We’ve been a bit on a Chinese tour the last few months. We have gotten to know a select group of manufacturers. Our journey began with the excellent Kinki Studio EX-M1+, we continued and checked out a beautiful duo from Jay’s Audio (CDT-2 and DAC-2). And then we got to the special Denafrips Ares II. Today we arrive at perhaps the best known Chinese hi-fi manufacturer: Audio GD! Let’s check out the Audio GD R27 dac, pre-amp and headphone amp.
Just like the manufacturers mentioned above, Audio GD is a relatively small company. It’s actually more of a group of friends who had a shared passion for hi-fi and then just a small company was born. Young Chinese guests starting a business and trying to deliver fine, reliable products. Who can be against that nice idea? Today we are testing the brand new Audio GD R27!
The Chinese Audio GD has been working on products since 2004 and in the meantime they have developed a wide range of products. The focus is mainly on amplifiers and dacs. They release products in multiple classes. And combinations. And that approach works, because ‘the world’ reacts very well to their stuff and especially appreciates the excellent value for money. Dutch Importer Magna Hifi takes care of the distribution and offers the übercritical customer a range of upgrades
Construction and appearance
The Audio GD R27 is a modern device with a preamp, dac and separate headphone amplifier in one box. Quite a complex unit so let’s fly right into it!
Besides being complex, it’s mainly a large device which makes our Benchmark stuff look tiny with very modest dimensions. The Audio GD measures 43x43x9cm. So you don’t just put it anywhere. The height is not that bad so the R27 just fits in a standard hifi furniture. All Audio GD units are only available in black and especially the R27 needs some breathing space because of its Class A application which does produce some heat.
On the front we see an on / off button and next to that an unbalanced and balanced headphone connection. In the middle a volume knob and on the right four push buttons to select the outputs, settings and inputs respectively. On the right there’s also a nice oled screen. At the back it is quite crowded where we see the single-ended, balanced and rather exceptional ACSS outputs on each sides. The latter we only know from Krell and should give a better result but we were not able to test that. Anyway, it’s remarkable that Audio GD provides this connection at all.
More inwards we see a few single-ended and balanced inputs. In the middle we have the 6 inputs. Four digital, optical, coaxial, usb and I2S and two balanced via Aes or ACSS. No analog inputs so keep that in mind. The dac plays PCM, DSD, DXD and all other abbreviations except MQA. The separate headphone amplifier is also fully class A and has enough power to drive almost all modern headphones effortlessly.
Inside it’s a little cramped but nevertheless everything remains reasonably clear because each part is separated by a metal plate. We see no less than three separate power supplies and those power supplies are in turn completely separated from the rest of the unit. The R27 is in fact a combination of the R8 dac and the M9 preamp which are both the second most expensive units in the range. The rest of the unit is full of discrete components and nice clocks to transmit the signal flawlessly.
Electronic sweets from brands such as Dale and Vishay, Kao and Nover were specially selected to ensure the best performance. At Magna Hifi they have been working ‘hands on’ with their products for years and that has clearly not harmed them. The dac inside is the NOS version that gets its own FPGA that fully buffers and re-clocks everything. The volume is controlled by a digitally controlled relay that switches the resistors. This way inequality between the channels is avoided and there is also less loss.
When you buy the R27 a nice aluminium remote control will be provided as standard. Unfortunately adjusting the volume is a bit awkward because you can’t keep pushing the volume buttons. However the dealer assured us that you can change the settings on the remote so you don’t have that problem anymore. But details about this and a good manual aren’t yet available.
On both the website of Audio Gd and Magna Hifi you get a complete overview of what is in the device and all possible options for the upgrades. In fact, you can put together your own R27! The R27 that we got had to quickly return to the importer because they had already found a new owner for it. Because of this we were only able to test a part of this device thoroughly. Yet we soon noticed a common thread with the R27 and that is its round, full sound. Not warm and without detail but blooming and with a soul.
Setup and installation
We connected the Audio-GD R27 directly to our power amplifier via the balanced connections because this will probably be the most widely used application. Straight into a pair of active speakers is also a great way to use the R27. The combination with our AHB2 worked really well mostly because the AHB2 is very neutral sounding.
The Audio GD R27 replaces a Benchmark Audio HPA4 and DAC3 B in the reference set below:
- ATC SCM19 V2
- Benchmark AHB2
- NAD M50
- Norstone Stylum 2
- Isoacoustics Aperta
- Wiring: QED XT40, Audioquest Yukon XLR, Dion Audio DI75 coaxial
Other speakers on duty were the Elac Carina BS, Vienna Acoustics Jubilee and Q Acoustics 3030i. The R27 sounded excellent on all of them, indicating that this unit will easily integrate into your system.