As we mentioned in the opening of the article, there are those devices where there is incredibly little to complain about. In this case, for 4800 euros including VAT, you get a real Swiss army knife in your listening room. A pre-amp, headphone amp, dac, adc and master clock. At a high level.
The Grimm Audio UC1 is intended for studios looking for a versatile converter for monitoring. An ultra-transparent, high-end switch box to switch between various monitoring systems. Think two sets of speakers and headphones. In short: the Grimm UC1 should not add any color. And it doesn’t, in our estimation. We hear – when coupled directly to the Bryston – a very complete and clean picture. Nothing distracts, nothing gets in the way. Everything feels particularly balanced. The imaging is not too big, not too small, and tight in focus.
When we put the Pass Labs in between we don’t immediately hear a different sound, but we do hear that the Pass puts it down a little bigger. A little more “hi-fi” shall we say. Is that a bad thing? No, not at all; many enthusiasts will appreciate this about the Pass Labs. To be honest, so do we.
And this feeling of bigger and a bit more ‘hifi’ we also have with the Metrum Acoustics Pavane. The difference between the UC1 and the Pavane is quite big. Especially in terms of focus. Is it good Versus bad? No. It’s more a matter of taste. The Grimm UC1 presents more focused; the Pavane plays a little bigger with a different kind of stage.
Below this article you can experience the differences for yourself.
By the way, it’s pretty funny to put an analog source into the UC1. If we put the analog output of the Pavane into the analog input of the UC1 and fix the clock at 192 kHz (we have to, otherwise it will stay silent, in all other cases it is more convenient to indicate that the UC1 has to take the clock of the source) we hear a lot of the signature of the Pavane back. However, it is fair to say that it is not really one-to-one. However, we do hear much of the timbre and focus of the Pavane.
Perhaps this has to do with NOS / over- upsampling differences. What we can distill from this is that the A/D conversion is of a high level. And certainly good enough for many an analog device at home. Whether it is suitable for studio use we dare not state; we are not studio engineers. And this review deals with home use.
Now your editor is very much a fan of neutral sounding systems. The reason is simple: music should speak for itself. The engineer behind the controls makes the choices for warm, cool, imaging, placement, et cetera. A system should not do that itself. The danger is that all albums sound the same because of the sauce of the set. And that can’t be your intention, right?
Another thing a good system brings is peace and calmness in the reproduction. A system – and the room! – that sounds balanced and keeps things tight, lets the music be heard. And no more than that. This sounds very logical, but realize that this is quite rare; an incredible amount can go wrong in a reproduction chain. Think of resonances in a speaker, acoustic errors, distortion in an amplifier, phase issues throughout the chain, and so on.
Now there is no perfect system (yet). Every designer has to make concessions somewhere. This may be because a certain price point must be met, or because something is not yet technically possible. And this is where the strength of a designer comes in: how well can someone make concessions? How does an engineer maintain the intended quality? How well can he or she make choices?
We believe that with the UC1, Grimm has put an incredibly high-performing device on the market. So good and yet so incredibly versatile that it can also be an interesting device for the home user. It sounds musical, honest, insightful, fluent and can in fact do everything. And that is just a very big accomplishment when we look at the price tag. And if we are being very honest: it is in fact comparable to the (more expensive) Pavane when it comes to musical quality… oef… yes… really.
Sample video and lossless samples