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Author Topic: An alternative DAC solution to Zidoo X20 Pro (and Eweat R11)  (Read 323 times)

Nice Monkey

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An alternative DAC solution to Zidoo X20 Pro (and Eweat R11)
« on: November 11, 2018, 03:32:05 PM »
Got myself  a DIY-kit USB DAC and use USB Audio Pro Player together with it. I doubt i will ever get native DSD support without going down that road with my Zidoo/Egreat players. May also be an alternative for those awaiting the Dune equivalent or using Himedia / Dinobot players.
Will gradually add my findings here over time. Maybe something for Futeko to start selling for music lovers not having all the money in the world?

SABRE ESS ES9038PRO based DIY DAC
This is a solid DAC design around the SABRE ESS ES9038PRO chip using quality components with over-sized dual linear PSU's, including a front display and even a remote control (not really needed). My ordered gold bundle 2 version is € 410  fully assembled, tested and inclusive taxes. One can also get all components separately for true DIY custom builds at much lower costs.
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/ES9038-ES9038PRO-upgrade-to-Crystek-CCHD-575-HIFI-audio-DAC-OPTION-XMOS-Or-Amanero-USB-NEW/32895957403.html?
What differentiates this unit mostly from (very) expensive branded DAC's is the use of the internal ess-es9038pro digital filters rather than a custom designed DSP based proprietary digital filter. It should be very challenging to hear the difference as each new SABRE version of their ESS series DAC's improved and added more digital filters to choose from (this one has even 7). Be aware those digital filters are for PCM => Analog conversion only. For true DSD => Analog conversion (like this chip does) only simple low-pass filters are used instead.
Expensive DAC versions also may use 2 ESS9038 Pro chips being one for the Left Channel and the other one for the Right Channel. SABRE DAC's are 8-channel capable but to compensate design tolerances for 24-bit conversion, DAC designs often bundle 4 or 8 channels to as single output. This averages out tolerances to a certain degree. Hence the deployment of one or two chips for stereo output only. Full HT 8-channel DAC's often use 4 SABRE chips for exactly that same reason. We see this design above all in top of the line UHD-BD players with discrete 8-channel analog outputs.
It has design flaws too: The 240V section is not fused, not earthed (strange with the power socket having 3 -pins) and worse it is not being low-pass filtered. As a consequence it is audible sensible to line-voltage spikes. Will need to add those provisions myself which is more of a mechanical challenge to get it all fitted. 

The unit is far superior regarding HW design to the DAC audio panel included with X20 Pro e.g that one is using the ES9038q2m (mobile version) and not the PRO chip. Also important it is a lot more flexible as it has both SPDIF (coax plus optical) and USB external inputs. This enabling it to be used with other sources and other media players. Combined with an X20 it costs a € 200,- extra but with a Z10 it is already the same.  It is not nicely integrated then but has  good value/money.
 
For those familiar with Eweat the DAC build is very close not to call it identical to the DAC included in their € 900,- Eweat R11 design. Eweat is not using all best available components as standard oscillator and AMP's for that main board are used. This can be seen using the zoom feature on the link attached. Eweat R11 also includes an extra 12V Trigger panel and a Headphone panel (for those asking what all the other components are). They also included the 240V filter/fuse panel missing in my own design. Overall it is very complete and likely sounds identical.
https://kodi.expert/product/eweat-r11-4k-ultra-hd-audiophile-hi-fi-media-player/

USB Audio Player Pro (FW 4.4.1)
This APP was tested on Egreat A11 and Zidoo Z9S players successfully. No compatibility problems found and it is therefore safe to assume it will work on all Hisillicon and Realtek RTD1295/96 based players including Himedia and Dune.

Findings:
- Paid the license (about € 7,-) via the Google Play Store and it got activated automatically. Using the same Google account it can be installed that way also on other Android platforms if you have multiple like I do.
- Support for almost all Stereo HQ Audio sources including DSD/SACD formats makes this APP also special. Currently only missing support for DST compressed DFF files.
- It next does not play DTS-CD's which is not that strange as that is actually using the DTS audio standard which is part of Video players.
- It does not down-mux multi channel sources (FLAC) to stereo output using the Android drivers. MCH sources are played via USB/DAC but need to listen more to determine if it down-muxes MCH or just passes L/R channels?
- It is clearly designed for Smart Phones with a touch screen. Using a pointer mouse with a TV for display is essential in the current state. I registered myself on their forum and asked among-st other things for added Media Player support using a standard remote.
- The players UI needs some time getting used to. It e.g. uses all 4 corners for scattered controls (designed for Portrait). One can use use a standard  Zidoo remote after getting used to the how for core functionality. For some actions a pointer mouse is needed. With Egreat Hicontrol works but also has some quirks using that. What works better is using HiControl as a display and the standard remote for most actions except the pointer mouse actions which then work via touch control.
- All sources are played truly gapless which is always nicer and essential for live recordings!
- Unique for Android media players is that native DSD is supported with USB DAC's in many flavors.
- It also works with wired Ethernet, NAS and external and internal HDD's connected which is often a problem with APP's designed for smartphones. Took me a while to find out how to scan folders on those HDD's as they where not found for that action (Manual).

The player is around for several years already and is praised for the sound it can produce. True gapless playback for formats supported seems stable including CUE  sheets. It also has a forum and ongoing software development (only sporadic reactions though) .
http://www.extreamsd.com/index.php/products/usb-audio-player-pro

 ONKYO HF Player (FW 2.4.0)
This is a real alternative player to be used with external USB DAC's. Worked straight with my setup too. For HQ playback the license is € 9,50 for SQ playback it is free (with minimal advertisements).
Also this APP is really designed for Smart-Phones and needs also to be controlled using a pointer-mouse, which next works just fine. Differences are:
- There is also a free version playing reduced to SQ but handling all albums including SACD DSF and DFF
- Very smooth on the controls and actions. Playback is gapless.
- No support for SACD ISO directly just DSF and DFF track extractions.
- Can toggle USB DAC or HDMI outputs via setup.
- Plays MCH SACD also via HDMI (Down muxed)
- The DSP can real-time convert PCM to DSD which I have never seen before! The DSP can be turned ON/OFF with a single click (blind testing).
There is no Onkyo forum for this APP.

Practical functional experiences
Installed it and next connected via USB2 (with a USB-hub in-between). After toggling some settings in the USB Audio Player Pro almost all  my audio formats come out as they should except for:
- DTS-CD (the alternative via HDMI is just fine for me as that is really MCH)
- SACD using DFF tracks with DST compression (not really a commonly used format, but yes it is very efficient on HDD space)
Got sample rates up to 384 kHz and up to DSD128 working via USB. Up-sampling is also available as an option with USB Player Pro. Finally can compare native DSD64 with FLAC 88.2 conversions.

Practical sound experiences
Obviously my findings here are subjective like hell, but most should be common for many.

Sound quality perceived depends on: Quality of the Album ==> Speakers ==> Amplifier. The role and sense of an External DAC depends on that. I try to invest my good money smart in that sequence.

With good quality speakers and medium range Home Theater AMP as a start it makes sense to add a high quality External DAC:
   a) For most CD's played in MP3/FLAC format the audible difference is minimal.
       For very good recordings it may be perceptible doing blind checks.
   b) For most SACD played in native DSD the reverse is true.
       Most will sound noticeable better using the DAC (and far better than the CD).
       Also the difference between converted to FLAC tracks and the native DSD tracks of the same recording  can be heard.
   c) Using Onkyo HF Player there is an option to convert PCM => DSD which works remarkable well with my DAC including MP3's.
       Output just sounds more crispier and clearer that way. Blind tests with visitors showed it was heard not only by myself.
       This may open a new line of discussions for audiophiles as this way no digital filters are used/needed at all anymore.
If one already has a very nice and expensive Amplifier it may not make a difference as the build-in DAC is probably already a nice match.

For DTS-CD and (Pure Audio) BD albums I prefer the Multi Channel sound of my AMP above the 2-channel down-mixing via the External DAC for most albums. MCH SACD is not that easy as it varies per recording but often I prefer MCH (alas only getting that with this setup currently via FLAC).

Bottom-line I am very pleased with my setup/purchase. It was a bit of a gamble but worked out just fine.
« Last Edit: Today at 12:13:54 PM by Nice Monkey »

1GTRBG

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Re: An alternative DAC solution to Zidoo X20 Pro (and Eweat R11)
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2018, 05:15:50 PM »
Thank you, Nice Monkey ;-)
I like quality music, too
How to connect Egreat A5 to external USB DAC like yours?

Nice Monkey

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Re: An alternative DAC solution to Zidoo X20 Pro (and Eweat R11)
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2018, 10:20:04 PM »
Thank you, Nice Monkey ;-)
I like quality music, too
How to connect Egreat A5 to external USB DAC like yours?
Using a USB2 Host cable  ;D Had to dig deep in my old cables chest to find one.  ;)
All my cables are USB3 today but the Slave side of those is not backward compatible.

That's it. Install the APP and that one takes care of all required drivers. Nothing else to do.
The APP is not TV-Screen/Remote-control friendly. That is the only real disadvantage right now. Using a pointer mouse is the way to go. Of course one can also connect a Smart-Phone to the DAC via USB as an alternative.
Controls/navigation works a bit smoother on Zidoo (Android 7.1) than on Egreat (Android 5.0) for me for unknown reasons. Feels more like HW related than caused by the OS difference.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2018, 03:26:41 PM by Nice Monkey »

1GTRBG

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Re: An alternative DAC solution to Zidoo X20 Pro (and Eweat R11)
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2018, 07:34:42 AM »
Thanks, can you send me a picture of the cable, I need to know what to look for :)
My Egreat A5 is with Android 7.0 Beta, connected to Marantz SR7012, installed the App and it works perfect - showing all files incl. .dff and plays them!
But the receiver shows PCM 48kHz, I think that is the Android limitations!

Nice Monkey

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Re: An alternative DAC solution to Zidoo X20 Pro (and Eweat R11)
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2018, 03:29:44 PM »
Thanks, can you send me a picture of the cable, I need to know what to look for :)
My Egreat A5 is with Android 7.0 Beta, connected to Marantz SR7012, installed the App and it works perfect - showing all files incl. .dff and plays them!
But the receiver shows PCM 48kHz, I think that is the Android limitations!
See picture.  ;)

Indeed Android defaults to 48 kHz for everything mostly (My Samsung phone has a High Resolution DAC).
The USB external DAC sounds just great, above all in DSD.  :)

1GTRBG

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Re: An alternative DAC solution to Zidoo X20 Pro (and Eweat R11)
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2018, 04:28:42 PM »
You are the man :)
Thanks ;)

Nice Monkey

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Re: An alternative DAC solution to Zidoo X20 Pro (and Eweat R11)
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2018, 04:49:03 PM »
You are the man :)
Thanks ;)
It is a pleasure.  :)

Also see the updates including an alternative player (ONKYO)  ;)

m-i-c-k-e-y

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Re: An alternative DAC solution to Zidoo X20 Pro (and Eweat R11)
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2018, 07:51:48 AM »
Try also

HibyMusic (Free): https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.hiby.music&hl=en

Neutron Music Player: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.neutroncode.mp

Been using Android as music player for my DAC/Amps for abou 5 years now. UAPP tops them all on compatibility, SQ, UI and support.

Since June, UAPP has support (HiRes Driver) for built in DACs. IDK if you have used it in the X20/X20 Pro's internal ESS DAC.

Nice Monkey

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Re: An alternative DAC solution to Zidoo X20 Pro (and Eweat R11)
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2018, 12:43:43 PM »
Been using Android as music player for my DAC/Amps for abou 5 years now. UAPP tops them all on compatibility, SQ, UI and support.

Since June, UAPP has support (HiRes Driver) for built in DACs. IDK if you have used it in the X20/X20 Pro's internal ESS DAC.
Started with Hiby and just read about Neutron.

I am using UAPP next to Onkyo HF Player. Frankly both are very good and sound-wise identical. For me UAPP supports SACD ISO as a bonus but ONKYO supports PCM => DSD conversion real-time playback. To my surprise I do like the DSD upscale for mere MP3's. For good quality CD recordings with these  MP3's I can pick out the upscale/original during blind tests. Just try it!
« Last Edit: December 11, 2018, 12:48:52 PM by Nice Monkey »

m-i-c-k-e-y

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Re: An alternative DAC solution to Zidoo X20 Pro (and Eweat R11)
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2018, 05:50:59 PM »
Yep one of the strong features of Onkyo is DSD conversion.

Sadly,on the last time I have used it, it can support only upto DSD128. 

Have DSD256 materials.

Nice Monkey

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Re: An alternative DAC solution to Zidoo X20 Pro (and Eweat R11)
« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2018, 01:16:31 AM »
Yep one of the strong features of Onkyo is DSD conversion.

Sadly,on the last time I have used it, it can support only upto DSD128. 

Have DSD256 materials.
Wow DSD256! Never saw any material for that, just got up to DSD128. Even DSD128 is very rare to find as true original recordings.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2018, 01:31:09 AM by Nice Monkey »

m-i-c-k-e-y

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« Last Edit: December 12, 2018, 08:18:04 AM by m-i-c-k-e-y »

Nice Monkey

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Re: An alternative DAC solution to Zidoo X20 Pro (and Eweat R11)
« Reply #12 on: Today at 11:25:27 AM »
Thanks m-i-c-k-e-y for sharing.  :)

Updated the original review on several points above all adding new findings and experiences.

 

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