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Best Audiophile USB Card ?

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On 5/13/2019 at 7:17 PM, FredericV said:

As a manufacturer, I tested a lot of these cards. Let's go a little technical.

It seems there are 3 variations of USB cards:

1) a real PCI express card, where the card acts as a xHCI, so a usb host controller which is a real separate device visible in the OS

with 2 main variations:

- xHCI is not bus powered so does not work when inserting in a PCIe slot, but needs 12V or 9V (e.g. SOtM)
- xHCI is bus powered, 5V for USB output can be taken from a molex or external input (e.g. JCAT)

and with or without superclock
superclock on the card, or separate board
and with or without seperate power for the superclock

2) a USB hub card, which basically connects to the USB headers on the motherboard

- there's a SOtM card doing this

This shows up as a HUB to an existing xHCI on the motherboard, e.g. visible with lsusb
Also has similar variations like (1) but it's a usb hub instead of an xHCI and therefore does not connect to the PCIe bus.

3) a USB card without HUB, which is like a USB breakout cable going from the header to the chassis, with some extra power cleanup going on or replacing the power from an external source and cleaning it up, and they can be had very cheap:


Dutch based Alpha Audio really liked this card, we never tried them. But for the price it's a bargain.

The third variation is invisible to the host OS.


Correction: JCAT USB Card is not bus powered IF a PSU is connected to the card. 




JPLAY & JCAT Founder

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13 hours ago, FredericV said:


For DAC's that don't need 5V, this card always works with the xHCI being bus powered (e.g. connected to the motherboard, and no external or molex power applied).

So you are saying when you connect a 5V supply, the Renesas chip is using the same 5V?

Correct. That's how it works in the latest FEMTO revision of the card. 

JPLAY & JCAT Founder

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  • 1 year later...
On 4/1/2021 at 11:44 AM, Topk said:

Speaking about listening comparisons, I did try the El Fidelity (EF) USB card that was mentioned above. It is actually surprisingly good and will sound better (yes significantly BETTER) than Jcat Femto and XE if your system is not fully sorted with top LPS like JS2, optimo/initio, SJ or PH....etc, ATX LPS etc. The EF sounds naturally very musical, fuller and warmer. But it can’t reach the level of Jcat past a certain point. 


So yes, the Jcat cards have huge potential and ultimately are in a different level than the EF (no doubt) BUT they need excellent power and generally speaking a very well sorted PC AND they need a higher end hifi system.


With a lower to mid end setup, I actually recommend the EF vs Jcat. A friend who had or tried Pink Faun, EF, Femto and XE says the same conclusion. He bought and left Femto on the shelf for more than a year and used EF until he maxed out his PC and only then the Femto was better (much better actually). 


The EF is only 39 EUR so the value for money is off the charts and you can’t go wrong... it’s probably too cheap psychologically for many people... just use a decent LPS (like a Allo Shanti or lower end Uptone) or even an Anker 20Kmh battery pack. With a top end LPS, the EF doesn’t sound so good paradoxically and you really need to move to Jcat or PF etc.


This finding is correlated by alpha audio website. You don’t have to believe me so just buy both Jcat and EF and let us know... you might be surprised.


for context I have a McIntosh based setup and an Asus/Apacer/AMD 3950x (16 cores) based PC streamer with 4 LPS


That's why we came out with OPTIMO 3 DUO and INITIO 3 power supplies - to extract maximum performance form the cards. 

The difference is night and day


Best regards,

JPLAY & JCAT Founder

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  • 1 year later...
2 hours ago, Superdad said:

Especially if the board will have the Connor-Winfield OH300-50503CF as picture in the posted photo.  That OCXO is just $33 an its phase-noise specifications are extremely average, with just -115dBc/Hz at 10Hz offset for a 10MHz version (so probably -109dBc/Hz for the 20MHz version they are using.  We routinely measure $10 Crystek CCHD-575 XOs at that level.




I wish we could buy the OH300 for 'just' $33 which is the catalogue price.


The realistic price on the market is more like $85 at the moment. At least it is the best offer we could find. 


Regarding Crystek, the numbers you mentioned are hard to believe, because even Crystek claims -90dBc /Hz @ 10 Hz in their marketing materials: 



JPLAY & JCAT Founder

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18 minutes ago, Superdad said:


That's their spec for a 100MHz version.  Look again and you will see that for a 24.576MHz CCHD-575 they guarantee -100.6dBc/Hz at 10Hz. 


But the graphs Crystek sent us years ago with 3 samples of 25.0MHz CCHD-575 showed -108, -110, and -112 for the three samples. We immediately phoned them to get clarification. Were these selected or random samples?  They said random. Then why the big discrepancy between their published graphs and what they sent us? They said it is because they are a very conservative company, and because while they had greatly improved their production processes for the CCHD-575, they still have a lot of firms paying more for their big CCHD-957 (about $32 vesus $10 for CCH-575, qty. 250) and they dd not want to alienate them (or lose revenue I guess) by letting the world know that their lowly 575 was a bit of a giant killer among production XOs. 9_9



I'm not saying that Crystek is bad. On the contrary, it's a good value. We use it on our USB/NET FEMTO cards with great results.


Still, Crystek sounds poor in comparison to SiTime 5711 that we use on XE cards.


And the new OCXO board, again, sounds much better. 


Let's wait for feedback from customers. It will be interesting to read feedback from them. We can debate here, but eventually it's the sound that matters. 


It's midnight here, so I'm logging off for now. 


Best regards,

JPLAY & JCAT Founder

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