Gustard X20 DAC
Oct 8, 2016 at 2:32 PM Post #961 of 1,319

Excellence 5

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...  
Simon has reported in this thread that using the external I2s lines has resulted in inferior SQ compared to tapping into the internal I2S lines at the USB PCIe slot
 
...

I can’t find Simon's message at the moment, but I think he wrote that the inferior sound quality was caused by an i2s cable too long, didn’t he? If so, how about an i2s cable short as much as possible, connected to the external input of the X20? I think that there is space enought to stay totally close to the Gustard’s back.
 
However, thanks for the new picture, and for the additional information.
 
Oct 8, 2016 at 3:00 PM Post #962 of 1,319

mordicai

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I'm running a 1' HDMI cable for I2S. I think I could go to 8". Do you thik 1' is too long?
 
Oct 8, 2016 at 3:11 PM Post #963 of 1,319

mordicai

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  Hey Kaylu, Just ran across your post while researching some mods to my X20 which is at 85 hrs of burn in. Its just starting to open up and giving me goosebumbs. Your post pretty much mimic's what I am feeling about this DAC. Fabulous resolution and detail. BIG soundstage, great bass and gentle highs....but, the sound to my ears is too digital. Im coming from a Bifrost MB and liked the sound but felt is was too much of a wimp. My question is...did you do any mods? Didn't sound like you did, and I wonder if they would give me a more analog sound. Right now Im considering retuning the DAC but your post put a stop to that idea.People need to know that Shenzhen is not a trustworthy company and not deal with them until they back up what they state in there ads. If they want to do business in the States!  Given your problem I will probably mod the DAC and keep it for awhile before selling it. Its a great DAC thats for sure


Reading at Kaylu review remind me the out of the box X20. Burning is long at least 100 to 200h. I'm familiar with sabre chip based dac and i have to agree that some DAC sound metallic when the output stage is not dynamic enough and lack of current.
Once the DAC was burned no metallic sound at all.
You also have to pay attention the the ClickMode -> Auto used if you feed by USB.
Also i always use Sharp filter with PCM and 70KHz with DSD.

I also did A/B comparison with Metrum Musette both DAC burned. We used some track of classical guitar, solo piano, organ music and even Motorhead, Sepultura, Metallica tracks..
For me the Metrum was really musical and detailed some of the listener preferred it as it sound warmer and a bit more vinyl like.
To my ear the X20 was more dynamic and more balanced and the soundstage was more precise/realistic specially when using a tube amp.
(we used the output level from -32 to -12).
 
The fight between R2R / NOS / and DeltaSigma DAC is not finished and you can find great device in each category (Totaldac DAC d1-dual/ Audial Model S USB /Gustard X20)  all depend to your taste and feeling..

For the Mods :
- changing the fuse and the power cable, [Reverse possible if you need customer service]
- braid cables
- remove on/of switch, relay and fuse holder.
......   
- additional damping/shielding
- revisiting output stage

You can even find someone to do it for you.... http://tweakaudio.com/EVS-2/Gustard_X20_Mods.html   

I only changed the fuse and the power cable on mine and was lucky as the internal card was defective and got it replaced by GustArd paying shipping back to them.
 

My front end is a Singxer su 1 and I run a 1' HDMI to the Gustard's I2S. Am using  a high end audiophile fuse and at about 150 hrs will do Ric's mods. Im at 90 hrs right now.We'll see if that's helps.I really want to keep this DAC. I love the dynamics, just not in love with the tone.
 
Oct 8, 2016 at 6:15 PM Post #964 of 1,319

Quadman

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  I can’t find Simon's message at the moment, but I think he wrote that the inferior sound quality was caused by an i2s cable too long, didn’t he? If so, how about an i2s cable short as much as possible, connected to the external input of the X20? I think that there is space enought to stay totally close to the Gustard’s back.
 
However, thanks for the new picture, and for the additional information.


What are you using to go into the Gustard?  Simon was originally using his Wave I/O card which is USB to I2S then to go into the HDMI on the x20 he used a audiophonics card which converts the i2s signal to a differential signal that is then compatible with the HDMI.  This setup added significant jitter to the signal.  In general I2s lines need to be VERY short, Differential lines can be longer and have less effect on the sound.  If you are using a SU-1, or even the U12 then a short HDMI .5M or under should be fine.  Remember once this signal goes into the gustard it has to be converted back to a i2s signal which will add jitter.  So going the internal I2S route avoids that step and leads to better sound.
 
@hpamdr and others wondering about the level one mods.  Beginning around early May of this year I wrote a lot about modding a second Gustard to full level 1 status, and along the way I was comparing its sound to my already finished level 1 Gustard, go back and read those posts.  The stock Gustard was inferior to the full level 1 gustard.  A level 1 modded Gustard is much better.  Now I, Simon and Ric strongly recommend installing a 100 Mhz clock near the output boards coax tower replacing the coax cable.  This is a major upgrade in sound.  I cannot imagine anyone who has these upgrades not loving the sound.  What Kaylu said about this dac makes no sense to me, but they heard what they heard and made the decision to change.  If he/she heard my gustard they would change their opinion of this dac, albeit a very modified X20.
 
Now I have in the house a T&A Dac 8 DSD it went into the big rig last night but needs many hours to break in before I report on its sound vs. the X20.  Both dacs will be up sampling to DSD512,  finally the X20 goes head to head against, what I have read is probably considered the best DSD512 dac today.  $4000 T&A vs. my apprx $1500 fully modded X20.  I know my X20 at 512 with the OCXO clock I installed over a month ago is giving me the best digital I have ever heard, I can't wait for the breakin of the T&A.
 
Oct 9, 2016 at 7:58 AM Post #965 of 1,319

Excellence 5

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What are you using to go into the Gustard? ...
 
...once this signal goes into the gustard it has to be converted back to a i2s signal which will add jitter.  So going the internal I2S route avoids that step ...

Well, after looking at your work, it’s embarrassing for me to say that I connect my Gustard X20U just through one of the USB outputs on the motherboard (an Asus P5QL PRO). That’s all.
 
Since I’m understanding little by little, I realize just now that you pulled out the original i2s card from its slot, replacing it with the one by DIYINHK, didn’t you?
 
Still I don’t understand the reason of those solderings around the internal coaxial cable, if I really need to do it; you also mentioned external power supplies & external clock, are they really a must?
 
Thanks again!
 
Oct 9, 2016 at 10:46 AM Post #966 of 1,319

Quadman

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@Excellence 5  The coax cable, as far as we can tell only carries the Clock signal.  The gustards clock is located on the digital board to the far left, kind of near the AES input.  That is a long way for a clock signal to go, now gustard does put a line driver circuit by the digital coax tower to handle the clock signal and added impedance of the coax cable.  It is still a better idea (in my opinion) to solder a clock next to the output boards coax tower which if you note has 4 open solder pads around it.  Those were originally intended for the oscillator clock (DIP14 pin style) and for some reason gustard chose to put the clock far away and use the line driver/coax cable instead.  Soldering the clock to these pads replaces the coax cable and improves the sound.  The key being to keep the leads as short as possible.  In post 925 I show a picture of the accusilicon clock soldered into these pads and a .1uF ceramic x7r type cap across Vin and ground.  I have since replaced this with a abracon OCXO and that improved over the accusilicon.  With this clock (accusilicon) as well as the crystek 950x you can safely use the gustards internal 3.3Vdc lines as it draws very low current.  You will see improvement if you add a nice regulator in front of the clock such as one that acko makes and power that from the 5Vdc line inside the gustard.
 
The DIY USB to i2s card also shown in post 925 is not a drop in replacement and requires some soldering and use of Dupont male pins which I talk about in post 934.  Going this route requires you to have a robust 3.3Vdc supply for the card, a 3.3Vdc supply for the DSD trigger and a 5Vdc usb handshake.  The gustard cannot supply all those so that is why I used external PSU's.  An advantage to external PSU's is it lessens the load on the gustards internal PSU which is better for the internals.  It makes for a messy backside of the dac so I made a plywood shelf that extends 10" behind the dac to place all the stuff on. (picture in post 956)
 
So if you want to use the external HDMI connection on the gustard you need a DDC device like the Su-1 or gustards u12 to be able to do that then you go PC-DDC-Dac via HDMI.  If you want to go into the internal I2S lines then you need to follow what I describe above.  Regardless adding a clock near the output side is a big improvement.
 
Oct 9, 2016 at 2:51 PM Post #967 of 1,319

kaylu

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  Hey Kaylu, Just ran across your post while researching some mods to my X20 which is at 85 hrs of burn in. Its just starting to open up and giving me goosebumbs. Your post pretty much mimic's what I am feeling about this DAC. Fabulous resolution and detail. BIG soundstage, great bass and gentle highs....but, the sound to my ears is too digital. Im coming from a Bifrost MB and liked the sound but felt is was too much of a wimp. My question is...did you do any mods? Didn't sound like you did, and I wonder if they would give me a more analog sound. Right now Im considering retuning the DAC but your post put a stop to that idea.People need to know that Shenzhen is not a trustworthy company and not deal with them until they back up what they state in there ads. If they want to do business in the States!  Given your problem I will probably mod the DAC and keep it for awhile before selling it. Its a great DAC thats for sure


I did not make any modifications.
 
Right now my system is: Sonore Signature Rendu > Metrum Musette > Coincident Dynamo > Harbeth P3ESR. I seek the most natural timbre possible, in the deepest and most organized soundstage. The X20 wasn't close to reaching the Musette's ability in these areas, for me. As I type this I'm listening to the Jacky Terrasson and Cassandra Wilson record 'Rendezvous'; all the instruments sound beautifully airy and true. The piano sounds like they aimed a couple of good microphones into a real piano in a real room.
 
I don't mod simply because I don't believe I can really 'have it all' at this price point.
 
For instance, my system is definitely not ideal for attributes such as 'slam'. My favorite records with small dynamic ranges (Prince, Rage Against the Machine) are most enjoyable to me through wholly different components.
 
I don't believe modding can fundamentally alter a product's sound. In my experience higher classes of gear do things that mods can't even begin to approach. I'm done buying fuses, Quantum chips, USB cables, tube dampers, vibration pads, power conditioners, all of it. I'm not saying mods are inaudible; I'm saying I've gotten far bigger gains by saving my time and money for higher tiers of equipment.
 
Anyway I still consider the X20 to be the highest price-to-performance DAC I've encountered so far. I wish someone would make a DAC suited for jazz, classical, and acoustic blues that offered the same absurdly high value.
 
Oct 9, 2016 at 7:32 PM Post #968 of 1,319

bwanaaa

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...
 
I just fit another clock in my dac last night along with a bigger regulator.  ... Can't wait to see what is next.

 
Well , warm up your soldering iron. new 768kHz DXD DSD512(DSD1024) high-quality USB to I2S. Now you can upsample to 768k!
 
buy 2 and get $30 off!
 
Me, I still do not understand why upsampling a digital signal makes playback better if you are not doing any processing of the signal. In photography, If you take an image that is 1920x1080, we call that HD. If you upsample that to 4k (3840 x2160) it wont contain any more information. Surely, processing the image (applying filters, changing tonality, enhancing the histogram, etc) can be done with more precision. But if you do not process the data, then an image mastered to 4k and displayed on a 1080p TV will look no better than the same image mastered as 1080p.
 
But in photography, we often upsample to allow fine grained manipulation. That is why photoshop converts all images internally to a color space that has many more bits than what is seen on the screen or saved in the file. So that when you perform a calculation on the image (unsharp mask image convolution for example) and the result specifies a pixel to be a specific value, you dont end up rounding up or rounding down because your variable doesnt have enough bits to store the result. With multiple manipulations, these rounding errors add up and you get weirdness in the image.
 
So getting back to audio (where my vocabulary is limited to 8 bits whereas some of you are talking with a 32 bit vocabulary), what processing are we doing in playback that benfits from a higher RESAMPLED input bit rate? If the audio was mastered at 24/96, and you upsample it to 768kDSD how does that make it better in subsequent DAC?? I guess this is the schiit position - and why they eschew DSD.
 
I could understand it if noise upsamples differently than music. This reminds me of the Dolby trick. Shift the frequency when recording and shift back during playback. Hiss goes away. Sure the stuff on the tape is crap if listened to raw, but the Dolby en/decoding improves the final output. When 24/96 music is upsampled by HQplayer, are you then doing processing to it? I can hardly understand that dialog of the settings. Although there is no manual, I actually got a reply from the author who is active on computer audiophile (here for example). This would be a great thing for a youtube video by a knowledgeable person. It would be awesome clickbait judging by all the repetitive questions I see on these forums about this one topic.
 
Certainly, HQplayer has many options for filtering the music -17 different oversampling algorithms,8 different filters, etc. Do I actually have the patience to try each one? After I hear a piece of music 3 times, my brain stops hearing nuance differences. Ironically, HQplayer does NOT play mp3s. So even tho I had ripped a ton of cds in 320 kbps years ago (when all mp3 were at 64 and a 60 meg hard drive cost $500), they are now relegated to other software. Yes, I know I still have the CD, I could rerip as flac.
 
Anyway, I am looking forward to hear comparisons of the gustard x20 to the HOLO Audio Spring DAC when one of you get a listen.
 
Oct 10, 2016 at 8:19 AM Post #969 of 1,319

Excellence 5

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  ...The DIY USB to i2s card also shown in post 925 is not a drop in replacement and requires some soldering and use of Dupont male pins which I talk about in post 934...


 @Quadman, thanks for the answer. Looking at the first picture on post #925, the only solderings I see are the ones on the DXIO 768K card. (By the way, why didn’t you use dupont female pins instead?) I also see a couple of white cables going under Gustard’s internal board, but where do they end up?
The remaining soldering regards the coaxial cable, and it's something of optional, is that correct?
 
In short, please, can you tell me exactly how many solders should I do and where exactly? If possible, I wouldn’t touch the Gustard’s board at the moment.
 
Oct 10, 2016 at 10:30 AM Post #970 of 1,319

Quadman

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@bwanaaa  The board you mention is the board I use to up sample to DSD512.  As to your analogy to photography, it makes sense, but my ears tell me I greatly prefer higher levels of up sampling.  The noise floor drops, separation increases, images become more solid and 3D like leading edge transients are better defined and I get the overall impression that the sound is more analog like.  As to why this works that Q's is best left for Jussi.  If you read any threads on the forums about HQP almost 100% agree that higher rate sampling sounds better, why, I don't worry about that I just enjoy it.  I remember reading somewhere not sure where that someone used a DSD signal to run a power amplifier, apparently at the higher resolution the signal more closely resembles a analog sine wave and this person was able to play music with the straight DSD signal to his amp.
 
Oct 12, 2016 at 12:04 AM Post #971 of 1,319

bwanaaa

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Has anyone gotten this DAC to work with foobar? I get nothing but errors. Here is what I have tried:
 
PC: windows 10 pro with playback device in sound control panel set to XMOS XS-1 U8 MFA
DAC: Gustard x20 connected with usb to pc
Foobar 1.3.12
ASIO support 2.1.2      foo_out_asio
SACD                           foo_input_sacd 0.9.11
ASIO proxy  0.9.2
DAC driver XMOS USB Audio 2.0 ST 3033

I read this guide and this guide but am still getting errors like 'Unrecoverable playback error: Could not set sample rate to 352800 Hz' in foobar.

This is how I configured foobar:
Prefs-> components:  installed foo_out_asio and foo_input_sacd
Prefs ->playback->output :                          set to DSD: ASIO : XMOS USB Audio 2.0 ST 3033
Prefs ->playback->output :-> ASIO:            set to XMOS USB Audio 2.0 ST 3033, use 64 bit ASIO drivers checked
                                                                      no custom channel mappings
                                                                      double click on XMOS USB Audio 2.0 ST 3033 shows 
                                                                        a dialog with USB audio device xCORE  USB Audio 2.0 grayed out
                                                                        and current sample rate 44100 Hz
Prefs->Tools -> SACD:                               output mode DSD

I try to play this file Mozart: Violin concerto in D major - Allegro
Marianne Thorsen / TrondheimSolistene    stereo DSD 5.6448 Mbits  (dl from here for free)
I get this error:   "Unrecoverable playback error: Could not set sample rate to 192000 Hz"
Same error when trying to play Cat Stevens flac 24/192 file as well as Rebecca Pidgeon DSD 5.6 DSD file.

I changed Prefs->Tools -> SACD:                               output mode pcm sample rate 352800 or 44100 -> same error

I changed prefs:
Prefs ->playback->output :                          set to DSD: ASIO :foo_dsd_asio      -> same error

I set prefs this way:
Prefs ->playback->output :                          set to DSD: ASIO :foo_dsd_asio 
Prefs ->playback->output :-> ASIO:            set to foo_dsd_asio 
                                                                       double click on foo_dsd_asio gives a chart all dashes
                                                                         set 44100, 192000 and DSD 64 and DSD128 to
                                                                           output DSD 256, SDM type D , sample and hold none, DSD mode DoP
Prefs->Tools -> SACD:                               output mode DSD

error
"Unrecoverable playback error: Could not set sample rate to 352800 Hz"

can someone enlighten me please?

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Oct 12, 2016 at 12:46 AM Post #972 of 1,319

Triplefun

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@bwanna
 
Presumably you are trying to set DSD upsampling which I think really brings out the value of the X20
 
I think your  main issue is not having the XMOS drivers recognized by Windows.
Try the install again and make sure you delete previous versions.
 
Depending on which version of ASIO proxy you load you can access the 'output' settings
in either SACD (if you use 0.9.2)  
or Playback->ASIO->output (if you use 0.8.3)
 
I ended up going to 0.8.3 since the 0.9.2 was not very stable
 
When in 'playback' -> 'output' - > 'ASIO' double click on 'foo_dsd_asio'
This should then open up the ASIO proxy in which you select the XMOS driver and set playback to DoP
Set both 'DSD to DSD' and 'PCM to DSD' to both Type C (FP64) and DSD128.
 
I then installed a Gustard U12 which enabled DSD256 with i2s to the X20
I had it working fine for a while but then it suddenly stopped after a Windows update
 
I then installed Daphile (www.daphile.com) which simplified the whole process, was much more stable, is less demanding on the CPU (especially when upsampling) and resulted in an improved sound. You can trial Daphile by installing direct to memory and not  overwriting your system drive. The Gustard xmos driver settings are trivial compared to Foobar.
 
Oct 12, 2016 at 2:34 AM Post #973 of 1,319

trappedintime

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I have an X20u on the way. I've read about 57 pages of this thread and seen a lot of comparisons with other DACs, a lot of discussion about the voltage on the outputs. Headphone listening will be a big part of it for me, but not everything. Right now I have two headphone amps: Liquid Carbon and Ragnarok. My Ragnarok also has XLR outputs that run through the wall from my music room to my living room, and connects to my Oppo HA-1 which is being used as a preamp and feeding my Parasound Halo A21. So I'd like the X20U to output to the Ragnarok, and perhaps sometimes also listen with my Liquid Carbon balanced as well.

Is anyone here pairing the X20 with either of these headphone amps? Will I need to dial back the gain to -6 to -11db in order to have quality listening with either of these amps (without blowing my eardrums out)? Any help would be appreciated on what I should consider when setting it up. I've fed my Teac UD-501 to both of these amps without issue over XLR and RCA, same with my Sony UDA-1, but the X20 seems like a different beast.
 
Oct 12, 2016 at 3:57 AM Post #974 of 1,319

Triplefun

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Congratulations in zeroing in on the Gustard
You won't be disappointed
 
The Gustard XLR output is 5.6v RMS for 0db (or so I have been lead to believe)
 
The liquid carbon has an input sensitivity of 0.775v for 0db
therefore you should reduce the Gustard output by -9db (every 3db halves the voltage)
 
 
The ragnarok
http://schiit.com/products/ragnarok
 
Assuming a 1v input sensitivity for 0db (gain - 1 mode) then the gustard should be set either -6 or -7db
 
At the end of the day, let your ears determine what's best
I don't believe that any settings on the Gustard will upset either of the headphone amps
 
Oct 12, 2016 at 3:09 PM Post #975 of 1,319

bwanaaa

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No sound with any windows player.
 
Hardware: windows 10, properly installed XMOS Driver v 2023 and rebooted.
    ( in Device Manager XMOS XS-1U8 MFA seen, properties version 3.2)
    (in sound control panel, XMOS XS-1U8 MFA selected as default device)
 
In Jriver 22
  playback options->->Audio Device XMOS USB Audio 2.0 ST 2023 [ASIO]
                              -> Device settings->default
                              -> Settings -> DSP & output format-> default (output encoding - none, Sample rates - no change)
                              -> Settings -> bitstreaming none
 
 
try to play variable bit rate mp3 -> error dialog 'Playback could not be started on the output 'ASIO' using the format '44.1 kHz 2ch.'
                                                                         'This output format is not supported by your hardware.'
 
try to play flac  192/24               -> error dialog 'Playback could not be started on the output 'ASIO' using the format '192 kHz 2ch.'
                                                                         'The ASIO device 'XMOS USB Audio 2.0 ST 2023' does not support the sample rate of 48000 Hz.'
 
try to play DSD 5 mHz               -> error dialog 'Playback could not be started on the output 'ASIO' using the format 'DoP 5.6 MHz 2ch.'
                                                                         'The ASIO device 'XMOS USB Audio 2.0 ST 2023' does not support the sample rate of 48000 Hz.'
 
 
 
In foobar 1.3.12,
 
Prefs->Playback->->Output-> Device: DSD: ASIO : XMOS USB Audio 2.0 ST 2023
Prefs->Playback->->Output-> -> ASIO -> ASIO drivers: XMOS USB Audio 2.0 ST 2023
 
try to play variable bit rate mp3         -> error dialog 'Unrecoverable playback error: 'Could not set sample rate to 192000 Hz'
try to play flac  192/24                       -> error dialog 'Unrecoverable playback error: 'Could not set sample rate to 192000 Hz'
try to play DSD 5 mHz (DSD 128)    -> error dialog 'Unrecoverable playback error: 'Could not set sample rate to 192000 Hz'
 

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