First of all, let me introduce our brand to you： cen.grand,
Chinese trademark: 世纪格雷 (R),
English trademark: cen.grand (R)
(1) The first external independent dual audio clock architecture of media player in China
Cen.grand was founded by experienced audio professionals. It started research and development in 2009 and was established in 2011. The purpose was to develop and produce digital players. We focus not only on audio but also on video ，both audio and video are competitive enough.
We chose Blu-ray scheme as our first media player. In the beginning we chose sigma design among several supplier. We are quite satisfied after discussion. The sigma scheme's HD Blu-ray performance is very good but the audio performance is average. In order to get a hifi-quality architecture we asked Sigma to modify the core of the chip according to our vision. After a long wait, our request was rejected, and the staff of the office in China told us privately that they thought that your request was "perverted."
What happened later proved that we were lucky to be rejected by sigma design! Without this rejection Cen.grand would not be able to reach the current . After being rejected by Sigma we turned our attention to another American company, Marvell, which is a high-tech company in the US that has a reputation in the chip field. Since 2008 they have developed Blu-ray solution for Google and Sony but the plan was not completed for various reasons. It was a coincidence that we met this project and felt good after the initial test. The most important is that they fully accept our request about redesign the chip core . After a year of R&D and millions of investments, the 3010 solution of audio architecture our planned was finally completed. Setting up the platform to test and the effect is very exciting. The hifi quality is so good that sigma design can not be compared. Superadd the QDEO technology of Marvell that was awarded many times , its video performance is super-class, the 3010 solution is excellent.
The main reason for the excellent audio is that there are two DSPs inside, one is CirrusLogic, dedicated to multi-channel decoding, and the other is Philips, dedicated to hifi. Although there are many ways to decoding such as the use of single-chip, arm chip, fpga, and even intel chip, etc., the quality of Philips' high-end audio DSP is proved to be the best after a long time of testing . The concept of “independent audio dual clock” proposed by Cen.grand in 2009 is the first in the industry and using by Cen.grand first. As a legendary brand in the audio industry, Philips' audio DSP algorithm is undoubtedly the advantage. The following picture is a frame diagram of the Cen.grand Media Player:
Without doubt that this is the world's first hifi Blu-ray architecture .It is the only one and will not appear again in the future.
An interesting tidbit is that the sound of Cen.grand's products was said to be AV not hifi sound from the beginning just for there is video funtion. Most of the friends who have this view are misled by our merchants competitor and a few are due to a habitual thinking or lack of professional knowledge. As time goes on the Cen.grand's high-end media player has been well-known in the hifi circle now. There are a lot of fans support us in the hifi group. The expensive product 9i-AD "black gold version" and "black gold ultimate version" are the best leader in media player market. There are a large number of users in many cities. Cen.grand's market position in the hifi field was established by the two product . Time is the only criterion for testing hifi. The "black gold version" and "black gold ultimate version" are typical examples. All the good product has long market life. Below are the "black gold version" and "black gold ultimate version".
The 9i-AD is main product of Cen.grand at that time. The black gold version has won market recognition with its majestic American style. The ultimate version of Black Gold has attracted many high-end fans with its exquisite Nordic style. The biggest sound feature of the 3010 scheme is its superior detail and analytical ability as well as a very high density , high-end equipment characteristic and features . The DAC chip was Wolfson's WM8741, an excellent DAC, which is used by almost all of Cen.grand's digital products. There are two stories about wm8741 that be worth recalling.
The selection of the DAC was promoted at the same time when the project was established. At that time There were not many chips that could support PCM192 and WM8741 had just come out. WM8741 was very famous in the UK because the engineer of Linn said that it was "the only DAC that can meet the requirements of Linn." Our R&D team chose it, wrote an article on the hifidiy website to introduce the DAC and called it "King of Analogue Sound". We made a test board of WM8741 for sale and responded enthusiastically. Subsequently many user asked us to produce a complete product of WM8741 for sale .We did, the complete product sold more than 1,000 sets in a short period of time. The number of clicks on this article exceeded 3 million and became the first article of the hifidiy forum at the time. This was an interesting history. Many users became the users of the first generation of Cen.grand and have followed us to the present, we are moved.
Since WM8741 is very excellent we also chose WM8805 as receving chip which was also the product of wolfson. Its performance is indeed worthy of its price. It was a one of the few chip that could support PCM192 at that time. It's great that it's jitter was only 50ps, However, it has a fatal bug: the support for PCM176.4 is unstable, which makes many manufacturers didn't dare to use it. Cen.grand's R&D team worked hard to circumvent this bug by imaginatively using multiple jumps and got success in the end. Since 2011 Cen.grand has only used this DIR for product and it's stability is excellent. Wolfson's staff expressed appreciation for us and authorized to Cen.grand to use their special markings on the product's panels. Therefore the follow marking was printed on the Cen.grand's product panels.
(II) WM8741 product launch
The first product of Cen.grand is not the player but the 5i-10 DAC. See the picture below. This product has no high technical content and is the standard application of WM8805+WM8741. The sound style of 5i-10 DAC belongs to traditional British style. The analytical ability of 5i-10 is general, the sound is soft and warm and it is suitable for enjoying the charm of voice and strings but not for large-scale music. At that time the price of 5i-10 DAC was RMB2K which was very cheap so it got good market performance.
The first media player of CEN.GRAND is 5i-A/5i-AD as shown below. This is the first product in China which used "independent audio dual clock + audio DSP". Both the two media players have one bright spot: there is 5.1-channel analog output in addition to the two-channel output, and the DAC chip is WM8740.
The 5i-10, 5i-A, as well as 5i-AD products constitute the original cen.grand . Althought these products were not available for sale because R/D delay in 2011, we have got a considerable number of reservations still. Later, the 5i-300 video HD players and the 5i-1600 Blu-ray disc players were also put on the market successively.
Why is the product model name 5i? The original meaning is "I love". A series of products enabled cen.grand to quickly accumulate a large number of users in the first two years, and has a good reputation in the hifi field and high-definition AV field. These three products are mid-range products, they are not enough to lead the market. Therefore the development of the 9i series products has been put on the agenda since 2012. The meaning of "9i" was "just love." The first 9i models include two products: 9i-60SDAC and 9i-AD media player.
Two years later the 9i-80S DAC went on market and replacing the 9i-60S. It conforms to the trend of the times, loads the latest XMOS second-generation USB solution, and uses cpld technology for digital processing. The DA chip uses dual AK4495, and the output circuit is same as 9i-AD black gold version. This DAC also has a good reputation among users. It has a heated discussion on the some hifi forum and is a successful product of cen.grand.
The highlight of the 9i-60S DAC was that a new output circuit had been used which with majestic American style so liberates the WM8741 from "darkness". It completely replaces the 5i-10 DAC,. Although it has been discontinued for several years now, it is still nostalgic for many users. Its price increase in the second-hand market. The significance of the 9i-60S DAC is that it shows the potential abibity of the WM8741. It also proves that the chip can not determines the final result of sound. The excellent circuit design can make the same chip get an variety of sound. The technology of 9i-60S was used in the 9i-AD product so change the Cen.grand brand from "hifi+AV" to "major hifi and additional AV". In this sense it is a memorable product.
Althought some of the bugs in the 3010 which lead to poor compatibility ，we also got very good sales performance because better in hifi. Althought some of the bugs in the 3010 which lead to poor compatibility ，we also got very good sales performance because better in hifi. This is reward we had after our design team's efforts . In today's buzzword it is called “working hard after rolling up the sleeves”. In a sense, anyone who went to understand the Cen.grand must start with his 9i-AD .
(3) 9i-AD, black gold series, blue music, blue light concert, multi-channel hifi
The first show of 9i-AD was at the Siav Exhibition in Shanghai in 2013 and launched in June of the same year.
The purpose of product 9i-AD is to improve the audio quality basis on the 5i series, improve the handling, price at more than 10,000 yuan. The style of appearance is traditional , not fancy, simple and generous and focusing on the traditional hifi market.
These purposes were quickly realized, but the final version was delayed for a long time because adjustment process again and again. Audio products have such a rule: no matter how advanced the theoretical design of the sound, the sound may not be suitable for the human ear, after all the human ear is emotional but the theory is rational.
Experienced person have this experience: most of the sound you felt good at first listening can't be heard next times or for a long time. This is why hifi product needs to be adjuested for a long period. You can find the problem of sound In order to adjust and improve with technical means. Many technical DIYERs are very keen on testing by some audio instrument. Of course, testing is a very necessary basic work, hawever at present, the instrument can't detect whether the sound is "good" or "bad" and only detect whether the hardware has "basic errors." After the basic parameters pass the test there is still more than 60% of the work to be done for the success of the product. Two sensible "instruments" , "human ear" and "brain", will play a major role.
Below are two audition rooms of cen.grand. There are a lot of reference equipment and hifi wires which used to evaluate the sound of product. The high-end products has to be adjusted here for a long time:
The 9i-AD black gold version upgraded the power system and analog system based on previous version, some high-quality element were added so the sound quality has been significantly improved. Despite the price of 18,800 yuan, the sales were very good and unexpected. When the black gold version was born, the hifi image of Cen.grand has been determined . In the big cities of Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing, the phenomenon of collective purchase by users has appeared. A user in ChenDu quipped : I am embarrassed to say that I am a hifi man if without the black gold version...
If you pay attention to the brand promotion process of cen.grand, you will find that cen.gran's "gun articles" are rare. All the articles which praise Cen.grand's product are wrote by users. Based on its own quality and pragmatic propaganda style the black gold version has won the trust of the fans and the respect of the market.
In 2016, we made a big change in the circuit design about black gold version , changed the style of the sound into more refined and nordic style, so the 9i-AD "Black Gold Ultimate Version" was born. The price is rmb22800. Despite the high price, the user still gave a higher rating . As the finale version of the 3010 program, the ultimate version has reached a very high level. There are many wonderful performances in many high-end systems of users. It can be said that the potential ability of 3010 has been developed to the extreme.
In addition to hifi music, we can't forget another hifi way which is watching concert. Cen.grand's media player uses blu-ray solution with multi-channel capabilities and hifi design. What would be the effect if the cen.grand products were used to enjoy blu-ray concerts? The number of blu-ray concerts resources are much more than pure blu-ray music. A lot of excellent concerts can only be played in ordinary blu-ray player， It is a pity!
The best way to listen to blu-ray concert is playing in multi-channel system which can make the scene more complete and make you feel the atmosphere. Hifi enthusiasts who often listen to live concerts should know that the stereo system that we usually listen to is very different from the living concerts. Although I can listen to multi-channel on the home theater system, because the sound quality of home theater system is far from hifi so it is difficult to obtain the desired effect.
How can you restore the sound of the scene? We designed a multi-channel hifi player 9i-ADM which can output 8-channel high-quality audio, it is equivalent to a combination of four black gold versions. It can output 7.1-channel analog audio signal, connected to 8-channel power amplifier, you can experience hifi multi-channel enjoyment. In several recent exhibitions in Guangzhou and Shanghai, blu-ray multi-channel system must be shown in the main exhibition hall . The wonderful performance has won wide acclaim. Although this system is expensive , it shows the achievements of Cen.grand in the multi-channel hifi field and also makes many people experience the charm of multi-channel.
Because multi-channel hifi has more speskers, the positioning is very precise, and the density of the sound is very high. When listening to music, the sense of living is very prominent. A single instrument solo is vividly presented in front of you, make you forgetting that you are Listening to audio equipment, coupled with beautiful picture, it is really a great enjoyment. Therefore, despite the high cost of multi-channel hifi more and more fans have begun to participate in it. Cen.grand has set a precedent in this field.
Cen.grand also has two power amplifier products: 9i-808/606, especially 9i-808 which uses FET as the output circuit amplifier show the high quality of cen.grand sound. it is not a Cheap amplifiers,but finally have to stop production because of the lack of devices. Fans who like it use a lot of beautiful words to praise it, summed up only a few words, that is： "not a tube amp is better than tube." A friend who has been using the pass amplifier to evaluate: "pass defeated the tube amp, Cen.grand (here referred to as 9i-808) defeated PASS". Unfortunately this product that demonstrated the superior analog technology of Cen.grand can no longer be produced.
(4) Headphones and desktop audio market 9i-ES/ESA 9i-90SA "Lark"
Cen.grand has been working hard in large hifi systems and started to enter the headset desktop audio market in 2016. In order to bring beautiful video to the earphone enthusiasts, we reduced the black gold version to a smaller size so it is suitable for use on the desktop, and adjusted the sound to make it more suitable for headphone. After all, the sound style of the big system are not exactly the same as the earphones. This is the 9i-ES media player. The other model that integrates the headphone amplifier is called 9i-ESA. See the following figure.
The 9i-ESA received high praise from the organizers at the 2016 Shanghai Siav exhibition.
Final introduction is about 9i-90SA "Lark" ，Three functional integrated equipment：DAC / headphone amplifier / preamplifier .
This product is positioned at the price of rmb3K. Although it is very cheap, but it is a versatile product with high performance. It is the key product of cen.grand to fully enter the earphone market. It makes more people know about cen.grand and experience our products.
In 2018, at the Guangzhou hiEnd show, the largest audio exhibition in Asia, the 9i-AD Black Gold Ultimate Edition was rated as "Best Media Player" (below 50,000 yuan), 9i-90SA "Lark" was commented for the "best headphone amplifier" (3-8 thousand dollars). For details please click:
Thank you for reading the long article!
This is the chronicle of Cen.grand which tells about the growth process and main products of cen.grand in the hifi field, so that everyone can has a deeper understanding of cen.grand by reading it.
In the past few years, Cen.grand has achieved more results in brand building. In the future we also plan to do some important technology research and development in hifi audio such as exploring the basic theory of DSD and seeking a more direct way for DSD decode.
In the brand operation, we will do better in corporate culture . The road of hifi is very broad, Cen.grand needs your support. Your attention will be the driving force of Cen.grand development.