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Manufacturer: DAFRAUD GmbH
Price (when reviewed): 22 500 PLN

Contact: Niedal Audio Lab AG
Bangertenstrasse 865


Provided for test by: AUDIO ATELIER


images Piksel Studio | Wojciech Pacuła

No 214

March 1, 2022

The MERASON brand belongs to the Swiss company DAFRAUD GmbH, founded in 2013 by DANIEL FRAUCHIGER. It made its debut with the DAC1 digital-to-analog converter in 2015, which is still on offer. There are only three products in it’s range and all of them are made in Switzerland.

ANIEL FRAUCHIGER BELONGS TO A GROUP of manufacturers who are not eager to change. Once they find solutions that satisfy them, they stick to them for a long time. What is interesting is that the issue is not about analog technology, in which changes are now evolutionary, slow, but about digital, in which "revolutions", Revolutions and REVOLUTIONS happen every day.

The best example of this conservatism is the DAC1 digital-to-analog converter we hereby review. Invented back in 2011, as evidenced by the inscription on the printed circuit board, launched in 2015, it still remains the top product of MERASON. For a long time it was its only product and it was not until 2020 that the Frérot model joined it, i.e. its "little brother" - "frérot" in French means "younger brother" or "brother's heart".

Let me also remind you that the name Defraud, i.e. of the mother company of the Merason brand, came from combining the name and surname of the founder, with an additional 'd' at the end. In addition to this one, Mr. Frauchiger also has another company, Niedal Audio Lab, founded in 2017 thanks to a start-up grant from the Bern Economic Development Agency, whose task is to produce devices for Defraud and to develop products for other companies in the OEM system.


SEVEN YEARS IN AUDIO IS A LOT OF TIME. It doesn’t work the same anymore as in the 1980s and 1990s, when Japanese manufacturers imposed a corporate logic of change, in which almost the entire range of basic devices was replaced every year, and products from the top of the price list every few years - I hope that’s clear. But it is also the case, however, that when it comes to D/A converters, the changes are immediate - apart from turntables, it is the "hottest" audio product nowadays. So you have to have great faith in what you are doing and be sure that what you do is at a high level in order to still have the same device on offer after seven years.

In the case of the DAC1 it is sort of easy, as it is based on the "vintage" Burr-Brown 1794A DAC and the equally old Wolfson Microelectronics WM8804 digital receiver. Together they determine what signals the device supports, even via the USB input. And it is only a PCM signal of a resolution up to 24 bits and 192 kHz. So the idea behind this design was probably to get the most out of Compact Discs and some hi-res files.

Why not use the latest chips? Well, because the company's boss decided that they did not sound "analog" enough - and in private he is a fan of the vinyl records. In an interview for the HF that accompanied the Frérot test, he said that he listened to music this way, because "the sound was simply better: the music was more coherent, more emotional and much more engaging". Even when he returned to digital medium in 2010 and realized that progress had been made, "he was not entirely convinced."

While looking for alternatives, he came across a converter design developed by a Hong Kong engineer. As he says, "his product convinced me that listening to the music from a digital source can be fun." Together, they spent two years developing the design, and the final result was the DAC1.

So we are dealing with a somewhat "vintage" product. Anyway, its appearance also fits this category - the device looks like directly transferred from a laboratory from the 1970s. It is defined by a white (or black) acrylic front panel with two plastic switches and a row of green LEDs. The DAC1 is a classic D/A converter with four digital inputs, with the USB being described - take a note! - as AUX, that is "auxiliary". Another LED indicates synchronization with the signal source.

There is no Bluetooth capability, no volume control, and no remote control. We will not decode MQA files in it and we will not connect headphones to it. Instead, there is a circuit entirely based on transistors, from the current output of the D/A chips - one per channel - through the I/U conversion, to the output circuits. What's more, XLR and RCA outputs benefit from separate signal tracks. The stabilization circuits in the power supply of the analog section are also discrete and they are also built according to the dual-mono concept.

So what is DAC1? - It is a specialized product for people who know what they want and for whom the main source of the signal is - this is how I see it - a Compact Disc transport. Thinking about it, I have this picture in front of my eyes, in which there is a CEC transport next to Merason - it's not that a pretty couple? And I would treat the USB input as it was conceived, i.e. as an additional one - we connect it to an inexpensive file transport and listen to music from Tidal or Qobuz services.


⸤ HOW WE LISTENED The DAC1 converter was tested in the HIGH FIDELITY reference system and compared to the D/A section of the Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition SACD player, which also served as a CD transport. I was most interested in how the DAC handles signal from CDs, because in their case, like in a lens, the advantages and disadvantages of converters are focused.

The Ayon digital output with the DAC input was connected with the RCA → RCA Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6100 II cable, and the DAC was powered with the Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version cable. The converter was placed on the top shelf of the Finite Elemente Master Reference Pagode Edition Mk II rack on its own feet. To keep it from moving, I put the Acoustic Revive RKI-5005 pads under it.

The DAC1 was tested with RCA outputs (unbalanced) because in my system I use RCA cables. I would like to add that on its top panel, above the power supply, I placed the Verictum X Block passive EMI/RFI filter.

Recordings used in te test | a selection

⸜ ART BLAKEY & THE JAZZ MESSENGERS, The Big Beat, Blue Note/Audio Wave AWMXR-0020, XRCD24 (1960/2013).
⸜ MRYCZEK & TOMASZEWSKI, Love Revisited, For Tune 0038 (01), Master CD-R (2014).
⸜ PAT METHENY, What’s It All About, Nonesuch Records/Warner Music Japan WPCR-14176, CD (2011).
⸜ DAVID GILMOUR, Rattle That Lock, Columbia/Sony Music Entertainment SICP-30815~6, BOX: BSCD2 + Blu-ray (2015).
⸜ ALICE IN CHAINS, Music Bank, Columbia CXX 69580/CK 69584, Disc 2, Reference CD/CD-R (1999).
⸜ VADER, Act of Darkness/F.I.Y., Croon Records CsCD-002, SP CD (1995).


In the INTERVIEW WITH MR FRAUCHIGER, which we have already mentioned, he spoke about his inspirations, among which he mentioned analog sound in the first place, i.e. the sound of a turntable. As he said, this sound "was simply better", "the music was more coherent, more emotional and much more engaging". This approach, which is primarily about overcoming the disadvantages of digital signal coding, and only then using its advantages, was quite well felt with the "little brother" of the tested D/A converter. Only in the DAC1, however, can you fully hear what it is all about.

The thing is that it is - well, it cannot be named otherwise - "analog" sound. I am giving the quotation marks not because I question the word enclosed in them, but because it is only a stereotype, turntables and reel-to-reel tape recorders sound differently, and so are cassette recorders, although all of them offer an analog sound. Anyway, what I am talking about could be heard perfectly, even compared to the D/A section of the Ayon Audio player, which is an absolutely analog sounding player for me.

However, while I described the CD-35 HF Edition in its review as an equivalent of a mastering studio tape recorder, the DAC1 would be an equivalent of a classic turntable in such a comparison. Let's listen to Lee Morgan's trumpet, and then Wayne Shorter's saxophone from the ART BLAKEY & THE JAZZ MESSENGERS’ The Big Beat in the XRCD24 version from 2013, and we'll know what we're talking about. Merason warmed up the sound, darkened the upper midrange and treble, and brought the latter closer to us in the mix.

It did a great job with the drum solo by the album leader, Art Blakey, in Shorter's piece Sakeena's Vision, where we only have drums in the right channel. Its signal is slightly distorted at times, you can also hear that a compressor was used here. Nevertheless, we are dealing with extremely high energy and a very fast signal. The DAC1 brought the instrument closer to me and "tweaked it". But also it conveyed this energy and speed perfectly.

Because it is not a converter that would follow the "warming up" path blindly. This is the easiest way to simulate an "analog" response, although it has little in common with the fidelity to the source signal. It is cool, it offers specific benefits, but it is still insufficient in the high-end world. The Merason's DAC is different. The point is that it doesn't close down the sound and doesn't suck the life out of it.

When on the excellent, well-recorded album of the MRYCZEK & TOMASZEWSKI duo, entitled Love Revisited, mastered by Mateusz Sołtysik, the vocal came in, accompanied by a very long reverb, the DAC1 perfectly sensed its role and first of all showed its long "tail", but also conveyed an open voice, did not obscure it. In this respect, it was close to the way in which the same material, but from hi-res files stored on a DVD-R disc, was played by the 200,000 zlotys Accuphase DP-1000/DC-1000 two-box player. I don't mean the quality, but the character and the way of phrasing.

The Swiss converter does it not by closing the midrange with withdrawal, but by rounding its attack. It gives a wonderfully consistent sound, but also with a lot of energy. It reminded me of an SME turntable. It is also important that the device shows the full perspective of the material being played. Whether it was a Blakey quintet or a Polish duo, or finally PAT METHENY's solo baritone guitar from What's It All About, each time the presentation’s scale was large, voluminous, and the holography was just brilliant.

When it comes to timbre, it must be said, that in comparison to the reference player, the presentation was a bit brighter. Perhaps it was because of it, that the soundstage was large, the reverbs were strong, they deepened it nicely, beyond the line connecting the speakers, but also to the sides. Perhaps more important, however, was that the slight lifting of the midrange did not take away the weight from the sound.

There was a kind of "gravity" in this presentation, that is, it was standing firmly on the ground, without taking the music up into imaginary skies.

| Our Albums Series

Rattle That Lock

Columbia/Sony Music Entertainment SICP-30815~6
BOX: BSCD2 + Blu-ray (2015)

Rattle That Lock IS THE FOURTH SOLO studio album by DAVID GILMOUR, Pink Floyd’s guitarist and vocalist; It was released by Columbia Records on September 18th 2015. The recordings were made in Gilmour's MEDINA studio, and additional tracks were recorded in a small studio on his farm (Sussex) and in the ASTORIA studio located on musician’s boat - it was also where the Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason (more about her HERE) was recorded. The orchestral parts arranged by Zbigniew Preisner were recorded in AIR Studios.

ANDY JACKSON was responsible for recording process. He previously worked on several PF albums and was the Chief Engineer on the A Momentary ... and Division Bell. He is also responsible for the mix of the entire Rattle That Lock album, which was mastered by JAMES GUTHRIE and JOEL PLANTE in das boot recording. During the recordings, Gilmour used many (several dozen) different guitar effects, both older and newer ones. He played many different guitars, but mainly two: Fender Stratocaster The Black Strat and Gibson Les Paul Gold Top (more HERE; accessed: 10/01/2022).

The material for the album in question was mostly recorded on DAT tape (stereo, 24/48) already in 1993 as a 20-hour long jam. It is from this session that the material for the Division Bell album comes. About 40% of the music that ended up on the Rattle That Lock was cut from the remaining material, and 60% of the material was newly recorded. The deluxe version, which I would like to recommend to you, includes material for CD (Blu-Spec CD2 in Japanese) and Blu-Ray (surround and hi-res stereo). The BD disc also includes an unreleased demo from 1993 and recordings from the original sessions from Olympic and Astoria studios.

It's beautiful, calm music with a really good sound - especially if we take into account that the material was created over many years, it was recorded in various studios and in various formats; I assume that the album was finally recorded and edited in the DAW (Pro Tools) station.

SETTING THE DAC 1 PRESENTATION firmly on the ground, its ability to render real sound, not invented one, will come out not only with jazz music, because the DAVID GILMOUR’S album I listened to after a long break, the Rattle That Lock, I’ve mentioned above, had the same features. The orchestra, recorded at London's Air Studios, and arranged by Zbigniew Preisner, was a great background for the slowly developing guitar solo in the CD's opening instrumental introduction to 5 A.M.. Recorded by a musician - as you can guess - at five in the morning it has something fairy-tale about it. And that's how Merason showed it too.

The guitar's volume and clarity were lower than with the reference player. But also the difference was not very big and without direct comparison it would be difficult to spot. What was cool, however, was the way the DAC1 filled in the presentation. It is a device delivering a full frequency range, from the very top to the very bottom. However, while the treble is softened in it, the bass is not. I would even say that it is slightly emphasized, or at least its mid-range.

On Blakey's album it gave a very nice "reflection" to the kick-drum, with Metheny's album it showed the fullness of the guitar soundbox, and with Gilmour's disc it allowed the sound to develop, to "flow" in a stable and almost majestic way. And how nicely it turned out on the Music Bank by ALICE IN CHAINS - my favorite band of the grunge era! The opening track, the Rooster’s slow beat, guitar, vocals, drums, it all had great weight but also clarity. Once again the DAC showed a broad perspective with well-arranged layers.

It was only with such strong sound that the device's manner of reacting to the compressed signal emerged. The point is that it smooths and pampers it, and thus loses some energy. While there was no trace of this on the previous albums, I heard it now. And again - the DAC1 made the disc, and I played it with a CD-R from a mastering studio ("Reference CD"), sounded very nice and pleasant. So lovers of hard rock, metal music and even death metal should be satisfied. And they are the ones who most often have problems with the digital versions of their favorite albums. The DAC1 will bring them back to life.


HOW FAST DIGITAL AUDIO IS CHANGING! And how little comes out from it ... Or to put it another way: the average quality of digital devices has increased significantly in recent years, especially at the extremes of the price list - in inexpensive and top-class devices. At the same time, we are caught in the same circle, where the improvement of one parameter results in a deterioration of another. The Merason converter shows us that most of the things that are now "discovered" by many manufacturers were at arm’s length already seven years ago.

The Swiss converter uses a DAC chip that hasn’t been manufactured for years, which was and still is an excellent way to convert ones and zeros into a sine wave. We get a smooth, fluid and truly "analogue" sound in the sense that it is devoid of digital harshness. The presentation has a great perspective with it, with an extensive sound stage and a large volume. It is also dynamic and fast. It differs from the expensive, latest devices with lower resolution and clarity of sound. However, this does not prevent it from showing what is the best in a given music.

The DAC1 is a converter that can easily perform even in the most expensive audio systems, next to devices that cost several times more. And it will still shine with real and not reflected light among them.


The SWISS D/A CONVERTER has a compact, modest chassis, and yet it stands out from the crowd of other devices of this type. This is due to two elements: the front panel and the chassis itself. The former, made of a sheet of opaque acrylic, works perfectly with the green color of the LEDs and inscriptions. It may be white as in the tested unit, or black. On special order, for a considerable surcharge, a chrome-plated stainless steel front is also available.

⸤ FRONT AND REAR The chassis is made entirely of such steel. Therefore, the device looks as if it was borrowed from some research laboratory, in the good sense of the word. The aforementioned LEDs indicate the selected input and the synchronization of the DAC with a signal source. Interestingly, it also synchronizes when the transport is not working, just plugged in. It is often the case that synchronization only takes place after the CD player is turned on. I would like to add that Merason stands on tiny, transparent, silicone feet.

On the back we find really decent quality connectors. XLR outputs and inputs feature gold-plated, standard Neutrik connectors, but the RCAs are gold-plated versions of the nextGen WBT sockets. The least solid one among them seems to be the USB input.

⸤ INSIDE The inside is completely occupied by the electronic circuit and power supply. Let's start with the latter. It is based on two large toroidal transformers in casings that minimize vibrations. One of them supplies voltage to the digital section and the other to the analog one separately for the left and right channels. So we are dealing with a dual-mono system. And a curiosity, the transformers come from the Polish company PowerUC. The power supply for the digital section is based on an integrated voltage stabilizer, but the analog section only uses transistors, which is a completely discrete circuit.

"Discreet" refers also to the converter section. There are integrated circuits in the input stage, it's clear - the Wolfson Microelectronics WM8804 digital receiver, which dictates the limits for the input signal, and the Burr-Brown 1794A digital-to-analog converters. The receiver accepts only S/PDIF PCM signals up to 24 bits and 192 kHz, and there are two converters, separately for each channel. Parallel connection of the outputs in each of them reduces noise and distortion.

And now - the rest of the circuit is discrete. Even in the converting section, the current signal - in this form it is sent from the D/A chip - to the voltage signal, which is then sent to the analog output and further to the amplifier. Most often manufacturers take shortcuts reaching for integrated circuits. It is similar with the output buffer, where bipolar transistors were also used. Their pairs were screwed to each other and to the heat sinks, thus equalizing their thermal drift and its influence on the parameters. An important note - there are separate signal paths for the XLR and RCA outputs, starting from the D/A chips themselves.

The PCB is double-sided and all the capacitors, nice polypropylene cubes, are placed underneath. I would like to add that the USB input has a separate, small PCB, plugged into the main one via a gold-plated multi-pin socket. Theoretically, it is possible to replace the entire circuit in the future with a more modern one.

Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer)

Supported digital signals:
PCM, 16, 24 bits, 44.1-192 kHz (176.4 kHz – USB)
Max output:
3 V RMS (XLR) | 1.5 V RMS (RCA)
Frequency range: 20 Hz-20 kHz (+/- 0.2 dB)
THD+N: < 0.012%
SNR: > 120 dB
Max power consumption: 30 W
Dimensions: 450 x 100 290 mm (W x H x D)
Weight: 8 kg


Reference system 2021

1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC