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Demondog
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Grace m903

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.

John Marks
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The m903 has been sent to JA for measurement

Hi-

John has the m903, but I don't know in which issue his Follow-Up will appear.

As far as "not up to snuff," I am not sure what you meant. The m903 is not as good a DAC as Bricasti's M1, which costs more than 400% as much. $8000 versus under $2000. I don't think that equals "not up to snuff."

Of the HPA/DAC units I have auditioned, the m902 was my favorite and as I said, the m903 improved upon it in nearly every way.

So please stop worrying or obsessing. And "For the Love of God, Montresor," don't sell the m903. If you want to experiment with power cords and input cables and footers (such as Cardas or Ayre Myrtlewood blocks), feel free.

 

JM

John Atkinson
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The Grace m903

Demondog wrote:
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.

John has sent me the Grace m903 for measurement and I will be publishing a Follow-Up in the New Year.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Demondog
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Thanks for the replies.

I'll look forward to the follow up.

I considered that I might come across as obsessing or worrying, but that is really not the case.  I just like thinking about how my gear choices compare to the the many other competing products, and since I don't get as many chances as I'd like to do my own comparisons, my first post was intended in part to spur other opinions .

 

BTW- I really missed attending the RMAF this year, because that event always gives me a lot to think about.
 

Demondog
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Updated my thinking due to new information.

I went over to a friends house the other day, primarily to do some speaker/room response measurements for him. Since I was bringing my netbook with music files with me, I also brought the Grace m903 along.  He has a much better sound system than I do (bi-amped heavily modified and fortified Magnapan 1.6's and Rythmik Subs with a three way active crossover unit), and it also includes a very nice turntable setup which he greatly prefers to his digital source, a Cambridge 840C CDP.  We hooked up the Grace DAC and used it to compare the analog vs, digital  versions of a few albums.  The analog versions of the ones we tried seemed the winners for richness and texture, though a couple hi-rez files sounded great.

What I came away with was that I have some components of my system that I can clearly improve on, but the m903 is fine for now. I have a much better idea of what the Grace DAC is capable of after this.
 

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