Grant Fidelity's Chinese-made Bargains

Grant Fidelity of Calgary, Canada specializes in low-cost, high-value equipment from China. To get an idea of the huge number of components on display by the company whose motto is "Hi-End, Not High Priced," please check out the list on their website. There you'll find a complete list of components on display, descriptions, and pricing. You'll even discover a host of photos taken at the show.

Responding to my request to set up the combo Ian Grant and Sherry most wanted me to write about, I was treated to the Shengya 200wpc A206 integrated amplifier ($1650 factory-direct), Shengya CD-16 balanced CD player ($1200 factory-direct), and Grant Fidelity MBS-1 Speaker ($1150/pair). These speakers claim a frequency response of 45Hz to 22kHz, –6dB at 40Hz, and a sensitivity of 88dB.

For a system that costs around $4000, the sound was next to astounding. There could have been a blacker background, but there was certainly tremendous slam and ease, and a colorful, non-fatiguing presentation. There was also a large dynamic range, from soft to loud without ever sounding forced.

I just loved another visitor's Dave Grusin album, Homage to Duke, and specifically the track, "Things Ain't What They Used to Be." Given Chinese competition to American-made products, things sure ain't.

Ian Grant explained that he voiced the speakers and designed the crossover before they were manufactured by Shengya in China. The owner of Shengya, who designs all the electronics, made his fortune designing and marketing the first integrated amp in China.

When I played a highly refined recording of cello and piano playing mellow chamber fare by Ginastera, the system totally captured the delicacy, beauty, and emotion of the music. Shall I tell you how many systems at the show that cost 10, 20, and 30 times as much failed to reach into the heart of the music they were designed to faithfully reproduce. . .

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Johnny B. Good's picture

"...Shall I tell you how many systems at the show that cost 10,20, and 30 times as much failed to reach into the heart of the music they were designed to faithfully reproduce. . ."YES, YOU SHALL.

Dirk's picture

You reviewers crack me up. Grant Fidelity high end? You are going to give Ian Grant a big ego, like it could get any bigger. If his products were half the current selling price, they would be reasonably priced and he would make regular distributor margins. His products are, perhaps, high end, when compared to all the other dreck made in China, but compared to anything made outside of China, not! Be the first on your block to fool yourself. Dont believe the hype.

Voice of Reason's picture

So Ian Grant claims to be a designer of crossovers and Mr. Serenius believes him. Of course there's no way to confirm with Shengya on who designed what, since the company is tucked away in China. Fish...meet hook, line, and sinker.

Been There, Done That's picture

I owed a Grant Fidelity A-348 Integrated Tube amp for approximately 18 months. During this time I ran upgraded new KT-88 and EL-34 power tubes (separately for a few months each) along with NOS driver tubes. I never had any reliability issues with this amp and it sounded great - whatever the audio source. I've since then upgraded to 211 monoblock amps but I "borrowed" Ian Grant's demo A-534B which ran upgraded Treasure 300B tube's for a few days while an issue with one of my mono-blocks was being resolved.I wouldn't hesitate for a second to recommend either amp to anyone looking for a good reliable and reasonably priced tube amp. Grant's prices are higher then what someone in China would pay for a similar amp but with full warranty and after sales service in North America considered ... both of these amps are a great bargain!

Curious's picture

Dirk - just curious - seems you know the audio distribution industry - what percentage would be considered a 'regular distributor margin'? As far as I can see, Grant Fidelity does direct retail to consumers so their business goes beyond 'regular distribution' as they do retail customer service too. What would a 'regular margin' in your opinion? Seems you have some negative opinions about Chinese products and are questioning Mr. Serenius' judgement of sound and value on the equipment sold by Grant Fidelity. May we know what make you an expert in this field and why others should listen to yours instead of Mr. Serenius'?

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

A clarification on what I do. When a manufacturer tells me about a product, I do my best to faithfully record their words on my notepad, then transcribe into hopefully cogent form. I have no past history with Ian Grant, hence no reason to disbelieve. But it's not a case of believing or disbelieving. It's a case of reporting. Where the subjective comes into play is my hit on the sound. There, I strive to be as honest as I can. Let's face it, a full evaluation of sound cannot be accomplished in 10 or 15 minutes. Many exhibitors purposely choose tracks that mask flaws. A reviewer needs to not only mine their (my pronoun for her/his) stack of test CDs, but also slow down enough to absorb how the presentation FEELS to them. That's a different challenge than accurate reportage. We at Stereophile do our best to accomplish both.PS. You can call me Jason.

Johnny B. Good's picture

Jason,A "reportage" is never more accurate than what you're being told. When you say the system is better (in a broad sense) than other systems up to 30 times more expensive, this is a strong - almost sweeping opinion that goes well beyond simple reporting. I think readers would appreciate if you'd dig a little deeper on this - I certainly would.

Bill Frame's picture

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Ian & Rachel at the Audio Karma Fest in Detroit. We talked and shared music over the two day event. Grant Fidelity's products are excellent values, they clearly provided more sound for the dollar than anything else I heard. I had Ian play my prized copy of Ultime Cosmos by The Lucien Dubuis Trio with Marc Ribot, possibly one of the most speaker challenging pieces of music I've ever heard. The Grant Fidelity MBS-1 Speakers handled the contrabass clarinet with depth and accuracy, while singing fully with Ribot's guitar. In fact, the sound impressed me so much I went looking for the subwoofer that I mistakenly thought had to be carrying the low end...

Paulenz's picture

Grant Fidelity high end? More like dead end. Buy one, keep it for more than 30 days and then try to sell it off for more than 25 cents on the dollar. See how far that gets you. Yeah, I know, if you're going to keep the unit then it doesn't matter about resale value yada, yada, yada, but the reality of the world of hi fi products is, people keep buying and selling. Anyway, there seems to be an element of the audio hardware buying fraternity who are constantly fascinated by these little Sino bargains. Keep subsidizing the repressive and corrupt communist regime in China if you must, justify your decision anyway you please.

Ian Grant's picture

Hi Jason, it was a pleasure meeting you and chatting audio for a few minutes. Thank you for the wonderful review of the system we played for you. I spent two years voicing the Grant Fidelity MBS-1 and RBS-1 speakers (which are part of our reference series and a step up from the MBS-1), with many people in Calgary as part of my testing. Both have been very well reviewed by other industry professionals as being solid performers.You might be interested in hearing what a professional reviewer of typically high priced, big power amplification had to say about ShengYa's flagship amplification system:' Of the two components, the PSM-600 is among the best you can get at any price, while the CS-6 is a very good preamp which is also among the best values you’ll ever find. Strongly recommended without any reservations.'Ed Momkus - Dagogohttp://www.dagogo.com/View-Article.asp?hArticle=639I look forward to seeing you again at future shows.Happy Listening.Cheers,Ian Grant

randy's picture

Great idea. Steal old American designs and knock them off cheap in China, and then sell them back to Americans via a Canadian company. Attend a few shows and get some nimrod junior staffers from the magazines to say that they're as good as the best American products. Why don't we all just go down to the post office and mail our cash back to China? We're making it almost that easy fr them. Americans have got to wake up and see this for what it is before another proud industry is completely obliterated by our lust for low prices and willingness to accept any junk they ship us. Have some class, have some style, have some brains for pity sake. People in the Gulf were ready to lynch the BP board of directors 3 weeks ago, and then Lindsay Lohan took their attention away and now nobody cares. Wake up America, these people are not your friends.

Andrew's picture

What Randy said +1

bigfoot0691's picture

There are a lot of manufacturers of audio equipment online in the U.S. who sell their products for very reasonable prices. Many of them have had very good reviews in audio magazines such as this one. Next time you decide to check them out look at the "Made In" label .........Jason made a statement about the equipment he heard at the Grant Fidelity room because it was what he heard from a recording that we assume he brought with him to use as a benchmark to compare systems at the show. Audio manufacturers aren't going to go to a audio show, set up their high-end equipment and have it sound like crap for everyone to hear. Whether it be a budget system of something you have to mortgage your home to buy. North America and Europe need to go back to basics with audio gear. A good design is a good design no matter who "steals" it.

Alvin's picture

If this stuff is so good, why is there no U.S. distributor for it? Why do Americans have to buy it from a Canadian? Come to think of it, why would Americans (or anybody else for that matter) want to buy this stuff at all? The prices for Chinese made products is going up every day and soon they will loose the only competitive edge they have. In order to make their gear competitive in future they are going to have to start really cutting corners and start taking (even more) cost out of their products, which are very cheaply made now anyway. The melt down is yet to come. And before some smart guy tells me I don't know what I'm talking about, I have been importing telecommunications products from Chinese factories for over 15 years. I see the prices going up, and I see the quality going down in direct ratio. Quality is not something you just say you have, it is a complete cultural mind set from top to bottom practiced over many years. There is no evidence of this in Chinese products, just cost down measures.

James Robertson's picture

I am for free trade no borders market competition in Audio. Is it that Jungson and Shenya products are inexpensive or that established US/British brands are ridiculously marked up? A little downward pressure on prices is good for me. Sorry if I am fueling an evil chinese empire but since so much is now made there even by US and British names I am not sure it makes a difference. (I would not be surprized if Shenya and Jungson make some US and British branded products). B&W, Klipsch, Creek, Energy, the list is endless of Chinese made products and most are pretty Damn good. To me this is similar to the Auto industry, competition forced better quality at better prices with innovation and improvement in product. I am kind of tired of the chinese politics and quality story being pulled into every discussion of audio product made there. To liken a Jungson or Shenya product to say a $30.00 MP3 player or some other item you'd find at Walmart is really not fair and seems rather ridiculous to me.

Patrick's picture

Quote James Robertson: "To liken a Jungson or Shenya product to say a $30.00 MP3 player or some other item you'd find at Walmart is really not fair and seems rather ridiculous to me".You're absolutely right James, it's not fair to the $30.00 MP3 Player!

Tweakerdelux's picture
More Jungson adventures or should I say bad luck...

I'd like to backup those who are making it obvious on this forum that Grant Fidelity or Jungson are in it only for moving boxes and to flood any market at any cost.

You get cold wars, then you get what's called physiological warfares, in this case one could say that Jungson are typically into "goods invasion" (body snatchers style) with one sole purpose to weaken the economy of a country and take away sales from genuine high-end manufacturers, not to mention jobs. There are manufacturers in the US and UK who built their names upon their reputation, aftersale service developing novel ideas and improving their designs over the years.

What has Jungson got to offer us that is different or better or even advanced? Same sheep, different clothing.

For instance the JA-99D is not even a full Class A 100W per channel amp, did you know that? It only delivers Class A into its first 10Watts, the 90 remaining Watts are Class B! Who would like me to post the diagram on the net?  It’s built to look like a tank but it’s overkill looks and very little under the bonnet. They’re achieving their rose tinted sound through the art of mixing components, not Class A. If you want a Class A amp, rather buy a Sugdgen or a proper 50W Class A amp, something line a second hand Krell KSA-50 will smoke that Chinese 100W big time!

I can understand that someone doesn't have the money to buy a Classe or an Audio Research amp, but to be honest, rather buy a second hand classic and you may have one repair to get through, and at least, after you minor ordeal, you can be sure that 10 years later, that amp is still gonna go strong. 

Here, check those stories:

http://www.whathifi.com/forum/hi-fi/bad-experience-with-jungson-audio

http://soundt.18.forumer.com/a/bad-experience-with-jungson-audio_post7483.html

This is proof that these people don't give a toss after they've made a sale.

Buy junk at your own peril, one thing for sure is you'll eventually realize you got a hell of a lot less than what you paid for, bargain or not.

Buyers beware!

Rolli666's picture
Sad State of Affairs

I guess this is what the religious right is up to when they're not out lynching Blacks. Comlplaining about their countries lack of abillity to assess the inherent flaws in allowing sociopaths to runs the nations economy and political stucture and resulting function. To top it off then blaming everyone else for their problems and continuing to wander blindly down the path most travelled. Everyone on this earth can see the results, except those who need to see them the most, and it is hard to have sympathy for those who do not help themselves. Ian provides a great service and I for one appreciate his work. If you do not like what he does don't buy the products but I would guess he would not come to your place of work and berate you. Take your Yanky nationalism nonesense and stick it. We are all stocked up on crazy here already.

KenBurak's picture
Some of the comments and

Some of the comments and opinions I have read here appear to have been made by informed, intelligent persons, while others appear to be emotional, irrational and ill-informed.  I’m not sure which category I’ll fall into, but for anyone who may be interested, I’ll share an experience that I have had with Grant Fidelity and one of the Chinese-manufactured items of equipment that they import, promote and distribute throughout North America.

After doing his research and due diligence, a hi-fi friend of mine purchased a Canadian manufactured 225 wpc, high-current integrated amplifier, the Magnum Dynalab model MD309 at $8,900. The company introduces this product as follows: “From our pedigree in pure analog circuitry, we're proud to introduce our most uncompromising 2-channel Integrated Amplifier. Using ...Hybrid-Acoustic CircuitryTM found in our MD-209 Audio Receiver, JJ 6922 Cryovalve tubes, and stocked with Magnum Dynalab's unrelenting build quality and audio engineering, the new MD 309 is a future-ready anchor for your high-performance home audio system. We believe it is the best Integrated Amplifier on the market.” For more about the validity of that statement, there are many reviews online about this and other products from this Canadian company, world renowned for making perhaps the best FM tuners in the world, and now applying their resources towards additional hi-fi components.

So, my friend brought over the Dynalab unit and we compared it head-to-head with my not-too-long-ago-acquired Grant Fidelity “reference integrated tube amplifier”, a “RITA-880S”, manufactured in China. The RITA-880S is a class A ultra linear design, utilizing a pair of Psvane  A CV181-T (6SN7); a pair of 1960's Chinese NOS military grade 6SL7 tubes and 4 Psvane KT88-T output stage tubes, capable of 45 watts per channel from its  8 or 4 ohms taps. It weighs in at 115 pounds! (I have always been a believer that, in audio, “HEAVIER IS BETTER”. I once said something to that effect in front of 3 rather large women that I shared office space with at one time, and they immediately took me out for drinks and a VERY expensive lunch!)

Back to the story…We were set up in a terrific room, rather on the larger volume side, about 14 feet wide by 31 long and extending further to about 52 feet in total length, with vaulted ceilings in multiple directions up to 14 feet high and plenty of sound absorption contents. There is plenty of “room volume” here for big energy emissions. We listened to numerous good quality CD’s on a well-regarded/well-reviewed player. The reasonably good quality speaker connect cabling was moved from one amplifier to the other so that there was absolutely nothing different in our evaluation other than the 2  amps. The speakers were however, going to be a good test for the amps…a newer pair of Martin Logan Vistas, extremely well matched to the room in that they were positioned about 13 feet forward from the rear wall (which has a 14 foot ceiling and what I believe to be an ideal mix of reflective/non-reflective surface areas). The Logans have a very low impedance in the upper end and for that reason, as well as others, they are considered by some to be a speaker that will easily demonstrate weaknesses in amplification stability and generally, weaknesses in other system components as well.

Anyway, with some anticipation, we embarked on our little mission to discover the audible differences between the MD 309 and the RITA 880S…which we had both listened to previously… and away we went. Going in, I think we both fully expected the Dynalab, costing more than double that of the RITA, to be clearly superior in several areas. We expected to now find out just how much superior.

So,... here is the essence of our experience. The Dynalab played louder. On some, but ONLY ON SOME musical material, it had a perceptible advantage in reproducing a greater dynamic range of the music …but ONLY IF there was a lot of program content on the recording and if that content built up to a crescendo of one sort or another. The Grant Fidelity amplifier drove the Vistas (with the electrostatic panels that have very low impedance in the upper end, and which DO NOT have built-in amplification for the conventional cone speaker in the low frequency cabinet) to “normal”, “reasonable”  and “adequate” listening levels for the various music we listened to…with more than ample volumes for what either of us would typically utilize. In all other respects - transparency, sound stage definition both side-to-side and front-to-back, low frequency performance and control (we did not use the sub that was on hand), background silence, nuance and detail… to our ears and perceptions… and with careful assessment and judgment,  BOTH of us came to the conclusion that the 2 amplifiers sounded…IDENTICAL !

I would expect (?) that a professional audio industry reviewer with vastly more experience than the 2 of us, supported by sophisticated laboratory technical analysis of the 2 amplifiers, would be likely identify more subtle differences in the amplifiers than eluded us. HOWEVER, for us, in the real life environment in which our assessment took place, unless we were going to play music SO loud as to scare the hell out of our friends or family, the Grant Fidelity RITA 880S impressed us with its same ability as the Magnum Dynalab MD 309 to provide equally magnificent sound in every other sense. We clearly liked both of these amplifiers better than the excellent Canadian made Bryston or American made MacIntosh brands that each of us are familiar with (…aren’t we all?) Personal taste? Perhaps so. My son prefers the more analytical, brighter Bryston sound and I respect that preference.

My hi-fi friend and I are both very happy with what we bought. He simply prioritizes more money for this purpose than I, and for that, he got something more that I didn’t. But we are both going to be listening to virtually the same high fidelity sound. (With his bigger budget, he’ll have the new Martin Logan Montis, which, for now, I will only dream of.)

If you’ve stuck it out this far, would you please hang in a minute  longer to allow me to make a point please?. It’s about how this whole thing started. It’s that, if given an “apples-to-apples” choice at essentially the same cost, I would RATHER support a Canadian or American manufacturing corporation and their employees and shareholders than a company in China. While Grant Fidelity is a Canadian importer, promoter and distributor of numerous brands of Chinese-manufactured audio equipment, as far as I can discern, they do not employ very many people in this country and therefore do not augment the Canadian economy very significantly in that respect.  But with the service that they do provide, they have augmented MY economy by allowing me to get superb sound performance AND in doing so, in terms of the Dynalab amp, retain over $4,000.00 to allocate to other priorities in life, whether they relate to the enjoyment of music or otherwise. Consequently, that money I did not spend on some other amplifier that I felt I needed to satisfy my expectations...that money saved may ultimately benefit some other domestic or American manufacturer of audio equipment, or otherwise. So, thank you, Grant Fidelity, and China.

Footnote: My amp and speakers have only 158 hours on them at the time I am writing this..which is about double the hours when we did the testing. The sound seems to keep improving (as the “break-in” period for both continues). I could have bought Bryston, MacIntosh, NAD Master series, or any number of other amplifiers, and my hi-fi friend could have done the same…we listened to all of those and then some. They all sounded great. But I’m especially  pleased with my choice  and he with his. All I wished to do here by writing this is to share with those who may be interested, what a great experience I have had personally and continue to have thus far with  Grant Fidelity and this Chinese amplifier, and how pleased I am with the sound quality that I’m enjoying for those hard-earned dollars I've spent. (I feel just as good about the Martin Logan Vistas as well, but I do hope to someday up-grade to the new Montis model. I believe that those speakers, paired up with the RITA 880S will produce awesome sound! I have a strong sense that I will remain very satisfied with the RITA 880S for the complete duration. - Ken

References:

Magnum Dynalab MD309 Hi-Fi Plus Issue 69 Review: http://www.magnumdynalab.com/pdfs/IntegratedAmplifierReview-HIFI+69.pdf

Grant Fidelity RITA 880 (Predecessor to RITA 880S) Reviewed by Colin Smith colins@soundstageav.com Soundstage AV.co http://www.soundstageav.com/onhifi/20081001.htm

Grant Fidelity RITA 880 (Predecessor to RITA 880S) Customer Review http://grantfidelity.com/site/files/RITA-880promo2008-v5.pdf

Grant Fidelity RITA 880 (Predecessor to RITA 880S) Reviewed by Richard Austen of Constantine Soo’s  Dago    http://www.dagogo.com/View-Article.asp?hArticle=181

JungSon DA88Ti Integrated Valve Amplifier  http://www.avhub.com.au/images/stories/pdf/Jungson%20DA-88Ti%20Integrated%20Valve%20Amplifier.pdf?128958267846840000

http://bing.search.sympatico.ca/?q=grant%20fidelity&mkt=en-ca&setLang=en-CA

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