Country of Origin


DAC-2 Signature Edition

15Reviewer: 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, COS Engineering D1, Denafrips Terminator, 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; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Kroma Audio Mimí; Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V, VI & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence; LuKang Audio Spoey230 [on review]; Avantages Audio César [on review]
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: $2'998 US, sold direct through web shop

"We request your kind acceptance to review our new Jay's Audio DAC-2 Signature Edition. I've attached some photos." That was Alvin Chee of Singapore's Vinshine Audio sales portal. He is a well-known presence in these pages and the public face for Denafrips. Alvin also represented Soundaware and Kinki Studio in the past but as we'll see with Jay's, these brands too subsequently decided to market now from their own websites to extend their reach beyond a single global Asia-based reseller.

Jackie's gold standard, a personal custom commission from Alvin to celebrate the Blue Moon award for the CD2 MkII. And there you thought CD was dead…

Having previously reviewed Jay's CD2 MkII, I already knew what publicity-shy designer Jackie Ho could do. (I'd asked for background plus factory photos the first time around but was told that he prefers to remain anonymous for now). Naturally the new model matches his transport's I²S-over-HDMI output with a fitting input. AS USB bridge or SD transport, our resident Soundaware D300Pro could talk I²S to Jay's new DAC. So too would a PS Audio transport but not a Métronome. The French wires up a different pin configuration. On number-crunching hardware, this deck gets dual-mono Asahi Kasei AK4497EQ DACs fronted by their AK4118 input receiver. An STM32 controller oversees them all including the large-scale Xilinx FPGA with custom algorithm. This being 2019, number-munching clients expect PCM 384kHz and DSD512. Accordingly, Jackie delivers.

He also runs a "proprietary adaptive clock system with four independent ultra-low jitter audio crystal oscillators and a Crystek clock. There's a high-performance digital-analog hybrid phase-locked loop with excellent clock-sync recovery tech to greatly reduce the load on the secondary PLL of the external digital input jitter. There is source synchronization and FPGA shaping technology on the isolated I²S signal for no additive jitter from the isolation chip." Two European toroidal power transformers supply "multiple sets of super low phase noise power supply for USB, the other digital input, the DAC core and the analog output. Schottky diodes and Walt Jung super regulators create high-speed linear, precision-regulated DC power to the DAC board. The digital/analog sections of the power supply are fully isolated." For sound tuning, Jackie relies on sundry Audio Note UK and Japanese Amtrans capacitors plus British Holco resistors. And for the purists, his oversampling is defeatable to go NOS.

Not only are the Noratel transformers potted and shielded, they do their work behind a thick metal divider to segregate one box into dirty and clean halves. Who says you need two chassis for that?

"I hope this piqued your interest" is how Alvin calmly ended his solicitation.

Selling hifi for a living, he's used to the technical gobbledygook.

When asked about the Vinshine-direct global pricing in Singaporean currency to put up in our opening paragraph, Alvin explained that "we have strategically moved all of Jay's Audio products to their own website which is now a flagship e-store priced in USD where customers from around the world can buy direct. This will regulate the market and clear up the gray-market sellers from eBay and AliExpress."

As so often, a few miscreants have spoiled it for the rest of us who preferred dealing with the very knowledgeable very prompt Alvin for our China-direct purchases. C'est la vie et la merde.

But these types also had an unexpected benign influence on Jay's.

Alvin: "All products sold through his website will have the following steps performed prior to shipping:

♦ post assembly, the unit will run a preliminary test on an Audio Precision APx525, then go through a 24-hour burn-in process.
♦ now the QC engineer will perform a sound test and fine-tuning.
♦ then the unit will sit on the burn-in rack for another 24 hours..
♦ finally the product will undergo a final AP test and report with serial number imprint to be archived in the Jay's Audio computer for subsequent tracking just like the Harbeth production log book.

Readers curious what that suite of tests looks like can download these PDF files 1, 2 and 3.

"We hope that these procedures will strengthen the confidence level Western consumers have towards Chinese products. To that effect and to further distance himself and his fine brand from unauthorized resellers, Jackie now makes his export models with premium components and a 110/230V selector to differentiate them from his domestic units. These custom export models are available exclusively through his web shop.

"In short, if you live in the West and end up with a unit without these extras, you didn't buy it from the Jay's Audio web shop."

Asking about my loaner, "it doesn't yet have the 110/230V selector switch but all the premium parts are already in it. The selector switch will be inside the chassis and not accessible from the rear panel. Units shipping from mid April on will have this implemented. Except for the voltage selector, your loaner is exactly what export customers will have."

With that exchange ended, the machine arrived a day after. Even Alvin was surprised.