Just got a Sabaj D5 ES9038Pro DAC. Currently $470 on Amazon, but $418 on AliExpress. There was a Prime Day deal for $95 off so went for it.
1. It is hands down the best sounding DAC I have heard using stock usb input, no mods, no PC tweaks or Jplay. Just straight Windows playback. No digititis. That's never happened before. Clean, clean, clean. Full-bodied, neutral/warm. I would never guess it was an ESS dac other than the very clean delivery.
2. Overall tonality sounds more like the Hifime 9038Pro than not and reinforces my opinion that the cheap ES9038Q2M Dacs (Topping D50, Sabaj DA3, Pro-ject S2, etc etc) are not 'small' versions of the Pro like some people have speculated. The Pro, even with a cheap implementation like the Hifimediy, is just better. More natural, fuller, organic than any of the Q2M mobile chips.
I would be curious to compare it with Dacs in the 1k+ price range, because this is not a $500 dac to my ears. Thanks to Dadbeh for the heads up. I'll add more thoughts as I break it in.