Gustard R26 vs hi end streamer


I have in plan to upgrade the source of my system:

Source: Newtork streamer Marantz NA8005
Amp: Arcam A32
Speakers: build to me
Headhone: Denon AH-D5000

Actually the options are:

1) Purchase a DAC like Gustard R26 or X26 or Schiit OG Yggdrsail (I’am bit undecided to choose one of these DACs).
2) Replace my Newtork streamer with a Hi end Streamers like: Auralyc, Cocktail Audio, Rose or coming soon new Marantz that replace ND8006.

I have a preference for a sound relaxed, warm, analog, with a deep bass, I listen only FLAC files with USB disk and no others, so I’am not interested to streamer services.

My actual Marantz match my sound preference, but lack of details, soundstage, etc...

The ideal is upgrade the Newtork streamer, but for what I read on many forums, an exterenal DAC like Gustard R26 or Schiit OG Yggdrsail sound better of every integrated streamer like: Auralyc, Cocktail Audio, Rose, etc.. and apart this is also a cheap option.

To match my sound preference do you suggest to wait the next Marantz models or consider directly an external DAC like Gustard or Schiit ?


I have the Gustard R26.

I have yet to see the firmware for the streamer portion for which it is supposed to be capable.

i have paired it with an innuous pulse mini.

I do like the r2r sound over a delta sigma type dac for almost everything I listen to.  But with the pulse mini, you can have multiple dacs, so I may either get my smsl 10 fixed or get another for electronica type music.  I did consider a couple other streamers, but they were limited to output to a single dac.  Just a choice..

Your assessment of the Marantz house sound echoes my own in that it’s full and rich but lacks upper octave detail and “air.”  IMHO it’s best to keep DAC and streamer separate as they’re both equally critical to get the best sound and combining them in one box invites both compromise and lack of future upgrade flexibility.  For your tastes I’d recommend looking at the Denafrips Pontus ll R2R DAC and the Innuos Pulse Mini streamer with their separate linear power supply (I think they may be about to introduce a new linear power supply for the Mini).  Hope this helps, and best of luck. 

Thank you, someone have compared Denafrips Pontus ll vs Gustard R26. ? I have read some reviews that suggest to choose Gustard R26.

@marco777 I’m actually comparing the Pontus II and Gustard R26 in my second system as we speak. I will share my opinion when I’ve put at least 100 hours on the R26 since I’ve had it for about ten days and still breaking it in. 

I've now put almost 100 hours on the Gustard R26 so I feel it's fair to compare it to the Pontus II at this point. So here goes ...

First of all, the R26 is a really really good DAC. I've owned more expensive DACs in my main system and the R26 will not be embarrassed in the company of DACs up to $3000 or even more. I was surprised by the clarity, drive, pinpoint imaging, and a soundstage that is by far the widest I've heard for an R2R dac with the exception of Terminator 2 which I also owned.

The streamer function, IMO, is average at best. I tried to compare it with two streamers -- Bluesound Node 2i (in my second system) and Aavik S-280 (main system). As expected, the Aavik blew it out of the water ... as it should since it's almost 10 times more expensive. But compared to the Node, the sound quality is more or less equal. I did experience some hiccups/buffering issues on R26 when feeding hi-res files to it. I would say that the LAN-based streaming function is good for the price but I would use it with an external streamer if I'm looking for the next level up. However, it is perfectly acceptable if you compare it with streamers around the $500 or below mark.

So how does it compare to Pountus II? Well, let me start by saying that it equals the Pontus and even exceeds in some areas. I'm actually torn between the two choices. Alas, I can only keep one. So what do I like about the R26? ...

Did I say, I love the soundstage? It is wide and extends way past the speakers on both left and right. The Pontus also has a decent soundstage but not quite as wide. The imaging is very precise and presents the music in a very detailed manner. The R26, at least in my system, is more forward sounding and prioritizes details retrieval and dynamics at the expense of a more tonally rich and denser presentation. The leading edges are sharper but are a bit too etched and pronounced for my taste. The bass is punchier but can sound thin (as in not quite as full and juicy as Pontus) at times. I think if you like rock, EDM, pop music you will be quite pleased with the R26. For some reason, it sounds less than a typical R2R dac if you ask me. But this is not necessarily a negative in my book. The DAC reminded me of Chord Qutest which I also owned for a few months and could not agree with the presentation style. I feel the Gustard has similar presentation but with more density and smoothness. It keeps the goodness of Quest but gets rid of the negative qualities. It kinda falls somewhere between the Qutest and Pontus in this respect.

So what did I NOT like about the R26 when compared to the Pountus? As I mentioned before, I found the R26 to be rather thin sounding but only when compared to the Pontus. The Pountus still has more of the R2R goodness that I really like -- more dense, tonally rich, juicy, organic sound. It's more focused on soundstage depth than width. Unlike the R26, the Pontus does not highlight individual instruments but presents it in a more cohesive manner, as if all the instruments are woven onto the same fabric. It just has a more heavy and solid foundation. For jazz, vocals, and acoustic music, I still prefer the Pountus II.

Looks: Of course, this is very subjective, but I love the understated elegance and simplicity of the Pontus. The R26 looks very 80'ish ... sort of like a set top box or a sleek VCR. But it's neither here nor there.

Given that most of the music I listen to is jazz, classical, vocals, etc., I'm leaning towards keeping the Pontus II and returning the Gustard. But there are times when the Gustard sounds so good and involving that I start second guessing my decision. Some songs, especially with electronic instruments or synthesizers sound extremely good and engaging on R26. Honestly, it's a close call. If I had not heard the Pontus, I would have been very happy with the Gustard.

There is also the Gustard A26 which I thought was a better sounding DAC then the R26 yet still on the warm side.

Do you use Roon or what software are you using? That could have a bearing on the choice of streamers and streamer/dacs. 

@arafiq Given the sound characteristics the OP is looking for, your observations were exactly why I recommended the Pontus II.  Plus, add an Iris or a Hermes DDC to take advantage of the Pontus’ i2S input and there is significant further upside potential to be had.  Thanks for your helpful and insightful thoughts. 

On your gustard r26:

Did you compare the fast/medium/slow?

I find the slow well suited for tracks that are heavily acoustic with the fast being better suited to electronica and/or many instruments with fast changes.. ie metallica and Iron Maiden.

Slow seems to me to give a more full and rich sound, but also seems like it “can’t keep up” when the track has many things changing quickly, especially the triplet bass kicks.. gets “muddy”... if that makes sense.. I do not have the whole jargon thing down yet.. But changing those settings does really affect how different tracks sound.  I am not really into the “medium”.. it just seems to show the worst in different tracks..

Am with you on the streamer.  I tried streaming to it first with a node2i that I could NOT, even after multiple “factory resets”, get to use the wired ethernet… it wouldn’t “forget” the wireless and would only use that connection..  which is why I got the innuos pulse mini just for streaming and the node 2i is a bookend right now.



@soix I re-read your comment and your advice is spot on! My impressions are closely aligned with what you’re proposing. However, I want to emphasize the fact that I’m not declaring the Pontus II as the superior DAC over Gustard R26. They’re both superb and offer a lot of bang for the buck. In the end, it boils down to what one is looking for in terms of sound signature. I can see someone preferring the R26 over Pontus. For me, Pontus has the edge but I could just as well live happily with the R26 if I have to.

@nevada_matt I did, albeit briefly, try out the fast and medium filters but preferred the slow filter for the type of music I listen to. I would say over 70% of my listening was done in the slow filter mode. I did switch to fast or medium when listening to classic rock or EDM (mostly James Blake) and preferred medium. Didn’t like anything when using the fast filter so honestly I never gave it a fair shake.

I’m also very interested in your impressions regarding Innuos Pulse Mini. I owned the Innuos Zenith MK3 in my main system (now replaced with Aavik S-280) and have gained tremendous respect and admiration for Innuos, especially their Sense software. For now, I’m feeding the Pontus directly from my Roon server (SMG sonicTransporter5 + LPS) via USB. Since this is my second system, I’m not too keen on dropping a bundle on streamers. Need to decide between Holo Audio Red (like the fact that it outputs IS2) and Pulse Mini (Sense 2.0 is the main draw). My Node 2i is all packed up and ready to be sold.

@arafiq do you think the Pontus II is a little more open than Gustard R26 and also have a little more bass deep ?

@arafiq How would you compare the Zenith to the Aavik?  Reading between the lines it seems that you prefer the Aavik but the Zenith doesn’t fall very short, and I’m assuming the Aavik costs a lot more.  Appreciate your thoughts…again. 

i saw a nice used r26 locally for sale so i picked it up... for less than $1500 for r2r with built in network and wifi renderer, roon ready, mqa, external clock input, i2s (but with another incompatible pin set),  etc etc ... figured it would be fun to try it, have a listen, and see if the youtube talking heads have yet again found the newest, biggest value buy of the year in nice chi-fi digital gear...

...first reactions... it is heavy, nice serious power supply section inside... and then, the stupid menu display has ridiculous micro font... where are my reading glasses???!!! 🙄😵

@marco777 What do you mean by a little more open? If you mean more air and effortlessness, than I think the Gustard has a bit more air but the Pontus sounds a bit more relaxed to me. Not sure if this answers your question. Bass on R26 is tighter and punchier, but somehow I still prefer the Pontus even in this respect. It's just more full sounding. BTW, I've packed up the Gustard and sending back this weekend.

@soix Yes, I prefer the Aavik but to be honest I would be hard pressed to justify the extra cost. I hate to use the term, but the Aavik S-280 is a bit more 'analog' sounding. It's more relaxed and brings out the nuance in the music a bit better. Innuos has better clarity and definition but still has a hint of digital artifacts which I never knew existed until I heard the Aavik. The differences are noticeable but subtle. I do miss Sense 2.0 though ... definitely better sound quality than Roon.

@jjss49 Did you happen to see the Eversolo dac+streamer combo review by Steve Huff? Yes, I know we're talking about Steve Huff, so the usual caveats, grain of salt, etc. apply as always :)

But still looks to be fantastic value for what you pay for.

Hi arafiq,

I do not use roon. An expense I don’t need.

Inuos pulse mini is fed from ethernet, with the long 25 ft run between router and mini converter to fiber, then back to ethernet.  I wanted strictly a streamer, it can send to many dacs. In the sense app, just choose setting standalone and choose mini out to another dac.. make sure the dac, if using as preamp, is turned down, before connecting.  On pulse mini, choose the dac you want to be playing, must set mini’s volume out to max, and enjoy (i have two dacs I switched between going into preamp..). I have an smsl su-10 for the electronica stuff.. for me some type of music sounds “better” on a delta sigma, while almost all of what I listen to sounds better on r2r.  By the way, you can really hear the difference twixt fast and slow if playing iron maiden or metallica at… unhealthy levels   ;-p   The dac included with the mini will be ok if I ever have an issue with the gustard, so it is a “decent” back up.

The only other “streamer” I’ve ever had was a bluesound node 2i and there is just no comparison there.

I am still exploring all the features of the mini though.  

but, I can for sure say that I am happy with the pulse mini and it doing what I wanted it to do… hardwired network streaming…. nothing else.

And I could not care less what places like asr say, I can hear the difference and I know what is pleasing to me.

Soix is correct (as usual), based on your preference for a warner, analog presentation; I'd highly recommend the Pontus II 12th anniversary R2R DAC. I have had the Pontus II (non 12th anniversary) in my system for a couple of years, and I am in no hurry to upgrade it.....the sound is sublime. Great punch and attack, beautiful vocals, wide and high soundstage (though not as deep), instrument clarity and separation, and not at all harsh or fatiguing. But there are other DACs that are more detailed on top, if that is your thing.

If you then want to take things to another level, you could always add the Denafrips Iris DDC between your streamer and Pontus II with an I2S cable.

Best of luck to you


Did you do the latest update on your Pontus ll?

What are your thoughts?


@curiousjim I have not updated my Pontus yet. I’m a little apprehensive after reading the experiences of some people as reported on the other thread here. Looks like some people disliked it so much that they reverted to the original state.

It sounds so damn good right now that I keep thinking why fix it if it ain’t broke. I’ll probably wait till the dust settles a bit.

The Gustard is a very detailed dac for a R2R I thought it should be much warmer ,natural sounding it was more neutral sounding then expected , the streamer side 

these guys suck at answering emails and slow on needed streamer updates 

the streamer side degraded the dacs performance a bit ,better to use the dacs features imo, my wife had me sell it,the latest blue sound node has a better streamer  just buy for the streamer ,dac not too good.

I have not listened to the lineup being discussed, but based on the OP desire for 'relaxed, warm' suggest staying with your R2R options. The X26 mentioned is likely to be more detailed and brighter than my Gustard A26. I really do like my A26, but would not describe it as warm and relaxed.

Keeping the streamer separate from the DAC is good (IMO), which appears to be your intention. I.e. If you first upgrade your DAC, you should not sell your NA8005, regardless of whether or not the new DAC has streaming capability.

I already had separate Antipodes server/streamer/PS, which is a big step up from the streamer sections of A26 / R26. Perhaps they are another one to consider in your next round of upgraditis. (Antipodes also have awesome backup support service. I can't comment on Gustard backup, as I have not yet needed any).