The ES9038PRO DAC

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Posted by HiFimeDIY 06/09/2017 55 Comment(s)

The ESS Sabre ES9038PRO chip has received a lot of attention and praised as the most important new DAC chip in ages. It offers such great performance and features so this is easy to understand. Depending on how the chip is used it can achieve up to 140dB dynamic range, -122 dB (0.00008%) total harmonic distortion plus noise (THD+N) in mono mode. It also has other great features as THD compensation to "minimize THD caused by external components". 

 

The few commercially available DACs using this chip are all quite expensive, which is understandable as the chip is more than 10 times as expensive as the ES9018K2M chip! So we are excited to announce that we are making a ES9038PRO DAC that will be very affordable, even though it will be our most expensive DAC to date.  Our philosophy has always been to make affordable gear without charging hundred of dollars for diamond casing or making expensive and hip marketing videos. 

 

 

We have made a few different samples over the last few months and are finalising the circuit and doing additional testing these days. 

 

The DAC has many of the features from our UDA18 DAC: USB and SPDIF inputs, digital volume control adjusted in DAC chip, optional (not required) external power supply. It also comes in the same sized case as the UDA18, so it is a very portable DAC. It uses the ES9038PRO chip in combination with the OPA1622 output stage chip. This opamp is a newer generation chip with greatly improved performance. It can drive both line level loads and headphones with extremely low distortion, and we found it to be a very good match for ES9038PRO.

 

55 Comment(s)

Kiwi:
06/09/2017, 07:41:14 AM
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Thanks for keeping up to date. Support for native dsd256 or even dsd512 which is within the capabilities of the chip would be much appreciated. Also rca outputs would be a must. And what about a built in battery charged from the USB as per the ifi idsd micro.

musiclover:
06/09/2017, 07:49:09 AM
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AHHH now your talking!! BUT it must have at very minimum RCA outputs but for this true audiophile grade chip XLR balanced outputs really should also be included to extract all the sweetness out of this chip for those who want to put this on the main sound system, this chip warrants ultimate respect. So guys make it flexible enough for both computer & audiophiles

Fabien:
06/09/2017, 08:39:53 AM

Musiclover you are damn right.

M:
06/09/2017, 09:13:18 AM

I would buy 2 of these the instant they were released if they had balanced XLR outputs.

M:
06/09/2017, 09:14:31 AM

... and coaxial SPDIF input.

HiFimeDIY Web:
07/09/2017, 03:56:39 AM

Thanks for your feedback! We'll add RCA outputs. But SPDIF input will be optical only.

Prignony:
07/09/2017, 01:56:08 PM

Current spec + DSD512 + rca + xlr + coax + DIP opamp + remote on the desktop version ? :D

omnitoc:
31/10/2017, 02:48:32 AM

There are so many wishes for different direction. I think it would be better to go for 2 or even 3 different version instead of one with all the features which makes it expensive and I think most people would use only small part of the features. Not everyone needs a remote control or Spdif input. Better one small mobile version and one big with (balanced) XLR, volume control and a good ultra low noise PSU with extern AC Converter. Me for example would need balanced output(must not be XLR) to drive my active studio monitors. XLR demands for a big encloser, Balanced output could be 2x 3,5mm But for me a highend headphone amp(for 250Ohm) with volume control would be so nice. Please add a good ultra low noise PSU(extern AC Converter) as USB voltage is not very stable...

Boris:
06/09/2017, 07:51:34 AM
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Can you make volume controllable by universal IR remote? And add optical input, also selectable by remote? With RCA output it could then be used to directly drive output stage amplifier, which would further improve sound and make system more affordable, by removing preamp.

Nile:
30/09/2017, 09:45:17 AM

YES! Another 10 votes for a remote control feature, especially for volume control. There are no reasonably-priced DACs that offer this highly desirable feature! All those optical digital devices that have no volume control *need* this *badly*...!

Clinton:
06/09/2017, 07:22:53 AM
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Got an approx ETA?

HiFimeDIY:
07/09/2017, 06:31:29 AM

We can't promise anything yet, but aim to have first batch available in 2 months.

Josh:
06/10/2017, 07:24:32 PM

Really excited to see an update on when something might be available.

Clinton:
06/09/2017, 07:22:57 AM
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Got an approx ETA?

Gordon Macfarlane:
06/09/2017, 07:27:06 AM
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Would be great to have rca output and a socketed output opamp to allow the use of so called "discrete opamps"

Prignony:
07/09/2017, 12:26:00 PM

I concur, rca output and socketed opamp, I'ld also love to be able to chose my opamp.

Nikolay:
06/09/2017, 07:29:22 AM
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good news. waiting for specifications.

Chris:
06/09/2017, 07:30:55 AM, kopfhoerer-lounge.blogspot.com
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This sounds very promising! I'm still loving and regularly using your 9018d that is almost perfect (the only downside is that it is a bit too hissy with sensitive IEMs, however everything else is awesome) and affordable, too. I'm sure that if you can keep the hiss with super sensitive IEMs (very) low and if the output impedance is accordingly low as well, it could be a killer machine.

Steve:
06/09/2017, 07:31:25 AM
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I agree with Gordon, RCA outputs would be a good addition

thunderdomme:
06/09/2017, 07:35:22 AM
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Great news!! I´m really looking forward for the release of this DAC, it looks very promising. I hope it can be ready to ship before the end of the year! Good job.

Totoro:
06/09/2017, 07:38:43 AM
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Looking forward to this Dac, I've got two Dac's from you guys and it's been nothing but excellent! Your products are still going strong without any issues. Dare I say it, this could be a game changer considering your price to performance has been nothing short of excellent within your product range! Best of luck and will be "add to cart" when released.

Arne Madsen:
06/09/2017, 08:06:37 AM
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Great news! RCA is mandatory.

niko tomatsidis:
06/09/2017, 08:13:39 AM
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Looking forward to this one. I'm impressed with the DAC I already go from you. Would be nice if it was both Coax and Optical. My TV decoder and Android TV box only has optical out.

HiFimeDIY:
07/09/2017, 06:32:27 AM

It will have optical input.

Eberhard Trauer:
06/09/2017, 08:29:43 AM
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Very interesting news - but i´m missing a konkret offer for a DAC with this chip. Did i overread those offer?

HiFimeDIY:
07/09/2017, 06:33:17 AM

The offer will be posted later, soon

Vincent:
06/09/2017, 09:16:33 AM
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IT would be great if the DAC could als by used as RCA line in to SPDIF out. Then I could make a didgital interlink of 5 meters between my pre amp and tube power amp.

Mikhail Vasiliev:
06/09/2017, 09:48:19 AM
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will be it portable? usb powered is better. and price?

HiFimeDIY:
07/09/2017, 06:35:36 AM

Yes, same size as the UDA 18 DAC: https://hifimediy.com/uda18-usb-and-spdif-dac Can run from USB power, and can also be powered from external power supply.

HiFimeDIY:
31/10/2017, 03:46:04 AM

It works perfectly on our Xiaomi MI Mix phone (with type-C adaptor) without external power supply. Another Xiaomi phone required external power for it to work. iPad PRO needed a USB hub and external power supply.

AudioIsCool:
06/09/2017, 10:07:21 AM
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Would be really nice a similar product like SMSL Idea which works fine on android devices as a portable solution of this new lineup! Really expecting good things as always.

HiFimeDIY:
07/09/2017, 06:41:34 AM

It should work on most Android devices, however Android's DAC support tends to differ from phone to phone between android versions.

HiFimeDIY:
31/10/2017, 03:45:40 AM

It works perfectly on our Xiaomi MI Mix phone (with type-C adaptor) without external power supply. Another Xiaomi phone required external power for it to work. iPad PRO needed a USB hub and external power supply.

Kaiser:
06/09/2017, 10:40:06 AM
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Been waiting for a ES9038 model from Hifimediy ever since I heard of the chip. Pretty much the reason I held back from upgrading my current DAC.

Mark:
06/09/2017, 11:02:43 AM
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XLR output would be a game changer. It's a balanced DAC after all

Stephan:
06/09/2017, 01:00:08 PM, merkst.de
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Amazing news. Balanced XLR would be a solution as using it as a high quality audio interface. However, the most important think is not the DAC but the loudspeakers or headphones. Looking forward in comparing it with existing DACs.

Andrew:
06/09/2017, 01:19:27 PM
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10 times more expensive, 10 times more power hungry, and for what? 140dB DR and -122dBm noise level? How is that even remotely practical? Not to mention in final product those values are much more theoretical than anything else.

HiFimeDIY:
07/09/2017, 06:43:42 AM

The chip also has other features that improves sound quality, as the THD compensation. The es9038pro chip is 10 times more expensive, our DAC will not be 10 times more expensive..

Carl:
06/09/2017, 01:40:47 PM
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Another vote for RCA output

Damien:
06/09/2017, 04:40:44 PM
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Yep, +1 for RCA, great enough not to be just a headphones DAC is there the voltage ref chip made by ESS for this dac chip ? It has sense to use that chip only if the pcb gnd and PS are very quiet...

David Powell:
06/09/2017, 08:12:11 PM
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Looking forward to seeing the final model and adding another DAC to my collection. However, you should also take a look at Schitt's Fulla 2 form factor, as its size and big volume knob on top is perfect for that desktop usage scenario (no fiddling about with software volume controls or buttons, just dial it to exactly where you want it).

LJS:
07/09/2017, 12:16:58 AM
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If it's called Pro, XLR outputs should be available, RCAs would be nice too.

HiFimeDIY:
07/09/2017, 03:53:46 AM
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Thanks for the feedback guys ! Yes we can add RCA output, there's room for that on the front next to 3.5mm output. We won't do XLR, there is no room on this smaller DAC. It could be an option if we later make a bigger size "desktop" model.

Jacob Sullivan:
07/09/2017, 04:41:55 AM

Excellent. An ESS9038PRO based DAC with RCAs sounds great.

Vincent:
07/09/2017, 05:28:00 AM

Nice to have RCA output, but is there à RCA input comming to? Or à 2nd DAC or ADC of you Will that van do RCA to Didgital?

pos:
13/09/2017, 01:51:14 PM

Any plan for a multi channel version in the future?

HiFimeDIY:
07/09/2017, 06:45:51 AM
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@Vincent, RCA input do you mean digital coax input? That will probably not happen on this DAC. And about RCA to digital, that would require another device, as the ES9038PRO is a DAC not ADC chip.

Vincent:
07/09/2017, 08:29:53 PM

No, stereo RCA input. So i can make à optical interlink to my tube AMP. So analogie RCA to Didgital. That is what i am looking for. There are not manney divices capable of doing that.

Sarang:
07/09/2017, 09:48:10 AM
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Wonderful News!! That's my wishlist come true. I'm hoping this will have 'most'of the features of Oppo's Sonica DAC, and offcourse, without the 'snake oil'. Eagerly waiting for the knight in the shining armour!!

Needmore_ram:
07/09/2017, 04:56:08 PM
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How low is the output impedance?

Zeon:
08/09/2017, 03:06:02 AM
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I'm using UAE23HD with an headphone amplifier. One of the its advantages is I don't need to find a USB cable and a power supply to make the sound better. With this upcoming flagship DAC, I feel like buying a good USB cable.

Andreas:
09/09/2017, 08:48:37 AM
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It's great to hear that you'll be adding RCA outputs to this DAC (although XLR would be even better). The main reason I've not purchased one of your ES9018 DACs in the past is the lack of RCA or XLR outputs. Could you please tell us how volume will be controlled on this DAC? Digitally through the DAC chip, or with some kind of analogue pot? Also, will the volume control apply to the RCA outputs? For use with studio monitors (which I assume will be the standard use for the RCA outputs on this DAC) some kind of volume control is essential. Thanks.

HiFimeDIY:
18/09/2017, 03:41:49 AM

The chip reads the setting of the potmeter and adjust the volume accordingly. This is different from an analog potmeter where the audio signal is routed through the potmeter. The volume pot will also affect RCA outputs, as the output from the DAC chip is adjusted.

Paul:
12/09/2017, 11:27:01 PM
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I hope this can accept a pure DSD input. I upsample all music files to DSD512 with HQPlayer, and my USB converter extracts the pure DSD stream - would love to plug this in. If XLRs are not going to be fitted - is there scope for DIY modding? My system is all balanced so I would never use RCA outputs.

Clinton Le:
13/09/2017, 01:46:57 PM
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Will you be making a smaller form factor one similar to the 9018? Would definitely buy if so, want something portable.

Zeon:
16/09/2017, 04:30:36 AM

9308pro needs more power.

HiFimeDIY:
18/09/2017, 03:43:05 AM

It will not fit inside the tiny Sabre 9018 sized case. The case we use is already quite small and portable.

me:
17/09/2017, 02:12:59 PM
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+1 on socketed opamp chip. All opamps need to be socketed! Also, please have *fixed* line outs on the RCA -- i.e. the volume knob has no effect on the output levels. Looking forward to this in November!

HiFimeDIY:
18/09/2017, 03:44:54 AM

The volume potmeter adjusts the output from the DAC chip, without any signal loss. If you like it at full volume then you can just leave it on max for RCA.

adsfasf:
18/09/2017, 05:20:27 PM
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HURRY UP DAMN, AND BETTER BE GOOD

Phil:
21/09/2017, 08:35:51 PM
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Any update on the ETA?

Rob:
23/09/2017, 12:57:44 PM
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Hey HIFIme ! I totally get the difficulties of adding features for everyone's setup requirements. It's an impossible list. But some connections are so popular you think WHY DIDN'T YOU. Electrical SPDiff is that moment. Come on lad's... get it sorted for us.

Michael:
24/09/2017, 04:04:30 AM
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What I think would be a killer move is automatic upsampling. I see a major improvement in my files that are 44.1kHz just upsampled x2 times. The difference is day and night. However I can't do that from my favourite player Accudio in iPhone. If it automatically upsampled music it would dramatically improve the sound of portable devices who don't have such possibility or is rather poorly implemented. Such technology is used in gungnir multibit DAC which is a real killer but way too expensive. Please respond what are your thoughts. Thank you :)

Rod:
02/10/2017, 08:13:29 PM

I'm 99% sure Schiit doesn't do any upsampling. They are very "bit perfect" and "true to the original source" kind of guys. It's debatable that the sound quality is actually improved by upsampling anyway.

GG:
25/09/2017, 06:43:20 PM
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I would consider buying a higher end version of the HIFIMEDIY SABRE USB DAC 2. USB-in and RCA-line-level-out on the back, headphone-out and headphone-volume on the front. I do not buy DACs/amps that have no line-level output for speakers. The volume knob must ONLY control the headphones, not the back speaker output.

Michael:
26/09/2017, 07:06:33 AM

And it would be nice to be able to connect the outputs at the same time working independently.

Michael:
26/09/2017, 07:09:06 AM

But I doubt it will be a lone level output, as HiFimediy mentioned before the volume is controlled at DAC level.

HiFimeDIY:
31/10/2017, 03:40:25 AM

The reason we'll put the RCA on the front is because there is where the signal is. Yes for DACs where there is a active or passive volume control circuit it would be better to have the line outs outside this circuit. But in this design (same as on the UDA18) the volume pot doesn't affect the sound quality, it's not an analog potmeter. The volume control sets the output level from the ES9038PRO DAC chip. So if you want it at full volume, then simple set it to max, and it will be the same as if it wasn't there.

Voldemaar:
28/09/2017, 03:36:54 PM
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any chance to have multi channel KIT version of it?

pos:
05/10/2017, 07:19:24 AM

upvote! That is really were the 9038 shines, and were the current offering is lacking

Nile:
30/09/2017, 09:39:52 AM
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Another vote for a remote control for volume control. That would make this device perfect for going between an optical SPDIF output (like the TOSLINK output of my HD television) and my power amplifiers or powered speakers, eliminating the need for an A/V control unit.

Clinton:
04/10/2017, 02:35:28 AM
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Any updated eta? Need a new dac soon.

Clinton:
04/10/2017, 02:35:28 AM
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Any updated eta? Need a new dac soon.

Ruben:
04/10/2017, 09:47:46 AM
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Hi, When is the new The ES9038PRO DAC ready?. Thanks

Rob:
04/10/2017, 10:52:56 AM
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HIFIme ! I totally get the difficulties of adding features for everyone's setup requirements. It's an impossible list. But some connections are so popular you think WHY DIDN'T YOU. Electrical SPDiff is that moment. Come on lad's... get it sorted for us.

Michael M:
06/10/2017, 10:43:02 PM
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Any idea when it's going to be ready for sale? I can't wait! Need a good DAC. Can you tell me your impressions of the tests? How does it sound? Regards to the Hifimediy from UK

HiFimeDIY:
31/10/2017, 03:35:31 AM

We've been enjoying listening to the samples for some time now, and the sound quality is hige above that of all our other DACs. It's really a joy to listen to. Unfortunately it looks like we're missing our November goal, so we're looking at December delivery.

Tom:
07/10/2017, 11:27:32 AM
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ETA soon?

Carl:
08/10/2017, 10:02:56 AM
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Will this product be capable of handling multichannel 192-24 on its input?

Vincent:
08/10/2017, 08:28:37 PM
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Is possible fix this DAC as external DAC into the Sony HAP-Z1ES. Very interesting in your inquiries about this matter. With the Hifime 9018D USB DAC it was not possible.

Rob:
10/10/2017, 12:34:41 PM
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To Vincent: The HAP-Z1 only takes flavors of Digital Input. A DAC is a Digital-to-Analogue converter. ( You knew that really ). So the process would be redundant even if HAPS-Z1 could take Analogue. May be you meant on the Output. Ideally SONY should have made it with Digital outputs so we could utilize there fabulous internal processing in other ways, say with a later/better DAC as this one. But with SONY they just love to be OTT about Digital rights. The boys at HIFIme have got there work cut out for them, as every potential component & link is a choke point for such a high performing DAC chip. Especially at a limited cost. Oh so wish it was Electrical SP-Diff.

Rob:
10/10/2017, 12:34:41 PM
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To Vincent: The HAP-Z1 only takes flavors of Digital Input. A DAC is a Digital-to-Analogue converter. ( You knew that really ). So the process would be redundant even if HAPS-Z1 could take Analogue. May be you meant on the Output. Ideally SONY should have made it with Digital outputs so we could utilize there fabulous internal processing in other ways, say with a later/better DAC as this one. But with SONY they just love to be OTT about Digital rights. The boys at HIFIme have got there work cut out for them, as every potential component & link is a choke point for such a high performing DAC chip. Especially at a limited cost. Oh so wish it was Electrical SP-Diff.

VICENTE CASSINELLO ESTEBAN:
01/11/2017, 12:20:18 AM

Thanks for your response. And...yes, I meant on the Z1 output. When Z1’s 18033R firmware update appears last year, Sony allows you can play contents on the HDD with other network audio devices. Since then, USB digital output is now supported and you can connect a USB DAC to the EXT port on the HDD for playback. The problem: not all devices (ext. DAC’s) are supported by HAP Z1. However, I do not believe that this is about Sony OTT digital rights’ problems. Sony HAP-Z1ES operates perfectly with many external Dac’s. (from economy to exclusives models). Hence my question: Will ES9038PRO DAC support SONY HAP Z1ES and vice versa? Thanks again

Teddy:
20/10/2017, 09:50:50 PM
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I'm very excited about this project! I've been looking for a reasonably priced ES9038 implementation! I have a few questions -- What regulators will you use for the various supply voltages? Also, what design/parts will you use for the output stage? Lastly, would an 8-channel version be available? I have a DSP which outputs 4 stereo pairs for a total of 8 SPDIF outputs, and I would love to have an ES9038PRO for all 8 channels.

HiFimeDIY:
31/10/2017, 03:31:32 AM

Hi Teddy, thanks for your input! We've made a special design so that it can power from USB at 5V, but can also power from external DC up to 12V to better drive higher loads. Output stage is using OPA1622. This DAC is 2 channel, we might consider other versions later.

manny:
27/10/2017, 06:17:47 PM
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The release date?

HiFimeDIY:
31/10/2017, 03:27:09 AM

It looks like it will be December. We're hoping to have some ready for Christmas, will know more and post preorder link soon.

David:
04/11/2017, 04:41:35 PM
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If I were to wish for just one thing with this new DAC, it is proper measurements. Primarily: - THD at specified frequencies, maybe even multiple (i.e. 20Hz, 100Hz, 10kHz) - A-weighted Dynamic range - Frequency response Secondarily: - Intermodulation distortion - Linearity error - Crosstalk - USB Jitter - Latency If you take he time to do some of these measurements it would also be greatly appreciated if you could redo them for your more popular products, for example the 9018DAC and the UDA18, so that we have some consistent numbers and test methods to compare.

anon:
19/11/2017, 04:47:12 AM
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DON'T RUSH THIS. RELEASE IT WHEN IT'S GOOD AND RIGHT. NO CHANNEL IMBALANCE. NO STATIC. NO NOISE FLOOR.

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