as reviewed by Francisco Duran and Dave Clark
When I received the JPS Labs Superconductor 2 interconnects and speaker cables, my first thought was "Oh no." Because the shielding on these cables is a copper tube, they are not very flexible. However, I soon found out that they were not as hard to manage as I anticipated. Also, the rewards of these cables outweighed any inconvenience. By now, many of you have read about JPS cables in every print mag and e-zine in town, but if you havent, JPS wire is composed of an ultra-pure mix of aluminum and copperyou heard that rightand this combination of metals, to my knowledge, is unique in the high-end wire industry.
I found it easier to install the interconnects than the speaker wire. In fact, when I switched interconnects, I found it easier to aim the stiff cables toward the back of my preamp than cables that flop all over the place. So much for preconceived notions. But any preconceived notions I may have had about these cables, good, bad, or otherwise, quickly disappeared when I hit play on my CD player. If I said that the JPS cables have a smooth and detailed sound Id be half right. They are very smooth yet detailed, very open sounding, and above all, very musical. While listening to Pat Metheneys CD American Garage, I heard a very airy soundstage which was layered just behind the speakers, the sound opening up naturally and coherently. There was no spotlighting anywhere. The tonal balance was rock solid. Detailed musical queues were in abundance but never fatiguing, making images sound natural.
One of the strengths of my ProAc speakers is their mid bass, which is punchy, fast and tight, and which makes up for their lack of low bass. When I played most pop or rock material I wasnt disappointed. With the JPSs, the music sounded cleaner, more firm, and better controlled in the bass than before. I have been using Nordost Blue Heaven interconnects from amp to pre and from pre to CD player for a while now. When the JPS interconnects came in, I was a busy boy, swapping cables and listening over and over again. At first, vocals with the Blue Heavens sounded weightier and more full. It was as if words were pushed up from the chest to the mouth in a more forceful manner. This was pleasing, but the more I listened to the JPSs, their more even balance kept coming through. It wasnt that the JPSs were lighter sounding, it was just that they werent spotlighting any one frequency area. Vocals, and the mids in general, were smooth and naturally textured.
The top end difference with these two cables was very noticeable. With the Nordosts, the sound is definitely brighter. I have really not noticed this recently because I was in the process of breaking in a new CD player (a Pioneer DVD player with a most excellent Musical Concepts mod), and I was switching between the Nordost and my Kimber Heros. But the CD player seemed to come into its own when the JPS stuff arrived, and the Nordost was just not a match. I am not knocking the Nordost. It mates well with Victor Cs all-tube system, but not with mine. (This may explain the fact that every time Mr. Chavira gets a solid state amp in his system he starts to squirm. I will have to bring some JPS wire to his house real soon, to help enlighten him on the virtues of solid state amps.) One thing that disappeared with the JPS wire in my system was a slight chalkiness to vocals. I kept thinking that it was the upper midrange of my speakers, but with the change to JPS, the problem is gone.
JPS cables have a definite advantage in overall cleanness and neutrality over all the
cables that I own. I also hear a speed and energy when stringed instruments are strummed
that is quite satisfying. The snap and energy these cables convey go a long way with me.
Why do I notice them every time I turn on my system? Because I bought two pairs of
Superconductor + interconnects and two six-foot runs of the Ultra Speaker cables. The
Ultra cable doesnt have the copper tube shielding, so its a lot more flexible.
What do I give up with these less expensive JPS wires, you ask? Thats a hard
question to answer, because a double run of Ultra speaker wire works almost as well in my
system as a single rune of its bigger, more expensive brother. I have to say that the
upper-ranking JPS cables offer more low-level detail, more clarity, and more resolution,
as I found out when Dave Clark sent me a pair of JPSs NC speaker cables to listen
to. NC stands for No Compromise, and I can understand why. For those of you who have the
best equipment and want to wring that last drop of performance out of it, the
Superconductor 2 interconnects and NC series speaker cables are the way to go. As for me,
I have never been happier with a cable change than with the JPS. It was a major change for
the better in the sound of my system. Everything in high end audio is system dependent,
and cables are no exception. The JPS wire is clean, open, and neutral. You dont even
have to be apprehensive about their stiffness.
The JPS Superconductor+ line of cables is set apart from the rest of the cable design pack by the use of copper and aluminum as conductor material. To quote from the JPS literature: "JPS uses a proprietary, non-ferromagnetic solid core, ultra-pure blended copper/aluminum alloy. The center insulating dielectric material consists mainly of a proprietary foamed poly derivative produced exclusively by JPS, which mimics air." But what really sets the JPS cables apart from the restas if using aluminum wasnt enoughis the use of a solid copper tube as a shield. Interconnects are terminated with locking RCAs, while the speaker cables use Rhodium spades. Put all this together and you have a cable that bucks many trends in the cable world. You also have a rather stiff cable that will bend to any reasonable position. Getting them to stay where you want takes time and effort, but this can be used to your advantage. They can be positioned away from other cables to minimize electromagnetic field problems. And, once in place, they wont go anywhere!
How do they sound? Very bright, very dull, and just right. What, you say?! This is exactly what I heard during the break-in period. The cables went from being bright to sounding a bit dull to being just right, over the course of a couple weeks or so of break-in. My audio brethren who have been reporting varied results with these cables on internet chat groups need to let them mature a bit before being too critical. Once "settled-in" these are not bright nor are they dull as some report. I am quite interested in running these with a cable "burn-in" device like the Audio Dharma Cable Cooker or the Bybee unit. If all reports concerning these devices are correct, perhaps I have yet to really hear the Superconductor+ cables?the idea being that cables never really break in under normal use.
After the break-in period, I found the JPS cables to be warm, natural, detailed, dimensional, dynamic, palpable, and most of all musical. Then again, so are the Nordost SPM cables they replaced. The SPM offers more detail and information, but with less dimensionality and musicality than the JPS, which costs one-fourth as much. Thats right, the JPS cables are more musical and more dimensionally and spatially "right" than the much more expensive SPM. Sure, I gave up a bit of detail, clarity, and speed, but the SPM is more synthetic and more dimensionally flat. The JPS sounds like the more expensive product, not the other way around. Music emerges out of a blacker background with an utter absence of noise, grain, or grit. It is funny how much the two cables sounded like they lookedthe SPM is a synthetic purple color and is physically flat, while the JPS is tubular in shape, and is covered in a rich black fabric reminiscent of silk.
leaner sound results in the lower region being perceptibly more detailed, faster, and with
greater slam, but leaner is not always better. The leaness imparts a "white"
character to the music that becomes bothersome in extended listening sessions, and that is
not really musically truthful. The musically richer JPS cables reveal a substantial amount
of detailfrom the highest treble to the lowest bassbut not in an analytical
way. These cables are more for the music lover who wants to hear the beauty in music, as
opposed to having every detail laid bare. This characteristic balances nicely with our
system, but if your system tends this way already, then a cable with the SPMs
character may be more to your liking. The JPS may be too much of a good thing. The JPS
Superconductor+ cables allowed our system to really gel, presenting music in a way that is
quite intoxicating! We have purchased the review samples to replace the SPM, though these
will hang around to work their magic with more laid-back components in for review.
JPS Superconductor + cables