Entry into the digital audiophile game is easy. Add playback and/or server software to any sufficiently-powerful Mac or PC, hook it up to a DAC via USB and into the home network via Ethernet or wifi, and you’re off to the races.
Getting a digital audio setup to sound good/better/best is more of a challenge; one that demands dollars. And if you don’t have dollars, you might need time and patience.
For those of us looking to maximise the sound quality of Radiohead’s OK Computer or Brian Eno’s Another Green World, we need a network server/streamer built with attention paid to lowering its jitter and its electrical noise profile. Here the average PC or Mac eventually hits a glass ceiling. All the dongles, widgets and cables in the world won’t fix its fundamental limitation: high electrical noise.
Time to look for a bespoke solution. Buying off-the-shelf can be an expensive proposition. For parts counters thinking they can do better for less, the DIY route is theirs for the taking: source a low noise motherboard, a low noise hard drive, a low noise USB card and a low noise Ethernet card and install an SQ-optimised operating system and/or playback software. Think you can do it all? More power to ya.
Removing one potential obstacle from this product-sourcing challenge is JCAT’s NET Card FEMTO, reportedly “the world’s first audiophile network interface”. JCAT is the hardware branch of JPLAY – SQ-optimised software for Windows.
From the press release: “By using ultra-low noise linear power supplies and FEMTO Clock Technology combined with enterprise level Ethernet controller from Intel, the JCAT NET Card FEMTO ensures maximum network transmission quality.”
“Connect a network audio player, media server (NAS) or a broadband router to JCAT NET Card FEMTO and enjoy vast sound quality improvement when streaming audio data.”
Specifications are as follows:
• Audiophile PCI Express GbE LAN adapter
• Ultra-low noise linear regulators and filters eliminate noise interference from PC
• No switching power supplies anywhere
• FEMTO Clock Technology (Crystek CCHD-957) lowers jitter below measurable levels
• Industrial grade components with operating temperature range from -400 to +850
• Enterprise level Intel i350 Ethernet controller
• Gold plated high durability EMI shielded RJ-45 connectors
• Two LAN ports supporting up to 1Gbit connection speeds
• LED-off feature to counteract noise
• Requirements for optional PSU: 5V/1.5A min
• PSU can be supplied from computer PSU via LP4 connector or from an external PSU via 2.1/5mm center positive DC jack connector
• Low-profile & full-height laser cut PCIe brackets included
• All x1-x16 lane PCI Express 2.0 slots supported
• Supported operating systems: Windows (all editions) and Linux
My guess is we’ll also this card showing up in commercial server/streamer offerings. The JCAT NET Card FEMTO will be available from the end of July for €422.
Further information: JCAT