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Paul Candy
Financial Interests: click here
Digital Source: CEC TL51X transport, Audiomat Tempo 2.6 DAC, HP laptop, Win 7, J. River Media Center 17, JPlay v4.2 [in for review],M2Tech hiFace, John Kenny JKSPDIF Mk3 [in for review]
Analog Source: Well-Tempered Lab Amadeus with DPS power supply, Pro-Ject Tube Box SE phono stage, Ortofon Rondo Blue MC cartridge
Amps: Audiomat Opéra Référence integrated.
Speakers: Green Mountain Audio Callisto on sand-filled Skylan stands, 2 x REL Q108 MkII subwoofers
Cables: MIT Magnum M1.3 interconnects & speaker cables, MIT Magnum digital cable, Wireworld Equinox 6 interconnects & speaker cables, Sablon Audio Panatela interconnect, Cardas Clear Serial BUSS USB cable
AC Cables: MIT Magnum AC1, Wireworld Aurora 5² & Silver Electra 5², Sablon Audio Robusto & Gran Corona
Stands: Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier rack on Apex footers with silicon nitride bearings
Powerline conditioning: BPT Pure Power Center with Wattgate, Bybee Quantum Purifier and ERS cloth options, Blue Circle BC86 MK5, Blue Circle 6X & 12X AC Filters [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic Revive RR-77, Auric Illuminator, Audio Magic/Quantum Physics Noise Disruptors, Caig Pro Gold, Echo Busters acoustic room treatments, Isoclean fuses, HiFi Tuning Disc Demagnetizer, Nitty Gritty record cleaning machine, Soundcare Superspikes on speaker stands, dedicated AC line with CruzeFIRST Audio Maestro outlets
Room size: 11x18x8’, long-wall setup, suspended hardwood floors with large area sisal rug, walls are standard drywall over Fiberglas insulation
Review Component Retail: €500

In February 2012 I wrote about John Kenny’s excellent JKSPDIF Mk3 USB-S/PDIF converter and declared it substantially superior to M2Tech’s hiFace on which it is based. I thought it an excellent affordable option for those who wish to connect a computer to a legacy DAC, i.e. one without USB input. For those who don’t have a DAC at all but still want to get on the computer audio bandwagon in an easy way, Kenny offers two battery-powered USB DACs that incorporate his modified hiFace circuit. There is the JKDAC with Sabre ES9023 DAC chip; and for a different flavor the JKDAC32 with PCM5102 DAC instead. The latter is the subject of today’s review.

The JKDAC32 essentially integrates a Burr Brown PCM5102 chip with a JKSPDIF Mk3 and I²S data bus into one box. It natively handles up to 32-bit/384kHz signals without upsampling and outputs a 2V analogue signal on RCA connectors. As this is an asynchronous USB device, it doesn't rely on the computer clock for its timing. Instead it uses 3 discrete on-board clocks; one to time the USB connection, the other two for the 44.1 and 48kHz sampling-rate families. As with the JKSPDIF the JKDAC32 operates off-grid from two internal rechargeable Lithium Iron Phosphate or LiFePO4 batteries.

The internal battery charger requires a user-supplied external DC power supply. Any 5V DC adaptor with a 2.1mm plug (center pin positive) and  500mA-1000mA output will do. The aluminum enclosure is identical to that of the JKSPDIF. A LED and switch adorn the front panel. Flip the switch up and the LED goes blue indicating that the unit is operating. Switching down turns the LED red to indicate recharge mode. On the rear is a type B USB input, a pair of RCA outputs and the DC power inlet.