Valkyrie 1,4m: 4.100 euro
Aurora 1,3m: 2.708 euro
Compared to the CH Balanced Link between the CH Precision C1 DAC and A1.5 Power Amp, the Jena Labs is even more neutral and more direct. It’s not that the sound is more detailed but it is more articulate and less polished. To some, that may imply a more “solid-state” kind of sound and it is indeed the antithesis of stereotypical tube sound, but to others, this may mean that the cable works less like a filter.
For me, it meant an eye-opener, or rather, an ear-opener that set new progress in motion. The cable’s treble is well-defined, open, and extended but not harsh. There’s no excess of treble, nor is there any roll-off or darkness. There’s no copper sound, no silver sound, really not much of a sound at all, other than the absence of any sweetness.
Indeed, compared to the Jena Labs, for the first time, the CH cable sounds a little sweet and just a bit too smooth. This would later be confirmed with other cables such as the AudioQuest Fire and the Stealth Indra. With the Jena Labs cable in the system, I found that certain technical aspects had shifted but simultaneously, it immediately sounded like music.
Interestingly, for the first time, with the Jena Labs cable, I felt that the CH components sound ever so slightly cool. For a minute, I feared that the Jena Labs revealed this for being actually the case (and other cables having obscured this) but the Fire and Indra cables proved this to be incorrect. Both these cables manage to outperform the CH Balanced Link by sounding more open and direct while avoiding sounding lean or cool or in any way sterile.
Regardless, there was no denying that the sound was pure and entertaining with the Jena Labs in place.
In a later comparison between the Jena Labs Aurora, one model below the Valkyrie, and the AudioQuest Fire, the Jena Labs is still admirably neutral but just a little blunt and less refined in the treble. Was this also the case with the Valkyrie? Alas, that cable is no longer available and I can’t check. But it’s as if the resolution is lower than with the Fire or the CH Balanced Link, and thinking back, I think I also heard this with the Valkyrie the first time.
As one climbs the Jena Labs models, the only difference is that more conductors are used. Just how this translates into sonic differences is something that I cannot ascertain now that the Valkyrie interlink is no longer at hand, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they may sound very similar.
In that respect, the Stealth Indra is simply superlative, but so is its price. In terms of solidity and drive, the Jena Labs Aurora is more “impressive” than the Stealth. And, with it, I would venture, the Valkyrie.
Like a traditional big power amplifier, the Jena Labs has a fuller, more robust sound, but also like that big amp, its midrange and treble are not quite as liquid as they can be with tube amplifiers or state of the art solid-state amplifiers. Whether that is considered a bonus or a deficit, will depend on the application and the synergy between the components. In many cases, I think the Jena Labs can be a real ear-opener, as it was for me.
Either way, IF the Stealth is considered to be the very best there is (and at its price, it certainly should be), then, by comparison, the Jena Labs can be said to sound a little hard and slightly grainy. On the other hand, compared to the AudioQuest Fire (that I consider my current reference), the Stealth has a very gentle sweetness in the bass and lower midrange that could be interpreted as a lack of hardness, but could also be said to be a slight rounding effect, which the Jena Labs does not have.
Ultimately, one can always do better when the cost is not an issue, but regardless, the Jena Labs cables offer great performance at the price point. Especially the Aurora has an excellent price/performance ratio and it should be high on the shortlist if utter unfiltered neutrality is paramount on the list of personal preferences.