Geshelli Labs J2 DAC - Are you Geshelli'n too?
Over the last several years Geshelli Labs has been producing DAC and amplifiers at budget prices that far exceeded the price paid with the audio quality and enjoyment provided. Geshelli Labs also provides custom paints and acrylic face plates to match whatever you desire to add even more enjoyment to the experience. The J2 is the newest DAC from Geshelli Labs; does it follow in the steps of it's siblings or does the J2 venture down a different path?
Geshelli Labs provided the J2 for review and only asked for an honest review. I wasn't influenced or directed to say or paid for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
ES9026PRO DAC Chip
TI DIX9211 SPDIF DIR Chip
Twin TI1656 OPAMPS for Balanced (XLR) Outputs
Single TI1656 OPAMP used for Unbalanced Output Circuit
Ultra Low Noise Power Supplies
12V ("Geshelli Style" 5.5mm x 2.1mm) POWER SUPPLY
USB 2.0 High Speed Interface
Plug and Play LINUX,MACOS,WIN10
32Bit PCM (44.1Khz to 384Khz)
DSD64 - DSD512 Compatible
24bit SPDIF PCM Interface up to 216Khz
4 Independently Selectable Ports Available (2xTOSLINK, 2xCOAX) Front and Rear
Stereo XLR (Fully Balanced) Outputs
Stereo RCA (Unbalanced) Outputs
Outputs Work Simultaneously
THD+N < .000300%
SINAD < 111dB
SNR < 121dB
The Geshelli Labs J2 comes in a white box that has some Geshelli Labs branding on it. Overall it is a pretty bleh box. Inside you will find a good amount of foam protecting the contents; after all that is what is most important. You get the J2 DAC, power supply, USB cable, cleaning cloth, stickers and some paperwork. Nothing special really to talk about but it is enough to get you started.
As mentioned early on, Geshelli Labs does custom paint and the J2 that was sent to me is a great example of their talents. Geno and Sherri have learned over the years that my favorite color is orange and that I lean towards blue and charcoal as well. Most audio gear on my desk is black and it seems that with every piece of Geshelli Labs gear that is sent to me, they are trying to change my desk color scheme. Okay I get the hint! Anyway, I love the look of the split green and orange, good job as always Geshelli Labs. The clear acrylic glass gives a peak inside at the board. There is a LED light inside that is multi colored and can be solid, pulse or fade and there are many color options; red, green, blue, purple and I think it is supposed to be white, You can also disable the LED if desired. On the front (left to right) is a power button that doubles as a LED switcher, an input switch button, four LED square pattern status that indicates input, fiber optic input and SPDIF/Coaxial input. On the back (left to right) is a USB input, SPDIF/Coaxial input, fiber optic input, RCA output, XLR output and power plug input. The small, aluminum body is light but strong. The J2 has a small footprint on the desk. Overall, I really enjoy the J2 build and design as it is well laid out and includes a lot of inputs and the outputs that are necessary for a quality stack.
The Geshelli Labs J2 is a plug and play DAC that can connect via USB, coaxial and fiber optic. The J2 is available with or without the Amanero USB module. If you have the USB version; so that you can take advantage of the PCM playback capabilities, I highly recommend that you download and install the Amanero USB driver:
Overall, the J2 is as easy connecting cables and changing your computer output setting to the Geshelli Labs J2. It is the simplest DAC that I have to setup, just like the JNOG.
(Gear used: Geshelli Labs Archel, Geshelli Labs Erish, Meze Empyrean, Hifiman Sundara, Sennheiser HD660s, Sennheiser HD600, MrSpeakers Ether C, Meze 99 Classics, VibroLabs Curly Maple, Ollo S4X) (All music was played using the Audirvana player, streaming Tidal and playing local files, MP3, WAV, DSD, FLAC)
Through the years of using the Geshelli Labs Enog I have always been pleased with the detailed, natural tone. When I first listened to the J2 I've got to be honest, I wasn't impressed. The first headphone that I used was the Meze Empyrean. Now don't get me wrong, it sounds good but it just isn't a pairing for the Empyrean, especially off the Archel. Moving over to the Erish, the experience improved slightly but not much. With the Empyrean and the J2 there was a lack of naturalism, it was just music. For the first time the Empyrean failed to give me enjoyment and the J2 was off to a bad start. So I moved on to the Sennheiser HD660s and immediately there was a sense of realism creeping in. Vocals had life and energy, bass was defined but controlled, treble had sparkle and energy, soundstage had depth and layering, there was instrument separation and I was feeling connected to the music. Going back and forth on the different Geshelli Labs amps added in small differences with the 660s; yeah I love these headphones and they pair well with the Geshelli Labs J2 and Archel the best. I then proceeded to try many other headphone pairings, here are some random thoughts. Sennheiser HD600 is as usual a great pairing with Geshelli Labs and the J2 brings out the vocal clarity and tone and timbre, best I have heard on a Geshelli Labs/600 pairing. Ollo S4X not a huge fan of this pairing as there is slight ringing in the upper mids at times but the tone, timbre and vocal presence were pleasing. VibroLabs Curly Maple pairs well with the J2 and Erish but not good with the Archel. The Curly Maple has fantastic tone and timbre and the detail retrieval is good with resolution and control being good as well; I like this pairing. Meze 99 Classic is not a pleasant pairing at all, too much upper mids and treble energy and it shreds the ears. MrSpeakers Ether C brings out a different side to the Geshelli Labs J2, analytical. The Ether C is the most detailed and resolving headphone I own and the J2 matches it perfectly. Now this isn't a listen for those seeking emotion and musicality, ohhh no, it is for those seeking detail retrieval, resolution, tone and timbre accuracy. If you want a pairing that reveals everything then the MrSpeakers Ether C and Geshelli Labs J2 with the Archel or Erish is where to look. This pairing is fantastic for those critical listening needs and I love it. But the Hifiman Sundara is another pleasant surprise for the critical listener. The Sundara is well controlled on the J2 and Archel and Erish. There is good clarity throughout and the timbre is not as metallic as it can be on other gear. Vocals have a solid presence and the treble is extended but controlled; there is no sibilance, sharpness or harshness. Bass is extended and controlled but isn't the most impactful. Soundstage seems to have gained a smidge of width over other gear as well. This is the pairing for the critical listener who wants a touch of musicality, unlike the Ether C. I really like the Hifiman Sundara and Geshelli Labs J2 with Archel pairing, in fact it is my favorite pairing followed closely by the Ether C.
This is an interesting comparision as the Mytek has been my benchmark DAC/AMP for the last 2 years. When I put my favorite headphones and my test headphones on the Mytek and compare to the Geshelli Labs J2 one thing stands out, naturalism. The Mytek has an approach to presentation that says natural and realistic is most important. The J2 does a lot right but it misses slightly on this one thing, naturalism. The Mytek Liberty is better at detail retrieval, resolution, tone and timbre but the J2 is no slouch, especially considering the price difference.
The Soekris DAC1421 is an R2R DAC so this isn't really an even comparison. The Soekris does one thing that many DAC just can't and that is natural tone and timbre. The Geshelli Labs J2 comes close in reproducing the tone and timbre that the Soekris can. If my ears aren't fooling me they are very similar in detail retrieval, resolution and stage width, depth and layering. The only difference that I can hear consistently is the tone and timbre is more natural and realistic on the Soekris DAC1421 but it is a small difference.
Geshelli Labs has created a musical masterpiece of a DAC with the J2. Starting with the build and paint schemes to the sound signature, the J2 is a musical masterpiece. For the price point of the J2, I can't think of a DAC that is better and that I would recommend over it. Is the J2 replacing the Mytek Liberty on my desk, no, but it is complementing it. Is the J2 replacing the Soekris DAC1421, maybe, they are similar enough that I am considering it but it is a tough call. Does the J2 follow the path of its Geshelli Labs DAC siblings; yes and no. Yes that it is quality built and an enjoyable listen. No in that it is the best of the lot and is more analytical then musical, in the best way possible. If you are looking for a budget friendly DAC that can be both analytical and musical then look no further then the Geshelli Labs J2.
YouTube reviews: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgMj7xJ1SDxGqqxZ5l3g_jg
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TalkDbs @TalkDbs
DBS Tech Talk research and review process: https://youtu.be/UkSnoZZNyYc
Audio Terms and Definitions: https://www.stereophile.com/reference/50/index.html
Meze Empyrean: https://mezeaudio.com/products/meze-empyrean
Hifiman Ananda: https://hifiman.com/products/detail/290
Sennheiser HD660s: https://en-us.sennheiser.com/hd-660-s
MrSpeakers Ether C (non flow version) https://danclarkaudio.com/
Meze Rai Penta: https://mezeaudio.com/collections/all/products/rai-penta
Meze Rai Solo: https://mezeaudio.com/products/rai-solo
Moondrop SSR: https://www.moondroplab.com/ssr
Monoprice Monolith THX AAA 788: https://www.monoprice.com/product?p_id=24459
Mytek Liberty: https://mytekdigital.com/hifi/products/liberty-dac/
Soekris DAC1421: https://soekris.modhouseaudio.com/soekris-audiophile-line/dac-1421
Tor Audio Roger: https://toraudio.com/main.html#
Massdrop THX AAA 789:
Grace Design SDAC-B: https://drop.com/buy/drop-grace-design-standard-dac-balanced?utm_source=linkshare&referer=FTSS2S
Geshelli Labs Enog 2 Pro: https://geshelli.com/shop/ols/products/enog2-pro-dac-metal-case
Geshelli Labs J2: https://geshelli.com/jnog
Geshelli Labs Erish: https://geshelli.com/shop/ols/products/erish-balanced
https://tidal.com/browse/playlist/5bbf80ce-33f3-4222-a1fc-6539a95415d6 (in order of playlist)
Tingvall Trio “Beat” - piano tonality
Sinne Eeg “We’ve Just Begun” - multiple layer soundstage
Molly Johnson “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” - female vocal tone
Leslie Odom Jr. “Under Pressure” - male vocal tone
Eric Clapton “Change the World” - soundstage, layering and placement
Yo Yo Ma “Ecstasy of Gold” - acoustic instrument timbre
Adam Baldych “Spem in Alium” - acoustic instrument timbre
Pain of Salvation “Stress” - percussion balance
Michael Buble “When I Fall in Love” - orchestral dynamics
Patricia Barber “Code Cool” - sibilance check
Christian Scott “New New Orleans” - shouty upper mids
Tool “Chocolate Chip Trip” - imaging
Hans Zimmer “Why So Serious” - sub bass extension
Marcus Miller “No Limit” - bass control
Dave Holland Quartet “Conference Of The Birds”- bass check
Ilhan Eshkeri “47 Ronin”- orchestra and bass dynamics
Hans Zimmer :2049” - sub bass extension
Cher: Believe - sibilance
Stanley Clarke - Passenger 57 main title - percussion, bass, seperation and placement
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra - The Pine of the Appian Way - soundstage, imaging and seperation
Houston Person - You are my Sunshine - tone and timbre
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