The Audio-Gd R8 DAC sets out to replicate high-end ladder DAC performance, but for a fraction of the price. The R8 is a ‘kitchen-sink’ product, with fully balanced circuitry, multiple power supplies, and a selection of filters. The question is: does the sonic performance match its impressive spec sheet?
When AVinside reviewed the little Audio Gd R2R-11 we were suitably impressed with its price/performance ratio. Thus, we jumped at the opportunity to borrow a higher-end R8 when it was offered to us by a lucky new owner.
Audio-Gd R8 DAC – Build
The Audio-Gd R8 is poorly built by most standards and considering its mid-range price tag, this is not good enough. Top panel screws are not countersunk, the buttons are loose in their sockets and the bright blue LED display not only looks gross, but it is also barely intelligible. Sorry guys – this is sad but true.
Audio-Gd R8 DAC – MODES
The Audio-Gd R8 is a different beast to pretty much everything else on the market. It features an almost ludicrous spec sheet, and the chameleon-like ability to change its character based on owner tastes. The R8 is built around the firm’s DA-7 V2 ladder DAC modules and the front panel buttons allow you to select from 7 tonal characteristics.
The modes range from 3 ‘oversampling’ settings that emulate the accuracy and neutrality of delta-sigma converters, and 4 ‘NOS’ modes, for those that prefer the warmer sound of R2R. The ‘NOS’ undoubtedly refers to the likes of the legendary Burr-Brown PCM1704k and PCM63 chips, which are only available as new old stock (NOS).
This review won’t go into the sound character of each mode – this would make it a novel. There are significant differences between the various options. We used two modes – 8x oversampling and NOS ‘2’.
Audio-Gd R8 DAC – SOUND
In oversampling mode, the R8 sounded somewhat lean and it had a much more forward tonal character – but never erred on the side of brightness. Images were concise and clean, and instruments crisp and detailed when oversampling emulation is at play. Switching to NOS introduces a lushness to the sound, less perceivable grain, but also less detail.
We preferred NOS 2 because it was most similar to the MSB Analog DAC that we use as a reference. Once setup, warmed up and acclimatised, the R8 is extremely pleasant sounding. The Audio-Gd’s bass is nicely textured and the machine presents music in a most pleasing way. Spaces are nicely defined but never exaggerated – small still sounds small and big isn’t giant.
The Audio-Gd R8 sounds like a high-end DAC and it is clear where attention has gone, but does this excuse the build and difficulty of operation? While only prospective purchasers can answer this authoritatively, our vote is ‘yes’ – but with certain caveats.
We would strongly recommend that users avoid temptation – try and stay away from changing modes to suit your mood but spend a bit of time choosing what you prefer upfront (and stick to this). Then we strongly recommend you sit back and enjoy the music. This is the Audio-Gd’s strong suit, and one that it is almost ridiculously good at considering its price point.
The R8’s sound quality and array of settings make it sonically flexible enough to satisfy most tastes – and what the it does well it does brilliantly.
The unit’s sonic flexibility may result in analysis paralysis, bitrate switching noise really not on at this price point. Confusing menu structure that not even a teenager could figure out.
The R8’s build quality is inexcusably poor (although may be isolated to this unit).
Price as reviewed: Approximately R32 000 ($1 600 plus VAT, import duties and shipping)
For more information visit 睿志音响 (audio-gd.com)
The Audio-Gd R8 was kindly loaned by a community member, and was reviewed as part of the AVInside reference system. Audio-Gd is available directly from the manufacturer in China, and no South African distributors are listed.
|<5 ohm (XLR ,RCA)|
20Hz – 20KHz
0.5 Vp-p ( 75 Ohms, Coaxial )
19 dBm (Optical)
USB1.0 – USB3.0
RJ45 /HDMI : 3.3V
Support Operate Systems (USB)
|Windows, OSX, Linux, ISO|
|Support Sampling|| |
USB & IIS : 44.1kHz – 384kHz /32Bit DSD64-512
Coaxial mode: 44.1kHz – 192kHz
Optical mode: 44.1kHz – 96kHz
Version 1: 100-120V AC 50/60 Hz
Version 2: 220-240V AC 50/60 Hz
|W430 X L445 X H80 (MM, Fully aluminium )|
AC power cord X1
USB cable X1