NAD C 326BEE Tweaks: Preamp Jumpers with Jena LabsNovember 07, 2013
If you’re the proud owner of a NAD C 326BEE integrated stereo amplifier, congratulations, you’re using an award-winning, highly-reviewed hi-fi amp that sounds good right out of the box. But did you know that a simple plug-and-play upgrade can make it—and many other integrated amps—sound even better?
If you’re here reading this, it’s likely you’re already using high-quality interconnects and speaker cables assembled with high purity copper or silver wire, maybe even gold. Don’t you think your jumpers would benefit from the same level of craftsmanship?
As with any piece of equipment geared towards the entry-level or budget-minded audiophile, corners need to be cut to keep costs down and performance a fraction below that of higher-end reference lines. In the case of the NAD C 326BEE, the stock preamp-out to main-in jumpers are clear victims of penny-pinching—it’s nothing more than an oversized staple! Actually, it’s a cheap steel U-bar with a plastic thumb tab. Tisk, tisk.
“Even over a short distance, a certain level of signal degradation can occur due to poor metallurgy and the poor electrodynamics qualities of factory supplied jumpers,” explains Jennifer Crock of Jena Labs, designers and producers of high-end stereo cabling and components. “The bottom line is that you’ll want to replace that fat bar of cheap solid wire with superb conductors and connectors.”
Don’t be an Audiofool; those chintzy, unshielded metal pins most integrated amplifiers and other components use to complete the pre-out/main-in circuit are killing your sound, really.
“Units like the NAD C 326BEE respond well to better pre-out/main-in jumpers,” says Kurt Doslu from Echo Audio/Echohifi.com. “You can expect improved background ‘blackness,’ clarity, focus and dimensionality.”
I can attest to that. Swapping out the stock jumpers on my NAD C 326BEE for the reasonably-priced Gotham GAC-1 pair was eye-opening (these match my Gotham Audio speaker cables). What I noticed first was the smoother sound. It’s like the grit and grim was cleaned up, making the noise floor quieter. Simply put, the sound was just better, and the music had more gusto.
Having spent several months with the Gotham jumpers in my system, I recently began auditioning a used pair of the Jena Labs Dussy Jumpers thanks again to The Spirited Uncle M's audio acquisition skills.
Eargasm Alert: All I can say is, “Wow!” Though I didn't expect much, the difference was nothing short of dramatic. The detail these things reveal is simply amazing. They do everything the Gotham GAC-1 did for the sound, except better. More detail throughout the frequency range. Better clarity. Not a hint of noise or graininess. Just clean, smooth, free-flowing music. The difference is so clear that you won’t even be questioning whether it’s just a placebo effect or some sort of expectation bias kicking in either. And for those who base their purchases on aesthetics, the Jena Labs jumpers are damn good looking and superbly built, too.
But what do the experts say? Kurt at Echo Audio sees a lot of high-end cables and components pass through his store and has decades of hi-fi experience. What’s more, he’s a no-nonsense kind of guy. He’s a trusted resource of The Spirited Uncle M because he tells it like it is and isn’t going to peddle you smoke-and-mirrors wares. Can you guess what jumpers he recommends?
“The Jena Labs Super Jumpers are the best in my opinion and don't break the bank at $80,” he says. (FYI: The Super Jumpers are the updated version of the Dussy Jumpers.)
TSUM-approved and Echo Audio-approved; you can’t really go wrong with a pair of Jena Labs jumpers it seems. But with anything audio, it never hurts to audition different things in your system to find what sounds best. The Spirited Uncle M often preaches about “synergy.” Any RCA interconnect can be used as a jumper, for instance, so using a half-meter length of cable matching your other interconnects is a great way of ensuring a consistent signal flow and sonic synergy throughout your system. For those from the DIY-crowd, making a custom-length jumper using your favorite cable design and RCAs can be a fun and cost-saving (maybe) project, too.
Regardless of whether you decide to use pre-made jumpers from manufacturers like AudioQuest, Cardas and Jena Labs, or a DIY solution, you’re likely in store for a significant leap in sound quality (I guess “Jumpers” is a fitting name for these things).
The audible improvements gained by sending those cheap stock jumpers back to the scrap metal heap and plugging in some well-made replacements are so great that I’ll go so far as to say that it’s an essential tweak for every NAD C 326BEE owner—and it’s without a doubt an upgrade to consider for every component that requires jumpers. Don’t even think twice about it. High-quality preamp-out to main-in jumpers will reduce distortion and deliver the detailed sound you need to get another step closer to Audio Nirvana.
Hearing is believing.