atelier 13 audio
MERASON FREROT DAC
Anyone who owns a Merason DAC 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
MERASON FREROT DAC
For the Merason Frerot DAC Daniel Frauchiger adopted a largely similar circuit layout, as well as the fully discrete structure for the input and output stages as those implemented in his flagship Merason DAC-1. The "big brother" uses two Burr Brown PCM 1794A chips in mono configuration.
In the Frerot a single 1794A is responsible for both channels, and as with the DAC-1, signal processing is carried out symmetrically.
Even if the DAC-1 logically contains higher-quality components, such as the sinfully expensive Mica filter capacitors and a channel-separated luxuriant power supply with several toroidal transformers, the tonal characteristics of the DAC-1's smaller brother, in this price range, are simply outstanding !!
The front panel comes in brushed aluminum. A high quality 9V DC supply is delivered with the unit and connects to a DC barrel socket on the back panel. An external, and low-noise Linear Power Supply for the "Frérot" will be available as an optional upgrade. This will connect on the DAC's back panel to a high quality 5-Pin DIN connector.
FREROT @ ATELIER 13 AUDIO - WHAT WE HEARD !
We received our evaluation unit in July 2020 and had no preconceptions as to what to expect -- except for knowing that it was a Swiss product, and was most probably well engineered and well built. As for what we thought it was going to sound like ? We had absolutely no clue !
In fairness, we were expecting a nice DAC that performed somewhat better than its price point would suggest ... in a nutshell, a "well-behaved" Swiss-Made, quality-build DAC offering Good Value ... adjectives that were on the expectation list to describe what we thought we were going to hear included : Precise, accurate, clean, clear, transparent, an honest straightforward presentation [i.e. no BS artifacts] ... etc.
Well, we were right on the Swiss "quality-build" part. We were dead wrong on our Value Rating expectation ... but totally DEAD WRONG.
We know that this DAC is soon to be in the hands of a few well known Reviewers in Europe and in the US, and they will no doubt impart a more "official" opinion for all of you to read.
Nonetheless, I will share my own experiences with the Frerot before the reviews are published :
The Merason Frerot is the most surprisingly awesome digital to analog converter I have ever heard at this price point ... ever. This thing is so awesomely musical ... from the very first notes ... so very emotionally expressive and engaging ... you know you are in the presence of a Prodigy ... Shocking. This is like hearing Liszt -in person- playing Liszt ... this is not a just another superb "performer" ... its a Maestro.
The unit comes standard with a good quality 9V power adapter which sounded quite good to begin with. We then used iFi's $100 iPower X adapter and a few outboard high amperage Lithium Ion Batteries : +++ ... and Merason is about to introduce its own dedicated LPSU Upgrade very soon ... can't wait !
Bottom line # 1 : The Frerot's price belies its true status in DAC-Land ... it would perform at very high level in many audiophile systems composed of all-star components. The better the cables and other components are in the system , the more the Frerot "ups its game" and is motivated to meet the ever increasing challenge.
Some Context : It joins my current short list of musical prodigy DACs alongside its bigger brother, the Merason DAC-1, Jim Kinne's Exogal Comet, Louis Motek's LessLoss Echo's End, and Serge Schmidlin's Audio Consulting NOS Toroidal OPT Reference ... and of course a few others of the same "kin" that I do not represent at Atelier 13 Audio -- can't have them all :=)
These DACs all share one talent in common - The ability to conjure up a sense of musical realism and emotion that is very addictive. Their tonal color palette and levels of gradation of textural shading is simply exquisite. Their ability to bob and weave through intricate changes in speed and intensity sets them apart. The spatial accelerations and decelerations of dynamic impulses -- small and large -- captivate the senses. Here, it is about the multi-sensual emotion of "music", and not about the intellectual fascination with "quantum sound", as interesting as this may be to some of us.
You may ask : So, what is the difference between these DACs ? I'll answer by drawing an analogy from professional Tennis ... Musically, they are all in my top 10 ... and as I am a Tennis fan, I love watching all of them play. The top 5 in the tennis rankings perform just a little better than the next 5, and get paid more for doing so. Further, some "players" are better than others on clay courts, but not as good as their competitors on grass courts.
Bottom Line # 2 : If you listen mostly to Classical, Jazz, World, Vocals and 70's Rock, then these DAC's are for you. If you have strong audiophile roots in Analog LP sound, then these DAC's are for you. If you listen with your heart and your soul, then these DACs are most definitely for you. 'Nuff' said ?
System Potential : The fact that the "humble" $1,350 Frerot 'made the cut', just made us feel really good about its prospects. We've been waiting for just such a DAC to "team up" with our other "equally frugal" and musically prodigal tube amplification components from AMC priced at between $1,100 and $2,600. The missing link has been found !
MERASON FREROT DAC SPECIFICATION
PCM: 44.1 / 48 / 88.2 / 96 / 176.4 / 192
24 bit PCM
2 x USB2, 1 x S / PDIF (RCA), 2 x Toslink (optical)
1 pair unbalanced (RCA), 1 pair balanced (XLR)
9V DC Supply - via DC barrel connector
Power supply option
Outboard Linear PSU - via 5-PIN DIN connectot
Black or White
Price $ 1,475 / $2,425 with dedicated Merason POW-1 LPSU Upgrade
LATEST REVIEWS !!
MERASON POW-1 LPSU
MERASON Frérot owners now have the option of upgrading at a crucial price point by means of the new MERASON POW-1 LPSU.
The MERASON pow1 is intended to be an extremely effective solution that further enhances the sound potential of the MERASON Frérot, offering gains in additional quietness, homogeneity and three-dimensionality.
Users who experience their MERASON Frérot with the optional power supply will never want to do without it again !
Price $ 950