Hifime 9018D dac is similar to the smaller 9018 but has a higher max output signal, 255 steps volume control, a display showing sample rate and volume level and a switch to select between USB Full speed (audio Class 1.0) and USB High speed (audio class 2.0).
Is uses audiophile Sabre ES9018K2M DAC chip and the high resolution SA9227 USB receiver. This DAC chip has great specs like 127dB DNR, -120dB THD+N and patented Time Domain Jitter Eliminator.
It comes in stylish small aluminium box and has a digital controlled lossless volume control, and a display showing the sample rate.
The USB receiver is the Savitech SA9227 USB used in asynchronous mode (more about that here). It supports all sample rates up to 384kHz/32 bit and are clocked by two onboard oscillators. Hifime 9018 has MAX97220A headphone chip that can drive headphones down to 16 ohm as well as higher impedance headphones as the Sennheiser HD650. The volume level goes quite loud, more than enough for 300ohm HD650's.
It works without drivers in Mac, Linux, and requires drivers to be installed in Windows. Note that 384kHz only works with ASIO which is accepted by some programs only, and not by Chrome, Youtube etc. Chrome on Mac's also doesn't support 384kHz. It uses by default USB Audio Class 2 which is required for sample rates above 96kHz. It will switch down to Class 1 if USB High speed mode is not available. It also have (like the U2 and UAE23) an optical output, which works up to 192kHz. In addition to normal PCB format It can play DSD files.
255 steps volume control with MCU
This DAC utilises a ultra low power MCU chip to control the volume level output from the DAC chip, from 0-127.5dB in 0.5dB steps. This is different from controlling volume at USB level which reduces the signal level going into the DAC chip and causes loss of dynamic range and lower SNR when volume is reduced. Using a digital volume control this way will be better than an analog one unless you have a analog volume control that has a lower noise floor than the DAC itself. You would need a exceptionally low noise analog volume control to beat the Sabre chip impressive -127dB.
An explanation from Sabre chip makes ESS Technology:
The volume up/down buttons works in a fast responsive way, just push and hold, you don't have to keep pressing several times.
High Speed / Full Speed switch
The 9018D has a switch to set USB Full Speed (12Mbps) or High Speed (480Mbps) mode. High Speed mode is needed by sample rates above 24/96 but requires drivers in Windows. If you set the switch to "Full Speed" mode it will run in USB Audio class 1 which means that you don't have to install drivers in Windows. This feature can be convenient in some situations
The brightness can be adjusted by pressing the left button while power on.
The ES9018K2M support selection of PCM filter frequency response. Chose between Fast and Slow roll-off. See this illustration (link).
Hold the right button while power on to select the roll-off.:
- Long press will set default (Fast roll-off) while a short press will set it to Slow roll-off
We think the sound of this DAC is really great! It supports all headphones we have tried it with, and it can also be used with ultra sensitive in-ears as the volume level can go . The 9018D also works with Android 5.0 (Nexus 6 tested) if you keep the HS/FS switch in HS mode, however Android will only output 48kHz.
Apart from the volume level the sounds is the same from the smaller 9018 model.
Download Savitech Windows driver
here (updated april 16th). New driver supports Win 10 here. The windows driver must be installed for the DAC to work on USB 2.0 or 3.0 ports. However you don't have to use the ASIO output. The ASIO driver's control panel will say "Device not available" even if the dac is connected. It will only show the device name when you have selected the ASIO output in a player program and when playing music.