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wbh

$300 DAC: AKM, ESS, or multibit

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Say $300 is my budget. What DAC is most bang for my buck given my primary source will be USB laptop/PC?

 

I recently purch'd a $100 Hifime S2 USB and SPDIF DAC (Sabre ES9038q2m). Very pleased with the sonics of this simple device. 

It may be that ESS dac ... dunno?? 

As far as ASIC dac chips go, AKM and ESS are all the rage these days. AKM seem to be more popular, but I may go for another ESS DAC if the ES9038Pro is found in something in the $300 range.

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Schiit Modi Multibit.

 

I have one and I wouldn't hesitate to buy another, or recommend one.


No electron left behind...

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Hi @wbh

Listening to the Allo Revolution since 10 days  It uses the ESS9038q2m and allows you to feed it with up to DSD512., which I provide via Roon upsampling to a Gentoo player flavored RPi4 as endpoint.

+ SQ is nothing short of exciting, given the price point.

-/+ It is USB only, unbalanced out.

+ Concentration on the straightforward solution 

+ Comes with a remote.

+ Allows you to tinker with filters and harmonics setup.

Yesterday I received another ESS9038q2m DAC from Soncoz, the LA-QXD1, which is the new company of Ben, the designer of the Khadas Tone Board Dac. Just from the outside impression it's an excellent machined unit, with multiple inputs (USB/Coax/Toslink) and balanced and unbalanced analogue output. Plus coaxial digital out. The unit provides the full power of the ESS chip with DSD512 and PCM 32/768 via USB, 24/192 via Coax/optical in. No remote. Not connected yet, therefore no sq impressions.

Both DACs are below 300 USD. The Soncoz even at 199$.

Cheers, Tom

 

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I think I've seen Allo products but never heard of Soncoz until now. So many of these Chinese companies to keep track of!

Hmmmm .... well, I do really like the soundof that $90  Hifime S2 USB and SPDIF DAC (Sabre ES9038q2m) . So, maybe a dual Sabre ES9038q2m may be something to look for, Also on the lookout for a top-line ESS dac option 9038PRO. Not sure how much diff there is between the 9038q2m and 9038PRO ... other than $ and the former being a "mobile" device.

 

Also been experimenting with really-cheap NOS TDA1387 x 8 units ... sounds decent for under $50 ...

1522d1421369717-tda1387-octal-dac-looks-

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The Schiit Modius looks interseting if you don't have to have DSD. Balanced and unbalanced, with new Schiit USB input. Was measuered as exteremly high performing at ASR. Can run without external PS.


Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>RPi4 (dietpi)>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)>Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup. Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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I was also considering ...

 

S.M.S.L M200 Uses AK4497EQ Chip,Support UAT/aptX-HD/AAC/SBC High-Resolution Bluetooth 5.0 Audio DAC ($280)

Schid Modi Multibit ($250)

 

With the SMSL, I don't need bluetooth ... so maybe the Modi Multi is a better investment. OTOH, my higher-than-CD-rez library has recently been on the upsurge thx to active vinyl ripping. 

 

Dunno ... help me out, folk!!.... on CA (Audiophilestyle), what is the general preference WRT delta-sigma dacs: ESS or AKM?

 

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Schiit Modius is definitely one to try in that price range.


1. Sonore ultraRendu - Uptone ISO Regen - Mola Mola Makua - Apollon NC800 SL PRO - Thiel CS3.7

2. RME ADI-2 DAC FS - Audeze LCD-XC - Apollon NC502MP - Monitor Audio PL100

3. Hidizs S8 - Audeze LCDi3

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1 hour ago, wbh said:

I was also considering ...

 

S.M.S.L M200 Uses AK4497EQ Chip,Support UAT/aptX-HD/AAC/SBC High-Resolution Bluetooth 5.0 Audio DAC ($280)

Schid Modi Multibit ($250)

 

With the SMSL, I don't need bluetooth ... so maybe the Modi Multi is a better investment. OTOH, my higher-than-CD-rez library has recently been on the upsurge thx to active vinyl ripping. 

 

Dunno ... help me out, folk!!.... on CA (Audiophilestyle), what is the general preference WRT delta-sigma dacs: ESS or AKM?

 

SMSL M100

https://www.amazon.com/SMSL-M100-Coaxial-Optical-Decoder/dp/B07KM2S4HB/ref=sr_1_3?crid=GXJIDPXNHC8B&dchild=1&keywords=smsl+m100+dac&qid=1595637279&sprefix=smsl+m100%2Caps%2C211&sr=8-3

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5 hours ago, wbh said:

Dunno ... help me out, folk!!.... on CA (Audiophilestyle), what is the general preference WRT delta-sigma dacs: ESS or AKM?

I don't think there is one. Lots of people are happy with each. I doubt most people could tell one chip from another in some kind of blind test. A good designer can get the sonic outcome he is looking for. 

 

And I'd suggest not making such a big deal about the DAC chip. It's a small part of the final sound of the DAC. Other stuff makes at least as much of a difference: input, power supply, output circuit, etc. The overall design is what matters. Try to get something that seems to be thought out, and not just thrown together to hit a price point. Companies like Topping, Schitt, SMSL, and Allo seem to try hard to design a good product at a price point. Pretty much all the DACs mentioned here are very good at your price point and it's almost for sure you will be happy with one....unless you have incurable audiophile nervosa.

 

You have a budget, narrow it down to a few candidates and think about: which feature set/ergonomics fits you best; whether you have support after purchase, and whether you have an ability to return if you aren't happy. Then order and enjoy the music. You are listening to the music coming out of the DAC, not the chip. 


Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>RPi4 (dietpi)>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)>Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup. Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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In that price range, I agree on the two Schiit options, especially the Modius with balanced outputs.  I had the Modi Multibit and for the money, it was quite good.  The Schiits give you a nice case too, not the the "project box" generic stuff, it that matters.

 

The Modi is so small and light, that my cables tipped it so I had to put a brass weight on top to keep it down.


RIG:  MB Pro - Benchmark DAC3 L | Benchmark AHB2 | Paradigm Sig S6 Cables:   Van Damme XLR Canare 4S11 Biwire Lifatec optical Wireworld and IsoTek power

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I had a Theta Chroma 396 (that was pre-Schiit Mike Moffat's company). Decent sound but  it had no power switch. Before I sold it, I removed the top cover to check everything over. Carbon score makes under cover (lid) and some burnt-out sections on a PCB. Seems one of the tantalums had gone up in flames. Didn't really affect the sound quality, tho. Scary stuff. I hope Mr. Moffat has intro'd some safety into new products.

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11 hours ago, photonman said:

The Modi is so small and light, that my cables tipped it so I had to put a brass weight on top to keep it down.

 

Holy crap, what kind of cables were you using? The thing weighs 1 pound.

 

Edit: I wanted to add, that the Modi Multibit comes with a linear power supply as well.


No electron left behind...

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4 hours ago, AudioDoctor said:

 

Holy crap, what kind of cables were you using? The thing weighs 1 pound.

 

Edit: I wanted to add, that the Modi Multibit comes with a linear power supply as well.

Some cables are a bit stiff.


Forrest:

Win10 i9 9900KS/GTX1060 HQPlayer4>Win10 NAA

DSD>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

Parasound JC1>"Naked" Quad ESL63/Tannoy PS350B subs<100Hz

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Going with the Modi Multibit.

Have several SD-based dacs in my collection. Some old-school Philips "TDA's" as well.  

If Mass or Amazon had the "AIRIST AUDIO R-2R DAC", still avail., probably would have gone for that.

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11 hours ago, AudioDoctor said:

Holy crap, what kind of cables were you using? The thing weighs 1 pound.

Nothing crazy, just average Canare with Neutrik RCA's.  It was the moment arm created by the weight of the unsupported cable length hanging over a shelf caused the Modi to tip.  That combined with the stiffness of the short 2 foot length also had something to do with it.

 

7 hours ago, 4est said:

Edit: I wanted to add, that the Modi Multibit comes with a linear power supply as well.

That is a nice touch.  I still ended up getting a Channel Islands VAC unit to replace the wall wart.  Cannot say if it improved anything.


RIG:  MB Pro - Benchmark DAC3 L | Benchmark AHB2 | Paradigm Sig S6 Cables:   Van Damme XLR Canare 4S11 Biwire Lifatec optical Wireworld and IsoTek power

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SMSL m500 for 400$ with excellent headphone amp.

or 

S.M.S.L M300 MKII for 230$

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On 7/25/2020 at 12:24 AM, wbh said:

Also been experimenting with really-cheap NOS TDA1387 x 8 units ... sounds decent for under $50 ...

1522d1421369717-tda1387-octal-dac-looks-

 

Where do you find that DAC nowadays for under $50?

 

If you are interested I could build you a custom DAC based on TDA1387s for under $300. Send me a PM if you'd like to chat about that. It would certainly sound better than this DAC as I'll employ all the tricks I learned from modding this DAC - we had a long thread about it on DIYAudio : https://www.diyaudio.com/wiki/TDA1387_X8_NOS_DAC

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Just got the MM in .... only used a few hours.

Sounds decent.

Not sure about burn-in time (anyone??).

Speaking of "burn" ... the unit runs WARM ... yikes. And the AC adapt. runs warm even with the MM unplugged. Heat is NEVER a good thing for component life ... even vacuum tubes ;)

I've heard that this Schiit may actually sound better with SPDIF than USB .... is this true?

 

Anyway ...

 

Feeding  the MM a usb signal from a Windows PC running Foobar (Asio drivers).

Will be comparing to:

$200.00 Asus Xonar sound card (heavily modified) 

$25.00 eBay 4x TDA1387 Chinese USB dac

$90.00 Hifime S2 USB and SPDIF DAC (Sabre ES9038q2m)

$700.00 Fiio M11Pro DAP (dac section)

$170.00 QLS hifi QA350 MOD V2 (2011 model) Chinese wav player

Misc. Chinese ~$130.00  DAPs (Colorfly, Teclast)

 

I have other "higher-end" dacs and CD players in my collection ... compare+contrast to those may come later. 

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4 hours ago, wbh said:

Not sure about burn-in time (anyone??).

Speaking of "burn" ... the unit runs WARM ... yikes. And the AC adapt. runs warm even with the MM unplugged

 

Mine started sounding better (I think) after leaving it on for 2 weeks or so. Yes, it does run warm, it also cools down really fast if you turn it off. The aluminum skin is an effective heatsink. The power supply is a linear PSU, it will be hotter than a switching power supply.


No electron left behind...

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On 7/24/2020 at 1:30 AM, DuckToller said:

Hi @wbh

Listening to the Allo Revolution since 10 days  It uses the ESS9038q2m and allows you to feed it with up to DSD512., which I provide via Roon upsampling to a Gentoo player flavored RPi4 as endpoint.

+ SQ is nothing short of exciting, given the price point.

-/+ It is USB only, unbalanced out.

+ Concentration on the straightforward solution 

+ Comes with a remote.

+ Allows you to tinker with filters and harmonics setup.

Yesterday I received another ESS9038q2m DAC from Soncoz, the LA-QXD1, which is the new company of Ben, the designer of the Khadas Tone Board Dac. Just from the outside impression it's an excellent machined unit, with multiple inputs (USB/Coax/Toslink) and balanced and unbalanced analogue output. Plus coaxial digital out. The unit provides the full power of the ESS chip with DSD512 and PCM 32/768 via USB, 24/192 via Coax/optical in. No remote. Not connected yet, therefore no sq impressions.

Both DACs are below 300 USD. The Soncoz even at 199$.

Cheers, Tom

 


I’ve heard good things about Ben and his new Soncoz DACs. Let us know how it sounds.


Tidal / Qobuz--> Roon--> Fios Gigabit--> Netgear Prosafe GS105 --> Supra 8--> microRendu 1.4 / CI Audio LPS --> Curious Evolved Link --> Chord Qutest--> AQ Water --> Belles Aria Integrated--> AQ Robin Hood--> Kudos Super 20's

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9 minutes ago, OldBigEars said:

I’ve heard good things about Ben and his new Soncoz DACs. Let us know how it sounds.

just finishing Revolution Part 1 ... then Part 2  ... '
and then the SONCOZ will come next to get a thorough review.
At the moment - during the run in time -  to my ears it does not sound excitingly better/different (and as well not worse) than the KTBD which I have in use since last summer. However I am quite confident it'll change to better its predecessor and battle with the REVOLUTION, as that lovely product itself is evidently a major upgrade to the KTBD in terms of design and features.
Have a nice weekend ! Cheers, Tom

 

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2 hours ago, AudioDoctor said:

 

Mine started sounding better (I think) after leaving it on for 2 weeks or so. 

Anyone have opinions on the SPDIF vs. USB options?

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