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Geshelli JNOG Review (Balanced DAC)

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 39 19.1%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 96 47.1%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 65 31.9%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 4 2.0%

  • Total voters
    204

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Geshelli Balanced stereo USB DAC. It was kindly sent to me for review back in May and somehow got neglected until now. Company has discontinued it and I can't find how much it originally cost.

I must say, this dark plexiglass is very non-user friendly:
Geshelli JNOG Review Balanced stereo usb DAC.jpg


You can't read anything unless you tilt your head at the right angle. Then you see a power button and input. Toggling input just cases a dance of the 2x2 array of LEDs. Even after reading the manual I was not quite sure what it indicated as far as volume:

1638429734588.png


What is a "1x" or "2x" blink? Anyway, I muddled through it and got to where I needed to change the output level as the unit supports three different ones. That took even more head scratching until you realize you have to hold the "input" button for 3 seconds for it to blink something. Every time you do this, it goes to the next level in the cycle (three total). What were they thinking here? Trying to out obscure Chord in user interfaces that humans can't understand?

Thankfully back panel is easier to understand:

Geshelli JNOG Review back panel Balanced stereo usb DAC.jpg


I forgot to show the USB adapter sized external power supply in the picture.

There are no remotes or Bluetooth as is common in this class of desktop DAC.

Geshelli JNOG Measurements
I focused my measurements on the XLR balanced output and was surprised that it maxed out at just 2 volts, rather than 4:
Geshelli JNOG Measurements Balanced stereo usb DAC.png


I don't remember the last time I saw a balanced output that is so low. Medium level was almost 0.5 volt and low was 0.128 or so. What is the purpose of these levels?

Distortion dominates our SINAD score which at 109 dB would have been great two years ago, but not today:

Best stereo USB DAC Review.png


It ranks at 99 from the top.

Dynamic range is very good:
Geshelli JNOG Measurements DNR Balanced stereo usb DAC.png


I was very surprised by the intermodulation distortion vs level:

Geshelli JNOG Measurements IMD distortion Balanced stereo usb DAC.png


Why the rise in distortion as levels increased? Let's perform a spectrum analysis at 0 dBFS:

Geshelli JNOG Measurements IMD distortion FFT Balanced stereo usb DAC.png


IMD test has dual tones: 60 Hz and 7 kHz. We see a second harmonic of 60 Hz peaking up, reducing performance. We will see further investigation of this in other measurements below.

Jitter performance was disappointing:

Geshelli JNOG Measurements Jitter distortion Balanced stereo usb DAC.png


So was linearity in one channel:

Geshelli JNOG Measurements Linearity Balanced stereo usb DAC.png


The filter is the standard default one in the DAC chip which unlike competitive products, can't be changed:
Geshelli JNOG Measurements Filter Balanced stereo usb DAC.png


Multitone test shows higher intermodulation distortion in lower frequencies, enforcing what we saw in the IMD test:


Geshelli JNOG Measurements Multitone Balanced stereo usb DAC.png


I suspected we would see a rise in distortion at lower frequencies and that is exactly what we get:
Geshelli JNOG Measurements THD+N vs frequency Balanced stereo usb DAC.png


Disappointing.

Conclusions
As I was researching this DAC, I landed on the page for J2 which is their replacement for JNOG. It has this preface on the measurements:

1638430407698.png


Measurements above prove the yellowed sentences wrong. There are a lot of weaknesses in this implementation that should have been caught and fixed prior to release. None of that is "art," nor does it contribute to better or different sound quality. If anything, the anemic 2 volt output is going to make this DAC sound subjectively worse than one that outputs 4 volts in back to back AB testing without level adjustments.

Really, I expect so much more from Geshelli. I hope J2 implementation is better but given what I see here and attitude displayed above, I am not so sure.

I am sad to not be able to recommend the Geshelli JNOG DAC.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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Count Arthur

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Looking at the SINAD chart, this DAC is still up around the 75th percentile of those you've measured and I'm sure that many DACs with a similar score by NAD, Project, Chord, etc. cost considerably more, not to mention many of those that scored lower.

Obviously, it makes no sense to choose this over similarly priced, better performing alternatives, possibly with more features and better aesthetics.

But, have we been spoiled by a glut of superb, high performance, low priced DACs? :)
 

H-713

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Oh god, let's not get into the argument about the definition of art. That's a sure way to create a 300 page circular argument with no useful conclusions.

Clearly the company was trying to put a message on their site that would get a pass from both measurement nerds and subjectivists.

This thing has pretty darn good linearity, and it would not surprise me if some of these issues were outside of the capabilities of whatever analyzer this company used. Sure, it's obvious on a $30,000 APx555, but it would be considerably harder to see on an original System One, ATS-2 or a pure distortion analyzer like an HP 8903B. Smaller companies very often do not have the latest audio analyzers (for obvious reasons), and there is a strong mentality that if it's below the measurement thresholds of these older analyzers, it's way below the threshold of audibility. Honestly, they probably aren't wrong.
 

Lambda

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Actually not to bad performance. probably transparent for CDs.

"But whats the point if we can't buy it?" i thought this is why ASR don't review prototypes.
 

KSTR

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The JNOG uses AK4493 and that chip (the whole AK44** series, actually) is very sensitive to reference voltage impedance. If you use the reference supply circuit as shown in the datasheet the impedance is too high at low frequencies and because the reference is loaded with a current correlated to the signal the voltage variation causes additional distortion, almost pure 2nd.

I think this product is absolutely fine in performance (everything shown here as "not SOTA" is not even remotely audible). The price is/was spectacular as well, given the circumstances of the company.
 

Jimbob54

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Actually not to bad performance. probably transparent for CDs.

"But whats the point if we can't buy it?" i thought this is why ASR don't review prototypes.
It was a limited run as the AK chip supply failed (for obvious reasons). Not a prototype.
 

Razorhelm

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I see this a lot lately. Audio is art blah blah blah. Not very original.

The music is art, the device that reproduces it is a tool. Simple as that.
I think many manufacturers add this line to appease subjective audiophiles.

Other wise anything with good measurements just gets called "clinical" as a negative.

We objective folk are a niche within a niche! They need to appeal more broadly.

This a great measuring dac, 4 volts is nice but loads of consumer dacs tap out at 2v
 
Last edited:

Walter

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By all reports, the people behind the company are very nice, and they have made some very good products. This just is not one of them in comparison to other products at a similar price that measure better and often offer additional features, like the Schiit Modius,Topping E50, SMSL M200MKII, etc. Even the Topping D10 Balanced measures better at a much lower price, although it is USB input only. All have 4V outputs.
 

Mulder

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Distortion dominates our SINAD score which at 109 dB would have been great two years ago, but not today:

View attachment 169559

I am sad to not be able to recommend the Geshelli JNOG DAC.

I find the ranking of DAC:s to be strange. The green category is labelled as "Very Good". "Very Good" is not great? If "Very Good" it is not great, what is it then? Bad? Is bad and very good the same? Is great the same as excellent?
 
Last edited:

KSTR

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@Walter,
It is completely invalid to compare/judge the price called for this to something similar produced by SMSL, Topping etc. Geshelli is a microscopically small US-based company which means all their cost factors are at least 10x of what those global asian players see. As far as I can see, Geshelli actually isn't even making any net profit from their products.

How long does it take you folks finally get this?
 

Doodski

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@ the Geshelli website it appears they have improved the legibility of the text on the front and rear panels. Or is this the same difficult to read text with better lighting and maybe photoshop'd?
gg.png

ggg.png

gggg.png

ggggg.png

gggggg.png
 

Lambda

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It was a limited run as the AK chip supply failed (for obvious reasons). Not a prototype.
I did not say its a prototype... But i was assuming Prototypes are not interesting because they are not available to the general public.
This is also not Available to the public. for a different reason but the result is the same.
 

Doodski

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@Walter,
It is completely invalid to compare/judge the price called for this to something similar produced by SMSL, Topping etc. Geshelli is a microscopically small US-based company which means all their cost factors are at least 10x of what those global asian players see. As far as I can see, Geshelli actually isn't even making any net profit from their products.

How long does it take you folks finally get this?
I don't see how they can offer this dovetailed wood cabinet for the same price as the usual cabinet. The wood is not for me as is the plexiglass but I can see how many peeps would appreciate the wood case because it is nice.
wood.png
 

respice finem

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If you like "different" design, and if the price isn't exorbitant, not bad.
I'd rather have something "normal" (and I do).
 
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