atelier 13 audio
Anyone who owns the Merason DAC-1 can confidently say to anyone who boasts of the latest technologies in digital-to-analog conversion:
"You're perfectly entitled to your opinion ... I hear music"
by WOLFGANG KEMPER | MAY 28, 2019
MADE IN SWITZERLAND
DUAL MONO MODE
Because of their special architecture, but ultimately from a purely sonic point of view, Daniel Frauchiger decided on two Burr-Brown PCM1794-A converter chips. In mono mode, the DAC uses one for each stereo channel. In this way, the PCM1794A has a dynamic range of 132 decibels. That is five decibels more than a stereo circuit with just one component.
DISCRETE CLASS A CURRENT OUTPUT
Since the PCM1794A has a current output, the current signal is converted into a voltage signal. This is not done using operational amplifiers, but rather in a complex, discrete structure. The voltage signal obtained in this way is buffered in the output stage using Class A technology and is present at the XLR output sockets as a symmetrical output signal and at the Cinch sockets as an asymmetrical output signal.
FULLY SYMMETRICAL SIGNAL OUTPUT PATH
The analog signal processing is consistently symmetrical from the converter module to the output. Low-pass filters with high-quality, expensive silver mica capacitors and coupling capacitors are located between the converter module and the output as a safety measure against unwanted DC voltage. Great attention was paid to the layout of the motherboard so that the extraordinarily high signal-to-noise ratio could be achieved.
SEPARATE MULTIPLE POWER SUPPLY RAILS
A separate, generously dimensioned transformer is responsible for the digital circuit. The rectified voltage is regulated to two 5 volt rails, and then five independent 3.3 volt rails. The analog circuit is fed by the second transformer.
The controller is discreet and is characterized by an extremely low interference voltage.
HIGH QUALITY INPUT INTERFACES
The USB input is realized with a high quality board from Amanero, the Combo 384, a board known for its musicality.
The Amanero board has two precise oscillators, one for the multiples of 44.1 kilohertz, one for the multiples of 48 kilohertz. It provides a cleanly clocked I2S signal with minimal jitter at the output.
The I2S signal is sent to the two converter chips in a galvanically isolated manner using a capacitive isolator module.
The signals arriving at the AES and S / PDIF sockets are galvanically isolated by a transformer. The clock of these signals and that of the Toslink signal is refreshed by the receiver module, a WM8804 from Wolfson or Cirrus Logic, using a quartz module and PLL, so that the jitter is also minimized here, and then passed on to the converter modules as an I2S signal.
MERASON DAC-1 SPECIFICATION
PCM: 44.1 / 48 / 88.2 / 96 / 176.4 / 192
24 bit PCM
USB2, S / PDIF (RCA), Toslink (optical), AES / EBU (XLR)
1 pair unbalanced (RCA), 1 pair balanced (XLR)
Black or White or Cider
Dimensions (w / d / h)
45 x 10 x 29 mm
Price $ 6,000
Order yours soon
... the DAC-1 is experiencing spectacular demand !
CONCLUSION - A refershing perspective of "the Bottom Line"
The top German Reviews, notorious for their attention to technical performance and measurements, to engineering and build quality, and to the all-critical price- to-performance ratio reached an impressive concensus on the Merason DAC-1 in 2019 and 2020 :
by JOERGEN SCHROEDER | DECEMBER 20, 2019
"It doesn't take technological overkill to build an excellent digital-to-analog converter. Rather, the design goal at Merason was to define a straightforward Concept, coupled with a rigorous restriction to the Essentials, and then methodically implemented without compromise.
With the Merason DAC-1, Daniel Frauchiger and his team also show that this design formula results in outstanding sound ... and is also possible on a reasonable budget.
What we have here, are fantastically natural sound properties without unwanted side effects such as high-frequency noise or the like - - plus no audiophile chichi [German-speak for Fancy Blurb or BS] :
With these properties, the Merason DAC-1 earns its place as a D / A converter reference. Welcome to the club!
by MARTIN MERTENS | MAY 14, 2020
Mr. Frauchiger has actually achieved his goal -- which was to develop a D / A converter that can take on sound on par with a record or a R2R tape.
The Merason DAC-1 inspires me because it can convince in all disciplines.
And more importantly, it is not one of the devices that “does everything right”, but is ultimately boring.
On the contrary, the Merason DAC-1 is one of the most exciting and emotionally appealing D / A converters I have heard so far.
The Merason DAC-1 is characterized by :
It does not play explicitly cool or warm, but in its own way powerful and sonorous - which is, however, only a minor matter, since other aspects contribute to this impression.
An excellent bass range
... that combines substance and control, projects precisely and at the same time is organic ... and delivers both acoustic and synthetic tones with pinpoint accuracy. It conveys exactly what constitutes the quality of the respective bass.
Involving and emotive Mids
... that are reproduced in a fascinating way, and are reproduced dynamically clean and finely granulated. The whole thing is never an end in itself, but is always conducive to musical and rousing reproduction.
Clear, brilliantly resolved and radiant highs
... that offer timbres, air and energy.
Great transient reproduction
A clear, precise, forward-opening spatial impression
All actors have sharp contours and their fixed place. The stage space itself and the individual musicians in it are drawn a little larger.
by WOLFGANG KEMPER | MAY 28, 2019
When attempting to discover its achilles heel by comparing the USB to SPDIF to AES/EBU inputs, it came as a surprise that the tonality of the Merason remains completely unaffected by the connection alternatives.
Either way, the Merason impresses me because this DAC leaves nothing to be desired in its musical interpretation.
I have not found a single piece of music, no matter what genre, where there were doubts about its performance.
The balancing act -- sounding musically colorful and tending to sound pleasant, but doing so at the same time in a clearly depicted and detailed, agile and dynamic manner -- has been successfully accomplished by Daniel Frauchiger.
Ultimately, I don't care if the DAC-1 does not process DSD natively ... it works after the PCM conversion principle. And I can also do without decrypting MQA files, since these usually can be dealt with by player software such as Audirvana Plus in a sufficient manner anyway. Daniel Frauchiger has succeeded very well in designing a device with much "musical color" that sounds extremely satisfying, whilst at the same time reproducing this in a detailed, agile and dynamic way.
by FALK VISARIUS | NOVEMBER 2, 2018
Mission completed. We were thrilled by the MERASON DAC-1.
The DAC-1 presented every detail, delivered contoured basses that structured the music in a rhythmically clean manner, and at the same time always demonstrated in the vocal range the grace and presence that make the music so lively and touching.
The DAC-1 brilliantly fulfills the requirement of making a digital-to-analog converter sound truly analog. And it does this not by superficial tone-coloration, but by the proof that tonal correctness is not to be equated with harshness and soullessness, but can sound realistically life-like and musically emotive. The Euro 4500 asking price is by no means pocket change, but is a very fair price for what is on offer in the context of the audiophile high-end universe.... and for us it gets the absolute "Hammer" award. [German-speak for "killer price"]
by DAVE McNAIR | OCTOBER 4, 2020
So by now, you should be able to tell I loved this thing. Is the Merason DAC-1 perfect ? Of course not. Nothing is.
There are lots of excellent sounding DACs in this price territory. With an MSRP of $5,000, it’s my opinion the Merason DAC-1 is a serious contender for best DAC at any price. Sonically, it competes toe to toe with the high priced big boys. 5K is not exactly loose change but I’d still be impressed even if the DAC-1 was substantially more expensive.
What you get is a product that seems to be built for the audiophile that is primarily interested in performance and doesn’t require a lot of fancy features or gold-plated-with-a-screen visuals. I kind of missed a readout indicating sample rate, but whatever. Not a deal-breaker for me. Neither is a lack of DSD or MQA capability. And there are no user-selectable filter choices to mess with my head. Remote? Nope. This Swiss DAC that is NOT the Swiss Army Knife of DACs. And proud of it. Imagine that.