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Bigun 31st December 2016 01:20 AM

Oppo Sonica DAC
1 Attachment(s)
This looks interesting, could be my first purchase from Oppo.

"flagship ESS ES9038PRO SABRE DAC"

ticknpop 31st December 2016 01:31 AM

I've owned several Oppo products, as universal players they've been great, analog stages not so great, using them to feed external discrete jfet dacs has worked out pretty well. The new dac seems promising, but I expect it'll be let down by the mediocre analog stage.

Bigun 31st December 2016 03:59 AM


Originally Posted by ticknpop (
external discrete jfet dacs

DIY or commercial DACs ?

kevinkr 31st December 2016 03:00 PM

:cop: Lots of complaints received about the recent of spate of DAC posts to Digital Source, so I have obligingly moved this one to the proper forum. Could you guys perhaps help us out and post to the proper forum? :D

The clue is in the forum sub header.


Digital Line Level DACs, Digital Crossovers, Equalizers, etc.

TNT 1st January 2017 10:11 AM


Originally Posted by Bigun (
This looks interesting, could be my first purchase from Oppo.

How very DIY of you ;)


Coris 21st January 2017 11:39 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Well, Oppo`s Sonica DAC looks quite nice from outside (almost same design/look as HA_1). Let`s take a look inside (as Oppo have recently published the inside picture)...
First thing I wanted to know it was what kind of DAC chip they actually use. As known, ESS have recently released a family of new (upgraded) Sabre version chips, as some dedicated low noise regulators for these new chips.
I took a closer look at the internal picture of Sonica. There is not possible to see the marking of the DAC chip soldered on PCB, but looking at the marking of a ES9038pro, there is a very distinct difference between the chip inside Sonica and the original ES9038pro chip (see bellow comparative picture)...
It looks like Oppo use something else than 9038pro. Maybe ES9028pro, or ES9026pro... But they advertise for 9038Pro inside... Something I can not get it so far...

Else, what more we can see?
There is (another observation): the same design approach for DAC analogue section as for Oppo BDP players. The DAC 8 output channels are configured and distributed in between (most likely connected 2 + 2) the RCA and XLR outputs. Not known what kind of I/V and buffers opamps are used, but it looks to me the I/V are fully differential devices.
The DAC clock it is a little bit different, it seems well shielded, and I have a mistake that it is not an oscillator chip based, but maybe a PLL based one... I could see quite many components under that shield, and such may not be necessary for a usual oscillator device... Well, this supposition it stil be confirmed or not...
The final outputs are AC coupled all...

What is very disappointing (in my opinion) is the further use of a SMPS for the digital stage of the device. The whole power Sonica it need, is specified for 30w (included the one for analogue stage) This it mean that the power necessary for the digital stage is even lower (something about 20w or so). For such low power it was much more beneficial for the device overall quality, the use of a fully linear PSU, for both digital and analogue sections. I think this SMPS approach for a declared high end/quality DAC is really unfortunate and even wrong.
As we can see in the Oppo specifications for this device, the dynamic range as signal to noise figures are 120dB. I find this quite strange, when the ESS advertise for the new 9038pro chip an huge 140 dB level. There is not a very important improvement in this field comparing with HA-1 (ES9018 chip based)...
What is good for this new Oppo DAC (my opinion) is the upgradeable firmware.

In spite of all these above negative observations, and if the inside ES9038pro it will be confirmed, I will buy this device. Why? To modify it. Only modifying it this DAC it will become indeed a very high-end audio piece...
Oppo continue its "tradition" to give to the moders a work to do in this field. This is quite positiv in fact...;)

Coris 22nd January 2017 09:05 AM

Sorry for the wrong formulation of this phrase in my above post.
Please read insted of:
"...and I have a mistake that it is not an oscillator chip based", "... and I suspect that is not an oscillator chip based"

Coris 22nd January 2017 11:27 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Well, I found a better picture of the DAC inside Sonica...
It is clear enough, out of this picture, that is about ES9038Pro into the Sonica DAC.
But what about the quite different marking of the ES 9038Pro chips out there? There are some other kind of copies of this chip out on market? It is this possible? Quite confusing...

I can see better in this picture that the clock is well shielded. There are not components to be seen under the shielding, but only the ground soldering pads...
What it may be inside the clock shielding, it still be discovered... It could be a usual oscillator chip and its power provider device...

flo 22nd January 2017 11:55 AM

I think the picture with the red PCB is photoshopped. Looks like the marketing pictures on the ESS webpage:

ESS Technology :: Audiophile DACs

Coris 22nd January 2017 01:41 PM

However, there is one marking on ESS official/original sheet, we can not find on the Oppo picture of the DAC inside Sonica... The marking on the ESS sheet is the same as the one in the red PCB picture I found...
It is quite clear that are two different markings of the ESS9038Pro chips. Why? Which one is the real? Or it are both real/original? It could be two production versions of the same chip? In such case which it may be the differences in between?
Well, quite many questions, without answers (yet)...

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