First of all, let me introduce our brand to you： cen.grand,
Chinese trademark: 世纪格雷 (R),
English trademark: cen.grand (R)
Architecture of media player with dual external independent audio clock was first born in Cen.grand
Cen.grand was founded by experienced audio professionals. The research and development of digital audio started in 2009 and the company had established in 2011. The purpose was to develop and produce digital players. We focus not only on audio but also on video because we believe that products with leading technology both in audio and video are sufficently competitive.
A Blu-Ray scheme , Marvell 88DE3010 , was chosen as the base of our first media player. We have chosen Sigma design as cooperative partner before among several supplier . Although 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 design. After a long wait, we got rejected and the staff of the office in China told us privately that they thought that our request was "perverted." we gave up finally.
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. Plus the QDEO technology of Marvell that was awarded many times , its video performance is super-class, the 3010 solution is excellent.
The reason why audio performance is so excellent is that it has 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 audio 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 “dual independent audio clock” was first proposed by Cen.grand in 2009 and applied to products in first time. 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 first hifi Blu-ray architecture in the world. It is the only one and will not appear again in the future.
An interesting tidbit is that in the beginning someone said the sound of Cen.grand's products was "AV sound" not hifi sound just because it has video funtion. Most of the people who hold 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 hifi media player has been well-known in the hifi market. Many fans support us in the hifi group. Althought it was so expensive the 9i-AD "black gold version" and "black gold ultimate version" are still the leader in media player market. There are a large number of users in many cities. the market position of Cen.grand in the hifi field was established by this two product .
9i-AD "black gold version" :
9i-AD "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 sound. The ultimate version of Black Gold has attracted many high-end fans with its exquisite Nordic style sound. The 3010 scheme‘s prominent feature is that it has superior detail and analytical ability as well as a very high density . Most of high-end equipment have this characteristic and features . The DAC chip was WM8741, an excellent DAC from Wolfson , which was almost used in all Cen.grand's digital products in that time. There are two stories about wm8741 that be worth recalling.
The choice of the DAC chip was also in progress when the project was started. There were not many chips that could support PCM192 in that time and WM8741 did. WM8741 was very famous in the UK because the engineer of Linn said that it was "the only DAC can meet the requirements of Linn." Our R&D team chose it, wrote an article on the Hifidiy forum to introduce the DAC and called it "King of Analogue Sound". We also 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 using multiple jumps imaginatively and got success in the end. Since 2011 we 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.
WM8741 product launch
The first product of Cen.grand is not the media 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 , not for large-scale music. At that time the price of 5i-10 DAC was very cheap , only RMB 2K , so it got good market performance.
The first media player of Cen.grand is 5i-A/5i-AD as shown below. This was the first product in China which used "dual independent audio clock + audio DSP" framework. Both the two media players have one bright spot: there was 5.1-channels analog output .
The 5i-10, 5i-A, as well as 5i-AD products constitute the original product line of Cen.grand. Althought these products were not available for sale in 2011 because R/D delay, we still got a considerable number of pre-order. 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 of 5i 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. But these products were mid-range products, which were 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 series include two products: 9i-60SDAC and 9i-AD media player.
Two years later the 9i-80S DAC went on market and replacing 9i-60S. It loaded the latest XMOS second-generation USB solution, and uses cpld technology for digital processing. It's DAC chip was AK4495, 2pcs, 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 sound so the "darkness" of WM8741 sound was removed. It completely replaces the 5i-10 DAC. 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 sound. A 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. This is reward of our design team's efforts . In a sense, anyone who went to understand the Cen.grand must start with his 9i-AD .
9i-AD Black-Gold Version , Blu-Ray Music, Blu-Ray 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 and handling of 5i series. It's price is 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 of sound adjustment process again and again. Audio products have such a rule: no matter how advanced the design of the sound was, 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. Many technical DIYERs are very keen on testing by some audio instrument. Of course, testing is a very necessary basic work, however at present, the instrument can't detect whether the sound is "good" or "bad" and only detect whether the hardware has "basic errors." After passing the basic parameters test, there are still more than 60% of the work to be done. Two sensible "instruments" : "human ear" and "brain", will play a major role.
Below are two audition rooms of cen.grand in 2016. There are a lot of reference equipments and hifi wires which used to evaluate the sound of products. All HiFi products must be adjusted here for a long time:
After upgraded the power system and analog system based on previous version and some high-quality element were added , the sound quality of 9i-AD black gold version 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 position of Cen.grand in china 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 the advertisement articles for Cen.gran products 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 9i-AD black gold version won the trust of the fans and the respect of the market.
In 2016, we made a major improvement design for 9i-AD black gold version, the sound style is more refined and becoming 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 sound quality of 9i-AD "Black Gold 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 watching concert, it is another hifi way. 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! Cen.grand's media player uses blu-ray solution with multi-channel output capabilities and hifi design. What would be the effect if the Cen.grand products were used to enjoy blu-ray concerts?
The best way to listen to blu-ray concert is to use blu-ray device and play it in multi-channel mode , it can make the scene more complete and let 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 media player 9i-ADM which can output 8-channel high-quality audio, it is equivalent to a combination of four 9i-AD 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 if you have it. At several exhibitions in Guangzhou and Shanghai In recent years , blu-ray multi-channel system must be shown in the our 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.
Multi-channel hifi media player 9i-ADM：
Because of more speskers, the positioning of multi-channel hifi 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 in 2014: 9i-808/606, especially 9i-808, which uses FET in the output circuit show more high sound quality . It is not a Cheap amplifiers, but finally have to stop production because of the lack of devices. Fans use a lot of beautiful words to praise it, summed up only a few words, that is： "not a tube amp but 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".
Headphone and desktop audio market， 9i-ES/ESA ，9i-90SA "Lark"
Cen.grand started to enter the headset desktop audio market in 2016. In order to bring beautiful video to the earphone enthusiasts, we reduced the 9i-AD "black gold version" to a smaller size so it is suitable for use on the desktop. For the sound style of the big system are not exactly the same as the earphones so we adjusted the sound style to suit headphone. 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 HIFI show.
9i-90SA "Lark" is positioned at cheap market, it's price is only RMB 3K. Although it is very cheap, but it was a versatile product still with high performance. It was the key product for Cen.grand to enter the earphone market. It makes more people know about Cen.grand products.
In 2018, at the Guangzhou Hi-End 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 rated as the "best headphone amplifier" (3-8 thousand dollars). For details please click: http://en.cen-grand.com/news/104.html
In recent years subsequent products of 9i-90SA have been launched in succession. Cen.grand has been a influential brand in hifi headphone field in china. The main products are as follows:
1: 9i-92SA "Golden Thrush" DAC/Headphone Amp/Pre-Amp, include 3 generations of products. From left to right, there are generation 1, generation 2 and generation 3 respectively.
2: 9i-906 "Silver Fox" headphone Amp. It may be the most expensive transistor headphone Amp with the highest sales volume in china. 9i-906 won the highest award at GuangZhou hifi show 2021 and BeiJing international HiFi show 2021.
3: 9i-90SA Pro "Lark" (2 generation) DAC/Headphone Amp/Pre-Amp, new product in 2022.
As early as 2013 we wanted to have a own DAC solution and no longer rely on chip manufactures. We have tried to contact some foreign patent technology holders, but were rejected. So we decided to develop ourselves. We have chosen the direction of DSD audio and decided to develop a new DSD up frequency decoding algorithm to manufacture high-performance DAC. After 5 years of hard work we succeeded.
It was DSDAC1.0, a high performance DAC, it can raise the frequency of all input signals up to DSD1024, whether DSD or PCM. Its DAC is a 1bit structure, which is composed of many shift registers and resistor arrays controlled by FPGA. In addition to having high-precision algorithms, dsdac1.0 also has two technical advantages： Clock blocking technology and clock direct input technology.
Clock blocking means that the clock input by pre-device will be give up , it is no longer involved in the DAC process and has not impact to audio performance. DAC only use local clock. Clock direct input means that the local clock is sent to shift registers without any conversion.
This is the DSDAC1.0 standard version:
When sales began, DSDAC1.0 triggered a climax of sales. An agent said that he has never seen such high sales volume of DAC with such high price in his 10 yeas practice. DSDAC1.0 was reted as " the best DAC" （Less than 50000 yuan）at GuangZhou Hi-End show 2019 and won the highest award at BeiJing international HiFi show 2021.
In 2021, DSDAC1.0 deluxe model was born
DSDAC1.0 deluxe mode has an more advanced colck and analog circuit. Its performance has reached the Hi-End level. It is a product we are proud of！
A new audiovisual room has been built in 2020, some new Hi-End devices were our reference equipment. In here some hifi product will be tested and then go to market.
In the future
Thank you for reading this 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 hifi media player.
A new media player with major technological innovation will be released soon.
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.