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Jays Audio CD2T Mk III CD Transport


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Jays Audio CD2T Mk III Transport

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If you believe CD is dead or you only have 3 CD test discs then this review is probably not for you.

But if you want to hear what great digital audio can do and you have lots of CDs then read on. Of course, a great DAC will help.

This CD Transport came from the Worldwide Distributor, Vinshine Audio and took about 2-3 weeks to wing its way to me from China.

The CD Transport comes in a double box with lots of foam to keep your precious audio well protected. And when you try to lift the transport out of the box (using the enclosed white gloves) you will notice that it looks like a piece of audio art with its brushed aluminium exterior and the not inconsiderable 15kg weight. Yes, 15 Kg for a CD transport. Chunky or what? 

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The Jays Audio CDT2 Mk III is an update on the Mk II and from what I have read a considerable improvement. The reason I mention it is if you want to upgrade the transport there is no need to send it back to China, just remove the main PCB and replace it with the new upgraded board. The process is straightforward and can be done easily by the customer. Not only that but as everyone knows CD laser can fail after many years use. Newer lasers last much longer than previous lasers and reports of 10-15 years lifetime are not unknown. The Jays CDT uses the Philips CDM4 mechanism. If the laser fails you buy a complete framework with the disc player installed and all that is needed is a simple internal plug swap, removal of the mechanism and replacement. Ah, but do Jays have enough of the mechanisms? They say they have bought the world’s supply of mechanisms and they can be bought for £255 to ensure that you are never without a CD transport. Details and video instructions here: https://www.jays-audio.com/product-page/cdm4.

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The Jays is a top loader, but not any top loader, it is one with an ultra-smooth sliding top door. Very plush and it feels far more expensive than the RRP suggests (£2000). There is a large display on the front panel which is adjustable and includes off, but it lights up if any adjustment is made. There are the usual 5 functions available via push buttons on the front panel of previous, pause, play, stop and next.

Alternatively, there is a chunky aluminium remote control. This remote control is better than some I have had for very expensive amplifiers. Hopefully, this will start a trend and we can see an end to those awful plastic affairs. This remote is an excellent example of plain industrial design, not over flashy, but functional with small details like rounded corners. Apologies for going on about this but I find plastic remote controls on £15,000 amplifiers off-putting and cheap.

The transport also includes an oversampling function to produce a 176 kHz output by pressing the program button on the remote.

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Looking inside the CDT 2 Mk III you see the CDM4 mechanism at the front.  The mains comes in through a Schurter socket and it is switchable between 110V and 230V. The mains is filtered to remove noise.  There are two Noratell transformers, one for digital and the other for analogue circuits. The power supply is filtered using Nichicon Gold Tune capacitors. And as this is a prestigious transport it has an oven-controlled OXCO clock.  

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Outputs include RCA and BNC SPDIF, AES/EBU and HDMI I2S. I2S is unusual but a lot of people tell me it is the best sounding output. We shall see.

The manual recommends that the transport is burnt in for 400 hours which seems a very long time for a transport with not too many capacitors. But to avoid any questions/issues I left the transport running in repeat mode for a few weeks.

The obvious partner for the Jays was the Denafrips T+ and that is what I used. This digital front end fed my integrated Vitus R101 Mk 2 amplifier and then into a pair of Audionote E/HEs Silver Signatures with external crossovers. I tried a wide variety of digital interconnects and the different outputs and will give a quick summary here and describe what I found in more detail later on in a supplement to this review.

This is a summary of my findings on the outputs, cables and an unusual tweak. The best output between the transport and the DAC was I2S. AES/EBU was a close second and SPDIF was a wee bit behind the AES. I have not had that order of preference before and that surprised me. SPDIF has always been my preferred connection. For the digital interconnects, I had a range of copper cables that performed reasonably well but Audioquest Carbon cables were ahead of all the other copper cables in the less expensive group. The AQ Carbon cables were not as good as the 100% silver Gothic Audio AES/EBU cable. However, the Gothic Cables do cost more than the AQ Carbon cables, so maybe not unexpected. And to top of this collection was the Audioquest Diamond AES/EBU cable. They were really, really good, BUT damn I did not have an AQ Diamond (or equivalent) I2S. 

 

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And the tweak? Well, HEADQuarters Audio makes a new clamp for the CD mechanism. The Jays has a great carbon fibre puck that covers most of the CD but the HEADQuarters is made of a very interesting material that is bone-like. It was easily worth the additional £120.

OK but what about the sound quality of the CD2T? I have to admit some scepticism to there being any real differences in sound quality between different CD transports. Well, the Jays with the bone clamp and AES Diamond was a significant advance on all bar one of my transports. As I only have a few CD transports I also spent a lot of time comparing physical media to virtual media.

No more dithering, the CD transport provided a more powerful, driving and dynamic sound compared to the virtual media supplied by my Melco front end. The images were more solid and real.  Bass initially sounded lighter but it had more detail and clarity making the differences in bass instruments easier to hear. Voices sounded more like they were made by human beings and the clarity of cymbals was exceptional. The 3D image was very good but when I used the AQ Carbon I2S the 3D soundstage was larger than any other connection used. If only I had an I2S cable equivalent to the Diamond I could have been in hog’s heaven. Nevertheless, the AES/EBU connection from a AQ Diamond was the best sound quality achieved.

The only transport that was in the same arena was the Audionote CD4T. I bought the AN CD4 T transport because it sounded better than my Esoteric D03. Against the Jays I would say the AN was different but neither was clearly better. The Jays had better detail, drive and soundstage but the AN CD4T was more human, realistic and dare I say it analogue. But considering the price differences, that is an amazing achievement by the Jays and probably represents better value for money than the Denafrips Terminator+ DAC, and I was impressed by that DAC.

I did have a small issue which is due to my unusual circumstances. My rack is next to one of the speakers with the CD Transport and it is only about 14” away from the bass speaker. My Philips PRO 2 based AN CD4T transport played from that position without any issues. That is not surprising as the PRO 2 mechanism is designed to be used in digital jukeboxes. The CDM 4 based Jays is more sensitive. The CD jumped when I played loud, bass-heavy tracks. I had to add additional isolation to get a clean output and will probably move the transport further away from the speakers.  Not a big deal.

So overall the Jays CD2T Mk III produces a top-drawer audio performance that will embarrass all but the most exceptional transports, it is a piece of audio art and at 15Kg is a very solid player and looks far more expensive, especially with its aluminium remote control. Considering the price, the Jays Audio CD2T Mk III represents exceptional value.

Supplementary Review.

How could you improve on the Jays? Well with an unusual tweak and even better digital interconnects, even if they are expensive.

Cables first. I lined up a large collection of cables to test the different connections between the Jays and the T+ and to make it more complex there were also cables at different price points. To save describing every cable, at every price point, I will divide them into 3 groups, which is close to their price points.

Group 1 had a variety of copper cables for SPDIF and AES/EBU, from different companies. In this group I also listened to a range of Audioquest cables from their Carbon range.

Group 2, mainly on its own, was the Gothic Audio silver cables.

Group 3 had cables from Audioquest, Cut Loose and Wave. The Cut loose silver ribbons and the Wave cables were SPDIFs. The Audioquest was an AES/EBU cable.

Hopefully, you are still with me.

Group 1: Easy. The best range of cables were the Audoquest Carbon cables. They had a very natural even frequency response with just the right weight in the bass but not the ultimate bass resolution. However, the Carbons were better than the competition.  The best of the Audioquest connections was the I2S as it added a much larger 3D soundstage that did not diffuse or go thin, which happens with some cables that produce large soundstages. The Audioquest cables are all well-made and robust (but don’t mistreat them). To be honest, at their price they represent great value and for me, the sound quality was very good for under £150.

Group 2: There was only one cable that was clearly better than the AQ carbon cables and that was the Gothic Audio AES/EBU cable. This pure silver cable is well made and had real sparkle to the top end. It is £180.

Group 3: I thought twice about adding this group as the Jays CD2T Mk III costs £2000 and these cables are around the £1,000 mark. So, if you have tried one of the other cables and want to get the most out of the Jays then try one of these super cables.  The Wave SPDEIF cable did what it always does with much lower noise and a large 3D sound stage and a very natural balance. The Cut Loose SPDIF silver ribbon cable added top-end sparkle but there was some low-level noise that gave an impression of more detail, but I am not sure it gave more information than the Wave cables. The Cut Loose sounded livelier but I can’t ignore the price difference with the silver ribbon being 2-3x more expensive. Finally, for me, the best cable from this group was the Audioquest Diamond AES/EBU cable. It was more natural and detailed compared to the other two. I initially thought the dynamics were not as good as the other two cables but that was not the case as the noise levels were very low and there was not an edge to the sound when the music lets rip. Playing Hans Zimmer, the Dark Knight had all the drama in the music including the powerful bass but more importantly, the slightly uneasy theme of the music emphasised by this big powerful character (Batman) who is slightly malevolent and not what he at first seems. It came across much better from the Diamond. For me, in this system, the AES/EBU Diamond was the best cable in this group. Is it worth it? If you have an excellent system (sound quality wise) then this cable will show you what the transport/DAC can achieve and it is a lot.

HEADquarter Audio QStab Puck.

The Jays CD2T Mk III comes with an excellent carbon fibre puck. But the German distributor has designed and built a better puck that he claims improves the sound quality of the transport. So much so that Jays offer it as a legitimate upgrade: https://www.jays-audio.com/product-page/qstab-nse-cd-clamp.  

The puck, the QStab, is made of a bone-like material and is produced in Germany on a high-end laser-sintered printer. With more than 30 years of experience utilised in its design, everything is based on their resonance theory.

I ordered mine from HEADquarters audio and it does what it says in the description. When I swapped the pucks and I was a little concerned as it is smaller than the original puck. But play a piano track on the original puck and then swap the puck to the QStab and there are more overtones heard from the piano. The piano sounds fuller.  The same effect occurs on other naturally recorded music but it is easier to hear on the piano.

Considering the sound quality changes made, the need for it to be hand-made, then the asking price is low. Once you have swapped over to the QStab then going back to the carbon fibre puck is very difficult. So don’t resist it, go for it.

These two improvements to the Jays are not vital but they can be made at any time and are worthwhile as the transport is good enough to hear them.

 Vinshine Audio: https://www.vinshineaudio.com

HEADQuarters Audio: https://www.headquarteraudio.de/

Audioquest: https://www.audioquest.com/

 

Edited by George 47
Price corrected
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