EVS Modified Gustard X20 DAC
I’ll start this review with
a quick summary of my 15 years as an EVS customer. My first purchase was an EVS DAC. It bested and replaced a Meridian DAC two or
three times the price. A few years
later, EVS shifted back to modifying the best sounding, reasonably priced CD
players. The tweaking ideas, parts quality and careful build, combined to greatly improve the performance of the stock player. Since each upward step was reasonably priced and delivered on the promised better sound, I
stopped visiting audio stores to listen to the latest and higher cost new players
Over the years, I developed great trust in
Ric’s ‘ears’ and his years of tweaking experience. As he created new and better packages year
after year, I purchased them and always found they improved my system. Each new unit bettered the previous one and
increased my enjoyment of both new and old favorite music. Proof positive
that EVS was really delivering the goods with each new release, was a hifi experience
which has kept me striving to find ways to make my music sound more and more real. It’s when I add a new piece of gear, turn the system on to start listening and give in as musical lust compels me to play all my favorite CDs and hear details and lyrics I never noticed before. Nothing beats experiencing again,theexcitement felt when I first played a piece of music years or decades ago.
I’m not a musician. Sometimes I suspect a small ‘improvement’ I think
I hear may just be ‘wishful listening’.
I know it’s real when:
I want to play old and beloved CDs
late into the night. That never happens when
an improvement is only in my head.
I understand lyrics in cuts that have always
been too distorted or buried in the mix to make out. What a pleasant shock when you hear more of
what the artist intended. Even on CDs I’ve played a
hundred times over twenty years.
When Ric told me the sound of
the modified Gustard blew away his heavily modded Oppo 105, I had one shipped
to him the next day. He also includes a
custom digital coaxial cable he builds with each modded Gustard. This custom EVS cable let me use my Oppo 105 as
a high quality transport for the Gustard.
So what did I hear with the
modded Gustard now in my system? Major
improvement in transparency, resolution, immediacy and imaging compared to the
already excellent Oppo. Music emerged from a quieter and darker sonic
background than the Oppo. I could understand lyrics better and singers
were more present. Beautiful musical
pieces now became incredibly beautiful ones.
CDs with great music but subpar sound, now sounded like properly
recorded CDs for the first time.
One cut I often play soon
after getting a new unit is the first track from Gary Burton’s album ‘For Hamp,
Red, Bags and Cal’. Burton plays his vibraphone
solo on this track. From a silent
background, Burton begins playing. The
ultra pure shimmering tones move up higher and higher as they reverberate
through the recording space. You know
what you’re hearing is right, especially if you’ve ever heard vibraphone played
live in a modestly sized space. This from
a CD (well) recorded and digitally mastered 15 years ago!
I had only 50 hours on the
Gustard when I took it along with me to visit music loving friends in
Vermont. It only took me two minutes to
hook the Gustard into my friends system. We played music with his
player and the Gustard for the rest of the weekend. One night after playing some old James Taylor
cuts that sounded just great to me, my friend’s wife comments: “gee that really sounded great!”. This kind of feedback from a “normal person”
with no investment in whether the Gustard sounded better or not, shows the Gustard was better in all respects to what she was used to hearing!
I can’t comment on how the
EVS modded Gustard X20 compares to DACs in and above it’s very modest
cost. I’ve used EVS players and DACs
for over 15 years with great satisfaction. The sound I’m getting now with the Gustard is really
remarkable despite the sub par acoustics in my listening room.
Hopefully others who have owned or used outstanding DACs can write up
comparisons with the EVS modded Gustard in the weeks to come and help locate its
place among the competition.
System: EVS modded Oppo 105; EVS level 2 modded
Gustard X20; EVS 100w/ch ‘ICE’ amplifier
with ‘Ultimate Attenuators’; Gallo
Reference 3.5 speakers, Audience Au 24
interconnect and speaker wires; PS Audio