The other ESS DACS - ES9006 (Premier) and ES9016 (Ultra) - diyAudio
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Old 9th February 2011, 03:39 AM   #1
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Default The other ESS DACS - ES9006 (Premier) and ES9016 (Ultra)

I'm thinking to do a 9006 build as well as a 9023 build (in small quantities the 9006 is actually slightly lower cost per channel than the 9023 even if you don't use all the channels). The 9006 and 9016 are pin compatible except for ADDR/AUTOMUTE so, allowing for minor microcontroller and power supply differences, a board for one can easily accommodate the other much like one board can support both the 9008 and 90018.

Not much discussion of these parts here on DIYA. Anyone done a build with them? Any A/B testing of them against the other ESS DACs? Anyone found audible differences between the 9006/9008 or 9016/9018 which trace back to the DAC rather than supporting components such as supply or output buffers or differences in DAC configuration such as changing the filter coefficients?

Just curious. If we can share knowledge it might save a few folks proto spins.
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Old 11th February 2011, 02:51 PM   #2
qusp is offline qusp  Australia
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acko has a new 9016 dac on his site, but no reports of the sound as yet. looks interesting for a mid level performer. which for ESS probably puts it level with many other top level performers.

i'm looking to use either 9023 or 9016 for my rear and bass channels so watching with interest
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Old 12th February 2011, 04:36 AM   #3
VHF man is offline VHF man  Australia
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Originally Posted by qusp View Post
acko has a new 9016 dac on his site, but no reports of the sound as yet. looks interesting for a mid level performer. which for ESS probably puts it level with many other top level performers.

i'm looking to use either 9023 or 9016 for my rear and bass channels so watching with interest
I bought the W4S DAC2 - based on many positive reviews. There's a long recommended break in period - FWIW but with 200+ hours on mine the results are mixed. This DAC uses the 9018.

I don't have a multitude of DACs to compare but I have A-B'ed RBCD with my Marantz SA-11s1 - using the HT bypass feature on the W4S. Surprisingly the difference between the Marantz and DA2 is really massive. The treble presentation in particular is totally different - regardless of settings. The W4S treble is very 'textured' - almost 'meaty' while in comparison the Marantz' treble is lighter and silkier. The W4S also presents a very dead background with almost no 'air' or ambience. It's a very non-liquid treble compared with the Marantz. I'm at a loss to explain why two very good products can sound so totally different. The recent TAS review of the W4S DAC2 was very favourable and placed it close to the Weiss 202 - so it must be pretty good.
I also own a Benchmarks DAC1 pre and that sounds much more similar to the Marantz - but is a bit brighter but has even more 'air' and hf ambience.

My limited experience tells me that the ESS dacs sound very different to my Cirrus or BB based sources but whether this extnds to the entire family of ESS dacs is a good question. Surely the W4S I-V and output stage implementation is not affecting the SQ to any extent? It is all discrete and apparently a great deal of effort has gone into the design.
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Old 13th February 2011, 01:48 AM   #4
qusp is offline qusp  Australia
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well youre description of your ESS dac sounds odd to me, just because its the flavor of the month in that audio magazine doesnt mean its as good as they say it is. in fact it makes me suspicious. for me the spec reads as though they watched the audiophile press and just threw in as many catch words as they could. using a NFB output stage to a device that already uses feedback extensively itself seems redundant to me. in answer to your question, yes of course it can be influencing it that much, do you think they would use a line telling you little effort went into the design? I believe you have found your own answer also by the looks in the other thread. you may have a dud unit, but there is also the possibility that the guys at cullen know that a way to sell units is with words in the press and by making it sound different. some people really like 2nd harmonic. personally I dont feel a NFB output stage has any place on the output of a sabre dac, makes no sense to me if going for high performance. too much FB is of course not good and makes things sound too vanilla, but judicious use of feedback is just good design IMO. others will of course disagree, but thats audio, I wouldnt have it any other way.
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Old 23rd November 2011, 11:32 PM   #5
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So, my 90x6 DAC project's been on hold for some time due to summer and a bunch of power amplifier design work I've been doing. I've recently had time to get back to it and would like input on the clocking. The board I'm working on consists of an ADAU1445 SigmaDSP part feeding the DAC in 8 channel mode via I2S. Input will initially be via the SigmaDSP's SPDIF input but may eventually switch to a direct I2S input to the SigmaDSP.

The SigmaDSP parts require passing SPDIF input through an ASRC to manage the clock domain transition and then the DAC's FIR oversampling filters perform an additional ASRC operation. There's nothing unusual about this---just about all SPDIF receivers and most DACs resample---but the SigmaDSP's ability to operate at 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192 along with the DACs' acceptance of clocks between 8.4672 and 50MHz (9006) or 100MHz (9016) allow many configuations. The most flexible way of clocking the system would be programming a clock generator to generate whatever clocks are desired for the SigmaDSP, DAC, and I2S sources, trying various configurations until an optimum's found.

However, I'm thinking this may be overkill. I've already resampled various recordings (all 44.1 redbook) to 48, 88.2, and 96 using a variety of ASRCs such as SoX, Secret Rabbit, and the hardware in my Focusrite Saffire 40. My preference is to stay with 44.1, though I found 88.2 with slow rolloff filters (-mb 90 or -l, for example) offered a bit better tonality in slow passages without too much degradation of transients. 48 was pretty much uniformly awful, 96 was OK-ish but noticeably worse than 88.2. I therefore suspect I'll end up operating the SigmaDSP at 44.1 and the DAC at its maximum synchronous clock rate of 45.1584 or 90.3168MHz to minimize the duration of its FIR oversampling filters' transient response (ESS's 9016 and 9018 block diagrams show the oversampling filter's fed by MCLK; the same presumably holds for 9006, 9008, and 9022/9023). This admits the simpler solution of a 4x clock multiplier between the SigmaDSP and DAC, using frequencies of 11.2896 and 45.1584MHz with the 9006 and 22.5792 and 90.3168MHz with the 9016. Saves a few bucks on parts and the time to program up a microcontroller to configure a clock synthesizer.

For those who've tried various ESS DAC clocking options, how does this fit in with your experience? I'm assuming operating the 9016 in OSF bypass is a non-starter as ESS recommends upsampling by 8x while the best my Squeezebox or the SigmaDSP can do is is 4x.
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Old 24th November 2011, 09:47 AM   #6
deandob is offline deandob  Australia
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I'm also considering a new build of an ESS DAC, probably the 9018. Is a group buy for these chips an option if a few of us are building?
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Old 29th November 2011, 04:48 AM   #7
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no i dont think it is
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Old 4th December 2011, 06:26 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by jean-paul View Post
I am on the ADP151 route myself and thought the opamps solution ESS suggest worth trying out. I now see that it is not ideal.
I think it depends on how much effort one wants to put into the supply.

ESS's published AVcc data is for the 9008 and only goes to 50MHz, at which frequency the AVcc draw is 36mA. That's doable with an LME49720 or similar with one channel supplying the DAC's left supply and the other supplying the right supply; 18mA per channel's a bit harder than I'd choose to push the op amp but it's 5mA under National's min output current spec.

Extrapolating ESS's data to 100MHz suggests the draw on AVcc would be 57mA typ. An LME49726 can supply this without much fuss. The GBP, open loop gain, and PSRR are about 20dB less than a 49720/49722/49725 but they're still probably higher than the ADP151 and the 49726 is lower noise. I don't believe the 49726 datasheet when it says the part can push 350mA from a 5V rail with 0V of drop but it's certainly going to be able to move 30+mA per channel from a 5V supply to a 3.3V output. What's less clear is what the output impedance would be and how much cap would required to ensure stabilization. The cap's no big deal---if a large MLCC doesn't do then a polymer electrolytic will---but I would guess the closed loop output impedance is 100mOhm up to maybe an Ohm. That's a little on the high side but to be sure one would need to build a test coupon and measure the part. Also, I haven't done a survey to see if there are other low noise, high current, voltage feedback op amps which might work better in this role. (All the high current op amps I know off the top of my head are current feedback and at least an order of magnitude noisier.)

In comparison, the ADP150 and 151 are turnkey to design to; since they're intended as regulators all the necessary info's in the datasheet. Throw a low ESR, low ESL 470uF polymer electrolytic on the output and the noise will be comparable to ESS's LME497x0 + 47uF MLCC arrangement. And the regulation probably as good or better (the output impedance peak moves down to 20kHz or so but reduces to something like 15mOhm). PSRR/ripple rejection's a bit lower but if all one does is LM7805 + ADP151 it's not hard to hold the ripple on AVcc to 100nV. That's comparable to the noise floor so I doubt it'd matter.
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Old 4th December 2011, 08:30 AM   #9
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well i've been using AD797 (up to 30ma), opa1641, lme49990 (only for VDD_L/R) fed with a ultralow noise ref to supply AVCC and DVCC (one for each pin on each channel) with 100mhz clock and soon to try ltc6655 in the same. if you can stay within the current limits of the opamp its a superior solution to regulators IMO; of which ive tried LT1763, lt1764a, lt1964a and cat amongst the pigeons,, A123 lifepo4. i've also used the A123 in place of or preceding the reference or directly connected in the case of AVCC as this dac shows improvement with higher than 3v3 on AVCC.

there is 100uf pana SP polymer and 100nf MLCC on the AKD12P (9012 based) board.

you are correct to be focussing on VDD-L/R though, AVCC is of course very important also, but i have found the reference shows most difference between the various topologies and DVCC can be just a nice quality IC reg.

i'm all set up for another round of experiments, although i do need another month or so research for the scope purchase for quantifying it.
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Old 4th December 2011, 03:04 PM   #10
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VDD_L and VDD_R are specific to the 64 pin DACs; they don't exist on the 9006 and 9016.

Do you have a link to your measurements of different reference topologies? ESS's approach of putting DVdd through a 1Hz lowpass seems fine given correct layout.

Last edited by twest820; 4th December 2011 at 03:06 PM.
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