Gustard R26 ladder DAC sound signature - comments?

I'm evaluating a Gustard R26 while I can still return it to Amazon. I've been burning it in for four days now and did some critical listening both when I received it and just now.

I've heard great things about this DAC, including one guy who normally is interested in $10K+ DACs saying he was really taken by the R26.. extremely high resolution and very musical details.

My impression is contrary to that and I'm not sure my DAC is working properly. It actually refused to lock properly on the USB signal or make any sound for the first day, then suddenly started working.

My impression is that it's very dark and missing the top octave. For example, brass instruments (in classical music) are not brilliant or thrilling like I expect them to be. The highs are veiled and muddy. 

I'm comparing to a modded Gustard x20pro (this is a model from 6 years ago - in my case very highly modded and an excellent performer) and a PS Audio DirectStream DAC Mk 1. 

My USB transport is an Aurender N100. I have a very high performing USB cable and power cables custom from the same guy who modded my x20pro. The R26 is on vibration isolation. I'm using a custom 12AU7/FET headphone amp into LCD-2. Normally this system (cables, headphone amp, etc.) is very revealing of the highs. 

Can I get some other opinions on the R26? Is it dark and veiled to anyone else? And what are you comparing to, if anything? I wonder if mine is not performing correctly.


@audphile1 My R26 is not dark. I know others who own the same unit. That is not their description of the sound. I suspect a faulty unit. Buying from Amazon can be a crap shoot as some resell products returned. I bought mine from Shenzhen audio direct.

I had the same problem sonically with a new R26 that I purchased. I gave it around 200 hours of play time, and it sounded absolutely boring, lacking in detail, and rolled off on the top. I sent it back for a refund right away. I think they have serious quality control issues. I'm sure mine was defective, for I have never heard a worse sounding DAC or digital source. Send it back, it will not sound any better with more burn-in time. 

Bought mine used already broken in from an owner who  said it was replaced by a DAC that costs 6X more for a marginal improvement.  It replaced a Black Ice Audio DSD Glass Dac and  IFI Zen Stream combo on a second system.   R26 has much better sound is very clear, detailed full dynamics and easy to use and connect to Roon Core.  Very happy with mine.

@audphile1 It could be system synergy, but I have several headphone amps, headphones, USB sources, 2 other DACs, and so forth, so I can triangulate on the signature pretty well.

@bigshutterbug Interesting! Did you try to purchase another one?