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New DAC ESS9018 XMOS does everything

Discussion in 'Soundcards, Speakers HiFI & File formats' started by RagDoll_Effect, Apr 20, 2016.

  1. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    Just bought this DAC, review soon

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    Features:
    • DAC chip:ESS9018
    • op-amp: MUSES8920*2, AD797*2
    • The inputs use XMOS USB audio asynchronous receiver solution
    • LPF using Marantz HDAM discrete circuit
    • Soft control mode for optimized ES9018 set, the perfect support for DSD and PCM playback, support to play high bit-rate 32BIT 384K
    • High-end aluminum chassi




    Parameters:
    • Input: USB data cable
    • Output: RCA + 3.5 headphone jack
    • Bit depth: 16bit 24bit 32bit
    • Environment: Windows / MAC / part of the mobile device (phone, tablet)
    • Sampling Rate Support:
    • PCM: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 352.8kHz, 384kHz
    • DSD: DSD64, DSD128, DSD256 (2.822, 3.072, 5.644, 6.144, 11.2896 and 12.288MHz)
    • RCA Output level: 2.5 Vrms @ 0dBFS
    • Frequency Response: 20-20K Hz +/- 0.15dB
    • Dimensions: width 150 height 58 depth 164.5
    • Net Weight: 1.3Kg
     
  2. mikeysg

    mikeysg Ancient Guru

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    :thumbup:'Grats on the purchase!:thumbup:

    I believe it uses the same chip as my Oppo HA-1, ESS Technology Sabre32 ES9018 DAC, my Gustard X12 has the same chip as well. Try some DSD tracks vs FLAC/WAV on it, tell me if you can hear a difference....awaiting your review/impression.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2016
  3. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    Thanks :) :thumbup::thumbup::thumbup: Yes, same Dac but does yours do DSD 256? Just checked and it does ;)

    I know DSD is the new standard, I have an sacd player/bluray it's brilliant and I even listen to the same songs and it reveals sounds I never heard before.

    Can't wait for this new DAC, gonna be awesome...

    cheers,
    RagDoll.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2016
  4. mikeysg

    mikeysg Ancient Guru

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    While it's a sorta recent Hi-Def audio standard, three things stand in its way:
    1. You'd need specialized equipment (like a native DSD capable DAC) in order to play 'em.
    2. Not easily available and even IF you can find DSD songs, they cost a fair bit more than FLAC, WAV and MP3.
    3. They require a lot of HDD space with every song easily over 100MB each.....for DSD64, for DSD128, it's twice that.

    I use foobar2k to play DSD tracks, takes some config but works great. I've bought and amassed >4TB of DSD64 tracks and they sound absolutely stunning....very analog like.
     

  5. ElitesTeaTime

    ElitesTeaTime New Member

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    Interesting :) How much cost for this DAC ??
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2016
  6. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    It's about $200 US

    However, still currently reviewing it... Doesn't play 48khz or multiples of it in pcm yet, I think could be driver related or firmware...

    Contacted seller, but they haven't got back to me yet, more to come soon.


    regards,
    RagDoll.
     
  7. mikeysg

    mikeysg Ancient Guru

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    Google 'XMOS Stereo USB Audio Class 2 Driver', I'm using v3033 (v2.23.0) which is much better than the driver provided Gustard which only allowed me limited functionality.
     
  8. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    Thanks man, yup unfortunately I have tried more than 10 xmos drivers and all have the same issue :( 48 kHz and multiples of it don't produce any sound and the dac needs to be unplugged and plugged back in...

    I think it must be a bodgy firmware :(

    regards,
    RagDoll.
     
  9. ROBSCIX

    ROBSCIX Ancient Guru

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    Did you try getting drivers from the chip manufacturer?
     
  10. Cidious

    Cidious Active Member

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    Hey. Interesting topic.

    I am quite familiar with the Chinese DAC builds since I've build 3 of them myself and tried others from Taobao.com since I'm currently located in China.

    I also build one ES9018 DAC with quite high-end components and I built a cheaper one to hear the difference. I also have experience with breeze audio. They have many products which are fairly well built for their price but not very well designed in terms of audio quality. Often they work with counterfeit components. For example the Muse opamp in there.. I can tell you for that price with 99% assurance that it's fake haha. The AD797 are most likely real but I also found fakes of these. I like the AD797 but they are not very forgiving in a DAC like this. The surrounding components listen really close for them to not oscillate or sound dull.

    Currently I replaced them in the IV buffer stage for AD843 (which would not be a typical audio opamp, I know but just look at the specsheet and you'll see) after trying a lot of opamps. And they sound REALLY good. I had to lower the voltage rail from 15V to 8V to not fry them and then I could bias them to class with 2 jfets per opamp. And the result was astonishing.

    The breeze audio doesn't come near when I tested the bigger brother of yours. I also found that the USB module they use is not stable. And the drivers are not very well designed.

    Does yours use the ES9018K2M chip or full ES9018 chip?

    I'm personally only using Amanero Combo384 USB for DSD512/PCM384 streaming. It works really smooth. Never had a problem with these modules. USB could be a compromise over Digital in, but this module is solid. I don't hear any difference between Digital in and the USB port.

    The whole kit was just over $250 and definitely worth it. Very transparant, snare instruments are very dynamic and realistic. Bass is tight. Voices are natural and forward. The whole kit matches very well with my headphones and active speakers.

    [​IMG]

    These boards can be ordered separately. And you can populate them with the components of choice. I tried about every component I could find and tried to improve the circuit. by bypassing some stuff and removing some capacitors that were more in the way of things than doing good.

    These kits are extremely good value for money! I took it to some shops and compared my DAC to some much more expensive ones and I liked the DIY kit over the DACs that were costing 6 times as much sometimes. The 9018 chip is a hyped chip. But I like it's signature. It can sound very transparent and liquid with the right opamps and components combined.

    Let me know how yours is performing. I tried a bigger brother of breeze audio of the one you have now which didn't please me as much since it couldn't compete with my much cheaper SMSL Sanskrit 6.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2016

  11. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    Thanks, great post :) Well, the one in the topic started out terrible when I received it and ended up in me giving it back RMA... :( I am in the process of getting a new DAC and I will post soon...

    cheers,
    RagDoll.
     
  12. Cidious

    Cidious Active Member

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    Ah I see. Thats the risk you take with Chinese products haha. The quality may be questionable.. but it may also be a lot of bang for buck!

    Can I ask what was wrong with it?

    What I did was comparing the board designs and picking out the ones that fit my needs. I contacted the factories and producers of these products to ask if they could send me the clean board with only the chips soldered on.

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    This way I could control the whole quality process of the soldering and choosing the components. I had a problem once with this board. Even thought its quality was really good there was a shortcut at one of the voltage regulators of the opamp supply rails with the ground.. this made the opamps heat up VERY quickly after turning it on.. haha. Took me 2 nights to figure it out. But most problems are to be solved by troubleshooting yourself with these products. And because the prices are low it's not really a big risk.

    I build a couple of Lehmann headphone amp clones link you see on the picture too. With high end components and in class A. I managed to ruin a pcb completely haha. Just salvaged the components and for $5 I got a new board haha. And with some new soldering I was back on track again.

    It's really interesting to see what kind of audio quality you can achieve with these products for little money.

    Any way. If you have any problems with the next unit let me know. Maybe I can help. Might also be worth looking into the Amanero USB module. Which is sounding better than the XMOS and much more stable when looking at drivers and connection problems. The XMOS is not the worst out there but I had some problems in the past with it.
     
  13. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    Thanks, yup I've ordered it with the Amanero USB combo 384 :) That one I had before would only output 44.1 kHz and multiples of that, so no 48k/96k/192k It was really annoying because a lot of my collection is 48k flacs... Anyways, hope this next one will work as it should/advertised...

    cheers,
    RagDoll.
     
  14. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    This is it, new Dac working beautifully :)

    Comes with remote

    and even does DSD 512 through Amanero USB module :)

    Sounds very clear, ****e load of bass and mids and treble is clear, yet retains mellowness...

    So far so good,

    cheers,
    RagDoll.

    ps: Has both XLR balanced and RCA outputs.
     
  15. Cidious

    Cidious Active Member

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    Yes I build mine too with balanced XLR outputs. They just do a bit of a better job to my active speakers than the RCA. I'm using QED signature cables to connect all devices. Including a custom USB cable from the shielded QED signature line. Which did help lower the noise floor.. which I found weird because its a digital signal.. but I've read it might have something to do with separating the 5V core.

    If you can send me a picture of the inside of your DAC I could probably give you some decent upgrade options if you can solder. These kits can be easily upgraded with a few tweaks here and there. The biggest gain I got from replacing the big power supply caps for genuine Nichicons or Vishay BCs. These Chinese brands tend to use counterfeit Novers or counterfeit Nichicons which dramatically lower sound quality. Bass will be muddy and vocals more unnatural. I changed them and the whole sound opened up and got tight and bass became deep and controlled. Second biggest gain was switching out the opamps for AD843. And then another big gain was made by putting them into class a with 2 jfets (jfets to keep a stable bias, for this model I had to lower the voltage rail from 15V to 8V to not burn out the opamps by replacing a few resistors). Which all may sound quite difficult but if you can solder (which doesn't take a genious to learn either) I can walk you through it easily if you can send me a picture of the inside and if you would be interested.

    Even if not interested in modifying. I would be very interested which version you got there and I'm waiting for an internal photo haha.

    Also, can you tell me more about the rest of your equipment? I'm interested in what you pair it with.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2016

  16. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    Hi bro, thanks for all the tips, I can solder but everythings working as it should, maybe a future project :) Here is the item I bought, and I got the upgrade to Amanero USB combo 384 module :)

    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/13175778...44bc1856436&bu=44278713327&cp=1&sojTags=bu=bu

    cheers,
    RagDoll.
     
  17. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    Just some of my equipment :)
    my camera is not good so low quality photo :(

    I have a 9.3 system setup, yes 3 subwoofers :)

    cheers,
    RagDoll.
     
  18. Cidious

    Cidious Active Member

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    I was more interested in what kind of speakers or headphones you use. But yeah I love surround sound! had a decent 7.1 setup with a big REL subwoofer which was more than enough for the room haha. Paired it with Boston Acoustics which gave me great bang for buck at the time. Right now I'm living in China. Have a desk setup which is enough to fill the room haha.

    The build looks solid. It's using the same board and design as most DIY shops use. I cant recall so quickly which reference they took to copy the board from. But it's widely used with minor modifications in the Chinese DIY world with good results I've noticed.

    Good big transformer. The component choice seems solid and components look genuine. You could still get much more out of it, if you'd wanted. The improvements that I made were really highly profitable ones. Especially putting the IV buffer stage opamps in class A made a huge difference!

    These devices are so much fun to me because they are already quite good when they come out of the box. Especially when you look at their price point. And because they cost little, squeezing more out of them is practically risk free and so profitable. The 9018 is have here now is definitely better than anything I've heard from the known genuine brands that sell for at least 4 times as much..

    So much clarity, dynamics, detail, but still warmth. The DAC puts great depth in the music. Especially snare instruments and voices sound so alive and touchable.

    I have to admit that my headphones and speakers are complimenting it too.. or the other way around.

    Great find this DAC. Hope more people will invest in these puppies and start experimenting with modifications. A lot of fun!
     
  19. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    Great post bro, thanks for the info and reco's :) I've started playing around with the settings like the 50k-70k DSD and the slow and fast setting for PCM I find that 60k and fast is the best for me... I build some speakers and subs so you may not know all the gear I've got in terms of speakers, but it's decent :) In fact today I was listening to 'Bass Nectar' album and the bass was so strong almost made me deaf for 5 minutes lol... spl would have been above 100db LOL What kind of speakers/monitors do you have for your desk setup? I might be able to give you a few pointers on adjustments/placing for them :)

    cheers,
    RagDoll.
     
  20. Cidious

    Cidious Active Member

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    The problem is that my room doesn't allow the speakers to be on a flat wall. There was just not enough space for that and The Bed is on the other side so I wanted to watch movies from there. Which gave me an acoustical issue to overcome with the close corners. I experimented a lot with dampening and this is near perfect. The only way I can improve the bass is by adding a little more foam to the sides which until now I was just to lazy for. I already tested it and the base just got a little tighter. Highs are brilliant, Mids are also very solid. The weak spots are the lows because of the indent they are in. On the other side of the room is my kingsize bed with a dampening board behind it. I use thick curtains and the rest of the floor is just wood. I have to say the acoustics in this room are not too bad. Could be worse.

    I also put dampening on the bottom side of my desk because it resonating with the low frequencies. That also helped a lot.

    Like I said. Even though the bass of the two monitors could be tighter, I'm not to disappointed with the result. My next apartment will be better again.

    Before these two monitors I was working with a 2.1 system which was terrible due to the poor options for subwoofer placing (Read the girlfriend didn't want it in the middle of the room hahaha).
     

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