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Gieseler Audio

Klein DAC II

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How about all you Queenslanders sharing a room.

I think that would be great if they would.

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Sharing is a great idea & I did think of that with Mike (Lenehan Audio) but he is with Magenta already & as they have DSD DAC's I don't think that would work. Anyway I I haven't totally discounted it yet & will check out any other possibilities.

Ivan - it will have USB, optical & S/PDIF so you could easily use a optical selector/switch to increase the number of optical inputs.

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Interested in the progress of these.......

Sent from my SM-N915G using Tapatalk

Edited by DMax

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My last few DACs have chronologically been a PS Audio DAC III, NAD M51 and lastly the Klein (late 2015 model) and each successive change gave increasingly satisfying results.  Whilst the NAD is a lovely component - presenting beautifully, well featured and sounding very good - it mostly left me yearning for more.  When I moved to the Klein, I knew that I was on to something because here was a component that offered speed and realism in quite a different class to my previous converters.

 

When Clay Gieseler revealed that he was bringing out the Klein II with its added feature set and promise of better performance (due to better power filtering mostly), I was quite prepared to make the jump as the performance of his products seem to represent no outlay risk at all.  The new Klein II arrived almost two weeks ago and, as I am a firm believer in burn-in for new components, I have left my feedback until now.

 

Klein II looks very similar to its older sibling with the main differences being a front panel display indicating input and filter settings and etched front face lettering showing name and model number.  I suspect that Clay's design has a leaning toward USB sources as sample rate is only shown for USB and not for the coax and optical inputs.  I have only used the Klein II through its coax input from my streamer feeding both red book and HD files up to 192kHz, PCM only and not DSD.

 

The original Klein is an excellent performer - make no mistake about that - but its successor is just that much better.  It has taken a full ten days for its talents to emerge clearly but the wait has been most satisfying.  Klein II has all the poise and control that one expects of a high end DAC.  It's not a case of more abundant bass or sweeter treble but rather a sense of balance and naturalness that is only evident in better audio products. In fact my initial impression was that there was less bass but extended listening reveals that it seems to plumb the depths farther and mid/upper bass is better controlled with significantly less bloom than before.  

 

I have to confess that I am an imaging addict and Klein II presses all the right buttons.  Whilst the previous Klein was not bad at this at all, this latest DAC presents a picture that is particularly good front to back (it seems that performers are slightly further back) with not all performers being at the front of the stage close to the listener.  The soundstage is no wider than previously but each individual takes on a narrower and more accurate width all within a stage that extends well outside my speakers.

 

Listeners addicted to detail won't be disappointed either.  The really surprising aspect is that this level of detail emerges with no hint of upper end harshness.  I have been waiting for the catch, usually listener fatigue, but all is good here.  My listening sessions tend to be long and fatigue free.

 

So, let me try to summarise the good things about this DAC: 

 

• Imaging, both left to right, and front to back, are excellent.

• Detail is very good and is achieved without hardening of the treble

• PRAT scores are high.  One of Klein II's best attributes is it's extremely fast rise times, indicating a high quality output stage.

• At $1,000 (including postage), it is priced beyond belief.  I would be very happy with this performance if I had spent $4,000 - no kidding!

 

Things that are not so good:

 

• Klein II, like its older sibling, is a plain Jane dressed in very modest clothing.  One could be tempted to list this as an advantage as Clay has chosen to use his budget on the design and internal components rather than the housing.  In the world of DIY audio, $1,000 on a fine looking CNC milled case is not unusual so buyers of Klein II can be assured that their purchase price has been spent on performance and not on cosmetics.

• The lack of balanced outputs may be a concern for some in the high end segment but the performance using the unbalanced O/P is terrific.

• Lack of sampling rate information on coax and optical inputs is a little disappointing.  For me, it is of minor concern as I do my listening with the display turned off and the mobile app for the NAD shows file type and sampling rates.

 

An additional problem for Clay to address, in my opinion, is placement in his product lineup.  Klein II is only $250 more than Klein and that was intended to account for DSD capability and remote control functionality for display and filtering.  My view is that the sound quality improvement alone is worth the asking price and this could leave the original Klein stranded.

 

There is no doubt that the hifi world places enormous emphasis on impressive build quality coupled with glamorous looks and in those respects Klein II is unlikely to capture the imagination of high end listeners.  After all, how can something this plain and this inexpensive be any good?  The truth is that Clay Gieseler has chosen his target specification carefully and I believe that he has met it.  This is an exceptional DAC, not just at the asking price, but at any price.  It deserves to be treated with utmost respect.

 

Review system:

 

NAD M50 steamer < ethernet < NAS

Octave HP300MkII preamp

Bryston 4BSST2 power amp

Lenehan Audio ML2 Reference speakers

Room treated heavily with front and back bass traps and side wall diffusors

 

 

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Awesome review Andrew, I have had Clay's latest DAC running for the last week or so and I am equally impressed as you.

One thing that stood out from the moment I set it up was the outstanding prat, clarity and musicality.

Dsd via USB in paticular is a real treat, my Nat King Cole sacd rips have never sounded so good!

Still deciding which PCM filter I prefer but have noticed that some filters suit particular genres better than others.

Well done Clay, you have really hit the ball out of the park this time :)

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Nice review Andrew.

My anticipation for the DAC/Pre is palpable now, reading how good the Klein II performs.

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Hi Clay,

I have a question regarding the DSD filters of the DAC II.

Both the AK4490 and the AK4497 offer two DSD filters.

Is it possible to switch between the two with the remote?

Thanks

Matt

Edited by matth

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Hi Clay et al,

 

Any updates on a DAC with both XLR & RCA simultaneous outputs? I've recently purchased a Primare PRE30 which has balanced inputs of which I would like to use with my DAC but as I have the original Klein this isn't possible at this stage. I also connect the RCA's to my HT amp so I can play music through my speakers on my deck.

 

Cheers

 

Matthew

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Matt,

At this stage I have just preset the DSD filter to what I thought was best. I did not want too many options as this can sometimes confuse

the non technical types. The remote I supply is a nice simple one & we are currently using all the buttons. As it is just a firmware thing it could certainly be optioned in as a special order but would need a different remote.

Matthew,

I am certainly working on the the new DAC/pre but have been a bit overwhelmed with Klein DAC II orders so that has been taking up all my time at the moment. Anyway I'm starting to get on top of things now so hopefully not too far away.

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Hi Clay,

 

the AK4490 offers five PCM filters and the AK4497 offers six PCM filters. Both chips have only two DSD filters. So it is much more confusing to choose one of the PCM filters than one of the DSD filters.

 

For me the DSD capabilities of a DAC are much more important than the PCM ones. To get the best sound quality I can convert all files with HQPlayer or the upcoming Audirvana to DSD256.

 

On the CA Forum there is a very interesting thread about a German DSD512 DAC. This DAC offers also two DSD filters, one seems to be clearly better.

 

But I want to choose which DSD filter is the right one for me.

 

So I would like to ask you to give us with your upcoming AK4497 DSD DAC the possibility to choose one of two DSD filters with the remote like you do with the PCM filters.

 

Thank you very much.

 

BTW, a very nice remote control is from Apple. Can you use it for the Klein?

 

Kind regards

 

Matt

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Hi Matt,

The new DAC/pre will have a bigger display & remote so I will certainly make those DSD filter options available.

The Apple remote (tv?) is really nice & it would be no problem to use it for control. The only possible issue is the Apple TV is quite popular so you could not have both devices in use at the same & have independent remote control.

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Hi Clay,

please make the DSD filter options for your upcoming DACs without preamp available as well.

Thanks

Matt

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Hi Matt,

Yes sounds like a good idea. I will have a word with my programmer about it for sure.

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Hi Clay,

coming back from the HighEnd Munich I would like to share some impressions.

 

I talked to a German DAC manufacturer who launched four DACs in various price ranges.

All DACs make a default converting of files with the AK4137SRC to DSD256. The DAC chip is the AK4490.

He told me that a great majority prefers the converting to DSD256 and that converting with the AK4137 is superior to software converting with JRiver.

In his opinion a prototype AK4497 he was able to listen to was much superior to the AK4490.

 

As I regard the design of your DACs superior to the DACs of this manufacturer IMO your upcoming AK4497 DAC (with AK4137SRC?) will be a Killer-DAC.

 

Matt

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Hi Matt,

Thanks for the all the info. I have AK4137SRC sitting on the shelf so I better start testing out some prototypes asap.

Was his prototype AK4497 DAC using the AK4137SRC as well?

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Hi Clay,

 

IIRC, he tested the prototype with the AK4137 as well.

AFAIK, the AK4137 is able to convert to DSD256 but not to DSD512.

 

Matt

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Reading this thread is getting me a bit confused so i want to know and I want to confirm if and when i buy another Klein Dac that I'm getting the latest, my understanding Dac II has the AK4490EQ and I'm reading something about an up and coming Klein DAC is it going to be number III maybe and will have the newer chip AK4497?

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Correct - the new Klein DAC II is using the AK4490EQ AKM DAC chip. This is the current top of the range DAC chip from AKM.

However there is a new AKM chip called the AK4497EQ coming & this will be their new top of the line chip with the 4490 going to second spot. The ETA on the new chip is "summer 2016" Quite often they are behind schedule so I did not want to delay the release of the Klein II untill the 4497 was actually available which may end up being near the end of the year. The performance specification of the 4490 is already incredibly good so depending on the system not everyone will necessarily hear much difference. Unfortunately the 4497 is not a drop in replacement for the 4490 so will require a total board redesign & a larger micro controller.The DAC chip is a very critical part but there are certainly quite a lot of other parts that also contribute to the overall sound quality. EG - output stage, power supplies, USB board & component quality. You can can buy a AK4490 DAC board on EBay for arround $50 but it will sound worlds apart from even the standard Klein. Currently Just to name a few, Denon & Marantz are using the AK4490 in their flagship models. Arcam actually used a 10+ years old DAC chip in their relatively recent irDAC but did a nice job of it so it stacks up quite well against the competition.

Anyway I just want to let everyone know I'm very aware of current new DAC chip releases. The latest chips are getting rather complex so the design process takes a fair while but rest assured that I am working on it. Hopefully near the end of the year I will have a well tested product available incorporating the AK4497.

Cheers Clay

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Reading this thread is getting me a bit confused so i want to know and I want to confirm if and when i buy another Klein Dac that I'm getting the latest, my understanding Dac II has the AK4490EQ and I'm reading something about an up and coming Klein DAC is it going to be number III maybe and will have the newer chip AK4497?

I have followed Clay's products for a couple of years, if not more, and am on my second Klein DAC an SE. I am perfectly happy as I do DSD via software

It is type of sad that when one buys a DAC (or a Server) it does not remain the top of the range for that long as Computer Audio is developing at an increasing rate, but such is life.

I have now learned the lesson a few times.  I have a Mytek Dac here for sale for $850, new it was US $1,595. Same with my Cary and my Klein.

AFAIU Clay has a business model of providing a range of DAC's e.g. Klein, Klein SE, Klein II etc. His pricing IMO is way too cheap so I am happy to buy from him and the range means that there is something available in various price ranges.

Clay and all other manufacturers that uses dac chips will always have the issue that they can only use the latest chip available.

 

I think we have to look at it like this:

  • What do I need and what can I afford - buy it and enjoy (and don't look at the new products  :D )
  • Make a decision re DSD - are you interested or not. If you are not interested don't worry about the new products. If you are interested in DSD decide if this is DAC related, computer related or both. Does not matter how you wish to address DSD IMO things are changing and will be changing for a while so be prepared to lose money if you wish to invest in the latest and greatest.

There are 2 other alternatives:

  • Go for the "old" ladder type dacs. Dont have to worry about upgrades.
  • Buy a PS Audio Directsream Dac that works differently and get upgraded via software. To me that is a long term solution, it is just that at $8,295 it is way out of my budget.

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I think a Klein DAC with both AK4137(hopefully) and AK4497 will be worth the wait.

 

Matt

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I think a Klein DAC with both AK4137(hopefully) and AK4497 will be worth the wait.

 

Matt

I can tell you with confidence Matt, Clay's latest DAC is available now and is the ducks nuts!

Why wait and die wondering.... ;)

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I am a DSD lover and like to have a DSD512 capable DAC.

 

Matt

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I am a DSD lover and like to have a DSD512 capable DAC.

 

Matt

 

There doesn't appear to be much native DSD512 material around from what I have seen. Most of it is conversions of PCM to DSD512 which kind of defeats the purpose. DSD256 capability is probably the maximum performance you need at this stage ;)

 

cheers

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