Grimm Audio CC1 Word Clock Sync Generator and Distributor Review
May 1, 2012 9:00 AM, By Erik Zobler
HIGH-STABILITY WORD CLOCK AND DISTRIBUTOR
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A few under-the-hood design attributes worth mentioning include dramatically reduced power supply noise, temperature compensation for their extremely low-jitter oscillator, and a low-impedance reference plane that minimizes any potential ground loops (which can cause jitter).
George Duke’s studio in Hollywood was a perfect place to do a test. His system uses multiple Avid and Euphonix interfaces with 48 analog channels. All of the interfaces (a total of 10) are externally clocked to an Apogee Big Ben clock. It was not possible to do a quick A/B comparison with a setup like this, so I printed a mix I was working on to an external recorder, then replaced the Big Ben with the Grimm and ran the exact same mix again to the recorder. I then burned a CD and listened to the two versions back to back, going back and forth between the two until I could easily identify the two versions. When listening, I did not know which version I was listening to, so that I wouldn’t be influenced by what I may have “wanted” to hear.
My initial response was that I preferred the Big Ben. It seemed crisper and somehow more alive. But as I kept listening, I noticed that some of the high frequencies seemed a bit “hairy” or “edgy.” It was almost as if the high end was a bit “excited,” reminding me of an Aphex Aural Exciter signal processor. At the same time the bass sounded a bit more round or tubby—even mushy. The Grimm version, on the other hand, did not exhibit these attributes, and the first thing I noticed was that the bass sounded more defined, less puffy and more accurate. I also had the same feelings about the highs. They sounded more natural, and again, more defined. Essentially, the whole mix seemed more solid. I did not notice what many people often say about clock improvements–that it sounded more airy. In fact, in comparison to the Apogee, it sounded a tiny bit darker, due to the excitement I mentioned earlier. When I closed my eyes and told myself to forget about all the perceived sonic differences and just pick the clock that “felt” better, I chose the Grimm. It was accurate, natural and solid. I know it’s cliché, but it just sounded more musical.
Because this test was only a comparison of the two clocks’ effect on the D/A converters, I performed a different test to isolate the sound of the A/D converters. At my studio I have a stock Avid 192 HD converter and a Black Lion Audio/Requisite Audio Engineering FM192. I also have an Apogee Big Ben clock modified by The Mastering Lab, so with the Grimm CC1 I could audition four different clocks.
The best way to compare audio equipment is to use the exact same source every time you make a switch. Obviously this isn’t possible with a live player, so I selected a song with all live players that I had previously recorded to Pro Tools at 96 kHz, and mixed to a DSD recorder operating at 5.6 MHz. In other words, I used a very high-resolution source with which I was intimately familiar. I recorded directly into the stock Avid (Digidesign) 192 audio interface operating at 96k, and I recorded the same material with the four different word clock settings. The first setting was Pro Tools, set to its internal clock. For the other three settings, Pro Tools was set to External Clock, but with different sources: Grimm CC1, Apogee Big Ben, and the word clock output from the Black Lion Audio/Requisite Audio Engineering FM192.
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