Long-time follower of JPlay and the PC DIY server builds.
My DIY server was a single pc setup. HD Plex psu with 12v direct to CPU. 19v to HD Plex 250w Hi fi ATX dc to dc. This connected to ATX only of MB only.
5v outputs to two JCat Optimo Nano’s. These powered SSD’s for OS & music drives, and supply to JCat USB XE.
JCat USB XE card for output to DAC. SATA cables JCat, original. ATX & power cables, Ghent Audio.
JPlay, AO, & Fidelizer running on W server 2012 R2.
The JPlay route to improving pc’s audio to achieve better music reproduction has given me years of slow steady progress towards a far better musical experience than I ever experienced before.
Many ups & downs along the way with huge frustrations but, outweighing all of that, the rewards were fantastic. Not being that IT savvy, I have relied on the forum heavily for technical guidance on this journey & the many topics with their contributors without which, I would never have succeeded.
Lampizator Big 7 Dac. Balanced with volume control. ATC SCM 50 Active speakers.
Ideon 3R Master Time Black Star Clocker, JCat XACT S1.
Puritan PSM 156 power conditioner, supplied by a 5kVA balanced CTE isolation transformer on dedicated hi fi circuit.
I’d been considering a purpose built server for the last few years, but from those I had heard & their cost, I had not really thought it a viable route. I had never been particularly impressed by the sound quality of any I had experienced, particularly against what they cost. Having said that, most severs I had experienced had been via shows etc. so not the most ideal environments.
Always happy with my DIY build & in terms of cost & hands down a musical winner. However, from time to time it did let me down, which required intervention on my part to resolve whatever the issue may be. Having had my server for 10 plus years, it came time to decide whether to build a new server or go for dedicated purpose built unit, the latter being decided upon.
So the journey began. Ruling out the big manufacturers based on what I’d been hearing against cost, I looked at the boutique side of severs; based on either tweaked Windows OS, or bespoke OS.
I did demo a unit at home; a Windows based server with various options in terms of PSU, cabling, SSD’s & various other options including software tweaks for adjusting sound to taste.
I had the demo unit for several weeks & it sounded pretty good. After some communication with the manufacturer, a few tweaks & and software changes, things improved further but with a cost between 7 to 10k depending on options, it was a lot to invest.
My existing server bettered the demo unit in some key areas & overall, my server won out.
Enter the S1.
As a Jplay follower for years, I noted the release of the S1 & read various comments by those that had heard the S1. Could this be an option?
After many emails & questions to Marcin I decided to try the S1. Marcin must have got fed up with so many emails & questions but he dealt with all promptly, answering my specific queries in each case.
The S1 duly arrived. Hook up was a breeze. USB, LAN, SD card & power. I had a network issue to start with but all was resolved & again, Marcin was on hand via email, (he was actually on holiday with his family but still took time to answer any queries, so many thanks for that).
To be clear, I only used the S1 with music stored internally on the SSD. I have yet to get into streaming in any significant way.
Straight out of the box, the S1 sounded good. It bettered anything I’d previously heard at home. The initial standout for me was space, & air with the strands of the music occupying a more convincing sound stage, all sounding bigger but with more air & space around the music.
Decay of notes be they synthesised, acoustic, amplified or whatever, is excellent. With live recordings, the sense of the venue is more apparent. A friend of mine uses the term “plankton” to describe the small details in the sound stage, light & shade, micro details & atmosphere. It’s an appropriate description. All the small details you are aware of in recording are just more “there” with the S1.
I listen to a lot of electronic music & the layering, panning, & detail is excellent. You can just hear further into the mix. This is not forced details, not edgy at all. In fact, compared to my server, the S1 is more natural & relaxed in its presentation yet with detail/plankton in abundance.
Bass is also richly textured allowing more information low down to be heard. Listening to double bass live on a good recording was a revelation. The attack, sustain & decay along with the sound of the strings, the finger board & body of the instrument are all well-defined & make the instrument come alive in your listening space.
The S1 is pretty music agnostic. Even with poor recordings, in most cases the ability hear further in to the recording makes poor material more palatable than before.
Changing USB cables between S1 & DAC was interesting. The S1 clearly shows these differences.
The Master Time Clocker has always brought significant improvements to whatever server setup I’ve used during the upgrade process over the years. Now with the S1 in however, I’m not as convinced. I’m not ready to sell on the Master Time Clocker yet. The Master Time adds a bit more weight to the presentation, but at the expense of stage width, slightly compressing the presentation.
I’m pleased I took the plunge with S1, albeit a major decision financially, I have absolutely no regrets. I know Marcin is still working on user & OS upgrades, so I’m looking forward to that.
Ease of use, exceptional sound quality. What more could you ask for.