Microshar G3 – Born in the USA

Disclaimer: Microshar supplied the G3 for the purposes of this review. I paid only import fees to Japan. It goes for: 380$ USD. You can find out more about it here.

I’m vegging in a Starbucks, fingers drumming an American-style cafe latte from an American-sized mug. Bruce Springsteen is rolling through my California-designed, China-made iPhone (doesn’t get more American than that).

On second thought, nothing is more American than the Microshar G3. And I’d treat it to no less in the penning of this review.

It is the proudest American-made device I’ve ever touched. Old Glorys fly colors all over its box and the box of its cable, the literature of both, and the indelible MADE IN USA, USA, or some combination of both, decorate some side, or other.

Microshar are proud to be American. And the G3, with its few rough edges, and nearly flawless interface, is hella red white and blue. It’s a smooth bit of aluminum. In ports line the back, out port lines the front. A three-stage gain sits on the caboose in between the USB port and analogue in. A bass booster in an analogue pentameter sits right next to the volume pot. Both sit in wells two millimeters ~2/8” deep. It’s a sturdy, well-machined device.

Then there’s the un-American: smoothly chamfered front edges, posh countersunk front plate bolts, the tiny typeface, and a rainbow-colored LED. These are not what pop into my brain when I think America. When I think America I think Texas Toast, dually trucks (make sure to growl the r), rolling coal, soft drinks you can baptize a baby in, and of course, Old Glory hanging from every flag post from Florida to Guam. The G3 does its part.

But it’s almost too daintily designed to be American. More Mini Cooper than it is Mustang. I’m down with that. The downsides to the G3’s being dainty are nearly negligible. One is that both USB and 3,5mm plugs cables hang out the back, making the dainty G3 tricky for in-pocket use. I don’t know about you, but I get the distinct feeling that American men don’t carry purses all that often. Japanese men do. And maybe that’s for whom the G3 was designed.

The pentameter knobs twist smoothly, and are balanced well enough. They neither grind the wells in which they sit, nor the wall behind them. They are pressure-fitted and grippy. They feel great, and aren’t easy to accidentally turn. The analogue ports sit in strong metal ports. The gain switch is a simple slider, labelled A, B, and C, with nary an explanation. C is the lowest of the three settings. Um… Well whatever, once you flip the alphabet around, using the G3 is a breeze.

And if you’re a portable listener, you will love that you can easily get 20 hours from a single charge. Microshar say you’ll get more than that. Being that I listen mostly to DACs through a computer, I keep on charging it whilst listening to Bruce Springsteen. Mea culpa.

Sound impressions after the jump:

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

37 Comments

  • Reply March 19, 2015

    d marc0

    Thanks for the review Nathan!
    Is the hiss on the G3 any worse than the JDSlabs C5D when using sensitive IEMs such as the FAD Heaven V?

    • Reply March 19, 2015

      ohm image

      I do not have the JDSlabs C5D to compare. The hiss is on part in pitch and volume with the AK100.

  • Reply March 19, 2015

    pieman3141

    Just to clarify: You don’t need a CCK to connect the DAC to an iDevice? You can connect straight from the iDevice to a mini-USB port? When did they allow this?

    • Reply March 19, 2015

      dalethorn

      According to this: http://microshar.org/index.php?cPath=23

      it’s fully compatible. Click on the G3 picture to see the full specs.

    • Reply March 19, 2015

      ohm image

      Exactly, that little orange cable is all that’s necessary.

      • Reply March 20, 2015

        pieman3141

        One more question: What’s the battery life if you use the DAC? The site says “up to 35 hours,” but I’m fairly sure that’s the number if I use the analogue-in.

        • Reply March 20, 2015

          ohm image

          To be honest, I’ve not measured it, and won’t try. Why? Because it will take at least a week. I don’t take tests on a singular basis.

          I would have to have three runs of each setting: low, high, medium gain, plus bass at three different settings, plus using the DAC in the same way.

          If I were really thorough, I’d even test at different input levels.

          I mentioned that the battery life I got from it is long. Again, I can’t tell you how long you will get.

          I used it like this: with iPhone, then when I get home, with computer. So I was constantly charging it.

          But I never ran out of battery now matter how hard I used it.

  • Reply March 20, 2015

    gagoo

    I have a grado PS 500 and a senn HD 650, which amp would make better friends with them? The oppo or the microshar?

    • Reply March 20, 2015

      ohm image

      They are two very different sounding headphones. For the basic like-cures-like thinking, the HA-2, being slightly more aggressive, would pair with the aggression of the PS500, and the HD650 would pair well with the marginally more laid back G3.

      Or, vice versa.

      Both are nearly equally powerful in practice.

  • Reply March 20, 2015

    Tony

    any issues with RFI/EMI when using it with the iphone? Thanks

    • Reply March 21, 2015

      ohm image

      As with many of this sort of DAC, yes, there is, depending on how much interference and what wireless signals you are using with your phone. It’s not high-pitched interference, and I experienced it only three times or so that annoyed me. Par for the course.

  • Reply March 21, 2015

    Anthony Kimball

    “sound quality isn’t even a metric for most audiophiles.
    It all comes down to one thing: personal preference. Our world is an
    uneducated quagmire of interpretive truth.”

    Bless you Nathan.You were able to articulate something that has been swimming around in my noggin for some time. Well said.

    …as always, thanks for the review!

    • Reply March 21, 2015

      dalethorn

      If it were purely personal preference, there wouldn’t be any standards and you’d need 100 different headphones to play most music. Relativism is a tool that gets around dogma when used correctly, but shouldn’t be overused.

      • Reply March 21, 2015

        Anthony Kimball

        I’m in full agreement with that! I was responding more towards “Our world is an
        uneducated quagmire of interpretive truth.” It just seems that with audio (much like the world as a whole, I guess) there is a tendency to jump to the “right” answer, i.e. which headphone (…amp…dac…speaker…) is the “best”. For me, that gets tiresome. Specs and graphs definitely have their place, especially the better you get at reading them. But, we are all human, and have different preferences, which the best reviewers take into account.

    • Reply March 23, 2015

      ohm image

      Anthony, thank you for the commentary. You and I are on the same page. Fortunately, a lot of manufacturers in have in the last few years paid attention to making great-performing gear that adheres to industry metrics. The G3 is one of those.

      • Reply March 23, 2015

        Anthony Kimball

        Thanks again for the review…it has put the G3 firmly on my radar. We certainly seem to be in a “golden age” for audio products…with more manufacturers understanding the implications of the Harman response curve, and the exploding interest in personal audio, I am very excited for what the future holds.

        • Reply March 23, 2015

          ohm image

          You know, the present isn’t bad at all. I got into this thing back in 2004 or 2003 and it was a mess. Why? Consumers knew nothing except the mantra (that still drones on):

          You need an amp, you need an amp.

          But many of the amps back then were only good for powering big headphones and were much worse than any DAP for earphones. Today, that amp is a rarity. But still, you will find the odd amp that performs poorly.

          What I’d like to see is companies like Microshar license their amp/DAC tech to DAP makers. I want a compact, screenless DAP that has an awesome amp.

          The G3 has the lushness that’s more akin to Vorzüge, but the DAC incorporation that makes it great for everything.

  • Reply March 23, 2015

    Robert Nicholson

    Does it come with cable or did you have to use the additional cable that costs $110+ ?

    • Reply March 23, 2015

      ohm image

      The orange cable seen here is an extra. I works like a charm, but you have to dish out for it.

      • Reply March 23, 2015

        Robert Nicholson

        Right then then that does push the cost closer to the $500 mark then.

        • Reply March 26, 2015

          ohm image

          You can get on with cheaper cables. This one works beautifully though.

        • Reply March 26, 2015

          dalethorn

          I have some little 6-inch Lightning to USB-A cables – either Belkin or Mophie, and they should work great with little potential to pick up stray signals.

          Edit: My Mophie cables are only 4-1/8 inches tip to tip, and they are better shielded than the other brands.

  • Reply March 24, 2015

    Tibor

    Very nice thank you. Have you tried it with Sony A15 player? Or could you? I bought it recently and it plays very well together with Aedle headphones, I just sometimes need a little more power! I am considering Oppo, but this one has nice bass control, which I like. Thank you!

    • Reply March 25, 2015

      ohm image

      I do not own the Sony A15, nor do I have plans to purchase one. If I can borrow one, I’ll be happy to review it. I hope you enjoy your phones.

      • Reply March 25, 2015

        Tibor

        I decided to buy the Sony player after reading a good review in Tone magazine (and many others of course). The amp in it is a bit bright and it adds a bit of sparkle to the top end of my Aedle, so very nice, I really like this combo. Thank you!

        • Reply March 25, 2015

          ohm image

          Have you tried the G3 with the Sony, or are you alluding to the A15 being good for your Aëdle?

          • Reply March 25, 2015

            Tibor

            No no, I haven’t, I was talking about amp in Sony player 🙂

  • Reply March 27, 2015

    Robert Nicholson

    It is odd that despite the HA-2 getting coverage everywhere and you saying you preferred the G3 to it that there’s little to no cover of the G3 anywhere except your article.

    • Reply March 27, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      That’s because the G3 is brand new from a newer company. Give it some time to let people discover it.

      • Reply March 30, 2015

        ohm image

        Microshar have been around for a long time. They are a much much smaller company, and from what I gather, nearly a family shop. They have never had much fanfare, but their products are well received.

    • Reply March 27, 2015

      dalethorn

      I don’t have my HA-2 today because of the unbelievably evil Post Office, who apparently can refuse to deliver packages when a communal package box is full.

      Anyway, my experience with 2 Apple-compatible DACs/amps is limited to the Beyer A200p and v-moda Verza. Other than the general level of crud or very low-level distortion that the A200p has, I don’t detect any significant difference in tone or other aspects of the sound quality between these 2 DACs/amps. I hear a big, big difference between these Apple-compatible amps and computer DACs like the Microstreamer, and even more difference when an amp like the Portaphile is used with the Microstreamer.

      I’m not expecting the HA-2 to actually sound significantly better than my current Apple DACs, but I always welcome a positive surprise.

  • Reply March 30, 2015

    Eric Yu

    I have recently bought the G3 and have been having troubles with it; the sound is amazing, however the DAC portion seems to break very easily. If you use a normal 3.5mm male to male connector, it might break the “internal connector of the input connector jack” (quote microshar support) and you will lose left hand audio when using the DAC. The 3.5mm input jack and the DAC are connected in that when something is plugged into the 3.5mm input jack, it will automatically by-pass the DAC. Therefore it is possible that the connection between the two can be disrupted. Being that this is a “high quality DAC/AMP” I would have expected any normal 3.5mm connector to work, let alone not break this “high quality” DAC/AMP. I might even have to pay for repairs for the second DAC that was sent to me (I figured out the problem after the DAC portion stopped fully working AFTER I plugged the G3 into my andrioid through 3.5mm male connectors) even though I was using a normal 3.5mm connector… Instead I’ll probably have to buy one of their 3.5mm connector cables and pay for shipping and pay for repairs and pay in time to wait for it to come back to me AGAIN. for 380$ I’d rather have a working DAC/AMP than just an AMP with a non-functioning DAC. But will I buy from Microshar again? depends how fast their 24/7 customer support gets back to me (been 3 days) with an estimate for repairs.

    • Reply March 30, 2015

      Tony

      that sounds ridiculous. Microshar is saying that you cannot use 3rd party mini to mini’s with the amp because it shorts out the DAC connection to the amp? What about the third party cables damage the analog input? Are the microshar cables shaped differently?

      • Reply March 30, 2015

        Eric Yu

        I don’t know, but this is a real problem that I have. “Our technical support tested your damaged G3 and find out the problem was a physical damaged to the internal switch of input connector jack. Before using the new G3, please use the high quality 3.5mm stereo plug for analog input (the regular cheaper brand 3.5mm connector cable are not recommended with this high end DAC).” (Quote Support). Even though this might be a problem, Microshar is always there with great customer support. Even though I have to buy their 3.5mm cable, I believe it’s worth it in the long run… as long as I don’t lose the cable….

        • Reply April 1, 2015

          ohm image

          That sounds a bit silly. I hope that this design flaw (and if widewpread, I believe it is a design flaw) is addressed.

  • Reply December 26, 2016

    Albert C

    Does the lightning to mini usb cable work with other amplifiers? namely the ibasso d-zero amp?

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