Hifimediy UDA38Pro ES9038Pro DAC

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wushuliu

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Hifimediy UDA38Pro ES9038Pro DAC
« on: 7 Feb 2018, 05:41 pm »
https://hifimediy.com/uda38pro-usb-dac-es9038pro

Hifimediy just released their new DAC for only $249. It's the only ES9038Pro DAC I'm aware of at that low a price. I've been saying how the DAC cycle just gets faster and faster, so this is no surprise.

But there's no free lunch: No Xmos or Amanero boards, so no DSD 256+. Uses the new-ish OPA 1622 headamp, but only one so performance will be limited. No HD650s for this one without a separate amp. Also power hungry and internal power regulators don't look all that impressive but we'll see as they release more info.

This is a pretty basic unit, so no bells and whistles. Frankly, I'm kind of meh about their DACs in general, but still, it's $249 and an ES9038Pro. The next cheapest ES9038Pro with USB I could find is $450 on ebay.

Hifime had only a limited supply to sell before Chinese New Year cut off and those are all sold, so it will be several weeks before they have more in stock.

Yes, I got hold of one of the limited units  :wink:



« Last Edit: 7 Jun 2018, 05:56 pm by wushuliu »

Riton

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Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #1 on: 10 Feb 2018, 09:20 am »
Hello,
I'm very interested on this DAC sincère it has been annonced and also very interested your impressions.
Their 9018 DAC is quite good for the price, I hope this one is better.

karnana

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Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #2 on: 12 Apr 2018, 09:48 am »
Have you tested yet?

wushuliu

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Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #3 on: 12 Apr 2018, 06:07 pm »
Have you tested yet?

Yes I've had it for a month now. Unfortunately I didn't get it until after moving and it was another couple weeks before I got it set up. Also my 2 channel setup is now totally different, which is what I normally use to really judge DACs because IMO headphones just don't allow the same level of comparison. Finally, I sold my Sabaj DA3, perhaps prematurely, before the move. So with all these changes I've been less inspired to write a review since I can't make a proper comparison. I'm pretty irritated about the Hifimediy shipping delay preventing me from doing all that.

That said, with my Sennheiser 599s I think it sounds excellent through my PC after some software tweaking. Very much the ESS Sabre sound. I'd like to compare to the Sabaj, but alas I no longer have it. Is it worth the money? Tough to say. Once I got Jplay setup and running, bypassing Windows audio and using linear PS, the dac really started to shine. 

karnana

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Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #4 on: 15 Apr 2018, 10:11 pm »
Yes I've had it for a month now. Unfortunately I didn't get it until after moving and it was another couple weeks before I got it set up. Also my 2 channel setup is now totally different, which is what I normally use to really judge DACs because IMO headphones just don't allow the same level of comparison. Finally, I sold my Sabaj DA3, perhaps prematurely, before the move. So with all these changes I've been less inspired to write a review since I can't make a proper comparison. I'm pretty irritated about the Hifimediy shipping delay preventing me from doing all that.

That said, with my Sennheiser 599s I think it sounds excellent through my PC after some software tweaking. Very much the ESS Sabre sound. I'd like to compare to the Sabaj, but alas I no longer have it. Is it worth the money? Tough to say. Once I got Jplay setup and running, bypassing Windows audio and using linear PS, the dac really started to shine.

Thanks always for the great info  :thumb:

wushuliu

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Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #5 on: 15 Apr 2018, 10:41 pm »
I got hold of a sabaj to compare. It's kind of a wash imo. The hifime has perception of depth, soundstage but overall I think the sabaj sounds more realistic. Has more accurate tonality but flatter presentation. My guess is the two opamps in output stage of hifime colors a little bit. Sabaj is direct output from the chip.

Hifime has more power and so more low end oomph.

karnana

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Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #6 on: 17 Apr 2018, 10:01 am »
I got hold of a sabaj to compare. It's kind of a wash imo. The hifime has perception of depth, soundstage but overall I think the sabaj sounds more realistic. Has more accurate tonality but flatter presentation. My guess is the two opamps in output stage of hifime colors a little bit. Sabaj is direct output from the chip.

Hifime has more power and so more low end oomph.

Wow. Thanks for the comparison. Because of it's price I expected more out of hifime.  :icon_surprised:

wushuliu

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Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #7 on: 29 Apr 2018, 05:37 pm »
Uh oh, I need to revise my review! A while back Hifime notified that the first batch of dacs, which included mine, had an error in the spdif power supply build. They said they would send a replacement with a fix or I could diy myself. I told them to send a replacement. Good thing I did. I finally got the replacement a couple week ago and just let it sit thinking it would sound the same and maybe I would even sell it. But I figured what the heck let me give it a whirl.

This revised version of the UDA38Pro sounded better out the box than the burned-in original! Much more natural presentation. Curious, I decided to take a peek inside. There were definite changes made versus the internals posted on the website. Not just some one part PS fix. There are now multiple Wima caps (used as bypasses I'm assuming), some Elnas, and Nichicon FWs. And a chunky 1500uf on the power supply, amongst other things. None of which was used in the generic looking original board. Are these changes responsible for what I heard? Not sure. But it certainly sounds better.

Comparing the revised UDA38Pro with the Sabaj, the perception of depth and the enveloping soundstage is now more natural and kind of intoxicating. Another reviewer called it 'liquid' and I have to agree. Hard to describe but there is a 'flow' to the music, especially in the mids. Almost 'surround sound' the way it wraps around, which is a little weird with headphones on.

So I take it back. This dac sounds *wonderful* and I will be keeping it. Too bad I don't have access to my speakers so I can more accurately asses what I'm hearing. I'd love to know how this presentation translates to 2-channel. I will say this though, the Hifime UDA38Pro does not sound like a typical ESS Sabre dac. It actually reminds me a little more of the AKM (Schiit) chips - bold and broad strokes and 'velvet'. I would love to know a little bit of what Hifime did with the chip. Hopefully they'll provide more information. And they should be touting the new internal changes. This is a great dac, and my early skepticism has been reversed.

Next up: Topping D50.  :icon_twisted:

Dadbeh

Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #8 on: 29 Apr 2018, 07:18 pm »
Uh oh, I need to revise my review! A while back Hifime notified that the first batch of dacs, which included mine, had an error in the spdif power supply build. They said they would send a replacement with a fix or I could diy myself. I told them to send a replacement. Good thing I did. I finally got the replacement a couple week ago and just let it sit thinking it would sound the same and maybe I would even sell it. But I figured what the heck let me give it a whirl.

This revised version of the UDA38Pro sounded better out the box than the burned-in original! Much more natural presentation. Curious, I decided to take a peek inside. There were definite changes made versus the internals posted on the website. Not just some one part PS fix. There are now multiple Wima caps (used as bypasses I'm assuming), some Elnas, and Nichicon FWs. And a chunky 1500uf on the power supply, amongst other things. None of which was used in the generic looking original board. Are these changes responsible for what I heard? Not sure. But it certainly sounds better.

Comparing the revised UDA38Pro with the Sabaj, the perception of depth and the enveloping soundstage is now more natural and kind of intoxicating. Another reviewer called it 'liquid' and I have to agree. Hard to describe but there is a 'flow' to the music, especially in the mids. Almost 'surround sound' the way it wraps around, which is a little weird with headphones on.

So I take it back. This dac sounds *wonderful* and I will be keeping it. Too bad I don't have access to my speakers so I can more accurately asses what I'm hearing. I'd love to know how this presentation translates to 2-channel. I will say this though, the Hifime UDA38Pro does not sound like a typical ESS Sabre dac. It actually reminds me a little more of the AKM (Schiit) chips - bold and broad strokes and 'velvet'. I would love to know a little bit of what Hifime did with the chip. Hopefully they'll provide more information. And they should be touting the new internal changes. This is a great dac, and my early skepticism has been reversed.

Next up: Topping D50.  :icon_twisted:

i know ive been repeating myself lately but instead of topping give AGD R2R 11 a try. its marvelous. specially if you dont play to many DSD files. it is not budget good it is just excellent period.

wushuliu

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Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #9 on: 29 Apr 2018, 07:28 pm »
i know ive been repeating myself lately but instead of topping give AGD R2R 11 a try. its marvelous. specially if you dont play to many DSD files. it is not budget good it is just excellent period.

I don't know. Someone who owns both the Hifime and the AudioGD R2R said he preferred the Hifime. And I still have a Soekris R2R stored away, so would rather fire that one up again before buying a different one.

I have the Topping already. I will report on it later. It's a very different dac from the Hifime.

Dadbeh

Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #10 on: 29 Apr 2018, 07:32 pm »
I don't know. Someone who owns both the Hifime and the AudioGD R2R said he preferred the Hifime. And I still have a Soekris R2R stored away, so would rather fire that one up again before buying a different one.

I have the Topping already. I will report on it later. It's a very different dac from the Hifime.

do you just have the board or is it a complete build? is it thr 1021? im thinking of building one using thw LKS usb to IIS.

wushuliu

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Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #11 on: 29 Apr 2018, 10:39 pm »
do you just have the board or is it a complete build? is it thr 1021? im thinking of building one using thw LKS usb to IIS.

Yes, the 1021. My build got unwieldy with all kinds of modding and I put it away to work on some speakers. I'll get back to it eventually. You should definitely give it a go, especially since a lot of the kinks have been worked out in the newer versions. And now that board can be found in $$$$$ Dacs like the Lampizator (shhhh) and Lessloss. Make sure to get a low noise power supply.

wushuliu

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Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #12 on: 1 May 2018, 01:23 am »
After poking around inside the Hifime I of course decided to mess around. Got in over my head, per usual. I removed what I thought to be the main voltage regulator feeding the usb receiver clocks and patched in a 3.3v Lifepo4 battery instead. The bad news: I somehow I cut off the 44khz signal. The good news: 96khz works and OMG, sounds so f*cking good. Why oh why don't these guys make their dacs with an option to use a battery direct to the clocks (I mean direct, as in no battery packs with noisy regulators of their own). It is so easy to do with the right layout and the sound quality jump is insane.

So now this dac sounds sublime. I'll let Windows handle 96k upsampling for everything. Worthwhile trade-off for what I'm hearing now.

Dadbeh

Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #13 on: 1 May 2018, 01:34 am »
After poking around inside the Hifime I of course decided to mess around. Got in over my head, per usual. I removed what I thought to be the main voltage regulator feeding the usb receiver clocks and patched in a 3.3v Lifepo4 battery instead. The bad news: I somehow I cut off the 44khz signal. The good news: 96khz works and OMG, sounds so f*cking good. Why oh why don't these guys make their dacs with an option to use a battery direct to the clocks (I mean direct, as in no battery packs with noisy regulators of their own). It is so easy to do with the right layout and the sound quality jump is insane.

So now this dac sounds sublime. I'll let Windows handle 96k upsampling for everything. Worthwhile trade-off for what I'm hearing now.

Interesting. Did you use that vattery ps fin eBay that you linked before?

wushuliu

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Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #14 on: 1 May 2018, 01:52 am »
Interesting. Did you use that vattery ps fin eBay that you linked before?

No, although that looks like a great start to match with an iDefender. I have a bunch of A123 Lifepo4s I used in other projects. Popped one in a little holder, added a switch and then wired to the board.





Bhargu

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Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #15 on: 22 May 2018, 08:43 am »
I see that this device has an optional power supply input. Does using a dedicated input change the noise characteristics or affect the sound signature? The website mentions only that external power supply will provide higher power and voltage outputs. It doesn't mention if using the external power supply switch over the device from USB powered mode.

wushuliu

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Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #16 on: 22 May 2018, 05:39 pm »
I see that this device has an optional power supply input. Does using a dedicated input change the noise characteristics or affect the sound signature? The website mentions only that external power supply will provide higher power and voltage outputs. It doesn't mention if using the external power supply switch over the device from USB powered mode.

I believe the external supply primarily impacts analog and DAC related clock and ICS. As stated on the website, USB still draws about 100mA even with external power. This is for the usb receiver and receiver related clocks and ICs. Not sure if there is true separation. I think there may be some blending when using external power.

But here's the catch: Regardless of USB only or external, there is a pretty noisy regulator that converts the power to +/- voltage for the opamps. There's no way to avoid it. And since the USB power gets used to some degree no matter what, you have to make sure it's clean. So my experience so far has been the DAC sounds best just using the USB power with an external 5v PS attached. Using both USB and external increased volume output, but did not sound as good since I could provide clean power to only the external and not the USB. Unless you have headphones that need a lot of power I would focus just on the USB for power.

Bhargu

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Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #17 on: 23 May 2018, 01:35 pm »
Would you be willing to provide a few more details of this device as it is a bit difficult to get more info on it right now?

  • You mentioned that the sound signature is natural and almost liquid smooth. Does this achieve it without any loss in details? Also, is the sound neutral (no boosted/bloated bass/treble).
  • Do you use some type of USB conditioner or power filter with this? If so, is there a significant impact without?
  • Does using it with a power pack (common 5V USB charger type) significantly degrade audio quality? Will it be good enough to use on-the-go?
  • Is the volume knob also the power switch?
  • Do you have any experience with iFi Micro/Nano BL? If so, how does this compare to those devices (other than the power)?

PS: Isn't the regulator output 5V? Does using a 3.3V Lifepo4 affect the device differently?

jmc207

Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #18 on: 23 May 2018, 03:23 pm »
And to add to Bhargu's questions:

6. Can the volume control be used to control the RCA line outputs?

wushuliu

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Re: Hifimediy ES9038Pro DAC
« Reply #19 on: 23 May 2018, 03:40 pm »
Would you be willing to provide a few more details of this device as it is a bit difficult to get more info on it right now?

  • You mentioned that the sound signature is natural and almost liquid smooth. Does this achieve it without any loss in details? Also, is the sound neutral (no boosted/bloated bass/treble).

I used the words natural and liquid and flow, not liquid smooth. That implies something different to me. It isn't smooth like, say, a Burr Brown dac. As for neutral, that means different things to different people. Do I feel any part of the response sounds sounds augmented? No.

  • Do you use some type of USB conditioner or power filter with this? If so, is there a significant impact without?

Yes. This has been covered in the 'DAC for Peanuts' thread. I use iSilencer, iDefender, LT3045 power supply. All ESS dacs are sensitive to power supply from my experience.

  • Does using it with a power pack (common 5V USB charger type) significantly degrade audio quality? Will it be good enough to use on-the-go?

I don't have a power pack. I don't know. This isn't a very portable dac IMO.

  • Is the volume knob also the power switch?

No.

  • Do you have any experience with iFi Micro/Nano BL? If so, how does this compare to those devices (other than the power)?

Yes I have had iFi Dacs. ESS Sabre vs. Burr Brown. Burr Brown is truly 'smooth'. Very different presentation. If you like Burr Brown get the iFi.

PS: Isn't the regulator output 5V? Does using a 3.3V Lifepo4 affect the device differently?

Which regulator. There are a bunch.


Quote
6. Can the volume control be used to control the RCA line outputs?

Yes. The volume uses the ESS internal digital volume control, so it effects both analog outputs.