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Inter.View with Joe Skubinski, Owner of JPS Labs

by Lucio Cadeddu

LC >
May you tell our readers how did you start the JPS project?

JS >
JPS Labs began in 1990 making a now well known product called The Golden Flute, a bass alignment filter initially intended as a replacement for the factory made filters (and explained further in a later question).
After a few years in business, we began to realize that those new customers who never owned a factory filter needed to buy an extra set of interconnects, at an average cost of US$750 to equal what they already had. That combined with the price of the Flutes prevented many sales.
So I had to find a cable that JPS could sell as a compliment to the Flutes without the usual high price tags, but yet offered almost no sonic changes of its own to the Flutes, and more importantly to the customers system.
One thing led to another, and today our proprietary Superconductor cable designs and Ac cords are some of the best in the world.

I must give credit to the many past customers I had spoken to along the way who with their combined encouragement, advice, suggestions, and a willingness to buy our products while still in their infancy, helped direct JPS Labs.
We are now a strong and rapidly growing company whose products are guaranteed to surprise anyone auditioning them; every product, every time.

LC >
The debate about HiFi cables is always lively: many audiophiles don't believe that a cable can make any difference into a stereo system and/or complain that -normally- HiFi cables are far too expensive for the (low) technology involved.
I'm currently receiving several e-mails a week of audiophiles who complain about what they call "The Great HiFi & Hi-End swindle" (cables, that is).
Maybe you could shed some light on this topic?

JS >
I cannot speak for all manufacturers, but from my own personal opinions in being a part of the audiophile community as a reputable manufacturer for many years.

The largest misunderstanding that consumers generally have is how a business operates, and the costs involved.
A gross example would be a government, where the shear size of it does not allow for ease of efficiencies, so waste occurs in staggering proportions. High-end audio on the other hand is a relatively small community, where a majority of manufacturers are very small (much under 100 employees).

There actually is a peak, or an optimum size, where a business is operating in a very productive region, maximizing its profits. Very few companies exist here.
Larger companies make gobs of money, and even though much may be wasted, there is enough to go around. On the other hand, smaller companies such as audio manufacturers, barely make enough money to support the expenses necessary to become larger, namely advertising and literature, samples, R&D, minimum purchase quantities (inventory which is basically money you stare at until sold), raw labor costs, etc., etc.
It all takes time and money, and the intricacies are not cheap. For example, to have just a single nice ad made and put to film for printing in a magazine, by a graphic designer, can cost many hundreds or even thousands of US dollars, and this does not even count the few thousands to run each issue.
Plus so many 100's of little things add up. Like its been said before, "man, that's a lot of bread!"

Many popular high-end audio companies spend a large percentage of their profits on advertising and promotions. It is very expensive in any field, and can easily amount to a staggering 25% or more of net profits alone!
And realize that this not in any way an exaggerated figure. This is about what it takes for a small company to be known to exist by a consumer, like you, who one day maybe a few of whom will become good customers. High-end audio is more of a quality rather than quantity business, so every sale counts.
A company in business must make some profit, otherwise that 70+ hours a week the owner works every week all year round would be better spent working full time at McDonalds (at least they give you health insurance benefits); otherwise the company will cease to exist. In high-end audio, nobody rides in limousines.
We are just everyday people with a passion for audio and a desire to share our talents with others. It is honestly more a labor of love than anything, and very few companies actually see the amounts of money people perceive they make. It just goes out the window just like everyone else's incomes.

Maybe I went off on a tangent in answering this question, but I feel people should at least try and understand how hard it really is to compete and grow in any market.
Take it from me, it really takes a lot more work and dedication than you may think, and it never gets any easier. But that is what it is all about, and I would not have it any other way.

Wire is just wire to some, but for a high-end cable manufacturer even the simplest products (at least in outward appearance) have probably taken at least 6 months or more of every spare moment of time to properly get to market. And that is only the beginning.
We all take for granted what others do best. Most non-believers of cables making a difference would be happy to use any piece of wire laying around the house, and that is fine as long as they are happy with the results. What we are after in high-end is the ultimate reproduction of music, and everyone has their own perceptions of where that may be, and a budget which may only allow them to go so far.
To each his own... The real problem lies in those who never really tried it, or took the time to be shown what it is all about, in an actual setting with nice equipment by someone knowledgeable, and no BS.
The loss is a lifetime of not being able to REALLY enjoy the music at home. This *lack of knowledge* should not be used though to deny others who would otherwise take the time and learn to listen.
The real losers are the ones who do not give it a chance, and their children, and possibly their children's children (talk about looking ahead).

A quick story: My sons are all around 9-11 years old, and it is amazing to see how well they understand what good music really sounds like. They each play an instrument, and they are not audiophiles by any sense but have a keen grasp on what good music sounds like in part because of my system, and their own decent one I put together so they would leave mine alone.
One time we were visiting a family member, and after leaving my one son commented on how bad the music sounded (one of those cheap rack systems). I had to laugh, but in reality this kid is far ahead of where I was at his age (what else is new). Now I am not saying that everyone needs to go out and spend a years pay for such pleasures, but good sound can be affordable, very much so if you take the time and choose a quality starter system from a reputable high-end shop, with upgrading in mind.
You will probably find it costing a bit more, and maybe you will have to buy the rack it all will go in (women like nice furniture anyway, so it's a good excuse), but you will never go back I can assure you.

I must admit that if I think back about 15 years or so, my technical background would not allow me the pleasure to believe such dramatic differences could be made (but I was not preaching this like some gospel either). It was a long process to where I am today, and a learning curve.
You just have to take the time and enjoy the progress, or as in my case and other manufacturers, use the experience gained to start and grow a business.

LC >
Which are the parameters (material, geometry, shielding etc.) that affect the performance of a cable?
Why did you choose aluminium for your cables?

JS >
To properly answer this question would take many hours to say the least.

All physical parameters affect a cable's performance. A cable's design goes well beyond simple physical inductance, capacitance, and resistance thought to be the end of the line. In reality this is not magic or BS, but simply physics taken to the nth degree. I feel that much of what we do in high-end audio finds it way into much more hi-tech industries, and vice versa.
JPS combines some very advanced engineering concepts with a strong subjective angle and many years of experience. Almost all of what we do is unique to our field, and a benchmark to boot.

Aluminum is a trademark of JPS Labs and we are the only company to use this proprietary material in such an application. We just worked on making an optimum blend of it with copper in an ultra-pure form. It was simply found to be superior to all other known materials presently in use today.
The solid copper shield, although making the cable less flexible than most, allows for a total lack of noise so this special inner conductor can really strut its stuff.
Rather than take up more space on this topic here, our web site contains much more information on why we do what we do.

LC >
You also design and make three power cords, one for analog, one for digital, and one for power amps/integrated.
Once someone told me that the main role into a stereo chain is played by the power cords and that interconnects and speakers cables are secondary. What's your point of view about the effects of a well-designed power cord?
In other words, may you explain WHY a power cord can affect the performance of our systems?

JS >
Conceptually speaking, from a cable point-of-view, if every cable were designed to be as good as it can (almost perfect) and were designed to do a specific job in the system so it can be optimized for such, then each addition of such a specific cable anywhere in the chain should be superior to what it replaced.
This is always a goal with any cable JPS makes, and so far has shown excellent results in almost every application. So as to which cables make a larger difference, all do very well, thanks.
The limiting factor is always the overall system, and how it really sounds. This is where everyone argues as to what piece is at fault when it does not sound right. Everyone has their opinions, and of course it's never our cables:)...

I do though recommend that the AC cords should be purchased after the rest of the system has been set up as you like it, as best it can.
Interconnects and speaker cables are very important, and decide the quality of sound, or in many cases limit the changes other things may produce. It is a two way street, but there are also technical reasons for this order.

I prefer to start with a system in its most basic form, and change all of the main cables (interconnects and speaker cables) all at once with no added band-aids anywhere, and everything plugged into the wall outlets as directly as possible; a minimalist approach.
This will allow for a choice of cables that are best suited for the system itself.
Also, any additional and unnecessary equipment may make you chose a cable that sways you a certain way to compensate for it.

By choosing the right audio cables first, the whole cable thing can be a much easier process, and most likely will take you in the right direction rather than wandering you every which way but straight. Of course this is only my purist rule of thumb.
Others may have found a different way of going about it and also come up with good results. A rule of thumb which many overlook is NEVER assume (you know what always happens when you do) that what worked well in the past will work again today.

As for AC cords making a difference, the differences are highly dependent on each system, and the equipment the AC cord is being used on. Some equipment changes dramatically compared to others. Some offer minor changes to cord changes.
A majority though will quickly let you know when the cord is changed, and this has been found to be a good sign that the rest of the system is in good shape (when you make changes and nothing changes, then there may be a not so obvious limiting factor in the system).
So far I have found that the amp(s) and the D/A are the most important two pieces to deal with. AC cords on these will almost always make a big difference.

One way we do things differently than all the rest is that we have optimized three cords for use on its intended type of gear. The Digital AC for digital gear, as its name implies, was designed to eliminate the problems associated with the addition of any digital electronics, namely digital noise leaving the gear itself and traveling down its AC cord to contaminate the rest of your system.
The Analog AC cord is for all low level gear, and it keeps out any stray noise from getting into the delicate signal in line level gear such as preamps and phono stages.
Our POWER AC cord is just for amps, and its shear size and design allows an amp to draw current in abundance instantaneously when called upon. Three really sophisticated cords that work very well in their rightful places, rather than trying many different cords from different manufactures to stumble on the same. Can it be that easy?

AC cords can dramatically affect the music simply because they are also an integral part of the chain of music reproduction. While it is true that the signal containing music does not flow through the cords directly, many other factors are at work. Amps require current, and actually draw it at sharp, short peaks.
Anything restricting their ability to do so severely alters their sonics, but many other factors also exist.
Digital gear has always offered more than what we bargained for, namely an abundant source of unpredictable digital noise and artifacts to mask the inner detail, exactly where the real, live music resides which we are all after in our systems.

I really cannot get into this much further, including what our literature and web site offer, as my theories are the basis for why our cords work as well as they do, and to talk about it in length would mean we would no longer be special.
Lets just say that there is no question in my mind, as hard as it may be to swallow technically, that AC cords also have a significant impact on a systems ultimate performance.

LC >
Besides cables you also make a Bass Alignment Filter for extending the bass response of our loudspeakers.
Such active devices have been used even by famous loudspeakers Companies (as the Kube by Kef, for example) but though they were effective, audiophiles didn't seem to appreciate this electronic intrusion and manipulation of the signal passing through their amplifier.
May you tell us the pros and cons (if any) of these active devices?

JS >
The Golden Flutes are where JPS Labs began. Each pair is hand-made from beautiful polished brass tubes and end caps, and clear coated to protect them. Not only do they look like two polished fine gold cylinders, when placed in the signal path their sonics are almost completely neutral.
They were at first designed to replace the factory units (Kube, etc.) and extend (not add to) the bass response of their matching loudspeaker model by about 10 Hz.
They are a seamless addition as each pair is made specifically for the loudspeaker. They are not like adding a subwoofer, where an enormous amount of bass can be added at the expense of poorly blending with the main loudspeakers.
They gently add to what does not exists, and in doing so will not screw things up. We began by replacing the B&W filter, and slowly added models for the KEF's, Thiel's, Totem's, and many others.
We now cover some 60 models of loudspeakers. The pros far outweigh the cons, as there really are none.
Of course you cannot always please everyone, so I will not pretend that they will. We do have it down to a science though and they work extremely well.
I must admit though that soon the polished brass cases will be replaced with something made of most likely aluminum (coincidence?), that is it can be finished nearly as nice as our hand made ones.

Although a small one, it is one of our exclusive niches at which we are very good at. We also design and build filters for other manufacturers, using our learned skill in doing so to produce fine custom products to their needs. We will do just about anything around here if related to audio. Just ask...

LC >
Which are your plans for the future?
Are you going to design a specific cable for phono use (for us die-hard analogue-addicts :-))?

JS >
As a matter of fact a dedicated phono cable has been in the works for some time now. Our existing Superconductor cables though are very good with vinyl if RCA connectors are available.

A few future plans already in the works are a third line of lower cost cables, hook-up wire to go into the equipment of many other supportive manufacturers, and maybe some really crazy designs in terms of price and construction.
We will also make custom high-end cables for anyone willing to pay for the engineering and production of them, and can do anything from an OEM cable to sell under another name, say as an accessory to an amplifier line, etc., on up to an exotic, one of a kind cable for someone who wishes to have the absolute best money can buy.
Just imagine a set of cables tailored just for you. If someone can afford it and has the patience, we can make them a personal and unique cable, even more so like no other in the world, an original JPS...
Many more things are in the works as ideas are abundant here, it's just a matter of time.

Courtesy Joe Skubinski for TNT.

Copyright © 1998 Lucio Cadeddu

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