tonearm, the 9" J-curved SA-750D.
We now have stock of the Jasmine TA-214J tonearm. This is similar to the 750D in most respects except it doesn't have oil damping, from that point of view it's more like the TS550S. When the first shipment arrived I was keen to inspect and evaluate one. The initial impression was that the packaging was excessive, but the multiple layers of cardboard and foam meant the tonearms arrived in perfect condition and it is extremely unlikely there would ever be any damage in transit of such delicate devices. The second impression is that that the quality of finish is excellent. Unusually, there's no headshell included, but there's a very nice DIN to RCA cable. We'll be including a high quality headshell with each tonearm.
Obviously the next step is to test the performance and compare it to the 750D. I have a 750D mounted on my Origin Live Calypso turntable, but it uses a Linn type mounting, whereas the Jasmine comes with an SME-type adapter (which will make it an easy replacement for old SME tonearms). However, the Jasmine has a mounting block similar to the Jelco and 27mm in diameter. This fixes to the SME plate via two bolts, so it would seem to be fairly easily adaptable to single hole mounting like Rega, Linn etc. The mounting distance is 214mm, which is more than Linn geometry (211mm), and less than Rega (222mm). With a headshell that has reasonable long slots for mounting a cartridge I was fairly confident that it could replace either types. And that proved to be the case. On a Rega P3 I would be easily able to fit it after enlarging the hole, and setting the cartridge towards the front of the headshell slots. I have done this previously with a Jelco 750D. On my Calypso the the 4mm difference in mounting difference was inconsequential. On a Linn LP12 I have with an SME mounting arm board it was obviously an easy drop in replacement using the SME mounting block. As my Calypso has two armboards I was able to mount the 214J at the same time as the 750D so enabling an easy comparison.
Mounting is one thing, but what about performance. After I had mounted the 214J I set up both tonearms with a new Jico JR645 cartridge, then using a Rek-o-kut Ultra phono stage (which has connections for two turntables) I was easily able to compare the two. I am pleased to report that the Jasmine tonearm proved to be a worthwhile replacement. I found it difficult to hear any difference between the two tonearms on a variety of tracks.
So, in conclusion, I am happy to offer the Jasmine TA214J as a valid alternative to the much admired Jelco 750D. The RRP is $1298 but as I am very keen to get some feedback from customers on the Jasmine brand offerings, and in particular this model tonearm, I am offering the first five purchasers what I hope is a very attractive discount of 23%, so $999.
But wait, there's more. Jasmine also have a lower priced TA224 tonearm without a removable headshell (similar to the Jelco 250). It also has the same mounting distance as a Rega tonearm so is a drop-in replacement for Rega tonearms (with a minor increase to the diameter of the mounting hole). There's also a 12" version of the TA214J (TB297), a 10" arm, a 12" uni-pivot arm with oil damping, and an air-bearing tangential arm. So there's lots more yet to be discovered. And, by the way, they also have a range of moving coil cartridges which look similar to the Jico Seto Hori. There's a turntable, phono stage, and several other turntable components for DIY adventurers.
I'm looking forward to discovering whether this ambitious Chinese manufacturer can ruffle the feathers of some established suppliers. So we will be importing several of their products over the next few months.