Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, Fore Audio DAISy1, COS Engineering D1, Aqua Hifi Formula, AURALiC Vega, Soundaware D300Ref
Preamplifier: Nagra Classic, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, COS Engineering D1, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module)
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1 monos, F5, F6, F7; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund/Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos; LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V, VI & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL 3000; Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps/sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: SGD $2'598 with free worldwide DHL shipping from Vinshine Audio/Singapore [ca. €1'650 at time of publication]

Four square. If you're Alvin Chee of Singapore's Vinshine Audio, that should be your self assessment on the perfectly sized distributor's portfolio. As such Alvin carries the Chinese brands Denafrips, Kinki Studio and Soundaware. With reviews for those already in our pages, it was time that we looked at his fourth corner stone, Jay's Audio.

Their focus is on digital by way of external word clocks and disc players/transports with word-clock inputs, some even with internal Rubidium master clocks like the model at right. Listeners still familiar with the polycarbonate genre not of the DVD variety will flash on Japan's Esoteric. They're an established big firm who likewise still support CD/SACD players and dedicated transports, even the external Rubidium clock. Like infrared remote versus WiFi, today's subject will thus strike many as vintage tech, passé, irrelevant and only for old geezers and obscure gazettes.

But then all that's been said about vinyl, reel-to-reel tape and even cassette. Those delivery media not only refused to die but had the temerity to make actual comebacks (admittedly minor for tape but still surprisingly diehard). The Esoteric connection isn't just conceptual. A few online user reports compare Jay's Audio kit to Esoteric equivalents to find Dawid besting Goliath for far happier coin.

For example, Jay's top CDP-3SE MkII with CDPRO2 top loader, Soekris R2R DAC, Amanero USB, USB/coax inputs, digital outs on coax, XLR and I²S (RJ45/HDMI) netted $5'980 Singaporean or ~€3'750 at the time of writing. Today's pure transport with Philips CDM4 got €1'650, his RC Premium Rubidium clock with three 10MHz BNC outputs €1'500. All are far lower priced than their Japanese options though unlike them, they don't do SACD which remain popular in the land of Basho and Hokusai.

Still, for owners of compact discs who continue to spin them, Jay's Audio kit remains relevant and very much contemporary. And if your DAC does USB, today's deck won't eliminate PCfi but just cover your physical media. It needn't be an either/or scenario.

If you own a Denafrips DAC or equivalent [Audiobyte, Holo Springs, PS Audio, SingXer, Gossett], Jackie's I²S output on HDMI (LVDS) could be the ultimate digital connection over his 2V/75Ω RCA/BNC or 5V/110Ω AES/EBU. Regardless, the signal which is retrieved optically from spinning discs—computers do it magnetically off an HDD—is sync'd to a low-jitter CCHD-957-25 'femto' clock from Crystek. To protect that critical environment from line noise, there's a filter behind the Schurter power inlet. Also, the UK Noratel transformers are potted to eliminate mechanical unrest. The clear-anodized aluminium box measures 43x38x12cm and weighs 15kg. As you'd expect for a top loader, there's a sliding cover and a carbon-fibre puck to clamp a CD to its spindle. There's an OLED display, Murata digital isolation transformers and Audio Note, WBT and Mundorf parts. Last but not least, there's a metal wand for comprehensive remote control. And that's all she had to say on operationals. Unlike streaming audio which for most involves quite the learning curve, legacy kit like CD transports was very simple. That there was actually more to it when transports and converters split into two chassis we already know. It led to the acceptance of impedance-matched high-bandwidth digital cables, clever jitter suppression schemes, reclocking with more precise clocks, upsampling to ever higher rates and a lot more. But with the CDT2 MkII, all that's been handled for us by Jackie Ho the designer; which doesn't include upsampling like the Ensemble piece. Once you decide which type digital cable you want to use, there's nothing more to it than loading a CD and hitting play. Happy days of old?

5 generations of Philips swing-arm mechanisms; CDM4 in composite housing at right.

About that, colleague Terry London had this to say: "Right out of the crate not even broken in yet, it's outperforming my CEC double belt transport in the reference system. It retains all the liquidity and analog smoothness of the belt transport but offers more detail, tighter bass and a larger layered soundstage with more air between the players." To put his enthusiasm into context, Terry then listed prior transports he had experience with - "CEC TL-1x, Mark Levinson N°31.5, Ensemble Dirondo, MBL 1621, CEC TL3N. For my tastes, the CEC TL3N surprisingly outperformed the much more expensive MBL1621. The CEC TL3N is still a great transport but the Jay's Audio CDT2 Mk2 outperforms it across the board, is built to a higher standard and costs less... I also heard the latest generation PS Audio DS transport and prefer what the Jay's does in my system with my DAC. I use the term liquidity to mean a lack of grain or dryness without becoming euphonic at the expense of punch/macrodynamics or detail. For my tastes, the Jay's Audio transport offers more of this than the PS Audio at the straight Redbook sampling rate." And Mike Powell of Alvin Chee's US-based service centre had this to say: "I've never ever seen a product like this. Esoteric's are the closest thing." From someone tasked to support Alvin's product catalogue in the colonies on a contractual basis, that's high praise. And for mechanical devices like turntables and CD transports, top build quality isn't about vanity but longevity.