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Jcat USB XE and Pico Nano – Beauty from within

Pros

  • Ultimate calmness
  • Very rich in detail
  • Tight timing
  • Plug and Play

Cons

  • It remains a serious investment
  • Price: € 1175

    Build quality
    Usability
    Sound
    Price
    Jcat USB XE - Optimo Nano

    Intro

    Contents

    We have written before about the Jcat NET XE pci-express card. A network card from the Polish company Jcat. We have been using pci-express cards from Jcat for some time now and time after time we are surprised by how well it works. The ‘Femto’ series brings more calmness and flow compared to standard usb and network cards. The more expensive XE line has yet to surpass this. We install the Jcat USB XE for you and sit back and relax.

    Computer audio is pretty nerdy. We realize that. But then again: we’re nerdy too. So we like to write about it. Especially your editor, who also likes a bit of a challenge when it comes to data networking. We have loads of articles on network cables, switches, backgrounds and tutorials on how to set up a good network. It may be tough reading for the beginner, but it is interesting to scan, because you can always get something out of it to improve your home situation – for free or for a minimal investment.

    Why computer audio?

    Why would you install 1600 euro pci-express cards in a pc that is not made for audio? It’s actually quite simple: it works. The question is, of course: does it work so well that it is worth the investment. More on that later.

    A second point is: you can also use them in a server to make an equivalent upgrade. The USB card may be less useful then – connecting a DAC directly to the server we almost never recommend – but using the network card and then making a direct connection is an interesting option because you then exclude the switch with ‘common mode noise’.

    Third, it’s educational and fun to build your own audio computer or server. Through this kind of projects you get much more insight into how streaming audio works and what does and does not affect the playback. We will soon discuss operating systems and see if there are influences on the playback (we guess so).

    NET XE and USB XE

    The Jcat Femto series has been on the market for a few years now. And we’ve been using them almost since day-1 in our Alpha Audio PC that we use for reviewing software packages. It’s also a ROON endpoint and frankly we just need to start setting it up permanently as a ROON endpoint. Right now it’s still running Windows-10 with Fidelizer. And yes: it sounds great, but it can be better software-wise we think.

    The new Jcat XE line has a few notable changes from the Femto line. First, JCat uses a different clock-crystal (an Emerald cyrstal). A better one. Now we are still wondering if it really does something for network cards, but well…. many manufacturers do it and maybe the marketing works so well that they just do it from that point of view.

    A second improvement is the galvanic decoupling and the power supply on the card (the XE line uses LT3045 linear power regulators). And yes: that definitely does the trick. What is also handy is that the power supply mode is automatically recognized. The complete power supply of the pci-express bus is closed off by the way: the pcb does not have the power lines either. If the card recognizes a power source on the molex, then it takes that power supply. If it recognizes an external power supply, it switches automatically. By the way, you should never connect both power supplies…. We haven’t tried it to see what happens, because these cards cost $800…. right. That’s almost twice the price compared to the Femto-series. Is it audible? More on that in a moment.

    Installation

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