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Modding an HiFimeDIY ES9018k2M DAC
Modding an HiFimeDIY ES9018k2M DAC
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Old 7th February 2018, 06:54 PM   #1
Salar is online now Salar  Germany
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Default Modding an HiFimeDIY ES9018k2M DAC

Bought one of these recently:
Hifime SPDIF Optical DAC (ES9018K2M)
I hooked it on a TPS7A4700 Power supply, the Dac is dead silent.
But compared to any other Dac or player I own the 9018DAC misses warmth, i.e presence in the lower mids.
The combination in this DAC with Sabre ES9018k2M and 9601 headphone/line out driver seems to be very common.
Any way to mod this DAC to get back some warmth?
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Old 7th February 2018, 07:52 PM   #2
TNT is offline TNT  Sweden
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Some warmth disappears when distortion goes out. Find the balance by tweaking your loudspeakers (or others) and you will in the ended be greatly rewarded. There are more references about this - here is one I think makes sense.... How to Make a Track Sound 'Warm' and 5 Other Confusing Audio Terms, Explained

A system is a balance act. Never will I weigh up something by adding distorsion - I just don't believe in that if you have high goals.

Then again... harsness and coldness could also be dist.

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Last edited by TNT; 7th February 2018 at 07:55 PM.
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Old 7th February 2018, 08:14 PM   #3
Salar is online now Salar  Germany
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Hm- this definately means that my Twistepear Buffalo ES9018 Dac, Sony CDP-X5000, Sony Za5ES or and even the Sony CDP-101 I compared the HiFimediy-Dac to are all distorting? I donīt think so...
With the CDP-101 I think the goals are not high at all...
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Old 1st March 2018, 10:44 AM   #4
Salar is online now Salar  Germany
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No Ideas? Looks like there is not much to mod. As for the electrolytic apacitors,there is only 2 for the USB input and one between a
regulatorīs Output and the Sabre 9601 lineout/phone driver.
No data available if there is dedicted outputs for each prurpose.
If this highly integrated combo of DAC and preamp really sonnds as thin as it does against several dacs from several generations, Ess Technology did something essentially wrong...

BTW I am not using USB but a low noise power supply.
I would also like to know if the ES9018K2M has also current output (I doubt) to use/test it with a better output stage...?
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Old 2nd March 2018, 01:29 AM   #5
abraxalito is online now abraxalito  United Kingdom
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In my experience the ES9018K2M doesn't have completely natural timbre. Go for a multibit DAC with discrete output stage (or transformer) for warmth.

As far as I'm aware, you can use either a low impedance input (current mode) or high impedance stage following the DAC chip. Internally its just a bunch of resistors between the reference supply and GND.
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Old 12th October 2018, 11:08 PM   #6
Salar is online now Salar  Germany
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Well, i tested this DAC with two low noise power supplies,
from Twistedpear (shunt regulated Placid) and from LDOVR.

Setting the source to pause and ramping my amp all way up, there is a hiss.
My Buffalo DAC as well as an old Philips CD-304 are quieter.
Also the datasheets indicate that the ES9018k2k/Sabre9061k should be quieter.

I assume the hiss comes from the voltage regulation and that the first regulatior after the usb input can be omitted.
The ES9018k2m runs on 3.3/1.8V.
But I find no info on which voltage the Sabre9601k runs...?

Last edited by Salar; 12th October 2018 at 11:11 PM.
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Old 12th October 2018, 11:46 PM   #7
Markw4 is online now Markw4  United States
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Cheap Sabre dacs don't generally sound warm, IME. Power quality, AVCC reference quality, clock jitter, analog reconstruction filtering, digital interpolation filtering, etc., are all things that contribute to poor sound quality in them. It usually isn't like the manufacturer just did one thing wrong, usually they cut corners pretty much everywhere equally. As a result, there is usually no one simple fix. Very common scenario with low cost Sabre dacs, don't know about others so much. Haven't looked into any of those.
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Old 13th October 2018, 12:49 AM   #8
Salar is online now Salar  Germany
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Yes, and this is why I would like to remove the voltage regulator at the USB input as I can provide clean power to the DAC and Line Out stage, the Sabre9061k.
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Old 13th October 2018, 01:24 AM   #9
Markw4 is online now Markw4  United States
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Why don't you? You could ring out the connections with a DVM and probably figure it out. If you blow it up, no big loss. It's more or less junk as is, IMHO.

Or, you could sign an NDA with ESS and get data sheets for the parts. Lot of trouble for not much potential gain starting from an ES9018 though, again, IMHO.

It may help to know that Sabre dacs only have one kind of output, it works for voltage mode or current mode depending on how it is loaded.

If interested in modding a Sabre dac knowing you will end up with something quite good, you would certainly be welcome over in the 'ES9038Q2M board' thread. Lot's of modding going on there. Having done some of it myself, there is not always a schematic or other desired information, but often one can still figure out quite a bit. Enough to make significant improvements. Actually, over there we do have a lot of information by this point, but a lot was done in the beginning with with no schematic and no datasheet.

Last edited by Markw4; 13th October 2018 at 01:27 AM.
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Old 13th October 2018, 01:51 AM   #10
phase is offline phase  United States
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The clock needs its own supply also, or at least some ferrite beads in there somewhere to keep the noise at bay if shared with dvdd.
That board needs so much to be sibilant-free and still sound decent, would be easier to just make some simple upgrades, put it back together and find something more mod-worthy.
Keep that one for a backup or test unit.
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