pl | en



Manufacturer: JCAT
Price (when reviewed): 750 €

ul. Rymarska 45/1
53-206 Wrocław | POLSKA


Provided for test by: JPLAY


Translation: Ewa Muszczynko
Images: Wojciech Pacuła

No 209

October 1, 2021


A power supply is a component that supplies power to at least one electric load. Typically, it converts one type of electrical power to another, but it may also convert a different form of energy – such as solar, mechanical, or chemical – into electrical energy., date of access: 19.05.2020.

OOKING AT THE AUDIO INDUSTRY from a broad perspective, i.e. one not limited to perfectionist (audiophile) audio, one might probably say, according to my intuition and not statistics, that the best sellers now are mobile music devices, i.e. wireless (Bluetooth) speakers and headphones. If we visited any city, town or village now, we would quickly spot someone on the street listening to music this way.

⸜ THE CASE OF FILES If it is really so, then the basis of today’s audio (again, from a broad perspective) is the Internet and streaming services, such as Amazon Music, Apple Music, You Tube Music, Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, etc. And even though until recently the first two of them, closely followed by the third one, have been associated with low quality sound due to the type of files offered (lossy AAC from Apple and mp3 from the two other providers), it is changing now.

Apple has recently announced that it is totally changing its business model and, as part of Apple Music HD, it will only offer lossless files of at least CD quality, while, by the end of the year 2021, 75 million 16/44.1 higher resolution tracks will also be made available. The remaining players have also entered the competition: Amazon (Amazon Music HD) and Spotify have also announced they are going to shift to 16/44 lossless files, though the latter has not specified when the change is going to take place and to what extent.

As JIM AUSTIN, Editor-in-chief of the “Stereophile” magazine, wrote in the editorial of the September issue:

[…] in one obvious way this is reason for celebration. After 25 years of corrupting music, the music industry, and the aural tastes of young people, MP3-style lossy compression is dead and gone. Good riddance.

⸜ JIM AUSTIN, Respect the music, “STEROPHILE” Vol. 44, No. 9, September 2021, p. 3.

It must be admitted that part of the “network traffic”, as IT people would call it, is also used by us, audiophiles. It seems that our share is growing, too. It is because the infrastructure of the streaming services that we care about the most, i.e. Tidal and Qobuz, has improved with time. Audio file players are dealing with streaming more and more efficiently, while we are becoming more and more aware of the needs and requirements of the systems that we use to listening to music “from the Internet”.


ONE OF THE SIMPLEST and, which is important, cheapest ways to improve file sound quality is the replacement of small switching-mode “wall” power supplies, which are part of routers, players, file transports and digital-to-analog converters, with complex linear power supplies, such as the tested JCAT INITIO 3 model. Let me remind you that the company is JPLAY’s sister brand. The former focuses on hardware, while the latter on music playing software.

It is not the first power supply with JCAT logo, as the company has already released a more expensive OPTIMO 3 DUO model. Apparently, both have been created with the thought of a custom “music” computer with a linear power supply in mind. However, they have proven to be so effective and universal that MARCIN OSTAPOWICZ, the co-owner of the JCAT and JPLAY companies, together with his business partner, have decided to make them a permanent part of their product range.

We can find the following information on the company’s website:

INITIO 3, like OPTIMO 3 DUO, delivers life-like natural sound. Designed and fine-tuned with only the highest audio quality in mind, INITIO 3 will greatly improve sonic performance of JCAT USB & NET cards or any other low-current audio component requiring up to 3A.

⸜ TECHNOLOGY The Initio 3 is a simpler version of the Optimo 3 Duo power supply. The model is available with 5 V or 12 V output voltage. It has two DC outputs, though the power supply unit is the same for both and it is built around the same (JCAT proprietary) Linear Voltage Regulator Board and ultra-fast rectifier. The manufacturer declares that they utilize “state-of-the-art ultra-low noise voltage regulators” in the design. These are Analog Devices LT3045 voltage stabilizers.

The power supply comes standard with one shielded 1.2 meter DC cable. Another DC cable can be additionally purchased. On the power supply side, the DC cable ends with the excellent Neutrik powerCON connector, while on the other side there is a connector selected by the user, customized to match their device at no extra cost.

The chassis of the tested power supply unit is made of a single sheet of steel, which ensures quite good rigidity and low resonance. The front of the chassis has been machined from nicely looking anodized aluminum. As we can read on the company website, “INITIO 3 features multiple protection mechanisms to guarantee safe and trouble-free operation for many years.


⸤ THE WAY WE LISTENED The JCAT Initio 3 power supply unit was tested in the “High Fidelity” reference system where it was connected to the MYTEK BROOKLYN BRIDGE file player. The player is equipped with a small switching-mode power supply, purchased by the manufacturer from one of the subcontractors as a complete circuit.

The JCAT power supply was placed directly on the upper shelf of the Finite Elemente Master Reference Pagode Edition MkII rack, on its own feet. Power was supplied to it by either the Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version cable or the player. During the test, I listened to music from Tidal.

Albums used in the test | a selection

⸜ ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM, Stone Flower (CTI Records 40th Anniversary Edition), CTI Records/ Tidal, FLAC MQA Studio 16/44,1 (1970/?).
⸜ JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, Welcome To The Other Side (Concert From Virtual Notre Dame), Sony Music Catalog G010004513144E/ Tidal, FLAC MQA Studio 24/48 (2020/2021).
⸜ KINGDM, Your Love (feat. Soran & Reo Cragun), Capital Records/Tidal, FLAC MQA 24/44,1 (2018).
⸜ MARY KOMASA, Degenerate Love, Warner Music Poland/Tidal, SP, FLAC 16/44,1 (2019).
⸜ MILES DAVIS, Kind of Blue, Columbia | Sony Legacy/Tidal, FLAC MQA Studio 24/96 (1956/?).
⸜ MIRACLE OF SOUND, Level 11, Tidal, FLAC MQA Studio 16/44,1 (2020).
⸜ PATRICIA BARBER, Clique, Impex Records/Tidal, FLAC MQA Studio 24/352,8 (2021).
⸜ STEPHAN MICUS, Winter’s End, ECM Records ECM 2698/Tidal, FLAC 16/44,1 (2021).

THE CHANGE THAT WE HEAR AFTER CONNECTING the Initio 3 power supply unit is clear and you do not have to listen carefully to hear it. However, it took me a while to understand WHAT the PSU really does and WHAT it really changes in sound. It is because, in contrast to many other power supply units, both those very good and not-so-good ones, it does not change the character of sound which largely remains the same. The changes are related to the inside of sound that has been offered from the very beginning by the given device powered by the Initio 3.

Let us take two totally different recordings as an example – the title track from the album Degenerate Love by MARY KOMASA and Brazil (Aka Aquarela do Brasil) from the album Stone Flower by ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM. The former is a studio construction given close to us, with minimum reverberation around and behind musical elements, with emphasized bass. Jobim’s recording, in turn, is exceptionally natural, though it still makes use of artificial reverberation, especially when it comes to the vocal.

Though so different, both these tracks underwent a similar metamorphose with the linear power supply. First of all, the sound moved a little away from me. I would normally say that it had lost some of its tangibility, but not this time. As it seems to me, the thing is that the Polish PSU connected to the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge file player purifies the “background” of the musical message. That is why it seems deeper and at the same time does not lose its resolution.

Jobim’s vocal did not “run away” into the depth of the soundstage at all, although the Initio 3 does move the music away from us. On the contrary – even though the vocal seemed to have more air around it, it was more substantial and thus more natural, more true and less “produced” . I heard the changes that I am talking about in an A/B comparison where ‘A’ was the Mytek player with its own in-built switching mode power supply, while ‘B’ was the Mytek player with the JCAT PSU. However, this was still more audible during a shift from B to A (B/A).

On August 6th, the Impex Records label released the latest, long awaited PATRICIA BARBER’S album entitled Clique. The material was recorded by her long-time colleague, Jim Anderson, in DXD, i.e. with PCM signal of 32 bit resolution and 352.8 kHz sampling frequency (the Mytek player plays this file in 24 bit resolution). Anderson mixed the album in Skywalker Sound, while the mastering was done by Bob Ludwig from Gateway Mastering. Tidal offers this album in the FLAC MQA Studio 32/352.8 format.

It was with the track This Town from this album that the shift from A to B was really painful. It is because everything “came down” and became grayish. With the tested PSU, the double bass, so natural and dynamic, lost its depth and thus sounded a little more two-dimensional. The change may have not been profound, but it was painful, as I have already said – clear enough for me not to be willing to listen to the album WITHOUT the tested PSU again. At the same time, I noticed that the higher resolution of the given file and its sampling frequency were, the more audible the impact of the Initio 3 on sound was. However, it does not mean that there was nothing that the tested device could do with 16/44.1 files. Even though it will seem illogical in the context of what I have just written, it was different.

Born in northern Italy, producer and songwriter using the nickname KNGDOM, made his debut with 200,000 streams on Spotify. His music is an intelligent combination of a warm voice and very good electronic music, thanks to which it sounds amazing both in clubs and at home. The single Your Love (feat. Soran & Reo Cragun) released in 2018 and encoded in MQA 24/44.1 was excellently produced and sounds great.

Here again we are talking about music constructed at a studio, with powerful meaty bass. Without the tested PSU, it became grayish and “came down”, which shows that adding the PSU not only has impact on high-resolution files, but also on CD-quality files, though to a different extent. The difference was that while recordings such as the abovementioned Barber’s or Jobim’s albums, or MILES DAVIS’s music from the album Kind of Blue regained their naturalness with the tested PSU, electronic music recordings (Komasa, KINGDM and the classic – JEAN-MICHEL JARRE) gained something that could be called the deepening of basic sound features. If they were dynamic before, their dynamics would go higher with the PSU, if bass went low, then it was better controlled, but still deep and soft with it.

⸜ COMPARISON The comparison of the JCAT Initio 3 power supply with the very good NORDOST QSOURCE PSU revealed changes that reminded me of listening to the Mytek player with the JCAT Optimo 3 Duo power supply. The American product makes it possible for us to play files with a deeper background, better focused and denser – this is about the compactness of sound and the amount of sound “in sound”. Again – these are not “to be or not to be” kind of changes, but they are easy to detect.


THE INITIO 3 DOES SO MUCH to discipline sound, to show music in greater swing and make it more natural, that shifting from this power supply to the Nordost PSU was less interesting than making the shift from the in-built Mytek player power supply to the Initio. To cut a long story short, the advantages of using the JCAT power supply instead of a switching mode power supply were greater than replacing it with a better power supply. However, we also need to know that this is a road that never ends and engages us. After we have got used to the Initio 3, we will want more and this is where the Optimo 3 Duo model will wait for us.

However, one needs to start somewhere and the Initio 3 is perfect for the purpose. It is a very well designed and made product which brings much better sound. It does not change the character of the device to which it is connected, but improves what is already good in its sound: it disciplines bass without thinning it, broadens and deepens the panorama, but also focuses sounds better. In Latin, ‘Initio’ means ‘at the beginning’ and this is the best description of this successful product, and the way it impacts sound.


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