• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Review and Measurements of AUDIOPHONICS DAC I-Sabre ES9038Q2M

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
37,366
Likes
156,027
Location
Seattle Area
This is a review and detailed measurements of the AUDIOPHONICS DAC I-Sabre ES9038Q2M Raspberry Pi DAC. This was kindly sent to me near a year ago by Audiophonics. The DAC I-Sabre ES9038Q2M cost 129 Euros from Audiophonics direct. I don't know if anyone sells it cheaper or not. Edit: US price which excludes VAT is $118.

The ESS ES9038Q2M chip certainly requires a lot more parts than we have seen in other Pi HATS:

AUDIOPHONICS ES9038Q2M Raspberry Pi DAC Sound Card Audio Review.jpg
I should say that it is a pain to identify these products as a number of them have no markings at all on the board as to who made them or what the model number or revision is. I have had to do a visual match of the components to determine this.

For my testing, I used the identical setup to recently tested PI DACs. I simply replaced the DAC, selected the appropriate driver in Ropieee software that runs on the Pi and tested the unit.

I expect good results here since Audiophonics includes Audio Precision FFT results of a 1 kHz tone which I show in my dashboard:

Spectre_9038.jpg


This would translate into a SINAD of about 105. Let's see how our sample does.

Raspberry Pi HAT DAC Audio Measurements
Here is our dashboard view using 44.1 kHz sampling rate as I normally use, with the data streamed from Roon over Ethernet (again, as before):

AUDIOPHONICS ES9038Q2M Raspberry Pi DAC Sound Card Audio Measurements.png


Ah, "now we are cooking with gas." :) (English/cooking expression saying something is seriously proper.) The "bad" channel matches the SINAD of the manufacturer at 106. The good channel actually pulls head at nearly 109. This places the I-Sabre ES9038Q2M solidly in tier 2 of all DACs tested:

Best Audio DACs Reviewed and Measured.png


The output voltage though is rather low at 1.6 volts. Not sure why. This should have been 2 volts.

Jitter test shows a very low noise floor (good) which winds up showing more spurious tones:
AUDIOPHONICS ES9038Q2M Raspberry Pi DAC Sound Card Jitter Audio Measurements.png


This is very good results that goes along with the same tier as the SINAD of the DAC. The worst case tones are power supply related (to the left) at below 120 dB so not a concern at all.

Here is our 7 tone test results:
AUDIOPHONICS ES9038Q2M Raspberry Pi DAC Sound Card Multitone Audio Measurements.png


Not a fantastic showing but much better than the bargain priced HAT DACs I have tested recently.

Finally, here is the reconstruction filter response:

AUDIOPHONICS ES9038Q2M Raspberry Pi DAC Sound Card White Noise Filter Response Audio Measureme...png


I don't know why all of these HAT DACs have such low attenuation past 24 kHz. We should be down at -80 dB or better.

Conclusions
The AUDIOPHONICS DAC I-Sabre ES9038Q2M finally brings good performance to HAT DACs. It rivals the performance of the higher priced DACs from Allo and Orchard Audio but at lower cost.

Of course for this kind of money you could get an external DAC and get similar performance. Then again you would not have such a compact package.

All in all, I am very pleased that the company a) has proper measurements on their site b) volunteered to send me one for review and c) the performance results are very good. To that end, I am going to recommend the AUDIOPHONICS DAC I-Sabre ES9038Q2M.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

For some reason, I feel poor today. So please donate generously using https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
Last edited:

Arnandsway

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Sep 13, 2018
Messages
541
Likes
501
On this one a volume knob and screen can be directly connected to the board.
Easy software-based volume control for a couple of euros extra.
To be found here!
 

AudioSceptic

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 31, 2019
Messages
1,629
Likes
1,451
Location
Northampton, UK
Thanks for the review Amirm.
I'm relieved to see that you've measured pretty much the same thing as us.

Only a small clarification, for US the price is without VAT, so around 118USD after conversion.
Looks like a good device. Thanks for sending it to Amir. Just wondering, do you design and make this, design it but have it made elsewhere, or buy in the whole thing?
 

somebodyelse

Major Contributor
Joined
Dec 5, 2018
Messages
2,649
Likes
1,990
I don't know why all of these HAT DACs have such low attenuation past 24 kHz. We should be down at -80 dB or better.
Do you know which filter Ropieee uses? The Audiophonics product page shows you can change filter settings using the mixer controls.
 

Audiophonics

Member
Joined
Oct 4, 2018
Messages
57
Likes
203
Location
France
I think Amirm didn't loaded the dedicated driver, so the board was using the default filter, probably be "Brick Wall" ( but it could be the last selected when previously used the board)
The filters selection is made trought driver, into alsamixer or for Moode Audio, directly into the UI.
 

Rja4000

Major Contributor
Joined
May 31, 2019
Messages
1,336
Likes
1,452
Location
Liège, Belgium
HI Amir
Thanks for this review.
No IMD test vs level, to check for ESS "Hump" ?
Not even a basic one (-25, -40, -60) ?
 
OP
amirm

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
37,366
Likes
156,027
Location
Seattle Area
HI Amir
Thanks for this review.
No IMD test vs level, to check for ESS "Hump" ?
Not even a basic one (-25, -40, -60) ?
I can run a single test but no sweeps since I can't control these devices from Windows.
 

Audiophonics

Member
Joined
Oct 4, 2018
Messages
57
Likes
203
Location
France
Sometimes we ask for minor modifications, sometimes we only rebrand them, but for this one we found a problem in the gain schematic, and had to modify them in our workshop to avoid saturation @0dB

About the I-Sabre 9038Q2M which is mentioned in this topic, it have been created and developped according to our instructions.
 

graz_lag

Major Contributor
Joined
Oct 13, 2018
Messages
1,296
Likes
1,539
Location
Le Mans, France
Bonjour Nicolas:

You do a formidable job indeed, it is not easy at all to run a business making some honest profit ('cause that's the goal at the end of each single day of our life) in such a competitive market where anyone-sells-anything-anywhere.
A couple of questions for you:
What abt. the warranty you offer on brands you distribute besides your own ones?
Do you offer 12 months (as customary in France on many items) or 24 (as per the EC' rules)?
Are you an authorized repair centers for the said brands, or the faulty machines go back to the Chinese manufacturer(s) for repairing?

Thank you so much!
 

pii75

Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2018
Messages
35
Likes
17
What about signal to noise ratio? I did not see it in the measurements. Thanks!
 

Audiophonics

Member
Joined
Oct 4, 2018
Messages
57
Likes
203
Location
France
What abt. the warranty you offer on brands you distribute besides your own ones?
Do you offer 12 months (as customary in France on many items) or 24 (as per the EC' rules)?
Are you an authorized repair centers for the said brands, or the faulty machines go back to the Chinese manufacturer(s) for repairing?

Thanks for your message.

Yes we offer 2 year warranty on all products sold from our website.

We are not official repair center for any brand. But we now have a very experimented technician so we are able to fix most common issues on products directly into our workshop.
For some products for which we didn't found how to solve or when it do not worth it, we ask for a replacement board, or send the whole product back.
 

CRKebschull

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 7, 2019
Messages
87
Likes
92
Location
Germany
Hi @Audiophonics,

are there headers or solder holes for balanced (XLR) connections? The 9038q2m evidently can provide balanced output...
 

Audiophonics

Member
Joined
Oct 4, 2018
Messages
57
Likes
203
Location
France
No, the output filter section is designed for single ended output.

By the way, the board has been designed with 1.6V RMS, 2V peak output.
It can be set to 2V RMS output by replacing R8-R9-R12-R13 to 1.5k value.

We will have an extended version of this DAC within few weeks with balanced outputs and more inputs.
 
Top Bottom