Just wondering if anyone has experience with the Gustard A26 DAC. I am currently using Naim DAC V1 between an Antipodes server/streamer and a 282 (i.e. V1 not used as a pre, and I intend to keep using the same source for now).
Trialing imported Gustards would be too difficult in this part of the world, to see if it is a worthwhile upgrade over a V1. There seem to be very few A26 reviews, and in them they get compared with everything from Denefrips Pontius 2 to Chord Hugo TT’s (and even a suggestion it is not too far off Dave, which I find too hard to believe). The difference between these compared DAC’s is so significant (from what I read) that it’s hard to know what to make of the A26 or whether to order one.
I’m sure the nDac would be suggested as an alternative here, but none for sale in my part of the world…and I don’t have budget for NDX. The V1 would become a nice addition to my office system.
No experience with it, nor any knowledge. All I can say is that at one time I used a Gustard U12 isolater-converter to remove HF when feeding a Mac Mini source into Chord Hugo, and I was impressed by it, excellent quality and value for money. But at the time it cost only just over £100 so was just about in ”worth taking a punt” territory, whereas that DAC isn’t.
In my experience the choice of DAC is very significant to sound quality and character - I much preferred Hugo to the DAC in the ND5XS, and then Dave trounced the Hugo. Hearing is really necessary, so I suggest trying to see if you could order one on a trial basis, or at least with the facility to return for a refund, even if you have to cover postage. Otherwise, in terms of making a decision based on someone else’s experience, reviewer or forum member or anyone else, that would only be appropriate if you know or have very good reason to believe that their preference for sound accords closely with yours, and that I think would only be possible by comparing opinions on a wide range of different items of gear that you both have heard, both liking and not, and with a commonality of musical style preference.
I think you will struggle to find someone with this DAC; it’s quite new for a start, and not easy to get hold of in the UK, unless you buy it on-line. It would be more flexible that your V1, as it is a streaming DAC. It does look very neat and tidy inside and out, and early impressions seem to be very positive.
As for the price, well if it was supported by a dealer network it would be at least double the cost, so comparisons with costlier Chord’s are not as daft as they seem.
I’ve not heard this DAC, but I do have a Topping D90LE, and that was an significant upgrade (IMO) on the DAC that was in the NAC-N 272 that I used to own. However, I wouldn’t have bought the D90LE “blind” (or should that be “deaf”), and was able to get one on home loan.
Thanks IB. Trialing would seem wise, but at that price point, I am unlikely to find a big upgrade within the country. Your reply did, however, encourage me to look at Gustard suppliers return policies. It would be a hassle and some risk with shipping, tax, etc, but they say they are returnable. I’ll give it some more thought.
Thanks for your thoughts WW. The streaming side of the Gustard may be a bonus for some, but I don’t think I would be using it. Similar for the preamp functions, but it appears the pre can be disabled/bypassed (unlike my Naim DAC V1). I suspect the DAC section of the NAC-N 272 may have a lot in common with the DAC V1, but I don’t say that with any authority. Interesting thoughts about dealer networks and price points too.
Hi Ignace, (most of this posted on a ‘Brilliant Cheap DACs’ page:
Yes, I am enjoying it. It seems to breath life into the mids and push more punch and variation in the base. Even the silences between all that seem more silent (if that makes any sense). The top end is quite detailed and that could be the area that opinions would be most divided, depending on your system and your music choices. The A26 has a lot of detail in there. (They say not as much as the Gustard X26 Pro, but more brightness than the R26 - noting that I haven’t heard either). I really enjoy the detail it brings to most of my music, but also can find it a bit too much sometimes when straying into a trebly, heavy distortion filled, rock tracks at raised volumes on my system…but it doesn’t stop me trying. I do think it’s a great value DAC and have no reason to disbelieve the good reviews that you refer to… Having said all that, here are some reasons you should not take my view as gospel without more corroboration. a) I have very little DAC experience, having only owned two (plus a couple of real cheapies that don’t really count). b) I only use it as a DAC (not a streamer or a pre), so YMMV if you use it differently.
Since writing that I did do some back-and-forth comparisons with the DAC V1. (which is still very enjoyable IMO). However, it was no contest for me, and I believe the A26 is a worthy upgrade. Some of that brightness noted above has eased off with more hours of use, also helped by a change away from silver USB cable and reinserting a real Naim NAPSC back onto the NAC282.
The DAC V1 has been moved to my work office, where it will still be enjoyed (along with the Beyerdynamic T1’s for now, as the A26 does not have a headphone amp).
That’s something I noticed when running my present DAC through my ex-272; on one track I was listening to there is a short pause and it was that quiet I thought the stream had stopped. I had to look if it was still playing, and it was. I’d never had that experience with my 272.