Audio-GD Master-11 Survival Guide
Audio-GD makes some amazing products, but their website development skills are questionable and the translations could use some work. As an avid fan of He Qinqhua (aka “Kingwa”) and Audio-GD, I thought I’d take the time to clarify some of the functionality of the Master-11 combo.
The DSP settings for the Audio-GD Master-11 in particular (as well as Master-7 and similar) have become clouded in mystery over time because of poor web development and erroneous translations. I’ve worked on getting the correct information from Kingwa over time via emails, and have compiled it here for everyone who needs it. To the best of my knowledge, this is accurate.
Audio-GD Master-11 Functions
- HP/Pre: Select “H” to output from the front headphone jacks, “P” to output from the rear XLR / RCA jacks.
- Selector: Select your input channel here. Input 6 is USB. All inputs are labeled on the rear for reference.
- Volume: Change the volume of the headphone OR preamp out. It will remember your settings, and usually comes at volume 0 so you won’t have any output. Note that you will hear an audible click coming from the unit when changing the volume. This is normal! It is a side effect of the extremely well-balanced volume control and is nothing to worry about.
- DAC/PRE Switch (On Rear): Turn off the unit before changing this! Switched to “DAC,” the XLR / RCA outs will function as a line out with fixed volume. Switched to “PRE,” the XLR / RCA outs will function as a volume-controlled preamp. This has no impact on the headphone outputs. In both cases, the DAC is utilized fully.
Display Order: The information on the display is in this order: Headphone/Preamp (H/P) | DAC/Preamp (D/P) | Input | Volume. A few examples to illustrate:
- H P 6 55: Headphone mode | Switch on rear set to Preamp (Ignored in Headphone mode) | Input 6 (USB) | Volume 55
- P P 5 50: Preamp/DAC mode(output to XLR / RCA) | Switch on rear set to Preamp (allows volume control in this mode) | Input 5 (I2S) | Volume 50
- P D 6 10: Preamp/DAC mode (output to XLR / RCA) | Switch on rear set to DAC (fixed level, no volume control) | Input 6 (USB) | Volume 10 (Ignored in DAC mode)
- – : I don’t know that! That means it has been 7 seconds since your last input and the display has gone dark so as not to blind you!
Display Auto Dark: 7 seconds after that last user input, the display will go “auto dark,” which means a small dash will appear in the middle of the display screen. The jumper below can be changed while the unit is powered off to enable or disable this function. Put the jumper on to enable the auto dark feature, and remove the jumper for the settings to remain displayed on the screen at all times.
Audio-GD Master-11 Amanero / ASIO Drivers
The drivers on the website are often in a state of disarray. The first time I checked, the base drivers were there but the Combo384 ASIO drivers were not. The last time I checked, they were in a RAR file, and within that RAR file is a file with no extension. You have to add a “.rar” extension to that file and unzip that file to get to the drivers.
Mac users, move along. You don’t need drivers. Windows users, go to the official Amanero website to get the drivers. They’re the same as what’s on the Audio-GD website but you don’t have to perform circus tricks to get at them.
Audio-GD Master-11 Burn-in, Warm-up, and Cool Down Time
The Master series is built by the most experienced technicians as Audio-GD. They receive 300 hours of burn-in and testing before being shipped to customers, and do not need further burn-in time to sound their best.
Warm-up time for the Master-11 is relatively short, unlike many multibit DACs out there today. After just 20 minutes of being powered on, the M11 will be at about 90% of its potential. In just a few hours, it’s near 100% and stays there for quite a while. Some feel it gets a little less musical after being on for a couple of days, so most of us turn the Master-11 off when we’re done listening for the day. A little more on that shortly.
The Master-11, according to Kingwa, will not overheat if left on indefinitely as long as it is in a well-ventilated area (i.e. your room isn’t particularly warm and there’s nothing on top of the unit to trap heat). The only time you really should turn it off if there’s a thunderstorm because lightning and power surges can fry electronics.
Advanced Unnecessary Idiocy: If you are like me and like to keep your electronics as cool as possible, regardless of need, you have options. I personally opted to purchase the AC Infinity Airplate S9. I requested 12x silicone rubber feet be included in the package and they kindly included them free of charge. I decided to remove the metal mounting place and reverse the fans. The result is that I can leave my Master-11 on all the time and the top of roughly the same temperature as my room, giving me confidence that I am indeed hopelessly addicted to cooling electronics.
Audio-GD Master-11 DSP-1 Settings
A Word On NOS (Non-Oversampling)
It should be noted–and stressed–that if you wish to operate the Master-11 in NOS (Non-Oversampling) mode, you absolutely must have great gear feeding the DAC. If you just connect the Master-11 to a laptop’s USB port and call it a day, you’ll get channel imbalance, phasing issues, and all sorts of problems. NOS dacs are very intensive and demanding, and Kingwa generally recommends that you don’t try it unless you know what you’re doing. With the best gear feeding the Amanero USB input, you have on your hands an excellent R-2R NOS DAC in the Master-11. The treble, as with all NOS dacs, is rolled off, but it presents a wonderful musicality.
Basically, you shouldn’t try to use NOS mode without being 100% sure your source can handle it. From the computer itself to the power to the USB out and cables, you need very solid components to ensure that you won’t encounter problems.
This is what I use:
- A really nice computer I built with very high end components (with some software/service optimizations done manually in Windows 10) using ASIO in JRiver/foobar2000
- Gigabyte Z97X Gaming GT motherboard with USB DAC-UP ports and the power disabled on those ports
- Emotiva CMX-6 for the computer and Master-11
- AudioQuest NRG-2 power cable into the Master-11
- AudioQuest NRG-X3 power cable into the PC
- AudioQuest Cinnamon USB cable (that I sometimes swap for Schiit Pyst or Belkin Gold, but I usually use the AQ cable)
- UpTone Audio Regen
This appears to be plenty to use NOS mode on the Master-11 without issue. There is no channel imbalance (like some complain about when using the IPS1 jumper) and it sounds even better than the Audio-GD NOS-1704 DAC I used to own (using DI-2014 as transport).
- Two-channel Digital Interpolation Filter and data in-phase processor for digital audio.
- 208-pin PQFP package, Manufactured on 300-mm wafers using, 90-nm low-k dielectric process. Devices offer advanced features for high-performance digital signal processing (DSP) applications with up to 250-MHz.
- Data and Master-clock in-phase processing just without jitters.
- Core power supply voltage: 1.2V.
- I/O power supply voltage: 3.3V.
- Programmable Functions: hardware control mode.
- Three-stage linear-phase ( group delay distortion : Zero) FIR filter configuration.
- Stopband Attenuation: –50dB / -90DB / -130DB.
- Passband: 0～0.4535Fs.
- Passband Ripple: within ±0.00001dB.
- Input Data Formats: I2S
- Input Word Length: 16, 20, 24 or 32 Bits
- Output Word Length: 16, 20, or 24 Bits
- Output Data Formats: MSB-First, Binary Two’s Complement
- Sampling Frequency: 32kHz to 192kHz
- Supports 24 Bits, 192 kHz Sample Rate
- Clock Autodivide Circuit Supports four Master-Clock Frequencies: 256Fs, 384Fs, 512Fs, 768Fs
- Built-in two groups high performance PLL , supports low jitter Master-Clock output.
Stopband Attenuation Setting Characteristics
DSP-1 Digital Configuration Settings (Jumpers)
Mode Jumper A Jumper B Notes
DSP Bypass Mode
Default = Enabled / Jumper On
DSP Bypass (Disabled)
Note: Sometimes solder/glue is used to force this jumper "On."
DSP Bypass (Enabled)
Default. Note 2: Just don't mess with this. Bypass what you want with jumper settings below.
Default = Enabled / Jumper Off
Data Dithering (Disabled)
This is another great example of a setting you shouldn't change. XOXO
Data Dithering (Enabled)
Default = 8x | The lower the oversampling, the warmer things get.
(Non-Oversampling) | Warning! See " A Word On NOS" Above
Default = -130dB | -90 dB is warmer, -50 dB is warmer still
Phase-Locked Loop Mode
Default = Enabled / Jumper OFF. Probably shouldn't mess with it.
Requires a very good source, just like NOS
*ON = Jumper Installed, OFF = No Jumper installed
What Do These Settings Do?!?!
If you love how the DAC sounds, don’t mess with it. Leave well enough alone. It’s set up in the best way possible for more users in the default configuration. It will give maximum accuracy, clarity, detail, separation, and other audiophile words the way it’s sent to you.
If you find the highs to high for you with your particular headphones or speakers, that’s what you can consider messing with the DSP jumpers. One day, perhaps I’ll pull together a comprehensive explanation of what every setting really does, but most people only really need to know about the settings currently listed on the Audio-GD page.
“Warm” means you will get treble rolloff. In general, you’ll get treble rolloff sooner as you go warmer, and it will also be more significant. In full NOS mode on my setup with -50dB stopband attenuation and PLL disabled (Jumper Settings: IPS0 On, IPS1 On, ATT0 On, ATT1 On, PLL On, DITH Off), I get a bit less than 3dB of rolloff by 20kHz (a little under 2dB at 15kHz).
The below settings exclude IPS1 for a very good reason: Setting this Jumper on and going into full NOS mode is going to make most people complain because their setup can’t handle it. If you’re an advanced user and want to use NOS mode (or 4x oversampling, which you also can’t get without IPS1), you are smart enough to read the bigger chart above.
Neutral ❮—————————————————————————————————❯ Warm
Audio-GD Master-11 Specifications
Audio-GD Master-11 Test Report
This is the test report for my Master-11. I asked for it from Kingwa and he delivered!
Questions, Comments, Corrections, Contributions?
If you have input, please comment below! I would like to make this guide as accurate as possible so all Master-11 users–new and old–can utilize it as a reference.