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Majestic DAC impressions

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ICL1P Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Feb 2014 at 9:35pm
Really looking forward to it through the loan scheme. SWMBO agrees that the Reflex M is the best bit of HiFi we've ever bought, so it might be an easier sell than I anticipate.
Ifor
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Fatmangolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Feb 2014 at 11:25pm
Me too! And I think the product pages for the Majestic look very good.

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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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BAK Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Feb 2014 at 11:56pm
Originally posted by Graham Slee Graham Slee wrote:

Majestic DAC - a preamp for the digital age! See the web page here: http://www.gspaudio.co.uk/majestic-dac.htm
 
Very informative product page. Very well priced against the competitive market... ie, $1.6k to $10k !!
 Still, there is not that much competition at this price with real premium quality sound and workmanship.
 
Bruce


Edited by BAK - 09 Feb 2014 at 11:57pm
Bruce
AT-14SA, Pickering XV-15/625, Technics SL-1600MK2, Reflex M, Lautus, Technics SH-8066, Dynaco ST120a, Eminence Beta 8A in custom cabs;; Using Majestic DAC
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BAK Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Feb 2014 at 12:01am
Originally posted by morris_minor morris_minor wrote:

I'm going to post some listening impressions very soon. My unit's been in near constant use since it arrived and it's been settling in very well ...   
 
 Looking forward to Bob's listening impressions, he too is very good in his reviews.
 
Thank you Bob in advance,
Bruce 


Edited by BAK - 10 Feb 2014 at 12:02am
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AT-14SA, Pickering XV-15/625, Technics SL-1600MK2, Reflex M, Lautus, Technics SH-8066, Dynaco ST120a, Eminence Beta 8A in custom cabs;; Using Majestic DAC
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote morris_minor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Feb 2014 at 2:40pm
Originally posted by BAK BAK wrote:

Originally posted by morris_minor morris_minor wrote:

I'm going to post some listening impressions very soon. My unit's been in near constant use since it arrived and it's been settling in very well ...   
 
 Looking forward to Bob's listening impressions, he too is very good in his reviews.
 
Thank you Bob in advance,
Bruce 
Thank you for the vote of confidence, Bruce! I hope that what follows lives up to your expectations! 

Well the Majestic’s had over 4 days of being powered up, with much of that time being listened to, and these are my impressions to date:

I’ve played a large number of FLAC files from my Cambridge Audio NP30 streamer via coax, and a good few from my Mac via optical. If optical is supposed to have an inferior performance to coax I couldn’t hear it, so you can take my comments here to apply to both types of input. Critical listening was done via a Solo ULDE and Audeze LCD-2 headphones, and file types were a mixture of 44.1/16 and 96/24.

The NP30 was previously used with a well-reviewed Dutch NOS DAC going into a Pro-ject Pre Box SE pre-amp, the Majestic replacing both of these.

My first discovery was a new found clarity on all types of music. With tracks from artists such as Bombay Dub Orchestra, Mercan Dede, Ali Farka Toure, and The Afro-Cuban All-Stars percussive elements took on a holographic persona, mirrored in the detail afforded to all manner of plucked instruments. Here the characters of the instruments were enhanced by the light now being shone on all phases of the notes – the attack, the sustain, and the decay. Indeed the decays now had much more of a character of their own as the timbre changes over time could be heard. I also found this in piano music - Emil Gilels playing Beethoven Sonatas. The timbre of sustained notes could be heard changing subtly as the pedal was lifted and the strings damped.

The DG recording for Gilels was not especially reverberant, but this got me wondering how really reverberant recordings would sound. Officium by Jan Gabarek and the Hilliard Ensemble fitted the bill – a small male voice choir singing chants with a soprano sax soaring above and between them recorded in a chapel sounding more like an empty swimming pool. The atmosphere conveyed was tangible, and far from sounding like a wash of sound, the details of individual voices were apparent within the vast acoustic and the sax had an ethereal quality which was quite moving. I ended up listening to the whole of this album.

Another choral item I auditioned was from David Munrow’s splendid Music of The Gothic Era set from DG Archiv. Some of this was recorded in the Chapel of Charterhouse School, where I worked for a while, and took an interest in the school’s Recording Society which used the Chapel. Thus I’d had some first hand experience of microphone placement and balance in the acoustic. The Early Music Consort’s performances of Ars Nova pieces by Perotin were conveyed with an immediacy that was strikingly set in the larger acoustic. Again I put the effect down to the enhanced detail that the Majestic serves up.

Indeed, voices of all sorts are very well served by the Majestic. Whether in Vivaldi’s Gloria, or Mark Knopfler’s Privateering. The only word I can really use here is “character”; you get the nuances of inflection. Dusty Springfield’s bass player on Son Of A Preacher Man was suitably apparent left of centre, with Dusty’s gorgeous voice locked in the centre, brass section on the right. Another female vocalist, Annie Lennox, was superbly conveyed, with the fruity synth sounds on Sweet Dreams, for instance, having a texture to them rather than sounding simply homogeneous.

First impressions of bass were that it wasn’t as deep as I’d been used to. This was misleading, because on tracks where I knew there was deep bass (Mercan Dede “800”, Jazz Jamaica “Double Barrel”, Sade “Soldier of Love”) it was all present and correct. What wasn’t there was a bloated, saggy bottom. Now bass is tight and tuneful - there when it’s really present in the recording.

As further bass exploration I turned to an ASV recording of Jeremy Filsell playing transcriptions of Jean Cocherau improvisations on the organ of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, and an organ album of Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues. There’s nothing like a 32’ pipe to get the windows rattling, and rattle they did, but the details of the upper registers were faithfully conveyed over the subterranean bass to give a very satisfying session while the rest of the family were out. [This was heard via speakers of course; not even LCD-2s can rattle windows . . ]

Orchestral music was conveyed with a depth and width that was most impressive, whether Elgar from Boult, Mussorgsky from Maazel, Schubert from Norrington. Inner detail was very impressive. The BIS recording of Vagn Holmboe’s 2nd Symphony was particularly notable with a rich detailed sound, stunning dynamics and great depth.

Rendering of treble sounds is particularly notable. From new the treble sounded a little bright for my tastes, but it soon settled down to be clear, crisp and free from any “digital glare”. High percussion has a sparkle that’s never overdone and orchestral violins have a sheen underlined by the rich midtones that’s very appealing. In fact, much like a good moving coil cartridge. Speaking of which – as I mentioned in an earlier post – vinyl reply using the DAC as an analogue pre-amp was totally transparent and as good as you’re likely to get.

Many, many more tracks were auditioned from Zero 7, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Joe Walsh, and jazz artists too numerous to mention (well, Jim Hall, Gerry Mulligan, Paul Desmond, Miles of course, Thelonius Monk etc etc).

Quite a few tracks I played were my own rips of vinyl – thus I knew what the files should really sound like. With the Majestic the differences between vinyl and rip were disappearingly small for the first time, and given that I only use a little M-Audio Transit USB interface as an ADC, it’s very likely any issues here would have been with this, not the DAC. Also it’s worth saying that 96/24 files didn’t necessarily sound better than 44.1/16. Good recording and mastering trumps the bit rate/depth on playback! (IMO of course . . .)

The overriding impression that I have of the Majestic is that it is a very special piece of kit. All aspects of the sound spectrum are falling into place with a “rightness” and clarity that I know was lacking from my previous equipment. Dynamics are first rate and the soundstage is wide and deep. It’s about as far from a DAC-by-the-numbers as you’re likely to get. What we have here is bespoke electronics engineering showing that the devil is in the detail of the implementation and analogue stages.

I have to say a big thank you to Graham for persevering with a project obviously fraught with many pitfalls, and have it come to such a satisfying conclusion. And the best bit is that it’s not fully burnt in yet, and so will actually get better!



Edited by morris_minor - 10 Feb 2014 at 2:49pm
Bob

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BackinBlack Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Feb 2014 at 4:31pm
A quite thorough review Bob. Mine's on the way, should be with me tomorrow. I shall try to match your eloquence in making my review after a suitable warm up and burn in, though asGraham has had it powered up for some time during testing it's part burnt in.
Exciting times ahead..
thanks again to Graham and the team for making all this possible.
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: 10 Feb 2014 at 4:45pm
Bob, you should have won that competition!

Thank you for such a thorough stint! The feedback helps cement my own findings.

Graham
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