POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 35
Super Conducter Q cables
as reviewed by Francisco Duran
From our editors office in Long Beach the word was out for a review of JPS Lab's new and improved version of their Superconductor Q series wire. Having owned JPS wire, it seemed I was the likely candidate for the job. So before long a whole set of Superconductor Q wire was in my system and breaking in. Joe Subinski was kind enough to send me a complete set of Q wire to replace length for length my reference wire. Along with this he sent three power cords and an adaptor; two Digital AC power cords and one Power AC + cord, all were gladly installed in my system. I say gladly because my new PS Audio Digital Link has not had a proper cord on it until the Digital AC cord arrived. Neither has my new Sony 46" LCD TV. Both do now. As for the Power AC + since only one was sent, I switched it between my Monarchy SM-70 and Margules U280SC stereo amps. Another one and I could have powered either of my two sets of mono block amps. But for review purposes either of my stereo amps are more than up to the task for reviewing duties.
There is somewhat of a history between Joe Subinski of JPS and me stretching as far back as Audiomusings. Down through the years, Joe has been kind enough to send us his wire to review. The Superconductor Plus and Ultraconductor series have graced my system in days past, with the Superconductor Plus being a mainstay for quite some time. In fact a meter and a half of Superconductor FX interconnects still remains in use to this day in one system or another. One thing that sticks out in my mind is Joe and JPS being posted somewhere in the middle of the Las Vegas Convention Center during past CESs. I remember walking around the convention center for what seemed like hours and suddenly running into the JPS booth. There was Joe bravely manning the booth and looking like he needed a break; give him some water and some hot food.
The one question that always seemed to be asked by my fellow audio buds about JPS wire was how to deal with the stiffness. Stiff, unmanageable, and springy wire is one thing, but can JPS interconnects can be shaped. This is a big plus if you don't change gear and wire that often. Instead of a floppy, springy hose-like beast being wrestled into place in the back of a crammed gear rack, JPS wire is different. Once shaped to fit, they practically install themselves. But I am getting ahead of myself.
To quote from the JPS website: "New updated quad Alumiloy conductors at the core of this refreshed version of our very popular Superconductor FX. Our own premium beautiful chrome and 24kt gold reverse locking RCA connectors. The Q cable offers the finest in RFI, EMI, and noise rejection in the industry, surpassed only by our best!" Yes indeed the JPS chrome 24kt RCA's tighten and loosen the opposite way of most other RCA locking connectors. This is something very important to keep in mind when installing them. My old pair of Superconductor FX had their RCAs replaced by a pair from Cardas. It seemed they would never tighten up as firmly as I would have liked on any of my male RCAs, regardless the component. Other connectors like WBT and Vampire tighten up just fine, so it couldn't be the male ends on the equipment. The new RCAs on the Superconductor Q tighten up just fine. This wire is also flexible enough that all you stiff wire phobics have no need to worry. It is also pretty trick looking in its purple jacket. The Superconductor Q also comes in a balanced version and the speaker wire can be bought with several types of connectors. My favorites are the Z-plug bananas which were first introduced into my system the last time I reviewed JPS wire. They make a tight connection and are great for fast and easy amp swapping, which I do often.
As far as set up is concerned here was how it went: one six foot shotgun pair of Q speaker wire from speakers to amp(s); one meter and a half pair Q interconnects from amp to Source Technology HRS (yes I use one); one meter of Q from HRS to Reference Line Passive (yes I still use one of these too.); one meter of Q from Reference Line Passive to my PS Audio Digital Link III DAC; one JPS Digital AC cord to the PS Audio DAC; one to either the PlayStation 3 or Panasonic DVD S-53 via the JPS two prong adaptor for the Panasonic; and finally one Power AC+ to either of my two amps that were used for this review. I did not have a Superconductor Q interconnect for my turntable, that was not the hard part. Before I tell you that I primarily used four CDs for the tightest part of the critical evaluation, there were many hours of listening to every kind of storage media that my system can process; be it vinyl, CD, DVD, or FM radio. Come now folks, I run the heck out of my system. It gets used every day unless I am on vacation; unlike a camper or boat sitting in someone's driveway. This also helps justify the cost to my wife. Right? Ok, back to the hard part.
Switching a whole set of wire and cables in and out of a stereo system is not what even the most hardened audiophile would call fun. But it is informative, as it was much easier to get a handle on the sound of the Superconductor Q when using my Analysis Plus as a reference point. To do this you need not only the time set aside, but also a time when it is quiet in your house to do the switching and listening. After the third switch, I got a solid handle on the sound of the Superconductor Q wire. This was very revealing even though it had been installed for a few months.
Let's start with the Power AC+. Wow! Nice! On the Ginger Baker Trio CD, Going Back Home, bass and drum transients sounded tighter, faster, and more accurate than my regular set of power cords. This made the music more exciting. On the Jack Johnson CD harmonics on this very clean recording suddenly became fuller and rounder while at the same time remaining very accurate. The space in which this disc was recorded also expanded slightly. Sergio Mendez's Brasileiro CD revealed a power cord that had better control of the top ranges of music; this was especially noticeable on strings and metallic percussion. All of this was just from one JPS power cord going on my amp. Joe Subinski also sent along an adaptor to use with my two-prong C-7 power cords, but since I don't have them in critical positions in my system anymore, the session with the adaptor was brief. I can tell you the sonic character of the JPS power cord did come through even with the adaptor.
By now we were long past the break-in and I was listening to my whole system fully wired with JPS Superconductor Q—instead of just one power cord. At first I noticed a clean and ever so slightly warm presentation. Although not overly warm, you couldn't call the Superconductor Q cold, bright, or sterile. Neither is it overly romantic by any means. It is solid and coherent from the bass to the treble, in that it walks the fine line between musicality and resolution.
This wire didn't miss a beat when it came to soundstaging and imaging. Jack Johnson was anchored in the center of the soundstage with his guitar sounding like he was holding it firmly in place. The drum kit was placed off to the side where I have heard it in my system many times before. This was also evident on the Baker CD. His drums were solidly anchored in place and the guitar and bass occupying their own place on the stage – all done quite firmly yet with a natural spaciousness. Minute details were easily heard whether it was a bell, chime, or cymbal that effortlessly floated off into the air.
Bass was reproduced taut, and deep on the Jack Johnson CD. Percussion instruments sounded quite fast as did the congas, bass drum and bass guitar on the Brasileiro CD. On the Ginger Baker CD, the last cut, "East Timor", Bill Frisell's guitar cut through the mix sharply but was never bright or edgy. I liked the way this wire handled acoustic guitar and bass, especially on the Jack Johnson CD. Along with his vocals, instruments on this CD sounded woody, whole and organic and ever so slightly warm. Details such as individual guitar notes were fast and relatively clean.
But as I said, switching out wire was informative, and weaknesses in the Superconductor Q started to surface. These weak spots had to do with the JPS wire being more congealed than separate, while being very slightly tinted as opposed to completely neutral. For instance those cymbal crashes on the Baker CD, the triangle at the beginning of track two of the Brasileiro CD and vocals overall on all CD's had a very slight sheen of color to them. The Brasileiro CD in particular is a rough test with its complex mix of layering of vocals, horns, and percussion. During dynamic peaks of individual instruments or playing as a group, the music did not flow as freely or openly as realized on my regular wires. This was most noticeable during a crescendo; be it from an orchestra, drum kit, or any one instrument. Switching back to the Analysis Plus such passages sounded noticeably clearer, cleaner, and slightly more coherent. Also timbres made a slight shift towards neutral. Bass, which is a strong point with Analysis Plus wire, definitely sounded more solid and deep. This was especially noticeable on track four of the Baker CD where the bass guitar and bass drum reproduce a deep solid thwack filling my listening room. I also found the AP wire to sound more open and effortless in terms of the overall the soundstage.
Now not to cop out or anything, but my job is to report how a particular audio product performs in my system to the best of my ability. In the above paragraph it took switching a whole system of wires in and out three times to get to these findings. And that is after I had the JPS wire cooking in my system for over two months. I tried hard not to have this listening session turn into a "shoot out" because I wanted to report my findings of the Superconductor Q's performance on its own merits, but differences stood out. One does have to also consider the issue of system compatibility. That slight coloration mentioned might very well be absent in another system. I remember being somewhat disappointed when I installed a pair of E.A.R. 509 mono amps in my system. I felt there were compatibility issues with the amps and my speakers, but the friend I had borrowed them from swore a tube change would have solved my problem. Now I hold E.A.R. amps in the highest regard and think they are among the best amps on the planet, but as they say, everything in high end audio matters. That phrase holds especially true with high end wire. Sure all wire has its own inherent sonic character, but there seems to be more compatibility issues with wire than any other area of audio gear. Having said that, if I felt that the JPS Superconductor Q was an absolute mismatch in my system, it would have promptly gone back to the factory. It was not.
Before we all get caught up in the minor sonic details of this review though, the JPS Superconductor Q wire is a very good performer overall. It is well built, flexible, great looking, and comes from a company and man very reputable in this high-end audio business. To me those things alone mean a great deal when shopping for gear. Although JPS does have several levels of wire that are above the Q in price and performance, the Superconductor Q is a great place to start for this price point or even higher. Francisco Duran
Superconductor Q interconnect