Listening #4 Page 2

JPS Labs The Digital AC
As I write this, my family and I are preparing to move. That means I've finally had to get off my duff and ship several dozen cable samples back to the manufacturers, who, understandably, would rather I kept them.

After I shipped most of them out, I found a stray in our basement: Mixed in with some of my own cables was a long, black power cord from JPS Labs, labeled The Digital AC (footnote 1). The cable itself is no thicker than average, although it's encased in the sort of braided jacket that makes it look big and somewhat reptilian. Both the plug end and the IEC end are larger than average, however, and the info sheet on the JPS website says that's because they contain filters—one for RF, the other for digital noise. The website goes on to suggest that The Digital AC's 2m length has been carefully chosen to prevent the cord from acting as an antenna for the frequency ranges that would prove most harmful.

"What the heck," I said to myself. "Let's see what this baby can do." Onto my Sony SCD-777ES SACD player the JPS power cord went.

This time, I heard a difference. In fact, I heard a fairly remarkable difference, seeing as how I'd changed "only" a power cord.

On "Manzanita (1st Variation)," from Tony Rice's Unit of Measure (Rounder 11661-0405-2), the JPS cord really opened up the sound, which before the swap was a bit shut-in and dark. Before making this comparison, I would simply have told you that this is a fine sounding CD—and, like almost all of Rice's stuff, it is. But from the first arpeggiated chord, The Digital AC endowed the music with a better sense of flow and a smoother, more "liquid" presentation. I also found it easier to concentrate on musical details, noticing, for example, that the subtle mandolin chords are on the upbeat in the A part—unusual in bluegrass—before they switch to a more traditional downbeat "chop" for the B part. Cool.

On the SACD of Bruno Walter's recording of Beethoven's Symphony 6 (Sony SS 6012) I heard more of the same: The sound was more open—this time a bit bigger, too—with an easier, more natural sense of movement from note to note. As a bonus—and forgive me, please, while I go back on what I wrote in this space last month about "audiophile" recordings—when I switched over to the JPS power cord, I was startled by the sound of someone's sheet music hitting the floor 34 seconds into the first movement.

Beyond that, the sound of the music took on more body, more color, and more physical realism with the JPS Cable—not a bad thing when you're talking about Bruno Walter's stereo Beethoven recordings, which otherwise tend to sound thin and a little washed-out. The difference wasn't quite as big as that between the sounds of SACD and regular CD, but it was categorically the same, if you know what I mean.

Gears meshed and wheels turned: The cord obviously made some kind of audible difference with digital sources. I looked around the room and my gaze fell, clumsily, on the Linn Lingo power supply I've been trying out with my Linn LP12 turntable. (A tedious comparison of the Lingo and the Naim Armageddon turntable power supply will appear in this space some day. While I don't want to tip my hand just yet, I suggest here that one of them sounds a lot better with 45rpm records.) The Lingo is said to contain digital circuitry: Could using the JPS power cord with it make any kind of difference?

The answer is yes, albeit not to the same extent as with the Sony SACD player. But the music had a smoother, more natural sense of flow, and the sound was less grainy overall. In Knappertsbusch's late recording of Wagner's overture to Tannhäuser (Westminster WST-17032, recently reissued by Speakers Corner), I focused on the bassoon in the introductory bars and heard how each note seemed better shaped—and a little more colorful and real—with the JPS cord feeding my Linn's Lingo. The performance as a whole also seemed more dramatic and, in some spots, downright louder.

Thus encouraged, I put the stock power cords back on the Sony and the Linn, and reacclimated myself to the sound. Then I repeated a few selections, but this time with The Digital AC on my Fi amplifier.

Gears meshed but wheels spun. I could hear no difference at all.

Footnote 1: JPS Labs, 4893 Transit Rd., Suite 150, Depew, NY 14043. Tel: (716) 656-0810. Fax: (716) 656-0811. Web: