I’ve played with this dac roughly for one week. I’d share my impressions by now, before I will start my evaluation of Matrix Sabre-pro tomorrow. Gustard has claimed that he came up with the own implementation of digital filter to improve DS quality. I mostly like such approaches. Yes “mostly” -- when they worked, it could raise the total quality into a whole another level like DM nailed with Convert-2. However, wrong engineering can also give birth to a complete garbage like (recent) AGD shits. Their r2r dacs really made me more cautious toward any original implementations. Btw agd 9038 also sucked. Starting to suspect Kingwa’s incapability to handle digital circuits. For this reason, I didn’t hope much for Gustard at first, as there were already tons of BS with his products. The most notorious example was DAC-X20 (9028-based) combined with weird mods. I could get my ears on modded x20 at several different circumstances. To my ears, it wasn’t as fucking as agd. But lacking coherence and uncontrolled “sabre” were enough for me to walk away. I still believe much cheaper Modi 3 and DX3 pro destroy X20 no matter whether or not modded. Then why did I decide to spend time with Gustard again? That’s because of my audiofool buddy (we call ourselves like this) who owns x26. One day he came to my place to hear convert-2. We enjoyed dac talk as well. At the end of intensive but directionless chats, he said “Hey bro, you should hear my gustard. You must like it.” If that’s from a random person, I’d just ignore it. But as from one who knows my tastes, the statement a little motivated me. Plus, he kindly loaned me his dac. And since then, I’ve been seriously testing x26. Shortly speaking, it’s legit. Let me be clear. It’s NOT a giant killer. Regard any dude arguing x26 beats yggdrasil as a deaf, liar, or shill. But this is the first solid performer that I think can replace convert-2 without too much loss. Final decision will be made after I test Matrix X-Sabre pro loaner unit (I’ll get it likely tomorrow) though. Before X26, the most impressive 9038 dac was smsl d1. In short, it showed me well-controlled sharpness. Thus, as a 9038 dac, I was originally expecting x26 could sound like soekris 1421, but it didn’t. Rather, it mimicked Gungnir Multibit(a1) pretty much. I will explain more details later but here are some of the highlights: USB was unusually bad. SPDIF coax input was ok (nothing wrong). And I like toslink optical the best with this dac, which is also unusual. There are several options of jitter controls (via PLL filter). “Cdt opt” worked better than any other filters. No idea what that actually means. Anyway compared to bypassing, the change was simply dramatic. I’d say the change is as drastic as Convert-2’s master clock mode (in comparison with other clock modes). Great transience. Nearly on par with convert-2. Maybe one or a couple of ticks overshooting. I’d say 95% accuracy of convert-2. Low level plankton are decently resolved, with a hint of over-exaggeration. Less (truly) resolving than yggdrasil 2 and less vivid than convert-2. Pretty neutral tone. Maybe only slightly tipped up on top -- nevertheless it doesn’t touch my nerve with marginal or sibilant recordings. Bass is less meaty than Gumby1 (from the memory) but more so than convert-2. Less slamming than convert-2. But still very enjoyable. Staging is clearly better than Convert-2 (when tested with both JLH+Lore speakers and BW+Ether 2). Nice layering and distance somewhere between Yggdrasil2 and Gumby1. But not as fully 3d-ish as Schiit multibits -- objects placed at noticeably different coordinates on z-axis but each object is very thin like a sheet of paper. Less veil than convert-2 at a cost of less blacker background. If convert-2 is like iPhone X display, x26 is iPhone 8 screen. And with this analogy, yggy2 is like an eizo lcd monitor. Speaking of aggressiveness, X26 is more forgiving than the average 9038pro dacs I’ve tested so far. D1 was almost the median among the bunch, and similar with 1421. X26 is more in line with Gumby1. Maybe a tad brighter. Clearly less incisive than convert-2. Overall X26 sounds like Gumby1 souped with a good traits of Convert-2 and the good Sabre (9018 and 9028 automatically disqualified). Downside is still a bit artificial sounding instead of true naturalness of Yggdrasil A2.