MERASON Digital to Analog Converters

“The task of every MERASON product is to transmit the emotions directly – from artist to listener”

Daniel Frauchiger

DAC 1

$5500

DAC1. For music enthusiasts. And aesthetes.

The DAC1 is the first audiophile product from the Swiss manufacturer dafraud GmbH. It claims to offer music reproduction at the highest level of sonic quality. Optimized layout, by ear selected components for analog and digital circuits, reclocking of the input signal without resampling, discrete and balanced music path, class-A buffering, sophisticated selective power supplies make listening to music a unique experience. Ready for demonstration in selected stores.

Merason DAC-1 | REVIEWS

Merason DAC1Wednesday, January 20, 2021digital to analogue converter DACJason Kennedy

Go to the High End show in Munich (when the opportunity arises) and you will come across a surprising amount of Swiss audio brands many of which are either not distributed in the UK or only in a small, single dealer way. Typically they cost a small fortune, have very slick casework and often substantial amounts of it yet the styling is usually toned down in the Germanic style, if you spotted the Merason DAC1 you wouldn’t equate it with Swiss origin because high mass is clearly not a goal in its construction. It looks like something from France or the UK in its use of an acrylic front panel and relative thin, chrome nickel steel casework with no fancy OLED display. In other words the DAC1 looks like what it turns out to be, a purist dedicated D/A converter where the money has been spent on the inside where it counts.

There are none of the features such as volume control, sample rate display or wi-fi functionality found on many DACs, and in many respects it could have been created for the CD era. But look a little bit closer and ask a few questions of designer Daniel Frauchiger and you will discover that it’s a rather interesting DAC. 

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The DAC1 has the usual array of inputs including coax, optical, AES/EBU and USB with the latter marked ‘Aux’ on the front panel, and outputs on balanced and single ended connectors. The latter is explained by the fact that Daniel plans to offer the DAC1 with an I2S input in place of the USB, so the name covers both options. The RCA connectors are high quality WBT Nextgen types which is a luxury even at this price point. The front panel is pretty straightforward with lights to indicate source selected, USB signal detected and its ability to process the incoming signal. 

This is because of the most purist spec on the machine which is its dedication to PCM up to a maximum of 192kHz, it won’t dally with higher sampling rates or DSD which is a radical proposition in this field. It’s a particularly hairshirt approach that I have only encountered in one other converter, CAD 1543 MkII which runs ancient Philips multibit chips. The Merason is a little more up to date in its choice of a BurrBrown 1794A chipset (one per channel), but that is hardly state of the art so what gives? It turns out that the 1794A uses a hybrid or multibit and delta-sigma technologies so has something in common with the TDA1543 but was chosen for the usual reason, the engineer thinks it sounds good.

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Sound quality
The Merason DAC1 has a decidedly different sonic character to many digital to analogue converters, it’s more in line with DNM amplifiers of the nineties or Rega turntables today, products that share its unflinching attitude to transparency. There is a degree of tuning in any audio component be it a turntable, a speaker or a DAC, there are always component choices to be made that are about what the designer likes and what works in his or her system. Most go for a balance that has a degree of forgiving smoothness, one that will work with a variety of sources and systems and sound appealing with a range of music types. Merason takes a more black and white view and has voiced the DAC1 to be as revealing as possible and hang the consequences, whatever your source is producing that’s what you’ll hear. It’s an admirable approach and one that adheres to the highest principles of high fidelity, but also one that is going to meet with resistance from those who have gone large on digital sources that aren’t such good match.

I started out using the DAC1 with an Innuos Zenith SE server and Stack Audio Link II streaming bridge (and Link Linear PSU), its USB output connected to the ‘Aux’ input on the Merason. The result was thrilling speed and immediacy, a little on the bright side perhaps but very engaging indeed, it worked a treat with good recordings like Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here which has a solo version of Home is Where the Hatred Is that has an electric presence with this degree of resolution. The power of the song is projected to tremendous effect, the lack of embellishment in the performance giving it extra pathos thanks to the clarity of voice and piano and the depth of feeling that Scott-Heron brings to it. Drummer Jeremy Cunningham’s The Weather Up There is a recent release with an equally sad subject but it’s played really well and the recording doesn’t get in the way, here the vitality of the piece is obvious as is the tautness of the percussive drive. The DAC1 reveals the natural reverb on the drums and places the other instruments and sounds in the soundstage in totally cohesive fashion.

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Older recordings are also be great of course, I put on the Grateful Dead’s Cumberland Blues (Europe ’72) and was met with a very lively, up tempo rendition that was on the thin side but made sure that it was hard to sit still. Given that the Link II is not the most plush streamer in town I switched to the new Auralic Aries G2.1 that is due for review next month. This helped to bring out the sublime in everything played, revealing a weightless delicacy in the Merason that allows it to deliver fundamentals and harmonics with a speed that’s rare even among high end DACs. It remained very neutral and very revealing with no sense of time smear, trailing edges being really well defined and leaving no trace once the harmonic or reverberation had passed. This gives Keith Jarrett’s piano a tremendous delicacy when it’s called for and visceral realism when things get more lively. The tonal balance remained on the light side however and while this works beautifully with better recordings it can feel a bit uncomfortable with lesser ones, especially if played at volume, so I stuck to a few more of the better ones and revelled in the brilliance of Steely Dan’s Home at Last and the power of Nick Cave’s Jesus Alone.

Pondering the matter I recalled that with the similarly revealing Kii Three active speakers a Melco server proved the best match, on that occasion I had the top model but many years back I bought an N1A which is used largely for back-up, so I hooked that up to the Ansuz X-TC network switch (a genuinely remarkable device) and gave it a spin. This proved to be the perfect partner for the Aries G2.1 and Merason DAC1, its calmer and perceptibly darker balance working a treat with the all seeing converter. Now I had depth of image, high resolution, superb timing and a tonal balance that could be turned all the way up without any forwardness creeping in. I played a variety of pieces and found low level detail on all of them that had been hidden with the earlier set up, it meant that different recordings were as diverse in character as you would expect given the variations of age, recording medium, mixing desk, producers and musicians that exist. It proved that there is just as much need to balance components with digital as there is with analogue sources, the server, streamer and DAC being equivalent to the turntable, arm, cartridge and phono stage of a vinyl replay system in broad terms. Get the right ones together and you have a system that really sings, and as ever the first part, the source, is the most important part of the chain.

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Under these circumstances the intoxicating immediacy of the Merason can be quite addictive, it does what few digital components do, strips away the polish and lets you hear the real meat of the music. Talk Talk’s Myrrhman has a mesmerising intensity that’s created with immense restraint and poise, you can’t hear the days and nights of studio time it took to make but you do feel a nervous energy that few converters bring home. The muscularity and depth of the bass is pretty gorgeous too. Steve Pearce is the guru in Bowers & Wilkins research dept, he used to bring some pretty intense music over to demonstrate their bigger products in the days when engineers were allowed to meet the press. One such track is Gun by Scout Niblett, a track with so much palpable tension in it that it’s positively visceral when played on a converter that’s as revealing as this one. I will have to dig out a few more of Steve’s test tracks.

The Merason DAC1’s antithesis to DSD is the only reason I can see why anyone who’s seeking genuine high fidelity would not want to have it in their system, but it’s worth remembering that most streamers can convert DSD to PCM and that very few great records were originally captured in DSD. If you are looking to cut through the veneer and hear as much of what was put down in the studio as a converter anywhere near this price will allow should, brace yourself for a genuinely intense musical experience.SPECIFICATIONS: 

Type: PCM only digital to analogue converter
Distortion THD+N: <0.012%
Signal to noise: 120dB 
Digital Inputs: USB 2.0, coax on RCA, optical on Toslink, AES on XLR
Wireless inputs: none 
Analogue outputs: single ended RCA, balanced XLR
Supported sample rates: PCM 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz
Output Voltage: 3V RMS balanced, 1.5V RMS single ended
DAC chip: 2x BurrBrown 1794A
Accessories: none
Dimensions HxWxD: 100 x 450 x 290mm
Weight: 8kg (11kg with stainless steel front)
Warranty: 2 yearsPRICE: £4,195

Posted on October 4, 2020 by Dave McNair in Digital // 0 Comments

From The Outside, Everything Looks Right

I was reminded of what I love about Teutonic design aesthetics when I first opened the box and removed the flagship Merason DAC-1.

Have you ever gone to the part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC and seen the display of medieval armor and weapons?
Even a millennium ago, the armor and weapons used by knights and crusaders in battle had a very nationalistic vibe. The French suits of armor borrowed their look from a Parisian palace for the aristocracy. The Italian armor looked like it was made by people whose descendants would craft Ferrari bodies, and the German armor and swords were all business, a medieval Mercedes but with some Bauhaus angularity.

Words and Photos by Dave McNair

Switzerland isn’t exactly Germany–maybe there is something in the water that runs off the Alps and shit. Maybe it’s the beer. Design and construction of products having an undeniable amount of performance, precision, and attention to detail without unneeded flourish is the order of the day for these folks.

I like this. I like it a lot. It’s practically in their regional DNA! Or the beer.

I Want A New World Without The Order

There seem to be LOTS of DACs out there. I’ve noticed many audiophiles are quite passionate about what they consider to be the BEST DAC, or at least best for the money.

Even more than other components, it‘s all about the accuracy. And the good sound of course. But it’s that dang accuracy as a means to good sound that seems so important to a DAC having exalted status. Some of y’all who know me also know I don’t give a rodent’s hind end about accuracy, or her first cousin naturalness–mainly because those kinds of attributes are essentially unknowable. I simply want it to sound good to my ear.

Regardless of the circuit architecture, I feel that DACs fall roughly into three categories:

  1. Low-end offerings that are not horrible but not very good. Inexpensive and utilitarian.
  2. A larger group that mainly strives for accuracy in whatever way that is measured. Low noise. Low jitter. Some might call this group accurate but also a bit boring or even worse, flat or dry sounding. Mostly affordable though not exactly cheap.
  3. A smaller group that is intentionally designed and voiced to have some pleasing sonic vibe. Some like to call these DACs musical. Some in this category will claim to be accurate. Some will fess up to being intentionally euphonic. Many have vacuum tubes. Prices will also vary widely with some being on the upper end.

Present-day digital design has gotten so good even cheap DACs sound pretty good to my ear. Well, it’s still digital…so let’s not always blame the poor DAC okay? Wait, that’s what we audiophiles do. We blame the gear for what we don’t like about the sound and then try to find what piece of kit will change that for us. I am guilty as charged.

Tech Low Down

Sorry, just kidding. I’m usually a geeky tech head but for some reason, I don’t care a thing about what’s inside the Merason DAC-1. I don’t need to know cause it’s undoubtedly well thought out and executed with the ultimate in Swiss precision.

I could rattle on about the clock, the processor, the isolation of the analog circuitry from the digital stuff, blah, blah, blah. Maybe I’ll look it up later. Hey, I’ll ask Grover!

Technical Commentary by Grover Neville, Contributor

The Merason DAC-1 is a curious little piece of kit. Somewhat humorously, the board still has a note about being designed for “Purson”–the previous name of Merason I believe. The DAC-1’s conversion is based on a dual Burr-Brown (now owned by Texas Instruments) PCM1794A chip, and as the manufacturer claims does indeed appear to be all discrete and symmetrical throughout, from the I/V stage to the output buffer. The miniature heatsinks and very high-grade low-loss mica capacitors were a refreshing sight at the price point – these parts, and the downstream DC filtering output caps can exceed 20 euros a part even at quantity. Thermally-coupled transistors seem to back up Merason’s claim of Class A operation and as with the rest of parts selection the transistors all seemed high quality. Dual toroidal transformers used for separate duties are potted and shielded, and of a modest size – not always a bad thing with toroids where stray fields can be an issue. Some cursory internet searching (and some help from google translate) indicate that the DAC-1 uses one of the built-in Linear Phase filters on the PCM1794A chips. The rest of the design seems to follow this line of thinking, and while there’s nothing particularly exciting or unusual about the Merason DAC-1, there is a certain joy in seeing simple concepts executed to an exceptionally high standard. This is a unit where little details stand out, such as the single instance of point-to-point wiring between the power supply and input stage, or the output DC filter caps being tucked underneath the board. My guess is the former was done for ground plane reasons (and usually indicating the designer actually listened to the unit) and the latter for space and production engineering reasons. Both are signs of a careful attention to detail and intentional, informed design.

Okay, it handles sample rates up to 192K, has 4 digital inputs (AES/EBU, spdif, USB, and Toslink optical), and a choice of unbalanced RCA or balanced XLR outputs.

I found the looks of the Merason DAC-1 to be quite appealing. A glossy white front panel with a couple of nice feeling switches that have a very audible and satisfying click when engaged. The hefty and solid feeling case has a cool metal mesh on the top to vent all the heat that those hard-working precision components (whatever they are) are putting out. The front panel and general look of the DAC-1 remind me of Weiss Engineering–the Weiss Gambit line of studio digital processors, to be precise (which of course is Swiss). I like a little blingy-ne$$ to the vibe but I don’t want to pay for it. If something sounds amazing and is simple and functional with a subtle classiness to the look, I’m in heaven. Makes me feel like all that cash went into the stuff inside that is responsible for the sound. Whatever that stuff is. I’ll find out eventually, ok?

In Use

As usual, I couldn’t resist a quick listen upon installation in my system. The Merason DAC-1 sounded great from the word go. After a few days of leaving it on and running voltages corresponding to ones and zeros through it, things sounded a little better. What a surprise. Not.

At this point, I haven’t taken the time to figure out the actual low down on any particular component’s correlation to burn-in time and results. As imperfect and unscientific as it is, I have found some things seem to get better after being on for a while. Some things don’t seem to change much at all. I am ready to admit this effect may be completely psychological. But so is EVERYTHING about listening to music – especially for an audiophile. So where do we draw the line? Ever wonder why things never sound worse after being burned in? Or how someone can cure their cancer by taking a placebo? What effect does quantum mechanics have on all this?

If I think some aspect of the sound is real or not, then that is MY reality, which is the only reality that matters. Change my mind. Burn-in rant over.

I tried all the different inputs on the Merason DAC-1 including the AES/EBU, which happens to be one of the output choices on my California Audio Labs CD transport. I know that there exists a hierarchy amongst some audiophiles about which digital transmission standard sounds best. I also know my experiences in recording and mastering studios in the early days of digital taught me that spdif and optical were inferior sounding to balanced 110 ohm AES/EBU digital. USB for pro or home audio didn’t even exist in those days and when USB started to creep in, many were skeptical. My experience these days has resulted in feeling like properly designed gear doesn’t care anymore. It all sounds the same to my ear and nulls 100% bit for bit in a studio null test scenario, which was the case for the Merason DAC-1.

I A/B’d different DACs fed by different outputs from either my Innuos Zen Mini streamer using Roon to play Qobuz or the CAL CD transport. All formats sounded the same to me except for playing 192K using optical, which was extremely quiet compared to AES, spdif, and USB. So quiet that no sound could be heard. Oh right, that’s cause Toslink only goes to 96K. Drrrrrrr.

Even if all four input choices on the Merason DAC-1 sounded the same, switching to different DACs being fed simultaneously from the same source revealed small but clear sonic differences.

So what are these small sonic differences you ask? And how small?

Small doesn’t mean insignificant. I’ve found, especially when comparing DACs, that those small differences seem to magically transform into a BIG DEAL as my ear becomes fine-tuned to variances. This is, of course, the nature of audiophilia and it’s on full display when it comes to DAC evaluations. Once my ear becomes used to identifying those tiny differences, swapping DACs is an eye-opener. I have to be very focused yet unfocused at the same time. Too focused and I miss the forest for the trees. Too lost in the music and my brain doesn’t have the room to form judgments. Kind of like mastering music.

Listening Observations

After consulting my tarot cards to help determine when proper burn-in was achieved, I made sure all the cables in my system were directionally correct. That was followed by fine-tuning the system with various isolation pucks and power filter devices. Feeling like everything was now in order and it was a good ear day, I sat down to do some serious DAC listening. But first coffee. Always first with the oat milk latte.

Damn, there I go pulling your leg again. I didn’t do any of that. Except for the coffee.

Throughout several listening sessions in my home system, a clear picture emerged. I also took the Merason DAC-1 to my studio for a death match with a Prism Dream DA-1 to provide further intel, which I will reveal in a bit. Initially, I did a lot of comparing to other DACs. Later I simply listened to the DAC-1 on a wide variety of music. For me, the Merason DAC-1 was the clear winner.

Listening to music through the DAC-1 gave me a feeling similar to what I experienced when the most excellent Tidal Audio Prisma preamplifier was in my system. A feeling akin to putting on my favorite Brooks trainers for a leisurely walk through the park when the weather is perfect. The feeling when driving your car after getting it back from the shop after a full tune-up, or starting a craftsman project knowing you have ALL the tools necessary. There is zero to be concerned about so I can simply enjoy the victory of simply being with this activity.

For my ears – especially when listening to music in a digital format – this feeling is gold.

So what is it about the Merason DAC-1 that gives me the feels? The DAC-1 like other HiFi components that float my boat sits firmly in the Event Horizon zone of being extremely clean with non-detectable levels of coloration yet just a pinch of mojo. This mojo I refer to is in the form of a slight softness to the texture of the upper midrange. Let’s say the energy between 2 and 5k, that same area where our ears are most sensitive and in my case most easily fatigued by any excess of or distortion residing therein.

Music played through the Merason DAC-1 doesn’t sound subdued or dynamically mellow. But compared to some other DACs I have on hand, it’s the slightest bit relaxed. This incredibly small amount of smoothness is what I need when listening to a digital source, to be able to unconsciously forgive and absolve the music for being born in digital form. “Calm down, everything is gonna be ok little PCM file. It’s not your fault. We can hang out now since I got this attractive Swiss box for you to use. Those big arrogant discs with grooves won’t ever bother you again, I’ve made sure of that. Those bitchez can’t even.”

As nice as that relaxed nature is, my ear wants plenty of detail, gobs of layering, nuanced dynamic contrasts, slammin’ bass, and to have the DAC make me a sandwich at the end of a listening session. Is that too much to ask?

Compared to my other DACs the Merason DAC-1 had as much and in some cases more detail while retaining it’s wonderfully seductive relaxed listenability. Hey, wait a second. Didn’t I say the same thing about the infinitely charming BorderPatrol SE-1 DAC? Yes, I did.

The difference here is that the Merason has a similar easy-on-the-ear factor that I love about the BorderPatrol DAC, but the Merason is just thatmuch cleaner. It has more detail, a wider and deeper soundstage, and a deeper and punchier low end. The low end is large AND tight. Complexity with no messiness. It’s also noticeably less thick in the midrange than the BorderPatrol. The BorderPatrol has just a bit more of a nose in the mids. I kinda like that but after comparing it to the Merason’s midrange portrait, it was a bit distracting. But there’s a huge difference in price here.

A/Bing against my Berkeley Audio Design Alpha II, Prism Sound Dream DA-2, Forssell MADA-2, and the DAC built into the PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell preamp, I found that other differences emerged.

I’m not going to go down the list and pick apart everything that I heard, however I will declare the Prism DA-2 to be the only one that felt more accurate than the Merason DAC-1. In head to head, level-matched tests I set up in my mastering studio, the Prism had an uncanny resemblance to the sound of the Merason, except without the slight smoothing effect in the upper mids. The Prism was more present in this part of the spectrum, yet without any unwanted edge.

The test also pointed out that the output level of the Merason using the balanced outs is only three volts, which is a bit low for pro audio nominal output level. This translates to 6db lower than the Prism, which I have at -18 dbfs for the DAC/ADC roundtrip through the analog playground. Just to clarify, the 3-volt analog output of the Merason balanced outs (which on a lot of gear is usually in the range of 6db hotter than the RCA outs) is on the low side but still has PLENTY of juice for any home hi-fi setup, just less than optimum in a studio situation.

During focused listening while switching DACs, I could always pick out the Merason DAC-1 with its pleasingly fleshed-out midrange and plenty of smooth-sounding detail in the upper frequencies, all without the fairy dust on top or an extra helping of image width that some of the other DACs exhibited. This was most noticeable when comparing the DAC-1 to the Berkeley Alpha II. The Alpha II is a long time favorite of mine for its sound and features. Many folks love the sense of detail and spaciousness to the soundstage, but for me, the Merason DAC-1 communicates more of a holistic vibe as opposed to shining a bright light on every little textural element of a mix like I hear with the Alpha II. I routinely felt a sort of relaxed attention when listening with the DAC-1, a certain feeling of rightness that let me focus on the music.

We Don’t Wanna Change We Just Wanna Change Everything

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. The Swiss DAC that is NOT the Swiss Army Knife of DACs. And proud of it. Imagine that.

You might be looking for that elusive DAC that doesn’t appear in any of my previously delineated categories.

That would be Category 4. Category 4 is reserved for DACs with a super high degree of linearity that decodes every squeak of information in a bitstream without sounding edgy and hyper-detailed or dry and antiseptic. Music just issues forth in a full-flavored way without any trace of extra edge or any extra euphonic colors. Fresh brewed iced tea with just a hint of sweetness.

This small field of Category 4 contenders usually costs as much as that clean used Porsche you always wanted.

I’ll wait on the Porsche and enjoy my digital music a lot more now – with the extra cash still stashed in my mattress. Highly recommended.

Frerot

$1250

frérot. Small in appearance, great sound.

The frérot creates the big audiophile experience for the small budget! Equipped with the same technology as its big brother, the DAC1, it brings everything you need to bring the music stage into your living room – or your second home – or your houseboat – or to your workplace. Ready for demonstration in selected stores and with dafraud GmbH.

Review: MERASON Frérot DAC, A New Swiss Contender

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The MERASON Frérot DAC is the baby brother of the DAC-1, which has been well received in the audio market. Well, Pleased Audio Vida is now the U.S. importer for the Swiss-made MERASON DACs. Mark Sosa, the owner of Well Pleased, called me a few months ago and asked if I would be interested in reviewing the MERASON Frérot DAC since he knew that I had used and loved the similarly priced BorderPatrol DAC for years. 

When the Frérot arrived, and I unpacked it, I was surprised that it is slightly smaller (7″ x 9″ x 2″) than the BorderPatrol DAC. As you would expect from a Swiss-made DAC, the build quality and finish are superb. The housing is powder-coated, the lower part is made of 3 mm thick aluminum, and the cover is made of galvanized steel. 

Like the DAC-1, the Frérot uses BurrBrown 1794A chips. While two of these chips work in a mono mode in the DAC-1, a single 1794A is responsible for both channels in the Frérot. The signal processing is also carried out symmetrically in the Frérot. It uses discreet Class-A analog devices. The input selector knob on the front panel uses an Elma coding switch. The Frérot processes only PCM data up to 24 bit/192 kHz. It does not process any DSD files. 

Smooth and Silky

Set up was easy! I simply disconnected my DAC and connected the Frérot in my reference system. Then, I let the little DAC play 24×7 for a few days. 

The designers said their goal was to create a very analog-sounding DAC at a very reasonable price. With the Frérot, they have succeeded at this goal. As many of you may have read from my posts, I have been on a journey transitioning from vinyl to digital. On that journey, I discovered that digital can sound very analog-like. We should, however, remember that there are great differences in the sound of analog sources. 

The Frérot DAC has an incredibly smooth and silky sound, which I find surprising from PCM files. It is also, as you would expect from the Swiss, a very precise and detailed sound. This is a great combination with the smooth and silky sound. 

Since Mark invited me to compare the Frérot DAC to the BorderPatrol DAC, I think this might be a very interesting way to share the Frérot’s strengths with you. In many ways, the differences in these two DACs are like the differences in my two favorite moving-coil cartridges, the Benz-Micro Ebony TRS and the Miyabi Standard. I love the sound of both of these cartridges, but each of them does different things very well. I always found myself thinking that whichever one I was listening to at the moment was the best.

Going Head to Head

The Frérot DAC shares many of the qualities that I loved about the Benz cartridge, and the BorderPatrol shares many of the great qualities of the Miyabi. However, I’m not saying that either of these two DACs sound quite as good as either of these cartridges would sound with a good turntable. Who would expect them to, since either of these cartridges cost four times as much as the DAC, and then you still need a turntable and a tonearm?

Like the Benz, voices played using the Frérot sound natural, articulate, and beautiful. Individual instruments sound true to the sound of real instruments and they have good timbre and harmonics. Bass instruments played through the Ferot have a tight, fast, and very deep sound. 

On the other hand, the Miyabi and the BorderPatrol have a more visceral sound with more drive and more colorful tones. The sound is not as smooth and detailed, however, and it is not nearly as precise. As I said in my previous paragraph, to get all of this sound in one unit, you will have to spend many times as much money. 

How Does the Frérot Sound?

Of course, as audiophiles, most of us want to know more about how it sounds. Let me start by saying that the soundstage of the Frérot DAC was huge. It was exceptionally deep and instruments and vocals were precisely placed within it. The soundstage could also be described as holographic. If soundstaging is important to you, this little DAC gives you much more than would expect at this price range. 

Rear view of the Frérot DAC, click to enlarge

The quality of the bass is fast and tight and extended very deep when played through my DeVore gibbon Super Nines. The leading edge on bass instruments was very easy to hear and had good slam. The upper bass and lower midrange frequencies were precise, but they were not quite as organic as I would like. 

Vocals, stringed-instruments, and pianos came through with great clarity. I could hear every note and breath. Horns and reed instruments sounded life-like, but they lacked some of the bite they should have had. I think many audiophiles will actually appreciate this. The top-end was well extended and passed my test by not drawing attention to itself. I never felt that it was lacking or aggressive. This is a nice accomplishment for a DAC at this price!

Definitely a Contender

The MERASON Frérot DAC gives music lovers a choice at a price point that may be very affordable for most audiophiles. It is definitely a contender worthy of your consideration if you are looking for a budget-priced option!

Retail Price: $1,250 US

What customers are saying:

„The feeling of being live in the concert hall.“

„Just me and the music.“

„I won’t give it back!“

„You are right in the middle.“

„Real, genuine.“

„Sounds like analogue.“

„Each instrument can be heard distinctly.“

And here is the review of a customer, which has affected us very much.

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EXPERIENCE PERSONALIZED CUSTOMER SERVICE! 

Mike Phalan

Gestalt HiFi

24 Sunlit Dr West

Santa Fe NM 87508

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