I believe Goldensound on You Tube has reviewed dacs from both companies and may help you gather some comparisons. I don’t recall which Gustard he reviewed, but I know he thought highly of it. He did say the Holo sounded “better” and the user had to decide whether spending the extra dollars for the Spring was worth it to them. So in the end, there is no way around listening, but at least you can get some tips on basic sonic qualities. But tips are all they are.
The R26 is a brand new dac from Gustard. This is their first entry into a fully discrete R2R laddered dac. Their other dac’s that people like are chip or delta sigma base. Thank you for your reply.
Sandhu is the man when it comes to DAC reviews. Some people think he is paid by manufacturers, whatever he is, he is a great reviewer, and has a similar taste in sound as me. I have bought a lot of gear based on his reviews and he has been spot on. He is actually the only reviewer that I have any confidence in matching my sonic preferences.
I am hoping he will review the Musetec 005. I would like to see how he compares that to the other top DACs he likes.
@yyzsantabarbara Ditto, and a big +1 from me. I think he’s one of the best reviewers out there today. And as a reviewer myself I’ve never heard of someone being paid by a manufacturer for writing a review. Reviewers are offered an accommodation pricing discount (basically dealer cost), which is standard, but that’s it (maybe @aquint and @amorsound could add their thoughts on this too as well-respected and very experienced fellow reviewers) Also, Sandu just doesn’t write like he’s in the bag for anyone — he comes across as very upfront and honest to me. Just my take FWIW.
My take on reviewers is like everything in advertising today. I figure most critics of a reviewer are other reviewers. They are all fighting for status and position. Just like in my business I sell on my merits snd the quality of my product. I come up against many competitors who have bad product so not being able to sell on their merits they discredit the competition. A bad reviewer must try to discredit the competition in an effort to make them relevant. Dig into the review snd read the posts that tell you “I bought this unit snd review was spot on happy customer”. Also look for outliers. Example a product that has many positive reviews but one bad one that seems out of place. This tells me there is bias against the company for some reason we don’t know of. Reviews are a starting point not the holy grail for purchase decession!
there are a couple more reviews out that are also very favorable. IMO the feature that you can’t over look here is the I2I hdmi port. This will allow anyone to easily upgrade the R26 with an external reclock DDC. I have been looking up the units snd they can be had for hundreds up into stratosphere like everything else. If the base r2r board delivers this will allow for upgrades to keep up with the tech. Will have to wait and see when I get the unit. First delay is ccp shut down now earth quake hit region. Might be my best Christmas present way things are going.
The X26 PRO has been my dac since January and I am completely satisfied with its delta-sigma based chip. I never went up the chain with R2R but the Aries II did not do it for me. With the Gustard, set the filter to gentle and it will bring the sound close to R2R but with so much more details. Set on vivid and even more details but can be overly bright with some recordings. Either way the Gustard X26 PRO offers filter adjustments that give you the best sound no matter the darkness or brightness of a recording. So it makes me think that moving to the R26 would be an insignificant improvement, or lack thereof, from the X26 PRO. I read on another site this guy got both and said if you don't have the PRO, buy the R26, if you do, don't. Good advice.
I dabbled with an Aries II but sold it because it wasn't true NOS, its linear interpolation rolled off treble at CD rate. But it did have the hallmark of a NOS DAC in the mid range which is correct instrument timbre. The usual compromise with less expensive R2R DAC's is softer dynamics and treble resolution vs an OS DAC. For me the correct timbre of NOS wins out vs the OS strengths so I hope the R26 will come close to a Holo Spring 3 which is what I had been considering for next DAC purchase
Pretty happy with an SRC-DX as DDC and plan to use coax. Since I2S isn't standardized for pinout, interoperability is a PITA
I have started my research on a DDC box. I can’t remember off the top of my head right now but I did come across one that allowed for the I2S pins to be customized to match the dac pins. It was done through an external program that allowed for laptop to connect to DDC through USB port. It looked like it could be changed to match any dac I2S set up. I know the R26 already has a good clocking system so not sure how important this will be in selecting the DDC. I have found some that are in excess of 10k and that is not a consideration for me. I think I will start with just usb to R26 then add a low cost I2S DDC and review the change. Then maybe move up the food change to add a better reclock unit. I am not trying to go down the rabbit hole of obsessive this could be better or that could be better. I the R26 meets my ears I will sit tight as is. Enjoy the music!
I am interested in how this R2R sounds. I owned the X26 Pro and wrote a lot about how much I liked it on A'gon. I sold the X26 Pro to fund the purchase of the Musetec 005. I like the 005 more than the X26 Pro but I wish I had kept the X26 Pro, it had a warmer tone than the other DACs I have and that is helpful with some of my gear.
Side note to all here. It is refreshing to have an open dialogue on this subject that is void from overly opinionated people who think their stuff is the beat all end all and the rest of us know nothing. This conversation is what brought me to the the site to begin with and I am very thankful for the input all that have added so far.
read the article and do want to send out word of caution to all. Gustard is very clear that users do not plug a standard hdmi into an I2S port. The author does not make that clear snd would hate for someone to blow out their dac connecting to what they thought was hdmi across the board!
You guys need to relax. Plugging a standard hdmi cable into a Gustard is not gonna hurt.anything. It's not the cable that is different, it's the plugs at each end. The Gustard has a smaller number of connectivity than a regular hdmi because it doesn't need to offer video. You can find the exact schematic of it at very bottom of the X26 PRO page at the Chinese authorized dealer. I sent that to Alvin when I wanted to connect to the Jay's before I bought the gustard. He in turn asked the main guy at Jay's if it would work with the gustard. Answer: exactly the same design. Prior to that I bought the PS Audio perfect wave CD transport and had to return it since plugging it into the I2s of the Gustard resulted in nothing but a distant faint distorted signal. So far using audioquest carbon 48 hdmi and wireworld silver 7 hdmi between gustard and jay's. Both work well but I like the AQ best, clearer and more presence.
@baylinor That’s what I thought to initially, but OP might be talking about plugging an HDMI out from a non-i2S source like a DVD player and not just using a standard HDMI cable from an i2S source. Still not clear on that. Anyway, on impulse I tried plugging my Oppo HDMI out into my Musician Pegasus’ i2S input and nothing happened and in checking further the Oppo’s HDMI out is not compatible with i2S and now I’m concerned I may have damaged my DAC’s i2S input although it still works fine through other inputs. In any event, lesson learned but I sure hope they agree on a standard i2S pin configuration in the near future to help avoid further confusion and frustration. It’s the Wild Wild West in some ways.
Gustard R26 delivered today. Order placed on 8/31/22 seven day delay from ccp lock downs in city of warehouse . Have up and running in system playing Austin blues radio stream. First two hours I am already very happy. Fist big notice is bass. Nothing muddy clear tight bass can easily tell the difference between kick drum, bass guitar, and upright. Other first take it does seem a little bright on the upper mids. Will let it snd all new cables burn in for the week before my real sit down and go through my go to play list. Stay tuned will have full opinion in a week.
Be interested in what @sgreg1 concludes.
Has anybody had both the R26 and the X26Pro at the same time to compare them? I bought the X26Pro a couple years ago now, I was quite surprised by how supple it sounded (using the Vivid setting). I'm not deep into digital playback, more an LP/analog guy, but huge level of performance for the money. It is still not comparable to my analog chain, but it was a minuscule outlay compared to that.
@yyzsantabarbara ya had the X26, great DAC for the $, and sold it to fund a 005 as well, curious about this R2R as an alternative sound signature, if it is as good as the preliminary reviews suggest I would buy it to pair with my CODA CSIB which I think you too at some point had, no?
@kairosman I did have the CODA CSiB and KRELL K-300i integrated at the same time. I sold the CSiB to get the CODA 07x and CODA #8 (I also heard the amazing CODA #16 with the 07x). I sold the KRELL K-300i to eventually buy the KRELL DUO 175XD. I sold the 07x, #8, and looking to trade-in the KRELL 175XD for a more powerful KRELL amp. Just not sure which one yet.
I really like the Benchmark LA4 preamp with both the CODA and KRELL amps over the respective integrated amps. Though, both integrateds are very good.
The Gustard was a very good DAC.
I just put my KRELL DUO 175XD up for sale. It is sonically a lot like the CODA #16 because the KRELL is Class A like the mostly Class A #16. The CODA #16 is more powerful even though it is 150 watts vs the 175 of my amp. The current is very high on the #16.
I am going back and forth between the CODA #16, KRELL 375XD mono, or if my investment succeeds, the upcoming KRELL KSA i400. Though that maybe too big, too heavy, and more expensive than KRELL originally stated.
I want a powerful amp for the KEF Blade 2 Meta. The 175XD is not enough for the room I am putting the speakers into (high volume).
Yes I received the r26 and have been out of country for a while but now back. Have about 150 hours on it. I will try to make this short. I have never been more pleased with a purchase ever. First listening the bass jumped out and highs were sharp and sterile. At about 75 hours it all started to come together. I have thrown every thing at this I can and I just want to listen to more. My favorite setting is Qobuz through lan and nos. The sound stage is huge and at any time you can single out sny instrument you want to listen to. I think the biggest take away is my Vandersteen 2 se signatures sound like they are four times bigger than before. This dac is best described as musical you just want to sit and list to more. My go to Stevie Ray “tin pan alley” was given new life. When Stevie is singing the lyrics “better place to be” when both b’s are started you ban hear the air hitting the mic. Same with Tull “thick as a brick” you can almost feel Ian Anderson spitting on you when playing the flute. With the majority of dac’s I have heard the one thing I have never been impressed with have been drums. To me digital just can’t do drums until now. It is not perfect but the note decay for drums is the best I have heard. This will not go down as the best dac that can compete with the 20k and 30k models but it should win the award for best bang for the buck dac hands down. Down the road I will look into a ddc unit to take advantage of the I2S connection and external clocking but right now the Gustard R26 does not make me feel rushed at all. Anyone sitting on the fence jump off head first.
@sgreg1 thanks for taking risk and sharing your experience!
I am surprised to hear as Gustard design engineers were able to produce decent R2R DAC product! Creating R2R DAC, assuming 20years product life time and other variables, is very hard! So far my favorite R2R DAC is the latest XD series of Esoteric (same as Teac), which I trust more because of previous experience.
@westcoastaudiophile - Glad you're enjoying the Esoteric XD series. One point of correction though is that they are not using an R2R DAC design, according to their website the proprietary XD DACs are a discrete design using ESOTERIC’s exclusive Delta-Sigma (ΔΣ) modulator. You may have confused the fact that they're a discrete design with them being R2R. Just a technicality though, what really matters is their performance which by all reports is exceptional.
@bill_k found more info about esoteric xd series dac - yummy!
“[Capable of] 64-bit resolution and overwhelming performance. However, the true essence of this DAC cannot be discussed merely in terms of its specifications. The fundamental goal in the development of the Master Sound Discrete DAC was to achieve an accurate, full-bodied reproduction of all the vibrancy and energy of music. Music is infused with all the passion that a performer brings to a passage, with instantaneous and explosive energy. We wondered if it was possible to use higher-grade parts than integrated chips, as well as more luxurious materials, to create a more powerful DAC that could deliver a superlative analog signal. This idea led us to the discrete DAC. Esoteric’s top engineering team painstakingly invested their very pride into realizing this complete, full-bodied sound.
Featuring four DAC circuits per channel, their eight circuit elements are arranged in a semi-circle for equidistant signal transmission within each DAC. This total of 32 circuit elements are arranged in two circles that present a luxurious structure with all constituent components, including resistors, logic ICs, and power supplies, separated for all 32 of the circuits. Since each of these 32 circuits utilizes an independent power supply circuit, the music’s full burst of energy can be output in its purest form. Furthermore, by selecting the same sort of ultra-high precision resistors used in measuring instruments, the DAC can perform high-speed digital arithmetic processing with greater accuracy.
With a discrete DAC, where component tolerances are directly linked to arithmetic precision, highly advanced quality control is also required for the manufacture of electronic circuit boards. Esoteric’s own in-house factory boasts some of the world’s leading board mounting technologies, such as soldering performed in an oxygen-free furnace, which is located in a clean room featuring the same level of cleanliness found in a hospital operating room. Technologies cultivated in the production of electronic circuit boards for audio, medical, aerospace, and defense industries support the high production quality of the Master Sound Discrete DAC.”
@westcoastaudiophile - Haven't had the opportunity to audition the K-01XD (CD/SACD/DAC version) or N-01XD (Network DAC) yet myself, but have heard from several sources I trust as well as reviews that they're exceptional. Word is that the new XD DAC designs were a huge step forward from the previous X versions which used top of the line but off the shelf DAC chips from AKM. I have heard the Teac UD-701N which uses the basic design of the XD DAC but in a much simpler and more cost effective implementation and I wasn't really impressed. The Esoteric versions are designed on an entirely different level but of course their pricing is commensurate with their higher performance.
@sgreg1 have 200+ hours on mine now and it is the best DAC I have had in my system so far by some margin. FYI my digital front end is as follows:
Linksys router powered by a LHY 25 LPS -> Audioquest Vodka ethernet cable -> Melco S100 switch powered by a Ferrum Hypsos LPS -> fiber optic cable -> Lumin P1 -> Audioquest Coffee USB -> Singxer SU-6 DDC -> Audioquest Vodka HDMI I2S -> R26 -> Audioquest Water XLRs -> amplifier
I ordered a master clock from LHY (the OCK-2) they just released and I assume there will be another sonic boost from this addition to the chain since every upgrade and tweak so far has made a sonic difference. IME this DAC will scale as you upgrade what comes before it - AND I suspect what comes after. Unequivocally the best $ I've spent in this crazy hobby so far.