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A/B Listening Test - AK4499eq vs ESS9038pro
A/B Listening Test - AK4499eq vs ESS9038pro
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Old 15th June 2021, 02:51 PM   #21
pilli is offline pilli  France
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Fair enough,
if that brought you to a clear preference, that must mean something too!

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Old 19th June 2021, 02:22 PM   #22
Markw4 is offline Markw4  United States
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Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: California
Originally Posted by markkpa View Post
...The AK4499EQ in the DC500...Compared to the ESS9038pro...
You are not comparing dac chips so much as comparing particular implementations of dacs, using, among other things, two different dac chips. A lot of any difference in SQ will have to do with clocking, power supplies, output stage topology, etc.

So far I have not seen a commercial AK4499 based dac that gets shows off what the dac chip can do at its best. Topping D90 is pretty good, with great bass and imaging, but at vocal frequencies and above there is something about the it's sound that is a little 'off.' It doesn't sound natural at those frequencies, although the problem is small enough that some people never notice it, while other people can't stand it.

As far as the best dacs go, Chord DACs with aftermarket analog power supplies and a prescaler may be the best sounding Sigma-Delta types. For people that don't like SD sound, Holo May seems to be the favorite of most for now.

Either spend the money or don't, but don't assume that other dacs are so close to being just as good as the best ones so that no practical audible difference exists. What is or isn't audible depends a lot on how the listener's brain processes audio. Whether or not a listener cares about the sound of particular small audible imperfections is another personal factor.
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Old 19th June 2021, 06:45 PM   #23
markkpa is offline markkpa  United States
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Join Date: May 2021
Agreed - I'm not comparing the DAC chip as much as DC500 and Gustard x26 Pro units. I keep going back & forth between the two. The music is so much more engaging on the DC500. This is a dual DAC chip implementation which I think is different than the Topping D90. Early on I was also hearing some of that un-naturalness in female vocals but it's gone now. The DC500 seems to need time to warm up; I no longer bother turning it off anymore. Also, I figured out how to turn off this Chinese "echo" nonsense - select "Super Slow Roll-Off" for no echo.

Last edited by markkpa; 19th June 2021 at 06:55 PM.
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Old 20th June 2021, 07:43 PM   #24
markkpa is offline markkpa  United States
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Join Date: May 2021
Final thoughts. Both DAC's are good - really good. But, the DC500 goes lower and the bass is more taught. And there are more highs. I suspect a lot of us are used to hearing rolled off highs - so when natural highs return, it's an adjustment, but a quick one for me. The big one for me is the rhythm and dynamics - the DC500 has a better beat & pace. I suspect the firmer bass lines help but its more than that - i.e. there is more pluck on strings. I switched to the "Super_S" setting as I think it sounds more natural.
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