Is a cheaper DAC + Reclocker better than just an expensive DAC?

Hi All,

I'm still in my DAC dilemma phase, and have come across this situation, is a cheaper DAC + Reclocker better than just an expensive DAC?  The basis for this is the below Gustard example.  Also, i've read a review that commented on the X26 being further improved when a reclocker was added.

Gustard U18 reclocker ($635 CAD) + Gustard X18 ($952 CAD) = $1,587 CAD


Gustard X26 = $1,907 CAD


So if i wanted to:

- have a mind-blowing DAC experience (stepping up from my Khadas Tone Board DAC)

-not have any regrets

- extinguish any upgrade fever

- make girls like me... it a general rule that a DAC+reclocker will ususally sound better than a standalone more expensive DAC, and so i should pursue this route?

Does anyone have any amazing examples of cheaper DACs, that when coupled with a reclocker, elevate the combo into the really acoustically high-end and detailed areas of the hobby?



Nope. Value of a reclocker is exaggerated. the analog portion of the DAC is more important to great sound, clarity, transparity, soundstage, etc.

PS are you streaming of listening to CDs?

Once again, the old adage:

Making a silk purse from a cow's ear.

-Seems to be applicable here.

In short, buying a DAC that sounds as good as it can in it's price-range, sound better than buying one that is 'okay' and adding a reclocker.


As far as- extinguish any upgrade fever.

That depends upon how much you want to hear/spend.


Ahhh, this is good down-to-earth and realistic advice everyone, thanks. Not what i wanted to hear but what i needed to hear.  Looks like there's no shortcuts or cheats on this one.

I'm steaming from a windows laptop (just added my basic system to my profile).

Buy the best DAC you can afford. If you still have the itch later on, you can try a reclocker down the road.


IMO, you can improve the streaming quality immensely by ditching a general purpose Windows laptop as a streamer. Plenty of good dedicated streamers out there, many very affordable too

@fai_v Along the same lines, although I may not get as much agreement on this one.

Your PC is not bad at doing the digital part.  Focus your purchase on the DAC.  If you have to use your PC for a year, that's ok.  

I also avoid combo DAC streamers as you seldom see a top quality DAC in a streamer. 


Jerry @carlsbad but….. you can certainly find top quality streamers built in top quality DACs.

I took a look at the OP’s system. You are right. Laptop can do fine for the time being. I am not familiar with those speakers and the amp at all, so take this with a grain of salt, by my guess is bigger improvements can be accomplished with stuff other than streamer. Dedicated streamer can wait

I agree with the comments in favor of buying the better quality DAC. Built quality/better chassis construction, better quality analogue output stage and beefier power supply.  These fundamental upgrade steps cost more to implement but will yield higher quality sound. Don't cut corners in these crucial areas. A reclocker won't fill this gap with a lesser quality DAC.


Good question. BTW, I love hearing from women in our hobby — far too rare IMHO. And a Canadian, even better (I’m a hockey player). Anyway, I think I may have a solution for both your questions, and one you didn’t even ask. Agree with others to get the better DAC, but with your budget I’d suggest stepping up to a Denafrips Pontus ll, but if that’s out of your budget the Musician Pegasus would be a good substitute (not sure how prices translate from US$ to CAD these days). I have the Pegasus and like it a lot. You can read good reviews of these DACs and the Gustard X26 at They’re all great, so just go by which gets closest to the sound qualities you’re looking for and is within budget.

Now, for the bonus, your very noisy computer is much more of a problem than reclocking. But, for around $140USD you can get an iFi Purifier 3 that will importantly help reduce the noise from your computer but will also work as a reclocker. So you can have your cake and eat it too! Hope this helps, and best of luck!

As several modern DAC makers have pointed out, you need the clock as physically close to the DAC chip as possible.  An external clock can't be as accurate, but in professional uses may be needed.

The other issue is, USB has the highest bandwidth, so not sure what use USB in to S/PDIF out is useful.

The one big benefit I see of the U18 is something which SHOULD be in every single DAC but isn't, which is galvanic isolation of every metal input, including USB.

Well...I would have given you the same advice 6 months ago - buy the best single dac unit you can afford.  But, now that I've completed my own digital front-end upgrade, I would recommend buying the best DAC you can afford AND add a reclocker.

In my case, I bought two DAC's to compare side-by-side.  I sold the Gustard x26 Pro and kept a cheaper AliExpress DC500 (dual AKM4499EQ's) because it sounded better.  And then the fun started.  I upgraded two MUSES03 opamps with discrete opamps:  I bought an AF200 reclocker with CCHD-957 Crystek oscillators:  I bought linear power supply for the AF200 reclocker:  I'm using a high quality AES/EBU cable between the DC500 DAC and the AF200 reclocker.  I kept my usb cable short & removed ferrite rings.  The results were astonishing - there's no way a $900.00 Chinese DAC should sound this good - but it does (after spending an additional $450.00 on the upgrades).  One last thing - do not use any digital attenuation on your DAC!


@markkpa — sold the Gustard x26 Pro and kept a cheaper AliExpress DC500 (dual AKM4499EQ’s) because it sounded better.

How? How did it sound better?

One last thing - do not use any digital attenuation on your DAC!

What the hell are you talking about??? What is digital attenuation? You’re a complete freak.

Weiss 501 info perhaps addresses this. Synchronization An internal high precision / low jitter clock generator is responsible for clocking the D/A converter section. The sampling frequency of that generator is fixed at about 195kHz. The input signals are converted to the 195kHz sampling frequency for optimal signal quality. This scheme also helps significantly in reducing any jitter related effects. All standard sampling frequencies up to 384 kHz plus DSD x64 and x128 are supported.

+1 to better dac > reclocker+lesser dac, as a generality... but of course, specifics dictate the outcome

+1 also for weiss dac501/502... superb, high stratosphere of performance (and price of course)

SMSL VMV D2 + Gustard U18 DDC is a really, really nice combo.  The DDC will bring out more of the dacs essential character. In the VMV D2’s case using its I2S input along with the DDC’s better clocks is a pretty nice performance leap.  Same D2, just a much more spacious presentation, lots of air and detail, tons of spatial clues, good stuff using an intel nuc and Roon Roc upsampling to 768 or DSD  The VMV and the Gustard X26 are considered somewhat ‘equivalent but different’, so the ddc doesn’t change the essential character, just optimizes what is already there there.  Most dacs with an I2S input probably have a well considered design that benefit from its use, including the VMV D1 which like the more affordable Gustard all likely benefit from adding a DDC.  What they bring is pretty addictive…