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E1DA 9038D Review (portable DAC & Amp)

Electrical

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My 9038D arrived and I'm very impressed. To my ear, factory settings reproduce the music cleanly, without coloring the sound. Of course I can't define "cleanly" or "coloring" as I have no idea what the original studio version sounds like, this is just my impression and the words that come to mind when listening.

Channel separation and staging sounds fantastic. I'm not an expert, nor do I have experience with high-end equipment for comparison, but I've been startled more than once by sound that seems to come from unexpected locations. I've had to stop and look around, thinking someone else has entered the room, or turn down the music, thinking something outside the room is making sound.

Factory volume settings appear to lean quite a bit towards safe levels. On my setup (Volumio on Raspberry Pi) the volume is too low and I can't blow out my neighbors :-D The Tweak9038 app fixed this easily. Now at only half-volume my windows rattle. I look forward to reading earlier posts in this thread and experiment with the app settings, maybe to "color" the sound in different ways to find what I like.

A final thought on price. I don't see many complaints, but for those who do, guys c'mon. This is $100 and $10 for an app... an app that multiplies capabilities relative to other portable DACs. As an engineer myself, I promise this DAC and app do not appear magically overnight. As a product developed in spare time, this is born from a long road of dedication and involves sacrificing time from family, a lot of time.

Asking for this to be "free" is, at best disrespectful, at worst poor taste... as if the effort and sacrifice mean nothing.
 

maverickronin

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A final thought on price. I don't see many complaints, but for those who do, guys c'mon. This is $100 and $10 for an app... an app that multiplies capabilities relative to other portable DACs. As an engineer myself, I promise this DAC and app do not appear magically overnight. As a product developed in spare time, this is born from a long road of dedication and involves sacrificing time from family, a lot of time.

Asking for this to be "free" is, at best disrespectful, at worst poor taste... as if the effort and sacrifice mean nothing.

Nickel and diming people is what is disrespectful. Quadilex doesn't charge for their app.
 

staticV3

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Nickel and diming people is what is disrespectful. Quadilex doesn't charge for their app.
Unfortunately I can't do anything about the price of the pro version of Tweak9038.
Fortunately, none of the pro features can improve sound quality in a significant way.
The 9038D already performs as well as it can right out of the box.
The most important functions (volume limiter and standby) are included in the free version.
The Pro version is aimed at geeks who want to play around with parameters they usually can't on competing products, like the DAC's Master clock or built in distortion generator.
It is not essential to the user experience.
 

Sinquito

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I’m probably getting this for use with an iPhone, I have already bought the meenova cable. Is there q recommend retailer? I’m either going linsoul or hifigo, they have the fastest and cheapest shipping method to where I live (Mexico).

Sorry is this question is against the rules.
 

Jimbob54

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This or PowerDAC v2.1 (or both :D)? as my first DAC + HPA
Depends, are you running full size over ear headphones that are high impedance? And can run balanced? Or iem? Or a mixture?

If the former, powerdac. If the rest, the little guy.
 

parnarules

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Depends, are you running full size over ear headphones that are high impedance? And can run balanced? Or iem? Or a mixture?

If the former, powerdac. If the rest, the little guy.

I would use it mainly to drive a pair of K702s but also low impedance headphones such as Yamaha's HPH-MT220, RH5MA, Koss KCS75 and Beyerdynamic DT250. Will I notice better sound compared to my trustworthy soundcard (Audient ID14)?

Which option would be best for these headphones: 9038D or PowerDAC 2.1?
 

TheHighContemplator

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Dear @IVX and @staticV3 ,

I received my 9038D yesterday and wow! This little guy is phenomenal. Combined with my laptop (Acer Helios 300 17.3") running Linux Mint, and ALSAMIXER, with the DeadBeef player, handily trumps my Oppo BDP-105 Blu Ray player's headphone output in every way. The noise floor is inaudible, which is to say, the background noise with nothing playing is completely black and I can listen at lower volumes while hearing every detail in a track. It is extraordinarily neutral and takes EQ really well. Sounds have great separation, and the midrange is incredible. I recently replaced the earpads on my Meze 99 Classics with a pair from Brainwavz, which tamed the boosted midbass and opened up the soundstage a little. The addition of the 9038D has now brought my Meze's to a much higher level. The soundstage and imaging is now much larger and more precise at the same time. If anyone is interested, you can download my 50 Track Demo playlist from Google Drive here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...0-track-demo-playlist-link-to-download.25745/

Thank you @IVX for designing and putting this beautiful little device out there, and thank you @staticV3 for answering all of my questions and making great recommendations. I couldn't be happier with it. In fact, I'd go as far to say that anyone who uses a laptop to listen to music from its 3.5mm headphone jack should invest in one of these. It beat my $2000 player with ease in every department. I don't think I'll ever use my Oppo again to listen to music on my headphones. I might even get a 3.5mm to split RCA cable to use it as a DAC for my speakers.

In terms of usability, I simply plugged the USB C cable into the USB C input on my laptop and Linux recognised it immediately. I went into ALSAMIXER and selected the 9038D, boosted the output to 50% and I was done. I have more output than I can handle at that level.

I'll compare it to the Topping E30 DAC and L30 amp next week.

Cheers!
 

Sheygetz

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This is all very well. But the device seems to be out of production. It hasn't been available here in Germany for weeks, if not months now.
 

Sheygetz

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AudioManNewb

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Nickel and diming people is what is disrespectful. Quadilex doesn't charge for their app.
Every once an awhile I get a good laugh from people like you. Complains about nickel and dimming probably drops $100's on snake oil to improve there audio experience. Go buy the dragonfly colbalt then complain about nickel and dimming they will take your $300 and make sure it delivers less performance than your on board audio ALC1220-VB. This thing right here 9038D delivers stellar performance for $99 and you are going to complain about $10 for an app that you do not even need. Disrespectful is what you are. They made a dongle they made an app both had R&D and both deserve gratuity. One hopes one day your employer says to you we are no longer paying you but here is more work to do.
 

IVX

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AudioManNewb to be honest, my son Tyoma_the_coder just too lazy, as I feel. So, I decided to motivate his hunter spirit by split the profit from HW and SW. No any intention to earn money on poor people or something, 100.0% pedagogic )) Currently, again he develops Cosmos_FFT.exe free app for the upcoming ESS ADC, and again progress is crazy slow.
 

JollyOlly

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I have been using 9038D for a month now and well I don't think there's anything more to say about its performance than has been already said.

While I loved every moment I spent with the device I'd like to give a small suggestion to the manufacturing side of things @IVX

I'd consider making the device a little bit longer about 2mm so that the usbC connector goes all the way in and that the rubber sides of it can rest on the side of the DAC in order for it to be impossible or much harder to push it too far in and for the connector to be more stable in the socket.

Unfortunately that's exactly what happened to me. I was presenting it to a friend of mine and for some reason he was convinced that it wasn't connected all the way so he pushed a little bit harder and ever since then the device can disconnect with a loud cracking sound if the cable is even gently pushed to one side or another...

If anyone know whether or not it's repairable id be greatful for the information
 

Rottmannash

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I have been using 9038D for a month now and well I don't think there's anything more to say about its performance than has been already said.

While I loved every moment I spent with the device I'd like to give a small suggestion to the manufacturing side of things @IVX

I'd consider making the device a little bit longer about 2mm so that the usbC connector goes all the way in and that the rubber sides of it can rest on the side of the DAC in order for it to be impossible or much harder to push it too far in and for the connector to be more stable in the socket.

Unfortunately that's exactly what happened to me. I was presenting it to a friend of mine and for some reason he was convinced that it wasn't connected all the way so he pushed a little bit harder and ever since then the device can disconnect with a loud cracking sound if the cable is even gently pushed to one side or another...

If anyone know whether or not it's repairable id be greatful for the information
Agreed. I also have intermittent issues with connectivity.
 

IVX

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As I understand the problem, USB-C is too small to provide a reliable connection for a bulk USB transfer(i.e. unlike data storage transfer protocol when the host will resend lost packets). USB-C socket has a physical contact width is .28mm, see attached. Such a tiny contact area can't withstand a dust issue even being gold plated, and very fast become to be loosely mechanically. I recommend to fix the cable on the DAC anyhow. If you'll plug/unplug the cable every day you'll meet the problem for a month.
I tried to find a better USB-C socket but all of them are the same inside, .28mm gold plated bars that's it, very simple construction. The idea to add 2mm length of the DAC isn't really works because too many variations of the USB-C cable head are on the market, on my desk right now one cable with 7.2mm another 6.5mm length of USB-C steel shield tube.
 

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JollyOlly

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I'm not sure I understand all the technicalities but if making the connector go deeper into the socket for more stability is not possible maybe you'd consider making units with non-detachable cable?
For me personally it doesn't make much of a difference whether or not I can unplug the cable from the DAC but I think it'd add greatly to usability of the device.
 
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