Keep it with separates , or bricasti 3 dac streamer ,you can maybe get a deal on
dac great buy Denafrips pontus 2-12th anniversary dac , innuos has a cost effective mini perrotta consulting is very good to work with and decent pricing.
I think you should start this journey by auditioning some other DACs in your setup. As an owner of an R26 I feel you could easily make a side step or even a bit backwards in the move. The R26 offers tremendous vale from my experience. The DAC is a true darling and the streamer is not far behind at all. Unless you don’t prefer the presentation I would look into trying optical converters, clocks, and switches. Not that the Gustard can’t be beat but it may take more than 5k, especially new. You could grab a Holo May used and add a Eversolo as streamer. Might be a bit above your budget but I can’t think of any other combos I’m really aching to upgrade to from the R26. In general I think buying China is the only way your going to make significant improvements with your budget.
I went down the typical stream progression. First blusound Node, then Lumin U1 mini with Pontus II, both streaming Roon. I was interested in better sound quality and purchased a Aurender A15. I thought I would miss Roon but I do not. The Conductor app is very good and the sound quality is much better than what I was experiencing before, so much so that I upgraded to an A30. I couldn’t be happier.
All great reads & stories, thanks to all! I’ve had a little setback financially with regards to a remodel I’m in the middle of so the urgency is on the back burner for now, but with all info offered above I think I really may consider the Aurender line. I’m just going to keep an eye out for a deal on a demo or used unit (as per @ghdprentice advice). Loosing Roon isn’t a deal breaker for me and with all the praise here for their app I think it sounds pretty good! Then just keep using the R26 for my DAC. Thanks again!