Great Neutral Detailed Sound for $499 but could cost much more, more detail than my Yiggy GS
Pros: Neutral detailed sound, Natural Soundstage, Several input options, Doesn't get hot (just a bit warm), Preamp functions, Remote, MQA support (if you care about that), Balanced, Good Screen (very readable), Decent Drivers, XLR out is fantastic in measurements and sound quality.
Cons: DSD doesn't work at all and is a known issue on many units (see below for more info), power switch is on the back, remote has no power off, it extremely impractical to update the software on the unit (requires specialized tools such as a flash programmer and disassembling the DAC), no warranty support (other than the store you bought it from which is mixed see more info below). Sound can be lifeless/boring compared to R2R DACs for some. Poor QC/software.
Let's start with the price, $499 for this DAC is fantastic.
If you like neutral and detailed sound, you'll fall in love with this DAC, but there are several drawbacks, most coming from poor QC.
To some the DAC may sound lifeless/soulless, don't expect it to dramatically change or increase soundstage, add warmth, improve musicality & timbre etc. This is not an audiophile's DAC. It measures almost perfectly with a SINAD of -121dB and THD of 0.000085% on CH1 and 0.000087% on CH2. Insane measurements making this DAC one of the best for neutral, clean, sound. IMO it is perfect for mixing or professional use. This DAC beats out the Topping D90 in measurements (but loses to D90SE), considering it's price this is a true value.
If you like ruler flat neutral this is your DAC, otherwise you may be a bit disappointed. Best to set proper expectations.
If you want less neutral sound there are so options to consider, for example opting for a different DAC, such as a Schiit Gumby (Gungnir + Multibit upgrade) or even Yiggy GS. As you are likely aware, those cost significantly more, which makes this product stand out as a great value.
Alternatively you could add a tube preamp such as a Freya+ from Schiit Audio. Freya+, pair with Tung-Sol tubes which will add warmth and musicality while slightly increasing soundstage, making it close to the warm fun sound of my Yiggy GS.
In terms of detail I can hear more from the X16 than my Yiggy GS, which is the main reason this DAC is staying with me and not getting returned.
Drivers are good on Windows 10 and Mac OS, in comparison my SMSL Sanskrit 10th MKII had horrid drivers on Windows causing freezing on occasion until I updated them from the manufactures site. Topping and Schiit IMO has better drivers.
With all that out of the way, let's get into the cons.
The remote is cheap plastic, it's quite poor quality but if you have a universal remote like the Sofabaton, you can use the IR learning feature then never have to use the stock remote again. Many users reported on ASR the remote not working out of the box.
The DAC does not work with DSD, below is what it sounds like when I try to use DSD.
Do want to note if I convert to PCM then the issue is basically resolved, but if I wanted to do that I could just use my Schiit DACs.
Really was hoping to stream DSD straight to the DAC. This is not an isolated incident, there are many on ASR and other sites that have the same issue.
The only fix it to disassemble the unit and use a flash programmer to upgrade the firmware, why Gustard didn't just make it possible to update the unit via USB is beyond me.....maybe it helps keep costs down or was just something they didn't expect to need to do. In any case it's a total PITA. Will likely have to mail the unit to China for them to upgrade the firmware then mail back to me.
Furthermore Gustard is basically not possible to communicate with in my experiences, rather I had to contact the seller (Aoshida) off Amazon, to communicate. I then had to show a video of the issue (same video I linked above) and they basically acted clueless despite the many posts on various forums of people having this issue. Really wish contacting Gustard directly was possible such as how I can email Topping or Schiit when I need assistance with their products respectively.
The power switch is on the back, I've learned to tolerate this since both my Schiit DACs are the same way, but it's honestly annoying and something I wish wouldn't be the case here. It wouldn't even need to be mentioned if the remote had a way to power the unit off, but it does not. :/
Summary: This DAC has excellent detail, and is priced to sell. Normally I'd say the neutral sound makes this a very much the DAC for measurement focused buyers or possibly someone looking to mix but then we get into the QC and DSD issues. I can tell you I still use my Gumby and Yiggy GS, this DAC isn't replacing either of them, but it does stand out as my go to DAC for certain songs when the extra detail is appreciated.