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Alpha Audio Review Majestic & Proprius

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    Posted: 20 May 2019 at 4:19pm

Review Graham Slee Majestic Dac - Proprius Mono Amplifier
by Geoffrey Vanhouwaert

Benefits: Fine display; Versatility; Small

Cons: Cannot be turned off; USB up to 24 / 48kHz (Majestic)

We are asked by importer Simply Audio to test a set from the British Graham Slee and are immediately enthusiastic because we have often heard and read good things about this brand. A second reason to answer their question is that we have not tested this brand at Alpha-Audio before. On the one hand we keep it so fascinating and varied for our readers and on the other it offers us the opportunity to examine a new brand. Double win.

Because the focus at Alpha-Audio is on digital, we are today looking at the Majestic Dac with volume control in combination with the Proprius Mono Amplifier, a few small but fine end stages. In total this makes three small boxes that have all kinds of special properties. You will notice that Graham Slee, with their BBC background, approaches things a little differently than we are used to.

For example, Graham Slee, now 20 years young, does not have the means to launch gigantic media campaigns, but must have their "mouth to mouth" approach where satisfied customers convince new potential customers. This company also does not renew to innovate. Both components have been in the catalog for several years and will only be updated if improvements are possible.

Appearance

The Majestic Dac has a volume button at the front with a handy indication of the output level. In addition, there are three switches to enable the usb input and analog input respectively and to switch off the digital domain. At the back we find three coaxial, three optical and 1 usb connection. More than enough to connect all your digital sources. In addition, there is an analog input to possibly connect one of their excellent phono internships. A single-ended and a balanced (TRS) output complete the list.

The Proprius power amplifiers also each have a volume control at the front so that we can connect them directly and balanced to the Metrum Acoustic Onyx Dac! Nice and compact! At the back we find a balanced input and output and a set of loudspeaker connections. There is no remote control, we don't have it at the Bryston either, but we don't find that a disadvantage because that way we keep the volume at the same position for longer. And getting out of the lazy seat once in a while is vital for blood circulation.
Innerly

Inside the Majestic is a solid Wolfson dac that reaches 192khz via coax. USB input is a special case because it is limited to 24bit / 48kHz. We don't see that often anymore. Graham Slee consciously chooses to make the dac sound as good as possible instead of delivering purely high sampling rates. However, it can be a stumbling block if you have many music files with a higher resolution.

The Proprius mono amplifiers are fully dual mono built with discrete components and therefore play fully balanced. Each amplifier has a separate power supply and although you may think it is class D, it is definitely good old class A / B with the full 25 watts in 8 ohms and 45 watts in 4 ohms. Figures that we see earlier with tube amplifiers but that were more than sufficient to play particularly loudly without distortion.

The included Librian cables ensure a balanced connection via the XLR from the Proprius to the less common TRS connection on the Majestic. It is striking that all Graham Slee devices cannot be switched off in standby or switched off.

What's in a name?

That a dac gets the term Majestic is something to remember because it is not really a word that you expect as a pet name for a d / a converter. The term Majestic certainly does not refer to the size of the product, so it must be about the display. What does a majestic dac sound like in our imagination? Well, bizarre enough just like the Majestic Multi Input Dac. Big, voluptuous and with conviction. Opting consciously for a certain signature and then fully going for it. That is what Graham Slee and his employees stand for.

We only followed Latin for one year, so we had to look up what Proprius stands for again. The most common meaning is "proper" or "proper". And although many brands often come up with strange names when it comes to their products, the Graham Slee Proprius takes the lead in our opinion. Yet we can also quickly make a link with the name here, because these small power amplifiers do have their own specific sound. An uniqueness that makes the end steps protrude above ground level.
Set-up

We have mainly listened to the Majestic dac and Proprius power amplifiers as a whole with the supplied cables and power supplies. As a source we use a NAD M50 that we coaxially connect to the Majestic. And that's it. Curious how our Audiovector QR1 monitor speakers, neatly disconnected from a pair of IsoAcoustics Aperta Stands, respond to their new friends this time.

Listening

We listen to Thelonius Monk with his classic "Monks Dream" and hear a very nice reproduction. Yes, a nice view, we even dare to propose a 'musical' view. Oh dear, what a killers all. But something really happens when we replace the Bryston with these small boxes after a few weeks. It can all be a bit looser and more playful and let this fit well with this music. It swings that it is no longer normal. The saxophone on the right and the rhythm section on the left are nicely distinguishable. The soundstage is spacious and the whole is quite separate from the speakers.

It is also excellent with vocal work, because voices get more humanity. On "For my Crimes" by Marissa Nadler we hear la Nadler's voice shiver more emphatically and the voice cuts deeper into our soul. It never gets sharp and details come through nicely. Instruments get a warm glow and sound less sterile than the Bryston. Everything sounds rounder and fuller but with sufficient definition.

With electronic music we notice that the layer sounds a bit fuller than with the Bryston. This seems to be a conscious choice for Graham Slee. This makes the beats sound a little less tight now and then. However, the soundscapes are full of detail and complex structures are clearly displayed. “Bricolage”, the debut of Amon Tobin, we have known for more than twenty years but we have rarely heard the character of the album come through so well.

It is daring that Graham Slee does not work with the highest specs or most watts, but instead deliberately opts for quality instead of quantity. The dac in the Majestic seems to go for maximum sound gain instead of ultimate resolution. With the Proprius monoblocs it is not the amount of watts that matters, but that all-determining first watt. They can play quite loudly without distortion, but they mainly serve to inject feeling and nuance into the reproduction.

Graham Slee does not make it easy with these atypical boxes. The rather modest dimensions deviate from the norm and some functions seem a bit strange at first sight. But don't let that put you off. After all, there is a chance that you, just like us, will be inspired by their engaging display. They will probably not appeal to everyone but those who make the effort to think 'out of the box' will be amazed by the possibilities and especially the sound quality delivered. It is not for nothing that Graham Slee has a very loyal following.

Conclusion

The Graham Slee Majestic Multi Input Dac and Proprius Mono Amplifier are outsiders in the current audio landscape. The dac has its limitations and the mono blocks also have a modest capacity on paper. However, we are not short of anything in practice. All attention has gone to the rendering and that is fine. These devices are for people who are not looking for the latest gadgets but go all out for the sound. A sound that draws you into the music bit by bit. A nostalgic sound perhaps that is reminiscent of the past. Because everything used to be better? Yet?

Edited by Graham Slee - 20 May 2019 at 4:20pm
Not simple enough for Google-Bot to understand...
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Richardl60 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Richardl60 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 May 2019 at 5:31pm
great review Graham 
The Source turntable, Audiomods V micrometer, Dynavector XX2-2, Accession M, Elevator, Leema Antila 2Seco CD player, TDL studio 1.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BackinBlack Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 May 2019 at 8:20pm
Great review, I think. Some expressions seem lost in translation.
Audiophilia has, as always, crept in.
No apparent understanding of why "always on" is recommended, or why high specification and high power aren't paramount and the reference that those misguided souls of the HiRes persuasion may be disappointed. That is despite their praise for the soundstage, detail and involvement.
They just don't get it do they?
Just listen, if it sounds good to you, enjoy it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Graham Slee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 May 2019 at 9:10pm
Yes, but Ian, they don't have what we have in our hearts. It is something which might also be exclusive to our generation, and not all of it either.
Not simple enough for Google-Bot to understand...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 May 2019 at 4:25am
Translation does some funny things with meanings, especially idiomatic expressions.
I found the promotional method of "mouth to mouth" visually amusing with a picture of breathing life into the dying.  No doubt the translation should have been "word of mouth".
Nonetheless the overall impression was that they were quite taken with the "display" (rendition perhaps ? or performance ?)
Tony G
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Fatmangolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jun 2019 at 9:23pm
Even if we read some strange things in translation the reviewers seem to have heard what we did in the music being played back.

Jon

Open mind and ears, whilst owning GSP Genera, Accession, Elevator EXP, Solo ULDE, Proprius amps, Cusat50 cables, Lautus digital cable, Spatia cables and links, and a Majestic DAC.
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