Grimm MU1 Streamer - Really "The Best"?


I've recently become interested in the Grimm MU1.  While reviews of top end players from Innuos, Aurender and Antipodes and others are typically all very positive, the tone of the many pro reviews of the Grimm MU1 go far, far beyond, with some reviews resorting to using superlatives and gushing of positive system transformation and not being able to stop listening to material, etc..  HiFi Advice and Steve Huff (actually calls it "magic") have such reviews.

Given the delay in availability of the Innuos Pulsar which I'm told will be better than my current Zenith Mk3 + PhoenixUSB reclocker, I am interested in replacing my streaming setup with a one-box solution that includes a high-precision clock.  The new streamer will continue to feed my Gryphon Diablo 300's DAC module, which I have no interest in replacing.

I'm actually a fan of Innuos, after they improved the sound of my Zenith with firmware updates and after I added their PhoenixUSB reclocker. I appreciate this commitment to improving sound quality which is why I was so interested in the Pulsar.

The trigger for considering an upgrade is not for improved sound, but rather, to solve some issues I have with too many Audioquest power cords coiled and clumped together. I will get to lose one of them and one of my USB cords with a one-box streamer. I've noticed my sound is very sensitive to positioning of my AC cords and find I often need to re-adjust the PC feeding my amp to get proper sounding vocals at center stage.  One of my subs also seems to be picking up AC noise when the crossover is set above 60Hz. The second trigger is simply system simplification, removing one box.  All that said I don't really have any complaints regarding sound, and the PhoenixUSB reclocker truly did improve the sound of my Zenith.

While the Grimm MU1 has it's 4X upsampling up it's sleeve with reviewers absolutely glowing over this feature and it's extreme ability to separate tones to the left, right, front, and back far better than the rest, I don't see that Grimm has gone to any lengths with regard to power supply management in the way other brands do including Innuos. The MU1's ultra-simplistic interior doesn't bug me, but the lack of transformers and power management makes me wonder....

Are there any updates from folks who have directly compared the MU1 vs similarly classed streamers from the competition?  Did you find it to be as revelatory as the pro reviewers found it? And, how does it compare to other streamers with it's 4X upsampling disabled?  Does it sound like it suffers from it's lack of power management?  I do see that the clock should be very good...

 

 

nyev

@malibu457

but for those still able to hear….there are levels of magnitude more performance available. If you are saying I shouldnt spend more money on an Aurender, Taiko or Grimm because you can’t hear the difference….I guess I would have to disagree with your premise. The Node is a fine streamer and if it meets your qualitative threshold, thats awesome.

what do you get specifically for the extra $9500? and can a streamed file compete with say a hi-res download from Presto music?

I think my experience adding the PhoenixUSB Reclocker to my Innuos Zenith might be a good example of how your streaming performance can be upgraded with more investment. In my case it added precision in the sense of greater focus and clarity for individual sounds, soundstage depth and cleaner separation, and overall more well defined positioning of sounds. It’s not a small difference. I’m hoping that the Grimm MU1 will level these and other qualities up yet again, but the jury is out on that one until I get my unit in my system and broken in. I’ve also realized that I’m seeking a flatter frequency response in the bass and midrange, than my current DAC module seems to offer (coloration is boosted bass or recessed mids - not entirely sure which, or if it matters as it’s relative).  I’m not sure the MU1 will address that issue, as my testing of the outboard Merason DAC 1 seems to address the tonal issues, while being less resolving than my much more pricey Gryphon DAC (albeit with basic RCA cables that limit the DAC1’s performance until I get my new cables in)..

I’ve often wondered about my hearing. Tested about 5 years back, and my higher frequency sensitivity is going down, but nothing that is out of step and normal for my age. Maybe that’s the reason I no longer struggle with “brightness” in my system…. But I doubt it!

I was encouraged when I read that Dave Grohl was stating how he is totally deaf and can’t even communicate when he is at the checkout of a supermarket or out at a dinner in a restaurant. Here is the part I was encouraged by:

"My ears are still tuned in to certain frequencies, and if I hear something that’s slightly out of tune, or a cymbal that’s not bright enough or something like that, in the mix, I can f—ing hear the minutiae of everything that we have done to that song; I really can,"

Which maybe not saying much given their music, but that’s probably mean and unfair of me to say!

 

@malibu457

what do you get specifically for the extra $9500? and can a streamed file compete with say a hi-res download from Presto music?

Hi Malibu. Let me begin by saying I am not familiar with presto music. My own, likely flawed, methodology has to do with evaluating four or five tracks from different artists. I choose the tracks based on subjective listening first to their redcook cd versions ripped to the internal drive of my server. The tracks were chosen because I found the redbook versions to be well recorded. I have then also acquired those same tracks in the same resolution from a few of the usual online services. I then compared the tracks by listening. I found no discernable differences in listening. This was over a period of several different servers (Macbook Pro, Mac Mini, Innuos Zenith and now a Grimm MU1). As I moved through the servers over the years, the streamed versions always trailed qualitatively. The Innuos narrowed the gap considerably, which was the epiphany for me. Better streamers (and better ethernet chain) made a difference. With the Grimm those same tracks become virtually identical on playback. With the Grimm’s 4fs upsampling engaged, the upsampled track streamed from Qobuz is so close that I can’t tell them apart from the non upsampled redbook local file. The upsampled local file does pull ever so slightly ahead but again, the sound quality differences are minute.

 

What does all this mean? To me I believe I have, in my system, minimized the degradation that must be occurring with the internet sourced streamed file. This is in my system to my ears in my room. I hear the differences and I hear the differences become indistinguishable. How can we be certain the streamed version is the exact, identical file? We can’t but with careful listening we make an educated assumption. There is some music that hasnt been remastered, just replicated online…ripped by the service. How can we be sure that online hirez streamed files are really higher resolution? We can’t. We just have to trust our ears and some software analysis. Some of us here have experimented with software analysis and compared the streamed files with local files.

 

So, what does all this mean and why should you trust me? You shouldn’t trust me….you should trust you. You should do as you are doing and trust your own ears. Your impressions of the spatial cues, tone, texture, dynamics, frequency extremes, etc will either tell you that you are on to something or there is no difference. Your results are applicable to you and that’s the cool thing about the hobby. If you find no difference then for you, there is no difference and no need to chase anything “more”. But if you do hear a meaningful difference between a streamed track and the same track stored locally, then (provided you are curious) you owe it to yourself to understand why. Everyone on Audiogon recognizes this is the point of departure from a sane and casual system approach and the far more costly approach of optimizing the chain. We all set our own $$ parameters and the energy required to get there. Its either worth it to you to go there or it isnt…there is no right or wrong decision but there is also no universal template to objectively apply to others. Our values and resources are different.

 

With absolutely no offense intended, if your local files sound identical to those streamed over a Node2i then several things are at play. There is a bottleneck limiting sound quality. Either your system’s ability to resolve musical material is “maxed out” at your present level or your local server is compromised to an extent that the best sound you can get stops at a certain level. I bought a Node not long ago thinking it would be fine for a minimalist setup in a teritiary room in my home. I let it burn in and it frankly sounded muffled and flat…in a word, it sounded broken. I then moved it into my main system and it sounded seriously compromised. So, if you are happy, then you have achieved an appropriate system balance for you and your goals. That’s great and you will get nothing from me but sincere congratulations because enjoying our music is what its all about. Please believe me, I wish I could have stopped long ago on this journey but once you’ve made a system modification that narrows the sound quality gap between streamed internet files from streamed local files then there is no denying musical material is being compromised. The mere act of improving the streamed internet file vs the local file is a clear indication to me that the data is there for the taking if you are willing to go after it.

 

Think of your streamer as a disc transport. You would agree wouldnt you that there are differences in sound quality between transports right? Do yourself a favor though, if you are convinced you have an optimized setup then DO NOT go listen to a truly optimized setup…it will be a costly mistake. You say your hearing is diminished but I hear the differences at every frequency I am able to hear and I really sense the differences with soundstage and spatial cues. I get it that you can’t imagine HOW there could be a difference worth “$9,500 extra” but there are differences. The fallacy of these arguments is humorous because some assume anyone who spends more than they did are being duped out of their money. LOL. Smart enough to make it but not smart enough to hold onto it? LOL. I contend that to those who deny additional value exists above a certain level or pricepoint just aren’t thinking clearly. But I get it, sometimes not knowing what you are missing is the path to maximum musical enjoyment.