Country of Origin


iOS App

This review first appeared in April 2024 on audiophile-magazine. By request of the manufacturer and permission of the author, it is hereby syndicated from the French original to reach a broader English audience. Ed.

Reviewer: Joël Chevassus
Price: €49/yr

Originally JPlay was a Windows software suite from Marcin Ostapowicz intended to render high-resolution files in a personal library. The solution consisted of two modules called the femtoServer and JPlay Femto player. More recently Marcin launched the iOS JPlay app. This uses UPnP to find endpoints aka network-attached drives, selects files from a music library previously indexed then routes them to our network drive of choice. Like Roon, the JPlay app allows us to unify our various digital music sources, be they local or streaming services in the cloud. The app works on iPhones and iPads as well as Macs with the latest M1 chip but not the earlier Intel generations. JPlay for iOS claims to outperform other streaming apps and control points due to its degree of optimization and native iOS code. JPlay should thus work faster and more responsively than competing solutions. But what JPlay sells goes beyond the simple ergonomics of using a control point. It is also the optimization and traffic reduction across the network so between the control point of iPhone/iPad and the endpoint of our network drive to minimize digital noise resulting from incessant Ethernet pings. For anyone who believed that this type of data exchange governed by UPnP has no impact on sound quality, this is somewhat surprising information. I personally admit to no longer being shocked that these digital streams, however discreet they may be, can have a discernible influence on our playback quality. For years now I've most regularly progressed from one surprise to another by catching up with just how complex and multi-layered this new digital world of our collective streaming audio really is. Marcin Ostapowicz explains the supposed improvement as a function of lowered network traffic and a lighter processing load on the endpoint.

His app's universality means that it can be used with a large majority of network servers which will thrill certain orphaned readers who do not benefit from control points and are obliged to extol the merits of lesser 3rd-party apps like MConnect whose ergonomics remain rather spartan. Without going as graphics/AI heavy as Roon which at times can prove too intrusive, the JPlay app offers a fair balance between play suggestions and respecting our privacy, with many options directly accessible from our smartphone. Navigation within the app is a little less intuitive than Roon or Lumin but like any other software, it takes time to get used to menu navigation and playlist management until everything feels second nature. Unlike Roon which requires the famous Roon Core processor to operate, the JPlay app requires no specific server. It just needs access to a music library identified on the network. This makes installation fast, simple and indexing almost instantaneous. To ensure operation and access to our music library, its directory must be open to network sharing with a pre-existing server layer. But it's also possible to install the JPlay femtoServer app to a PC and transform that into a dedicated server. Roon of course adds sound processing and transcoding which the JPlay mobile app for iOS can't do. The app's home page is partly inspired by Roon. It shows at the top the number of albums and songs in our collection and seamlessly combines our local files with whatever streaming subscriptions we've activated. It also allows us to filter our library by the usual search parameters. The app can display a list of last tracks listened to, recommendations from online streaming services, favourites, even the latest additions to our collection. JPlay indexing does not allow us to recover the order of added files during the initial synchronization phase and only manages this sorting for albums we add after the first synchronization. We can get around this by filtering the library by year of publication but this will not necessarily work well when we regularly acquire old recordings and not just new releases.

The hypertext search function works perfectly thanks to automatic storage of all metadata in our library which ultimately compensates quite well for the search filters not yet being as ergonomic as Roon or Lumin. Extra information on artists and composers too is far less developed. But it remains at a fairly good level. The GUI is rather complete. It displays the source icon of server or streaming provider, the type of file played and its duration, with the icon of the selected drive bottom right. Three small dots on the top right access editorial album content as information on artists or composers. What is not often found on this type app but available with JPlay is the exact location of the audio file on the network. This makes it easier to locate and correct any metadata errors. Being able to click on different info allows us to benefit from dynamic navigation by bouncing back to the recordings of a single artist or composer for example. Using JPlay with an available UPnP server is biblically simple. We can move from screen to screen intuitively without having to declare anything like Roon. We can still configure our endpoint but won't have any issues with Marcin's app. Whether with my Esoteric player, HiFi Rose or Lumin, everything accessed instantly. Meanwhile Lumin's app can't see the Hifi Rose so the JPlay app was more universal though we must undoubtedly make concessions to the ergonomics of the user experience. I was also surprised by the responsiveness of a little Pink HiFi player which responded like greased lighting. Really, I've never used so responsive a UPnP app. Even Roon was a little slower controlling my network drive and then there were occasional latencies which Roon imposed to re-index the system or update itself, a functional disadvantage I didn't encounter with JPlay.

I must note just one small downside. Certain features can be difficult to access because the space between two icons on an iPhone screen is very limited. Thick fingers no longer are an issue on an iPad, however. There is therefore an ideal screen size to enjoy JPlay in its best light. That said, I used it most the time from my iPhone because I need two hands to hold my iPad. Finally I really appreciated the app's interactive level which opens navigation paths without completely losing me. We can consult fairly precise statistics on our latest sessions while purchasing other available discographic references from the performer or composer. Filtering was as practical on an iPad as Roon is. Qobuz integration was extremely neat and intuitive while adding many more parameters than the menu which controls local files. There's no web radio or podcast integration which aren't features I use a lot at home. A detailed analysis of sonic differences between different streaming app like HQPlayer, Audirvana, Roon & Co. can be a real headache without sticking to very strict methodology. Here are a few musical excerpts that I systematically compared using different control points and listening to them either off my Synology NAS or Qobuz subscription.

♦ Sergei Prokofiev, Sonata N°2 D-Dur für Violine und Klavier op.94a, "Moderato", Martha Argerich & Maria Solozobova, Antes Edition 2023, 16/44.1.
♦ Ludwig Van Beethoven, Trio in B-Flat major Op.11 'Gassenhauer', "Allegro con brio", Anne Gastinel, Nicholas Angelich & Andreas Ottensamer, Naïve 2018, 24/48
♦ Gustav Mahler, Premiere Symphonie Titan, "Stürmisch bewegt", Budapest Festival Orchestra under Ivan Fischer, Channel Classics 2012, DSD64.