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GIESELER KONVERTER (DAC/Preamp) Official release.


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Finally it is finished! Sorry for the huge delay but I have had a ton of other things happening over the last six months which caused the delay.

OK down to some details.

Inputs Digital                      USB, Coax & optical.

Inputs Analogue               2  x  RCA

Outputs                               1  x  XLR  + 2  x  RCA

DAC Chip                             Asahi Kasei Microdevices AK4497EQ

Output level is variable by remote control with a maximum of 3v RMS or 4.5v RMS depending on a PCB gain jumper setting. I find these levels work well with most power amps but I’m happy to reconfigure them to a custom output if required. The unit has full remote control of all functions except main power on/off. Settings, filter, input etc information is via a large OLED graphics display. There is a main menu with all the info & also sub menus using much larger characters eg volume so you can read it from across the room. Also a display off mode.  The muting system is very sophisticated so no pops at all during sample rate change & DSD PCM format changes. At this stage there will only be one version which uses two additional Jensen transformers for the output of the DAC chip. In comparison to the usual op-amp stage the transformer was miles ahead in terms of sound quality.

Cost  -  Unfortunately the build time is massive with three separate pcbs, inter-board wiring & lots of manual chassis & panel work + four expensive Jensen transformers so ie ended up  $4k. This may change a little when we streamline production  & have some more accurate build times.

OK that’s all for now as I just wanted to get the basic info out there ASAP. Down the track a bit I will supply more tech info & some measurements.  Feel free to ask any questions.

Oops – almost forgot – how does it sound you ask? – bloody fantastic but of course I’m biased! IMG_0734.thumb.JPG.54072a83c89bd78f1c41db475dddf192.JPGIMG_0725.thumb.JPG.a8daa728c03566b9a2a5d222d7d510ff.JPGIMG_0749.thumb.JPG.8ad20d0f59837171dfa75a5804408b46.JPGIMG_0745.thumb.JPG.243b1e4d6fb405d2e0033570e4bcf8c6.JPGIMG_0655.thumb.JPG.4802e6b9bc6bd2f76f3f4244adb14b51.JPG

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Finally it is finished! Sorry for the huge delay but I have had a ton of other things happening over the last six months which caused the delay. OK down to some details. Inputs Digital

Hello everyone, well after waiting for over a year now for Clay's Konverter DAC preamp I finally  came home and their was the box I had been waiting for sitting in the hallway. As you do when som

Hi Guys, I'm rather excited at the moment as I have just finished populating the brand new digital front end PCB for the Konverter. If you look closely you can see some of the ultra low nois

Thanks Cafad,

no the HT Bypass sockets connect directly to the main output sockets when the unit is powered off. Normally you would have the HT bypass sockets connected to say the line out of a AV receiver so you could share the power amp between two system if that makes sense.

 

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Looks great Clay.

Out of interest, can the outputs be run simultaneously (for example, the RCA outs to a power amp and the XLR to a sub)?

 

Edit: just seen there's a switch there so I'm guessing the answer is "no"

Edited by Sir Sanders Zingmore
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Look so simple but has every single feature that you could want in a pre amp.....why can't the big manufactures do this. Now just need to find a Chinese manufacturer to keep price down.:D

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That is a beautiful piece of kit! I'm sure it will sound fantastic as well.
I was a bit confused about the DAC when there was no digital inputs listed.
The pics rectified that for me. :)
Pricewise, I think it is not unreasonable considering that you have both a DAC and pre in one package.


On manufacturing cost - there is so much that can be done to contain cost on local production. It pains me that people seem to want to jump to off-shoring work immediately rather than keeping work here. If you do that, you loose a lot more than just local jobs. There's also control and IP implications.

There is a pharmasuticals company in Melbourne that has streamlined their processes to the extent that they are bringing production in from India and China because it is cheaper for them to do it here. There is no reason why other manufacturers can't do the same.

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I have seen it in real life.

 

As I have posted elsewhere the quality of construction is beyond exceptional - its actually a thing of beauty and I am a fussy guy who has never said that about a product before.

 

On aesthetics alone it deserves to be a raging success - but I am sure it will be VERY competitive with other DAC's in its price range sound wise.

 

Thanks

Bill

Edited by bhobba
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I'd have to say, this looks far better than expected and I'm sure it will sound excellent as well. Great job.

However, there is an elephant in the room, it is now totally out of my price range. Were we not originally expecting a $1500-ish product?

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Yes it should play DSD512

I will try & find a test track & give it a whirl as I soon get it back - currently on loan to a local audio buff for evaluation.

blybo - Yes my original conception was for a cost arround 2K but the final product evolved a lot in terms parts cost & functionality.

 

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Triumphant mate!  And, if I may say so, great to see a toggle hanging in there (even if relegated to the back!).

Any chance of xlr in's (for CD players with balanced out, for example)?  Looking at the innards, would it be safe to assume that the dac part will be upgradable, or would this mess with the overall programming too much?  

Well done! Mat

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Krebetman - yes when I get time I will look into a silver front panel version.

Mat - sorry no balanced analogue in at this stage. DAC board upgrade, yes that may certainly be on the cards.

At the moment all the boards are being revised slightly just to tidy up the wiring & layout so production models will look a little neater inside. Digikey finally have the AK4497EQ chips back in stock now so I will be keeping reasonable stocks to ensure no production delays. Lead time on orders will be arround three weeks. There are a few units that have been pre ordered so hopefully some online feedback soon.

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Thanks Cafad,
no the HT Bypass sockets connect directly to the main output sockets when the unit is powered off. Normally you would have the HT bypass sockets connected to say the line out of a AV receiver so you could share the power amp between two system if that makes sense.
 


Clay,

Just so I get this right...

HT bypass will work with the unit powered off, but HT bypass will stop working if it is powered on regardless of the input selection? I know it sounds like a dopey question, but I just want to know how simple it would be for all family members to use.

HT bypass is fine on my current Integrated, but involves lots of button pressing which drives others up the wall.


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Mark - haven't given it much thought but if I could automate pc production a bit & job out the case work it might be something to think about.

 

John - HT bypass. This is as simple at it gets & totally automatic. Yes you are correct once the Konvertor is powered up the HT sockets are disconnected. Simple scenario. One power amp which is currently connected to the front channel line outputs of a AV receiver( for improved sound quality)  Konvertor installed into the system & its line output is connected directly to the power amp line inputs for maximum sound quality. The AV receiver front line outputs are now connected to the HT bypass sockets on the Konvertor. 

Family member walks in & powers up the Konvertor for some high quality music listening - it automatically connects its self  to the power amp disconecting the AV receiver in the process. Music session over & the Konvertor is powered off - AV receiver now re connected back to the power amp for movie viewing. The Konverter remembers all its settings (volume input ect) when powered off & on. eg - you were listening to some music via the USB input at volume level 75 & switch it off. Next time you power it on it goes back to those same settings.

Phew!  Hope that is crystal clear now.

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You have obviously put a lot of thought into the design. Any efficiencies in production would be good for you clay,  regardless of scaling up production.

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2 hours ago, powerav said:

Smart arse warning:

Is it MQA compliant.:D

 

No.

 

But Clay is well aware of what is required and needs to wait until chips that work with his AKM DAC are available.

 

Those that have it like the Meridian Explorer 2 use FGPA's that simply require updated firmware.   Those, like Clay, that use DAC chips need to wait until chips that do the MQA conversion for that particular chip are available.

 

I believe MQA is the future of audio, but its early days yet and I know Clay is investigating it, but unfortunately will not happen overnight.

 

Thanks

Bill

Edited by bhobba
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Hi Guys

 

Heard it.

 

Very very good - up there with the 3 best DAC's I know.

 

In no particular order because they are all diffferent these are:

 

Konverter

Killer

Direct Stream.

 

its impossible to order them because they are all different.

 

The Killer is exquisitely beautiful on the right material such as what I listen to - Peggy Lee - Fever.   On the wrong material like ACDC - not so hot.

 

The Direct Stream is the most expensive of the lot but is continually being upgraded by software changes which each change better than the last.  Its simply dead neutral with non edgy natural detail.  But maybe a little boring with no Ah factor like the Killer.   Works well on all music.  Has the bridge 2 add on that will soon include MQA and operated via Roon or an Android phone over the internet.

 

Clay's DAC is different again with different features such as a pre-amp and home theatre bypass.  You cant get a handle on its digital signature because you have a remote control with configurable DAC filters so you can change its signature to be like the Killler or DS.   Not exactly the same ie not quite as neutral as the DS or beautiful as the Killer but some were close and others different again.   All sounded good.   Was it better or worse than the others.  Its not that simple at this level - its a personal preference thing.  

 

Now I like the Killer because it works so well with my music.  I also like the DS - but maybe just a tad uninvolving.  Clays DAC's allow you to choose more according to your mood and music - of course since its configurable none are 100% accurate - no DAC of course is - the DS would be closest.   But is that what you want?  Its entirely up to you.

 

You should listen to all three and most certainly that can be arranged.  It really is the only way to decide.   Clay's DAC is that good.  BTW the other two DAC's are both more expensive so value definitely goes to Clay.

 

Also Clay told me a few technical; details.  He takes the DAC output straight to Jensen output transformers then the pre-amp stage which also has Jensen transformers.  They are very transparent but quite expensive and it uses 4.   Only the highest quality components are used so its price is very reasonable considering parts quality and what went into it.

 

It of course has my heartiest recommendation - but at this level do listen to the other DAC's mentioned - they are all a bit different with different features.  The DS is quite a bit more expense at twice the price - a better match to compare against would be the DS Junior.

 

Thanks

Bill 

 

 

Edited by bhobba
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10 hours ago, bhobba said:

I believe MQA is the future of audio.............

 

Bill,

really?

All music available as MQA only? IMO, this would be a nightmare.

 

Matt

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5 hours ago, matth said:

Bill, really? All music available as MQA only? IMO, this would be a nightmare

 

Yes - good point.

 

I will qualify this - the future of streaming audio.

 

I listen to Tidal pretty much exclusively these days due to it has everything I ever listen to including new releases.  All for just $20pm.

 

The issue is quality.  I give the order as follows from a number of experiments I have done:

 

1.  Lowest quality - normal Tidal.  Despite that its what I use since its still very listenable.

2.  On disk, usb drive etc.   Better - but not as convenient and you have to buy it or put your little pirate hat on.

3.  Streamed MQA - best of all.   Gradually Tidal is converting everything to MQA - it has over 1000 albums now and growing. Warner Brothers are converting everything over, Universal just agreed and now the only holdout is Sony - but how long before it agrees - doubtful it will be long, it will likely eventually come on board, but we will see.

 

Now as to quality compared to other formats - even DXD and 4XDSD - see the following and judge for yourself:

http://www.2l.no/hires/

 

Here is what one person thought:

http://www.2l.no/hires/documentation/2L-MQA_Comparisons.pdf

 

That's correct - better than DXD.

 

I can feel a GTG comming on.

 

BTW Clay is fully aware of all of this and will 100% for sure be looking at incorporating it in future products.   But as I said - its early days yet in the MQA 'revolution' if it happens - many a slip between lip and cup - so exactly what eventuates is anyone's guess.

 

What I can say 100% for sure is 96k MQA from the Tidal application sounds glorious through Clays new DAC - I have heard it.

 

Thanks

Bill

Edited by bhobba
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IMO, Clays forum is not the right place to discuss MQA, but regarding streaming one must read this:

 

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/blogs/miska/some-analysis-and-comparison-mqa-encoded-flac-vs-normal-optimized-hires-flac-674/

 

Technically the full MQA decoding could be made in SOFTWARE ( if Mr. Stuart allows it) and for me it would be fine to have a Gieseler DAC without MQA hardware decoding. 

 

Matt

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Quick update. The final production digital & PSU boards will now be using state of the art Linear Technolgy ultra low noise regulators - 8uv so I'm expecting a subtle but definate improvement again in sound quality. I will be keeping the current prototype to compare against the final production model. I'm currently using at home the first prototype (AK4490) version & in terms of audio quality  AK4497 version is significantly better. The current AK4497 model (pictured) is a special USB only version I did for myself so that may be contributing to sound improvement due to the direct I2S connection - no relay switching.

Edited by Gieseler Audio
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51 minutes ago, matth said:

Technically the full MQA decoding could be made in SOFTWARE ( if Mr. Stuart allows it) and for me it would be fine to have a Gieseler DAC without MQA hardware decoding. 

 

Of course it can and its quite possible Roon and other software will have it for common DAC chips like the AKM Clay uses.

 

Again its early on in the cycle and Clay is well aware of whats going on which is all you can ask for.

 

But please please know that the usual 96k from the Tidal application is great on this DAC.

 

Thanks

Bill

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27 minutes ago, bhobba said:

But please please know that the usual 96k from the Tidal application is great on this DAC.

 

This is good to know and Clay deserves praise for designing a DAC with AK4497 and excellent output transformers like Linn with the Katalyst DAC.

 

Matt

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