Wells Audio with Innuos, JPS Labs, Dana

Campbell, California’s Jeff Wells released his Wells Audio Cipher Level II Tube DAC early last year, but the product debut was sidelined by the pandemic. Jeff chose the Capital Audiofest to premiere the Cipher ($13,000) alongside his Wells Audio Innamorata Level II stereo amplifiers ($15,000 each; two were in the system), Wells Audio Commander Level III Preamplifier ($18,000), Wells Audio Looking Glass II power conditioner ($2500), and Wells Audio Headtrip Headphone Amplifier ($7500).

An Innous Zenith Mk3 Music Server ($4695) was at one end of the rig and TAD Evolution One ($30,000) speakers at the other, all connected by various JPS Labs wires including JPS Labs Aluminata interconnects ($5249, 0.5m), Super 3 interconnects ($1100, 1M; $1500, 1.5m), Super 3 speaker cables ($3599 for an 8' pair), Aluminata speaker cables ($14,999 for an 8; pair), and assorted power cords. A Dana TruStream USB cable connected the Innuos server to the Cipher.

This system did some things I’ve never heard before. Playing the Rolling Stones’ “Love In Vain” from Stripped (recorded at Toshiba-EMI Studios, Tokyo, March 1995), the music was so nearfield, intimate, and live-sounding I thought it was a contemporary cover of the Stones classic. Jagger’s voice was visceral and thick, guitars liquid and lazy. It felt like a small, cozy bar, not a studio production. By contrast, an RCA recording of Joshua Heifetz performing a Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto filled the room with saturated tones and large-scale dynamics. Wow! Depth, tone, power: Wells’s rig was a dynamo. The longer I stayed, the harder it was to leave.