I am down to the last piece of the puzzle. I am very happy with the sound of my system at this point, so I’m not sure if the DAC needs to be improved on. What I am looking for is to hear those background subtleties in the music a little more pronounced. The strum of a guitar, the stroke of the piano keys, the clicks, ticks & tingles that accompany the music. I do here that now, I just wondered if there is a way to elaborate on those background sounds (details) a bit more.

Is it the DAC that will make this happen? If it is, they say my Gustard R26 is as good as a $5K DAC, how far over that $5K do you think I have to go?

Thank you for your help and suggestions and the best to you all over the holiday season and beyond!

PS: I listen mostly to Jazz

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@yakbob - you know, I could never bring myself to endure headphones Bob. I understand what you're saying, but I like to "Feel" the music, something that headphones don't produce for me, but thank you for the suggestion!

I am always suspicious of the claims of sound quality comparable of components 3x in cost. If you carefully choose a DAC that fits your values in sound quality I suspect you will be very surprised and happy in the $5 - $6K range. 

I would have a look at these: like read every review… don’t pay much attention to marketing hype. I’m sure others will have suggestions.


Chord Hugo TT 2

Gold Note IS-1000


@ghdprentice the Chord TT2 & the Gold Note IS-1000 are both multi-function units. Do you think there is a standalone DAC that maybe a better value but have a similar sound signature per your suggestions?  

@navyachts , I understand your position and wanting to stick with a speaker based solution.

While I’ve not heard it, the original Denafrips Terminator or Terminator 2 might be worth researching. It’s still R2R like your Gustard, but most of what I read on the Terminator is that they are highly resolute with a lot of detail. It may be the ticket at around $5k new. 

At the “how much more” over $5k level, and if you can stomach the appearance and goofy UI, you might want to look into the Chord Dave. Do you own an audio cabinet with doors that close? 😀



@yakbob LOL +1 on the Dave design. I just can't bring myself to spending over $8K on a DAC when they say it benefits by spending a further $5K on their M Scaler! The Terminator sounds interesting thought. Thanks!

"I just wondered if there is a way to elaborate on those background sounds (details) a bit more."

Yes, speaker placement (including toe-in).

Perhaps just slight/minor repositioning if the ESL's are already sounding close to what you want.

I assume from the room pics that you don't want to "treat" it.



@dekay well, by looking at the room, it is difficult to treat. We made heavy curtains to cover the windows and I did buy five 2‘ x 4‘ acoustic panels from GIK acoustics and place them around the room wherever I could find some bare wall space. as far as speaker placement, I have used the flashlight method as outlined in the Martin Logan set up manual. I could try tweaking them a little bit more I guess. I will try. Thank you!

I didn’t see the acoustic panels, but recall you posting about the proximity to sofa (left speaker) and the large window some time ago.

I haven’t worked with panel speakers for years, but once you get the soundstage to be more specific/defined it can usually be fine-tuned further.

The same goes for traditional box speakers.

I would start with tiny changes in toe-in for your intended goal (maybe start by toeing-out).

PS: Our living room is a non-symmetrical "U" shape with no commercial acoustic treatment, but I’ve achieved excellent sound with a few setups over the years.



@navyachts I really like your system.  The CODA pieces are particularly intriguing.  How do you like them?  As far as DACs go, the Terminator has already been mentioned.  You could also try a DDC into your current DAC.  That would cost you less than the $5k to try but probably won't be as good as the jump straight to $5k DAC.  I have a Hermes DDC, I bought used for $1100, feeding my Pontus II via I2S and it lowered the noise floor, opened up the soundstage and improved imaging (both of which were already very good).  Detail retrieval improved as well.  I suspect the Terminator would sound even better though.

In my not very scientific opinion, you have to spend around $10K to get the detail you are looking for.

I started out with a humble Schiit Gungnir, and ended up moving to ever more resolving/expensive DAC's. 

I finally settled on a Brinkmann Nyquist II. Much more than I wanted to spend, but I scored a used one at a great price. I think it will provide you with as much definition as your system can provide. A less expensive option would be the Ayre QB-9 Twenty, which you can find used or upgraded by Ayre for a reasonable charge. It is quite transparent. I use it for my office system.


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Denafrips Terminator or Kitsune Hifi May-KTE would be good upgrade choices. Stretch some more for the Lampizator Baltic 4 (tube, can tube roll for taste) or T+A DAC200, both which sonically punches above their price points.

Other choices are Wired4Sound DAC-2v2SE, Audio-GD R7HE MK2, Bel Canto Ex1 DAC (Transparent) - all had positive reviews

@dekay - OK, I posted some pictures of my GIK panels. The one that's sitting on top of the curtain rod will be gone as soon as my very time-oriented wife finds a clock for that spot. Then I don't know where it will go, probably down on the floor beside the couch. It's going to get dirty! I even tried a couple of these panels behind the speakers, but it didn't sound good at all. 

@jastralfu - Hey, thanks! Coda stuff is awesome. I used to own their CSiB integrated in the same configuration. Loved it!

@gdnrbob "In my not very scientific opinion, you have to spend around $10K to get the detail you are looking for" UGH, that's depressing, I better start saving up then. Glad you found the sound that you were looking for.

@kennyc Thanks for the list, I've read somewhere that the May-KTE is a bit overrated, but I haven't heard it myself. I used to have the W4S model you suggested. Paid $4K for it and sold it for $1K due to financial problems during Covid, so now rebuilding. Wish I still had it but I don't want to spend $4K again just to try it. I am on the HiFi Shark wait list for a 10th Anniversary should one come along just to try. 

Hearing more subtleties in your system could mean lowering your noise floor with something like CAD unit. You could also demo some different types of cables and power cords as well.  Your equipment may be perfectly fine but to get that extra 10-15% improvement may require looking at the foundation of your set up. 

Good luck and let us know how you make out. 

The Gustard is not even close to any quality even $3k dac 

I owned the 26 with upgraded power cord and synergistic purple fuse ,

look up the T+A 200 dac- preamp 

it is around $7k less with discounts ,in our audio get together I have heard most Everythjng out there, I am purchasing this dac, I own a Denafrips Terminator2 

which is about $4600 and is night and day better then the Gustard on Every level 

very realistic sounding, the T+A 200 dac takes it to another level still 

it competes or beats with Any dac up to $15k  .see some you tube reviews then get 

a Demo this would be your Reference end game dac .

@audioman58 sorry, “look up the T+A 200 dac- preamp it is around $7k less with discounts ,in our audio get together”

Where do I find this get together discount? And, being a preamp, do I need my Coda preamp?

The Ferrum Wandla (~$3k) with Ferrum's external, hybrid power supply (~$1.2k) is reportedly better than the T+A 200 and substantially less money -- unless you're playing native DSD files, in which case the T+A is better. 

The Weiss DAC 204 ($3.4k) is reportedly very detailed and very good in every other respect.

The Berkeley mid-tier DAC (for $11k new) is reportedly more detailed than the Chord DAVE ($14k) and, according to Robert Harley at the The Absolute Sound, sounds nearly as good as Berkeley's flagship ($28k).

Other component upgrades could bring out more detail, of course -- streamer for example.  And cables!  I bought a used Inakustik Silver cable to connect a reclocker to my Chord DAVE, and it boosted detail more than I could have ever expected.   

Hello NavyYachts!  Be sure you have a quaity cable feeding the DAC. It can sound no better than the signal it gets. If you are feeding it via USB cable, be sure to use a good one.  Good cable are available used at decent prices. Try a Wireworld Silver STarlight Seven ( a couple of years old) or something with silver wire inside. There is a Canadian outfit with an odd name that makes a fine cable. The fancy Japanese cables re good too. I wrote a rather lengthy piece about my adventures with DACs and cables a year or so ago. I'll be happy to send it to you if you like. Happy listening! 

The T+A 200 gets fantastic reviews from those who own them.  I haven’t heard much about the Preamp section in them, in theory, you wouldn’t need your Preamp any longer but the synergy between the Coda Pre and Amp might be better.  I’ve tried a decent amount of DAC’s, anywhere from Node 2i to DAC in a Parasound P6, to MHDT, Krell, Lumin D2 / P1 and some others I’m forgetting.  Price ranges between $500-$10,000.  Once I got into the 5-10 k range, so much depended on the sound signature I liked and synergy of the DAC with the rest of my Gear.  That’s likely as important as price.  Right now I have a PS Audio MKii, it’s to my ears the best balance between detail, nuances, subtleties in the music being highlighted but not being too overly analytical, dry.  Weiss, Lamp are great suggestions based on what you are looking for as well.  Briiscati would be another brand to give a look to, Lumin as well but most of Lumin’s gear are Streamer / DAC combo’s.  P1 / X1 would be above your price range new but get you the details you are after.  


The description of what you are looking for in sound seems to be the opposite of what the RR dac is offering. I have the Gustard X26 PRO instead of the R26 and I enjoy all the details you may be missing. I used to have a RR dac, albeit the lower end Denafrips Ares II and ended up selling it.

I have a modified R26 with external 10MHz clock and prefer the Weiss DAC204 with the stock power supply. I hear a small improvement by swapping the stock power supply with a linear power supply.

With that said, I find the R26 to be a good value and great for the DIY hobbyist given all the modification opportunities.

Huge R26 Thread

Based on what you are looking for, I believe that you will like the Weiss DAC204. This review compares it to a more expensive, currently well regarded DAC.

Weiss DAC204 Review

@navyachts the suggestion by @ghdprentice to try a Chord DAC is right on target I think. Chord has a great tone, good dynamics and offers few filter options to fine tune the sound. I was running a Chord Qutest when I had the Martin Logan Montis with Pass XA30.8 Class A amp and it was a very good match. 

Also, just my opinion…the Martin Logan 13A are warm and delicate sounding speakers when it comes to the presentation. Your amps are Class A and that in general is going to mellow things out all on its own with sweeter treble and plush bass.
So just some options aside from changing a DAC…look into trying different speaker cables and interconnects. I can’t tell what you’re using now but if the cables are contributing to additional warmth in the presentation, you might still be facing the same challenge with a new dac. Again, just a thought…

Ah…just went back to your system page and saw this

Stock power cables, Blue Jean speaker cables (12 awg - 6ft long) Blue Jean interconnects 

is that still accurate?

IMHO (from personal experience) the cable or power cord/vibration devices can be the issue. The good news is they are a lot cheaper to address. After spending $170 for a 1.5M Pangea coax (same specs as DH Labs @ $240) I tripped across a thread here about Ali-Express Chinese cables. I have no issues saving money especially on cables. Dipped my toe in the water and ordered Nordost Odin 2 (name knock-off), both a 1.0 and 1.5m for half the price of the Pangea! Figured it would sell quick but noooo. Anyway, the Odin 2 brought my entire system to new levels of enjoyment. After sufficient break in with the 1.5 I swapped it out for the 1.0m and was further shocked that a mere half meter shorter could reveal so much more. I wound up replacing all the cables in my system, but moved to Odin 2 Gold which gives me more texture, aka fuzz on the peach.

Since I swapped out the Odin 2 for Odin 2 Gold for over a year I have been searching for a Odin 2 Gold coax cable which I finally found and should be here in a couple days: price a mere $46 dollars and free shipping


The DAC is probably not the last piece of your puzzle. Seems you are streaming music. Your music source files are the last piece of the puzzle: if they are dynamically compressed, no price-point DAC will jump the shark you’ve placed in this path. You are constrained in details by the source file, primarily. In all likelihood, but were I a betting man, I’d wager. Sort that, since no streaming service will be doing it for you. Too many clients willing to pony up each month not knowing which master/remaster of any given song/album they’re getting for you to expect better from a streaming service. Its convenience you pay for in those services more than perfection, and fair is fair, eh!?


Maybe I missed it, but what is your budget and no you do not have to go over $5K to beat the 26!  Do you like the sound from the 26? I have the Denifrips Pontus ll and it is also a Ladder DAC and I believe it is hands down better. The next model up is the Venus ll and I’m hoping to get one or the Terminator ll (probably used) next year.

All the best.


Only had the R26 for a day and a half. But the Pontus ll has a wider soundstage, sometimes it was even outside of the speakers. The Pontus ll gave me better, cleaner bass. The upper range seemed a tad cleaner and maybe a bit brighter.

All of this was on my system. YRMV.

@curiousjim I had the R26 for a month. In my system, it highlighted certain upper frequencies, creating a very unnatural presentation. Needless to say, it did not synergize well with my system. And yes, it had been burnt in prior to coming to me. Much like the OP, I am "DAC-curious" but cautious because of my R26 experience. It did not improve upon the performance of my Marantz CD player.

@gdnrbob "In my not very scientific opinion, you have to spend around $10K to get the detail you are looking for" UGH, that's depressing, I better start saving up then.

Once again, much depends upon how resolving your system is. 

Also, your cables will make a noticeable difference to sound reproduction. Add to this using 'dejittering' devices like the Wayversa.


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It's not your DAC that needs to be changed It's your wires they're awful, if you really want to get the most out of your system use OCC single crystal copper or silver that'll make a huge difference.

Sorry all for not getting back to you all sooner, I am dealing with my ailing father and it’s consuming my life at the moment. AG is my only little escape these days, thank you ALL for bringing me back to earth. I will get back to reading all your great and much appreciated comments and responses as soon as I can!

@magnuman @gdnrbob @audphile1 I am open to suggestions on cables.

I have both DH Labs USB and Coax and tried them from streamer to DAC and I thought the USB sounded better.

I have BJC XLR cables connecting the pre-amp to the power amp, that are 15' long, which I ran under the house to keep out of view. So if you think I need to change those, I could put them along the floor and get away with maybe 10'

Yes, and inexpensive BJC speaker cables. Open to suggestion, just done want to break the bank (re: Dad's health issues $$$$) Lastly, stock power cords.

The stock power cords definitely need to go like I said OCC single crystal is the best conductor for audio and has been proven for over 50 years to be far superior to anything OFC at any price

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@jacobsdad2000 OUCH! I think I need some loseless cables!

@magnuman "OCC single crystal" Could I trouble you for some examples (manufactures)?

With power cables, flexibility is a must, Pangea and Signals are way too stiff where I recall Cullen and Black Sands where much more to my liking.


Yup, 10K is probably it.  I run the Weiss 501 4 channel.  Would agree that a very good digital cable is essential. I run the 75 ohm Jorma after using the Nordost 1.  It really is that good.  

Understand the Weiss 204 to be a stripped down version of the Weiss 501 2 channel which probably gets you there too.

My combination gives the "sounds of performance" such as breathing, fingering on acoustic guitar strings, distinct sounds of piano foot pedal work and of course Oscar and others humming while playing.  Best of luck on your quest.

@navyachts OCC Cable manufacturers. DH Labs, Zavfino, Wire World, Neotech, and of course you could save a ton of $$$ and go the DIY route. 

@celtic66 I don't see you system on your profile page but thank you.                      I used to work at Celtic Shipyard in Vancouver BC!