Geshelli JNOG V2 Impressions

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by crazychile, May 5, 2021.

  1. crazychile

    crazychile Eastern Iowa's Spiciest Pepper

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    This arrived today and I've only had a couple of hours to listen to it so my initial impressions are short for now.

    On my 2ch rig, (no headphones), I'm using the coax input and balanced outputs.This thing sounds clean and snappy. I mean that in a good way, not lean or sterile. The thing I noticed first is that vocals pop out of the mix more than I remember from the Yggdrasil A2. This seems to have that closer to the stage sound rather than at the back of the hall.

    The image doesn't sound very deep initially, but the width and focus seems good. I also noticed drums were punchy and toms sounded right to me. There was good impact and texture. This thing has a little meat on the bones. I mostly did a run throught with Peter Murphy/ Bauhaus/ Love and Rockets and some Siouxsie and the Banshees so I'll check on some other genres when I have some time. But initially this is a fun sounding DAC.

    I'll try to post some more in the next day or two after I let it cook in for a while.
     
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  2. crazychile

    crazychile Eastern Iowa's Spiciest Pepper

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    Mods: If it’s beneficial for tidiness, this thread could be moved over to Marvs Geshelli - Soncoz thread. It sounds like we are hearing some of the same things with the JNOG V2

    One disclaimer... my hearing is shit above 13k, and I have an 8 dB dip at 8k. Ssssso I probably wouldn’t be able to hear isssssuesss with Ssssabre. In fact I did listen for sibilance yesterday and nothing annoying came out at me.
     
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  3. Justin S

    Justin S Rando

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    @crazychile beat me to it! I've had the J2 here for a week now (thanks to Sherri at Geshelli putting me on the purchase list early) and have put together a little listening report. If this fits better in another thread, by all means please move it.

    This is my first DAC listening report on SBAF. I've lurked for years and learned a ton here. You all scare me a bit, but here goes. I've made a few edits as I have lived with the J2 this past week or two and have either added strike-throughs for opinions that have changed or noted where I have added things.

    [Update June 14, 21. GL contacted me to replace the board with their REV 2 board. It has the new regulators and a heat-sink on the DAC chip. I received my J2 back last week. It's been on and playing music 24/7 for about 5 days now. I have gone through my observations below with the new J2 REV. B and made any adjustments needed. The short story is that it feels even cleaner, with improved staging depth and imaging focus. This doesn't really change my observations, it's just more of what I observed]

    From the get-go, I love what Geshelli is doing. They describe their work as a tension between art and science. They measure while they work to make sure that things are performing well without technical issues, AND they use their listening experience to refine their designs to their tastes. Watching interviews with them, I get the sense that they're interested in the listening experience first.

    TLDR; The Geshelli J2 is an admirable performer. It presents a detailed, textured, clean rendering of a wide range of material. While not as dynamically punchy as a Schiit DAC, it's a fun listen. The micro details and microdynamics are quite good, and there is more "meat on the bone" than I hear in the RME ADI-2 with which it easily trades blows. It's a good DAC - remarkable given the price. It won't replace my Soekris 2541 or BF2 - it's a different flavour. I will, however, replace my work RME ADI-2 with the J2.

    I am a film/video maker. Besides listening while working, I use my work DAC to edit and prep tracks for audio post houses, assess work-in-progress mixes from post, and do a bit of mixing on smaller projects. I am not mastering anything here, but my DAC needs to translate reasonably.

    After improving my home two-channel system (PI2AES/Soekris 2541/Bifrost 2/Heed/Harbeth P3XDs/REL T7i) and putting a lot of time in with the RME at the studio, I am looking for a change here.

    I will say that the RME is a TON of fun to listen to with HQPlayer Upresses of PCM to DSD in DSD direct mode, bypassing internal processing. From a pleasure listening perspective, this is the RME's sweet spot. Many, if not all, of my findings about the RME's smoothness are not present when listening in DSD direct mode. In my comparison, however, I am focusing on mostly-Redbook PCM.

    For this listening report, the chain is:

    W10 Roon Server streaming Tidal>LAN>W10 Workstation Roon with Grouped output> USB X 2> RME (Sharp filter) and J2 >SE X 2 > upgraded Mapletree Audio Design Ear+ HD w Valvo 6201 goldpin driver tube > HD6XXM (SBAF KISS Mod) with a DIY SPC BAL cable + SE adapter.

    [​IMG]

    I have not owned a ton of headamps - maybe a half dozen. The ZDT JR. is probably the best reference point. The Maple Tree is quick, not bloomy, but adds a convincing sense of space. Where I found the ZDT Jr. closed, three blob-y, and not particularly resolving, the Maple Tree is open, spacious and detailed. It does not hide the ugly when it meets it.

    I do not have my monitor controller in yet so I am going to focus on headphone listening for this listening report. I will add an edit on monitor listening when my controller comes in.

    I listen to a lot of contemporary material, some good, some less good. I listen to very little jazz or classical - when I do it's mostly modern stuff. I am fan of Steve Albini's records - great recordings of filthy music. Here are a handful of tracks I listened to while doing this report:

    Scout Niblett - I.B.D.
    Radiohead - Identikit
    Jon Hopkins - Neon Drum Pattern
    Massive Attack - Paradise Circus
    Brian Blade - Landmarks
    Jimmy Hendrix - Little Wing
    Gillian Welch - Everything is Free

    Comparison is the best way I know of describing a piece of gear. I do a little flipping back and forth to take stock of subtle differences, but I also sit for stretches of time with one piece of gear and then switch and repeat to see how the presentation changes my experience.


    J2 comparative listening with RME ADI-2

    Initial Impressions:
    • Out of the box, I found the J2 a bit rough around the edges. I left it on for 6 days and checked in once in a while.
    • Flipping back and forth between the two DACs, the differences are there. These present as subtle initially, but once you hear these differences and stake them out, they're quite discernible.
    Presentation
    • the J2 is meatier. Bass is thicker and more textured.
    • mid presence carries more weight.
    • J2 a tiny less bright at the top - when flipping back and forth, it has the effect of making the J2 seem a tiny bit veiled, but this goes away in 10 seconds. Going from the J2 to the RME, the RME seems bright. (The RME had a tiny treble boost set that I did not check for. When corrected, the two DACs are very similar in the treble extension)
    • In a longer listen, the J2 seems a touch more clear.
    • Neither the J2 or the RME are slam oriented DACs which is good for my purposes at work.
    • Microdynamics and decay are more present on the J2 than the RME.
    • [Added observation] Rolling a few tubes through my EAR+HD(M), the J2 is more suited to tubes that are a bit more gentle than the Valvo I had been using in the gain stage with the RME. The RCA Cleartop 12AU7 has great synergy with the J2. While the RME is now gone, the J2 is a rock and roll smoke show in a way that I don't remember ever hearing from the RME. This could be i-just-sold-my-old-dac confirmation bias, but I don't think so.

    Detail
    • The RME feels quieter than the J2, but I think it is because the RME is smoother. You occasionally miss subtle things like room cues, fingers on strings, quick reverb - the stuff around the music with the RME. I am getting more of these things with the J2. On the flip side, recorded background hiss and noise are more present with the J2. For example, Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing is subtly noisier on the J2 compared to the RME. It's a pretty noisy track, though and I think that the RME is just not resolving this.
    • The J2 resolves detail and layers better - though not in any etched way. For example, in the chorus of Gillian Welch's Everything is Free, the subtle male harmony in the chorus is a more distinct layer.

    Imaging/Staging
    • The imaging with the J2 is ever so slightly - like very slight - less precise than the RME.
    • There is more relief/body in the imaging on the J2.
    • The imaging is more "natural" or dimensional sounding on the J2 as compared to the RME.
    • The head stage of the J2 sounds closer and different when compared to the RME - I think in a good way - I feel more immersed in the music when listening to the J2. [see below]
    • [Added observation] Based on memory of the RME, which is now gone. There is this interesting effect with the J2 where the staging is closer than the RME but the space feels bigger. It's like the sound travels outward from the source and you catch more reverb/reflections in the recording. So closer staging, but in a larger space.
    EDIT: Monitors

    (W10 Roon Server streaming Tidal>LAN>W10 Workstation Roon with Grouped output> USB X 2> RME (Sharp filter) and J2 >BJC Balanced Shorties X 2 > SPL 2Control> BAL Mogami Gold>Genelec 7040 Sub/8020 Mains, TREATED ROOM

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    • Overall, the above notes apply to the J2 VS RME when listening through my monitoring - no surprises here.
    • The bass on the J2 is more pronounced and textured than with the RME. I would say there is a bit more perceived extension - this could be a result of more texture in the bass which makes me notice it more.
    • Treble has more information in the J2 which has the initial effect of sounding a bit excitable (these are also project-suite Genelecs we are talking about here, too). In further comparative listening, this really is just more information and not roughness. [Add June 14 - this is definitely the case. With more J2 time and the REV 2 board, there is nothing upsetting about the treble]
    • There is, again, more "solid body" relief in the staging of J2 than the RME.
    • The big difference, again, between the two dacs is micro detail and texture. Where the RME is very smooth, the J2 reveals a lot more of the tiny stuff, which I like.

    [Added June 14] Upressing

    • For pleasure listening, the J2 responds surprisingly well to upressing in HQPlayer in both PCM and DSD. My understanding is that the internal PCM filter is brickwall linear phase filter which provides a good basis for experimenting with upressing with alternate filtering.
    • The new HQPlayer poly-sinc-gauss short and long filters are pretty great with the J2. They expand the staging and focus things even further. This is noticeable in the headstage when using headphones. With monitors the poly-sinc-gauss filter renders a sound-field that is occasionally wider than the monitor placement.

    Conclusion (edited after living the the J2 and then receiving the new Rev2 board)
    • The J2 is a clean, detailed, fun DS DAC. It's accurate sounding with quick transients and an ever-so-slightly yummy quality - just right for a DAC in my project suite (Genelec 8020D+7040 sub), which is 50% listening for work and 50% listening while I work. It renders an engaging sound, sense of space and beautifully focused imaging in both headphones and monitors. It is a great listen with the HD6xxMs and HD600s using a MAD EAR+ tube amp as well as the headouts of an SPL 2Control. With monitors it is a useful DAC for non-mastering audio project work and is, again, a lot of fun to listen to.
     

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    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021 at 11:07 AM
  4. crazychile

    crazychile Eastern Iowa's Spiciest Pepper

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    @Justin S , how did you get yours so soon? They just went on sale last Friday.

    Last weekend I unplugged my Yggdrasil and put in my ancient Modi Opti (Gen 1 Modi) that was previously used for TV and more recently with my Koss ESP-950s, using ROON out of an old Mac laptop. It sounded fine with headphones for casual listening, but I could never listen to more than one album at a sitting. It wasn’t unpleasant but it couldn’t keep my interest.

    When I put it (the old Modi) into the 2ch system it was pretty uninvolving as well. The depth was pretty flat and the soundstage was a centered circle except for hard pans to left or right. My intention was to maybe do a comparison between the Modi, Geshelli, and Yggdrasil eventually, but I think I’ll leave further listening to the old Modi out. The Geshelli is already a significant improvement as long as longer listening doesn’t reveal some blatant fatigue.

    Going from memory, when I listened to Kate Bush a couple of weeks ago on the Yggdrasil, the vocals were a bit softer and laid back. Yesterday on the Geshelli, the word “Technicolor” popped into my head when playing the same tracks. My apologies for the blatant reviewer speak descriptors.
     
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  5. Justin S

    Justin S Rando

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    @crazychile , I just added an edit to clarify this on my post. I wrote to Geshelli a while back to express my interest in the J2 and Sherri said she would put me "on the board". I didn't expect it to arrive so quickly, but I had it a day before the release. It was bought and paid for by me. I had been going back and forth on it for the week (really due to user error), but when I sat down to do a proper comparison, it was clear to me that it would be a keeper.

    I had planned to do a comparison with the RME, J2, 2541 and BF2, but the R2R DACs are totally different and I have different intents for them. I will, instead, compare those two in a different thread.
     
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  6. YMO

    YMO it's not drinking alone if you're on Zoom

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    I wonder if J2 to SW51+ is too much of a good thing.
     
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  7. crazychile

    crazychile Eastern Iowa's Spiciest Pepper

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    I wondered about that too but I'm not too concerned considering my hearing and HD-650s. I think I'm in the 4+ batch of SW51+ so I probably won't know until at least June.
     
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  8. YMO

    YMO it's not drinking alone if you're on Zoom

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    I like the extra digital inputs so I'm curious.
     
  9. Raimei Templar

    Raimei Templar Friend

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    I haven't received mine yet I can't give impressions but for those who are curious, the J2 uses the 9026 brickwall filter by default. If you want a different one you can email them and they will set it to whatever you want but I think that was a solid choice. Brickwall seems to be ESS newest take on the fast linear filter, it is extremely similar to the fast linear phase they always offered.

    Only difference as far as I can tell is that the brickwall rolls off harder and faster earlier but has slightly lower stopband attenuation than the fast linear (-100db vs - 120db). The latency is identical.
    I don't think most people should want to change it as it is a excellent choice but the option is there.
     
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  10. Justin S

    Justin S Rando

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    I have my SPL 2Control installed now (a previously owned unit). The head amp on it surprisingly nice. Listening to the J2 balanced outputs though the 2Control (SE) head amp is very pleasing. I am unable to do an apples to apple SE/BAL comparison, but I think I can say its a notch up from the SE outs. I can also say that the sound of the balanced out of the J2 is a notch or two up from the RME in detail and staging.

    J2>BAL>2Control>SE>HD600
     
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  11. MichaeLeroy

    MichaeLeroy Facebook Friend

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    Disclaimer. I'm an inexperienced reviewer. So take what follows with that in mind and feel free to skip if you have better things to do. Criticize robustly if you like....

    I've had the J2 for a couple of weeks, in a secondary setup, where I found it pleasant sounding. But I had not done any critical listening. This morning I cobbled together a setup that allowed some comparative listening (Pi2AES > Bifrost | J2 | Modius > Saga+ (w/o tube) > ECP T4 > ZMF VC; all unbalanced up to the HP jack).

    In the setup, the Bifrost is a clear winner for me. It sounds richer and more detailed. Listening to something crazy in detail such as Starlings by Yosi Horikawa highlights the Bifrost's comparative capabilities. Switching to the J2 sounds somewhat like turning on some loudness compensation. One gets more in your face, but less nuanced sound, from the J2 vs. the Bifrost. The Modius is kind of meh in sitting between the Bifrost and J2. It doesn't provide detail and richness of the Bifrost and is more polite in its presentation than the J2. Overall: Bifrost >> J2 >= Modius. As I listened to different music, I found myself wanting to go to the Bifrost and stay there, but that is familiar territory for me.

    Switching to stock(ish) HD650s, I lost much, but not all, of the benefit of the Bifrost's ability to reveal detail. Based on what I had just heard with the VCs and my earlier non-critical listening, I had expected to like the J2 somewhat more with the HD650s. But I found the J2's "loudness compensation" presentation unpleasant with these HPs. I was able to calm the J2 + HD650 sound down a bit by switching the T4 to low Z. Using the T4's low-Z setting with the Schiit DACs muted and slightly muddled their sound, but the change in the character of the sound was less than what I experienced with the J2 (a matter of masking bad rather than making good the sound I suspect). Switching from the VCs to the HD650s altered my overall impressions of these DACS: Bifrost > Modius >> J2.

    My pleasant casual listening to the J2 was with the HD650s, but using the Geshelli Erish amp. Jumping to J2>Erish>HD560, I find the sound not too bad, but not captivating. But my ears are currently spoiled by Bifrost>T4>VC, so perhaps I should take a break before digging into comparisons with the Erish in the chain (which are more difficult because I do not have a balanced preamp or switch readily available).

    The J2 has character, which is a good thing, as it offers an option for flavoring one's chain. If you find your current DAC boring, the J2 might be the right spice for you. It may not be fair to compare it to the Bifrost, but it is fair to compare it to the Modius. In my limited experience, I got mixed results between the J2 and Modius. If I had to keep one or the other, I'd keep the J2, because I believe that it has more potential to surprise me than does the Modius.
     
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  12. crazychile

    crazychile Eastern Iowa's Spiciest Pepper

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    I haven’t gone back to the Yggdrasil yet to compare, but yesterday I was able to listen to the J2 after a week off. My initial impressions still stand. It seems to have bloomed slightly after being on for a week and having some more play time. It certainly has a vivid sound to it, but I wanted to keep listening instead of getting fatigued. It may take several months before I can do a comparison because A. I hate comparing gear, and B. I like to get to know something pretty well before I start changing things up.

    From the website it sounds like you have to use USB to take advantage of high-Rez. I haven’t tried it yet, and likely won’t until I move this to the headphone system.
     
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  13. crazychile

    crazychile Eastern Iowa's Spiciest Pepper

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    So about a week and a half ago my J2 died. I'd been listening for about an hour, left to grab some lunch and when I got back it was silent. All the lights were lit as normal but no output. I unplugged it for a minute and started it up again and it played for a few seconds and then cut in and out a few times...then nothing. I checked the Yggdrasil fed from the same source and cables and it was fine. Maybe this was related to the fake regulators issue, but Sherri got another out to me a couple days later after the new shipment of parts came in. So far so good with the new one. Geshelli customer service is great.

    A side issue I noticed...I bought mine originally in a white case with the smoked plexi. You cant read the markings worth crap with the smoked plexi even though it looks really cool. Their website photo makes it look like the plexi markings are silkscreened on the exterior, but Sherri says they actually laser etch the inside. So take that into consideration when choosing your plexi color. She sent my replacement J2 with the clear plexi and the markings look good.

    So since my J2 was down for a few days I switched back to the Yggdrasil. I have to admit I was a little scared that it might sound too dull by comparison or otherwise make me question if it's worth almost 10x the price of the J2. But it only took a few seconds for my brain to adapt back to the Yggdrasil. The detail was still there but it was smoother and more organic. Acoustic instruments and female vocals sounded more natural and real. I also think the Yggdrasil holds it all together better at higher volumes. At lower volume and on popular music, the J2 is a fun listen as certain content seems to pop out of the mix a little more dramatically.

    Next experiment is to try the J2 with the Koss ESP-950. With their almost too-smooth qualities this could be a nice match.
     
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  14. Justin S

    Justin S Rando

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    Geshelli contacted me proactively to swap out my board, which is really outstanding of them. They said the new board will have new regulators on it and a heat sink on the DAC chip. I sent it in yesterday and am missing it already. I sold my RME so I'm using my motherboard output right now at work - what a difference. It is all kinds of suck. I have not listened to the onboard DAC from a motherboard for years and it really reminds me about how amazing contemporary outboard DACs are. Hurry back little J2.
     
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  15. Raimei Templar

    Raimei Templar Friend

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    That was the same issue mine had, that is the bum regulators I would guess. Mine just suddenly made a static noise while listening and then went silent. Turned it back on and it worked for about 20 more seconds before eternal silence.

    New one with the good regulators and heat sink has worked great. I actually think it sounds better than the J2 with bad regulators did. The new one is the best ESS dac I have personally heard. It has the more aggressive transients of ESS but manages to keep it from being annoying. Handles sibilance extremely well, seems like it blunts it a bit compared to the original jnog where sibilance was a little more annoying.
     
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  16. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    The website says SPDIF does 24 bit PCM up to 216 kHz, USB goes up to 32/384 and does DSD64-512.
     
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  17. RobSB

    RobSB Rando

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    My J2 (S/N 26) with updated regulators and heat sink arrives back today 6/8. Looking forward to getting the J2 back into the mix!
     
  18. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Nonsense. Based on your writeup, you are as good as any. I'm familiar with every piece of gear that you used in your review, and even then, I learned something.
     
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  19. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    I'll cross link threads.
     
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  20. ergopower

    ergopower Friend

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    Good review. One question: is your J2 an early one where Geshelli discovered some parts were fake, or was it from the current batch where that problem was corrected?
     

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