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GIESELER Groß DAC Review

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Review Setup

GIESELER Groß DAC with usb only input option (standard has s/pdif & usb inputs).

 

Groß connected to Sotm SMS-200 with Audioquest Carbon usb cable. Used XLR outputs to SGR CX3B (Mk 1) powered speakers.  Bass optimised with dual subs (SVS SB13U, SB-2000). SMS-200 bridged to Synology DS414 NAS to access music.  Used MPD server on SMS-200 and MPDroid on phone for playback.

Update 17 Feb 18: Upgraded equipment with Uptone ISO Regen, Behringer DCX2496 with Behringer Mods. Swapped positions of subs with SB13U doing more and further bass optimisation using Multi Sub Optimisation.

Update 17 May 18: Upgraded SMS-200 to Ultra version which brought a lot more nuance the music.

 

 

External Appearance & Remote

 

 

 image.png.c2c8429a3a463d085a00d1380a0a366f.png

The unit has a smart looking front, with a power button and 4 line display.

Update 17 Oct: new firmware removed Channel, now 3 line display

 

 

image.png.507547a10a11c3798705494cfaea1851.png

The rear panel has a usb input, XLR and RCA outputs and a 9V AC input from an external transformer to feed low noise internal PSU's.

Update 17 Oct: Note that Groß has output transformers which allows it to be directly connected to power amps or powered speakers.

 

 

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Smaller and much lighter than previous Audiolab 8200CDQ (DAC plus pre-pro, CD player, headphone amp).  8200CDQ displayed both the bit depth and sample rate but Groß only the sample rate. Groß display could do with brightness adjustment because it was too bright at night.

 

The remote was slim and easy to use.  Red power button cycled through home menu, screen off, large volume and filter display.  Channel Up/Down cycled through filters, Volume Up/Down, plus mute button. Volume control was digital with a bypass available for a pre-pro.  In my case, requested that bypass be disabled to prevent an accidental overload on the amps in the CX3Bs. 

 

Setting up on the SMS-200 was straight forward. After plugging the usb cable into Groß, the SMS-200 picked up the DAC. Then, manually changed DAC setting from non-DSD to DoP in Eunhasu MPD setup.

Update 17 Feb 18: using DSD instead of DoP.

 

DAC Comparison

As expected, Groß out-performed 4 years old 8200CDQ (which was highly acclaimed then). The difference was marked when switching back to the 8200CDQ after a few hours on the Groß, with less detail, transparency and naturalness among many things lacking.  Looking forward to reviews of others comparing Groß with more recent DACs.

Update 17 May 18: The  Groß comfortably beat the 2Qute with better detail, sound stage, clarity in my setup.

 

Listening Experience

Most of my music consisted of ripped 16/44.1 flac, with some purchased 24/96 flac and also have ripped DSD64.  Groß is my first unit able to play native DSD; previously DSD converted to PCM during playback.

 

 

Long time favourite, Parce Mihi Domine (Jan Garbarek & Hillard Ensemble, Officium, 16/44.1 flac) had never sounded so good. Jan Garbarek’s saxophone was more natural and transparent and there was clarity in the position of the saxophone relative to the Hillard Ensemble.   In numerous 16/44.1 flac, Groß managed to bring out the details and improved the imaging, depth, sound stage. Vocals, particularly female (e.g. KD Lang, Hallelujah, Hymns of the 49th Parallel) had a presence. Even relatively poor classical recordings sounded cleaner.  Groß  does 16/44.1 flac very well.

 

With higher resolution music, the piano in Gjeilo’s North  Country II, Stone Rose, 24/96 flac was natural and as close as I have heard to a real one. When the flugelhorn comes in, imaging was good and realistic. Diana Krall’s My Love Is, from Love Scenes, 24/96 flac, had deep tight bass bass, tighter than I knew, with an excellent voice. Groß managed to improve the bass a bit more in an already optimised dual sub setup.

 

Groß’s DSD capability is outstanding.  Eagles’s Hotel California from the same named album was a revelation in native DSD64. Detailed, transparent, nice sound stage.  Much better than 16/44.1 and beat 24/96 version. Similarly, Arnesen’s Magnificat 4: Et Misericordia from Magnificat album (DSD64) on 2L label was very good. However, in an unfair comparison, it could not (& not expected to) match the atmosphere and presence of 5.1 PCM with the piano and organ behind the conductor.  DSDs came across superbly on the Groß.

 

Could have written a lot more about how good the listening experience was but above was a fair representation.

Update 17 Oct: The listening experience improved after 30 to 40 hours of use. Not sure whether this was because I was getting more used to the Groß’s presentation?  Female vocals continued to capture my attention with their presence.  And still amazed by the details in PCM material.  DSDs remain outstanding, problem now is opening wallet to get more DSD material.

Update 17 Feb 18: Details, sound stage improved with the upgrades (ISO Regen, Behringer Mods and Amanero firmware).  Am surprised how much the Amanero firmware contributed to audio quality. DSD made my wallet lighter but brought more smiles. North Country II in DSD has now replaced the 24/96 PCM version as my favourite piece, with the piano better.  

 

Filters

The Groß with the AKM AK4497EQ DAC chip came with 6 filters:

  • Super slow roll-off: no echo reproduces natural sound
  • Short delay, slow roll-off: minimal echo reproduces original sound
  • Slow roll-off: minimal echo reproduces original sound
  • Short delay, sharp roll-off: post echo enhances bass sound
  • Sharp roll-off: pre & post echoes make powerful sound.
  • Low dispersion short delay: sound quality optimised

Selecting the filter was via the remote and could be changed on the fly for PCM. Filters do not apply to DSD.  There were supposed to be subtle differences between filters, but was beyond my old ears to resolve consistently.

Update 17 Feb 18: finally found differences!  Used short delay, slow roll-off, previously low dispersion short delay, to reduce the echo. Found the short delay, sharp roll-off and sharp roll-off filters had too much echo.  

 

 

Firmware

Owning the first USB unit is wonderful and exciting but came with imperfect beta firmware. The firmware was derived from the Gieseler Konverter (same AK4497EQ DAC chip plus pre-pro) and still displayed channel in first line.  Also, there were pops when skipping DSD tracks, and occasional pops elsewhere. Will get update once these niggles have been resolved.

Update 17 Oct: Firmware has now been updated which removed channel in display, eliminated the annoying pops/clicks.  It turned out that the Konverter firmware had the same problem. Both sets of firmware now been overhauled and improved.

Update 17 Feb 18: Used Amanero2003_71A firmware optimised for Linux players (SMS-200) .  Note that this is different to the Groß firmware referred above.  

 

Skip Groß If You …

  • Like the unboxing experience and want to make a YouTube video of it. GIESELER Audio has spent R&D dollars on how it sounds and none on the packaging (but unit was well packed with 3 layers of bubble wrap). Bonus was no one was tempted during shipment!
    Update 17 Oct: Clay has sourced a double box for shipping
  • Desire international brands with big reputations, leading edge look & feel and extensive reviews. GIESELER Audio have well regarded niche products here on SNA. It may yet gain a wider acceptance as a result of Groß!

 

Conclusion

Proud and delighted to own an Australian designed and manufactured DAC which delivered superb audio. In summary, WOW!

Update 17 Oct: a theme coming through from the early owners is that the Groß DAC is addictive and we want to listen to it even more.

Update 17 Feb 18: With the upgrades, enjoying the Groß DAC more than ever. :popcorn::thumb:

 

 

p/s Clay Gieseler @Gieseler Audio is a fantastic person to deal with and service is second to none.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Snoopy8
Cleaned up formatting, updated with new firmware, more listening, upgrades

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Ahh the soulful rich sound of the flugel horn.

I found it really took a week or so of heavy listening for the Gross to burn in @Snoopy8 and I think it's still improving now.   So give us another review in the near future, I really enjoy hearing others thoughts on the Gross.

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I have now had the opportunity to try out Clays new Grob dac.

My system comprises Antipodes music server, Curious USB cable, PS Audio Direct Stream dac, Icon Audio tube amps, Aesthetix Calypso preamp and Sonus Faber Amati Homage speakers. I have a Intona galvanic isolator and Singxer USB converter added.

So how did the Grob compete with Direct Stream ?

For a fair comparison I took the Intona and Singxer out of the system, ie USB direct.

My first impression was an increase in detail. I heard this increase in detail with the Direct Stream only when I installed the Singxer, but with the Grob this was just USB.

In some cases an increase in detail there is a cost: a sterile sound that will quickly become fatiguing. With the Grob this was not the case.

Time to play my test music.

1. Leonard Cohen: Did the Grob give LC his deep gravel and textured tones. Yes

2. Classical orchestra: The Grob gave a presence I was not expecting.

3. Big band jazz. James Morrisons band sounded big, powerful with a tight bass.

4. Cassandra Wilson: Although I am a fan of Cassandra Wilson I rarely listen to more than two tracks in a row. Can be a bit tiring. With the Grob I had to tell myself to move onto something else for my limited listening time.

5. Piano: Close my eyes and the piano is in the room. No need to say any more.

So, would I be happy to have a Grob in place of the Direct Stream. Yes.

I now tried the Intona in the sytem. The benefits the Intona gave to the Direct Stream were similar to the Grob. A slight increase in sound weight. This is not necessary but it is what I am used to.

The Singxer in the system using Coaxial connection did not improve the sound as much as when connected to the Direct Stream. This could possibly be that the Grob USB input is superior to the Direct Stream.( just a theory)

So how did the Grob compare to the Direct Stream? In most cases I would say both Dacs would be equal but the Grob just sounds more natural, almost addictive.

Considering the reasonable price and high sound quality of the Grob this is a true bargain.

Congratulations Clay

 

 

 

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If its better than the DS it could be a game changer - its under half the price of the Junior and MUCH cheaper than the normal one.

 

I may sell my DS, at least one of them (I own both), but the bridge does MQA and can be controlled from your phone or Ipad.  It also keeps getting better with each software upgrade.

 

Decisions, decisions.

 

The one I am getting is USB only - if I decide to sell at least one of my DS's will get Clay to build me another one that is coax only.   I connect it to my Oppo for two channel Home Theater like I do with my DS now.

 

Thanks

Bill

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On 10/5/2017 at 8:57 PM, illbarto said:

I found it really took a week or so of heavy listening for the Gross to burn in @Snoopy8 and I think it's still improving now.   So give us another review in the near future, I really enjoy hearing others thoughts on the Gross.

I did find an improvement after 30-40 hours  use, but not sure whether this was me getting used to the presentation. 

 

And where is your review?  :P

On 10/6/2017 at 10:44 AM, BAM said:

So how did the Grob compare to the Direct Stream? In most cases I would say both Dacs would be equal but the Grob just sounds more natural, almost addictive.

Considering the reasonable price and high sound quality of the Grob this is a true bargain.

Congratulations Clay

I agree with the word  "addictive".  Been listening to it for extended periods for 2 weeks now.  :wub:

-----------------------------------------

NOTE:  have updated my  review with additional thoughts.  Hope Clay does not mind me pre-announcing that there is now new firmware (was the guinea pig!). 

Edited by Snoopy8
Typos

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To be honest @Snoopy8 I haven't stopped exploring new music since I got the Gross it is totally addictive and so easy to listen to.  I have had a level 2 PDX before with a pair of Dynaudio bookshelves and I vividly remember the difference that made,  but my current setup of Exemplar horns powered with a 15w Bakoon 11r is a totally different beast so I can't really make comparisons to other dacs.  What can say though is that I have barely played a record since I got the Gross so I guess that says about all I need too.

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On 6 October 2017 at 8:35 PM, bhobba said:

If its better than the DS it could be a game changer - its under half the price of the Junior and MUCH cheaper than the normal one.

 

I may sell my DS, at least one of them (I own both), but the bridge does MQA and can be controlled from your phone or Ipad.  It also keeps getting better with each software upgrade.

 

Decisions, decisions.

 

The one I am getting is USB only - if I decide to sell at least one of my DS's will get Clay to build me another one that is coax only.   I connect it to my Oppo for two channel Home Theater like I do with my DS now.

 

Thanks

Bill

I've had the DS back in my system for a week now and it does sound good but why do I think I'm missing something ?

I suppose I will eventually forget how good the Grob was.

Edited by BAM

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I'm taking the plunge, coax, fibre and USB will do the trick :)

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So a quick question for those who've heard both; how does the gross compare to the standard klein in terms of Soundstage presentation, and also in terms of bass presence and extension?
Would love to hear from you folks!

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See

 

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See
 
Thanks Snoopy, I'm aware of that thread and have been following it; I wanted to see if anyone had a more up to date and detailed opinion just on those 2 aspects in particular...

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Not sure it makes sense to compare the Klein to the Groß. They are using different DAC chips, designed and built differently, and in different price brackets. Klein is an excellent entry level DAC, Groß is for the high end. As illbarto mentioned, it is not even close! 

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Sorry to disagree, but of course it makes sense! Yes there is a big difference in price, but they're both DAC's and designed to turn a digital signal into sound, regardless of how they're built. Surely there's needs to be a sonic improvement to justify the added expense? Is it twice as "good"? 5x? 10x?

Moreover, I'm asking for input on specific areas on the sound quality; yes Illbarto mentioned the improvement to soundstage, but he mentioned a "tightening" of the bass, not it's presence or extension which i believe are very different things. Moreover, he's the only one who's weighed in on specifics; other comments seem to say it's great, but not specifically why. I'm trying to get as much info as possible before I consider putting my fairly limited funds into one; I don't have the cash to just buy one on a whim. FWIW I already have 3 other pieces of Clay's gear, so I'm not a tyre kicker; trying to get genuine feedback on an unknown product is all.

Cheers,

Steve :-)

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I have spoken to people, whose ears and opnion I trust based on what they have told me before, and they tell me that it is much better.

 

Unfortunately I have not delved into the detail and I do understand where you are coming from. I would suggest putting your hand up for the one that is/will be going on tour. IMO the only way to find out is to listen to the equipment.

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On 02/02/2018 at 11:31 PM, Snoopy8 said:

Not sure it makes sense to compare the Klein to the Groß. They are using different DAC chips, designed and built differently, and in different price brackets. Klein is an excellent entry level DAC, Groß is for the high end. As illbarto mentioned, it is not even close! 

I may convince my brother to get a Klein DAC II as the centre of a system for him..... Once I manage to convince him he needs better than a sound bar.... I'll get there.

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Has RRP been released for this DAC? I checked their website and I couldn't find it listed. 

 

I'm planning on upgrading my Chord Hugo, would this be a viable upgrade? 

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Clay has been extremely slack with his website. Pricing here

 

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Thanks Snoopy - spot on!

Working on the web site right now so expect to see an updated site very soon.

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1 hour ago, Gieseler Audio said:

Thanks Snoopy - spot on!

Working on the web site right now so expect to see an updated site very soon.

Clay.  Didn’t you meant to say your son is slaving on the web site, and your looking over his shoulder telling him what to do 

 

 

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:thumb::thumb:

Edited by Gieseler Audio

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After more than 4 months of use, and with some upgrades, have updated the original review with the comments below.


Details, sound stage improved with the upgrades (ISO Regen, Behringer Mods and Amanero firmware).  Am surprised how much the Amanero firmware contributed to audio quality.


DSD made my wallet lighter but brought more smiles. North Country II in DSD has now replaced the 24/96 PCM version as my favourite piece, with the piano better.   With the upgrades, enjoying the Groß DAC more than ever. :popcorn::thumb:

 

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I obtained my OWN USB-only GroB DAC last Friday fresh direct from Clayton and have had some fun listening to it. I'm definitely going to have to run this in a bit. Any recommendations on run-in methods without involving waking up the neighbours? LOL.

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You don't need the amp turned on to burn a DAC in. I tend to leave DAB radio running with a DAC at Max volume for a week with the amp off to burn DAC's in. Seemed to make a difference with some of them. Others seemed to take over a year of use to burn in no matter what I did.

 

I imagine you could use music with repeat turned on in the same manner? 

Edited by MattyW

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