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Gustard X16 Balanced MQA DAC Review

jsm

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A Surfer, do you have done rigorous comparative tests, like those you asked from Dannemand, but in your side? With which hardware chain? (just curious :p , not rhetorical questions)
It sounds like a personal taste for BT, a perfect match of your needs in your hearing conditions (hardware/room etc).
Because, it's the first time I read that BT has the same quality than other connection. Version after version it is reaching it like never before, but at the same lvl? The technical limitations of the BT 5.0 described by Dannemand are sufficient to me. If we can't hear differences (I will try when I will received it -_-), why are we still bother with streamers (and some are so pricey!), numeric cables (doesn't have to be pricey XD) in so many threads? ;)
 

A Surfer

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No, I haven't done the tests on Bluetooth, but I have done so with high bitrate mp3 versus lossless and found no difference, nor did the other 7 subjects in the listening experiment. I have also not been making claims as fact as the other poster had been doing. The burden of proof is on the person making the claims; not to mention what I can detect will itself not demonstrate for the other member any evidence as people need to experience things for themselves.

This is a community where we are allowed to ask for evidence of those who make absolute statements. I don't do so simply to be contrary and difficult, I think it is important that people realize there are still audio enthusiast communities where science and evidence matter, not just marketing speak and hype trains. Some people are newly into audio and they may be on the cusp of making decisions about gear and when they read something such as what I responded to, if such claims aren't challenged they may simply assume they are fact and start the process of developing an expectation bias.

It is that easy to form an expectation bias, simply reading an opinion that sounds very reasonable, written with skill and conviction that goes unchallenged may be enough. The other member is welcome to experience audio how he/she wishes, they are welcome to post opinions as long as they qualify things in such a way that leaves room for alternative explanations. So saying I am not sure, but I think I can tell the difference between Bluetooth and USB leaves room for alternative explanations where saying I don't care for Bluetooth because it doesn't sound as good as USB doesn't. One leaves room for testing assumptions and experience, the other assumes a position of established fact.

In the end, I could be the one who is wrong. Perhaps the other member will setup a well done, honest listening experiment, do 10 to 15 trials, absolutely blind, level matched and be able to discriminate between Bluetooth and USB with the X16 90% of the time. That will be evidence and I am completely open to being wrong. Just ask my girlfriend, she'll tell you how often I am wrong.
 
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jsm

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To me there is no wrong people or not, we are all limited by so many factors (some less than other), that's why I asked your system used. Ears are different and also change with time, music taste also. I know that for myself, I can hear differences between mp3 320kb/s and lossless, the most big differences are in extremity of the audio freq: bass and high, but it depend of the music itself (style, production quality). Is it a bias because I read demonstrations comparisons on blog? Maybe, I didn't try a rigorous comparison, just a dumb mp3/flac switch (long time ago, since I'm a full .flac user), the instruments differentiation was clearer (and it's something that is maybe not so sensible to a perfect matched level I suppose, as I play always a little bit loud to "open" at max the speakers), and it is also sweeter for long session (fatigue) to listen with lossless than .mp3. This is 2 parameters that seems lesser subjective (but still) than music scene projection, depth, life, realism etc. Instrument differentiation and physique tolerance to listening are my basics for music appreciation, so I give the lossless advantage, even it mean more storage needed.

But whatever, in the actual DAC market the BT is an extra feature to complete wire usage, "not just marketing speak and hype trains " to me BT is in this category, it was created for convenience not for a better sound quality, maybe a day we will see BT only on a non-portative DAC. But to me, the basic to transfer any data is a cable, alternatives are for convenience usage. Maybe it will change soon if can't hear or see differences, for actual teenager it can be already (wifi 6, 5G, cloud etc.). I completely agree with you for bias, but the technical facts (a downsample + losssy codec isn't something slight don't you agree?) can't give a doubt that there is still a difference, maybe slight, if it wasn't the case, why are we taking in count Amir measurements in the top green+blue?
If I had to advise a beginner interest into BT usage: how much in budget and convenience in all day usage are you capable to sacrifice for the theoretically best sound possible?
I suppose that Dannemand will agree with me, he seems to me not so rude in his position, maybe you have a misadventure in another thread, I'm not an expert in post mood understanding XD.
 

rfun

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X16 arrived today :) I have it now connected to my desktop machine with Windows 10 and it looks like the Gustard driver is ASIO only? The "normal" sound device uses generic Microsoft driver, where I am able to select up to 32bit/384kHz bit depth/sample rate. Which makes me wonder whether everything is installed as it should?

I noticed others are connecting it through RPi/streaming. What is the advantage of that?
 

jmillar

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It's kind of sad to hear that MQA decoding starts to be included in the dac chip itself. If this is the future everyone buying a dac will have to pay mqa tax regardless if one wants it or not. :'(. Never thought they would win this thing.

If it's adopted across the board at the chip level prices will drop and the infamous MQA tax will become largely irrelevant. They can charge pennies per unit for untold millions of users. Then it's up to you whether to use it or not. Next year or two it'll be in the 100$ DACS. Bring it on. Who cares? The market for 24/96 won't dry up.

I feel more anxious about the Roon tax. I'll end up paying through the nose if I adopt it. And I don't see it becoming an everyday commodity for the masses, so there is little hope to see prices drop.
 
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curiouspeter

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If it's adopted across the board at the chip level prices will drop and the infamous MQA tax will become largely irrelevant. They can charge pennies per unit for untold millions of users. Then it's up to you whether to use it or not. Next year or two it'll be in the 100$ DACS. Bring it on. Who cares? The market for 24/96 won't dry up.

I feel more anxious about the Roon tax. I'll end up paying through the nose if I adopt it. And I don't see it becoming an everyday commodity for the masses, so there is little hope to see prices drop.

$12/month for Roon is not that bad. There are no good alternatives. I would cut my Spotify Premium first.
 

Gfisystems

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I apologize if this has been handled already, however I did not have the time to read through all 88 pages of this thread.

What I did read is there has been discussion over the OSF format coming across instead of MQA. Also, someone provided playlists (in this thread) at different Khz for testing. I just wanted to attach a link I have been involved in within the Bluesound forums that performs a further deep dive as to why this is happening with a direct discussion with MQA.

Here is the link:

https://support1.bluesound.com/hc/e...l-DAC-?page=1#community_comment_1500000316642
 

renaudrenaud

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I apologize if this has been handled already, however I did not have the time to read through all 88 pages of this thread.

What I did read is there has been discussion over the OSF format coming across instead of MQA. Also, someone provided playlists (in this thread) at different Khz for testing. I just wanted to attach a link I have been involved in within the Bluesound forums that performs a further deep dive as to why this is happening with a direct discussion with MQA.

Here is the link:

https://support1.bluesound.com/hc/e...l-DAC-?page=1#community_comment_1500000316642

I will never use MQA but thanks for the link!
 

MiradoOne

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X16 arrived today :) I have it now connected to my desktop machine with Windows 10 and it looks like the Gustard driver is ASIO only? The "normal" sound device uses generic Microsoft driver, where I am able to select up to 32bit/384kHz bit depth/sample rate. Which makes me wonder whether everything is installed as it should?

I noticed others are connecting it through RPi/streaming. What is the advantage of that?

I have the Gustard driver installed and everything seems to be working normally and recognized without me forcing ASIO. If I open up the Windows volume mixer, it correctly identifies it as Gustard. I'm not sure if that's "correct" but seeing as I need to use Equalizer APO to EQ my headphones, ASIO isn't an option unless I want to do some Voicemeter shenanigans to get everything to play nice, which I don't have the energy for. Plus, it's all sounding great the way it is, so why bother?

As for the Pi, I'm personally doing it for two reasons:

1) The HAT that I'm getting for my Pi has a Gustard pinned I2S connector, and I'd like to use it. As such a thing seems to provide no actual quality difference vs just plugging it in via USB, I can only say my reasoning boils down to "I have a teeny HDMI cable that I want to use with it and it seems cool."

2)While my setup usually sits at my desk next to my mammoth computer, I occasionally like to listen laying down or otherwise not in a computer chair. Seeing as all of my music is stored in my NAS in a rack in my basement, I would normally have to control the player via my PC as that's what the X16 is plugged into. Using a Pi with Volumio instead, I can control the Pi through my phone to get all of the audio fidelity goodness without just using Bluetooth from the phone and getting sucked into the whirlpool of "is this codec stinky?" that some other poor posters got caught in for the last page or two. :p Using the Pi instead of something like my phone via Bluetooth also lets me EQ like I do on my PC as Volumio has a plugin that works pretty well.

I apologize if this has been handled already, however I did not have the time to read through all 88 pages of this thread.

What I did read is there has been discussion over the OSF format coming across instead of MQA. Also, someone provided playlists (in this thread) at different Khz for testing. I just wanted to attach a link I have been involved in within the Bluesound forums that performs a further deep dive as to why this is happening with a direct discussion with MQA.

Here is the link:

https://support1.bluesound.com/hc/e...l-DAC-?page=1#community_comment_1500000316642

Thanks for the update, and I will just add that I did confirm it will display MQA given a USB connection and fed a MQA file, so if you have any lingering doubts and MQA is important to you, go with a source that outputs via USB so you can see the acronym on your display and sleep easy. :D
 

Gfisystems

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Thanks for the update, and I will just add that I did confirm it will display MQA given a USB connection and fed a MQA file, so if you have any lingering doubts and MQA is important to you, go with a source that outputs via USB so you can see the acronym on your display and sleep easy. :D


I should have been more clear in my post. This was for anyone utilizing Coaxial Input as I had not tried it any other way.
 

MiradoOne

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I should have been more clear in my post. This was for anyone utilizing Coaxial Input as I had not tried it any other way.

No, that's fine, I understood what you were going for. My post was just aimed at the audio nervosa types that wouldn't be satisfied unless they actually saw "MQA" plastered on the screen; I honestly doubt anyone would come out on top of an ABX of USB displaying MQA vs Coax displaying OFS, but if there is one hobby which contains the exact type of person who would lose their minds over something like that, it's this one. :D

Your post was very informative in the sense that the actual people behind MQA have confirmed you are getting the full experience either way, for whatever that's worth.
 
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I have the Gustard driver installed and everything seems to be working normally and recognized without me forcing ASIO. If I open up the Windows volume mixer, it correctly identifies it as Gustard. I'm not sure if that's "correct" but seeing as I need to use Equalizer APO to EQ my headphones, ASIO isn't an option unless I want to do some Voicemeter shenanigans to get everything to play nice, which I don't have the energy for. Plus, it's all sounding great the way it is, so why bother?

As for the Pi, I'm personally doing it for two reasons:

1) The HAT that I'm getting for my Pi has a Gustard pinned I2S connector, and I'd like to use it. As such a thing seems to provide no actual quality difference vs just plugging it in via USB, I can only say my reasoning boils down to "I have a teeny HDMI cable that I want to use with it and it seems cool."

2)While my setup usually sits at my desk next to my mammoth computer, I occasionally like to listen laying down or otherwise not in a computer chair. Seeing as all of my music is stored in my NAS in a rack in my basement, I would normally have to control the player via my PC as that's what the X16 is plugged into. Using a Pi with Volumio instead, I can control the Pi through my phone to get all of the audio fidelity goodness without just using Bluetooth from the phone and getting sucked into the whirlpool of "is this codec stinky?" that some other poor posters got caught in for the last page or two. :p Using the Pi instead of something like my phone via Bluetooth also lets me EQ like I do on my PC as Volumio has a plugin that works pretty well.



Thanks for the update, and I will just add that I did confirm it will display MQA given a USB connection and fed a MQA file, so if you have any lingering doubts and MQA is important to you, go with a source that outputs via USB so you can see the acronym on your display and sleep easy. :D

Hi there, what HAT are you getting to connect your Pi to the X16 via I2S? My X16's USB input is being used by my PC, and the Optical and Coax inputs are in use by a Chromecast Audio and a CD player, so I'd like to connect my PC via I2S or AES if possible. I'm running PiCorePlayer, so looking for a solution that will work that that software.

Update: I've just stumbbled upon this option for AES connection which is a lot cheaper than the only other such option I've found: https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/dac-...terface-aes-ebu-for-raspberry-pi-p-13316.html
 

MiradoOne

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Hi there, what HAT are you getting to connect your Pi to the X16 via I2S? My X16's USB input is being used by my PC, and the Optical and Coax inputs are in use by a Chromecast Audio and a CD player, so I'd like to connect my PC via I2S or AES if possible. I'm running PiCorePlayer, so looking for a solution that will work that that software.

Update: I've just stumbbled upon this option for AES connection which is a lot cheaper than the only other such option I've found: https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/dac-...terface-aes-ebu-for-raspberry-pi-p-13316.html

I'm getting the one from Pi2Design; it is a lot more expensive but it's the only one I've found that has a Gustard pinned I2S connector (and the creator is pretty active on other forums which is reassuring in case I have any issues). In theory it would work with PiCorePlayer as long as it has drivers for other HATs; in Volumio, it seems that both the Allo DigiOne and HiFiberry Digi+ options work with the Pro Audio Shield (which doesn't have its own specific option), so I'd assume the same would be true with PiCorePlayer but you may want to double check that with the creator before buying.

As for the link you posted, that seems like a perfectly fine option if you want to use AES. I doubt there's any detectible difference between the two barring any shoddy engineering.
 

rfun

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I have the Gustard driver installed and everything seems to be working normally and recognized without me forcing ASIO. If I open up the Windows volume mixer, it correctly identifies it as Gustard. I'm not sure if that's "correct" but seeing as I need to use Equalizer APO to EQ my headphones, ASIO isn't an option unless I want to do some Voicemeter shenanigans to get everything to play nice, which I don't have the energy for. Plus, it's all sounding great the way it is, so why bother?

As for the Pi, I'm personally doing it for two reasons:

1) The HAT that I'm getting for my Pi has a Gustard pinned I2S connector, and I'd like to use it. As such a thing seems to provide no actual quality difference vs just plugging it in via USB, I can only say my reasoning boils down to "I have a teeny HDMI cable that I want to use with it and it seems cool."

2)While my setup usually sits at my desk next to my mammoth computer, I occasionally like to listen laying down or otherwise not in a computer chair. Seeing as all of my music is stored in my NAS in a rack in my basement, I would normally have to control the player via my PC as that's what the X16 is plugged into. Using a Pi with Volumio instead, I can control the Pi through my phone to get all of the audio fidelity goodness without just using Bluetooth from the phone and getting sucked into the whirlpool of "is this codec stinky?" that some other poor posters got caught in for the last page or two. :p Using the Pi instead of something like my phone via Bluetooth also lets me EQ like I do on my PC as Volumio has a plugin that works pretty well.



Thanks for the update, and I will just add that I did confirm it will display MQA given a USB connection and fed a MQA file, so if you have any lingering doubts and MQA is important to you, go with a source that outputs via USB so you can see the acronym on your display and sleep easy. :D

Thank you for your reply. That got me interested. I have installed Volumio on RPi and it works nicely :)

I planned to create a wooden box for the DAC/AMP and put it under the table next to my desktop PC. Now reconsidering it and thinking about making the box more self contained, to be able to move it easily around the house. For source switching I might either get some shield for RPi or maybe it would be even easier to have simple 4-contact relay for switching between two USB ports and connecting them to the X16 USB.

The only thing I am missing now is tidal connect on RPi ;-)
 
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I'm getting the one from Pi2Design; it is a lot more expensive but it's the only one I've found that has a Gustard pinned I2S connector (and the creator is pretty active on other forums which is reassuring in case I have any issues). In theory it would work with PiCorePlayer as long as it has drivers for other HATs; in Volumio, it seems that both the Allo DigiOne and HiFiberry Digi+ options work with the Pro Audio Shield (which doesn't have its own specific option), so I'd assume the same would be true with PiCorePlayer but you may want to double check that with the creator before buying.

As for the link you posted, that seems like a perfectly fine option if you want to use AES. I doubt there's any detectible difference between the two barring any shoddy engineering.

Hi, Thanks loads for the reply. Very tempted by the Pi2Design $149 HAT now. Bit more than I was planning to spend, but that's usually the way with hifi... :)
 

MiradoOne

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The only thing I am missing now is tidal connect on RPi ;-)

Depending on your tolerance for hair pulling, this might be a good starting point. :)

Hi, Thanks loads for the reply. Very tempted by the Pi2Design $149 HAT now. Bit more than I was planning to spend, but that's usually the way with hifi... :)

Very much so. I'm integrating the RPi, getting that HAT, getting a case, etc, all so I can lay down roughly four feet further away from my PC. :p
 
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