Jays Audio CDT-3 MKII, DAC-2 MKIII Review.

Jays Audio CDT3 MKIII and DAC-2 MKIII Review. 

By Steve Huff

My Video Review…

It has been a long while since I have spun a compact disc and to be honest, I assumed I would never listen to one again. Why you ask? Well, I have been into streaming music for years now. Streaming is convenient, it is easy, and it allows us to discover new music that we would have never ever found otherwise.

I have also invested in my streaming front end with a very nice streamer and DAC and I have to say, it sounds mighty good. Better than I remember my old CD’s sounding. With this convenience and quality, why would I need to store thousands of CD’s in my home when I can just stream? That is exactly what my thought was and why I sold my big CD collection a couple of years ago.

Jays Audio CDT-3 MKII Extremely Nice Build and Style

Anytime in the past when I would go to play a CD they would sound a little flat to me. Then again, I never did really invest in a top tier fancy audiophile CD transport. I did at one time try out a $3500 high end brand name CD player (was their starter player)  that I thought was over rated and that did nothing to change my mind about streaming vs CD.

I returned it within a week and decided at that time to stick with streaming. It also developed a skipping problem in the first week of use. It was frustrating to say the least.

Enter the Jays Audio CDT3 MKII and DAC-2 MKIII

This is a two punch knockout combo that includes the transport which spins the discs and am R2R DAC that decodes the content of them. A two part overbuilt tank like duo that surely looks the part. These are some of the best built pieces I have encountered in audio, and if I can say so, they are built much nicer than many “made in the USA” products I have tested.

Just like the phone or tablet or laptop you are reading this on, these pieces are made in China. 

I will first talk about the transport as to me, this is the real star of the show.

Jays Audio CDT 3 MKII Design Highlight:

  • Jay’s Audio Tuned CDPRO2-LF Mechanism 

  • Schurter IEC Inlet

  • Improved Noise Filter with 110v/230v switching

  • Talema Encapsulated Transformers

  • Multistage Super Regulator with Boutique Grade Caps

  • Neutrik XLR

  • Oven Controlled Crystal Oscillator OCXO

  • i2s LVDS Output 

  • Scientific Digital Output Isolation Transformer

  • Native/Upsampling 44.1kHz / 176.4kHz Configurable via Toggle Switch

Supported Formats:

  • Redbook CD, CDR, CDR/W only

The Build

The build is clean, uses high end parts and it really seems like these two pieces would last through the next World War (which may indeed be coming soon to a country near you).

These appear to be true end game pieces for your CD playback and while there are more expensive transports and players out there costing well into the 5 figures, this one comes in at under $5k.

I would never ever spend $20k or more on a CD transport or player unless I had 20,000 CD’s and that was all I listened to day in and day out. Even so, if I did have 20,000 CD’s I would probably save serious cash and go with the Jays Audio CD2 MKII as it is quite astonishing all the way around. No hype here as I have zero reason to hype anything.

Just To Be Clear…

I get no cash, no revenue and no commissions from any audio company. I do not have audio companies that advertise with me and have no monetary reason at all to hype any product.

I write about products that come in that are worthy of my time to write about. Not that my time is that special, but I would not sit around writing a review for hours or days on end if I did not like a product. I am not here to bash anything or any brand, but I will give praise when I feel it is worthy.

These Jay’s Audio products are worthy of some very high praise and not only for the looks, build quality and style but for the performance as well.

I have blown a lot of cash in my lifetime on audio because it has been a passion and sometimes obsession of mine since I was a kid.

I remember playing Hall & Oates on an all in one record player that would make a Crosley all in one sound like high end HiFi. I had the “One on One” single back in the day on 45 and it was on regular rotation.

I have made mistakes with audio purchases throughout my journey and I have made some great scores as well. At this stage in life I have learned when and when not to take the plunge on something, and I have also learned how to find deals when I can.

Deal or No Deal?

Some will say that $5k for a transport is no deal. Well, it may not be a deal but it is not overpriced in todays world of crazy HiFi pricing. With the Jays Audio pieces you do in fact get what you pay for. 

I feel this piece is priced perfectly for what it offers in todays high end audio world. It’s not a snob piece, meaning it’s not something that cost $4k to put together and is being sold for $25k. This looks every inch of $5,000 and when you go to lift it, you will understand what I mean. When you look inside, you will see the quality and superb design.

When you gaze over the machine you will notice it uses the best laser ever known to man for reliable performance (Jay’s Audio Tuned Philips CDPro2-LF Mechanism). You will realize this will and could last you for possibly the rest of your life. It could easily be the last CD playback device you will ever need to buy.

The laser used in this piece is no longer made, but since it is one of the best there is, Jay’s Audio have hoarded hundreds of them just in case a future repair is needed. That is pretty cool. 

I have had CD players from a certain USA brand that cost me $3500 and lasted only months until the skipping started or the failure to read a CD started. I have had consumer priced CD players from Sony, Phillips, Teac, Onkyo that also failed and while these were consumer models priced to be affordable, they were often noisy, janky and had issues.

I once had a nice $5k Yamaha CD player that was superb and sounded very nice, but it had a DAC inside of it that became outdated rather quickly as it was made in a time when DAC’s were constantly being improved.

Today Yamaha sells a CD player that comes in any $7,000. Yes, this is where we are in high end audio today. While it is a fine player indeed in looks and sound, it’s $7k and is not as robust as the Jay’s.

The Transport

Owning a CD Transport is a brilliant idea if you have a nice CD collection that you listen to often. With a transport you can change out the DAC anytime you like but the transport will always be with you. It is the transport that is responsible for the ever so important digital bits to be sent to the DAC with as little harm as possible (Jitter, etc).

This Gryphon CD player is $39,000

I am happy to report that during my time with the Jay’s Audio CDT3 MKIII it gave me not one single issue. It was silent as a mouse and always did what it was supposed to do. It also sounded…well…better than any CD playback I have ever heard in my home when paired with the companion DAC. It’s stunning in this regard.

The Jays Audio DAC 2 MKIII

While one can use any DAC of their choosing the new DAC 2 MKIII was made to go with the CDT3 MKIII. They go together so well, it’s like peanut butter and jelly or like bacon with eggs.

While I tested the CD Transport with my DCS Lina DAC there was indeed a synergy there with the Jays DAC. The sound was almost alive, electric, and had an energy about it. The clarity was superb and the bass and fluidity was something special as well.

In fact, it made my CD’s sound rather amazing. There were discs I heard a thousand times but it was like it was the first time. There was nothing about it that was flat, sterile or digital sounding.

This DAC is not a warm one rather it is about detail, instrument separation and a fluid presentation. Yes, I know these terms like “fluid” are hard to understand for some but the music just flowed like water out of a brand new kink free hose on a sunny summer day. This is also an R2R dac but doesn’t have the usually warm and laid back presentation that some of them have.

I was jamming out to rock, metal, jazz, bluegrass, ambient and all kinds of music (I like ALL music) and it was connecting with me.

I then sat and regretted selling most of my CD collection two years ago before our move. I started to realize there was something special about it other than the build, the sound, the looks.

It took me back in time to 1986 when I would listen to CD after CD in my room while I hid away from the world as an awkward teenager. That may sound like a negative, hiding away, but it was my choice. I had friends but on most nights I preferred to sit and listen to music. I would lay in bed after loading a CD and listen to it in its entirety. I would then get up and load another.

I did this at least 4 nights per week and I loved it. Listening to the Jay’s Audio combo at night had me going back to that time when life was peaceful, life was simple, and life was different.

Like Vinyl, it’s almost like a ritual and sometimes this is good.

The CDT MKIII also comes with a solid metal remote that you could use to defend yourself if need be. Everything here seems to be of you quality and while I can not speak to the longevity for years to come I can tell you it appears that it will last for decades.

I loved this experienced and if I still had all of my CD’s this would be my CD solution within my reference system. You may get 5% more by spending 5X more but the question at that point would be…why?

MORE INFO

Check out the Jays Audio CDT3 MKIII and DAC2 MKIII: https://www.jays-audio.com

US Dealer: https://www.tekaudiospecialties.com

International: https://www.beatechnik.com/shop

 

 

6 Comments

  1. This certainly seems like a great value DAC and Transport thanks for this detailed review! This set seems be in that sweet spot where diminishing returns really kick in. I’m wondering if you be able to review a similar priced DAC/Streamer/Pre-amp from Auralic called the Altair G2.1? Its about $6k USD. I image it would be comparable to Jays maybe it has a few surprises up its sleeve…
    https://us.auralic.com/products/altair-g2-1?variant=40106204987560

  2. Just what the Doctor ordered. I still enjoy my CD collection. I often prefer the same recording from silver disc over streaming. The records and player went 20 years ago. Transport and ever-improving DAC is the way forward. Good work.

  3. Hey Steve,
    I’ve been considering buying the DAC2 from Todd at Tek Audio, but hardly any listening impressions around. Appreciate your thoughts… Any way to compare it to other R2R DACs like Denafrips Terminator, etc?

    • The DAC 2 sounds nothing like the Denafrips DACs. The Terminator and Plus have lovely relaxed but large sound, detailed that is not overdone. More of a big warm hug with detail. The DAC 2 is more alive, lit up and seems to focus more on the treble energy. It does everything very well (soundstage, imaging, etc) and is a lovely DAC. Depends on the kind of sound presentation you are looking for. In my system with the Enleum AMP it is almost too tipped up, but with the Pass Labs amps, it is really nice and tamed down. It depends on what speakers and amp you run. If they are warm leaning, the DAC 2 is superb. If you have a bright system, it may be too much of a good thing. Build is fantastic and looks are as well.

  4. About a year ago I bought a Marantz Ruby CD player designed by the legendary Ken Ishiwata priced at $4k. This made sense for me for several reasons. First I still have a huge collection of CDs as well as vinyl. Second, my wife only likes to interact with our stereo system via the simplicity of playing a CD. Third, It sounds very good and seems to be very well built. Ken designed his own transport since he could not find any off the shelf units that met his standards.

    I do like steaming as well and it is great to be able to immediately listen to music reviewed in the New York Times, The Absolute Sound, or other sources.

    Thanks for the review. There is still a place for CD players which are less fussy to set up and use than a Vinyl system.
    C

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