From what I remembered, the sound signature of L05QD reminded me a lot of the SR009 with WES at the show. I can't comment on the details since it was noisy, but it was very resolving, with a comfortable sound!
I did mention that it might not be audible, since many of the big DAC companies use it. I know that one of the Taiwan developers managed to test this on his AP and decided not to use it just in case, since there was no fix (confirmed by ESS). John Westlake (designer of MDAC) also said that the 9018 was the most buggy chip he used, and he'll never use it again because of how frustrating it was.
Perhaps your dislike towards the 9018 chips is due to the distortion that were tested with AP and confirmed with ESS. Between 1khz and 5khz, with signal between 0db and 60db, there is nonlinear distortion. It looks inaudible, but some people might believe otherwise. [[SPOILER]] Teal is -35dB input signal, and Blue is -36dB input signal
I remember posting a thread here quoting a post from the Chinese headphone forums. A member had an email from ESS with them admitting to some bug or something in their chip which could not be fixed. It gave the 9018 massive distortion spikes from what I remembered reading. Though I'd still like to hear a 9018 DAC , since everyone praises it for the immense details it spews out.
What would be the best DAC below $2000 you heard using USB in? It seems all the built in USB...
UE18 is designed for stage use in mind I believe. The UERM is designed for monitoring. The UERM's harsh treble can be easily tuned down with good source and amp matching. The highs of the UERM is also rolled off slightly I think. I tried the demos and picked UERM. For your past customs, I think you'll feel that the UERM lack a lot of bass.