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  • Writer's pictureSteve Elford

Grimm Audio – An Important Back Story

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been swatting-up on the Grimm Audio products. In particular, the MU1 and MU2. These two components have a very good reputation in the business and amongst reviewers, but as I delved into the background, many technical elements of the designs, and the technical history of the founders, started to chime closely with my own experience of digital component design philosophy.

The founders, Eelco Grimm and Guido Tent have been developing state of the art thinking in many areas that I believe to be critically important to digital replay – and so often overlooked. The first of these is that the guys talk about digital being a lot more analogue in its behaviour. What does that mean? Well my view is that digital signals are really much more like radio signals than you might think. They don’t really follow this ideal that they are simple ‘un-bustable’ square waves. Treat them like RF signals and give them the power supplies and critically, the correct voltage regulation they really need, and the listening results are far better (Tent Lab regulators anyone!).

The same goes for clock signal generation. Clocking is something that is more properly understood in the industry now, but again no doubt the same basic premise towards local voltage regulation for clock circuits brings the same dividends. Likewise. many other elements of precision and low noise are embodied within their designs at this level.

Next, the thing that really stood out for me is this idea that you need a lot more processing power than is generally provided for with things like format conversion and upsampling tasks. I have found many times in the past that I can clearly hear the sound of poor filters and although the fundamental ‘curve’ might be correct in principle, they don’t sound that good in practice. Indeed, for most of the time in the past I have preferred simple 16 bit NOS DACs, although those machines have other limitations of course. The use of a Linux based system and a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) gives Grimm a lot more power and control over the various conversion processes, and I agree that this effort really does bring significant benefits to sound quality. With other developments I have worked on in the past, an increase in sheer processing power has always been audible.

The MU1 and MU2 don’t really leap out as ‘look at me’ products, with their simple and elegant lines. But the Grimm Audio back story suggests that there is far more under the bonnet here than might first meet the eye.

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