JWD JWM-115 REVIEW: Splendid construction, Crisp tonality

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SOUND: 8/10
AMPING POWER: 7/10
PACKAGING&ACCESSORIES: 6/10
CONSTRUCTION&DESIGN: 9/10
INTERFACE& USABILITY: 7/10
VALUE: 8/10

THE PLUS: Clear detailed sound with revealing treble, neutral and musical (not cold), Excellent construction, responsive touch-screen, 10 bands parametric EQ, Bi-directional Bluetooth, the possibility to transfer-import files via WIFI
THE SO-SO: not very dynamic bass and mids compared to treble liveliness, not very deep spatiality, lack of track control buttons, no USB DAC, no line out, no gain mode, basic interface that isn’t intuitive, average battery life, inaccuracy problem with battery life display, no screen protector, fingerprint (and light reflect) magnet screen

JWD (Jingwah Digital) is a rather obscure Chinese audio company that makes Voice Recorder and Digital Audio Player for the audio enthusiasts that search well-built products. Looking through Aliexpress, I find multiple DAP made by this company, most of them have a touch screen, Bluetooth fonction and do look of high-quality construction for the price. For example, their entry model, the 25$ ultra-portable JWD-105 seems to have as good physical construction as pricier Shanling M0, but unlike the M0, it doesn’t seem targeted (or marketed) for the audiophile.

None of these DAPS have independent DAC chip, and the one I review today is no exception. But does it mean the stock audio decoder in the main control chip Quad-core processor isn’t able to deliver crisp high fidelity sound? Not if it’s purpose is for audio application as it is with the RK3308 chip used as the hearth of JWD 115 player.

Priced 69$, the JWD JWM-115 sure doesn’t look like a cheap music player, with its pristine metal and double side glass body, very reactive and bright touch screen, it screams quality craftsmanship.

Let’s see in this review if the 115 can find it’s placed in a budget audiophile setup.

The JWD JWM-115 can be bought for 69$ on AK AUDIO STORE.

 

PACKAGING & CONSTRUCTION

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The packaging is very minimal, it’s a solid black box with a reassuring sentence on it that say ”Your digital music on the move”. In the box, you only have the DAP and basic charging USB-C to USB cable that feel not enough long for its purpose. It cruelly lacks one thing: a screen protector. This means this nice glossy screen will get scratched pretty soon, and I find this omission very amateurish.

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CONSTRUCTION is very impressive. It looks like all the effort goes into creating a well crafted digital music player that feels solid in hands. For it’s size, it’s quite heavy. Construction material is a mix of CNC anodize brushed metal and double side hard tempered glass. The touch screen is 3inch and offers a very beautiful color….for album artwork and wallpaper contemplation. Their zero plastic use apart from the audio jack, all the buttons made of same high-grade metal and working perfectly. The micro-sd slot looks very sturdy and works well. The audio jack is solid looking even if the plastic part isn’t embedded perfectly. The brushed whole body is very smooth in hands, but the touch screen is a fingerprints magnet so you will have to clean it often.

 

INTERFACE & FEATURES

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This DAP seems to have interesting features at first but in fact their not a lot that is really useful apart from the Bi-directional Bluetooth and the 10 bands parametric equalizer. You have a basic voice recorder and E-book reader that feel anachronical for the screen size. You have Dual Wifi, but it’s just for sharing or importing audio files, not for music streaming or apps.

The UI INTERFACE isn’t very user friendly and you will have to travel through folders for playing albums, which is a little underwhelming taking into account the quad-core used that surely can deal with more sophisticated music scrolling, like showing albums cover you can choose from. Thing is that the JWD control depends a lot on it’s touch screen because you do not have dedicated buttons to change tracks, so a more intuitive interface would have been very welcome.

Physical INTERFACE is too minimalist, and as said, the lack of tracks control buttons is a BIG drawback, this is the type of DAP you are obligated to take of your pocket to fully use interface, which make it very similar to a phone. Sure, the buttons are made of metal and are responsive, but you can only play-pause, control volume and use a go-back button. Another very awkward interface limitation is the fact you CAN’T play-pause when the screen if off, so again, just to pause music you have to take of the DAP or your pocket, open the screen and even scroll with your finger to unlock the unnecessary screen-saver. For smooth full intuitive control, the JWD fails.

FEATURES are limited, with the JWD their no USB DAC, no Line out, no Gain control, no Dual Bluetooth so you can use it as Bluetooth DAC. In terms of setting, you don’t have the gapless option, but you have stock gapless. An interesting feature of the JWD is the Bi-Directional Bluetooth that can transform this DAP into portable Bluetooth DAC-AMP so you can use it to listen to tidal, spotify etc. While it doesn’t support Ldac, it has Aptx. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to make it work with my phone even if it gets recognized, but I think it’s due to my G6

AMPING POWER

While the JWD hasn’t a proper dedicated independent DAC chip, it does use an independent amping chip which is the MAX97220 which is a ”differential direct drive line diver amplifier” that has flexible gain and low noise performance. From the specs sheet, it can deliver as much as 120W@32ohm. I can’t confirm this, but I do the test of connecting my power-hungry HIFIMAN SUNDARA and it doesn’t create distortion and can play just loud enough at max volume, driving them at about 80% their full potential. With IEM, I never feel the JWD lacks power. So, for its size the amping power is very decent and higher than other DAP like Tempotec V1A and Ziku HD X9. Unfortunately, JWD doesn’t specify output power specs, just signal-to-noise that have a respectable 96db rate.

BATTERY LIFE

It is stated the battery can hold up to 10H, like with every DAP this is the maximum you can hope if you listen to low volume normal FLAC files, if you listen to DSD or high rate music codec, the battery will drain faster. I listen at very high volume to a mix of FLAC music that includes 96khz24bit codec and got about 6H of battery. Strangely, the player suddenly powers off showing 20% of battery life, which is certainly a common defect because I read other users dealing with this untrustable battery management.
CHARGING is not very speedy even using my Samsung Fast Charge charger, it seems the usb-c 2.0 doesn’t take full advantage of it which is strange because charging my Tempotec V1A that have a 1200mah battery take less than an hour while the JWD that have a 800mah batery take around 2 hours. Again, something go wrong with battery indicator, even in charging mode, because it writes the battery is 56% charged while the bar is near full (check the above picture).

SOUND

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Gear used: Audiosense T800, Hisenior T2, Hidiz Mermaid MS1, FIIO FH7, Takstar PRO82, Koss Portapro, Hifiman Sundara

While I’m not impressed by the overall usability of this DAP, at least it doesn’t sound bad. In fact, it sounds more than decent even if just slightly too digital for me. Overall tonality is clean and detailed, with well done extra treble push. Presentation isn’t neither very transparent, holographic, or deep in stage, instead, it’s panoramic and effortless in texture rendering and micro-details.

SOUNDSTAGE doesn’t seem to improve with the IEM I try, neither it get overly compressed. Wideness is slightly extended or keept the same while tallness and especially deepness do not extend a lot.

IMAGING is decent, especially with stereo spatiality so you can easily spot left and right and middle instruments, but layering is negatively affected due to lack of transparent layers, which can feel saturated in dry texture.

BASS is lean and clean. It can something feel overly recessed and lacking in roundness and impact. Though neither hollow nor anemic, sub extension is dry and stole moving air of the natural rumble.

MIDS are rather flat too, but slightly more dynamic and present than bass. It finds it’s placed between bright and liquid tonality, so textured doesn’t feel grainy but is nuanced enough. Transparency is average as well as instrument separation in this range. The piano will lack body and weight in the lower mid register.

TREBLE is the more boosted part of the sound, but not in an aggressive way so while it adds a bit of air and details it doesn’t create a drastic sound imbalance that can make tonality overly analytical or cold. Micro-details are more generous in upper highs than lower and mid highs. The attack is very nice for an instrument like a violin but decay isn’t very long for instrument like clavichord or acoustic guitar. Highs is the more lively part of the sound as well as the better separated in imaging.

PAIRING

With AUDIOSENSE T800 (8BA)

I was surprised how good this pairing sound because T800 is known for being capricious about the source, especially about impedance output so my guess is that JWD output impedance is very low.

T800 soundstage still is wide and deep, slightly less tall, while its imaging isn’t as sharp but still very competent. BASS is where a miracle happen and this is rare taming the bass is a positive thing but in this case, it make the T800 more balanced and less V shape, the bass is faster and less boomy and has good euphonic texture to it. MIDS became slightly clearer, but less harsh in upper mids too, as if this too is tamed positively. TREBLE isn’t as detailed as with more high-end sources like Xduoo X20 but gain in cohesivity.

With TAKSTAR PRO82 (40mm DD)

Now, it doesn’t work that well and the bass taming interfere with natural extension-making low end congested and not weighty enough (aka gone is the rumble). MIDS are clear and less harsh but more recessed and lacking in dynamic attack and proper separation. TREBLE is where things work as it became a little more organic and snappy, making percussions less splashy.

 

COMPARISONS

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VS TEMPOTEC V1A (100$)

In terms of features the V1A put to shame the 115 and that even if it’s smaller, as well, I find the touch screen more responsive and less prompt to fingerprints and light reflection (and oh, it comes with 2 protective screens!). V1A has Ldac and bi-directional Bluetooth, parametric EQ, and Hiby Mseb EQ, and their too much setting option to name it. The interface is more intuitive and uses swapping screen control wisely. It can be used as USB DAC and Bluetooth DAC, you can plug usb-c dac-amp and use V1A as a digital music station. The battery is longer when using 3.5mm output, but not using a nonpowered DAC dongle. You can control everything with buttons (including changing track and pause-play with the screen shut down). It’s smaller and lighter. It have 2 micro-sd slot.

In terms of sound, firstly, it seems the 115 can play a bit louder. V1A sound is warmer with more bass extension and presence, better transparency and layering, less detailed treble, and inferior resolution. Sound is more laid back and less clean and technical than 115. Timbre sound slightly more natural and soundstage more holographic. Overall tonal balance is opposite to 115 which enlight treble but tends to get less and less dynamic in mids and bass, the V1A has bass and mids extra dynamic and gently drop in the treble section.

All in all, their no question who’s the winner here, because while V1A sound signature is a matter of taste preference, the overwhelming amount of features sure expend both the fun and practicality, making it more audiophile device that can scale with the use of usb-c dac-amp.

VS ZIKU HD-X9 (50$)

This cheaper DAP use an excellent Cirrus ES4398 dac and can be used as USB DAC.  Output is very similar because both use MAX chips but ZIKU use 9722a model which deliver 130mW@32ohm instead o 120mW for the JWD (very minimal difference). Construction is inferior even if decent, volume wheel isnt precise contrary to volume control button of 35 step of JWD. You have all the control buttons with the X9. Body is bigger and more clumsy. When your battery die, its possible to unscrew the back and change it with the X9, not with JWD.

In term of sound, the X9 is in another league and offer a more dynamic, fuller sound experience with slightly brighter tonality. The soundstage is bigger, taller, wider deeper and IMAGING is more holographic with better space between instrument and more sound layering capabilities. BASS is notably fuller, more natural, and punchy and you have sub rumble when needed contrary to leaner dryer JWD bass. MIDS are fuller, vocal more forwards and better separated, the texture is more natural too. TREBLE is more balanced and neutral and dig more micro details and is better articulate.

All in all, in term of sound the X9 offer a richer and more dynamic experience that we can enjoy using its USB DAC too, which makes it a better value than 115 unless you need Bluetooth function.

CONCLUSION

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The JWD 115 is a well-built music player with a luxurious appealing look and very competent sound. If you like clear vivid and detailed sound with neutral bass and mids, this DAP will surely please your ears. As well, the Bi-directional Bluetooth is a very interesting feature that can transform the 115 into portable Bluetooth DAC-AMP.

While I wouldn’t suggest this DAP for those searching a very intuitive interface as well as full-packed features DAP, I do think the JWD 115 is an interesting solution for audio enthusiasts that favorize built and detailed sound quality.

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