Chinese DAC shames a few heavy hitters

nc42acc

Member Sponsor
Nov 10, 2015
556
1
16
North Carolina
#1
Guys I have hesitated to post about this DAC due to the possibility of a barrage of flames. I read about the Gustard X20U on the Head Fi forums and was hearing really good feedback. I am the curious type so at only around $800.00 I was game. At the time when the X20 arrived all I had was a Line Magnetic LM-500ca and Schiit Bifrost multibit. No contest. Then I picked up an Auralic Vega and a Schiit Yggydrasil, both great in their own right. The difference with the X20 is the inner detail retrieval and soundstage. Inserting the X20 widens my soundstage by about 2 feet on each side and about 3 feet higher, in a realistic sense not exaggerated. The depth is amazing, can render front stage to back stage amazingly. Listening to the Opus 3 Showcase 2 in DSD 128 is stunning. It is so good as a vinyl diehard it has kept me planted in my seat with the Aurender iPad app not wanting me to spin vinyl. It might not float your boat but to me it has been an eye opening experience.
 
Sep 30, 2015
3,049
1
0
#2
Guys I have hesitated to post about this DAC due to the possibility of a barrage of flames. I read about the Gustard X20U on the Head Fi forums and was hearing really good feedback. I am the curious type so at only around $800.00 I was game. At the time when the X20 arrived all I had was a Line Magnetic LM-500ca and Schiit Bifrost multibit. No contest. Then I picked up an Auralic Vega and a Schiit Yggydrasil, both great in their own right. The difference with the X20 is the inner detail retrieval and soundstage. Inserting the X20 widens my soundstage by about 2 feet on each side and about 3 feet higher, in a realistic sense not exaggerated. The depth is amazing, can render front stage to back stage amazingly. Listening to the Opus 3 Showcase 2 in DSD 128 is stunning. It is so good as a vinyl diehard it has kept me planted in my seat with the Aurender iPad app not wanting me to spin vinyl. It might not float your boat but to me it has been an eye opening experience.

Excellent post Marty. Having looked at this DAC closely, I'm thinking it may be the best value DAC in the industry today. It looks so well built, it could be repacked in a big brand name case and resold for 7-8X the price easily.

The design is outstanding. For 1 it's built in a completely modular form factor. The USB interface is on a daughter card that plugs into the main digital board, and can easily be upgraded. It even has I2S over HDMI input with up to DSD 512 support!! The digital board itself is an excellent design, being modular from the Analog board. All 3 sections Power supply/Digital and Analog boards are isolated from each other with aluminum dividers. Very nice O style transformers are used for the supply. It also uses dual ESS 9018 chips with all 8 channels of each chip paralleled for the best performance possible from the chips. Exactly like the Resonessence Labs Mirus. Then to finish things off, it uses 100% discrete transistor output stage! For $759 this level of quality is unheard of! the Chinese are really thinking outside the box with this impressive product!


Now I can only imagine coupled with Roon/HQplayer/NAA!

https://www.shenzhenaudio.com/gusta...018-xmos-hifi-dac-384khz-dsd-dop-decoder.html
 
Last edited:
Sep 30, 2015
3,049
1
0
#4
Love this Q/A at the end:

Q: Hi! Does it come with remote Control? Thanks!

A: Dear . It had remote control now.
They must have revised the page but moved all of the comments over from the previous page. Because the link goes to the same page.
 
Sep 30, 2015
3,049
1
0
#7
In all seriousness, I will check them out at CES if they are there. Usually I walk right past anything that says "shenzhen."
I think people should take them more seriously. They sell lots of very nice products for good value. Most of all the big brand names farm out their PCB's to China anyways.
 
Sep 30, 2015
3,049
1
0
#9
Design and manufacturing are two different things.

The design looks really good to me. Future proof for many years as well.
 

nc42acc

Member Sponsor
Nov 10, 2015
556
1
16
North Carolina
#10
Do you think any members would want one to pass around? They would be responsible for shipping to the next member. I would buy the donor to start it out.
 
Apr 3, 2010
15,814
5
0
Seattle, WA
#11
I would love to measure it. But it is cheap enough that if I see it at CES, I could try to buy one. If I fail, and you like to see it measured, I would be game. :)
 

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
1,736
920
208
Hong Kong
#16
The Gustard X20U is popular in Mainland China. There are some owners in Hong Kong too.

205801wwzuh6weywuwyjzc.jpg

The HK dealer has designed a femto clock (Crystek 957) add-on board with better psu boards for it too :

201318acjhticzphtjtj9i.jpg
 
Sep 30, 2015
3,049
1
0
#17
The Gustard X20U is popular in Mainland China. There are some owners in Hong Kong too.

View attachment 24687

The HK dealer has designed a femto clock (Crystek 957) add-on board with better psu boards for it too :

View attachment 24686
That's excellent! The exact clock I recommended Marty to upgrade his with. That would make a big difference and most likely take it into the league of DAC's in the $5000-$7000 USD range!
 
Jun 22, 2013
197
9
18
Soquel, CA
#18
It would sound better with non magnetic hardware used to hold the trannies down....and of course, an audiophile fuse. Looks like it uses op amps for I-V conversion then discrete after that. Would sound way better with one discrete I-V stage and coupling cap straight out on each phase (no summing for unbalanced outs). WAY BETTER! Mike knows what op amps sound like....this has one and then discrete stages ......one discrete stage only would be killer! The better clocks and power supply are cool too.
 
Sep 30, 2015
3,049
1
0
#19
It would sound better with non magnetic hardware used to hold the trannies down....and of course, an audiophile fuse. Looks like it uses op amps for I-V conversion then discrete after that. Would sound way better with one discrete I-V stage and coupling cap straight out on each phase (no summing for unbalanced outs). WAY BETTER! Mike knows what op amps sound like....this has one and then discrete stages ......one discrete stage only would be killer! The better clocks and power supply are cool too.

No doubt!
 
Last edited:
Jun 22, 2013
197
9
18
Soquel, CA
#20
Conjecture, for sure. Even if it is a hybrid from Dustin does not mean a pure simple discrete would not be better. You have to listen to know anything. As long as the signal goes through an op amp....it is colored by it (in my experience). Of course, I am always open to learning something new. If a hybrid circuit could beat a single discrete stage I am all for it.

Actually, I have found a simple j-fet buffer on the output of the ESS DACs sounds best. Just one super wide bandwidth zero feedback device biased into class A with another j-fet. Mega ohm input impedance and 50 ohm output impedance.....then a coupling cap. The only downside is that you only get one volt per phase.
 

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