//
Now Playing...

Cables & Links

Review: JPlay JCAT USB Cable

The JCAT usb cable is the fifth high end cable I have been listening to (if we don’t factor in the Wireworld Starlight and Ultraviolet, which I consider far less than high end, albeit far from cheap).
The JCAT USB cable has been conceived by JPLAY, already known for their playback software for Windows PC’s. The goal is, as usual, to manage jitter through data transfer in order to minimize is and achieve the best timing and coherency in the music playback.

The cable has great tactile feel, and is great looking. Unlike, for example, the RAL and the Gemini cable, the JCAT is not twin, but single branch.
It has an oval section, which makes room for internal separation between the data and power lines. It uses stranded multicore silver plated copper. Further technical details can be found on the product webpage.

Test System:

I have been testing the JCAT using the same gear I used for reviewing the RAL and the Gemini USB cables. I have put over the JCAT usb cable about 20 hours burn-in and 20 hours usage. I generally don’t find burn-in very critical, but I prefer doing so just for ‘peace of mind’.
– Source: AMR DP-777
– Speaker system: upgraded Meitner MTR-101 power monoblocks, custom preamplifier, Mordaunt Short Performance 6 speakers
– Headphone systems: Modified SRM-001 (baby) Stax amplifier and SR-001 Mk2 in-earspeakers; CKKIII and Etymotic ER4
 

 
Sound Impressions:

The JCAT has something special. Among the various cable I have been listening to, the JCAT and the RAL are the only two which makes the music completely alive, have great extension, great midrange, zero sense of artificialness. When reviewing the Gemini, I have mentioned that it was a blend of dark sound and very high microdetail retrieval, and lacked some bass extension compared to the RAL.
The JCAT has as much bass extension as the RAL cable, and a very lively midrange. Using the JCAT in conjunction with the AMR DP777, results in the DAC producing an incredible sense of musicality, rich of details that just ‘dance’ with the music, timing and glamour.
The midrange is slightly on the forward side. It helps the vocals feel live and the music reach the listener. To explain this statement, I will try to make a comparison: we decided to try the Wireworld Starlight usb cable in the same system, and I was yawning because of its hollow sound. The waves weren’t able to reach me. This is more apparent in speaker audio than headphone audio. Feeling reached by the music, is a mix of being capable of feeling in tune with vocals and the main instruments (midrange), and feeling the bass waves arrive closer. The JCAT ticks both marks, just like the RAL.

Conclusion

The JCAT is quite surprising. I was very curious about it, because it was coming from a computer audio-savvy company. I wasn’t expecting its level of performance to be pretty much equivalent to that of the RAL cable, which achieves its sonic goodness using a much stiffer structure, solid core conductors, and a twin configuration.
The JCAT is by comparison much lower profile. It’s quite cheaper than the RAL (about 1/4 less, considering the same lenght), has better ease of use, and conveys a bit more sense of power than the RAL Prophecy. It’s quite a few tiers over the iFi Gemini, offering higher sense of involvement.
I’d say that the RAL is a bit more linear in the midrange (within the 1-2kHz range), at least with the AMR DP-777, but overall the two cables are more alike than they are different, and on the same tier.