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Gustard X20 DAC

Discussion in 'Dedicated Source Components' started by stuartmc, Sep 8, 2015.
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  1. nc42acc
    The X20 is good, really good. For the price it is hard to beat!

    I am the owner of X20U.  It is up to you to trust what is written in the product description rather than the owner's comment.
    With the attached driver 2.26, DSD64 in DoP, DSD128 in DoP only.  No DSD native playback including DSD64, DSD128, DSD256 is possible.  DSD512 native is anyway impossible via USB with the current XMOS board as well as via U12.  Use combo384 for DSD512 native.
    I suggest you post to U12 or X12 thread.  U12 and the internal board of X20U (= that of X12) work with the same driver.
  3. hyperdanny
    could you please elaborate a bit on this? since my x-20 is linked via XLR (to cd transport and also to pre-amp) I find this statement a little worrisome.......
  4. Triplefun

    Check the input voltage sensitivity of the preamp and then adjust the volume on the X20 in -3db increments to halve the output. For example, if the preamp input sensitivity is 1v, then -6db would reduce the X20 output to 1.15v. Therefore select -7db or even -8db so as not to overload the preamp.
    stuartmc likes this.
  5. hyperdanny
    thanks Triplefun, I'll check ASAP
  6. hyperdanny

    I checked: my Classe' CP-800 says maximum input level (balanced)  4 Vrms (DSP) 9 Vrms (bypass). I am using the whole tone control function, so my case should be the first. You said the X-20 outputs 4,5..so it looks "almost" a match....what do you think: should I reduce the X-20's volume just a little bit, like -1 db? now is on 0.
    Truth be told, I did not detect any audible distortion and, on the contrary, my x-20 is sounding better and better.
    This is really a machine that seems to benefit from a good break-in: the sound is more integrated, fine detail gets finer, any slight harshness (that sort of "aggressiveness" that prompted me to change the filter to slow) is gone.
    Great little machine.
  7. Triplefun

    My AVM pa5.2 has a XLR sensitivity 20mv to 450mv for a 1V output (the US versions differ?) and impedance 14kohms.
    I currently have the volume -15db.
    It's interesting how the tonal balance seems to shift as the volume is changed.
    Too high ( > -10db) there is noticeable distortion, especially in the upper frequencies.
    Too low (-<-20db) the music seems to lose some of its dynamics, especially in the lower frequencies.
    Note I find the PA5.2 very revealing and easy to discriminate between 16bit and 24bit recordings.
    I didn't notice this so much on my PS Audio 5.0 pre amp.
    So obviously pre amps do make a difference.
  8. escucalin
    Can anyone please explain if the MCLK is used or needed in case of a I2S connection attempt with a X20 dac?
    Considering the blue line highlight from the spec picture it seems not
    But then, why is it mentioned on the dac's end? Is it optional? My i2s bridge would be able to provide any frequency needed; are there any specs detailing this aspect?
  9. DBB1
    I own a Gustard U-12 and  x-12 and largely due to this thread am considering the x-20. I have been very happy with the x-12 and in fact it has been the best dac I have heard, better than the more expensive  Audio-GD NFB7, Nuforce dac-10, and others. First, I would like to know if I need to get the U version with the usb built in. Some earlier comments said that it sounded better with the usb card than with the U-12. This seemed to be surprising since I read the opposite regarding the x12.
    Second, I would like to know how many here think the improvement is well beyond subtle. I appreciate sturatmc's opinion and how diligent and articulate he has been on the subject, but I feel better about making a purchase when there is a broad consensus.  I have had the experience of reading about a Tripath amp a few years ago that one enthusiast endorsed brilliantly, but the quality was not there when I bought.it. Also this hobby is so subjective, equipment variables, tastes, etc.I have had the experience of finding the U-12 has upgraded the sound of the built in elderly dac, limited to 48kz, on an old (more than 10 years) Mcintosh MSD4 surround decoder preamp/processor. It easily was as good as the Audio-gd NFB7. So the interesting question is have we really come that far in terms of dacs or just clocking and jitter removal. Anyway, more opinions would help me decide if the step up to the x20 is a baby step or a giant step. Thanks to all who respond.
  10. Triplefun
    What's the rest of your system? I had the gustard x10 and the upgrade to the x20u has been well justified. I don't know if the improvement will be the same for the x12. Gustard spent 2 years (?) Building the x20. I don't think Gustard would offer the x20 as a x12 replacement unless the improvement was noticeable. I have found the x20 to be much more sensitive to the quality of the music source (16 bit vs 24 bit) with 24 bit being noticeably more refined. I upsample all music in foobar to dsd128. Based on other comments in this thread you may be better off with a regen -- comes back to the quality of your PC USB port?

    Re the USB port the x20u is just another XMOS implementation much the same as the x12. Whether the x20 USB is better than the u12 again is dependent on lots of other factors - quality of power, cables, USB port etc. The additional cost of the USB on the x20 is not exorbitant. As I mentioned in an earlier post try messaging http://www.aliexpress.com/item/GUSTARD-DAC-X20U-Super-Ultimate-HIFI-DAC-2xES9018-XMOS-USB-384KHZ-DSD64-128/32415678915.html?spm=2114.01020208.3.10.CeYY3J&ws_ab_test=searchweb201556_6_79_78_77_82_80_62,searchweb201644_0,searchweb201560_1 and see if he can give you a special 'Christmas' price.

    On another note having the x12 knowing there is a x20 you will always be wondering what you are missing? Maybe you could find someone nearby who might have one and let you have a listen. I'm sure they would only be too pleased to share their experiences!
  11. DBB1
    I think you are probably right about the improvement, but I guess I need to be reassured. I am getting the best performance out of my system I have ever heard with the Gustards.  I am a snow-bird so I have two systems, I don't use headphones. If the x20 is good enough, I might carry it back and forth.
    Pa.:pC running JRiver,  Gustard X12, Gustard u12, Technics Sp10 w/ Grado Reference; Sony NV9100ES SACD, McIntosh C712; MC402; D'Apolito designed speakers: Modified Super Aria Seas Millennium Tweeter, 2 Accuton ceramic mids, 2 Cabasse 8"woofers 
    Florida: McIntosh MSD4 preamp/processor, Neko D100 dac, Gustard U12, Green Mountain Chroma II speakers, Marantz MM7025 Power amp.
    What is a regen?
  12. Triplefun
    Regen decouples the USB and matches the impedance - see http://uptoneaudio.com/products/usb-regen. I haven't tried it yet but they resell on ebay for what you pay. Note there is a delay in the delivery. Also see http://www.audiostream.com/content/usb-accessory-roundup-uptone-audio-usb-regen-audioquest-jitterbug-schiit-wyrd#YOKxJAAfpBKvjSUW.97 for an interesting analysis.
    Also, I suggest you give Foobar a go - a lot more complex than JRiver but more options and more fun - you need a good PC or Notebook with i5 or higher (Jriver benchmark 2000 or higher - see the JRiver help drop down menu for the benchmark). See my earlier post for the foobar plugins. Also suggest in Foobar you upsample to 192k (using Sox) and then to DSD128 for output to the gustard. Foobar focuses on sound whereas JRIver places a lot of emphasis on video as well. You also have to buy the annual upgrade. And use a wireless tablet to drive the PC / notebook - a lot more convenient.
    Given you speaker configuration and quality I think you will definitely hear an improvement in the X20u. Wider stage, greater transparency, better dynamics and effortless bass. If not, again you could resell the X20 on ebay for not much less than what you paid new. But I think you will keep the X20 and sell the X12. Note there is a long burn in - mine improves with every day. It also makes you want to expand the music collection. I see you have a lot of SACDs. Ripping these to DSD (or DSF) files (you need a 60GB PS3 to do this) will really bring out the strengths of the Gustard.
    Most people on this site swear by improvement brought by cables which highlights the criticality of their listening and their demand for perfection. I use middle range cables (< US$100) and keep them as short as possible. But there is a significant improvement compared to the X10 and I think you will find the same with the X20.
    Also as a another suggestion see if you can find a local hifi shop who is prepared to lend you a dual ess9018 dac for a home test and compare that with the X12.
  13. stuartmc
     The best opinion is always going to be your own, after you have had the chance to audition the gear yourself. Since that's rarely possible before purchase, I wholeheartedly agree that getting as many opinions from as many users as possible, is the safest way to avoid a costly mistake.  That is precisely why I started this thread and why I have encouraged people to chime in with their own experiences.  As I have said many times (and published more than a few), I am the world authority on only one thing - what sounds good to Stu, with Stu's musical preferences played through Stu's associated equipment.  I'm always delighted when my experiences line up with that of others, but that's not always the case.  
    You already know what I think - yes, the X20's performance is significantly better than the X12 and entirely warrants the upgrade price.  I too would like to read the opinions of 10 or more X12 owners who have made the direct comparisons.
  14. DBB1
    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I probably will order the x20 soon. My experience was that the x12 was so clearly an advancement, it seemed to make DSD unnecessary as PCM now sounded as good. 44.1 digital now seems much closer to vinyl, more depth, weight, and revelation of subtle overtones. Still not there yet. Up-sampling to me now was unnecessary. Sample rate was almost irrelevant as all sounded great. Maybe I have some skepticism because the x12 was so good it is hard to imagine that the x20 can be significantly better.
    As far as JRiver goes, I can't see switching.  I have about 1800 classical works with custom tags set up by genre, composer, artist, movement, etc.I have been running it for 10 years. The last time I looked at Foobar it was inadequate for organizing classical music. It would probably take me a months to convert to Foobar. Also I find JRiver very convenient to run since I have been running it for so long. I use a wireless  mouse and a flat screen TV, easy. The sound is fine to my ear. Finally, as I age I find that I want to enjoy the music with excellent sound quality, but I no longer want to be an audiophile. I don't want to take the time to swap cables, polish electrical plugs, and do all the things I used to do to try to squeeze out every last drop of better sound. Sound quality is like good light in an art gallery. You need light but it is the art that is the most important. If I think about improving the light too much I risk missing the art. 
  15. GioF71
    Hello, I don't have the X20 (yet, maybe!), but I own a X12 with the U12 interface, and I can say that the X12 sounds a lot better with the U12 via a I2S HDMI connection vs native USB.
    Also, I find it sounds a better when I use the stack with a dedicated linux box with a linear power supply. There is no comparison against a regular PC (I won't say against Windows, as I do not have any clear evidence of it).
    A better USB interface may flatten these differences, maybe. The U12/X12 IMO seems a little sensitive to jitter, so if the transport (the pc) works better, the whole stack sounds better.
    The U12 is relatively cheap and adds versatility to your setup: for example I connect the X12 to the desktop pc via USB for occasional listening, while for a more 'serious' (if a hobby can be really serious) I turn on the dedicated linux box, connected to the U12 via USB and via HDMI to the X12.
    The latter setup has more life and soundstage. Quite noticeable: a friend of mine who came here to listen confirmed if immediately (I know, his opinion might be biased...).
    So no special advice here, only my opinion: a better interface makes the X12 sound better, at least for my setups. If you search for an upgrade to the X12, you can consider an interface like the U12 even before upgrading the whole dac. There are also better interfaces around (@stuartmc uses and like the Tanly iirc).
    Of course, I have no reason to not say the X20 is a consistent upgrade. On the contrary, this is a DAC I am looking into since if came out and had so enthusiastic reviews around here.
    Hope this helps.
    ckZA likes this.
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