Posted by HiFimeDIY 06/09/2017 38 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.


38 Comment(s)

06/09/2017, 07:41:14 AM

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.

06/09/2017, 07:49:09 AM

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

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

Musiclover you are damn right.

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

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

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.

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

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

06/09/2017, 07:51:34 AM

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.

06/09/2017, 07:22:53 AM

Got an approx ETA?

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

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

06/09/2017, 07:22:57 AM

Got an approx ETA?

Gordon Macfarlane:
06/09/2017, 07:27:06 AM

Would be great to have rca output and a socketed output opamp to allow the use of so called "discrete opamps"

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.

06/09/2017, 07:29:22 AM

good news. waiting for specifications.

06/09/2017, 07:30:55 AM,

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.

06/09/2017, 07:31:25 AM

I agree with Gordon, RCA outputs would be a good addition

06/09/2017, 07:35:22 AM

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.

06/09/2017, 07:38:43 AM

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

Great news! RCA is mandatory.

niko tomatsidis:
06/09/2017, 08:13:39 AM

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.

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

It will have optical input.

Eberhard Trauer:
06/09/2017, 08:29:43 AM

Very interesting news - but i´m missing a konkret offer for a DAC with this chip. Did i overread those offer?

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

The offer will be posted later, soon

06/09/2017, 09:16:33 AM

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

will be it portable? usb powered is better. and price?

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

Yes, same size as the UDA 18 DAC: Can run from USB power, and can also be powered from external power supply.

06/09/2017, 10:07:21 AM

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.

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.

06/09/2017, 10:40:06 AM

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.

06/09/2017, 11:02:43 AM

XLR output would be a game changer. It's a balanced DAC after all

06/09/2017, 01:00:08 PM,

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.

06/09/2017, 01:19:27 PM

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.

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..

06/09/2017, 01:40:47 PM

Another vote for RCA output

06/09/2017, 04:40:44 PM

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

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).

07/09/2017, 12:16:58 AM

If it's called Pro, XLR outputs should be available, RCAs would be nice too.

07/09/2017, 03:53:46 AM

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.

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?

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

Any plan for a multi channel version in the future?

07/09/2017, 06:45:51 AM

@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.

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.

07/09/2017, 09:48:10 AM

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!!

07/09/2017, 04:56:08 PM

How low is the output impedance?

08/09/2017, 03:06:02 AM

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.

09/09/2017, 08:48:37 AM

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.

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.

12/09/2017, 11:27:01 PM

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

Will you be making a smaller form factor one similar to the 9018? Would definitely buy if so, want something portable.

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

9308pro needs more power.

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.

17/09/2017, 02:12:59 PM

+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!

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.

18/09/2017, 05:20:27 PM


21/09/2017, 08:35:51 PM

Any update on the ETA?

23/09/2017, 12:57:44 PM

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.

24/09/2017, 04:04:30 AM

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 :)

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