Gustard X18 ES9038 DAC
Mar 10, 2022 at 7:21 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 101

music_man

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There is absolutely not a word about this DAC here. I was wondering if anyone has any comments on it. How does it compare to SMSL and Topping ES9038 offerings? It seems to be more robust. It appears to be the little Brother of the X26 Pro.
 
Mar 26, 2022 at 7:55 PM Post #2 of 101
Been using it for about a month now. Definitely an upgrade over X16 (even with volume matched to ~ 4.1 V).
Though I prefer the NOS mode in both X16 and X18 in conjunction with external software upsampling.

I was in slight hesitation between this and X16 Pro. But then a significant part why X26 Pro costs more (other than using dual ES9038 Pro) is because of its USB receiver and PLL treatment (using K2 oscillators). And Gustard's custom oversampling filters which didn't look too different than ESS' built in filters.
Anyways, since I have Gustard U18 USB interface, I didn't see the need for X26 Pro.

Also, just in case this matters from design standpoint - X18 uses ESS' recommended way of I/V conversion of using separate opamps per channel and then summing up.
Read page 12 from
https://www.esstech.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/ES9038PRO-Datasheet-v3.7.pdf

How much of this translates to perceptible effect - I don't know :)
ess.jpg
 
Apr 20, 2022 at 10:14 PM Post #3 of 101
I took the plunge today - I will report back when I receive the unit (Aoshida usually delivers to the US in only a few days).

I am eager to see how it stands up against my Musician Draco/Denafrips Ares 2...
 
May 7, 2022 at 10:16 PM Post #4 of 101
Been using it for about a month now. Definitely an upgrade over X16 (even with volume matched to ~ 4.1 V).
Though I prefer the NOS mode in both X16 and X18 in conjunction with external software upsampling.

I was in slight hesitation between this and X16 Pro. But then a significant part why X26 Pro costs more (other than using dual ES9038 Pro) is because of its USB receiver and PLL treatment (using K2 oscillators). And Gustard's custom oversampling filters which didn't look too different than ESS' built in filters.
Anyways, since I have Gustard U18 USB interface, I didn't see the need for X26 Pro.

Also, just in case this matters from design standpoint - X18 uses ESS' recommended way of I/V conversion of using separate opamps per channel and then summing up.
Read page 12 from
https://www.esstech.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/ES9038PRO-Datasheet-v3.7.pdf

How much of this translates to perceptible effect - I don't know :)
I am also using Gustard U18 and it’s really very good and took my system upwards by a notch or two.
Now I am confused if I should buy X18 or X26pro because the price difference is almost double.
I think using X18 with U18 takes you almost to the level of X26 pro.
Will you agree. Or should I go for X26 to get even better sound quality.
A bit confused to decide. Let me know what you think.
Price difference is to confuse you.
 
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May 8, 2022 at 10:59 AM Post #6 of 101
Does anyone have any impressions from the gustard x18 vs smsl d1se? It seems to me a pretty high price jump from x16 and competing directly with the d1se.
I think that D1se is also very good DAC. but it doesn’t have AES digital output, this is the only thing that is stopping me to buy that. I am using Gustard U18 and AES output of U18 is very good alog with I2s. So I want to have both options AES and I2s Gustard X18 and X26 have.
 
May 13, 2022 at 9:55 AM Post #7 of 101
Another solid review:

https://headfonics.com/gustard-x18-dac-review/

I am very happy with mine. The reviews are spot on. I am shocked that it is not getting more buzz.

TL;DR: excellent transparency and dynamics, yet smooth enough to keep an R2R devotee like me happy.

Fwiw, I had no trouble connecting it to my Singxer su-1 DDC via I2S.
 
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May 13, 2022 at 2:50 PM Post #8 of 101
I am also using Gustard U18 and it’s really very good and took my system upwards by a notch or two.
Now I am confused if I should buy X18 or X26pro because the price difference is almost double.
I think using X18 with U18 takes you almost to the level of X26 pro.
Will you agree. Or should I go for X26 to get even better sound quality.
A bit confused to decide. Let me know what you think.
Price difference is to confuse you.
According to @GoldenOne , The x26 pro and x18 are subjectively pretty much indistinguishable from each other. YMMV
 
May 13, 2022 at 7:31 PM Post #9 of 101
Another solid review:

https://headfonics.com/gustard-x18-dac-review/

I am very happy with mine. The reviews are spot on. I am shocked that it is not getting more buzz.

TL;DR: excellent transparency and dynamics, yet smooth enough to keep an R2R devotee like me happy.

Fwiw, I had no trouble connecting it to my Singxer su-1 DDC via I2S.
I just got mine yesterday and I am very happy listening for few hours. Although will need 150 to 200:hours burning in time to sound at its best but initial impression about clarity and sound signature are very good. Also I am using it with Gustard U18 DDC that makes it even better. A very good DAC at this price point or even beyond.
 
May 14, 2022 at 12:37 PM Post #11 of 101
Another solid review:

https://headfonics.com/gustard-x18-dac-review/

I am very happy with mine. The reviews are spot on. I am shocked that it is not getting more buzz.

TL;DR: excellent transparency and dynamics, yet smooth enough to keep an R2R devotee like me happy.

Fwiw, I had no trouble connecting it to my Singxer su-1 DDC via I2S.

That's nice the X18 has a remote, whereas the X26 Pro that I tried out did not have a remote. The X26 Pro was excellent and definitely made me change my mind on ESS DACs. In the end, I still chose my Yggy LIM, which had a slightly more natural sound when A/Bing, volume matched. But I would have been totally happy keeping the X26 Pro. It did have slightly more dynamics than the Yggy LIM (not sure how the A2/OG compares). If the X18 is that similar to the X26 Pro, then that's quite a bargain!
 
Jun 1, 2022 at 3:42 PM Post #12 of 101
I am still in awe that an ESS - based device can keep up with my R2R DACs in musicality. Maybe there really is something about the I/V stage, and that current mode implementation solves much of the issues.

This thing deserves more buzz than it is getting, so I think I may be obligated to write a review about it...
 
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Jul 8, 2022 at 4:26 PM Post #14 of 101
Just wanted to share that I recently picked up a Gustard X18 after backign myself into a "low" "medium" "less medium" price bracket for DACs. I picked up a Schiit Modius, an SMSL SU-9N, and a Gustard X18. Out of them the Gustard X18 sounds best to me. It has the most features. It's made SOLID and has some real heft to it given its a nice thick extruded enclosure but also a single heft toroidal power transformer. The Modius of course has an external small 5v USB supply and the SMSL, while it has an internal power supply, is no where near as robust. I was debating on picking up an X26 Pro to see if there was an edge over the X18 but honestly I am content - the features in the X18 are more than enough and the output stage sounds as good as the rest of my setup can resolve I am sure (going into a Rebel Amp to a pair of Hifiman Arya).
 

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