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GIESELER AK4499 DAC

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3 minutes ago, Ittaku said:

How expensive does it need to be before it has a good transformer?

 

Dunno, but from the little I've read the DS is manufactured with a different xformer to the one with which it was designed.  If you want inexpensive you need to buy mass-produced off-the-shelf transformers which may or may not be ideally suited to the application.  Whenever I use a transformer these days I avoid off-the-shelf and get them custom wound for the exact purpose but they are much more expensive that way.  I don't know what Clay uses, but his gear does sound very good. 

 

Clay, I would be interested to audition this creation when you have it ready. 

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4 hours ago, Ittaku said:

Hi Clay. I'm curious to see you mention moving from op amps to transformers as transformers are what ASR put down the poor (measured) results from the PS audio direcstream DACs. Pardon my ignorance of DAC design, but is this in a different setting than they use the transformers for? Thanks.

That's ASR for ya' 🎭🎲🚾

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18 hours ago, Gieseler Audio said:

Hi Matt,

The first prototype used op amps (as per eval board design) but in IMHO I'm now getting better results with some custom transformers that suit current out DAC's.

Hi Clay,

nice  to hear that you can use transformers with current output DACs as well.

 

Maybe you can answer the question why the Groß DAC has been discontinued?

The Groß had the best and biggest Jensen output transformers with the best bass response and lowest distortion  while the Fein uses IIRC smaller transformers with inferior specs.

 

So I think there is a gap which only a AK4499 DAC can fill but at a much higher price.

Thanks

 

Matt

 

Edited by matth

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Hi Matt,

 

OK why the Gross was discontinued.

The Fein was designed to be a more economical version of the Gross & both models were to coexist.

It would give people a slightly cheaper option but with similar features.

The Fein used the AK4493 which was the number two AKM chip at $13 vs $78 for the top AK4497 used in the Gross.

The transformers were the other obvious  area to save money on in the Fein.

The Fein transformers are $35.67 US$ each vs $80.38 US$ each for the ones used in the Gross.

That worked to be roughly a $200 aus $ saving in parts cost for the Fein but I needed a bigger gap to seperate 

the model range so I reduced the profit margin on the Fein.

OK so I now had a sub $2k model with similar features to the flagship but with (supposed) slightly lower performance.

Next move was off to Lenehan Audio to do some listening on a reference system. 

$25k speakers + $25k power amp, fully treated room & power regeneration plus four experienced listeners.

We started with a well run in Gross & everyone agreed that it sounded very nice.

Then I said, can we have a quick listen to my new  model (the Fein)

Well Mike Lenehan (the most experienced/critical listener) was shocked - wow - now that sounds better!

Is that your new top model? - er, um no it is supposed to be the new number 2 model.

OK I thought the only technical difference between the two models was the DAC chip & output transformers so

why the better sound from the lower cost items?

 

Transformers wise maybe the smaller sized ones in the Fein just match better to the tiny built in op amps in the DAC chip.

In electronics bigger is not always better.

 

DAC chip difference.

Well there is a least a bit more of a logical explanation here.

Even tho the AK4493 is down a notch compared to the AK4497 is it a much newer chip & has some technical improvements.

eg auto DSD detection which the AK4497 does not have.

The AK4499 uses the same auto DSD detection.

My programmer who writes the DAC firmware code insists that the AK4493 is much better to work with  & has quite a few improvements which help with the programming.

It is interesting too that Esoteric are now using the AK4493 in their new high end models.

 

Anyway back to the question - why discontinue the Gross?

Well it was a bit of a tricky situation as I really could not have a lower range model sounding better could I?

Fortunately about the time the Fein came out the Kraftwerk PSU’s were being used to Enhance the Gross so that combination boosted the Gross ahead again.

Then came the Fein II which intergrated the Kraftwerk PSU all in the one case & that pushed it ahead again of the Gross  + Kraftwerk combo so at that point it was a logical choice to discontinue the Gross.

Phew! sorry for the long - winded explanation but that should make it a bit clearer.

Oh the joys a being a DAC designer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Gieseler Audio

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16 minutes ago, Gieseler Audio said:

Hi Matt,

 

OK why the Gross was discontinued.

The Fein was designed to be a more economical version of the Gross & both models were to coexist.

It would give people a slightly cheaper option but with similar features.

The Fein used the AK4493 which was the number two AKM chip at $13 vs $78 for the top AK4497 used in the Gross.

The transformers were the other obvious  area to save money on in the Fein.

The Fein transformers are $35.67 US$ each vs $80.38 US$ each for the ones used in the Gross.

That worked to be roughly a $200 aus $ saving in parts cost for the Fein but I needed a bigger gap to seperate 

the model range so I reduced the profit margin on the Fein.

OK so I now had a sub $2k model with similar features to the flagship but with (supposed) slightly lower performance.

Next move was off to Lenehan Audio to do some listening on a reference system. 

$25k speakers + $25k power amp, fully treated room & power regeneration plus four experienced listeners.

We started with a well run in Gross & everyone agreed that it sounded very nice.

Then I said, can we have a quick listen to my new  model (the Fein)

Well Mike Lenehan (the most experienced/critical listener) was shocked - wow - now that sounds better!

Is that your new top model? - er, um no it is supposed to be the new number 2 model.

OK I thought the only technical difference between the two models was the DAC chip & output transformers so

why the better sound from the lower cost items?

 

Transformers wise maybe the smaller sized ones in the Fein just match better to the tiny built in op amps in the DAC chip.

In electronics bigger is not always better.

 

DAC chip difference.

Well there is a least a bit more of a logical explanation here.

Even tho the AK4493 is down a notch compared to the AK4497 is it a much newer chip & has some technical improvements.

eg auto DSD detection which the AK4497 does not have.

The AK4499 uses the same auto DSD detection.

My programmer who writes the DAC firmware code insists that the AK4493 is much better to work with  & has quite a few improvements which help with the programming.

It is interesting too that Esoteric are now using the AK4493 in their new high end models.

 

Anyway back to the question - why discontinue the Gross?

Well it was a bit of a tricky situation as I really could not have a lower range model sounding better could I?

Fortunately about the time the Fein came out the Kraftwerk PSU’s were being used to Enhance the Gross so that combination boosted the Gross ahead again.

Then came the Fein II which intergrated the Kraftwerk PSU all in the one case & that pushed it ahead again of the Gross  + Kraftwerk combo so at that point it was a logical choice to discontinue the Gross.

Phew! sorry for the long - winded explanation but that should make it a bit clearer.

Oh the joys a being a DAD designer!

Wow Clay,

this is what I would call an explanation!!!

 

Thanks,

btw did you try AK4493 with the Groß transformers, so the better chip with the probably better transformers?

 

Anyway I am curious what kind of transformers you will use for the AK4499 DAC.

 

All the best for your work on the new DAC.

 

Matt

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43 minutes ago, Gieseler Audio said:

Hi Matt,

 

OK why the Gross was discontinued.

The Fein was designed to be a more economical version of the Gross & both models were to coexist.

It would give people a slightly cheaper option but with similar features.

The Fein used the AK4493 which was the number two AKM chip at $13 vs $78 for the top AK4497 used in the Gross.

The transformers were the other obvious  area to save money on in the Fein.

The Fein transformers are $35.67 US$ each vs $80.38 US$ each for the ones used in the Gross.

That worked to be roughly a $200 aus $ saving in parts cost for the Fein but I needed a bigger gap to seperate 

the model range so I reduced the profit margin on the Fein.

OK so I now had a sub $2k model with similar features to the flagship but with (supposed) slightly lower performance.

Next move was off to Lenehan Audio to do some listening on a reference system. 

$25k speakers + $25k power amp, fully treated room & power regeneration plus four experienced listeners.

We started with a well run in Gross & everyone agreed that it sounded very nice.

Then I said, can we have a quick listen to my new  model (the Fein)

Well Mike Lenehan (the most experienced/critical listener) was shocked - wow - now that sounds better!

Is that your new top model? - er, um no it is supposed to be the new number 2 model.

OK I thought the only technical difference between the two models was the DAC chip & output transformers so

why the better sound from the lower cost items?

 

Transformers wise maybe the smaller sized ones in the Fein just match better to the tiny built in op amps in the DAC chip.

In electronics bigger is not always better.

 

DAC chip difference.

Well there is a least a bit more of a logical explanation here.

Even tho the AK4493 is down a notch compared to the AK4497 is it a much newer chip & has some technical improvements.

eg auto DSD detection which the AK4497 does not have.

The AK4499 uses the same auto DSD detection.

My programmer who writes the DAC firmware code insists that the AK4493 is much better to work with  & has quite a few improvements which help with the programming.

It is interesting too that Esoteric are now using the AK4493 in their new high end models.

 

Anyway back to the question - why discontinue the Gross?

Well it was a bit of a tricky situation as I really could not have a lower range model sounding better could I?

Fortunately about the time the Fein came out the Kraftwerk PSU’s were being used to Enhance the Gross so that combination boosted the Gross ahead again.

Then came the Fein II which intergrated the Kraftwerk PSU all in the one case & that pushed it ahead again of the Gross  + Kraftwerk combo so at that point it was a logical choice to discontinue the Gross.

Phew! sorry for the long - winded explanation but that should make it a bit clearer.

Oh the joys a being a DAD designer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

just how good is that,to get such an honest answer and explanation from a seller of hifi,and an Australian company as well
good on you clay+++++++

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59 minutes ago, matth said:

Wow Clay,

this is what I would call an explanation!!!

 

Thanks,

btw did you try AK4493 with the Groß transformers, so the better chip with the probably better transformers?

 

Anyway I am curious what kind of transformers you will use for the AK4499 DAC.

 

All the best for your work on the new DAC.

 

Matt

I think Clay explained it perfectly in his explanation...

 

" ...Transformers wise maybe the smaller sized ones in the Fein just match better to the tiny built in op amps in the DAC chip.

In electronics bigger is not always better."

 

cheers,
Dave

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Thanks guys!

 

Matt RE big transformers in the Fein DAC.

Yes I did try them & the early PCB's had a dual footprint that suited both types of transformers.

It was actually an option on purchase.

From memory we were struggling to hear the difference so I ended just permanently running with the smaller transformers.

However the performance on the Fein II is getting so good now it might be worth trying the bigger transformers again.

Just finding the time to do all the critical comparisons & in the reference system is the problem.

OK current out transformers.

It is a toroidal type using a nano crystal core & fully shielded case - cost is about $100 US each.

 

 

Edited by Gieseler Audio

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On ‎2‎/‎12‎/‎2019 at 4:02 AM, Gieseler Audio said:

Also it will require a custom aluminium case.

In light of all that it will end up being a fairly pricey product.

Minimum $5 to $6k price range & probably not ready until feb/march next year.

Hi Clay,

is there any chance to save some costs with the option of a simple case, like Klein III DAC?

I must say I like very much this minimalist Klein DAC case, much more than the case of the Fein DAC.

Thanks

 

Matt

 

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Hi Matt,

I'm mainly looking at a custom case as the current Fein ones require a lot of metalworking & the panel production is fairly involved & time consuming.

The goal is to have nice finished cases sitting on the shelf & I can just stick to the electronics side which I really enjoy.

The Klein & PSU series use a simple Hammond case that the pcb just slides into but they don't make them in a big enough size to suit Gross, Fein etc.

Anyway I am going to use a big Japanese company for the custom ones & they have a good range to choose from.

They also do the cases for Uptone Audio.

 

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Posted (edited)

Hi everyone.

OK just a little glimpse of my AK4499 DAC which will be available later this year.

The Ak4499 is a four channel unit & I'm running it in dual mono mode.

Two DAC's per channel which reduces distortion & lowers output impedance.

Output is via nano crystal core custom transformers.

Master femto Crystek clocks for the DAC & Amanero board.

Discreet custom regulators (my design) for all critical DAC & Amanero supplies.

Nichicon MUSE & Gold Tune capacitors.

On board discreet Kraftwerk PSU.

Four layer PCB with seperate ground plane & dedicated power plane.

0BC43CB9-E87D-4776-A666-2277E34E6D9E.thumb.jpeg.8f2ec81c5a5d60ef1c72f81db54566de.jpeg13E6FCD9-306F-47BD-A087-48ADD8F5F12B.thumb.jpeg.419701473b7eaed550660722c217756d.jpeg

 

Edited by Gieseler Audio

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11 minutes ago, Gieseler Audio said:

Hi everyone.

OK just a little glimpse of my AK4499 DAC which will be available later this year.

The Ak4499 is a four channel unit & I'm running it in dual mono mode.

Two DAC's per channel which reduces distortion & lowers output impedance.

Output is via nano crystal core custom transformers.

Master femto Crystek clocks for the DAC & Amanero board.

Discreet custom regulators (my design) for all critical DAC & Amanero supplies.

Nichicon MUSE & Gold Tune capacitors.

On board discreet Kraftwerk PSU.

Four layer PCB with seperate ground plane & dedicated power plane.

0BC43CB9-E87D-4776-A666-2277E34E6D9E.thumb.jpeg.8f2ec81c5a5d60ef1c72f81db54566de.jpeg13E6FCD9-306F-47BD-A087-48ADD8F5F12B.thumb.jpeg.419701473b7eaed550660722c217756d.jpeg

 

 

That sounds rather expensive, even without a nice case! I'm expecting over 4K.

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I haven't worked out the projected price yet but parts cost is certainly a jump up on say the Fein II.

 

Also I forgot to mention Mike Lenehan has been running it for awhile with some reference ML5's & Bill's

new Seas Magnesium's & gave it a massive thumbs up!

 

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1 minute ago, Gieseler Audio said:

I haven't worked out the projected price yet but parts cost is certainly a jump up on say the Fein II.

 

Also I forgot to mention Mike Lenehan has been running it for awhile with some reference ML5's & Bill's

new Seas Magnesium's & gave it a massive thumbs up!

 

I would expect the parts cost to be a significant jump up from the Fein II given what you have listed on the above post! That's not cheap bits there! Anyway, absolute cost is not meant to be a criticism here. It's just stating what seems to be the case. For those of us that are budget conscious, this is not exactly something we're in the market for. Now, compared to what's out there, that's a totally different demographic there.

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14 minutes ago, Suopermanni said:

I would expect the parts cost to be a significant jump up from the Fein II given what you have listed on the above post! That's not cheap bits there! Anyway, absolute cost is not meant to be a criticism here. It's just stating what seems to be the case. For those of us that are budget conscious, this is not exactly something we're in the market for. Now, compared to what's out there, that's a totally different demographic there.

It looks like this new DAC will be sitting above the Fein II, both in performance and price.   So range later this year could be:

  • entry level Klein IV, giant killer
  • mid level Fein III and
  • super duper level Ultimativ I  (Clay seems to like German names! Google translated ultimate to ultimativ). 

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Wow!

Snoopy must be a mind reader gifted with telepathic powers.

I could not have summed it up better myself.

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@Gieseler Audio any chance a future revision might have the clocks socketed on e.g. a DIL14 with enough power to drive something special?

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Will certainly give that some thought.

The pictured PCB is still a prototype so the final will be revised & streamlined a bit more.

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Looks awesome :wub:

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While we are talking clocks, maybe the Ultimativ could have a word clock input? Given it will be playing in the super duper world of say a dCS Vivaldi (aiming too high???), where timing is critical between components, an external clock input from a Mutec Ref10 and an audiophile switch etc may be an important consideration for buyers?

 

But better asking someone from that elite group; I am not one of them...

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Apologies if this is obvious or if you’ve answered already but will it be USB only or will there be options like the Klein?

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Probably two versions.

1. USB only 

2. USB, Coax, Toslink & AES/EBU.

 

Initially just the USB version as I'm still working on the S/PDIF section which will need to run

 in slave mode to accept the on board master clocks.

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Posted (edited)

I would instinctively shy away from anything that uses transformers in the signal path. What has changed in the last 30 years or so, that would turn a mega-distorting device into a desirable component? Honest question, I haven’t been following transformer tech in a long while.

 

 

Edited by Steffen

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Posted (edited)

Nothing wrong with well implemented quality transformers, and these ones are well implemented and by all reports extremely good.

Edited by muon*
typo

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I was initially a bit sceptical when I first tried transformer output on my DAC' s but was pleasantly surprised on the first listen.

Obviously the transformer plays a big part so that's why all my current DAC's use top quality Jensen transformers from California.

These are the specs from one of the transformers I use.

Distortion 0.004% typ at 20 Hz and +4 dBu output level •

Wide bandwidth: -3 dB at 0.10 Hz and 15 MHz •

Drives 600 Ω loads to levels up to +22 dBu at 20 Hz •

Excellent time domain performance: DLP 0.3° typ 20 Hz to 20 kHz •

Insertion loss only 1.1 dB when driving 600 Ω load

Expensive unfortunately so it costs way more to use them vs the usual op amps.

Also I am not alone in the use of transformers for a DAC output.

eg a couple of top DAC's with transformer output

Linn Klimax DSM  about $38k in Aus

https://www.linn.co.uk/sources/network-music-players/klimax

PS Audio Directstream  about $9k in Aus

https://www.psaudio.com/products/directstream-dac/

 

  

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