Slightly larger than your average USB memory stick, JitterBug plugs into your computer’s USB socket and acts as a link between your computer and DAC, whether it’s a standalone converter or housed in a headphone amp or traditional stereo amp.
The thinking goes there’s a lot of noise and interference coursing through the circuitry of your average desktop computer or laptop, the main source of which is your computer’s own power supply. JitterBug’s job is to act as a passive filter and dissipate any noise before the signal enters your DAC.
Punctuating the right places
So does it work? We tested JitterBug with a number of different products and varying qualities of source material. We kick off with Audioquest’s own DragonFly USB DAC hooked up to a MacBook Pro. Fed a CD rip of Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Don’t Forget Me, there’s more meat on the bones of the opening guitar riff, there’s more solidity to each note and you can hear the subtle differences as different levels of force are applied to the strings.
Drum thwacks hit with more conviction, punctuating the track in all the right places without disrupting its rhythm. There’s also more detail and insight to the echo and reverb that halos Anthony Kiedis’s vocal. You are presented with a rich, detailed picture, even if you swap to a 320kbps Spotify stream of the same track.
Take JitterBug out of the chain and you’re back to square one. The song sounds vague in comparison. Those punctuation marks and leading edges are all less pronounced. The clarity is replaced by a murky fog and as a result, rhythms are harder to follow. It’s like the difference between a hangover and a clear head.
We step up a level to the Award-winning Chord Mojo and a similar pattern emerges. Switching tracks to The Border, taken from the soundtrack to gangster flick Sicario, the track sounds dramatic enough without using the JitterBug. But slot it into the system and the tension and drama goes up a notch. There’s immense power and solidity to the pulsing drumbeat, and a level of dynamism and attack on display that goes missing when JitterBug bugs out.
Even with more laid-back tracks such as The 1975’s So Far (It’s Alright), you can hear the Jitterbug have an impact. The dynamic shifts between bass notes sounds much clearer and more lucid. Percussion has more of a cutting edge and sparkle.
Our doubts evaporate
The next step on our journey is the Mojo’s bigger brother, Hugo. And here the story takes a twist. The improvements in sound quality are there: the increased robustness, the upsurge in dynamics and clarity are all present and correct, but the music doesn’t flow quite as effortlessly – it’s as if the extra weight and solidity stunt the natural flow.
It’s a strange one, especially when we swap the Hugo for DAC input of Cambridge Audio’s Azur 851N streamer. Any previous questions we had evaporate, and once again the positive status quo is resumed.
The xx’s Heart Skipped A Beat sounds punchier and more precise than ever. Clarity goes up a notch soundstage opens up and the his ‘n’ hers vocals hang beautifully. Shifts between high and low dynamics are more explicit and the track displays a new-found sparkle.
Audioquest even claims that using two JitterBugs in parallel can make a difference, but in our experience using one had much more of a significant impact.
Nine times out of ten we’d rather have a Jitterbug in our system than leave it out. If it fits your current set-up, we’d certainly recommend taking one for a spin – it’s a clever, audio-improving critter.
It might not look like much, but for the results it produces this aff ordable USB upgrade is well worth investigating..