NymPHONOmaniac

Headphoneus Supremus
The End-game Budget Dongle Miracle
Pros: Hyper-realist tonality, transparency, details, vivid clarity, clean noise floor, powerfull 2vrsm output, reference flat tuning with slight treble push, unbeatable price to performance, metal jacks and 8 cores spcs cable, plug&play
Cons: The price is too good to be true so it might be hard to find availability
-JCALLY JM20 NO GIMMICK REVIEW-
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TONALITY: 8.5/10
TECHNICALITIES: 9/10
CONSTRUCTION-DESIGN: 8.5/10
SOUND VALUE: 10/10


Tested with: UAPP app+Hisenior T2U (crisp neutral) and Audiosense T800 (bassy W shape, capricious about impedance output match), BQEYZ Spring Summer, BLON BL-03 and MINI and Koss PortaPRO.
All music in FLAC including Jazz, classical, rock, Soul, R@B, rap, electronics....

About my story with the JM20 :
Sometimes I try to enter Ali Express budget audiophile ''Darkweb'' by searching specific DAC chip model, this time it was the Cirrus CS43131 dac that obsess me due to my overwhelming love for the Tempotec HD PRO I own that use this chip. Suddenly I see a very cheaply priced dongle that stated to use this very DAC! Yes, like a lion in the bush ready to jump on its prey: i was excited to try this JCALLY JM20 dongle!
I already know Jcally company for creating budget earbuds, but discover they are manufacturing DAC dongles as well. The JM20 being the ‘’flagship’’ of numerous others ones that uses DAC chip like the common Realtek ALC5686 (JA04) or less common CX21988 (JA21). The fact Jcally is an experienced audio company give me more confidence about the product because we can often found OEM product on Ali express that isn’t as described. But the fact even before I receive the JM20 it begin to be solidly praised on NBBA boost even more my expectation too.

Now, my first question was: does it sound exactly the same as Tempotec HD Pro for half the price?? Man, it was already a bargain at 40$, could we really expect such sound quality for less than 20$???
The answer is YES. And welcome into Budget Audiophile Heaven buddy!

My ears confirm that the JM20 does use the exact same DAC as HD PRO, but not the same cable components, neither the same behavior. Firstly, HD PRO has an extra volume control, making it let you choose to use it as pre-amp or use your phone as pre-amp, this can alter final sound perception. Things can get complicate when we take in account both have ‘’impedance matching auto-gain’’ that sometimes we need to bypass to achieve right loudness dynamic (when a 16-32ohm IEM have low sensitivity for example, PS : yeah i look at you Final Audio!).

So going back to JM20 :
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CONSTRUCTION is very good for the price. I mean, its a simple dongle and they use a nice quality braided SPC cable with both usb-c and 3.5mm jacks made of metal. It doesn't feel like a dongle that can break easily, and we cant say this for a lotta dongle above 20$!

SOUND

Crisp neutral with slight extra treble focus would be the easiest way to describe it, but its more complicated than this.

TONALITY is a hint (beautifully yes!) cold-analytical, bass light, clean, detailed and textured. It seem to have slight treble emphasis, but well balanced in a smooth macro balance. It’s very realistic and textured, not thick, warm and euphonically natural. The more it go up in frequencies, the more the sounds have attack grip and air. Everything sound like ‘’perfect live concert’’ with the JM20, it doesn't feel colored, yet it’s unique in how it presents music with a slight boost in ‘’clarity presence’’ and air. The magical trick here is that it doesn't sound artificial, and impressively refined in cohesion.

TECHNICALITIES are really top-notch (not just on specs sheet), and i would say that even if priced anywhere in sub-100$ price range. Treble is fast and snappy. The bass is clean, textured and punchy, with well-separated lean sub bassline. It will no give extra bass weight to your IEM. Mids are super transparent yet rich in texture and details. Imaging is top-notch and very deep. Clean is the background. Total blackness. Powerful is the amping, up to 2vrms. Undistorted is the sound even at high volume, with the exception of rare bass struggling with headphones like Koss Portapro (60ohm-101db sensitivity) at Dangerously high volume (for testing purpose!). Crisp, vivid, sharp and edgy attack. And man, you get lot of bonus micro-details too with the JM20! In fact, this remind me of a more delicate sounding Xduoo X20 which use ES9018q2m dac...yep, it’s THAT good.

The JM20 talent is all about the DAC it use, which do all the job right and doesn't even need the talent to implement due to its inner amping section in chip. We are into the futur with this Cirrus CS43131, in the sense that it permit to offer a real entry-level (or even mid-tier) audiophile sound for the price of a Big Mac trio (15$). It’s just ridiculously high in SOUND VALUE BENEFIT RETURN!!

This is it : we're here my budget audiophiles fellows.
And nope, it’s not Bluetooth gimmick future, the audiophile future is still connected with cable.

Sidenote: The cirrus CS43131 dac chip have auto-gain detection, so it will deliver its full power only if you use an extra 3.5mm male-to-female adapter cable. Or well, an iem, headphones or earbuds above 64ohm. As well, i suggest you to use hifi audio music app to benefit its full potential. UAPP is the one i suggest and use.

COMPARISONS :
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VS TEMPOTEC SONATA HD (30$):
The JM20 have higher resolution, cleaner noise floor, more vivid dynamic. The sound is more open with crisper more precise imaging. We have edge to attack and snap, which lack with the Sonata. Layers of sound ''float'' in soundstage with more accuracy, articulation and transparency. Both bass and treble extend more naturally. JM20 is 2vrms while Sonata HD is 1vrsm, so 2 times less powerfull. Mid bass of Sonate is more boosted, leading to a bit of harmonic distortion. Sure, overall sound of JM20 is more organic and fluid, while more grainy and compressed with the Sonata.
JM20 is superior in everything, from SNR to amping power and yes, even construction due to fragile Sonate HD cable vs solid 8cores SPC cables of JM20.

VS Good Guy Miguel ES9280C DAC Dongle (40$):
This dongle came out of the blue and is incredible for just 40$! The Sabre dac is really a masterpiece of its own and it's sure not an easy fight for JM20! So let's begin by comparing their official specs. Both have same amping power of 2vrms with automatic gain adjustment, both have SNR of impressive 130db dynamic range, both are 32bit DAC, and in term of harmonic distortion, JM20 have THD of 115db while the ES9280c is a little lower with 112db.
First thing that hit when comparing those too is the JM20 sounds more technical, detailed, and flat-neutral while ES9280C has a bit of bass boost, more natural (or romantic-colored)thicker timbre, and a different sense of holographic musicality presentation where it lack the clean air of JM20. Imaging is a bit better with JM20 due to more spacious instrument separation and more airy extended treble. In some sens, both follow an opposite tonal presentation, JM20 focusing on treble presence and S9280C on bass presence and weight. For bright or cold IEM i go ES9280C for neutral, warm, smooth or overly V shape IEM i go JM20.
Technicalities go to JM20 while (more subjective) tonality go to ES9280C

VS TEMPOTEC HD PRO (40$):
These 2 some near the exact same apart from a slight extra brightness for JM20, either due to SPC cable used or how we can control volume with HD PRO. In some sens, HD PRO is more versatile if you have different audio storage devices that need different connection type, but i do feel JM20 simpler built might be more durable. Anyway, at half the price JM20 represent a notable better sound value without a doubt.

VS LG V30+ (around 150$ used, ess9218P dac):
V30 is the best sounding phone I try yet, but it can't fully compete with the JM20 firstly due to how its implemented (long audio chain) and lower power output of 1vrm vs 2vrms.JM20 sound notably more open, detailed, cleaner as well as organic-liquid compared to a bit more grainy bright V30. Biggest difference is how dynamic is better articulated and less compressed, making imaging more spacious and precise in instrument placement. V30 sounds like a tapestry of sound in front of you, wide but neither deep or tall while JM20 is like a concert hall with natural decay and 3D staging.
Yes, a 15$ dongle can beat flagship audiophile phone.

CONCLUSION:
This is too good to be true but it is true so JUMP ON THIS SUPREME DONGLE BARGAIN NOW!
Companies like Astell&Kern (use dual CS43198 for their new dongle), IKKO (Zerda use CS43198), Hiby etc sure will not be happy about this new dongle benchmark because they aim for higher benefit than more humble Jcally.
Tempotec HD PRO was already my higly recommend dac dongle but even if it's sad, Jcally JM20 represent 2 times a better bargain at half the price.
If you search for a flat crisp ultra-clean sounding dac dongle that will deliver real reference audiophile sound only good DAP can deliver, God of Budget Audiophile have heard your utopic dream and exhaust it.
Hail to the king of budget dongle JCALLY JM20!


PS: I order my JM20 with my own money from CKlewis Audio Store and i underline it because its a great Ali store, but mostly because shipping was FAST to Canada (3weeks compared to 2months average). As well, right now its discontinued (seem like Asian already know about his dongle?) because of to high demand BUT should be back on stock SOON (June)! So, give a look to this (non-affiliated) link time to time:
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005002272265385.html
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NymPHONOmaniac
NymPHONOmaniac
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Tommy Gunn
@NymPHONOmaniac
Did you happen to test the JM20 with native DSD play using UAPP, or just FLAC? Because I am having lots of trouble with DSD files. The DAC absolutely isn't able to play DSD natively (UAPP is tossing out errors...and I've been in contact with the developer and he is under the belief that this DAC is using non-standard drivers for Native DSD). It's also having trouble even with DoP. Any feedback or, hopefully, suggestions on how to get DSD going with the JM20?
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