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Gustard X26Pro Review (Balanced High-end DAC)

Robbo99999

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Am I reading correctly that some of the folks who are reporting issues with this costly, fairly high-end DAC are using it in PC-based setups? Is this even a thing?

I invested (with a gulp) over $10,000 in my system, with this Gustard DAC, an iFi Pro iCAN Signature amp, Focal Utopia cans, a 7N single crystal copper/silver braided 4.4mm headphone cable, Audioquest Mackenzie XLRs and a Coffee USB cable, and after all this effort to achieve the most pristine sound possible I would be terrified to trust a PC to be the first step in the signal chain. I got a Matrix Audio Streamer for this purpose and all works flawlessly.

I realize that many folks have budgetary concerns (as do I) and I expect to get in a lot of trouble for posting this, so please educate me because I’m well-below the experience level of the collective wattage of this forum—are PCs a standard tested-and true audio stream source for these applications or are well-made audiophile-grade streamers superior for this purpose?
The audio chain doesn't really matter (DACS & amps) as long as it provides enough power and the devices have been measured on this site & measured well. There is no magic in cables either, and also no magic in DACS & amps - they're just their to portray the music without adding anything to it or changing it. So you don't have anything to gain by spending thousands of $ on DACS & amps, not when it comes to headphones anyway.....amps for speakers are a bit more expensive and then there are probably more power concerns with such amps to make sure they provide enough power for your setup, but I don't know much about speaker amps. Yes, so you'd probably be better off selling your expensive DAC & amps (& cables) if you can get lots of money for them and then buy proven well measuring DACS and amps that have been measured on this site that don't cost an arm & a leg, then you can spend your money on what really matters which is headphones & speakers. Also there's nothing wrong with using a PC as a sound source - you just make sure you're using a proven well-measuring DAC and the PC just plays the music using your music player of choice, you can even add EQ through the PC.
 

srkbear

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The audio chain doesn't really matter (DACS & amps) as long as it provides enough power and the devices have been measured on this site & measured well. There is no magic in cables either, and also no magic in DACS & amps - they're just their to portray the music without adding anything to it or changing it. So you don't have anything to gain by spending thousands of $ on DACS & amps, not when it comes to headphones anyway.....amps for speakers are a bit more expensive and then there are probably more power concerns with such amps to make sure they provide enough power for your setup, but I don't know much about speaker amps. Yes, so you'd probably be better off selling your expensive DAC & amps (& cables) if you can get lots of money for them and then buy proven well measuring DACS and amps that have been measured on this site that don't cost an arm & a leg, then you can spend your money on what really matters which is headphones & speakers. Also there's nothing wrong with using a PC as a sound source - you just make sure you're using a proven well-measuring DAC and the PC just plays the music using your music player of choice, you can even add EQ through the PC.
Thank you for the thoughtful explanation.
 

Igor Gaich

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Good day to all ! My name is Igor, I am from Ukraine.
A couple of days ago I became the happy owner of the Gustard X26 pro DAC.
I liked the sound from the very first notes, very accurate presentation of the musical material. True, at first I was a little upset because of the clicks during playback. As a source for DAC, I used my Lenovo laptop and installed a ROON player on it.
I started to change the ROON settings, and also flashed it with a new firmware, which I found here on the forum (F2Beta), in short, the clicks were defeated, but I still did not understand what influenced their disappearance, whether installing a new firmware, or setting up the player ROON ....
 

Igor Gaich

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And one more thing about MQA playback.
If you select a decoder and render in the ROON settings for the DAC (give the full MQA decoding to the DAC), then when the problem is reproduced, the DAC switches randomly from MQA to PCM (with the WASAPI EXCLUSIVE output method and with ASIO too).
For myself, the problem was solved by the fact that ROON CORE instructed decoding, and left only render for DAC, with this method there are no switching during playback, and the signal path that can be viewed in the player confirms this (with WASAPI Exclusive) , (with ASIO it cannot be displayed in player, but the DAC display is the same as in the case of Wasapi exclusive).
In this regard, I want to ask people here. What is the problem I mentioned above (when the DAC does full MQA decoding)? Is this a ROON or DAC problem? How do you decode MQA correctly? Completely at the expense of DAC, or as I did ROON - decoder (first deployment), and DAC only render?
 

Igor Gaich

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Good day to all !
Finally, I achieved complete MQA decoding with my GUSTARD X26 PRO DAC. Although I must admit I solved this problem by accident.
Just yesterday I deleted the driver for the DAC from the computer, and decided to reinstall it.There are two drivers on the disk supplied by the manufacturer, one is version 4.82.0, and the other is version 5.0.0. I decided not to set both of them like I used to about only one of them. Perhaps the installation of two drivers at the same time was a problem for the normal operation of the DAC (I will immediately make a reservation that I am not an expert in computer technology).
So first I checked the work of the DAC with the 5.0.0 driver. In the ROON player, on the audio settings page, the DAC was detected in WASAPI EXCLUSIVE mode, in ASIO mode, the DAC could not be detected. But even with WASAPI EXCLUSIVE, when installing a decoder and a renderer, the DAC started playing MQA without any problems, without interruptions (before, the MQA icon switched to PCM chaotically, but now it burned constantly).
What do I do next - I re-uninstall the Gustard driver from the computer and install another one, the one that is 4.82.0 and now in the ROON player settings except WASAPI EXCLUSIVE, the DAC is detected in ASIO mode, and in both MQA modes it is again reproduced without problems (display on dac shines MQA constantly).
In WASAPI EXCLUSIVE mode, there is now a display of a full MQA decoder (In ASIO ROON mode, this does not show, but as they say in ROON support, this is how it should be, the MQA DAC displays)
And although it is impossible to distinguish WASAPI EXCLUSIVE from ASIO by ear in my setup, both sound equally great, but left out the ASIO output option, as experts claim it is better.
P.S. Maybe what I have described is not valuable information for people who understand computer technology, but it may still be useful for dummies like me .......Sorry for my english, i use google translator
 

thejck

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I really like the idea of this dac compared to the topping d90se. Just the engineering of it makes it slightly more appealing even if sonically I wont get much.
I have waited more than 9 years to upgrade my old DAC so I know this will be it for a while baring problems. I am ok with the extra for this since its on sale this weekend too.
Only issue that concerns me is the heat from what I have read and maybe some work that needs to be done on drivers.
 

Igor Gaich

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Well, at the expense of the heat generated by the DAC, for now I’ll say that it worked for me one day for about 10 hours and the top cover was not very hot, so warm, there are ventilation slots on the side, although it’s probably better that they were on top, although such a solution would probably ruin the appearance ...
 

thejck

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i usually have mine shup off and unplugged and only have it on about 2-4 hours while listening 1-2 times a week
 

Giangi71

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Hi friends

After a series of reviews, we have reproduced the reason for this situation.
The USB firmware of this machine (referring to the one measured by AMIRM) is matched with the wrong version. This phenomenon only exists in the USB interface.

SPDIF and other inputs are not affected, digital filter switching can be performed well on it

View attachment 138838
A strange thing happened yesterday. As I listened, I heard the noise of a disturbing wave starting slowly and increasing more and more and then decreasing. It happened while I was listening to the dsd. What can it be? I've just updated to the latest firmware. Thanks
 

Trell

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Well, at the expense of the heat generated by the DAC, for now I’ll say that it worked for me one day for about 10 hours and the top cover was not very hot, so warm, there are ventilation slots on the side, although it’s probably better that they were on top, although such a solution would probably ruin the appearance ...

The specs says "Power consumption:<60W " on page 21 in the user manual and if the real consumption is anywhere near that the the device needs significant cooling. I would expect the case to be hot to very hot to touch when in use for a while.

Quite frankly, I don't understand why the device has this very high power consumption. Is it the power supply?

 

srkbear

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The problem, for the users, is that MQA is a parasite that only exists to extract revenue.
I’m sure this is true, but every streaming service from Apple to Tidal to Qobuz to Amazon have proprietary masters they utilize for their catalogs, and I’m not sure any of them is any more predatory than the other. All of them (except for Apple to a degree) require subscribers to pay substantial monthly fees to access high quality audio, and they aren’t doing it for altruistic purposes.

I don’t use Tidal much (I prefer Qobuz or albums I purchase in DSD or FLAC format from online audiophile retailers), but I do acknowledge Tidal’s efforts to obtain source material provenance for their Tidal Masters catalog, especially given the number of junky masters out there. And I’ve found that some of their albums have noticeably better sound quality than the same versions from other streaming services, just as I’ve found the same with Apple and Qobuz. Either way we’re all paying for access to any of these catalogs, and the addition of Tidal’s MQA masters to the mix is just one more of a dizzying number of versions out there on which every music retailer is making a killing.

Also, upon some research I’ve found that the addition of the tiny XMOS chip that decodes MQA really doesn’t add much in the way of extra cost in the manufacturing process. I’ve seen some folks refuse to buy superb DACs like the Gustard x26 Pro or the Topping D90se because they view these otherwise highly-reputable manufacturers as “selling out” to MQA—when in fact I think they’re simply including the chip so that Tidal subscribers won’t be left out from enjoying a terrific product. There’s a reason why these emerging mass-market Chinese brands like Topping, Loxjie, SMSL and to a lesser extent Gustard are shifting units like hotcakes, while Schitt and RME remain boutique brands. We may not like it as audiophiles but it’s inarguable that many, many folks are happy Tidal subscribers and I don’t think that will change anytime soon.

I’m not directing this to you personally at all. But honestly I’ve never seen a feature cause so much political controversy, especially when those who don’t want to use it certainly aren’t forced to. I don’t use the RCA or S/PDIF jacks on my DAC either, but I don’t hear folks expressing outrage paying for those inclusions, which are far more costly to implement.

At the end of the day, I think that with the ongoing increases in bandwidth availability and device storage capacities the MQA format will eventually become obsolete—and true lossless formats will prevail by virtue of their superior audio quality (assuming that other services prioritize provenance in their own masters). Those who think MQA sounds “better” are likely either unconsciously persuaded by the marketing of the Tidal wave, or are earnestly hearing the results of well-chosen and sampled original masters. When file sizes no longer matter, it’ll be the choice of superior masters that guide the eminent streaming service, and I think that that criterion will drive where people opt to part ways with their cash.
 
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RHO

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All of them (except for Apple to a degree) require subscribers to pay substantial monthly fees to access high quality audio,
Qobuz does not. I have no Qobuz subscription and can buy music (any format) from the site, stream it, download it, remove it and download it again, ... No subscription needed.

Also, upon some research I’ve found that the addition of the tiny XMOS chip that decodes MQA really doesn’t add much in the way of extra cost in the manufacturing process. I’ve seen some folks refuse to buy superb DACs like the Gustard x26 Pro or the Topping D90se because they view these otherwise highly-reputable manufacturers as “selling out” to MQA—when in fact I think they’re simply including the chip so that Tidal subscribers won’t be left out from enjoying a terrific product.
I don't think it's the cost of the IC but the extra license fees that increases the price. And that's what these customers are opposed to. They know MQA doesn't add anything good (rather the opposite) but the product still is more expensive. So they refuse to pay for it.
 
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Trell

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I’m sure this is true, but every streaming service from Apple to Tidal to Qobuz to Amazon have proprietary masters they utilize for their catalogs, and I’m not sure any of them is any more predatory than the other. All of them (except for Apple to a degree) require subscribers to pay substantial monthly fees to access high quality audio, and they aren’t doing it for altruistic purposes.

I don’t use Tidal much (I prefer Qobuz or albums I purchase in DSD or FLAC format from online audiophile retailers), but I do acknowledge Tidal’s efforts to obtain source material provenance for their Tidal Masters catalog, especially given the number of junky masters out there. And I’ve found that some of their albums have noticeably better sound quality than the same versions from other streaming services, just as I’ve found the same with Apple and Qobuz. Either way we’re all paying for access to any of these catalogs, and the addition of Tidal’s MQA masters to the mix is just one more of a dizzying number of versions out there on which every music retailer is making a killing.

Also, upon some research I’ve found that the addition of the tiny XMOS chip that decodes MQA really doesn’t add much in the way of extra cost in the manufacturing process. I’ve seen some folks refuse to buy superb DACs like the Gustard x26 Pro or the Topping D90se because they view these otherwise highly-reputable manufacturers as “selling out” to MQA—when in fact I think they’re simply including the chip so that Tidal subscribers won’t be left out from enjoying a terrific product. There’s a reason why these emerging mass-market Chinese brands like Topping, Loxjie, SMSL and to a lesser extent Gustard are shifting units like hotcakes, while Schitt and RME remain boutique brands. We may not like it as audiophiles but it’s inarguable that many, many folks are happy Tidal subscribers and I don’t think that will change anytime soon.

I’m not directing this to you personally at all. But honestly I’ve never seen a feature cause so much political controversy, especially when those who don’t want to use it certainly aren’t forced to. I don’t use the RCA or S/PDIF jacks on my DAC either, but I don’t hear folks expressing outrage paying for those inclusions, which are far more costly to implement.

At the end of the day, I think that with the ongoing increases in bandwidth availability and device storage capacities the MQA format will eventually become obsolete—and true lossless formats will prevail by virtue of their superior audio quality (assuming that other services prioritize provenance in their own masters). Those who think MQA sounds “better” are likely either unconsciously persuaded by the marketing of the Tidal wave, or are earnestly hearing the results of well-chosen and sampled original masters. When file sizes no longer matter, it’ll be the choice of superior masters that guide the eminent streaming service, and I think that that criterion will drive where people opt to part ways with their cash.

Personally I would not hold it against a DAC if it was MQA compatible.
 

srkbear

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Qobuz does not. I have no Qobuz subscription and can buy music (any format) from the site, stream it, download it, remove it and download it again, ... No subscription needed.
Well of course I’ve done that too, but you still gotta pay for it! Qobuz makes far more revenue from their streaming service, as is evident by its inclusion in the majority of streamers out there (along with Tidal—a few others offer Spotify Connect but Tidal and Qobuz are the leading hi res streaming services by a mile right now).

The option you validly point out aside, I still maintain that every service is profiting over proprietary contracts with source master distributors and I can’t see how Tidal is shilling folks any more than the others. I think many audiophiles have taken understandable offense at Tidal alleging that their lossy MQA format sounds superior to traditional lossless FLAC files, which has not been borne out in measurement testing, and therein rose the backlash. But again, as long as it remains optional among DACs I’m not bothered by the inclusion of the feature if it helps celebrated manufacturers of beloved gear move more units.
 

srkbear

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Qobuz does not. I have no Qobuz subscription and can buy music (any format) from the site, stream it, download it, remove it and download it again, ... No subscription needed.


I don't think it's the cost of the IC but the extra license fees that increases the price. And that's what these customers are opposed to. They know MQA doesn't add anything good (rather the opposite) but the product still is more expensive. So they refuse to pay for it.
Is it really more expensive than other services/masters? The monthly fee for Tidal costs the same as Qobuz…
 

RHO

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Is it really more expensive than other services/masters? The monthly fee for Tidal costs the same as Qobuz…
Yes, but for Qobuz (or other music service that doesn't use MQA) you do not need a DAC that costs you extra because it can decode MQA. The DAC itself is more expensive because the manufacturer has to pay a fee to make a product capable of decoding MQA. No need for that if you want to stream from an other service.
You don't need MQA to stream from Tidal so you can buy a DAC which has no MQA decoding and costs less because it doesn't have it. But for DACs that are not available without the MQA capabilities on board customers still have to pay MQA license fees, even when not streaming MQA files.
 

srkbear

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Yes, but for Qobuz (or other music service that doesn't use MQA) you do not need a DAC that costs you extra because it can decode MQA. The DAC itself is more expensive because the manufacturer has to pay a fee to make a product capable of decoding MQA. No need for that if you want to stream from an other service.
You don't need MQA to stream from Tidal so you can buy a DAC which has no MQA decoding and costs less because it doesn't have it. But for DACs that are not available without the MQA capabilities on board customers still have to pay MQA license fees, even when not streaming MQA files.
I’m not sure you’re correct that MQA DACs cost more (no offense intended). Do you have data to support this?
 

thejck

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Reading a bit more into Gustard after realizing that APOS dropped them due to quality issues.
What's the consensus around here about buying these and dealing with defects? Do they fix most of the defects without having to ship the product back to China?
Feels like the cost of return shipping there would make the 2 year warranty they offer not as attractive.

Any experience with purchasing from shenzhenaudio instead of amazon. Not that i am far of Amazon but the 30 day return would be nice to do a proper evaluation.

Are most of the issues fixed via firmware updates?
 
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