Gustard x16 vs Topping D90

:sleeping: Lazy trolling buddy :man_shrugging: you’ve previously stated everything sounds the same you just need to volume match…Bye bye.

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Fun fact: This is Z’s forum. Budget guy, recommending good, but low-cost, mostly chinese stuff (amps, dacs, iems, headphones, speakers, all of it). And Z sometimes gets laughed at for not caring about high-priced gear. He believed for a while that “all DACs sounded the same”. He changed. But he never even said “all amps sound the same”. Even when most of the amps he tried were chi-fi stuff.

I can tell the difference between three 100$ amps in front of me, Z can too, and you can’t even tell the difference between 500$+ hi-fi gear. Think about that for a while…

And let people with ears enjoy the forum in peace.

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Sorry @Coran for that interlude :grimacing:…has anyone got some firsthand feedback/thoughts on these two DAC’s when paired with the A90? :beers:

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Is MQA decoding important to you? In that price range of the D90 and the Gustard isn’t too far off, you’ll be better served by a Schiit Bifrost 2, or an Denafrips Ares II. A lot of love here for them in that mid priced tier, but like I said, if you’re specifically looking for MQA, you need look elsewhere.


Yeah, not too sure I will ever care about MQA. What is is about the Bifrost 2 or the Ares II that sets them apart from something like the D90?

I think what I’m looking for now is a great standalone DAC that will last me a good long while, while feeding both my A90 and a future tube amp.

I don’t have either of them. Simply going by others whose opinion here I’ve come to trust as I’ve picked up equipment based on their feedback and it’s been spot on. All my DAC have been below or above that price point.

There’s a lot of content though here about both the Ares II and the BF 2. The D90 being said to seem sterile comparatively. I’m a fan of resistor ladder (R2R type) DAC which both the Ares and BF are.

Unless there’s specific features that you want from the Gustard x16 or D90 and you’re strictly into measurements, why not get one of those uber-measuring DACs listed here priced $200 or lower:

There’s offerings from JDS Labs, Geshelli, and Schitt that fits right in your measurement criteria.

I mean, if your peak playback is 100 db SPL, then any DAC having a SINAD of 100 dB or above will be audibly transparent.

You only need to spend around $100 for a well-measuring DAC. The same goes for headphone amps too.

Thanks, I’ve been reading those reviews and threads and both seem like good alternatives. The Bifrost sounds like if could be really fun. I think it will come down to the sound I want with my A90. I know that thing is ridiculously transparent, so an overly clinical DAC might be boring. Alternatively, I want to add a tube amp to my set up soon, so maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing. I have a lot to think about now. Or overthink…

What is it that makes you prefer an R2R DAC?

I was definitely considering the Geshelli JNOG (as I prefer USB). Sadly they won’t have a replacement for that DAC for a while it seems.

I’ve not heard the A90 but have reviewed the L30 and A50s which are built on scaled back versions of the same amp circuits. TBH, describing the Topping amps as ‘transparent’ is not accurate, IMO. The sound is oversmoothed which actually obscures detail and reduces resolution. The L30 and A50s also rolled off the bass below about 50Hz. The A50s did this did this roll off less so than the L30 so it stands to reason that the A90 would do it less yet. Both were hampered by that oversmoothness, though. Of the DACs I’ve heard with balanced outputs, the overall more energetic presentation of the Ares II would be the best counterbalance to the Topping smoothness while the Bifrost 2 would be the best counterbalance to the Topping bass roll off. If you’re OK with using single ended connections the Soekris dac1321 (now discontinued and only available used, but soon to be replaced with the dac1221 which sounds like it may be relatively affordable) has an energy level closer to the Ares II with similar bass heft to the Bifrost 2. That comes with a more initmate soundstage than either Ares or BF2 and an analytical presentation. Soekris also makes more expensive models that will have balaned outputs. Food for thought. Good luck with your search!

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This is a great description, thank you! I think I’m pretty sold on the Bifrost 2. I used to have the original Jotunheim but moved on from that a few years ago, and haven’t kept up with Schiit’s new offerings. I’m pretty impressed. I actually was just reading your review of the Jotunheim 2 and that…is now being strongly considered. I have been seeing a lot more people saying that the A90 is too clinical. I like a touch of joy in my music (I mean, what’s the point otherwise). So the Jotunheim 2/Bifrost 2 combo is potentially a great option. Lots to consider. I appreciate your thoughts!


There are always exceptions, of course, but the short answer is that (<$1000, anyway) R2R and multibit implementations have a tendency to sound more natural, with more spacial information. The result tends to be more separation, better timbre, improved soundstage (even if narrower)…

DS DACs can do those things too, it just tends to be at a higher price point because, while a chip is cheaper, they’re hard to implement well. This is why ESS is associated with sharp treble ‘glare’, as most budget implementations are poorly done and focus more on measurements than sound quality to the ear. The ESS chips are actually some of the better I’ve heard as you start getting more into the midfi range the likes of the Cayin iDAC-6 Mkii (my main point of reference). Moving up, you also have DACs like the Lampizator Amber 3 based on a DS design that outperforms (from what I hear) most DACs in it’s range in the spacial arena. It just takes getting into that range of gear before the playing field levels a bit.

So, the tech used is less important than the care taken in implementation by someone who knows what they’re doing with the design. You can get ‘analytical’ or ‘musical’ subjective sound either way, but the cost to implement R2R and multibit designs tends to put their starting point a bit higher (a la Bifrost/Ares), while still lower than where most quality DS designs with some real sound focused engineering R&D come in.

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Based on what you’ve said here I think the Jot 2 is an excellent candidate for you. You’ll still get a neutral presentation but with a little more life than the A90 with the option of a warmer, thicker sound too. Jot 2 also pairs very well with the Bifrost 2.

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I was shopping for a DAC and considered these same two DACs.
I went for the X16 because it measured as good and it had all the features I wanted:
Out: XLR
Plus: Costs 250$ less.
Good subjective reviews.
A maybe plus: Some say it’s the only “truly balanced” of the two (whatever that means).

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I ended up getting the Bifrost 2 (along with the Jotunheim 2). They came in a few days ago, and I really couldn’t be happier with the purchase. Thanks all for the assistance!


Let us know how it goes!

Only one advice, please, don’t buy m400, the worst investment in my life.

Popping in for a quick question as I’ve been comparing the Topping vs. Gustard for an imminent purchase - either D70S, D90 or this X16, which I really like the idea of because of the measurements, and the lower price!

My question is whether the Gustard can output to both XLR and RCA at the same time, like the Topping? And either way, how do you quick select the output on the Gustard? Doesn’t really matter if it can’t do both at once, but I want the ability to switch between them as I have a pair of Geshelli amps, one of which is balanced only, and the other I will run through RCA in line with a Loki+ for EQ. I know the function button quick press is input select, but what about output?

Thanks in advance!

Well, I received my X16 and am very, very happy so far although I am experiencing one issue, but maybe it is my amp, or rather the way it is playing together with the Gustard?

I have two Geshelli Labs amps, both the Archel 2.5Pro and the Erish, which I just received. I have been swapping back and forth and I prefer the balanced output of the Erish, as it does separate the sound more, feels like it has a wider soundstage and everything seems a little, I dunno, crispier. The issue is the the volume getting turned up just past the point where it is uncomfortable for me results in the Erish turning off, and back on when you lower the volume. Now, I am a total n00b, but the Archel 2.5Pro doesn’t do this.

Any advice? The X16 is phenomenal but I want to make sure there’s no issue; I really don’t think it’s anything Gustard-hardware related, and I confirmed with Geno @ Geshelli that the Erish is comfortable taking the 4V signal from the X16. Thank you.

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Got any answers? Maybe ask in the :large_blue_diamond: Geshelli Erish thread.