Gustard U12 burn in?

Following some recent recommendations I recently took the plunge on a Gustard U12 USB-SPDIF convertor to sit betwen my Mac Mini and Chord Hugo, to see if the Hugo's coaxial input was an improvement on the non-galvanically isolated USB input. It arrived on Friday and (with the exception of needing to open it up to check that it was set to 220V, as the back panel showed 115V!) was a doddle to set up. 

I feel that it's had a very positive effect on timing and musicality - I find myself tapping my feet more than before - but the tonal balance of the sound has certainly changed. The top end is more prominent than before, and there is a more noticeable low-end slam (which is nice to have). But this has the effect of 'scooping' the midrange a little, so the sound is perhaps not as rich as before.

Has anyone else made this change and observed the same thing? If so, will the Gustard burn in and increase in warmth over time?

Many thanks for any advice!

Original Post

I can't really answer that, mailly because I was happy with it immediately and thought no more of it (and beacause I am far from convinced that most electronics - or cables- burn in at all: I believe it is mostly a matter of people getting used to end learning to like the different new sound, unlike speakers where mechanical flexing of speaker surrounds.)

For me, when I first tried Audirvana on MM into Hugo it was simply disappointing, I described it as being like a veil drawn over the sound, compared to a reference point was ND5XS into Hugo. That was using the USB connection. I then tried the MM optical out to Hugo, and felt it similar to the ND5XS/Hugo, so that may have done me, however Knowing that Audirvana claimed the USB output was better through bypassing the MM soundcard, and based on the positive views of others re the potential of MM/Audi/Hugo I felt the then £110 for the Gustard was worth the gamble. Even if that didn't do the trick then I had something as good SQ wise as before but substantially cheaper even factoring in the gamble. However as soon as I connected the Gustard I was instantly happy with the sound, better than ND5XS as renderer, so I could sell that and be quids in with my overall change, better SQ, no noisy NAS, and at net cost saving.

not sure if that helps - the question is whether you like the new sound, or feel you could get used to it and like it.

Thank you, Innocent Bystander. It was you who recommended the Gustard to me on my previous thread. I am also unsure whether a device like the Gustard would exhibit noticeable burn-in, but I'd better not open up that can of worms! I do agree that the Gustard brings extra clarity to the Hugo, even if the tonal shift I experience takes getting used to.

I didn't realise that you were using an optical connection out of the Gustard into the Hugo - for some reason it was in my mind that you were using coaxial. 

I tried the optical connection to the Hugo yesterday and first impressions were very positive. The Gustard allows Audirvarna's preferred output (USB) and Rob Watts' preferred Hugo input (optical) to be combined. I would still prefer to leave the optical input free for the TV/Bluray but music is most important to me.

Do you use the stock optical cable or something else?

Hi Flumpet, i must have said something unclear: I use electrical SPDIF between Gustard and Hugo. I have intended to campare optical, but have never got around to it.

I did use optical temporarily MM to Hugo before I got the Gustard, because I simply didn't like the USB direct.

Meanwhile Richard Dane has said he's trialling one, so I don't know if he has any observations on burn in or not...

Hi Innocent Bystander. Thank you. I assumed that you retained your optical connection when introducing the Gustard. 

Having just heard Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime with a clarity and drive I've never experienced before (and I've had it on tape and then CD for 28 years), the Gustard is definitely bringing something positive to my system. But I'll spend a little more time comparing optical and coaxial to see if one of them gives me a more satisfying tonal balance.

Many thanks for your help!

IB, mine already had some hours on it, so can't comment on "burn in".  So far impressions are that it's a very good bit of kit, and a great way for Naim DAC owners to connect to a computer without serious performance compromise, and all at a comparative bargain price.

Next test will be to compare against the Yellowtec PUC2...

I connect via AES EBU 110ohm digital cable.  At the Naim DAC end I have an RS 75ohm BNC to BNC coupler connecting one of the BNC inputs on the DAC to a Japanese Canare 110ohm to 75ohm transformer, as pictured below;

I use the same on the Gustard U12 as this also has an AES/EBU digital output in addition to the coaxial s/pdif.  It seems to work very well although you do need some extra depth behind the DAC to accommodate the transformer.

The Yellowtech is there on the rack but so far I haven't hooked it up - too busy with other things (and the Gustard is doing a fine job).  There are some other options I wish to explore with the Gustard first - a better AES/EBU cable (currently using a Van Damme Green 110ohm AES/EBU Digital cable) such as a DH Labs (further suggestions welcome), and connection of the transformer at the other end and then connection via a BNC-BNC s/pdif cable - in theory I think this should be a backward step, but welcome any further input here.

Dear all, thank you for your responses to my initial post and the interesting discussion that followed. I don't know whether my Gustard requires burn-in, but anyway I've moved from a coaxial cable to an optical cable from the Gustard to the Hugo. For all talk of 1s and 0s there is to my ears a clear difference.

The coaxial cable produces in my system a slightly hollowed-out sound which is slightly less natural to my ears, but on the other hand the soundstage is wider than ever and the timing is excellent - really engaging. This is the first time I've really experienced the famed 'PRaT' (I have no Naim components yet), although with some albums it can be a little fatiguing.

However, the problem with the cut-outs when lights and other electrical devices are switched in the vicinity of the living room has not been solved by the Gustard set-up, so I have moved to an optical connection which (as previously) avoids this problem. The music is now to my ears more natural (and of course, uninterrupted), though a little less rhythmic and with a narrower soundstage. 

Unfortunately the Gustard has been acting up a bit in the last week - it has started to lose connection with the Mac Mini when not in use. Normally, whether in use or not, the Gustard displays the sample rate on its display (in my case 44.1). Now, when not in use for a while (and this 'while' can be minutes or hours), the Gustard display shows '----' which I believe indicates that it is on, but does not know the sample rate. In this state, I cannot play music from Audirvana. It can be rectified by unplugging and replugging the USB cable (either out of the Mac or into the Gustard), but I don't want to have to do this all the time. 

This problem occurs with both optical and coaxial cables out and (more relevant, as the problem is probably upstream) with 2 different USB cables. I did install the latest update to Audirvana during the week, thought I cannot remember if my problem followed or preceded that update. 

Has anyone else with a Gustard experienced this '----' issue? 

Many thanks for any advice! 

 

My Gustard has behaved faultlessly (touchwood), only going off when I turn the MM off (something I do periodically because I learnt years ago that (in general) computers and NASs benefit from refreshing themselves - nomidea if that is true of the MM, but I do it anyway.

Gustard senses the USB input and uses that to switch on or off. Given your problem with electrical SPDIF, which I dont think anyone else recognised (?) it is making me wonder if you have some odd electrical interference inducing maybe occasional pulses in the signal cables, including USB, confusing the receiving device. Do you ever hear odd pops through the speakers, whether playing music or when silent but powerered up? Electical issues might not cause that, however if you do that would seem to be some evidence of electrical disturbance.

Thank you, IB. I don't experience any pops or clicks through the speakers with or without music, and before the SPDIF drop-out issue I had no reason to believe that there was anything untoward in my electrical system. I live in a newish (2008) apartment block in Switzerland. I'm not an electrical engineer, but I'm led to believe that Swiss apartments use a 'radial' wiring system, and Swiss plugs are 3-pin but without fuses. I previously lived in the apartment one floor below, with the same SPDIF issues.

My feeling is that the Gustard isn't switching itself off - if it were to simply switch off then the display would go blank, and if it were switching itself off and on instantaneously then it should find the sample rate again (as it does when I unplug the USB cable and plug it back in). I think that somehow the information coming from the Mac Mini relating to the sample rate is getting lost. Either it is getting lost in the Gustard (perhaps a fault?) or it is getting lost in the Mac Mini (as I said, I did update to the latest Audirvana during the past week - I don't know if there are new bugs arising from this). Or perhaps there are pulses causing the problem.

Are you using Audirvana or a Naim source?  

I'm also using Audirvana, and like you I updated mine to the larest version a few days ago, with no problems. I'm not sure I can offer anything more to help though trying to compare your setup with mine (but with no reason to think any difference will account for your problems): are you using a dedicated usb output on the MM? (Audirvana manual explains.) what version MM is yours? MIne is Late 2012.

Thank you. I have a MM 2014. I've heard about dedicated USB outputs, but I believe on the MM 2014 all USB outputs share the same bus. I've tried using all 4 USB outputs, but the USB port always appears under USB 3.0 Hi-Speed Bus in the device tree. I'm running Yosemite 10.10.5.  I have a 1Gb Fusion Drive and 8Gb memory. The MM is dedicated purely to playing music via Audirvana. I have Bluetooth and the IR receiver turned off, though I do use a wireless USB mouse to control the MM. 

I doubt any of this is relevant, but just in case:

interrogating my MM shows one USB2 bus with just 'hub'  listed, one USB2 bus showing hub connected to bluetooth controller and IR receiver (though both are turned off), and one USB3 bus connected to xCORE USB Audio (which is how the Gustard shows up). Does yours not show more than one USB3 bus? Do you need to have a mouse connected? You say you use to control - does that mean you also have a screen connected? I control my MM remotely either with tablet, another computer or phone) using VNC remote software (free version).

My MM is running IOS 10.11.5 ("el capitan"), but the revisions since whatever whas the current one last summer when I installed the Gustard have not affected Audirvana or behaviour.

I don't know whether Richard has a preference for AES/EBU or whether it is simply to facilitate like-for-like comparison with the other unit he's testing.

Personally I feel that the fewer conversions the better, and although impedance matching transformers are pretty much basic components in the VHF/UHF world, unless AES/EBU has some advantage over the BNC SPDIF out, my inclination would be to stick to BNC. But we'll have to await Richard's elucidation.

The Gustard doesn't use BNC on its coaxial spdif out unfortunately, its just an RCA phono socket. Aes EBU allowed use of a balanced cable all the way to the DAC where conversion takes place from 110 ohm balanced to 75ohm single ended. The PUC2 only has Aes EBU so an easy swap for comparisons to come in the future. 

Flumpet posted:

Unfortunately the Gustard has been acting up a bit in the last week - it has started to lose connection with the Mac Mini when not in use. Normally, whether in use or not, the Gustard displays the sample rate on its display (in my case 44.1). Now, when not in use for a while (and this 'while' can be minutes or hours), the Gustard display shows '----' which I believe indicates that it is on, but does not know the sample rate. In this state, I cannot play music from Audirvana. It can be rectified by unplugging and replugging the USB cable (either out of the Mac or into the Gustard), but I don't want to have to do this all the time. 

Just a thought ... But have you tried setting the Gustard as the default output device and see if that retains the connection to the Mac.  If it doesn't it may be a problem with your unit, if it does then it suggests the problem may be with Audirvana (the update perhaps).

Richard Dane posted:

The Yellowtech is there on the rack but so far I haven't hooked it up - too busy with other things (and the Gustard is doing a fine job).  There are some other options I wish to explore with the Gustard first - a better AES/EBU cable (currently using a Van Damme Green 110ohm AES/EBU Digital cable) such as a DH Labs (further suggestions welcome), and connection of the transformer at the other end and then connection via a BNC-BNC s/pdif cable - in theory I think this should be a backward step, but welcome any further input here.

Richard, if you'll manage to give the Yellowtech a try, I would be grateful if you could report your impressions!

USB to SPDIF interfaces are known to have a non-negligible impact on the sound quality of the Naim DAC. However, it is difficult to find competent reviews and systematic comparisons of such devices.

Other USB to SPDIF interfaces that could be worth considering as inputs for the Naim DAC are the M2Tech hiFace Evo Two, the Audiobyte Hydra Z and the EC designs XTOS converter. The first two offer both BNC and Toslink SPDIF outputs.

Dear all, many thanks for your contributions on this topic. Unfortunately it is clear that my Gustard 12 has developed a fault. After a while the USB input appears to lose its signal, and the display reverts to '----' (signifying an unknown sample rate). This first started happening within a couple of weeks of receiving the unit, but the frequency has increased to it now cutting out within songs, typically after 5-10 minutes. I've fed the Gustard from MacMini and from PC, using two different USB cables, and situated in different rooms, all with the same effect. So I will have to find a way to return the Gustard. 

Having said all that, I will be requesting a replacement unit. The Gustard definitely improved my MacMini to Hugo setup. The coaxial connection was high on PRaT but was a little harsh in my setup. The Gustard's optical connection was much closer in timbre to the MM direct to Hugo via USB, but having the Gustard there improved the gravity of the bass. To my ears it made the music appear to be built upon a strong foundation of bass rather than having the bass being merely part of the frequency spectrum. 

So despite this fault, it was a good investment and I hope to have a functioning replacement that I can enjoy. I'll let you know how I get on. In the meantime, I'll revert to the USB input on the Hugo.

Hi All,

I bought a U12 to allow me to use a Sonore microRendu (mR) with my Bel Canto DAC, and was impressed with it. However, last night I turned off the mR and this morning when I turned it back on I got silence.

The U12 is reporting the correct file frequency, as is the mR and the DAC. I power cycled the U12 and unplugged and re-plugged the mR, no difference.

I went through a troubleshooting cycle to prove what was causing the issue. I am currently listening to music from my NAS using the mR and Bel Canto by using my Oppo 105D in place of the U12 - works OK.

I have dropped the seller a message asking for advice or a replacement.

Any suggestions gratefully received. 

M

SOLVED!

By Martin @Vortexbox. If you are using the microRendu and change apps/DACs then you need to re-initialise the communications with the DAC. This is done via the relevant app in mR.

In my case I have been using MPD, going into the MPD app there is nothing to change, just press 'save changes' - voila, MUSIC.

M

I'm thinking of giving a Gustard U12 a go. Just a quick question though, and forgive me if I'm being an idiot but I'm not familiar at all with digital connections/cables... So, what would be the optimal connection from the Gustard to Hugo? Would it be from Optical Out on the Gustard to Optical TOSLink digital in on the Hugo? And if so, is the required cable supplied with the Hugo?

Hi Mayor West. The Gustard U12 has a variety of output options. The two which are immediately suitable for the Hugo are the coaxial output and the optical output. I've tried both, but in my home/setup I experience dropouts with the coaxial cable when switching lights. This is not related to the Gustard (I also had this with my CD player going directly into the Hugo), and no-one else seems to have experienced this. The coaxial connection seems to be most people's favourite. I'm very happy with the optical connection, and I am currently using the thin optical cable that comes with the Hugo. 

Unfortunately my first Gustard developed a fault and was returned. I've had the replacement for just over a week, and it is behaving so far. Although the replacement process was inconvenient, I really recommend the Gustard. To my ears, it really cleans up the USB signal from my Mac Mini, delivering greater clarity and timing. My system has never sounded so good. 

I hope this helps!

Mayor West posted:

I'm thinking of giving a Gustard U12 a go. Just a quick question though, and forgive me if I'm being an idiot but I'm not familiar at all with digital connections/cables... So, what would be the optimal connection from the Gustard to Hugo? Would it be from Optical Out on the Gustard to Optical TOSLink digital in on the Hugo? And if so, is the required cable supplied with the Hugo?

(Amended reply due to error in original)

I believe elecrical SPDIF is supposed to be better than optical, though I haven't compared myself, just using electrical.

I don't recall a cable supplied with the Hugo. The important thing with electrical is that although it has RCA socket it should be a 75Ω cable, not any old audio RCA cable.

 

Mr Underhill posted:

Richard,

Have you tried any further AES cables? Any observations?

I am currently using a DvH AES.

M

I'm currently using a Transparent Premium AES/EBU lead.  What can I say?  It looks good.  And it possibly sounds better than the basic studio grade Van Damme 110ohm cable I had in there before.  Rather more expensive though...

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