Grace Design m903, reference headphone amplifier, DAC, monitor controller
Nov 4, 2010 at 12:39 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 81

khaos974

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From http://www.gracedesign.com/products/m903/m903.htm
 
It seems like a m902 update with better USB support, otherwise the specs are very close to the m902.
Price point: 1700/1800 $
 

 
  1. Balanced and unbalanced analog inputs
  2. 24bit/192kHz digital stereo inputs- AES3, S/PDIF, TOSLINK and USB
  3. High speed USB interface - completely asynchronous transfer mode allows for bit-perfect playback with zero interface induced jitter
  4. Driverless operation on Windows & Mac up to 96kHz/24bit
  5. Supports USB Class 2 audio specification for 192kHz/24bit operation on Windows & Mac (drivers needed for 192kHz operation under Windows)
  6. New generation DAC's and ultra low noise balanced current to voltage converter yields more musical performance compared to the m902
  7. Mono mode for checking mix phase issues (or listening to Pet Sounds)
  8. s-Lock™ phase lock loop sample clock regeneration for ultra-low jitter and rock solid digital stability
  9. High-current transimpedance headphone amplifier circuitry built to effortlessly drive low impedance headphones
  10. Balanced and unbalanced variable level analog line outputs
  11. Improved power supply architecture isolates headphone power amplifiers, line amplifiers, DAC's and digital logic
  12. Precision level control with a 99.5dB range in 0.5 dB steps
  13. Channel level matching accuracy of 0.05dB
  14. Improved x-feed circuit eliminates perceived loss of low frequency content
  15. Optional infrared remote control available
  16. Internal linear power supply with custom wound toroidal transformer
  17. Sealed gold contact relays used for all signal switching
  18. Five year transferable warranty on parts and labor
 

 
Updated Specs from m903_manual_RevA.pdf
 
[size=9pt]SPECIFICATIONS ANALOG IN[/size]
[size=9pt]Gain – Balanced Input[/size]
[size=9pt]Headphone output, volume at maximum 0dB[/size]
[size=9pt]Balanced Line output, volume at maximum +4dB[/size]
[size=9pt]Unbalanced Line output, volume at maximum -8dB[/size]
[size=9pt]Frequency Response – Unbalanced In > Unbalanced Out[/size]
[size=9pt]@ 0dBu out +/- .25dB 27Hz – 54kHz[/size]
[size=9pt]@ 0dBu out +/- .5dB 18Hz – 80kHz[/size]
[size=9pt]@ 0dBu out +/-3dB 6.5Hz – 226kHz[/size]
[size=9pt]Maximum Input Level[/size]
[size=9pt]Balanced Input +22dBu[/size]
[size=9pt]Unbalanced Input +16dBu[/size]
[size=9pt]Maximum Output Level[/size]
[size=9pt]Unbalanced output @1kHz, 100k Ohm load +21.5dBu[/size]
[size=9pt]Balanced output @1kHz, 100k Ohm load +27dBu[/size]
[size=9pt]Headphone output @1kHz, 50 Ohm load +20dBu[/size]
[size=9pt]Impedance[/size]
[size=9pt]Balanced Input 106K Ohms[/size]
[size=9pt]Unbalanced Input 53K Ohms[/size]
[size=9pt]Balanced Output 95 Ohms[/size]
[size=9pt]Unbalanced Output 47.5 Ohms[/size]
[size=9pt]Headphone Output 1.2 Ohm[/size]
[size=9pt]Dynamic Range[/size]
[size=9pt]@ 0dB gain, Balanced In > Balanced Out 117dB[/size]
[size=9pt]@ 0dB gain, Balanced In > Headphone Out 116dB[/size]
[size=9pt]THD+N Balanced Input[/size]
[size=9pt]Headphone Out @ +10dBu, 50 Ohm load, SMPTE 4:1 <0.020%[/size]
[size=9pt]Headphone Out @ +10dBu, 50 Ohm load <0.0060%[/size]
[size=9pt]Unbalanced Line Out @ +10dBu, 100k Ohm load <0.00026%[/size]
[size=9pt]Balanced Line Out @ +20dBu, 100k Ohm load <0.00036%[/size]
[size=9pt]Attenuator[/size]
[size=9pt]Channel matching <0.05dB[/size]
[size=9pt]Attenuator Range 97.5dB[/size]
[size=9pt]Output Noise Floor, Balanced Input[/size]
[size=9pt]Balanced Output, volume at maximum, 22-22kHz -90dBu[/size]
[size=9pt]Balanced Output, volume at minimum, 22-22kHz -103dBu[/size]
[size=9pt]Unbalanced Output, volume at maximum, 22-22kHz -101dBu[/size]
[size=9pt]Unbalanced Output, volume at maximum, 22-22kHz -105dBu[/size]
[size=9pt]SPECIFICATIONS D/A CONVERTER[/size]
[size=9pt]Input Sample Rate 32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192kHz[/size]
[size=9pt]THD+N[/size]
[size=9pt]44.1kHz, 24bit, 1kHz, -1dBFS, Unbalanced Out @ +15dBu <0.0009%[/size]
[size=9pt]44.1kHz, 24bit, 1kHz, -1dBFS, Balanced Out @ +15dBu <0.0006%[/size]
[size=9pt]Output level[/size]
[size=9pt]Unbalanced Output @ 0dBFS, Volume at maximum, trim at 0 +9dBu[/size]
[size=9pt]Blanced Output @ 0dBFS, Volume at maximum, trim at 0 +21dBu[/size]
[size=9pt]Power Requirements[/size]
[size=9pt]120VAC 0.16A[/size]
[size=9pt]230VAC 0.08A[/size]
[size=9pt]DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT[/size]
[size=9pt]Dimensions H1.7” x W8.5” x D8.25”[/size]
[size=9pt]Weight 5 lbs (2.2kg)[/size]
 
Nov 4, 2010 at 12:55 AM Post #3 of 81

khaos974

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Pre-order at 1795$ at rmcaudiodirect, I suppose it's close to the MSRP.
 
So as far as USB pro DAC/Headphon monitors, we now have:
Grace m902/3
Benchmark DAC1 ./USB/Pre/HDR
Lavry DA11
Antelope Audio Zodiac +
 
Am I forgetting anything?
 
Nov 4, 2010 at 1:00 AM Post #4 of 81
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Oh sorry I see you already mentioned it in your post.  There's much more competition in the USB DAC/Amp market then there was when the m902 came out (although theres also more people in the market for them.)  Red Wine, Luxman, Burson, Meier,Headamp, Violectric, the list goes on and on... Is there room for Grace anymore?  (especially at that price point?)
 
Nov 4, 2010 at 1:23 AM Post #5 of 81

khaos974

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Nah, I just edited the post afterwards.
 
I mentionned pro gear; as I understand, Burson, Meier, Luxman, Red Wine are targeted towards the audiophile market rather than the pro one.
Even Violectric is the "audiophile" division of Lake People, besides, the Vxxx series is more a headphone amp with USB DAC added while the example in the post above are more DAC first, headamp second.
 
I could add the Mytek Stereo 192 DSD DAC, but it was supposed to be out by Q1 2010 and is still in the works.
 
Nov 4, 2010 at 1:38 PM Post #8 of 81

Windows X

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From Grace m902 with uber modification: DO WHANT!!! ( WHAT+WANT)
 
Today's lesson: Do not mess around any product from company that hasn't forsaken it from product line eventhough it hasn't been updated for over 5 years.....yet T_T
 
Nov 4, 2010 at 2:50 PM Post #9 of 81

BebopMcJiggy

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Well the original used the discontinued pcm1730 but the specs are very similar so I assume they are just using the replacement from TI ?  Who knows though, never really been a huge fan of the 902.
 
Nov 5, 2010 at 10:17 AM Post #10 of 81

Cortes

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Quote:
Pre-order at 1795$ at rmcaudiodirect, I suppose it's close to the MSRP.
 
So as far as USB pro DAC/Headphon monitors, we now have:
Grace m902/3
Benchmark DAC1 ./USB/Pre/HDR
Lavry DA11
Antelope Audio Zodiac +
 
Am I forgetting anything?



  From that bunch probably the DA11 is the most equilibrated combo, but not asynchronous USB. Probably a DA10 with a modern usb transporter such as the Halide Bridge would be the best option.
 
  - Grace m903: no sure whether this DAC will be at the level of the competition
   - Lavry DA11: good combo, with great DAC. But currently no the best USB technology
  - Antelope Audio Zodiac+ : 6moon review of it says all. A good DAC with a crappy Amp. 
  - Benchmarks: I think Lavry's are better
   - One could consider also the combo Bel Canto e.one DAC2.5, but not reliable review out there. 
  - Luxman DA-200: just lunched in Japan, no reliable reviews yet. 
 
   Summing up, in the price range <$2000  I don't see any winner for a compact USB/DAC/AMP solution as of yet. A little depressing landscape 
 
Nov 7, 2010 at 12:55 AM Post #11 of 81

charlienyc

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Quote:
I could add the Mytek Stereo 192 DSD DAC, but it was supposed to be out by Q1 2010 and is still in the works.


that's funny, i was about to add that immediately after looking at your original list.  i kinda feel obligated, since i run a Mytek 8x192 for pro work. 
 
back to Grace-land (couldn't resist), the 903's USB DAC is supposed to knock the 902 out of the water.  this coming from a friend at the AES convention who spoke with Mr. Grace directly. 
 
right after this, said friend offered me his 902 at a heavily reduced price so that he can turn around and buy a 903.  seeing as how i would use it mainly for USB, it's going to be a tough decision.  decent sound i can afford or amazing sound i cannot...
confused_face(1).gif

 
Nov 7, 2010 at 1:32 AM Post #12 of 81

khaos974

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How's the Mytek 8x192 compared to its usual contenders, ie. Lavry, Apogee...
And How's the service? it seems to be a smaller company compared to the others.
 
Quote:
that's funny, i was about to add that immediately after looking at your original list.  i kinda feel obligated, since i run a Mytek 8x192 for pro work.

 
Nov 7, 2010 at 3:25 PM Post #13 of 81

charlienyc

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Quote:
How's the Mytek 8x192 compared to its usual contenders, ie. Lavry, Apogee...
And How's the service? it seems to be a smaller company compared to the others.
 

i like the Mytek.  it's been very stable and sounds incredible.  i haven't performed direct a/b shootouts with the others, but i've certainly heard enough from the Benchmark DAC1 to know i prefer the Mytek.  i got mine directly from Michal (the Mytek designer who happens to have an office in nyc) as an upgrade to my 8X96 ADC and 8x96 DAC combo.  my 8x96 ADC had problems - inputs were cutting out randomly and i guess it was not easily repairable. 
 
apparently the company earned a poor reputation (particularly amongst classical engineers) because of reliability problems from this earlier generation of converters, understandably.  the 8x192 has been great though.
 
Nov 8, 2010 at 12:33 AM Post #14 of 81

saitoh

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Quote:
And How's the service? it seems to be a smaller company compared to the others.
 


This is the one thing I can speak to in this thread. I've dealt with Grace Design for 901 work, and used their V series of pre-amps. I'd rather send my stuff back to Grace Design then to say Apogee any day of the week. Not many companies reach that level in my mind (Sound Devices is the only other audio one that comes to mind).
 
Nov 8, 2010 at 1:52 AM Post #15 of 81

Asr

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Quote:
From that bunch probably the DA11 is the most equilibrated combo, but not asynchronous USB. Probably a DA10 with a modern usb transporter such as the Halide Bridge would be the best option.  
  - Grace m903: no sure whether this DAC will be at the level of the competition
   - Lavry DA11: good combo, with great DAC. But currently no the best USB technology
  - Antelope Audio Zodiac+ : 6moon review of it says all. A good DAC with a crappy Amp. 
  - Benchmarks: I think Lavry's are better
   - One could consider also the combo Bel Canto e.one DAC2.5, but not reliable review out there. 
  - Luxman DA-200: just lunched in Japan, no reliable reviews yet. 
 
   Summing up, in the price range <$2000  I don't see any winner for a compact USB/DAC/AMP solution as of yet. A little depressing landscape 


Depending on your definition of "compact," the Wyred4Sound DAC-2 could also be in that list. Well it doesn't have a headphone output either, but it does have 24/96 async USB.
 

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