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RME changes DAC-chip

Mulder

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RME ADI-2 DAC is a popular DAC among many HiFi interested. I do not know if the following has been noticed elsewhere in the forum, but I have searched but not found anything.

RME has replaced the DAC chip in ADI-2 with a chip from ESS. This, of course, as a result of the fire that affected AKM. Here is information. I have copied the following information from RMS's forum. As usual, RME's information and communication with users is top notch.

"At the end of 2020 a fire destroyed AKM's production facilities for AD and DA converter chips. A resumption of production and thus availability of these components is not expected before 2022. Therefore, many manufacturers - like RME - are forced to either discontinue products based on AKM chips, or to use other chips for the foreseeable future.

The ADI-2 DAC was initially based on an AK4490, later on the AK4493. The current unit uses an ES9028Q2M for its high-quality DA conversion. This chip is very similar to the AK4493 in features and technical specifications, which allows RME to continue offering the ADI-2 DAC in its well-known supreme quality, and with a nearly identical feature set.

Even though this chip is a central (sometimes sole) quality determining element, the ADI-2 DAC is just not a normal DAC. Tech specs and features are based on RME technologies, and they are available unchanged also with the ESS chip:

- Complete DSP functionality (PEQ, Bass/Treble, Loudness etc.).
- All sample rates, PCM as well as DSD
- All digital formats (SPDIF/AES/ADAT)
- Analog input and output circuitry, including Auto Ref and 2.5 dB digital headroom
- Extreme Power headphone output stage
- SteadyClock FS, including the latest 1 Hz filter technology
- Lightning fast sample rate change on playback
- Remote, display, general behavior, operation and handling....

ADI-2 DACs with AK4493 and ES9028Q2M are neither sonically nor visually easily distinguishable. However, the ESS version is recognized by a small C at the end of the serial number sticker (B stood for AKM 4493). Furthermore, the units differ in the available filters. The unit with AKM has a filter called Short Delay Low Dispersion, while the one with ESS has a filter called Brickwall (the other filters, SD Sharp, SD Slow, Sharp, Slow, NOS, are identical). Further Chip dependent differences are mentioned in this manual.
------------------

Regarding Tech Specs: forget the data sheet tech specs. AKM and ESS both have their pros and cons, a simple THD+N comparison won't do it. Additionally we needed to reserve 2.5 dB headroom as that feature of the 4493 DAC should be there as well, and - even more important - the ESS chips do not handle intersample overs as gracefully as AKM chips do. So that headroom is a must - and naturally already steals 2.5 dB of SNR and THD+N.

Reading the manual you might notice the new Loopback feature (mainly for Mac DIGICheck to show playback data) - it will come to all DAC and Pro, don't worry.

And yes, we added all missing filters ourselves by loading them into the ESS chip in real-time."
 

JohnYang1997

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I wonder if RME has handled the "ESS bump".
The 9028q2m uses first generation modulator. The modulator does not exhibit the IMD hump that we all know. Refer to Motu or some other 9016S based devices. There will be a small jump at certain level in noise which is noise modulation issue. On the graph, instead of coming back down at around 15dB, the curve just tailor to the max level. The noise modulation is built in the modulator and is not fixable. I wish they have used 9038q. Also the jitter performance is not as good on 9028q. Although this may be overcome in peripheral design. At this day and age there's little choice. Another candidate would be every 4493 replaced by 2 ak4377. It's about the same performance and cost.
Khadas Tone Board DAC Intermodulation Measurement (1).png
Motu M2 Measurements IMD distortion Audio Interface DAC balanced.png
 

JohnYang1997

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RME has it´s SteadyClock FS technology. I guess it is the "peripheral design" that handles the jitter in the RME DAC?
Will see. The original ones are good but not ground breaking. -140dB or so is about the same as 9028q2m. Just that 9038q2m would be even better.
Well, another issue is that, ESS is also facing silicon shortage. 9068as is their priority. 9038q2m is having delay and limited supply. Have not used 9028q2m, not sure about the supply for that one.
 

Ata

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RME ADI-2 DAC is a popular DAC among many HiFi interested. I do not know if the following has been noticed elsewhere in the forum, but I have searched but not found anything.

RME has replaced the DAC chip in ADI-2 with a chip from ESS. This, of course, as a result of the fire that affected AKM. Here is information. I have copied the following information from RMS's forum. As usual, RME's information and communication with users is top notch.

"At the end of 2020 a fire destroyed AKM's production facilities for AD and DA converter chips. A resumption of production and thus availability of these components is not expected before 2022. Therefore, many manufacturers - like RME - are forced to either discontinue products based on AKM chips, or to use other chips for the foreseeable future.

The ADI-2 DAC was initially based on an AK4490, later on the AK4493. The current unit uses an ES9028Q2M for its high-quality DA conversion. This chip is very similar to the AK4493 in features and technical specifications, which allows RME to continue offering the ADI-2 DAC in its well-known supreme quality, and with a nearly identical feature set.

Even though this chip is a central (sometimes sole) quality determining element, the ADI-2 DAC is just not a normal DAC. Tech specs and features are based on RME technologies, and they are available unchanged also with the ESS chip:

- Complete DSP functionality (PEQ, Bass/Treble, Loudness etc.).
- All sample rates, PCM as well as DSD
- All digital formats (SPDIF/AES/ADAT)
- Analog input and output circuitry, including Auto Ref and 2.5 dB digital headroom
- Extreme Power headphone output stage
- SteadyClock FS, including the latest 1 Hz filter technology
- Lightning fast sample rate change on playback
- Remote, display, general behavior, operation and handling....

ADI-2 DACs with AK4493 and ES9028Q2M are neither sonically nor visually easily distinguishable. However, the ESS version is recognized by a small C at the end of the serial number sticker (B stood for AKM 4493). Furthermore, the units differ in the available filters. The unit with AKM has a filter called Short Delay Low Dispersion, while the one with ESS has a filter called Brickwall (the other filters, SD Sharp, SD Slow, Sharp, Slow, NOS, are identical). Further Chip dependent differences are mentioned in this manual.
------------------

Regarding Tech Specs: forget the data sheet tech specs. AKM and ESS both have their pros and cons, a simple THD+N comparison won't do it. Additionally we needed to reserve 2.5 dB headroom as that feature of the 4493 DAC should be there as well, and - even more important - the ESS chips do not handle intersample overs as gracefully as AKM chips do. So that headroom is a must - and naturally already steals 2.5 dB of SNR and THD+N.

Reading the manual you might notice the new Loopback feature (mainly for Mac DIGICheck to show playback data) - it will come to all DAC and Pro, don't worry.

And yes, we added all missing filters ourselves by loading them into the ESS chip in real-time."

I would have thought that at this price point we would see either 9038Q2M (same as in my "budget" $300 Topping D50) or a 9038Pro (as seen in many $600-1000 products). Both have slightly better characteristics when compared to 9028Q2M.
 
OP
Mulder

Mulder

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I would have thought that at this price point we would see either 9038Q2M (same as in my "budget" $300 Topping D50) or a 9038Pro (as seen in many $600-1000 products). Both have slightly better characteristics when compared to 9028Q2M.
It is my impression that RME are not interested in participating in a race in search of ever higher measurement values, if these don´t make any audible or other difference. RME has instead focused on functions, ie on DSP functions, semi-digital volume control, really good headphone amplifiers, etc. I guess RME chooses an older and perhaps cheaper DAC chip if they judge that a newer chip does not add any audible benefits. But this is me speculating. It is RME that will have to answer these types of questions. But besides, I would like to see how it performs in a measurement anyway.
 

JohnYang1997

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It is my impression that RME are not interested in participating in a race in search of ever higher measurement values, if these don´t make any audible or other difference. RME has instead focused on functions, ie on DSP functions, semi-digital volume control, really good headphone amplifiers, etc. I guess RME chooses an older and perhaps cheaper DAC chip if they judge that a newer chip does not add any audible benefits. But this is me speculating. It is RME that will have to answer these types of questions. But besides, I would like to see how it performs in a measurement anyway.
Funny you said that. Actually 9028q2m due to its low output impedance, it has lower noise thus can achieve better THD+N number than 9038q2m. But 9038q2m with -0.5dB is more well rounded option. Of course there's tons of other reasons RME would choose 9028q2m. Just to share some insights.
 

Matias

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Matias

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Tks

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I would have thought that at this price point we would see either 9038Q2M (same as in my "budget" $300 Topping D50) or a 9038Pro (as seen in many $600-1000 products). Both have slightly better characteristics when compared to 9028Q2M.

I would've also at first, until you realize the amount of heat these things give off (since the DAC and the Pro, which needs it more) aren't supplied with heatsinks attached to the highest heat generating parts. I imagine the operating temperature is far higher for the higher end ESS chips. On the Pro, that thing would be cooking I imagine.

Really hope they rectify this in whatever next-gen product they come up with.
 

AnalogSteph

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Hmm, I had a look at the datasheets, and heat dissipation doesn't strike me as overly excessive.

I'm getting ~463 mW for the ES9038PRO, which while a bit toasty shouldn't be excessive for a relatively large chip, even if it increases at higher sample rates (digital core is about 150 mW so things could heat up a bit). A CS4272 needs ~433 mW, too, and you don't see those failing left and right either.
The ES9028PRO comes in at ~270 mW, which is entirely reasonable.
The ES9038Q2M seems to be a real power miser at between 40 and 53 mW.
The ES9028Q2M comes in at between 83 and 120 mW depending on digital supply, might get a bit more if you need external core voltage at higher rates though.

I must say their power specs are pretty confusing.
 
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Skeptischism

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yeah, the CL is a great performer, but is lacking features when it comes to a design like this. pity its not the 38q2m, but objectively the result is unlikely to make a difference. RME have already proven they can make a very high performing DAC, without using the top performance chips.

they will have been hit very hard by the AKM fire. more so than most. they leaned heavily on AKM for both DAC and ADC products across their whole range.
 

Duffy Moon

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Has anyone seen any measurements of the ESS version yet? I'm curious to see a comparison with the previous version.
 
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