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JCally JA04 Headphone DAC Review

JCally JA04 Headphone DAC Review

Author:Andy.EF

DAC Chip: Realtek ALC5686 (Single)

PCM 24bit - 384khz, SNR: 125dB/-113dB, Power: 65mW 32Ω, USB Type-C Male, 3.5mm SE (Microphone: Supported), Ultra Compact, 3.6g, Aluminum Chassis, No Cable

 

Strengths:

  • Clean neutral, with slight hump on low Mids, analogue tonality
  • Neat Treble textures with sweet decays, velvety airiness
  • Mid-Bass emphasis with decent decays, thick bodied
  • Bass exhibit decent texture definition, so does the Mids
  • Realistic but slightly soft edged guitars and stringed instruments tone
  • Above average speed and transients handling
  • Forward, and lush male/female vocals, good depth
  • Surprisingly, audible micro details, despite being faint.
  • Polite, realistic Piano, Violin and Cello tones, attack, and tones
  • Impressive sibilance resistance almost all the time
  • Excellent black background with very minimal floor noise

 Weaknesses:

  • EXTREME Dependency on IEMs/Headphones compatibility
  • Pair it wrong, it will sound outright shitty, pair it right, blissful.
  • Stable fidelity only up to 100Ω, struggling beyond that.
  • Slightly grainy technicality and transparency
  • Recessed upper Treble, distant sounding in background.
  • Treble and Bass extensions rolled off short of being great.
  • Honky tonality on Mid-Bass on some songs
  • Sub-Bass imaging somewhat recessed and weak-ish vibe.
  • Overall dynamic falls short of being outright vibrant, slightly.
  • Weak bodied sub-Bass, anemic seismic sensation and impact
  • Soft edged layering separation, sometimes it gets blurry.
  • Less than spectacular headstage, soundstage moderate at best
  • Soft edged percussions sound, mild vibrancy, and bite
  • Spatial imaging slightly vague and less holographic

 

VERDICT:

JCally JA04, if you are wondering how a premium Aiwa portable cassette player sounds like? This is it. That analogue (slightly honky Mid-Bass) timbre is what I remember during the days when I was a hardcore cassette + earbuds user between 1993-1997. The dynamic vibe of JA04 is so old school and one can appreciate it especially if you come from the similar grassroots as me. However, Hi-Fidelity standards has been heightened considerably within the last 10 years, this sort of sound signature may not appeal to the newer generation of Audio Enthusiasts who normally prefer high level of technicality and at the same time still being able to provide organic musicality. JA04 don’t quite fit in comfortably in the technical section. JA04 will serve the purpose for very casual listening due to the organic non sibilant nature of the timbre and tonality. I can understand that it is easy to dismiss this Realtek range of DAC/Amp especially you hit it with wrong synergy, but I am a half-full glass type of person and not my habit to dismiss anything easily. The extensive tests that I have performed on this unit, I gave it chances to shine even with TOTL flagship reference of Shure KSE1500 Electrostatics and Monolith M565c Magnetic Planar – the results did not disappoint. While not particularly mind blowing, it is not shabby most definitely.

 

OVERALL RATING: 77/100

Recommended Pairing: Natively bright, sparkly, and dynamic BA/DD

 

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