Review: Audioquest JitterBug – USB Magic?

Sound

Before I received the Jitterbug I was very skeptical a device like the JB would work and that’s exactly why I asked to review one. Some people have told me they can’t stand listening to their music/USB DAC anymore without the Jitterbug, others can’t hear any difference at all.

Generally seen I tend to quickly pick out differences in sound between units, cables, etc. (check out the Phillips’ Golden Ear Challenge). If there is any difference at all when using the Jitterbug, I should be able to hear it. Right?

First of all I have to say that my Dell Latitude E6430’s USB ports have never bothered me. With my former Dell laptop I could hear clicks, ticks and bleeps of the processor through the USB (DAC) but it seems the USB ports in this laptop are extremely well isolated (or whatever you like to call it).

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To be honest I did not hear a difference with most of the DACs I tried the Jitterbug with. When I did hear a difference it was only minor and the difference is very subtle. After having tried the JB with a whole bunch of DACs, I would describe “its effect on sound” as follows: the Jitterbug seems to add a thin layer of smoothness to the sound which is most noticeable in the upper regions, making the sound less clear in a way but more musical. I can imagine that’s a good thing for some if that’s how you prefer your music to sound. It can also be a good thing when you’re using a less stellar DAC as it might give you the impression it sounds better/more musical but I’m sure not everyone feels the same. In example, in combination with the Violectric V850 DAC + V281 amp + HE-1000, I don’t really appreciate the effect of the JB as the fine detail seems to get lost/softened down. Then again, the V850 is a powered DAC unit, so maybe it’s that.

I got the most noticeable effect in combination with the Dragonfly. To me the Dragonfly is a more forward sounding and brighter sounding unit and the Jitterbug softens out the treble a bit making it nicer and easier to listen to. Coincidentally both come from the same company, but I doubt that’s got something to do with it.

The Jitterbug is also supposed to clean up your system by just entering it in a free USB port. Audioquest advises not use more than two in the same system though. I didn’t go there.

Conclusion

I haven’t heard any of the other USB cleaning solutions and I honestly don’t plan on getting or reviewing them either. Like I said, Jitterbug’s effect to me only was noticeable on some DACs and even then it was minimal. I’m not even sure I liked its effect on top of that. Maybe it’s a whole different story when your laptop has noisy USB ports but I don’t have a bunch of laptops lying around to test that. With my actual laptop setup the Jitterbug to my ears doesn’t seem to improve the sound but it might be a whole other story with your laptop, your phone, your USB source, your USB DAC and your ears.

A whole lot of people do think the Jitterbug improves their setup and the good news is that it only costs $49 USD. So if you know or think your source isn’t that good or that your system could benefit from this device, I would fully suggest trying the Jitterbug as it might just be the thing you need to get better sound. Personally I enjoyed testing it but looking at the results in my setup, I am still skeptical about these kind of devices. I wish I could say my life changed after adding the Jitterbug to my setup but I just can’t. I’m sorry Audioquest, but for me personally it doesn’t seem to work.

Some readers will most likely call me crazy now while others will say I finally got some sense into me. Thing is you never can please everyone and I can only tell you what I hear (or don’t hear in this case). My best advice is to try it yourself. I do look forward to reading about your Jitterbug experiences in the comment section, I’m looking forward to exchanging views.

EDIT: Audioquest has gotten back to me and helped me troubleshoot the HUGO issue I was having. JB and Hugo work together now without any issue, Hugo actually is one of AQ’s demo setups. Let it also be clear the JB is both for powered and non powered usb dacs (but JB works best on usb powered dacs though). The JB is also supposed to go on the sending end of your system just to be super clear on that. Once again AQ showed they have a great after sales/customer service and I have to thank them for helping me out.

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

20 Comments

  • Reply November 17, 2015

    dalethorn

    That’s interesting – the design is supposed to only remove noise and not data, yet you clearly hear it removing data. Hmmm…

  • Reply November 18, 2015

    Alexandre Nishikawa

    How about the Schiit Wyrd? From what I’ve understood they are supposed to do the same thing…

    • Reply November 18, 2015

      dalethorn

      There’s a lot of these now, probably some of them aren’t even designed to do anything real. The JitterBug’s performance can’t be predicted because it’s dependent on each system – the kind of junk running across the connections. Mine makes a very subtle improvement with my Mac, but is even better between iPhone6 and my Oppo HA-2.

    • Reply November 18, 2015

      Dave Ulrich

      They Wyrd is a powered USB port, which isn’t the same thing, although its goals are.

  • Reply November 19, 2015

    Clarence

    I don’t here any improvement at all with the Hugo,

    • Reply November 19, 2015

      dalethorn

      That’s good to hear.

    • Reply November 19, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      At least it works with your Hugo, we still have to figure out how to make mine work

      • Reply November 19, 2015

        dalethorn

        I don’t know if it would help, but while I didn’t have any blank-outs, plugging two into my PC at one time caused glitches. I thought it was supposed to be purely passive, but there’s something strange going on in there, drawing a little power from the USB, and acting unpredictably. So maybe if you get it connected with the other devices, the haze will clear up.

      • Reply November 24, 2015

        mentt

        With Hugo/jitterbug I can confirm improvement.
        More clarity, blacker background, better soundstage, calmer highs. On windows
        it had dropouts, but on Linux working fine. I have reinstall windows and it
        works on windows fine too(same PC)…

        • Reply November 24, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          We got the Hugo working as well but sonically there’s nothing on my end

          • Reply November 24, 2015

            dalethorn

            I think the nature of what it does (or doesn’t do) is that it can’t be predicted, because each system is different.

  • Reply December 3, 2015

    ProDigit

    From what I gather, without reading the article, the JB is nothing but a capacitor, getting rid of some voltage spikes and dips on the power lines (not data) of usb 2.0 ports, of the cheaper laptops using bad or cheap voltage regulators.
    USB2 devices running from usb3.0 ports don’t need this, as the voltage regulators are updated on these ports, and provide upto 5x the power of USB2.0.

    I once had a laptop where the mic buzzed so loud (40dB of noise was generated), leaving only 50% of its dynamic range for recording. such a device would benefit this cap.

    • Reply December 3, 2015

      dalethorn

      Good suggestion possibly, but won’t take care of every issue. The JitterBug isn’t “just a capacitor”, but it is proprietary, so maybe tear one apart and have a look. Myself, I wouldn’t dream of soldering anything to a USB port, and $50 for whatever the JitterBug is, is far cheaper than my time diddling with solder and potentially wrecking a USB port. But maybe some of the solder gurus who read here can offer more suggestions.

      • Reply December 4, 2015

        ProDigit

        You can’t harm the laptop soldering a cap in between the USB port power leads, for as long as:
        1- the voltage is correct
        2- the correct wires are connected to the correct pins,
        3- the right cap size is used. Any cap will do, but if they are too small they might not make any difference at all.

        Again, not necessary on modern laptops or pcs, as they already have this built in their motherboards, and have good voltage regulators.

        • Reply December 4, 2015

          dalethorn

          So if the JitterBug makes a positive difference on my 2015 Macbook 12 inch (USB 3), then it’s a good deal, yes?

  • Reply March 2, 2016

    Exh1l3d_0n3

    I wonder if going to an external USB powered hub would do much of the same thing, as well as provide more USB ports. It seemed to work that way for me with my JDS Labs Element.

  • Reply June 12, 2016

    KT

    I tried the Fiio Q1 + Jitterbug system on my Windows 10 Lenovo computer, it appeared to be an UNKNOWN device, while Fiio Q1 alone worked quite well, any suggestion to tackle this?

  • Reply August 3, 2017

    Glenn

    Hi im using a standard pc with 3 usb busses and an rme uc soundcard using spdif to my amplifier.. Got 4 jitterbugs from my girlfriend 1 in my router 1 to the soundcard 1 to my usb hdd and 1 between my usb keyboard and mouse. All buses have 1 jb installed. Now im using jriver as my library and jplay mini as my music player. On startup im using fidelizer pro in pure mode and audio player without a network setup. Then on reboot i physically disconnect my network cable wich makes a huge difference (unfortunately now i cannot use jplay streamer which sounds even better on its own). Also do not forget to disable other non used devices in your setup like a secondairy soundcard or firewire device or whatever… When all this is done and jplay mini starts the selected song.. I really hear almost all plusses of the good solid lp sound without all the negatives a lp gives. For me this setup is just about perfect and not real expensive at all… For me the jitterbug makes a huge difference. It just adds so much more warmth in the music and more low mid detail i certainly wont remove them ever again. For my ears this is the best sound ive ever heard so far and ive heard a lot up to more then 10000 euro even then still having far to bright digital glare ish sound!!!… (anxious to see how it works with the m2tech hiface evo 2 as im now saving for this 2500euro soundcard set). I will never understand why all high end systems are setup to all sound so unnatural bright (especially with those crazy silver airy cables) as in the end most music lovers want solid sound???

    • Reply August 4, 2017

      dale thorn

      That’s a good question. When the brightness goes up, people hear more detail, or they think so anyway.. But learning the right balance is the key to the best enjoyment of the music.

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