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Review and Measurements of E1DA 9038S BAL Portable DAC & Amp

solderdude

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because there is no ground connection available (balanced headphone output) only hot (+) and cold (-)
When the cable has a screen connect it to the screen of the XLR only.
 

vkvedam

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@IVX When is the release date for #9038D? I would be really interested in purchasing it.

Thanks, Ven!
 

Julf

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because there is no ground connection available (balanced headphone output) only hot (+) and cold (-)
When the cable has a screen connect it to the screen of the XLR only.
Wouldn't it make sense to connect the screens to the chassis of the devices (to provide a ground path)?
 

solderdude

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That would mean soldering extra wires to the sunken microUSB plug + there is a 2.5V DC between signal and ground.
As the ground would come from the other side of the PCB (USB side) I would not recommend this.

Its suboptimal but at least it will work.
 
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I have received the 9038S (and the ProDac v2 as well) some days back. The headphones I am using are the Massdrop x Noble Kaiser 10, which I find fantastic.

Sound quality (and I know the point “with my ears, my music etc”): it is extremely good and I must admit I have hard time to differentiate with my usual Astell & Kern sp1000m.

I have then some challenges in regards to (certainly) gain:
- with Samsung S9+ and Y splitter: I am hearing hiss with all applications (namely Qobuz and Tidal). Not good.
- with Samsung Note10+ and Y splitter: no hiss anymore. Excellent sound via Qobuz, Tital and Neutron. But the volume is super loud even at the lowest level of volume set via the phone
- with iPad Pro and USB to USB cable: music via Qobuz. Volume control from the iPad is not available anymore and the sound is out at full power. So I cannot use it, and I was afraid for my in-ears
With both Samsung’s I don't need any additional power source to be connected via the Y splitter.

I may have made a mistake or not using some of these software properly, but the absence of volume control on the DAC is both an issue and quite risky when you use in-ears. Any advices are welcomed.

In addition, when you want to use it on the move, it is quite a lot of cables with the Y splitter, the additional USB A to USB C cable. Any way to make it more simple?

My conclusion so far is that when it comes to sound, it is really excellent, but a bit challenging however in terms of usability.
 
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IVX

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Thank you for your short review. Regarding usability I can only quote my post:
The original #9038S is near to out of stock, next week-two we'll offer #9038S G2 which able to work any iOS/Android devices without an external power source i.e. any USB type C to type C OTG and also USB type C to lightning will work no problem. Also, G2 will get IEM mode.
I have USB-C/USB-C 10" cable and use it successfully with Android, also, I have USB-A/USB-C 1.5m cable and it is fine too with my PC. The only reason to be better for 10" cable is lower resistance, hence, higher max power.
I believe it is something wrong with implementation of the volume control of Tidal app because Macbook users also complained about it i.e. they keep the volume of tidal app low as -50db or so(with high sensitive IEMs), and hear hiss with #9038S. After I limited output of ES9038Q2M at -15db in the "IEM", that hiss is gone. The output noise of #9038S is the same 2.5uVRMS(A) for 0db either -15db volume, hence the hiss isn't #9038S problem yet.
 
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Thank you @IVX for your answer. I am looking forward to getting the G2 as well as the 9038D. Some additional remarks or questions:
- I’ve got hiss on two different Samsung S9+, both with Tidal and Qobuz (strangely or happily enough not with the N10+). So in my case, the hiss was not related to Tidal
- With the iPad Pro (2018 version with USBC), when connected with the USB cable, I had no volume control at all via the iPad itself (I mean the buttons) or whatever software feature in the app (I used Qobuz). So I’ve got full power in the IEM and was lucky to be already concerned it could happen so I was not wearing them. It seems that with an iPad you cannot use a DAC which would not have its own volume control. Do I miss something? Should I try another app?
 
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I could not resist and build 2,5mm to XLR converter, to be able test 9038S dac with my HD800 till balanced cable for Shure 215 will come :)
I compared 9038S with Topping DX7s and even after few hours I was not able to 100% distinguish them !
9038S has maybe a bit more clear mids + highs and better defined bass, but the difference is not bigger that approx. 5%. For 6x lower price it is amazing result...
The sound differences between 3 modes are subtle - I like most the normal mode.
Power consumption during play is approx 150mA and 98 when stopped - body of DAC is warm (measured 38°C) after while but then not getting worse.
I have successfully tested playback with my Samsung S9, S7 and Xiaomi A1 - all of them powered the DAC+HD800 without power bank and without interruptions.
 
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I could not resist and build 2,5mm to XLR converter, to be able test 9038S dac with my HD800 till balanced cable for Shure 215 will come :)
I compared 9038S with Topping DX7s and even after few hours I was not able to 100% distinguish them !
9038S has maybe a bit more clear mids + highs and better defined bass, but the difference is not bigger that approx. 5%. For 6x lower price it is amazing result...
The sound differences between 3 modes are subtle - I like most the normal mode.
Power consumption during play is approx 150mA and 98 when stopped - body of DAC is warm (measured 38°C) after while but then not getting worse.
I have successfully tested playback with my Samsung S9, S7 and Xiaomi A1 - all of them powered the DAC+HD800 without power bank and without interruptions.
Next you need to compare it to a ES9038PRO DAC like Matrix or Sabaj.
 

solderdude

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9038S has maybe a bit better defined bass
The 7S you compared it with (I assume also in balanced mode) has a 20 Ohm output resistance so will have very sightly different bass indeed.
 
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The 7S you compared it with (I assume also in balanced mode) has a 20 Ohm output resistance so will have very sightly different bass indeed.
I wouldn´t expect it with 300Ohm imp of HD800, but can be...
 

solderdude

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Just 0.3dB bass boost but over a wide frequency range so would be just audible in A-B
 
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Hello, is it possible to use this dac as a replacement of the Topping D30 or does it only work with headphones? (I've got some 50 ohm headphones, too)
If you use the D30 with USB input only, then it can be replaced by 9038D. And 50 Ohm headphones are no problem.
 

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