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DIY ES9018 Hi-end USB DAC
DIY ES9018 Hi-end USB DAC
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Old 6th June 2013, 11:18 PM   #21
ttan98 is offline ttan98  Australia
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Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Melb
Quote:
Originally Posted by tsip View Post
cheers guys,
amplifiers are the flying moles dad m-100, headphones the akg 240 studio, source is an xp netbook with foobar in kernel steaming output and speakers some wharfedale diamonds. Current dac is the tascam us-144mkii, I had several other over the years but this ones is a workhorse.
I get no noise from the headphones. I get noise from the speakers, with ears to tweeters and not noticeable in the listening position, but this is something that my setup does in all the dacs i have used. From speakers with no music, max vol and all inputs disconnected i get very low noise much less that when an input is present. The noise remains the same in all bit rates 16/24. Hope that helps

Like i said the quality of the board is ok. Soldering is done by hand of the "i couldnt have done it better myself" quality, so no problems. Capacitors are mainly standard panasonic line, some elna sicmic in the shunt outputs, some panasonic FL, few oscons and the mkps are epcos and piher. Fets look original but you never know..
As for the performance comparing to my tascam this one does things better in terms of clarity, image extension and bass realism, but this needs to be explored further as it needs some listening mileage to give an opinion. I like to take my time with my equipment. So far it looks like its worth the money to play with, by my standards. Whether there is more performance that can be squeezed, it remains to be seen in the future.
Thanks for your initial impressions, I am sure the sound will change when you "burn-in" the DAC for the better. Enjoy.
Just a rough comparison, the DAC costs approx. $160 (without Case and Transformer) compared to $690(without USB) from Yulong and $1100 from Matrix, Both are Chinese made. If you have the money buy the commercial DAC otherwise the deal is good one.
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Old 7th June 2013, 08:14 AM   #22
tsip is offline tsip  Greece
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edit to my previous post. There is noise from the headphones, the digital sounding kind.
Thanks ttan98. I dont think it will be a performance dac but its a nice toy to play around and enjoy.
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Old 7th June 2013, 08:40 AM   #23
spirovious is offline spirovious  India
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@tsip- Thanks for short review,it was nice to read 1st impression.May it need some time to burn it in.Hope to read more from you.
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Old 7th June 2013, 04:09 PM   #24
Nanoloop is offline Nanoloop  Hong Kong
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Thank you. Maybe you should only hear the noise of the amplifier is the DAC is correct.

For the unlock, if you like, try the SOX resampler component for output 192/24. Also, the noise will change or stay the same ?

Do you like the sound ? This is the most important eh ?
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Old 7th June 2013, 06:03 PM   #25
tsip is offline tsip  Greece
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Join Date: Mar 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nanoloop View Post
Thank you. Maybe you should only hear the noise of the amplifier is the DAC is correct.

For the unlock, if you like, try the SOX resampler component for output 192/24. Also, the noise will change or stay the same ?

Do you like the sound ? This is the most important eh ?
thats the most important isnt it? yes so it shows good qualities in sound but i need to do more listening.
I havent noticed a change in the noise so far if bitrates change. For the moment i am limited to 24/96 from the spdif/out of my tascam. In general though i prefer 24/96 to 24/192 as i cant really hear substantial difference and they take more space in my drives
I will do some listening over the weekend and check if i can get to work the usb/i2s to from the xmos board
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Old 8th June 2013, 09:06 PM   #26
ervstil is offline ervstil
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Join Date: Apr 2013
Hi

I have this dac and i have been listening to it for a couple of weeks now. I have only listen to it with a pair of sennheiser HD540 reference gold through a lovely cube. I use the CM6631 USB interface from the same supplier. The PCB and soldering quality is decent, but i do nut trust the authenticity of the components. There was an option to upgrade to better caps, but i want to select them myself. I ordered it with opa627, six of them for 25usd. These are obviously fakes. Real 627 simply cost more and the markings do not look correct. The design of the output stage seems to be the same design as in http://www.esstech.com/PDF/Applicati...PCB_Layout.pdf, figure 2.

I purchased this DAC with the idea that i would experiment and modify it to see if i can get desent sound for a small ammount of money and have some fun at the same time. Maybe i could share some of my findings on the way in this thread.

I am currently putting together a system on a tight budget where all components are new to me and of unknown quality, so it is very hard for me to comment the sound quality of the DAC. I can only comment my impression of the complete system.

These are my findings regarding the complete system:

I can hear absolutely no noise other than what was recorded. I have not experienced any dropout using the USB interface.
The sound is pretty thin with weak bass but i have a strong suspicion that that is the HD540 signature sound (i would appreciate comments on the HD540). There is a distinct lack of presence, the music sounds distant somehow. I have a strong suspicion once again that it is the HD540 i am hearing. The imaging strikes me as narrow but precise. There is a rather high amount of details but some times in then the music complicated and busy it get mixed up an i can hear (very)slight distortion. I must note that i have listened mostly to 60:s to 90:s jazz from spotify, so you could question the quality of the recording and streaming. I will hook up the amp to the output of my laptop to see if i can hear the same thing. My guess is that the amount of details make me hear flaws that i can not hear in a low resolution source.

My plan for the dac at the moment is:

1. Replace caps around the analogue output with high quality ones(probably silmic II and wima mkp10).
2. Review the analogue signal path and look for improvements.
2. Replace the fake opa627:s with genuine op amps(maybe ad797).
3. move the PCB mounted leds to the front of the chassi.
3. Replace the cheap PCB mounted RCA connectors to chassi mounted quality ones.
4. Connect the balanced output to chassi mounted XLR:s
5. Review the analogue power supply and look for improvements.

Before i do anything of this i should probably test the HD540 and the 'lovely cube' with a known good source source to figure out how they sound. The i am able to isolate the sound quality of the dac i will write a review.

Maybe i sound a little bit critical and right now i am looking for things to improve. Overall this 300 usd system sounds absolutely fantastic for the money and i believe small corrections can take it to the next level.
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Old 8th June 2013, 09:53 PM   #27
qusp is offline qusp  Australia
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it isnt the same as the ESS app note, the ESS app note fig 2 is an instrumentation amp, which calls for 3 single opamps, or a differential opamp and a single opamp. a really cheaped out version my try and cheat and use a dual opamp, then a single opamp, but going by comments it doesnt seem like that either; unless the first stage is dual singles on a dual adapter, sharing pins? why you would bother doing that I dont know.

what makes you blame the senns when you are pretty sure you have fake opamps and fake parts?

so my suspicions were correct about authenticity, if the upgrade options are fake, good chance all the other name brand parts are fake, except the dac you would hope

first port of call is proper decoupling caps, get some high quality ceramics and just solder them directly across the pins on the opamp adapters, they are too far away to be useful otherwise. interesting to see how cheap the dac is when youve finished ...
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Old 8th June 2013, 10:49 PM   #28
ttan98 is offline ttan98  Australia
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Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Melb
Quote:
Originally Posted by ervstil View Post
Hi

I have this dac and i have been listening to it for a couple of weeks now. I have only listen to it with a pair of sennheiser HD540 reference gold through a lovely cube. I use the CM6631 USB interface from the same supplier. The PCB and soldering quality is decent, but i do nut trust the authenticity of the components. There was an option to upgrade to better caps, but i want to select them myself. I ordered it with opa627, six of them for 25usd. These are obviously fakes. Real 627 simply cost more and the markings do not look correct. The design of the output stage seems to be the same design as in http://www.esstech.com/PDF/Applicati...PCB_Layout.pdf, figure 2.

I purchased this DAC with the idea that i would experiment and modify it to see if i can get desent sound for a small ammount of money and have some fun at the same time. Maybe i could share some of my findings on the way in this thread.

I am currently putting together a system on a tight budget where all components are new to me and of unknown quality, so it is very hard for me to comment the sound quality of the DAC. I can only comment my impression of the complete system.

These are my findings regarding the complete system:

I can hear absolutely no noise other than what was recorded. I have not experienced any dropout using the USB interface.
The sound is pretty thin with weak bass but i have a strong suspicion that that is the HD540 signature sound (i would appreciate comments on the HD540). There is a distinct lack of presence, the music sounds distant somehow. I have a strong suspicion once again that it is the HD540 i am hearing. The imaging strikes me as narrow but precise. There is a rather high amount of details but some times in then the music complicated and busy it get mixed up an i can hear (very)slight distortion. I must note that i have listened mostly to 60:s to 90:s jazz from spotify, so you could question the quality of the recording and streaming. I will hook up the amp to the output of my laptop to see if i can hear the same thing. My guess is that the amount of details make me hear flaws that i can not hear in a low resolution source.

My plan for the dac at the moment is:

1. Replace caps around the analogue output with high quality ones(probably silmic II and wima mkp10).
2. Review the analogue signal path and look for improvements.
2. Replace the fake opa627:s with genuine op amps(maybe ad797).
3. move the PCB mounted leds to the front of the chassi.
3. Replace the cheap PCB mounted RCA connectors to chassi mounted quality ones.
4. Connect the balanced output to chassi mounted XLR:s
5. Review the analogue power supply and look for improvements.

Before i do anything of this i should probably test the HD540 and the 'lovely cube' with a known good source source to figure out how they sound. The i am able to isolate the sound quality of the dac i will write a review.

Maybe i sound a little bit critical and right now i am looking for things to improve. Overall this 300 usd system sounds absolutely fantastic for the money and i believe small corrections can take it to the next level.
Looking forward to your next installment of your impression.

My suspicion is that this DAC is very good value for it can provide, DSD, 24bit(32bit?)/192kHZ, etc. If you compare it against the commercial design like Matrix Sabre(costing about $1100), it will sound less impressive, by how much I don't know. Will you want to pay to the extra is up to each individual?

DIY this DAC is half the fun, and save some money and use the extra money to upgrade the existing DAC, please keep us informed of any upgrades.
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Old 8th June 2013, 11:23 PM   #29
ervstil is offline ervstil
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Join Date: Apr 2013
The first stage is a dual op amp, the second stage is a single. I believe it is the schematics from the app note.

I donīt blame the senns yet, but i suspect them because the sound like that then connected to other sources as well. When connected to the output of my laptop they sound a little bit warmer with stronger bass, but on the other hand that output is overly warm with a excess of bass. So i need the senns with a proven neutral source before i pass judgement of the dac.

I actually soldered an adaptor cable so i could connect the line out of my Topping D1 mkii (The Topping D1 Mark II | Headfonia) to the lovely cube and the 9018 dac sound so much better in every way. As it should. It confirmed my suspicion of the senns, with this dac it sounded a little punchier and warmer. But still the the same distant feeling. The topping has an overly enthusiastic but well controlled bass. With my porta pros it is simply way too much.

Regarding authenticity of the parts you should as a rule not trust anything on ebay. Maybe the upgrade parts were genuine because the prise was more or less the same as mouser, but on the other hand i could get them my self. Those suspicious under priced opa627 are also delivered with the lovely amp and the users seems pretty satisfied with them. The trouble is that i do not have any known genuines to compare with.

Maybe i should clarify that my first impression of the SQ of the dac is good. I do not think i can do much better for 150 usd. Right now i am looking for weaknesses because i Want to modify it, rather than need to modify it. I even thinking of making my own discrete output stage like the pass d1 or zen variants just for fun. I do not even know if it is possible, but i will do some research.
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Old 8th June 2013, 11:52 PM   #30
Jackal29a is offline Jackal29a  Spain
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ervstil View Post
(i would appreciate comments on the HD540)
Headphone Review - Sennheiser HD540 reference gold
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