Just picked up this amp and I must say if you’re on the fence about buying one I would say don’t hesitate. This amp is underrated and a bargain for the performance you get. I’ve owned the iFi Pro Can, I hand on loan the CMA Twelve Master and the Soundaware P1, and I demoed the Cavalli Audio Liquid Gold. All of these amps are more than double that of the Gustard H20. To my ears the Gustard H20 bested them all. Here’s some comments I wrote about the H20 on Head-fi with some additional content:
“The H20 has a lot in common with the CMA Twelve Master. It beats in raw power and is just as refined sounding. The CMA Twelve Master has a built in DAC which helps shape its smooth, detailed sound. The H20 is going to sound similar to the source it’s being feed, in this case my Chord Hugo 2. This amp is neutral and somewhat transparent. It’s doesn't get out of the way like the Pro iCan I had but it’s darn close and does some things better. Like providing a better musical experience while sounding detailed and clear. The CMA Twelve Master has very good bass with very good bass definition. But the H20 hits a little harder and seems faster and is just as defined. The H20 lacks the bass depth of the CMA Twelve Master in stock form. The mids on the H20 is better to my ears. The treble on the CMA Twelve Master has a bit more clarity than the H20 in stock form. They are both class A amps and have a natural warmth to them. The CMA sounds just a bit warmer and sweeter than the H20. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with the DAC in the CMA Twelve Master.
Another amp that I have in house is the Soundaware P1. The H20 has very similar specs as the P1. The P1 has a bigger low end and brighter treble than the H20 is stock form. But the bass on the P1 is loose and boomy in comparison to the bass of the H20. The mids on the P1 seem to be lacking to my ears. The mids on the H20 sound more balanced although a bit forward with the stock op-amps. The treble on the P1 is more extend but is also very bright. It dominates the sound and can be overwhelming to the senses. Its boomy low end and the piercing treble of the P1 makes the amp sound V-Shaped because the mids are pushed back to my ears. The H20 is stock form is much better balanced.
The H20 is good but I have a feeling it can be better. The stock op-amps at this point seems to holding back some potential. But as you can see it’s very competitive in stock form, which is why I’m so eager to roll some op-amps in it”.
Well I did roll the Sonic Imagery Labs 994Enh-Ticha op-amps into the H20 and it got even better. It fixed everything I did not like about the stock op-amps especially the midrange and treble. I thought the midrange with the stock op-amps was a little congested and did not tie in well with the bass and treble. With the 994Enh-Ticha's installed the H20's midrange has better presence and the sound is more natural and clear. There's a sweetness to vocals that wasn't there before. The music itself is much more cohesive. The imaging and instrument separation is so much better with 994Enh-Ticha's. The bass was good before. But now it has much better definition and is more taunt and there's some slam to it. It reminds me of good planar bass but it's much faster and deeper. The bass depth and the soundstage of this amp as whole has expanded. The treble clarity I was seeking is now there. What an improvement to the sound the 994Enh-Ticha have made.
I had the Pro iCan until a couple of weeks ago. It has good power, it’s detailed, and the xbass+ works very well. But it lacked some musicality. Looking at the specs, the H20 has about the same power. The H20 matches the detailed of the Pro iCan. The H20 has good bass weight without having to add xbass+ plus to it. Using it with the Sonic Imagery Labs 994Enh-Ticha op-amps added the musicality I was always seeking with the Pro iCan.
I own the Cavalli Liquid Carbon 2.0 which is what the Liquid Carbon x is based on. Both are the little brother of the Cavalli Liquid Gold. The Liquid Gold is even warmer sounding to my ears, almost tube like. The H20 is more open sounding and extracts just as much detail to my ears. It also seems to have more power than the Liquid Gold. These are all pluses to me. For the gear I have and my sound preferences I prefer the H20.
Lastly, you don’t have to buy better stock op-amps if you don’t want too. This amp is very good right out of the box. But if you want to turn a good amp in stock form to a really great one I would recommend it. It’s probably the best upgrade you can make.