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Klein III owners thread

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This has just been released but there are a few out there now so thought a owners thread would be good for some feed back.

I know this is a basic unit but I am continually amazed just how good it sounds.

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Intro

Well, I guess I’m one of the few owners mentioned that owns one of these remarkable DAC’s. As this is my 1st ever gear review, I trust that I’ll do Clayton’s new baby justice. I apologise upfront for the lengthy post, but I believe this product deserves the complete story.

History

A little bit of history 1st as my journey to a final choice of DAC may resonate with others looking for a solution to their digital needs. Like many aging audiophiles, I’d dumped a serious analogue rig way back in the latter stages of last century, thinking that the much-lauded CD and encompassing digital content was the way to sonic nirvana. Like a person with failing sight, I gradually stopped sitting down to simply “listen” to music. It had become something that was played in the background while working or during dinner parties & BBQ’s. As the years rolled on, the joy of “listening” to music and being lost in the soundscape of a musician’s creation became a faded memory. This all changed in mid-2015 when a health issue and doctors’ orders necessitated I find a hobby and ease up on work. I had fortunately kept my Vinyl collection and the one thing from my analogue rig that I couldn’t relinquished…..my beloved Linn Sondek LP12. A hobby was rekindled.

The last few years

OK, now I’ve got a bit of history out of the way, suffice to say I rebuilt my Linn and pulled  together a wonderful vintage 2 channel rig. My escape from the digital wasteland was complete and I had rediscovered the sheer wonder of good vinyl spinning on a quality deck and sitting back to just “listen” to the music once more. Now having said all this , I still had a substantial library of digital content and a Tidal subscription, both being delivered via a SONOS Connect, but never for serious listening sessions. Over these last few years, I’ve watched the digital space gain significant momentum and acceptance as a valid medium for high quality sound, mostly due to higher bitrate platforms like Tidal and delivery systems like Roon & Audirvana and the additional bandwidth to support them. It was the eventual demise of my SONOS Connect that motivated me to do some serious research with the view to sticking my toe back into the pond of “1” and “0’s” and look for a serious level of digital quality.

The search begins

Without the SONOS unit, the delivery of digital music library was now going to be via an existing Intel NUC Core i5 mini PC that also handled the delivery of Movies via KODI, all stored on a 4TB NAS sitting on my home network. The DAC’s in PC’s are at best underwhelming and less-than-ordinary. Listening to the best quality digital recordings from my PC’s DAC and naked USB connection was like fingernails being scratched down a chalkboard. Listening to poor quality recordings via the PC was simply sinful……..women, children and small furry animals fled in fear. My search for a quality stand-alone DAC, that I didn’t have to sell a kidney for, started in earnest. As I was not requiring more than a USB DAC for inclusion into an existing Hi Fi rig, the criteria I set was pretty basic. I desired a DAC that had been designed where the core expense was in the design and components of the DAC function, not spread over a bunch additional functions i.e. portability, headphone. Bluetooth, Digital Coax…etc. I was also not looking or expecting a dedicated DAC to rival the sound of my Vinyl rig, but I was seeking a DAC that could make my digital music a bit more analogue and pleasing to the ear. The other “must-have” it had to be under the $1K price point.

Finding contenders

Well as you all probably know, there’s a myriad of choices under the $1K price point and it took many weeks of research, consuming reviews, and online product comparisons to properly assess the better options. Actual auditions of DAC’s in my own rig was not really an option as a couple of the preferred DAC’s I had my eye on were not available via a bricks & mortar retail stores in my area. Actual in-store demos of a stand-alone DAC’s are at best pointless and about as useful as a chocolate hammer in the middle of summer. However, I did get to audition a mates ARCAM irDAC II in my system and the difference in sound quality as opposed to the raw USB/DAC output from my PC or the retired SONOS Connect was significant to say the least, but functionally and sonically not the ideal choice for my rig. The ARCAM unit was at the upper end of my budget and sported a raft of additional functions that I was never going to use, but I was still considering it. I was now encouraged to see if I could find that DAC where the development $$’s was squarely focused solely the DAC function and its ensuing sound quality.

A choice is made

Now this is where you’d expect me to start fawning and waxing lyrically over the Klein DAC III, but it’s not. I didn’t even know it existed when I made my choice. At this point I wish to state that I do not desire to mention competitor brands in a negative sense. I say this as one man’s meat is another man’s poison and what sounds good to me, could be frowned upon by another. OK, that said…. I finally settled for a boutique DAC  from the US that was well inside my budget and had gotten rave reviews from the Hi Fi press. It was virtually everything I was looking for………a single USB function DAC, albeit with semi-portability and headphone interface. It was ordered, along with high end RCA connects & a quality USB cable. A week later it arrived and after installing the required drivers on the PC, configuring ROON and hooking the DAC up, I was ready for sonic bliss. After playing the usual suspects for an hour or so, I couldn’t help but think I was still missing something. It wasn’t that it sounded bad, on the contrary, it was a major sonic upgrade to the overall sound. Good sound stage, fast and accurate, great extension, but for the want of better words, it seemed to lack “meat on its bones” and still a world away from me enjoying lengthy listening sessions. I initially put this assessment down to a lack of “burn-in” and reserved my final judgement for a couple more weeks of use.

The final assessment

Two weeks passed, and although it performed better, I was still not convinced that this new DAC was all that it should be and decided to take it around to my mate’s place for some A/B’ing between it and the afore mentioned ARCAM unit and a second set of ears younger than my own. I’d listened to the ARCAM unit in my mate’s system many times and was always impressed as its suits his needs and rig perfectly. As soon as we started to A/B the 2 DAC’s my mate commented immediately that although my DAC was very good he would have difficulty living with it full time. My new DAC was certainly more accurate and rivaled or bettered the ARCAM in most instances, but we both agreed my new DAC was not engaging or involving to our ears as the ARCAM unit and it is this crucial element that’s missing. Maybe the budget of $1K was an unrealistic value to set, to get a DAC with the required sound and feel. Regardless this, the new DAC was retired immediately and prepared for sale. Undeterred, I revised my budget upwards of the $1K mark and I set off once more seeking a replacement DAC that would deliver a level of quality that would be in line with my expectation. If my search yielded no result, then the ARCAM unit would be revisited

Finding the Klein III

This time my search criteria focused squarely on an “analogue sounding” DAC’s and eventually, Stereo.net.au’s thread on the Klein II DAC popped up. Needless to say, after reading the posts and doing further research on the Klein range I was impressed with all the glowing reviews for Clayton's designs. As I’d previously decided to purchase based upon online reviews and ended up disappointed, I was reluctant to buy the Klein unit without some serious communication with the guy in charge. An email was drafted to Clayton explaining my situation and my desired outcome. I received a very quick reply advising upfront, to properly assess his new Klein III DAC, it would have to be used in my own rig and he was happy to offer one for a period of evaluation. I was immediately struck by Clayton’s commitment and confidence in his product and once he explained his design philosophy for the Klein III I was very keen to audition the product. After meeting Clayton and enjoying a wonderful chat about the Hi Fi industry, past, present, and future,  we shook hands and I headed home with a new Klein DAC III, keen to see if Clayton’s assessment of his product rang true.

The Klein III Audition

With the required drivers installed on my NUC PC and the Klein III hooked up and configured in ROON, I was genuinely hoping my search for the elusive analogue sounding DAC maybe over. It took the 1st few tracks to know the Klein III was delivering a simply stunning digital rendition of one of my favourite Vinyl pressings. I wish I could avoid the flowery sonic descriptions and cliché’s normally associated reviews, but I have to say on my 1st impressions, the sound stage of the Klein III was off the charts….I mean seriously good. This is a depth and height of field that does not impede on the stable placement of instruments or vocals. Width of sound stage rivals anything my Vinyl rig can serve up. The extension and smoothness throughout the frequency range is astonishing and lifelike with all digital grit and grime eradicated. Lower frequencies are accurately delivered with a complete minimum of fuss without overhang or smearing. Mid-range delivery is where the magic is as I didn’t think would be possible from a digital recording. Top-end is completely devoid of the tizz & fizz with high hat and cymbals sounding natural and lively. Surprisingly, recorded sibilants were not overemphasised and added to the natural sound of vocals…..big bonus here! In comparison to the DAC’s that I’ve heard, this thing is in a different stratosphere

Conclusion

After just 2 days with the Klein III, I contacted Clayton and said the evaluation unit was not being returned. Apart from the sonic qualities of this product, this DAC was well under my original budget of $1K and after listening to more expensive products, I’m convinced you’d have to spend well in excess of my budget to rival the sonic qualities of the Klein III. I’ve owned the Klein III for just on 3 weeks now and I’m well into my burn-in period and this DAC just keeps getting better. As testimony to the Klein III’s overall performance, I state hand on heart……..since it’s been installed, it’s the 1st time in 20+ years that I’ve actually sat down and “listened” to digital recordings and gotten lost in the sonic landscape. Yep, it’s not much of a looker, but don’t be fooled by its austere appearance. It has it where it counts………try it, you won’t be disappointed.

Well done Clayton, you’ve hit this one clean out of the park. Now if it just had a 12Volt trigger input, I’d offer up that kidney I mentioned!!

Note: All digital recordings used were basic 16bit 44.100Khz or 24bit 96Khz Flac’s and Unbalanced inputs used exclusively.

Edited by pnes_nv
Typo

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Congratulation on your purchase and your review. Both appear to be well thought out, the latter quite telling I might add.

 

I, too, am in the throws of rediscovery (albeit from a slightly newer generation I think) and have considered the Klein III upon the recommendation of members here. I'm sensing a bit of propeller-headed-ness, what with the NUCs, Kodi and such, so I'm also feeling a bit of fellowship in your review. Well done.

 

On the other hand, now you're making my purchasing choices even harder. No thanks for that! 😁

Edited by Thekman76
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Thanks Thekman76,

 

Kind words appreciated!!

 

As a footnote to the above review, I had the opportunity yesterday to take the Klein III round to my mates place for a session in his system and do a comparison to the his ARCAM irDAC II. Played one of his fave tracks right up front and there was this sudden loud thump in the room..........it was his jaw hitting his chest. ☺️  The Klein III completely blew him away. We both agreed, the ARCAM unit is functionally perfect for his situation, but completely outclassed sonically by the Klein III.

 

Cheers

Edited by pnes_nv
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Hi everyone & thanks for the great feed back.

This is a very basic DAC but I think the combination of a excellent DAC chip, ultra low noise PSU’s & the simple high quality 

Jensen transformer line output works exceptionally well.

Lessons all learn from the Gross DAC development.

They are going out the door at a steady rate which confirms my thoughts that this unit sounds particularly good & represents great value too.

I have had multiple enquires on a S/PDIF version so I will be going ahead with that.

Inputs will be Optical (Toslink) & Coax (RCA) selected with a front panel toggle switch.

Cost will be the same at $650 which includes delivery.

Lead time is about three weeks - just laying out the boards now.

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Hi Clay

Can you make one with USB and Coax inputs?

Thanks

Chu

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You guys are killing me. My main excuse for passing on the Klein III was I'd still need an integrated amp to cope with Toslink, but short of a volume control this is now practically a digital pre-amp. Please don't tell me there's a future plan for this too!

 

EDIT: I think I misunderstood. There will be a USB version and a optical/coax version, not all three inputs.

Edited by Thekman76

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Hi Chu - no.

Doing that involves a lot more complex circuitry & moves away from the concept of a basic simplistic design which is what this DAC is based on.

 

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just discovered this brand and this Klein 3 dac now hopefully someone here can make me understand how good is this dac. I use to own those products : Asus Xonar u7,  Asus Xonar STU, Asus Xonar Essence one Muses ed, Oppo HA 2 SE, Fiio x1 and now Fiio x5 III gen and i think this dap is as well the best dac i ever had. Now after my short list is the Klein 3 any better ? Btw i intend to use this dac via usb with my laptop or android device with an Elemental Watson hybrid amp + DT 1990 PRo.

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Hmmm..... Got me interested now...

 

Are the ones with coax input available yet?

 

I also see the front screen is no longer there from the Klein ii?

 

How do the Klein III compare to the Klein I?

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10 hours ago, snak3 said:

just discovered this brand and this Klein 3 dac now hopefully someone here can make me understand how good is this dac. I use to own those products : Asus Xonar u7,  Asus Xonar STU, Asus Xonar Essence one Muses ed, Oppo HA 2 SE, Fiio x1 and now Fiio x5 III gen and i think this dap is as well the best dac i ever had. Now after my short list is the Klein 3 any better ? Btw i intend to use this dac via usb with my laptop or android device with an Elemental Watson hybrid amp + DT 1990 PRo.

Have a look thru the reviews of the Klein, further down the list.

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42 minutes ago, DMax said:

 

 

How do the Klein III compare to the Klein I?

 

I'll provide my detailed thoughts on this soon, but in short... it compares very favourably. The Klein III is a brilliant bit of kit at this price point! I have recently upgraded from the I to the III so had the opportunity for back-to-back comparison.

 

 

Edited by pete_mac

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@Gieseler Audio

Congrats on the Klein 3.  With talks about bringing out the spdif version, can you do one with a BNC option instead of RCA? 

 

Thanks!

Edited by katattack74

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So... I've been a Gieseler convert for a bit over three years now. 

 

I've looked back through some of my earlier posts in 2015 when I was firmly entrenched in audio-gd DAC land, and the original Klein was the new-kid-on-the-block. In June 2015 I said of the Klein "We shall see! The hype is promising so far... Let's hope it lasts into the future. One month does not a champion make."

 

Five months later, I finally managed to buy a Klein and hear it for myself vs my much beloved PCM1704UK-equipped audio-gd... I ate my hat and the DAC19 was sold shortly thereafter, and the Klein remained in my system from then onward. Along with my speakers, it remained the 'core' of my system as I experimented with interconnects cables, different amps, amp restorations and tweaks, DIY USB cables. Many an enjoyable hour was spent with the Klein.

 

My thoughts on the original Klein (including the departure of the audio-gd!) are below:

 

 

 

When Clay announced the Klein III was intrigued, especially as I am a USB-only user, and the optical and coaxial inputs on the original Klein were never used. The inclusion of output transformers vs an active output stage (i.e. like the Fein and Gross DAC) excited me, especially at this price point. After some discussions back and forth, a Klein III was on its way down for back-to-back comparison against its older sibling. 

 

I encountered one minor hurdle with the Klein III when it arrived - the Amanero 384 Combo firmware didn't like my Squeezebox Touch with EDO applet installed for asynchronous USB output. Clay quickly remedied this by sending me the reflashing instructions for the Amanero, and five minutes later, an earlier firmware version had everything sorted. 95% of people won't have this issue - it appears to be only Squeezebox related.

 

Once she was fired-up and communicating with the Squeezebox, it was time for serious listening.

 

Now... as noted above, I know the original Klein very well. The Klein III clearly shares the same bloodlines as the original - you pick it straight away as a member of the Gieseler clan.  However, it's the more intelligent, more articulate younger sibling, who just seems to do everything a little bit better than its older brother.

 

I find the biggest difference to be the rhythm/pace/speed of how the Klein III makes music. Dare I use the term PRaT?   <the audiophile Gods nod in approval>   It seems to me that the Klein III is a 'quicker' than the original, and that it gives a better account of the attack and decay of components of the music. This results in what I perceive to be a more accurate sound, but importantly it's not accuracy or detail via a tilted-up treble response and razor-sharp top end (as was the case when many of the first ES9018 DACs came onto the scene) or a lack of body. The resolution comes via the perception of speed and agility, a lower noise floor/blacker background, and more space and separation between the instruments.

 

The tonal and timbral characteristics of any DAC are important to me, and importantly the Klein III carries on the goodness of the original in this regard. Very believable and fleshed-out.

 

The simplified circuitry, different DAC chip (still from the AKM camp), tweaked power supply, and those lovely Jensen output transformers on the output stage of the DAC are doing something right!

 

Now, to be clear, the original Klein remains a brilliant-sounding and versatile proposition and fantastic value for money. I would have happily held onto it... if not for undertaking the back-to-back comparisons in my own rig and hearing the improvement in the new design for myself. 

 

That said... make no mistake... the Klein III is a sonic step-up and should be firmly on your radar. The sound quality is more polished overall and is a stone-cold bargain at this price point - hence why I bought the Klein III and moved my beloved original on to the next lucky owner. 

 

Lastly... because I can't help myself... some nudies showing those lovely Jensen output transformers, the Amanero 384 Combo USB board, the nice regulators, Elna Silmic II and Nichicon Fine Gold caps, and the AK4495EQ DAC chip at the heart of this beast! 

 

 

 

K3 1.jpg

K3 2.jpg

K3 3.jpg

k3 4.jpg

k3 5.jpg

k3 6.jpg

k3 7.jpg

k3 8.jpg

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@pete_mac

Great review and great pictures!

 

@Gieseler Audio

Clay, well done. I like the minimalist approach of the Klein. Great details with additional cap to the Amanero!

 

Matt

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Just a quick update.

I ordered the boards today for the coax/optical only version.

I should have finished stock in a couple of weeks.

Will update with some photos then.

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Just a quick update.
I ordered the boards today for the coax/optical only version.
I should have finished stock in a couple of weeks.
Will update with some photos then.
Look forward to it! :)

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Mmmm, ok, I messaged Clay before reading this.....  I guess I'll be saving for a Fein DAC for my downstairs system.....  Might get a Klein III to use at work with my Darkvoice 336SE though. It'll certainly be better than the S.M.S.L Sanskrit PRO-B + Boyuu Reisong 1:2 SUT I'm using with it presently. :)

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Quick update - the Klein III S/PDIF boards  have now shipped so maybe I will have finished stock at the end of the week.

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I'll keep an eye on this thread. If a three input version without balanced inputs becomes available then I'm keen on that. I believe @ZanyZapper is keen on such a unit also.

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Quick update.

Just put in a bit of overtime today so anyone waiting on S/PDIF Klein III's I will

be shipping early next week.

With this board there are a few new upgrades which previous Klein's did not have.

1. With digital in unlock auto muting now kicks in so there should be no chance spurious noise etc.

2. Upgraded low noise regs supplying the analog & digital sections of the WM8804

receiver chip.

3. Upgraded decoupling caps around the WM8804.

4. Increased main filter cap size for analog section.

 

 

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Guest Muon N'

Hi Clay

 

Does this mean with the S/PDIF boards these will also still have USB? Or a S/PDIF only version?

Edited by Muon N'

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On 24/10/2018 at 8:09 AM, Gieseler Audio said:

Hi Chu - no.

Doing that involves a lot more complex circuitry & moves away from the concept of a basic simplistic design which is what this DAC is based on.

 

13 minutes ago, Muon N' said:

Hi Clay

 

Does this mean with the S/PDIF boards these will also still have USB? Or a S/PDIF only version?

See previous post. Clay was answering Chu's question. Either USB or S/PDIF only, not both.

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Guest Muon N'

Thanks Snoop, was thinking maybe It's an add-in board, so needed to get clarification :thumb:

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