How good is Empirical Audio's Parasound JC1 Mod?

Category: Amplifiers

I am looking for others that have had their Parasound JC1 modified by Steve Nugent at Empirical Audio. I just got mine back, and what a difference. I loved my JC1s, 2004 Amp of the Year. Now I am absolutely ecstatic... It’s like I went from an Audi TT to a Porsche 911. Same product family but a lot better… The result the most musical solid-state amp I have ever had in my system.

I have found that the JC-1 monoblocks stock sound a lot better than most amps in their price range, however there is a lot more performance potential locked-up in these amps. Their primary weakness is dynamics, particularly in the high frequencies. They also tend to be a bit muddy in both the midrange and highs due to their power delivery topology, even though they deliver the detail in spades right out of the box, or at least after a month or two of break-in. This muddiness can best be described as a bit of congestion or compression. They just do not open-up and envelope you in an unrestrained, spacious sound field.

The EA Turbomod removes all of these weaknesses. It transforms JC-1s into spectacular, breathtaking music machines. The soundstage doubles in width compared to the stock amp and the slam factor improves by an order of magnitude. The weight, authority, and richness of the music are improved dramatically. There is a spaciousness of the sound field that just immerses the listener. The focus of violins, violas, and cellos is razor-sharp, but with finesse and sweetness, not harshness. Transient response is improved so that percussion, such as drums, cymbals, bells and vibraphone, all have real attack, sustain and decay. Vocals are breathtaking – airy and articulate. The front-to-back layering is so detailed that the relative positions of different instruments can be sensed within a few feet. Most first-time listeners believe they are listening to surround-sound, when it is only 2-channel. Is it the best-sounding solid-state amp on the planet – I think so… But note that it took me about two weeks of break-in to get them to their peak performance.

p.s. Has anyone tried them in low level listening mode. I have and boy is it fun not to lose the detail at low levels.
As I have some street credit on audiogon, and as Nicholasz is new, let me speak a little on his behalf. I have been talking to Nicholasz and he is a wonderfully nice gentleman. As a new poster, I am sure he does not realize that he has broken some cardinal rules that you guys are going to pound him for.
1. Don't make your first post to Audiogon a review as it makes you look like a "troll"
2. Don't quote directly from the modders page. Write your own review with comparisons to other equipment you have heard.

That being said, again, he is a very nice guy who has shared his expereinces with me. He has a heck of an audio budget (much bigger then mine...can you say Talon Firebirds with Diamond Tweeter Upgrade) and seems to have at least as much expereince as I do listening to high end amps (Halcro and Boulder were I beleive what he mentioned in conversation). I have to admit, I find it all hard to beleive too, but I may take the mod leap and see what happens. If I do, I will let you know. So, the moral of the story is..go easy on him guys!!! BTW, I am on an amp hunt and am going to try the H20's prior to making a move to mod. I will report after I take a listen.

I don't know if I would discredit a review from a new member just because this is that person's first post here. But reviews on products that compare to other products, in this case, a stock model vs. a modified model, without the comparison being made with the two products side by side, well ..... the comments have little merit.

The (perceived) sound of my system is clearly not consistent from day to day. Many members here have noted this is due to many factors: mood, AC power quality, room temp/humidity, etc. So based on this alone, there might be a few listening sessions in the week where the sound is absolutely phenomenol and other times, it's just not "there". I have heard huge differences in components that still were not as dramatic as these day-to-day differences in my system with no system changes. Maybe I just need to wait for my room to warm up from all the tubes so I can relax and be cozy and then be content. 8-)

So how someone can take delivery of a product and suddenly claim the updates "remove all of the weaknesses" is not easy to accept as the reference point is nothing more than an aural memory. And this is not anything against this particular review. This is one of the biggest issues I have with reviews here and in audio magazines.


I kind of agree with you. If one has had a component for a long time (say a year), one tends to know the sound of that component (and their system) fairly well. In that case, the individual could send out that component, get it back two weeks later, and then make a fair comparison. However, if one is not very familair with a product, I 100% agree with you. I have certianly made mistakes where I listen to item A, then go listen to item B, and I find I prefer item B for verious reasons. Then I get item A and item B togther in the same listening session and am surprised that my first take was off.
I own JC-1's, and cannot agree with your assessment of them in stock form.

They are very dynamic, more than any amps I have owned. Not dynamic in the treble? This is not my experience at all. I have Von Schweikert VRjr's, and I play some very clean, top grade recordings of big band jazz at loud levels, and the brass just jumps with dynamics.

Midrange & treble are not constrained at all. Perhaps your associated equipment is deficient in these areas, and the mods were complementary to these deficiencies. My system is quite neutral, so I'm hearing the amps for what they are -- some of the finest solid state design out there. I don't believe in mods -- and you lose your tail if you sell moded equipment.

Chill my man...I own them so I must like them. They are a great amp, irrepect of price, and a super amp at their asking price. For the record, I run Meitner gear (DCC2) and Von VR4 GEN III SE with Valhalla cabeling. All I am saying is that they are not perfect and that I have heard and owned amps in their price range that best them in one area or another. That is the way of our hobby. However, in my system, with my tastes, and given my expereiences, I tend to prefer more excitment up top and in the mids along with a little more snap. That is all. What I love most about them is their resolution. In that reguard they are the best amp I have ever owned and stand toe to toe with some of the best I have heard.
Drhst20. I'm glad you made you're first post on this thread. I have been interested in this mod since it was first advertised and started an earlier thread on this subject with no replys. I immediately noticed he was quoting from the E/A page. Not good.
Hopefully, we can keep this civilized and get some useful info on this mod.
I too have the Firebirds with diamond tweeters, DCC2 and APL/Denon 3910.
I had the JC 1's and loved them in my system but only had them for 4 or 5 weeks. My reference is the Gryphon Encore which I've had for some time.
Nicholaze: You might have to take a few lumps here but please don't let that sour you on this forum. I'd love to hear your impressions as the JC1's breakin and you have more time with them. By the way, if you got the JC1's from Mike they would be my old pair.
I have always been interested in a comparsion between the stock JC1'S and the PASS X 350.5 regarding overall sonic signature and specific sound differences between the two amps. This post regarding the JC1 mod gives me the chance to ask this question to anybody who has heard both pieces,not which is better,there both great amps but the questions I started my response with. Look forward to any information you could share. Thanks.
Well Kids,

I am going to take the leap and have the Empirical Audio Turbo mod done to my JC-1's. I will give you an update of the end result in a few weeks. So far I have had nothing but admiration for various modded units I have heard, so lets hope my luck holds out.
Hi Drhst20,
Just curious, did you ever get your JC-1's back from Empirical Audio?
If so, what are your impressions after mods?
In ALL HONESTY, are the mods really worth the $2,300.00 that they charge?
Would you still recommend having the Empirical Audio mods done, or would you recommend keeping the units in their stock form?
Thanks for your info.
Have a great day!
PS- The reason I am so cuious is because I talked to a guy who had the mods done, and he told me that the amps now sounded too strident and forceful. He said he wished he would have kept his in their stock form!

Sorry but I have not been active on Audiogon for the past few weeks (I have a new job which is keeping me busy). I will give you a call and hope to have a review up in the next week or two.

Dan, how did you like the Empirical Audio's Parasound JC1 Mod?
here is Dan's review:

His 2005 system shows that he has the amp. But the last poster in his review indicated that his amp was for sale.