Geshelli Labs JNOG Dac (AKM 4493 Version)

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by Raimei Templar, Jan 25, 2021.

  1. Raimei Templar

    Raimei Templar Friend

    Dec 8, 2019
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    I never planned on buying another AKM 4493 dac after getting a Modius, certainly not a Geshelli one! I like Geshelli as a company and I had their previous dac the ENOG 2 for a very short time paired with a THX 789 but that combo left me somewhat disappointed. It sounded great but didn't give me the wow factor I had hoped upgrading from Magni/Modi level stuff. My impression of the ENOG 2 was that it was a pretty solid AKM based dac, at least as good as the Modi but nothing mind blowing aside from the much appreciated XLR outputs. It didn't have USB though which was ultimately a deal breaker and why I kind of wrote off Geshelli (For dacs).

    I recently picked up a Geshelli Archel 2.5 to use with Modius XLR and I intended to pick up the Zen DAC Signature to have a DAC OFF with. But Drop utterly dropped the ball on the zen dac leading me to cancel my order. Right after I canceled the order I saw Geshelli had a limited release of their new AKM 4493 based dac that had USB! Me being a dumbass (have to be to buy a D/S dac to compete with another dac based on the same chip!) , decided to give it a shot thinking at worst it will probably sound only a little worse than Modius and at least will match Archel better.

    I really have to thank Drop for dropping the ball, because damn the JNOG is good, amazing really. Against all odds I actually prefer it to the Modius! I have never had a dac change give me so many moments of “I never heard that before” in songs I have listened to a load of times nor as many moments of awe at how gorgeous something sounded. JNOG has an incredible ability to make songs sound better than they actually are, even low DR schlock sounds surprisingly good. It has the best vocal presentation of any AKM based dac I have tried, vocals have a real nice sense of depth to them and actually achieve the intimacy that I find AKM stuff lacks. The JNOG avoids sounding robotic or lifeless and has a real emotional engagement factor while staying very clean sounding.

    On paper it looks like it would be a ultra neutral sanitized Topping esque squeaky clean but flat and lifeless style of sound but it is not that at all. JNOG has a somewhat warm, dynamic but soft kind of sound to it. The main focus IMO is on vocals, on most every track I listen to I find myself drawn more to the vocals while everything else takes its place in the background. I find it excels at most everything other than really intense metal/rock. I think metal should be painful at times and its not on the JNOG, it sounds pleasant.

    Like I have a shitty 256kbps amazon mp3 of Slipknots Wait and Bleed which should make blood shoot out my ears, but damned if it doesnt sound good on the JNOG, I can still headbang to my hearts content but the guitars dont shread my ears, the heavy ass rifts dont give me a headache and my goodness don't the kickdrums sound good. It still doesnt sound as good as the flac version I have, but its actually tolerable!

    This is a round about way of saying I dont think the JNOG is going to make the “I WANT TO HEAR WHAT IS IN THE RECORDING EXACTLY AS IT IS NO MATTER HOW SHITTY AND I ONLY LISTEN TO BEYER DT880 ON A WIRE WITH GAIN” crowd happy. It is a polite version of reality, rather than the ugly truth.

    To be honest I kind of want to call it the HD 650 of DACs because its sound really does remind me of the 650, very natural, a little soft, some upper bass warmth, and a focus on vocals, perhaps even a bit of upper mid sparkle. The only thing that differs from the 650 esque sound is that the JNOG doesnt cover up sibilance much at all, if its there and your headphones are prone to it, its there in all of its stabby glory. That is really the only negative I have for the JNOGs sound.

    Things I Like

    • Very natural clean sound, no odd glare that I can hear, or any odd shimmers

    • Incredible separation ability, does a great job placing all the instruments in a distinct spot in the mix

    • Excellent level of detail, on par with the Modius XLR, perhaps better? Too close to call!

    • Vocals take center stage have a great level of detail and tonality is quite correct-perhaps slightly warm

    • Great Dynamics, excels at tracks which involve dramatic shifts in tone

    • I think there is some slight sweetness/sparkle in upper mids/lower treble which adds a really gorgeous effect to female vocals/lead guitars

    • Drums have a real nice snap to them which adds to the dynamic feel and bass guitars have a nice body/presence to them. Think there is some extra upper bass energy that brings out bass guitars more in the mix.

    • Does an amazing job with less than stellar recordings/bad digital mastering, smooths them over and adds some warmth.

    • Amazing DAC for gaming, my favorite thus far, the pleasant sound signature helps a lot with shitty mixes and the soundstaging/imaging is stellar.

    • 3 “gain” settings allows you some breathing room for use with IEMs

    • KILLER DSD performance, actually does DSD 512 Native, no other dac I have tried has been able to do that (this includes some who said they could!) I dont care so much but you might!

    • RCA performance nearly as good as XLR, gap is not large, XLR I think is just slightly more dynamic with a little better bass punch. You can use both at same time like Modius.

    • You can get different color faceplates and change them later, as well as choose multiple colors

    Things I dont

    • Doesnt hide sibilance at all and the more forward vocals (compared to typical AKM) bring with them more forward sibilance. This is really the only major negative soundwise and for me its not bad enough to be a deal breaker, but if you are REALLY sensitive to it and listen to really sibilant tracks, might be a issue. Obviously depends on your headphones too, DCA Aeon RT has this issue AD2000 doesnt.

    • Extremely aggressive tracks get a bit smoothed over, if you NEED THE BLEED, might be a let down. Not textbook neutral IMO.

    • The Amanero ASIO drivers are not great, they have a odd issue where if something on your PC tries to make sound they will randomly stop playing your music and make some annoying static noises. Like if you are listening with JRIVER via ASIO browsing twitter and a video autoplays it can cut your music and cause annoying sounds. Doesnt happen every time, most the time it doesnt but its annoying enough that I just use Wasapi which works great. If you want to do Native DSD you stuck with Asio though. Someone on another forum mentioned issues with USB sleeping too. Supposedly Amenero is going to fix it with a future driver, and there is a newer one out, but I havent confirmed the fix. Maybe it is already solved.

    • Doesnt stack well with anything, the JNOG is a odd size, its wider and longer than the Geshelli amps and its slighty too wide to put ontop of Asgard as it covers the vents. Maybe Geshelli is planning a amp in this form factor? Maybe not.
    • You will need to keep the user manual handy to figure out what input you have on and what gain setting, everything is indicated by 4 led lights being on, off or blinking and its a bit confusing. Once you get use to it its perfectly fine, but can be a source of frustration.

    Petty Bitch Complaints
    • The USB connector on the Amanero is kind of shitty. It doesnt hold the cable in snugly, it wobbles a bit. I have never had it actually come disconnected or drop connection but it doesnt inspire confidence.

    • This is actually more bitching about the Archel 2.5, but the XLR connectors for the JNOG and the Archel are opposite. The JNOG has them the “correct” way which is that the right connector faces your right when looking at it from the front, while the Archel is the opposite, its left connector is to your left when looking from the REAR. I guess that the JNOG will be the way Geshelli does it from now on and I agree with the change, it is just slightly irritating to have to cross your XLR cables when stacking the Archel and JNOG.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2021
  2. Raimei Templar

    Raimei Templar Friend

    Dec 8, 2019
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    JNOG vs Modius

    I did all of these comparisons with the DCA Aeon Open RT/ Audio Technica AD2000 w Yaxi Pads both Eqed to my preferences. For the RCA comparisons I used Asgard 3 as the Archel 2.5 RCA input is just not good enough. For XLR I used Archel 2.5 as that is the only option I have and its XLR input is much better than its RCA.

    This comparison was made difficult by Modius having a higher output than JNOG on BOTH its RCA and XLR. Not really sure what is up with that as according to Geshelli the JNOG output is 2v RMS per Leg, which I think translates to 2v RMS RCA and 4V RMS Xlr, the same as Modius says it has but Modius is pretty obviously louder. I had to volume match by ear as my SPL meter was killed by a 3 year old, so its not perfect volume matching. When in doubt I tried to give modius the advantage by letting it be slightly louder (which should make me prefer it), as my bias from listening was towards the JNOG, but even with that possible advantage I still prefer the JNOG in nearly every circumstance.

    JNOG RCA vs Modius RCA

    • JNOG RCA completely dominates the Modius RCA IMO, the Modius has a bit of a artificial airy sheen effect going on over vocals as well the AKM velvet vocals (eg withdrawn/diffuse). Modius is a bit less withdrawn than typical but the JNOG brings vocals even more forward and doesnt have any of that sheen going on. JNOG sounds more natural to me.

    • Guitars and drums are more bitey/snapier (in a good way) on the JNOG and make for a more dynamic listen.

    • JNOG sounds like it has a little more upper/ perhaps midbass than Modius RCA. Bass guitars have some more oomph to them.

    • There is basically nothing the Modius RCA does that makes me prefer it over the JNOG but in interest of trying to be balanced....I found than in certain scenarios the airy sheen effect the Modius had going on would line up perfectly with certain female vocals and cause some magic to happen. Example being Jason by The Midnight, in this song the female vocalist sounds more natural but has a lightly sibilant edge to them, on the Modius the sibilant edge fused into the airy sheen and became less noticeable, she just sounded like a sugary airier version of herself.

    • Generally speaking same levels of sibilance overall though, JNOG actually a little better in that the vocals come forward, with Modius RCA the sibillance is actually more forward than the vocals at times which is....not ideal.

    • The output ( volume) of the Modius is slightly louder than the JNOG, could be important if your amp is lacking power. Not much difference via RCA though.

    JNOG XLR vs Modius XLR (The actual contest)

    JNOG Pros v Modius

    • More natural sounding, better vocal presentation (more intimate and better depth)

    • Imo More dynamic, quiet parts sound quieter, loud parts sound louder, Modius is a bit less dramatic comparatively , its more aggressive presentation kind of lets down songs that have big swings in tone.

    • Handles slow songs far better than Modius, Modius can make even Enya sound too hype at times, JNOG is a more relaxing listen, you can really get into it and form a connection with the singer. With Modius it always sounds likes its just waiting to scream EVERYBODY DANCE NOW DO DO DO DOOT DO at you.

    • Gives me far more “I have never heard that before” than Modius. I dont know if its actually more detailed, when I listen to the same song on Modius I can then hear the detail there too. I think this is just due to its separation and placement being better overall. Modius sounds kind of compressed in comparison, it has a more wall of sound kind of presentation.

    • Drums are snappier on JNOG, bass guitars have a better presence and sound more natural. The Modius's sub/deep bass is so intense that it causes the deep fundamentals of bass guitars to overwhelm the rest of its frequencies at times, makes them take on a growly plodding kind of sound that is fun at times, but its not all that natural.

    • JNOG sounds like it has a little more upper bass warmth than the Modius, I cant tell rather it actually has some extra energy here, or if this is the absence of extra sub/deep bass no longer masking the upper bass.

    • JNOG makes bad recordings sound decent, Modius makes them sound like the shit they are. For me this is a win for JNOG, if you want to hear every flaw Modius wins here.

    • Slightly sweeter tone than the Modius, I think there is some sparkle in the upper mids/lower treble that is giving this effect.

    • 3 gain settings on JNOG, none of Modius, nice feature to have, lets you use IEMs with whatever amp you want rather than needing one with negative gain

    Modius Pros vs JNOG

    • DAT BASS, BIG f'ing BOOM BOOM RUMBLE THUNDER, the Modius is the most Harmon approved dac ever. My goodness doesnt it have deep/sub bass, its enough that I feel the need to drop subbass EQ when I use it. I only felt like I needed a 4db bass boost with the freaking AD2000 and the Modius. That is how bassy it is. More than that with the AD2000 even and it got headache inducing. If your answer to how much subbass would you like is YES then Modius got you covered. JNOG doesnt have anywhere near this level of sub/deep bass, its far more neutral.

    • THE CRUNCH, The big fat bottom bassy presentation extends a bit into the lower mids and makes low crunching rhythm guitars sound real beefy which works very well with metal. At times the bass guitar and rhythm guitars fuse into a wall of ass stomping goodness. This where Modius is as its best, ass stomping is its wheelhouse.

    • Very exciting listen, tend to take on a WALL OF SOUND sort of presentation which can really get you going, especially for rock/metal/EDM which I think its at its best with. I tend to not notice individual instruments and sounds so much, it just all blends together in a thrilling package. Makes even slow songs sound more exciting, if you think Enya is super boring, you might like her on Modius.

    • Ruthlessly revealing, if something sounds like shit you will know exactly how shit it is. If you are doing some kind of mixing or mastering I think Modius is a amazing choice, because any kind of flaws pop out quite readily. Even things like analog hiss are more noticeable than with the JNOG as the JNOG kind of pushes them to the background.

    Which one should I get?

    I really dont think you can go wrong with either one. I would say if you are going for RCA only I would recommend the JNOG more as I just found it better in every way for my taste. If you are going to use XLR, its a tougher call. I still prefer the JNOG, I find it more enjoyable on most every track I try, even the tracks Modius excels on (like intense metal), JNOG performs nearly as good. I always either find Modius and JNOG just as good but different or prefer the JNOG outright. I will say that other than the bass boost Modius has, I do find it to be more “accurate” in that I think its closer to the actual recording. Simply put JNOG makes some things that I know sound like shit, sound pretty darn good at times. I could take the view that JNOG is presenting music as was actually intended, but who other than people actually mixing and mastering this stuff knows what that is.

    Makes a good catch phrase though so we will say Modius gives you recordings as they are, JNOG as they were MEANT to be. I would say JNOG is better for music enjoyment, Modius for music analysis. If you crave subbass, want to strap a LCD2 on your head JACK THAT BASS with EQ and vibrate your brain matter until you become catatonic, Modius is your dac. If you are looking for Emotional Enagement JNOG is the way to go. Pick your poison!

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