I was glad to read the review by John Marks of the Grace m903 in the December issue. I thought it was pretty favorable. He compared its sound with the Antelope Zodiac Gold D/A headphone amp, and his comment was that the Antelope had “punchier dynamics”. This sort of meshes with my experience with the m903 (though I have not heard the Antelope), which is that the DAC in both the m902, and m903 are a little on what I call the soft side, compared to some other digital sources. I definitely think the m903 is improved over the m902 in this respect, and I don’t regard this as generally a bad thing, since it seems to smooth out some of the rougher recordings I have. It’s almost like the m903 has a more refined sound compared to the more in your face sound of another unit I use. I’m speaking about the digital inputs of the m903 here, since I’ve found the sound seems to take on more of the source’s character when using the analog inputs.
There was also a recent m903 review on another site that used another $5,000 device as a comparison, which may, or may not have led to their comment that the m903 sounded “veiled and unlively”. I suppose it’s a good thing that the Grace is being compared to units costing nearly three times its price.
I’m not entirely sure where the Grace m903 stands as far as sound quality in the big picture, because I’ve not had an opportunity to do extensive comparisons. Is it just a matter of sound preference, or is the Grace not up to snuff? Don’t get me wrong, it is the best source component I’ve had in my system, and I really enjoy listening to it. That’s really the bottom line. There are also not many components I would consider replacing it with, just due to its amazing set of features, and general quality. It is also possible that my other components may be holding it back a bit. My intention is not to complain about the Grace. I'm just trying to process any potentially negative information. Maybe see what others think.
Anyway, I had been hoping to see some measurements from JA of the m903 to see if there was anything that stood out, relating to the sound of the Grace, and was slightly disappointed in the December review on that point.