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Zidoo Z9X
New generation Zidoo Media Player based on Realtek 1619DR chipset. HDR10+, HDR, Dolby Vision VS10.  £179.99  €205  $243

Author Topic: Alternative DAC solution to Zidoo UHD2000/X20 Pro (Dune HD Ultra 4K / Eweat R11)  (Read 11050 times)

Nice Monkey

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Got myself a DIY-kit USB DAC and use USB Audio Pro Player APP together with it. The main reasons are getting native SACD/DSD playback. This without spending a fortune but still getting a top quality sound.  :D

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 for analog and digital sections respectively. It is including a front display and even a remote control which is not really needed. The HW-build is high quality both outside and inside. My ordered gold bundle 2 version is € 410 fully assembled, tested and inclusive Dutch taxes. One can also get all included components separately for true DIY custom builds.
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/ES9...ION-XMOS-Or-Amanero-USB-NEW/32895957403.html?

Interesting cheaper alternatives here:
https://www.aliexpress.com/store/pr...io-Amp-Bluetooth-5-0/327509_32902945373.html?
This one costs € 146,- also fully assembled. It uses the ES9038Q2M chip has no XLR, uses standard AMP's and includes a far simpler external PSU. But it includes a remote, has a headphone output and even outputs via BT. It includes a brick external PSU.
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/New...-Amanero-USB-audio-finished/32884545046.html?
This one is only € 137,- fully assembled without a remote, headphone or BT but including a higher quality build-in linear PSU.
Both are great value for money and straight comparable with the audio panel of a Zidoo X20 Pro. The sound quality should be on par but additionally having USB plus SPDIF interfaces.

Using the remote control with my DIY-kit one can quickly choose the Digital Filter (7) for PCM conversion and the low-pass band filter (4) for DSD conversion:
- The Digital Filter is set at the "fast roll off minimum phase filter" for minimal audible impact.
Default was "fast roll off linear phase filter"
- The Analog Filter is set at "47 kHz" for maximum high frequency filtering.
Default was "60 kHz".
With the remote also the output volume can be controlled and mute be switched on/off.
It does not allow other ES9038PRO parameters to be altered. The defaults applied seem to be doing the correct job though.

What differentiates this unit mostly from (very) expensive ES9038 based 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. 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 ESS series DAC's all 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 build tolerances to a certain degree. Hence the deployment of one or two chips for stereo output only.
https://www.aliexpress.com/store/pr...l?spm=2114.10010108.1000023.19.41026cd4qFV5Lw
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.
Last the oscillators used for clocking may be specific for 44.1 and 48 Khz multiples and may also be temperature compensated for ultimate stability.

My DIY-kit also includes the optional XMOS/Amanero USB audio processor panel. This panel is used to interface USB with the SABRE ES9038 DAC:
Digital Audio over USB => XMOS/Amanero => ES9038 => Analog RCA/XLR.
It does not improve audio quality directly as such but enables all HD audio features of that excellent DAC to be used via USB including native SACD/DSD output. This is even superior to SPDIF support as it has a higher peak throughput and more important provides an extreme stable clock jitter free interface.

When connected to my AMP the S/N ratio proved to be extremely good as even turning up the volume to the maximum hardly produces audible noise at the speakers even at extreme close range.

Media player integrated HiFi DAC alternatives:
The DIY unit is superior regarding HW design to the DAC audio panel included with Zidoo X20 Pro e.g that one is using the ES9038Q2M (mobile version) not the ES9038PRO chip and it has a far simpler PSU design. It is closer to the low cost DIY alternatives mentioned earlier. Music Players APP's which support native DSD output via USB won't find the Internal DAC of X20 Pro as it uses direct I2S interfacing instead of internal USB and does neither support native DSD. For me personally this is a deal-breaker
Apparently Zidoo realized there are more Audiophiles like me and added the Zidoo UHD2000 including a 5A 12V Linear PSU and USB interfacing the ES9038 via a XMOS chipset now. This specifically for those wanting the better design above all including native SACD/DSD sound. This model also works flawless with the HiByMusic APP but UAPP won't find the Audio Panel DAC. The Music Player can be well controlled turning on the TV using the Zidoo Controller APP on a smart phone (Android or Apple). The weak point of the UHD2000 for music after playing with it myself during tests turned out to be noise and heat control when populating the dual slots with HDD's (the very noisy fan needs to be on high then).

For those familiar with Eweat my DIY-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.
The design includes external inputs via SPDIF and AES. Eweat R11 also includes an extra 12V Trigger plus IR In/Out panel and an additional Headphone panel (for those asking what all those other components are). They also included the 240V filter missing in my own design. Overall it is very complete and most likely sounds close to identical.
https://kodi.expert/product/eweat-r11-4k-ultra-hd-audiophile-hi-fi-media-player/

A full alternative is the new Dune HD Ultra 4K player which again seems to be using the same audio boards and PSU´s as the DIY-kit/Eweat R11 but is advertised to deploy only top quality components on those. Functionally the audio/DAC section and other features are identical to the Eweat R11 but obviously the players FW is very different. It is very expensive though list priced at a whopping € 1.500.
This is a very interesting move from Dune. The first Dune HD Ultra 4K announcements and pictures where clearly a clone of the Zidoo X20 Pro but the product actually launched now is a clone of the Eweat R11 instead. In contrary to Eweat Dune is going for the best possible result with that DAC design using only top quality components for both the DAC and PSU´s (according to their specs). The final design regarding components used is most likely even slightly superior to my DIY-kit? Only got a low resolution inside picture not revealing that level of detail but I do believe them here also seen the price asked for the player.
Dune bundles the HiByMusic APP for HD audio including SACD ISO similar to my own setup. For such an expensive player that is disappointing for me.
http://dune-hd.com/eng/products/full_hd_media_players

An interesting addition to this overview is the new Egreat A15 which clearly follows the Zidoo UH2000 design but must say coming with an even on many points improved version of it. The Audio Panel is based once again on the proven SABRE ES9038/XMOS/CPLD chips with dual-clock crystal oscillators plus all high end discrete components and gold plated connectors. It is even including a 6A 12V (70W) Linear PSU with a toroidal transformer.
It surprisingly comes with an USB PC input for the DAC! So it can be used with other USB sources too.
It has improved heat and noise provisions compared with UHD2000 among others using a temperature controlled variable speed fan and anti-vibration silencers for HDD mounts and the chassis as a whole. This is really excellent HW making it the best Audio HiFi media player from this list thus far. The part needing a review urgently is the Music APP coming with it. Egreat is not really known for good support on FW updates anymore unfortunately focusing on the Chinese market it seems.

All you need to know about SACD options and ISO/DSF/DFF file formats:
http://forum.zidoo.tv/index.php?threads/tutorial-sacd-options-and-iso-dsf-dff-file-formats.79385/
Remove this here to make space as it got over the word limit.

The Music Player APP choice to be used with the HW.
Obviously good HW is only as useful as the matching APP enables it. One can use the included Music APP coming with the player or use other Android APP's available for USB based DAC's.

USB Audio Player Pro (FW 4.4.1)
This APP was tested on my Egreat A11 and Zidoo Z9S successfully. No OS or platform compatibility problems found. It will also work without an USB DAC being attached but it was designed specifically for that deployment. Installed it on my Egreat A11/Zidoo Z9S without it using the default Android Audio driver included (=48 kHz 16-bit output for all source formats).

Findings:
- Paid the license (about € 7,-) via the Google Play Store and it got activated automatically.
- Support for almost all Stereo HR 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.
- The players UI needs some time getting used to. It e.g. uses all 4 corners for scattered controls. For some operations a mouse is required (a cursor mouse works but a pointer mouse is better) .
- All sources are played truly gapless which is always nicer and essential for live recordings!

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 an active forum and ongoing software development.
http://www.extreamsd.com/index.php/products/usb-audio-player-pro

HiByMusic (FW3.3.0_International_build_5511)
Added this player because of its quality and being absolutely free to use.
It is the makers intention to be used with their own server database and their own DAC's.
- It has very extensive playback capabilities including all common HR PCM formats and all SACD DSD formats even including DST compressed DFF and obviously ISO.
- It handles CUE Sheets, DTS-CD's (Stereo output) and can also will play Gapless when selected.

Hiby Music in fact is a real alternative to USB Audio Player Pro with even wider native audio format support (DST DSD and DTS-CD included). The big real drawback is controlling the HibyMusic UI which will only work via touch/mouse field actions. Any standard IR/BT remote is absolutely useless with this APP.
There is an option though to run HibyMusic just in Server mode on the Zidoo and HibyMusic in Client mode on a smartphone. That way the Storage and the Audio Playback (via USB DAC + AMP) of the media player is used controlling the UI integrally via the smartphone.
Getting that Client/Server setup to work via BT was not exactly hassle free. It e.g. uses a special UAT profile with BT which required WiFi on both sides to be turned off. The stability of client/server mode is definitely far lower than using the APP directly.

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 the free version reducing playback to SR but still 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 (not DST) track formats.
- Can toggle USB DAC or HDMI outputs via setup which is nice.
- Can real-time convert PCM to DSD which I have never seen before!
There is still development for this player but no forum.

Practical experiences
Installed it and next connected via USB2 (with a USB-hub in-between).

Functional experiences
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 2CH DFF tracks with DST compression (not really a commonly used format, but yes it is very efficient on HDD space)
Got PCM 24-bit sample rates up to 384 kHz and DSD up to DSD128 working via USB. UP-sampling is also available as an option with USB Player Pro but not used by me. Finally can compare native DSD64 with FLAC 88.2 conversions.
- Using an External DAC one can in fact play music via the DAC and watch a movie via HDMI including sound concurrently. Using 2 different HDD's and playing a BD plus SACD with DSD that worked also in practice during tests without disruptions. This even sharing also the AMP associating the Analog port with a second speaker zone.

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.
My AMP for comparison is an Onkyo TX-RZ720 which works just fine. It has a decent AKM AK4458 DAC built-in and uses proprietary DSP based Digital Filters for Front Left/Right channels.

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 clearly.
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 crisper and clearer that way. Blind tests with visitors showed it was heard not only by myself. For quality CD recordings the difference is bigger than for cheap collection CD´s but the difference is almost always audible. The driver is still in development and is not flawless yet.
d) Could not compare DSD via HDMI and the AMP versus USB via the DAC as the media players don't support this. The AMP supports MCH DSD too which is dearly missed.

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: July 09, 2020, 10:42:29 AM 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: July 09, 2020, 10:43:51 AM 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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« Last Edit: May 07, 2019, 08:52:50 AM by Nice Monkey »

Nice Monkey

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Updated the Dune HD Ultra 4K section after getting access to some inside pictures and the "6-page Dune HiFi Audio User Guide" for the Audio Panel revealing the last remaining secrets.
Dune uses Internal USB routed via the XMOS processor to the SABRE DAC and not straight I2S (as on X20 Pro) enabling true SACD/DSD that way for it.

Dune bundles the HiByMusic APP (my 3rd choice) for quality audio including SACD ISO similar to my own setup. For such an expensive player that is pretty disappointing to me. I am pretty confidant my referenced Music APP's will also run nicely on Dune and Eweat players including true DSD playback.

« Last Edit: May 27, 2019, 09:58:15 AM by Nice Monkey »

cch

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Hi Nice Monkey, i owned both himedia q5pro and zidoo z9s and used the usb audio player pro on both. In himedia i can access my pc via samba/network but not my zidoo z9s. Do you have any idea or solution ? Thanks in advance.

 

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