Grace Design x Massdrop m9XX DAC/Amp Review: First Impressions
Oct 24, 2016 at 4:20 AM Post #1,756 of 2,150

Namaskar

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... and to add to above info:
drivers seem to be installed, Win10 says 'the device is working properly'
Driver Management concluded the process to install driver wdma_usb.inf_amd64_134cb113911feba4\wdma_usb.inf for Device Instance ID USB\VID_21B4&PID_0143&MI_00\7&10A3CDE0&0&0000 with the following status: 0x0.
 
have set to default device - no changes
 
can switch between other devices connected (other amp/dac, pc speakers and external desktop speakers - switch works fine to other devices)
 
Going into advanced properties - select sample rate and bit depth when running in shared mode --- this has only 32bit options 44k to 96k ... my flac files have 16 bit I think ... I guess this does not mean only 32 bit files play (??)
 
used both cables - high power plus usb connection for file trf ... no change
 
... any ideas what else I could do?
 
Thanks  
 
Oct 24, 2016 at 5:36 PM Post #1,758 of 2,150

Hi-Fi EDU

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@Namaskar Since you're plugged into USB input, did you switch from toslink input "to" to USB input "U" in the m9XX menu?
 
- Hold volume button down until you access LCD menu > rotate knob until you see either "U" or "to." > If on "to" click to change to "U" > Hold volume button down to exit menu.
If that doesn't help, yeah maybe contact the Grace Design folks.
Note: "U1" and "U2" settings are something different and refer to USB Audio Classes. Check out the m9XX manual HERE for more info.
 
Oct 25, 2016 at 5:21 AM Post #1,759 of 2,150

Namaskar

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Thx HiFi EDU ... unfortunately not a quick fix - it's already set to U ....  BUT - I dug out an old 2010 laptop with W7 installed ... plugged in M9, used VLC .. and it works! And what a beautiful sound too!
Have emailed Grace, Alex is currently helping me to get it going on my W10 main desktop pc - great service and much appreciated!
 
Oct 25, 2016 at 6:29 AM Post #1,760 of 2,150

Namaskar

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Yeah! - now all working on my desktop too! I'm using the separately installed XMOS driver for the U2 setting -- and enjoy my HD700 more than ever (Esperanza Spalding's voice and bass sound fantastic!) - time to start discovering the filters and other settings.
 
What a wonderful little device the M9xx is! Congrats to GraceDesign for such a stylish quality product! And a big Thankyou to Alex from their support team.
 
Oct 26, 2016 at 10:35 PM Post #1,761 of 2,150

Zelcroft

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  There's no such thing as bypassing the amp/output stage in the m9XX completely, but yes, your idea would work. Set volume to 90 when you do this. Yes, you can also use the 6.3mm (it doesn't have a 3.5mm) jack from the Grace.

So instead of "bypassing" the Grace acts as the pre-amp, is that so? May I also know the reason for setting it to 90, instead of say raising the gain on the amp instead? Thanks.
 
Oct 26, 2016 at 11:21 PM Post #1,762 of 2,150

m8o

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90 == unity gain.
 
Oct 27, 2016 at 5:41 AM Post #1,763 of 2,150

Michgelsen

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  So instead of "bypassing" the Grace acts as the pre-amp, is that so? May I also know the reason for setting it to 90, instead of say raising the gain on the amp instead? Thanks.


​If you put it like this, every DAC acts as a pre-amp. Every DAC has an output section to amplify the signal coming from the DAC chip itself, to raise the signal to 2 V. The m9XX is no different. Some DACs, such as the m9XX, also have a volume control built in. If you set the volume on the m9XX to 90, you get a standard 2 V output, but you can never bypass the output section in any DAC. You wouldn't get a usable signal if you did. If you go over 90 on the m9XX, an additional amplification stage kicks in. You can hear a very slight pop when you pass 90. This is not necessary when connecting an external amp, so it's best to not go over 90 in that case.
You should always set the source to its maximum volume, so that you will achieve the highest signal-to-noise ratio, instead of relying on the amp to amplify more. You would then also be amplifying more of the inherent noise coming out of the DAC.
 
Nov 7, 2016 at 7:52 AM Post #1,764 of 2,150

Here2rock

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I had my mind set on buying the Schiit audio Jotunheim with DAC option for the same price. This seems like a toy product compare to the Schiit audio Amp/DAC. Is this just as powerful as the Schiit offering? Can someone please advise the pros and cons?
 
Nov 7, 2016 at 8:09 AM Post #1,765 of 2,150

sheldaze

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I had my mind set on buying the Schiit audio Jotunheim with DAC option for the same price. This seems like a toy product compare to the Schiit audio Amp/DAC. Is this just as powerful as the Schiit offering? Can someone please advise the pros and cons?

The Schiit product has more power - a lot more power. I would never consider using the Grace to drive an HE-6, and even had issues using it to drive an HE-1000. Just my opinion - I have read impressions from people who thought it sounded fine. I did not like it with HE-1000.
 
But I kept my m9xx and sold the Jotunheim. The Jot has some definite sonic character, sometimes referred to as the Schiit "house" sound. I personally think the Jot has very little character. The Jot and the Ragnarok, in my opinion have the least character of the Schiit amplifiers. The Rag is slightly warm and the Jot is slightly cool. But the Jot, in my opinion, does something else to the soundstage. I noticed this most particularly through the HD650, which can have a fairly deep soundstage. Through the Jot, the sounds, directly in front, seem rather pressed up against the listener. I enjoyed this sound staging, until I started to listen to quite a few other amplifiers. And once I heard the difference, I fond the Jot rather distracting to listen to. One other note is the Jot is cool sounding, but can also be rather brittle sounding until warmed up. And I mean a warmup of 8 - 24 hours.
 
The m9xx has a very good implementation of the 4490 DAC chip, using custom filters from Grace Design. It can be used as a DAC, a very good DAC, and a DAC/AMP for most headphones. It is small, has almost no sonic character of its own. It has no "house" sound or odd staging. It has no warmup issues. I am definitely keeping mine for listening, and as a tool when I need a simple source. I think there was a lot of good design choice made for the Grace, and people do not shout or sing its praises enough. It is quite the competent little box.
 
Nov 7, 2016 at 2:13 PM Post #1,766 of 2,150

Here2rock

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Thank you for your detailed answer. My intention is to pair it with the HD800S or Beyerdynamic T1 2nd generation. Is it a goood match for these flagship headphones or should I be looking for other options to get the best out of these headphones?

Does Massdrop offer these on sale on a regular basis?
 
Nov 7, 2016 at 3:11 PM Post #1,767 of 2,150

sheldaze

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My intention is to pair it with the HD800S or Beyerdynamic T1 2nd generation. Is it a good match for these flagship headphones or should I be looking for other options to get the best out of these headphones?

It is a surprisingly good match for the HD800/800S. You will need to search for impressions regarding the Beyer.
 
 Does Massdrop offer these on sale on a regular basis?

These do drop fairly regularly, though you may also want to look at the classifieds.
 
Nov 7, 2016 at 3:11 PM Post #1,768 of 2,150

Spork67

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Thank you for your detailed answer. My intention is to pair it with the HD800S or Beyerdynamic T1 2nd generation. Is it a goood match for these flagship headphones or should I be looking for other options to get the best out of these headphones?

Does Massdrop offer these on sale on a regular basis?

I think this is the second drop this year - so not as regular as some of their drops, but very likely to come up again in a few months.
It works OK with the T1 - s, but to my ears those HPs sound considerably better with the m9XX as a DAC feeding a good quality tube amp.
I think of mine as as excellent little DAC, that can also power 2 sets of HPs if I need it to.
 
Nov 7, 2016 at 6:13 PM Post #1,769 of 2,150

ld100

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So what would you guys do if you had five bills now... Grace or Shiit? I am not planning to drive hard headphones... Just things like Sennheiser HD600. I am confused at it clearly seems that Shiit is a better amp, but my guess is that HD600 should be just fine with Grace and better DAC is more important in my particular case. Would greatly appreciate your opinions...
 
Nov 7, 2016 at 6:18 PM Post #1,770 of 2,150

Here2rock

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Thank you sheldaze and Spork67.
 
Reading the reviews, it seems that this amp does not have not enough power, often requiring more than 90% on the volume knob. How true is this? Some of the reviews have pointed out that it does not make much difference running in high power output mode.
 
Anybody else would agree to these conclusions?
 

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