Gustard x30 Review

Gustard x30 Review

Review: Gustard X30 DAC/Streamer

---------

Initial Impressions

The Gustard X30 DAC/Streamer has been a remarkable addition to our lineup. From the moment we powered it on, the X30 impressed us with its surprisingly smooth performance. It’s completely devoid of any glare, offering spectacular detail without ever feeling forced or unnatural.

A/B Comparisons:

Gustard X30 vs. Denafrips Terminator

Tonality and Detail: In several A/B comparisons, the Gustard X30 and Denafrips Terminator were tonally similar. However, the X30 edged out the Terminator in detail and PRaT (Pace, Rhythm, and Timing). The X30’s ability to extract minute details without sounding analytical is noteworthy.

Depth and Layering: The Terminator had a slight advantage in depth and layering, providing a slightly more three-dimensional soundstage. This is a characteristic strength of R2R technology, adding a touch of realism and spatial accuracy that some listeners may prefer.

Overall Experience: Both DACs performed exceptionally well, the X30 edged out the terminator in detail retrieval and rhythmic drive, surprisingly the x30 was not far behind in three dimensionally, (I am going to add a further update to this section because the more hours the x30 is getting on it, the closer its getting in this area) Both Dac's were able to float images way beyond the speakers, above and behind the listening position. 

Gustard X30 vs. Gustard R26

Sound Quality: The X30 delivers a smoother, more refined sound compared to the R26. While the R26 is an excellent DAC, the X30 takes it a step further with its detailed and natural presentation. The tonal balance of the X30 is impeccable, making it a joy to listen to for extended periods.

Streaming Capabilities: The X30’s streaming section is particularly impressive. In blind A/B tests comparing direct LAN streaming to I2S input from our Soundaware D300 Reference, the differences were indistinguishable. The R26, while competent, does not quite match the seamless integration and performance of the X30 in this area.

External Clock Integration: When testing with an external clock, the X30 showed minor improvements, but not as significant as the R26. This indicates that the X30’s internal clock is already highly optimized, reducing the need for an external clock to achieve peak performance.

Overall Experience: The X30 outshines the R26 in every aspect, from sound quality to streaming capabilities. It’s a more polished and sophisticated DAC that offers a superior listening experience.

Gustard X30 vs. Gustard A26

Sound Quality: The A26 is another solid DAC from Gustard, but the X30 surpasses it with its exceptional detail and fluidity. The X30’s sound is smooth and engaging, with no hint of brightness or fatigue, even with challenging recordings.

Streaming Capabilities: Similar to the R26, the A26’s streaming section is good, but the X30’s performance is on another level. The seamless integration and high-quality streaming capabilities of the X30 set it apart.

External Clock Integration: When using an external clock, the improvements in the X30 were more subtle compared to the A26. This again highlights the X30’s superior internal clock design, which minimizes the need for external clock enhancements.

Overall Experience: The X30 is a significant upgrade over the A26. It offers better detail, smoother sound, and superior streaming capabilities, making it the clear choice for audiophiles seeking top-tier performance.

Addressing Brightness Concerns

For those worried that the inclusion of four ESS Sabre chips would result in a bright or fatiguing sound, rest assured, you couldn't be more wrong! Even with a full loom of silver cables and metal dome tweeters, the X30 delivered a soothing and engaging listening experience. I found myself drifting off on more than one occasion while relaxing to classical pieces, with not a hint of brightness or fatigue. The edges of strings and piano notes were tonally perfect—smooth, fluid, and polished.

Streaming Capabilities

The streaming section of this DAC is impressively robust. In our tests, we compared streaming directly over LAN from a switch to using the I2S input from our Soundaware D300 Reference. Despite several blind A/B tests, we couldn't discern any noticeable difference in sound quality between the two methods. This is a testament to the X30's excellent streaming capabilities.

External Clock Integration

Testing with an external clock versus the internal clock revealed minor improvements with the external clock. However, the enhancements were not as significant as one might expect—certainly less than the improvements observed with the Gustard A26 or R26 models. While an external clock can provide a slight edge, the X30’s internal clock is already of such high quality that the difference is marginal.

** Preamp Section Performance

While the Gustard X30 includes a preamp section, our tests revealed that running it directly into a power amplifier may not deliver the best performance. For example, when paired with our Denafrips Apollo, Luxman M900U, and custom-built dual mono Hypex Nilai, even on high gain, the addition of a good preamplifier significantly improved the sound. The preamp added more weight, definition, smoothness, linearity, and dynamics to the overall performance. Therefore, to truly unlock the X30's potential, we recommend using it with a high-quality preamplifier.

Final Thoughts

The big question everyone asks: is the Gustard X30 better than the A26 or R26? The simple answer is a resounding yes. The X30 outperforms these models in every way. Its ability to deliver detailed, natural sound without any harshness, coupled with its impressive streaming capabilities, makes it a standout in its class and punches well about its price. 

 

Conclusion

Gustard continues to push the boundaries of DAC technology while ensuring their products offer a refined, smooth presentation. They never sacrifice musicality for better measured results. Hats off to the Gustard team and full respect—it's clear their focus is on striving to achieve the best and creating musical technology masterpieces that are both affordable and accessible. Keep up the good work, guys!

If you're interested in a demonstration of the Gustard X30, contact Audiophile Shop Australia today to arrange an in-store demo.

(I will add to this review in the following weeks with further updates so stay posted, regards Aaron) 

<p>Update: 28th June:&nbsp;</p>

<p>Wow this DAC just keeps getting better with almost 30 hours on it now!. Today we did some extensive testing of its streaming capability:&nbsp;</p>

<p>1. We realised when hot swapping network switches and Lan cables that the unit will store entire track in buffer, you may be thinking, great, digital front end isn't as critical! So did we until realising we were very wrong!&nbsp;</p>

<p>We settled on a digital front end compromising of server running Audirvana --&gt; Lan --&gt; n18 switch, modified 5g wireless modem --&gt; Lan --&gt;&nbsp; n18 switch --&gt; SPF Fiber --&gt; n18pro with ALA audio 10mhz clock input &amp; ALA audio clock cable --&gt; Lan --&gt; Gustard x30&nbsp;</p>

<p>This setup improved everything significantly, although it does&nbsp; indicate that the units streaming protocol is still heavily reliant on the quality of the received network data, that's initially stored in the switch's ARM / DSP memory, once clocked the regenerated network signal is then orwarded to IP receiving host, "the more optimised this process is the less interference in the input signal to data process".</p>

<p>More updates to come....</p>

Back to blog

4 comments

Great review thanks.
I have a Gustard X26 Pro and use the Vivid filter.
Shame you didn’t compare my Model with the X30.

John

Many thanks for the first review of this new gustard dac.
You adress all critical points even though we want more….
From what I read, kudos to gustard to nail it again…
Before taking the leap, how would you describe the infamous “meat on the bones” as many reviewers say comment on R2R vs delta/sigma ?
Cheers

Julien

Great to find a review of this DAC! Which filter are you using for PCM? I just got mine and cant figure out which is best. Thanks.

Eduardo

Been waiting for someone to chime in on the x30! Looking forwards to your update, specifically it wound be great for more info regarding A/b comparison between r26! X30 is sounding very positive so far, a big thanks is in order, really appreciate you taking the time to write the review!

John

Leave a comment