JCally JA21 Headphone DAC Review
DAC Chip: Conexant CX21988 (Single)
PCM 24bits 96kHz, SNR: 95dB, Power: 1Vrms@32Ω, USB Type-C Male, 3.5mm SE (Microphone: Supported), Ultra Compact, 3g, Acrylic Chassis, No Cable
- Clean neutral and uncolored timbre, analogue tonality
- Neat Treble textures with smooth decays, moderate airiness
- Snazzy Mid-Bass with fast decays, fast attack
- Bass exhibit acceptable texture definition, so does the Mids
- Snappy but slightly soft edged guitars and stringed instruments tone
- Great speed and transients handling
- Forward, and clear male/female vocals, good depth
- Commendable micro details, naturally nuanced.
- Realistic Piano, Violin and Cello tones, attack, and decays
- Great sibilance resistance almost all the time
- Good background with very minimal floor noise
- Stable fidelity only up to 100Ω, struggling beyond that.
- Treble and Bass extensions fall short of being great.
- Too polite dynamic overall, soft visceral bite and groove
- Weak bodied sub-Bass, flat sounding seismic sensation and impact
- Short snappy Bass decays could use a few milliseconds more.
- Slightly soft layering separation, instruments are well spaced but less vivid.
- Less than spectacular headstage, soundstage moderate at best
- Flat percussions sound, weak vibrancy, and bite
- Spatial imaging less precise and less holographic
JCally JA21 is a very polite version of JM20 if I am to draw a comparison. You can listen to this DAC/Amp for hours on end and will not be fatigued. The biggest strength for JA21 is the analogue tonality even when paired with highly analytical headphones/IEMs like the ER4SR and KSE1500 – of being realistic/musical sounding reminiscent of the Burrbrown and Wolfson Hi-Fi era. Additionally, the form factor of JA21, being the most compact is hard to ignore. However, the modest theme applied in almost every area can be regarded as uninspiring and dull especially if paired with natively slow or warm sounding headphones/IEMs. Power is just enough if you keep it below 100 Ohm. On the other hand, the SNR wasn’t as great to qualify as a suitable AUX feed for piggyback amplifiers. I gladly recommend JA21 for those wanting polite and musical sonic indulgence.
OVERALL RATING: 75/100
Recommended Pairing: Natively bright, sparkly, and dynamic BA/DD.