Grace Design x Massdrop m9XX DAC/Amp Review: First Impressions
Nov 19, 2015 at 1:09 PM Post #451 of 2,148

moedawg140

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cmon reviewers, I know you're listening, I need to know how badly I screwed up by not getting in on the first drop and how you'll have an extra two months of audio bliss while I wait for round 2.


I tried to explain why it would be nice to get in the first drop without sounding hyperbolic. :normal_smile : Hopefully there will be a second drop and you can purchase the m9XX then.

Good luck in advance!
 
Nov 19, 2015 at 1:54 PM Post #452 of 2,148

psonoda

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Just got mine. Now going to do a head to head against my Modi Vali Wyrd stack. Powering my hd700s
 
Nov 19, 2015 at 2:48 PM Post #453 of 2,148

ViperGeek

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UPS Santa just arrived.  My amazing Grace stack is complete:
 

 
Very initial reactions are that the mXX sounds gorgeous, yet a different kind of gorgeous than the m920.  It's going to take a lot of critical listening to pinpoint the differences (perhaps AKM vs. Sabre DACs?), but I'd be proud and completely satisfied with either DAC/amp as my primary source of audio enjoyment.
 
If you missed this drop, request and sign up for the second one immediately.  I plan to never be without a Grace DAC/amp and will be taking the m9XX with me to work, for travel, and maybe even in the car (as a passenger).
 
- Dave
 
ps. I recommend giving DAC filter F3 a try.  IMO, it's the best balance of crisp highs and amazing presence (think: closing your eyes and reaching out for the singer).
 
Nov 19, 2015 at 3:13 PM Post #454 of 2,148

kawaivpc1

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  UPS Santa just arrived.  My amazing Grace stack is complete:
 

 
Very initial reactions are that the mXX sounds gorgeous, yet a different kind of gorgeous than the m920.  It's going to take a lot of critical listening to pinpoint the differences (perhaps AKM vs. Sabre DACs?), but I'd be proud and completely satisfied with either DAC/amp as my primary source of audio enjoyment.
 
If you missed this drop, request and sign up for the second one immediately.  I plan to never be without a Grace DAC/amp and will be taking the m9XX with me to work, for travel, and maybe even in the car (as a passenger).
 
- Dave
 
ps. I recommend giving DAC filter F3 a try.  IMO, it's the best balance of crisp highs and amazing presence (think: closing your eyes and reaching out for the singer).

It's cool that you have both m920 and m9xx!!
I would really love to hear your comparison review. m920 costs nearly four times the m9xx. 
Do you think m9xx come close to m920 when playing 24bit 192kHz FLAC files or DSD files?
m920 is made for professional recording studios. 
Can m9xx match that authentic sound quality?
 
Unfortunately, I missed the first drop.........:frowning2:
 
Nov 19, 2015 at 3:29 PM Post #455 of 2,148

ViperGeek

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  It's cool that you have both m920 and m9xx!!
I would really love to hear your comparison review. m920 costs nearly four times the m9xx. 
Do you think m9xx come close to m920 when playing 24bit 192kHz FLAC files or DSD files?
m920 is made for professional recording studios. 
Can m9xx match that authentic sound quality?
 
Unfortunately, I missed the first drop.........:frowning2:

 
I'm too new into headphone obsession to give it a fair, fully-qualified review, but I will say that if I had only the m9XX and the m920 was out of my price range, I'd be completely satisfied with the m9XX as the centerpiece of my desktop hi-fi system.
 
And yes, I've been throwing 192kHz/24 FLACs and 2.8MHz DSD files (via DoP) at it without a single glitch.  Even the line outs feeding a pair of Klipsch THX desktop speakers sounds awesome.
 
- Dave
 
Nov 19, 2015 at 3:30 PM Post #456 of 2,148

moedawg140

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I'm too new into headphone obsession to give it a fair, fully-qualified review, but I will say that if I had only the m9XX and the m920 was out of my price range, I'd be completely satisfied with the m9XX as the centerpiece of my desktop hi-fi system.
 
And yes, I've been throwing 192kHz/24 FLACs and 2.8MHz DSD files (via DoP) at it without a single glitch.  Even the line outs feeding a pair of Klipsch THX desktop speakers sounds awesome.
 
- Dave

 
Thanks for your impressions!
Good to know.  That's enough information for me! 
beerchug.gif

 
Nov 19, 2015 at 4:40 PM Post #457 of 2,148

KickServes

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I'm too new into headphone obsession to give it a fair, fully-qualified review, but I will say that if I had only the m9XX and the m920 was out of my price range, I'd be completely satisfied with the m9XX as the centerpiece of my desktop hi-fi system.
 
And yes, I've been throwing 192kHz/24 FLACs and 2.8MHz DSD files (via DoP) at it without a single glitch.  Even the line outs feeding a pair of Klipsch THX desktop speakers sounds awesome.
 
- Dave


I have been listening to the m9xx since Monday. I have been using the F1 filter, but will give F3 a try.
 
This thing sounds great with every file I've tried. Been playing a lot of 192/24 FLAC files through JRiver via ASIO. No distortions like I had with my previous Bellari Amp. So far, great purchase.
 
Nov 19, 2015 at 4:56 PM Post #458 of 2,148

ViperGeek

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  UPS Santa just arrived.  My amazing Grace stack is complete:
 

 
Very initial reactions are that the mXX sounds gorgeous, yet a different kind of gorgeous than the m920.  It's going to take a lot of critical listening to pinpoint the differences (perhaps AKM vs. Sabre DACs?), but I'd be proud and completely satisfied with either DAC/amp as my primary source of audio enjoyment.
 
If you missed this drop, request and sign up for the second one immediately.  I plan to never be without a Grace DAC/amp and will be taking the m9XX with me to work, for travel, and maybe even in the car (as a passenger).
 
- Dave
 
ps. I recommend giving DAC filter F3 a try.  IMO, it's the best balance of crisp highs and amazing presence (think: closing your eyes and reaching out for the singer).

 
One additional recommendation.  Even if your headphones are driven to sufficient volume using the m9XX's lower power mode (using USB #1 for signal+power), I strongly recommend using both USB #1 (signal) and USB #2 (power) if it's convenient.  For giggles, I unplugged the 2 amp power source from USB #2 and ran self-powered for a little while.  The volume into my HD650s was fine, but I swore I heard a little bit of USB/digital noise being injected into the sound.  After plugging back in USB #2 and the subsequent reboot, the silence was dead silent again.
 
My computer room is a mine field of spurious RF and noise and I'm connected via a powered USB hub via a USB docking station, so I may have the worst-case scenario, but for anything except mobile listening (plane, train, automobile), I'd use both USB ports to ensure maximum headroom and the cleanest power.
 
- Dave
 
Nov 19, 2015 at 4:58 PM Post #459 of 2,148

mohdkhamsya

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So far so good. Very pleasant to listen to. Different from the uber stack. Gotta go for class now!


 
 
Alright initial impressions vs the uber stack. Did comparisons using Flare R2A, Fidelio X2 and my micca pb42x speakers. I 've let the m9xx run for about 12 hours in total. I have a set audition playlist, all songs in wav/flac and I'm using the m9xx via usb using the external power supply provided. Using the default F1 filter with cf off. 
 
One very noticeable difference between the two is the tone. Where the uber stack is all bright and exciting (a little too exciting to me at least), the m9xx is gentler. It is still exciting in the way it delivers all the details but it is less aggressive and brittle. Just very slightly smooth. The difference in presentation was another thing that struck me. The uber stack had everything more forward and in your face whereas the m9xx is more neutral though not at all laid back.
 
I feel that in terms of bass texture, body and extension, the uber stack edges the m9xx. That is not to say the m9xx doesn't have good bass texture or extension. I can still make out the nuances in Queens' Another One Bites The Dust. Its just that the bass on the uber stack is 'fatter' which at times makes it seem a little slower whereas the bass on the m9xx is faster. I do enjoy the 'fatter' bass more at times. Impact is similar for both too. 
 
Mids are about the same, both very transparent but it does seem that the m9xx has the uber stack beat at this. It's more musical and balanced whereas the uber stack does seem to bring the mids forward slightly.
 
Treble is also different. The uber stack has more bite and treble presence. It can sound harsh but the treble on the uber gives a greater sense of 'air'. The treble on the m9xx sounds a bit more natural, forgiving, but certainly doesn't have that great sense of air on the uber stack. 
 
Staging and imaging wise, I would say that the uber stack is slightly better. It only has a slightly deeper soundstage. But the uber has a noticeably taller soundstage compared to m9xx. Imaging and width are very close for both amp/dac units.
 
Technicaly both of these units are quite similar. The main difference is presentation and tone. Other things you should consider between the two would be the cost and form factor. The form factor of the m9xx is quite awesome. Nice large clicky knob compared to the uber stack's smallish knob. The uber stack has less features but you just need to press a single button to change source. 
 
The uber stack will set you back around $350 new with usb and rca cables whereas the m9xx is $500 new. All in all, I think if you really dont mind the form factor of the uber stack, it is great value for money. Your headphone/speaker pairing and sound preference also matters in picking between the two. I definitely don't agree with the forward and bright tone of the uber stack (even with my fidelio x2) so I prefer the m9xx more. Still, there are some things like the bass on the uber stack that I wished the m9xx could emulate. Small difference which can be compensated through good and smart gear matching.   
 
Hope that was helpful! 
 
 

 

 
Nov 19, 2015 at 5:11 PM Post #460 of 2,148

kawaivpc1

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So, do you think m9XX sound just the same as m920? 
Do you hear any difference at all??? does m9XX sound as wide as m920? 
and how about the details?? 
 
 
   
I'm too new into headphone obsession to give it a fair, fully-qualified review, but I will say that if I had only the m9XX and the m920 was out of my price range, I'd be completely satisfied with the m9XX as the centerpiece of my desktop hi-fi system.
 
And yes, I've been throwing 192kHz/24 FLACs and 2.8MHz DSD files (via DoP) at it without a single glitch.  Even the line outs feeding a pair of Klipsch THX desktop speakers sounds awesome.
 
- Dave

 
Nov 19, 2015 at 5:20 PM Post #461 of 2,148

Allanmarcus

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when posting impressions, please also state what headphones you are using. Many would like to know if the new Grace is powerful enough to drive planers, from the HE400s to the Ether and Ether-c to the LCD line. 
 
Nov 19, 2015 at 5:21 PM Post #462 of 2,148

ViperGeek

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  So, do you think m9XX sound just the same as m920? 
Do you hear any difference at all??? does m9XX sound as wide as m920? 
and how about the details?? 
 
 

 
There's definitely a difference, but I haven't yet been able to formulate it into words.  As I mentioned earlier, it could simply be the difference in DAC chips.  It's not an exact 1:1 comparison.  Even the DAC filter settings (F1/F2/F3/F4 vs. F/S/P) are different on each unit.  
 
With about three heavily interrupted hours of listening so far, I'd say the m920 is slightly more "ethereal" and mind-expanding than the m9XX.  The low end might be slightly tighter on the m920 too, although my aural memory may be warped by listening through a Little Dot MK III over the past couple of weeks.  If pressed, I'd say the m9XX is 90% of the OMG Factor of the m920 for 25% of the price (I know I'm going to regret saying this when it's quoted by someone with 100x the clue I have about high fidelity audio).  But if you didn't have them side by side, you'd never call the m9XX anything less than amazing.
 
- Dave
 
Nov 19, 2015 at 7:59 PM Post #463 of 2,148

canthearyou

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Gonna be a fun weekend. First impressions are great. Very easy to listen to.

The Element has lots more power! Lots!

 
Nov 19, 2015 at 8:33 PM Post #465 of 2,148

HiFlight

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Outstanding sound from the M9XX > Scherzo Audio Andante > AQ Nighthawks! Better to my ears than my PM1 or SRH-1840. Next up, iBasso P5. (Wav files from computer via USB2 using high power output, F2, and crossfeed) I have not yet had time to try any of my IEM's.

I was very pleased to find the M9XX was instantly recognized by my Linux OS and functions perfectly with both optical and USB inputs without the need for additional drivers.
 

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