Review: Parasound Empirical Audio JC-1 Turbo Mod Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

I know many of you have been waiting for this review…so thank you for your patients. I wanted to make sure I had a grip on exactly what changed and how it changed from the stock JC-1's prior to writing this review. Lets start with what remained the same. The bass is just as I remember it. Tight, tuneful, and just right! I did not detect any major change in respect to bass authority or control. The stock JC-1's were already great in that respect. The sound stage grew a little in width but the increase in size for me was not substantial. The soundstage depth however did improve to a degree worth noting (which I attribute to the mods improvement in midrange clarity…but I will get to that in a moment). The stock JC-1's throw a huge sound stage so I was not looking for much improvement here. So, enough about what the mod did not do…let's talk about what it did do. The midrange..oh..the midrange. This was my biggest complaint with the stock amp. The midrange seemed constricted and slightly closed in compared to a great tube amp (or even a solid state one). It was almost as though a slight haze existed over the midrange and as a result a little bit of natural bloom and clarity was missing. This is no longer the case. The midrange is as clear as I have ever heard in my system and substantially more so then it was with the stock JC-1. Voices and instruments have a clarity that was missing with the stock amps. The amp just opens up in the midrange and lets you here every detail. It sounds as though the amps transparency has been greatly improved! More to the point, a smoothness exists in the midrange where it did not before. Imaging is now pin point accurate (and to be honest, it was very good before). Everything just sounds more real! It is simply a joy to listen to! The attack and decay of the treble also improved to a great degree. The treble seems to extend higher then it did before and has a shimmer and clarity to it that was not apparent with the stock amp. I believe that the additional treble extension also adds to the amps newly found transparency. While I would not say that the amps weight and authority have improved substantially (again they were great to begin with), I would say that the treble attack provides for somewhat better dynamics then the stock amp. Guitar plucks just hit and pull back with a speed they did not before without loosing any of the instruments body! So, let's recap. Midrange openness, midrange smoothness, overall transparency, imaging, and treble extension are where the magic lies with the Empirical JC-1 Turbo Mod. I know you are going to ask so the answer is a resounding YES!!!! is worth the money! Is it the best amp on the planet after modding?..probably not. But it would take you an awful lot of money to do better. I have heard a number of the super amps out there (not all of them of course) and none that I have heard would embarrass the modded JC-1's.
Great review Drhst20!
Very detailed and to the point.
This makes me want to try the mods myself even more!
Great job. Enjoy your modded amps and happy listening!
Great review, Dan!
Your review does indeed seem extremely honest and to the of the best reviews I have read on audiogon.
No sugar coating and straight-forward.
Wish all reviews were like this.
From your description, the modded JC-1's seem to sound more like the older Parasound HCA-3500, but without the brightness and grain.
The older 3500 indeed sounded more open and transparent,in the mids and highs,and seemed to have better treble extension extension than the JC-1's, but are alittle too bright for my own tastes.
This review makes me wanna consider the mods myself!
Best of luck with your amps. Enjoy.