Jay’s Audio CDT-3 - Impressions of a Great CD Transport


I have spent decades enjoying this hobby and have learnt that everything can make a difference but not necessarily for the better, and that usually you need to pay for sound quality but there are so many overpriced items and a number of very expensive items where the designer does not have much of a clue. There is only one test for me regardless of what I paid, how sexy something looks, or what reviewers or Internet users think – and that is what my aural system perceives and this of course can be different to yours.

I am writing this short impression to let people know about the existence of this excellent product, and not because “mine is better than yours” or to gain approbation or to convince anyone of anything. Everyone is entitled to their own judgement and I am sure most have a different one to me. So I just want to give my own for someone that may have a similar perspective and might find this useful. I want to try and give something back for what I have learnt and benefited from some of the contributors to Internet sites including this one.

For this post to be of any value there needs to be a comparison and not simply statements of how the heavens have opened and the angels started singing. So, my CD system is an Esoteric K-03X (as transport) > Oyaide AR-910 XLR > Rey Audio Kinoshita R-DAC > custom silver interconnects > custom 8W pure class A battery mono power amps > custom silver speaker cable > Rey Audio Kinoshita K-Monitor KM1V speakers. For perspective, I have compared the K-03X as a standalone to the K-03X as a dedicated transport with digital out to the R-DAC and prefer the R-DAC to the K-03X’s DAC on all SQ counts. A fragment of component history, the R-DAC replaced an EMM DCC2 which it bested in every regard.

I have been looking to get a better sound from my CD’s. After much Internet reading re R2R DACs, I placed an order for a DENAFRIPS Terminator to compare to my R-DAC, which is now 8 years old. The technology and execution looks very interesting and I love components that are honestly priced and outperform some stratospherically mark-up ones. And I am so use to reading opinions of how China is making cheap rubbish it is nice to prove otherwise – China is actually innovating and making some very high quality items. Being out of Australia, living in Hong Kong for quite some time has given me a better perspective than the one I had from reading the Western press. The test of course will be when I have had some good listening time in my system with the Terminator which is yet to arrive. I was looking at the Terminator manual and noticed that the I2s connection had a more direct signal path than using the XLR S/PIDF connection. So I started looking for a CD player that had an I2s digital out. I asked Alvin from Vinshine Audio, with whom I placed my Terminator order, and he recommended the CDT-3. I could find nothing in English on the CDT-3 but took a punt and ordered it from Alvin and here I am.


All critical listening was done after a minimum of 2 hours of music playing to “warm” everything up and approximately 50 hours of playing since arrival. I do not believe in the hundreds of hours burn-in claims of some, but if the 50 hours is insufficient, the CDT-3 can only sound better.

I will largely restrict my comments to SQ and I look forward to hearing whether there is any scaling with the Terminator. To cut to the chase, this is an outstanding CD transport and it outperforms the K-03X as a transport. And as a bonus it is a wonder at its price. The outstanding difference is realistic information retrieval, and it is a significant difference. In this regard it is of a different class to the K-03X. Just put on the detail fest that is Paul Simon’s “Stranger to Stranger”. What wonderfully recorded wonderful music. There is so much information on this CD and the CDT-3 retrieves so much of it and immerses you in it. The CDT-3’s realistic and naturally detailed presentation brings this music alive for me and makes the listening experience so much more pleasurable. I know a component is doing this right when I find myself much more aware of the lyrics and the music - the additional detail and excellent flow grab my attention. Instruments and voices have so much more detail and this is across the whole frequency spectrum.

My impression so far is that the detail the CDT-3 provides is at no cost ie it does not achieve this through artificial etching or skewing the frequency range away from the bass. The CDT-3 also appears to be the K-03X’s equal or slight pier in relation to dynamics. It has very nice mid-range tonality and is largely neutral giving you what is on the disc – it does not sugarcoat making a poor CD sound good.

I will close with a few operational points for the CDT-3:

· It is top loading so you will need a reasonable amount of clearance to load CD’s

· There is a little more to do in that the CD top door is for you to manually slide (it has a nice smooth action) and a magnetic clamp needs to be placed on top of the CD

· It should not be left on – there is a warning that 24 hours is max. I asked Alvin and he replied that this is because its rubidium clock gets hot. But I would note that the CDT-3 does not run hot to the touch.

Lastly, Alvin of Vinshine Audio in Singapore, who I understand handles world-wide distribution, is the most responsive Internet supplier I have dealt with. I will also be posting this review on another site where I post as 1note

I have an interest in JaysAudio CDP3 and would certainly be interested in any further comments and comparisons you may have. 
As a recent owner of PS Audios Direct Stream components I’m convinced the 12s is superior to USB and according to Alvin Denafrip and Jaysaudio 12s input and output are pin compatible with PS Audio .

Thanks! for the review - bluewolf

keep us posted as you massage this transport into your system.

Happy Listening!

There is now a MK2 version of the Jay's Audio CDT-3 and it has wonderfully built on the what was already a great transport. I love this transport and have bought two of them, one for my speaker system and one for my headphone system. I understand that there have been significant changes made to the power supply and the results are easily discernible in improved dynamics and musical flow. I have reviewed the Jay's Audio and DENAFRIPS Terminator DAC combination on a separate thread:


I hope this is useful for anyone in search of an excellent CD transport. I highly recommend this transport for your consideration.
Hi @bluewolf ,

Thank you for the review!  
It's very emotional to read your review. I've the similar feeling when i read 6moons Srajan's review of Terminator last year.

Congrats to both DENAFRIPS & Jay's Audio! The hard work paid off!

Many thanks.

Alvin @ Vinshine

I agree totally with Alvins service . SECOND TO NONE.

I have the exact same set up of terminator and cdt3. Both are very special indeed when it comes to connecting you with the music and removing any digital hash. I have had many high end DACS and Transports and these are both truly unique and special  Unfortunately ever since I bought them  I have had little time to fully investigate all their virtues due to a hectic lifestyle and trying to get my Tannoy GFR's just right. Drivers alone have been away several months for reconing and rebuilding and the crossovers have caused no end of frustration.

My only fascination is the numerous links possible between these two transports which I have not been able to explore.

Bluewolf, what connections have you tried and found the most successful? i2s sounds fascinating as both units carry this connector. Separating the clock from the signal data should have significant
anti jitter effects.Alvin might be able to enlighten us to the different connections.

One other thought there is a huge blog from a Polish enthusiast about the cdt3 and his fascinating journey with it. He even informs us, if I have translated it correctly, that there are internal user changeable parameters related to that Rubidium atomic clock. Again Alvin might be able to enlighten us on these if there are any such alterable parameters.

Hi @audiojoy4 ,

I am glad that you are enjoying the combo and hopefully your speakers will be sorted out soon.

As to connections, I am afraid that my experience is not a good comparative one. The CDT-3 MK1 had a RJ/E Ethernet i2s digital out socket but unfortunately it was not compatible with the corresponding input on the Terminator. So with the MK1 I used the AES digital out and a length of 110 ohm Oyaide AR-910 1m cable.

But I really wanted to bypass the SPIDF interface of the Terminator. I had heard and read that the SPIDF interface either by design or execution was detrimental to the sound. And page 3 of the Terminator manual shows that the i2s connection bypasses a whole module, so all other things being equal, the simpler route should hopefully sound better. So when I learnt that the CDT-3 MK2 used an HDMI i2s interface compatible with the Terminator I sold my MK1 and ordered a MK2. On receiving the MK2 I went straight to using the HDMI i2s connection with 1m length of Belden HDMI cable. I have not had the time to do a comparison between the AES Oyaide AR-910 and the Belden HDMI from the MK2. I have placed an order for 1 piece of Audioquest HDMI Diamond 0.6m. I want to hear for myself whether this will make a difference from the Belden. I have an open mind. I remember moving from a Japanese high quality basic 1m coax cable costing $20 from the digital out of my then Marantz SA-7S1 CD player to my then Kinoshita DAC which Kinoshiota-san said was all that was needed and that other cables would not make a difference. Having been in this hobby for decades I like to come to my own conclusions so I bought 1 piece of Oyaide DR-510 0.7m RCA coax cable for $120 to experiment. Oh my did that cable make a huge difference. This was not a matter of preference or a result of the placebo effect or the Placido Domingo effect or that the stars were aligned with Uranus. To not hear the monumental positive change in every regard you would need to be suffering from an acute case of "I know everything without listening effect" or be partially deaf. So on the one hand I am hoping that the Audioquest will make a huge difference - who does not want an improvement? But on the other, I have never compared HDMI cables and if there is little to no difference I will sell the Audioquest at a loss and not be plagued by the nagging itch to get another for my second CDT-3/Terminator combo at the very high price this cable is selling for.
Hey bluewolf,

Just wanted to share that a professional review has been setup between Alvin and I for hometheaterreview.com on the CDT-3 MK2.  I had received many inquires from my readers on this transport.  I just recently became aware of your very positive impression on this thread.  The CDT-3 MK2 will be compared to a reference MBL and CEC transport as part of the reviewing process.  The transport was shipped today, therefore by next week I'll have begun to get my take on it's performance.  
Hey teajay,
Why don't you ask Alvin if you can review the Denafrips Terminator too.
I just received mine its really starting to sound very nice. I only have about 45 hours, with more time it should only get better.
Very dynamic, smooth, with great tone and detailed but, not in a hi-fi kind of way. Natural and scales effortlessly.
Hey snopro,

Now would not be a good time to review what seems to be a great sounding DAC, mainly because I'm just starting to write a review on a $2,000.00 piece that completely out performed my reference of four years, the Concert Fidelity hybrid reference DAC, that retails for $10,000. 

I only change one piece of gear when I'm reviewing, so that's way I'll start with the requests for a review on the CDT-3MK2 and possibly setup a review with Alvin later on. 

That's quite a statement you posted as I know how good the Concert Fidelity DAC  is.
Hi Charles,

Yes, I was quiet shocked that the DAC I had in for review significantly out performed my reference of over five years.  The Concert Fidelity DAC-hybrid 040 is a wonderful piece and really stood the test of time.  I never claimed it was the BEST in the world, nothing is, but it competed with any DAC I compared it to, regardless of price. 

My review for hometheaterreview.com on this DAC will be posted hopefully in the next couple of weeks.  For right now, I rather just share that the DAC is a non-upsampling Red book design that uses NOS Phillips TDA 1543 DAC chips, the same DAC chips used in the CF 040- but double the amount per channel, and the analog conversion section is tube based (6922).  Besides that it's the best sounding DAC I have ever had in my system, it sells for $2,250! 
Thanks for the reply. I look forward to reading your review of this impressive mystery DAC. It always refreshing to find truly excellent sounding High End audio components that are priced within the reach of many music lovers.
Hi , teajay just wondering where can I find your review of Jay's audio cdt-3 mkII?
@hifi76     I may be wrong but I think TJ's review was actually going to be of the CDT2 MK2 and not the CDT3, He misidentified the transport he was going to review in another thread and later cleared up the mistake. I believe I have this correct. But good luck getting him to answer your question to him. I have PMed him and emailed him at 6 Moons asking your same question and have not been dignified with the courtesy of a reply. My guess as to the answer to your question is the review never happened once he bailed from HTR.
Hey acresverde,

Your statement regarding my mistake regarding confusing the CDT 2 MKII vs CDT 3 MKII is correct.

I never received your Email through Six Moons, others have had the same difficulty, so I was not trying to be disrespectful to you at all.  Sorry, about that.

So here's the facts:  I was sent by Jay's Audio the CDT 3 MKII for review.  It had a stupid flaw, in my opinion, it only/always up-sampled the bit stream being sent to the DAC.  I have owned and reviewed other transports that can up-sample the signal being sent, but they all offered the OPTION to bypass the up-sampling device and render native Redbook to the DAC being driven.  I contacted Jay's Audio to see if my tech could by-pass the up-sampling option and the answer was no.  That's when I requested the CDT 2 MII for review that does not up-sample the signal at all. 

As far as I could tell the 2 MKII sounded as good as the 3 MKII in my systems.  Also, Srajan had begun the reviewing process on the 2 MKII and I had shared my experience with him through Emails about the 2 MKII.  He was kind enough to include my take on the transport in his formal review.  Therefore, I was not motivated to write my own review at that point.  So, it had nothing to do with me leaving HTR, but because Srajan's review was spot on and contained my take on the transport.

I have great respect for Jay's audio regarding the performance and build quality of their transports.  However, I still think it was a foolish oversight or mistake not to make up-sampling an option on their reference transport.  Ever Dac I have ever driven with a transport has always sounded better when being feed native Redbook then higher sampling rates.