JCAT OPTIMO NANO Enhance Power Supply quality for Computer Music Servers REVIEW
This is a review summary written by Terry Ellis December 2021
For the full review please see my YouTube video linked here
What and Why
If your a DIY computer music server enthusiast like me then you will likely already be fully aware that power supply quality matters for sound quality, and it matters for every component in the computer. I discovered this about a decade ago and have bought, owned and tested a number of linear and battery power supplies over that time to try and find the best solution I could afford.
Its been interesting to see market develop over this time too, I remember having to ask a manufacturer of linear power supplies for Naim equipment to build me one for my computer. That person is now the designer for all the linear power supplies for Innuos, its a small world.
Now the word is out, I think in part due to my efforts of spreading the word it I think demand has created the supply. There are now many options at differing price points and quality levels, with an increased price point inevitably following quality. The best linear power supply I have tried to date is JCAT OPTIMO 3 DUO and I use one every day but priced at €1500 I would love to own another one but the price is prohibitive.
That is nicely where the OPTIMO NANO comes into the picture, priced at €375 its still a chunk of money but clearly a lot less.
Not so NANO
The Nano is not as small as I expected it to be and much heavier, you would never tell this from photos and you cant appreciate the build quality until you hold one in your hand. The fact there is no case makes its seem a little unfinished as a product but that also allows you to install it inside another chassis more easily keeping things tidy.
The NANO will accept 5V power from any power supply, computer ATX or another linear and JCAT say it will reduce the noise level into the uV range and it will also provide the all important low impedance output, I think the areas where battery supplies struggle.
Its designed predominantly to be a more affordable way of clean powering JCAT XE and Femto USB and Network cards and also SSD. Its an in-line device you power it and it will power whatever you was powering before at 5v with 2 amps max rated current.
I installed both NANO into my custom music server and powered both from my “audiophile” 400w linear power supply and used one to power each of the SSD, one with the operating system, the other a storage got my music. Straight away I noticed a difference, music was smoother and nicer to listen to there was less edginess and less tension in the sound that I associate with streamed or computer based digital music. This kind of sound quality improvement is not easy to get, yes you can maybe change an amplifier to soften the sound some, but it will softens all the sound. A better approach is to relax the sound at the source while keeping the energy in the system and that as I mentioned is not easy, especially within a digital source. The NANO were helping to do that for my computer source and I really appreciated it.
This showed to me that JCAT’s claim is true, the NANO will improve even what could be classed as an “audiophile” grade linear power supply, you can see more details this on their website https://jcat.eu/product/optimo-nano/
The Less GOOD!
This is a very specific product with a niche focus and an even more niche voltage range. That means its only really suitable for use inside a computer unless someone is clever and modifies some cables to use with it, which is pretty easy to do with a little bit of soldering skill and I can see this happening or maybe even more creative ways to get better sound.
Because the NANO doesn’t have a pretty box and because the name makes you think “small for the money” I think some people will discount it mistakenly, I know because initially I did too. I couldn’t see how I could use a NANO in my system because I already had a “good” linear, now you couldn’t part me from them.
I very rarely speak about value in HiFi because its so specific to each person, and for €375 you could buy yourself a fully made linear power supply in a box, but would it be better than another power supply you might already own with a NANO added to it, I don’t think so. One thing that I have definitely proved to myself is that power matters for digital audio and not all power is created equal excuse the pun.
A Serious Bang for Buck Award is granted in recognition of a products stand out high performance being significantly greater than its perceived price point
For the full Specification of the JCAT OPTIMO NANO
See the website here