Geshelli Labs Erish2 /JNOG2: Can Geshelli force their way into the affordable end? You bet they can.
Recently at T.H.E. Show, we were lucky enough to have the Geshelli Labs Erish2 ($220+) & JNOG2 ($249+) on demo. The sparkly purple I ordered looked boss to me, but not Will. The corresponding face & rear plate colors complimented the box color nicely. Many stopped by the Headphonium specifically to see and hear the Geshelli items. The bad thing was that neither Will nor I had an XLR adapter on hand for the patrons to use. One lucky gent had his own, but we could not convince him to leave it with us for the day. At the end of the show, they were raffled off to one lucky winner (with multiple colored face/rear plates). Another set was then built for review. This is that pair.
When we contacted Geshelli, Sherri was gracious enough to ask me how I wanted the pair built. Many types of wood could be used for the “box” along with different colored faceplates. There were also numerous options regarding an aluminum box, giving the user many options to personalize the units (HiFiGirl, Emiko has a particularly spectacular purple amp and DAC from Geshelli, special order). Sherri told Brian and me that lead time for many options was slowed due to supply chains, so I opted for the gray aluminum with smoked gray faceplates complimenting it nicely. She then told me that was an option more quickly available. Two short weeks later, the units were in my hands. I opted for the color combination for two reasons: 1. Speed of delivery, and hence turn around for review, and 2. I like gray. Mind you the wood options looked fabulous and I would have gone with Cedar had delays not played a part. My opinion here is wait for the color/box choice you desire. It will be worth it (the Cedar looks superb).
Owned by the husband and wife duo of Geno & Sherri Bisceglia, Geshelli Labs desired to bring quality audio offerings for an affordable price to the market. Based in Melbourne, Florida all products are designed, tested and assembled in the US. With Geno as engineer, and Sherri running the business side, the company finds itself in some fairly unique aspects. Having a woman CEO presents its own challenges, but since the company is customer-centered this helps to alleviate any potential fears (there shouldn’t be any, regardless…). With the desire to produce and offer affordable, quality offerings, which are customer-centric allows a more casual atmosphere as well, helping further build relationships. To be honest, I had no idea I was dealing with the CEO/owner until I researched the company. That is pretty cool, and to me follows that casualness in business, which helps to build those relationships in which they use, as the foundation of the company. Plus, what the vast majority of audiophiles want is gear that works & sounds good. To me, this is a market price level, which seems to slide below current high-end radars. So any push here not only has to try harder to succeed, but while keeping customers happy, broaden that appeal to a larger audience. Hence, carrying this forward it makes perfect sense to me that Geshelli Labs is customer-centric.
Coming with only the XLR headphone jack on the Erish2 could be a problem for some, but adapters are fairly affordable and worth the cost (spend the extra to get a quality adaptor, it is worth the cost). Sized to work with your desktop set up, the diminutive Geshelli duo is about the same size as competitors from Topping & Schitt Audio. And, as with the competitors, that small size does not necessarily mean they lack power. Putting out a very healthy 2wpc, the Erish2 competes well across the range. I could easily drive the Monoprice Monolith AMT headphones as well as my Kennerton Magni V2’s. Harder to drive headphones need not worry, as the gain switch can add 6x normal volume levels. Make sure you have the volume turned down before you switch gains, which is a long press on the “input gain” switch for two seconds. I ran each input equally for the review, with no problem.
A diminutive 4.5” x 6.25” x 2” in aluminum (add 0.75” each way, and 1” in height for wood), makes the duo roughly a square box of 4.5 x 6.5 x 4 inches. Easily tucked under a monitor or on top of your desktop speakers the Geshelli pair takes minimal space while performing their duties. This goes to show that power and control certainly can be packed into small packages.
Simple of construction on the inside, the Erish2 uses 2 dual channel T1 1612 Op-Amps, with four independent buffers. The potentiometer (allows smooth use of volume control without large changes) even uses dual gang A100K units for a trouble-free volume control, and does so with only a channel imbalance at low volume (lower than listening levels), like so many in this range have. A 12v FCC level 6 power supply is included as well.
With balanced XLR inputs and a 4-pin XLR headphone jack, you could potentially run a fully balanced set up if your source out device is balanced as well. Input gain is changed by holding the switch for two seconds as mentioned before, but please make sure your volume is turned down, since that 6x jump can be a bit disconcerting upon change (don’t ask). Another cool, but totally unnecessary item (to Will) is the ability to change the internal LED light color. For those who run different colored fronts, this allows you to change the internal light with that new face plate. Our test unit at T.H.E. Show as mentioned was purple sparkle with purple face plates, so of course I chose purple as the light. The patrons liked the look and so did I. You can turn the light off, as well as the JNOG2 The Erish2 can also be used as an XLR pre-amp, which I did not try.
The JNOG2 mimics the Erish2 size wise, and the corresponding light inside can indeed be changed. Feel free to run the same color on both, or different colors as your mood fits. With many options for input, the JNOG2 is not lacking, either. A USB 2.0 interface is standard (and what I used for the most part), while being plug-n-play as well. Four more separate input options besides the mentioned USB, consist of 2 Toslink and 2 COAX on the front and rear. Output ports include a fully balanced XLR, and an unbalanced RCA, allowing multiple outputs as well. For this test, I hooked the fully balanced XLR connections exclusively.
Using either the ES9026PRO or ES9038Q2M DAC chip, the JNOG2 comes ready to roll with the best at this price. A single TI1656/TI1612 OP-Amp provides the unbalanced output circuitry. Easy to use switches allow the user to toggle through the input options, with red LED’s lighting up depending upon the source. Anywhere from 1-4 LED’s light depending upon which source is being used. They are also moderately dimmed, so they are not obnoxious, either.
I am impressed by the quality build and construction of both. Simple. Straightforward, with a bit of flair with the colored lights.
Many will state that an amp makes little change to the sound, only raises the volume. I agree somewhat, but each manufacturer puts their own tune and “flavor” onto the sound, or we would have a really boring audio world. Meant to be near neutral without coloring the sound, there is very good energy emanating from within the Erish2. I found the sound energetic and vibrant, but not in your face vibrant. That energetic signature carried over into a vibrant tone, which allowed the music to express itself, without shouting at you or being too clinical. Some would call that shouting a bright amplifier in other words, and I would agree. The Erish2 is vibrant, without being bright or harsh.
As for the DAC aspect, the same holds true, but many can tell the difference in sound between a Sabre chipset and A&K. To me, A&K chips tend to have a more “analytical” detailed sound, while Sabres provide a richer, slightly warmer sound. Not always the case, but a point of reference to me.
Playing Magic Slim & The Teardrops through my Cayin N6ii (E01 motherboard) into the Geshelli combo and out the XLR to my Kennerton Magni V2, the sound thoroughly satisfied me. Soundstage came across as a bit higher than wide and deep. Very good spatial recognition comes from that soundstage and I could easily pick out the layers of instruments on the song You Got Bad Intentions, which is energetic in itself. Spatial arrangement of those instruments came across as distinct as well. Very good detail allowed all of those instruments to play nicely together. The solid bass guitar line was rich and pulsating in the song. One of the better bass lines I have heard, and most definitely a solid part of the song. Slim’s guitar work was sublime, sliding and lively on the solo, which complimented the clarity of the song through the whole system. His vocals run deep and pulsing, with the song reverberating throughout the signature. His voice is strong and rich, even if it is a bit loose. But a true blues singer nonetheless, and the Geshelli combination showed its mettle by allowing his voice to come across as natural and with a biting gravelly sense, with which he is known for.
Just so you do not think I skewed the results with a high-end DAP, I hooked my iPhone 13 Pro Max to the Erish2/JNOG2 combo using Apple’s camera adapter. Jeff Beck & Johnny Depp’s excellent new album 18 has a wide variety of music, with some intoxicating melodic songs such as Midnight Walker. The cello work compliments Beck’s iconic guitar work with sublimity. This has immediately vaulted to one of my current favorite songs. Emotional to a fault, I replayed the song over and over to gauge the response between the system. Richness pervading with that vibrancy of sound signature described above; the clarity driven across the melody rings of passionate playing and a thoughtfulness, which does not need words. An incredible experience, tied to my view of Lake Superior, my spiritual outlet, makes the song and experience all the more. The JNOG2 allowed the music to come across as it should while the Erish2 provided the power, with an emotive response as equal as vibrancy would elicit.
Straddling both ends of the musical spectrum with the Cayin & iPhone showed the versatility of the Geshelli duo. Knowing the system worked equally well with a top tier DAP as with a Smartphone shows that the Erish2/JNOG2 combination means business when it comes to allowing the music to flow through the respective source sound signatures.
Some amplifiers I have reviewed of late sound fabulous and should for the cost. Nothing wrong with that, mind you. Combining the two (cost & sound), I have found a set, which could easily supplant my current home set up and I would be very happy. That emotional tie affords me to be happy with the sound, and the price as a foundation knowing it is actually more affordable than my home set. The Erish2 (and JNOG2), fits that same category, but at a much more affordable price for a desktop system. Schitt pretty much started the process of producing fabulous gear at an extremely affordable price. I still have a Magni 2/Modi 2 Uber combo, which gets used occasionally, and sounds fabulous as well. But here, with the Geshelli Labs combination, you get, to me, the same sound, with a bit more emotion and the ability to play with some settings. More depth of sound to me is well worth the extra cost over that of which I mention in the Schitt combination. Nothing wrong with affordable, mind you; but when you get the sound, which fits your tastes and satiation level for $219 and $249 (+$49-$69 for wood), then that extra cost over a very clinical/analytical sound pays for itself to me over and over.
The Geshelli Labs Erish2 is an excellent affordable desktop amplifier, which can run most headphones out there with ease, complimented equally well with the JNOG2 DAC. Only those who are in need of a nuclear power plant to drive their headphones might suffer. Simple, straightforward, balanced input/output, and powerful; the Erish2 deserves a serious look if you are in the market. Pairing it with the JNOG2 simply makes sense to me as well and not only for its versatility. Equally at home using your Smartphone as a source, or your DAP/other options allows you to enjoy the sound from the duo, no matter what you are listening through. It has now become part of my regular rotation.
The Geshelli combination can be ordered at the following: https://geshelli.com/