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Gustard X16 Balanced MQA DAC Review

Dennis_FL

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I still don’t seem to understand that SACD players do not support coaxial and cannot connect to any DAC, not only X16, but all DACs are NO.
You can purchase dsd formatted music or rip a SACD to ISO and then play it directly through software like JRiver or convert the iso file to dff or dsd and play it on Roon

an SACD player cannot be used
 

Reynaldo

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I received SMSL SD-9 and almost everything worked fine.
The only problem is the I2S with Gustard X16 that in DSD the channels are inverted.
Does anyone have a solution?
 

linger63

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I received SMSL SD-9 and almost everything worked fine.
The only problem is the I2S with Gustard X16 that in DSD the channels are inverted.
Does anyone have a solution?

Check if same issue with PCM if you use it.
If so..........just swap the DAC's L/R analog out cables around.
 

atula

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I received the X16 after 5 days of ordering from China. The first impression when plugged in to listen is that the upper band is poor. (treble) not up. Don't know if there's something wrong.
 

Frio

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I received the X16 after 5 days of ordering from China. The first impression when plugged in to listen is that the upper band is poor. (treble) not up. Don't know if there's something wrong.
Nos off?
 

HARMAN

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the just announced Gustard X16 Balanced USB DAC with hardware decoding. It was kindly sent to me for testing by SHENZHENAUDIO. The X16 costs US $499.

The X16 is based on the new ESS ES9068AS DAC which has built-in hardware decoding of MQA bitstream. Until now, this was performed upstream of the DAC but now the functionality is core to the DAC chip itself.

The X16 has a solid feel to it but doesn't distinguish itself from other desktop DACs:

View attachment 92496

While a remote control is provided, navigation is easy enough using the rotary control and center button. I like the informative display but as with other Gustard products, I question showing the volume level in such tiny letters. It needs to be center and large with the sample rate shown small.

Back panel shows the usual connection including Bluetooth:

View attachment 92497

Like the nice gold plated connectors.

Gustard X16 Measurements
Let's open the show with our usual dashboard:
View attachment 92498

Wow! I must say, I did not know in advance they were shooting for the moon this way. This is superb performance in a $500 package, placing the X16 second in the list of all DACs tested ever:
View attachment 92499

Here is our top 10 list:

View attachment 92500

So little separates these DACs from each other.

Here is the performance of the RCA output:

View attachment 92501

In both cases, full audible transparency is achieved and then some. Sum of noise+distortion is well below the self-noise of our ears.

Signal to noise ratio is wonderful:

View attachment 92502

If you have noise in your system, this is NOT the place to look!

Intermodulation distortion vs level shows a bit of our famous "ESS IMD Hump" which we discovered two years ago:
View attachment 92503

Shame on ESS for not helping its licensees solve this issue across the board. Fortunately the impact here is very small and it really shows up because the system noise floor is so low.

Jitter and spurious tones are almost nonexistent (difficult in a low noise DAC) and this is even true of Coax input which these days is typically neglected:
View attachment 92504

Intermodulation distortion using our 32-tone test is extremely low:
View attachment 92644

THD+N versus frequency where a lot of DACs fail is excellent as well:
View attachment 92506

This is partially due to good filtering of which only three are available:
View attachment 92508

Did ESS take out the other options or did Gustard? Either way, it is fine by me. I used L Fast for my testing by the way. Default is M Slow I think. Wonder if that is also the MQA filter?

Linearity which is a test of accuracy was the most perfect I have seen:
View attachment 92509

This thing glued itself to the 0 dB error line like nobody's business!

Conclusions
The Gustard X16 comes in an unassuming package making you think you have bought a mid-priced DAC. But looks are deceiving as it produces some of the best measurements I have seen out of some 350+ DACs I have tested! Talk about getting ready to battle with the best of the best. Yes, there is a hint of ESS IMD Hump but it is not excessive enough for me to worry about it although I hope they look at eliminating this.

It is my pleasure to strongly recommend the Gustard X16 MQA DAC.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Appreciate any donations using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
Excellent and detailed test
What is the connection with the best sound quality I should use
optical coxial or usb?
 

Dennis_FL

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USB has more bandwidth if you are playing Hi Res like DSD if you are playing digital source from your PC.



I might add that I previewed the Topping E30, the SMSL M300, and an older Oppo H2 and was duly impressed by the higher quality of the Gustard.
 
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arn

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Is it still the best sub $500 dac on the market without any serious bugs?

my smsl m500 just died, i replaced with the rme adi2, but i dont like the result with the behringer a800. the m500+a800 combo was a very excited sound, but with the adi2 irritating, i cannot enjoy it anymore. Temporary i put back the old nait xs amp, it is a better matching with the rme, but not so good, than the previous setup (for much more money).
 

Belker

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Is it still the best sub $500 dac on the market without any serious bugs?

my smsl m500 just died, i replaced with the rme adi2, but i dont like the result with the behringer a800. the m500+a800 combo was a very excited sound, but with the adi2 irritating, i cannot enjoy it anymore. Temporary i put back the old nait xs amp, it is a better matching with the rme, but not so good, than the previous setup (for much more money).
Without bugs? I see only bugreports on this dog of a product.
 

arn

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Without bugs? I see only bugreports on this dog of a product.
I am not so happy with this answer, i hoped the lot of pages because of the popularity and not because of the bugs :) The m500 was also full with bugs, but i liked it, until it worked. What are the typical bugs at this modell?
 

EatMoreAudio

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You can use an amp that has RCA or XLR. The latter is preferred but not mandatory. But yes, you do need a power amplifier. For something this good, I suggest looking at amplifiers with Purifi modules in them.
So which amplifiers do you recommend?
 

Progronom

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I received SMSL SD-9 and almost everything worked fine.
The only problem is the I2S with Gustard X16 that in DSD the channels are inverted.
Does anyone have a solution?

I have studied the I2S-HDMI issue quite deeply...
What exactly is the source of I2S for X16?
 

Reynaldo

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I have studied the I2S-HDMI issue quite deeply...
What exactly is the source of I2S for X16?
I bought an SMSL SD-9, in it you can adjust the I2S in two positions, normal and inverted.
Leaving in normal, on the Gustard X16 both Flac and DSD the channels are inverted.
Leaving in inverted, in Gustard X16 in Flac the channels are correct, but in DSD it continues to be inverted.
 

Progronom

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I bought an SMSL SD-9, ...
There is no single format for I2S-HDMI pinouts. Manufacturers intentionally make a difference in their scheme so that only their components work consistently. I know of at least four options. Gustard also has his own standard HDMI pins. Cables have nothing to do with it. Read from this post onwards.


We were just discussing it there.
Compare it. The difference between Gustard and SMSL pins is 16 and 18. It is most likely impossible to fully fix this.
Although, in SMSL, as I understand it, there are two output modes - Normal and Inverted. They are configured via the menu. You can use them to achieve a better result.

You wrote that optimally it is "Inverted". So leave this mode. If possible, output DSD in DoP mode. In this case, the channels should remain in place.
Or vice versa in Direct (Native) mode.
Maybe he'll be lucky.
 

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Reynaldo

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There is no single format for I2S-HDMI pinouts. Manufacturers intentionally make a difference in their scheme so that only their components work consistently. I know of at least four options. Gustard also has his own standard HDMI pins. Cables have nothing to do with it.
Exactly that, each manufacturer makes an I2S standard.
Gustard could have made the PS Audio standard.
 

dan kolov

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Maybe the question is not for here but I will ask. If Gustard x16 is connected to the USB to a desktop computer with a processor 6 cores 12 threads (tdp 130 watt and psu 650 watt) active cooling with fans or mini pc with a processor 4 cores 4 threads (tdr 6 watt and psu 65 watts) completely passive cooling. Where would the sound be better?
 
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