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DAC-X10: Worthy Budget 32/384 ES9018 Rig?

post #1 of 82
Thread Starter 

 

 

The 歌詩德 (translated roughly as "The Virtue of Song and Poetry", not "Costa de", as MisterTao poorly translates from Google) DAC-X10 is a Chinese-designed/made DAC, sold/distributed by seller huang_cs on Taobao. This is the Taobao link, but eBay seller Vintage Audio Lab (aka Valab) is now selling the DAC-X10 as well.

 

It is presumably from a design team that came from within the Chinese DIY ranks, and has had several DAC designs to their credit. Their most notable DAC previously has been the DAC-X9, a dual WM8741 balanced DAC that bears uncanny, near-identical resemblance to the Rein Audio X3-DAC (sans an ASRC module and some Rhodium). Apparently, the DAC-X9 sold quite well in Mainland China and HK.

 

The DAC-X10 is their latest endeavor.

 

For $450, this DAC seems like an incredible value; it has fully-balanced outputs, a discrete analog stage, supports 32/384 over USB, volume control (looks like it uses the Sabre's on-board volume control, which is darn good for digital), good quality parts, and a nice case (looks like a W4S knockoff, but I actually think it looks slightly classier than the awkward W4S case). Really, the only ES9018 DACs that come cheaper than this are from the DIY community.

 

From the Valab Product Description (plus some grammar corrections from me):

The ESS Technology Sabre Reference 32bit ES9018 is highest performance DAC chip on market. This chip is not an audio designer-friendly chip and will project very aggressive, analytic sound on a non-optimized circuit design. So, it is quite a challenging chip for a DAC designer.

 

This is most musical ES9018-based DAC we've ever heard. You will like its ultra-transparent, high-resolution, and vivid analog sound, which is quite close to high quality vinyl record.


Features:

  1. Updated Version, ESS Technology Sabre Reference 32-bit ES9018 DAC chip.
  2. Two sealed, high-grade transformer deployed, one for digital, another for analog circuit.
  3. XMOS 32-bit USB receiver chip, which is the best performing asynchronous USB audio solution.
  4. Discrete transistor-based balanced analog output stage for extended, dynamic, and analog sound.
  5. Precision, 100 step digital volume control; from 0 to 99 dB attenuation, 1db per step
  6. Vishay round SMD precision resistors and carefully chosen parts for best sound performance.
  7. Professional circuit layout to get best circuit stability and great performance.
  8. Aluminum housing, hair skin surface processing.
  9. Digital Input: Balanced S/PDIF AES/EBU port, RCA, Toslink Optical input, and USB
  10. Analog Output: balanced analog output via XLR port, single-ended output via RCA port.
  11. Dimensions: 190 x 70 x 313 mm (W x H x D)
  12. Both 110/120V and 220/240V version supported.


Digital Input Format Support:
Coaxial: 44.1、48、88.2、96、176.4、192 kHz
Optical: 44.1、48、88.2、96、176.4、192 kHz
AES/EBU: 44.1、48、88.2、96、176.4、192 kHz
USB    : 44.1、48、88.2、96、176.4、192、352.8、384 kHz

 

Analog Output:
RCA Output :2.5 Vrms @0dBFS
XLR Output :5 Vrms @0dBFS
Frequency  :20-20K Hz +/-0.15dB

 

At $450, its connectivity is near unparalleled. The only question is sound. From the measurements posted, the measurements don't look half bad; perhaps not quite $1500+ DAC performance numbers, but decent, especially for $450. But what about DACs in the same price range, e.g. Bifrost, Concero, etc.

 

I'm not well-versed in what sound DAC design is, but the layout seems to make sense.

 

Posted Measurements:

 

 

Anyone with good knowledge of DAC design want to chime in on whether the implementation is good?


Edited by tomscy2000 - 6/19/13 at 10:39pm
post #2 of 82

Interested to get either the X9 or the X10

 

Any impressions regarding its sound?

 

Also curious to know how to performs against Matrix Mini-i and Bifrost

post #3 of 82

Thanks for the synopsis, it looks really really nice.

 

 

I picked up a different (even cheaper) unknown ES9018 DAC from China, and I certainly heart the sound it delivers.

post #4 of 82

Hard to say anything about it. Poor ES9018 implementations IMO give a rather dull and lifeless sound to the music. It would be interesting to compare to, say, an Audio-gd NFB-10ES2, though that also has a headphone amp.

post #5 of 82

It doesn't seem like Audio-gd lit many candles with their ES9018 designs, and that might just have something to do with their pure discrete circuit or other unique design principles.

 

I'm yet to see any other examples of "failed" ES9018 DAC's?  It's ultra sensitive nature makes me think of an Italian chef who thinks his spaghetti is the best in a 200 mile radius.

 

Of course we can't compare ES9018 DAC's hither and thither like spaghetti now can we.

post #6 of 82

As I was in search for low priced balanced ES9018 DACs, I had to make a decision between this X10 and the NFB-10ES2.

 

In the end I paid for the 10ES2 with TCXO x2 (waiting for delivery now) for a few reasons:

- Audio-gd's USB-32 with great impressions so far (saying it's beyond XMOS) and TCXO upgrades possible

- the 10ES2 also has a headphone amp section which I want to try, although I bought it to use mainly as a DAC. The HPA section may not be as good as the V181 I have but still worth a try, and will remain a bonus for it's value.

- X10 including shipping is $500 - if I eventually decide to get Audio-gd's DI-V3S, add shipping to that and perhaps some power supply, total price will slightly go over the current promo on the 10ES2 + TCXO upgrades + shipping + paypal fees.

 

So I just thought go for the 10ES2 now. The promo is a chance not to miss (if there's no promo I might have got the NFB-1.32 or X10 + DI-V3S). I hope not, but if I end up not truly liking the 10ES2, the next thing I may try is the X10, as it's design looks good enough.

post #7 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by zenki14 View Post

As I was in search for low priced balanced ES9018 DACs, I had to make a decision between this X10 and the NFB-10ES2.

 

In the end I paid for the 10ES2 with TCXO x2 (waiting for delivery now) for a few reasons:

- Audio-gd's USB-32 with great impressions so far (saying it's beyond XMOS) and TCXO upgrades possible

- the 10ES2 also has a headphone amp section which I want to try, although I bought it to use mainly as a DAC. The HPA section may not be as good as the V181 I have but still worth a try, and will remain a bonus for it's value.

- X10 including shipping is $500 - if I eventually decide to get Audio-gd's DI-V3S, add shipping to that and perhaps some power supply, total price will slightly go over the current promo on the 10ES2 + TCXO upgrades + shipping + paypal fees.

 

So I just thought go for the 10ES2 now. The promo is a chance not to miss (if there's no promo I might have got the NFB-1.32 or X10 + DI-V3S). I hope not, but if I end up not truly liking the 10ES2, the next thing I may try is the X10, as it's design looks good enough.

 

I was about to say, if you were only gonna use it as a dac, wouldn't you be better off with an NFB-2 or a NFB 1.32?

post #8 of 82
Quote:

Originally Posted by SoupRKnowva View Post

 

I was about to say, if you were only gonna use it as a dac, wouldn't you be better off with an NFB-2 or a NFB 1.32?

 

Well I guess you didn't read carefully.  I was in search for a balanced ES9018 DAC.  NFB-2 is WM8741 and not balanced.

 

Also, in emails kingwa mentioned the 10ES2 DAC output sounds pretty much the same as the NFB-1.32.  The promo of 10ES2 makes it $70 lower than the 1.32 - so it's like getting 2x TCXO and a headphone amp section for free, when comparing the 10ES2 and 1.32 right now.


Edited by zenki14 - 7/21/13 at 10:18am
post #9 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by Theta Alpha 1 View Post

It doesn't seem like Audio-gd lit many candles with their ES9018 designs, and that might just have something to do with their pure discrete circuit or other unique design principles.

 

I'm yet to see any other examples of "failed" ES9018 DAC's?  It's ultra sensitive nature makes me think of an Italian chef who thinks his spaghetti is the best in a 200 mile radius.

 

Of course we can't compare ES9018 DAC's hither and thither like spaghetti now can we.

 

The Calyx DAC I had didn't sound so great via USB. I actually got far better results from it using Audio-gd's USB32 DI or the Audiophilleo. I think Kingwa had the same problem with the original NFB-11 which didn't sound good at all. I don't doubt that he has vastly improved things since then.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by zenki14 View Post

As I was in search for low priced balanced ES9018 DACs, I had to make a decision between this X10 and the NFB-10ES2.

 

In the end I paid for the 10ES2 with TCXO x2 (waiting for delivery now) for a few reasons:

- Audio-gd's USB-32 with great impressions so far (saying it's beyond XMOS) and TCXO upgrades possible

- the 10ES2 also has a headphone amp section which I want to try, although I bought it to use mainly as a DAC. The HPA section may not be as good as the V181 I have but still worth a try, and will remain a bonus for it's value.

- X10 including shipping is $500 - if I eventually decide to get Audio-gd's DI-V3S, add shipping to that and perhaps some power supply, total price will slightly go over the current promo on the 10ES2 + TCXO upgrades + shipping + paypal fees.

 

So I just thought go for the 10ES2 now. The promo is a chance not to miss (if there's no promo I might have got the NFB-1.32 or X10 + DI-V3S). I hope not, but if I end up not truly liking the 10ES2, the next thing I may try is the X10, as it's design looks good enough.

 

I have the original WM8741 NFB-10 here and I think it is pretty good. Given all the improvements he has made to his designs since then, I can't imagine the 10ES2 would be other than great.

post #10 of 82
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post  The Calyx DAC I had didn't sound so great via USB. I actually got far better results from it using Audio-gd's USB32 DI or the Audiophilleo. I think Kingwa had the same problem with the original NFB-11 which didn't sound good at all. I don't doubt that he has vastly improved things since then.

 

I thought most people thought the Calyx sounded better via USB? Did you use it balanced or RCA? Some balanced DACs really ignore RCA.


 

There's also some DIY project called "Prometheus" that apparently has the official support of ESS.

post #11 of 82

I have ordered this DAC since it seemd to be a very good offer. Its 2 weeks ago now and the seller doesnt respond to any mails. I wish i had bought from a more trustable company...

After Investigation i found another person who got scammed by this vintage audio lab guys. They sent him a version of this DAC which doesnt work in his country cause of 110V transformator and it is broken now cause of that. The seller didnt respond to him either.

 

I bought some other DACs from chinese companys and this is the first case something like that happend to me. I wish i could help with a review but i doubt i will ever receive for what i have paid for and have a hard time getting my 500$ back now.

 

Only thing i wish is i had spent more money for a product of a trustable company and not these scammers from Taiwan. Stay away from this product as long as the only seller is vintage audio lab! I hope i could help someone not to run into this ...


Edited by Lyra5 - 10/27/13 at 4:15am
post #12 of 82
Quote:

Originally Posted by Lyra5 View Post

 

I have ordered this DAC since it seemd to be a very good offer. Its 2 weeks ago now and the seller doesnt respond to any mails. I wish i had bought from a more trustable company...

After Investigation i found another person who got scammed by this vintage audio lab guys. They sent him a version of this DAC which doesnt work in his country cause of 110V transformator and it is broken now cause of that. The seller didnt respond to him either.

 

I bought some other DACs from chinese companys and this is the first case something like that happend to me. I wish i could help with a review but i doubt i will ever receive for what i have paid for and have a hard time getting my 500$ back now.

 

Only thing i wish is i had spent more money for a product of a trustable company and not these scammers from Taiwan. Stay away from this product as long as the only seller is vintage audio lab! I hope i could help someone not to run into this ...

 

Sorry for your experience so far.. Well it's ebay and these things do happen regardless of Asia, Europe etc.  Perhaps issues are often with Asian traders because of difficulty in communication.

 

I'm not trying to totally defend the guys of Valab, but they do seem to have positive feedback for this item too.  Did that person who blown the fuse actually, clearly mention in the order it needs to be 220/240V for Europe?  This is basic but mandatory when you order electronics from overseas.  As a buyer I ALWAYS make sure items with correct voltage come to me when I order.  Regardless I agree it's not nice if they're not responding to that case though.

 

Anyway if they sent the item with EMS then it should arrive within a week or so, and there should be tracking.  If you believe the item is lost then you can open a case in ebay's resolution center.  Sellers that don't respond much are likely to get active after a case opened, because if they don't do anything they'll just get the transaction reversed.  Valab should prevent this by providing proper tracking info to ebay (and you can trust EMS tracking from China, normally).  Then ebay will come back to you either saying wait a little bit longer, or they will force refund to you eventually.  I would say, 2 weeks might be a bit too early to call them scammers.. I have experienced much worse (but not prices as high).

 

 

Right now, I would recommend the NFB-1P over this since price is similar.. and you get good communication and support from Audio-gd.  Bad luck as I believe it wasn't out 2 weeks ago.

http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/dac/NFB1/NFB1PEN.htm

post #13 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by zenki14 View Post
 

 

Sorry for your experience so far.. Well it's ebay and these things do happen regardless of Asia, Europe etc.  Perhaps issues are often with Asian traders because of difficulty in communication.

 

I'm not trying to totally defend the guys of Valab, but they do seem to have positive feedback for this item too.  Did that person who blown the fuse actually, clearly mention in the order it needs to be 220/240V for Europe?  This is basic but mandatory when you order electronics from overseas.  As a buyer I ALWAYS make sure items with correct voltage come to me when I order.  Regardless I agree it's not nice if they're not responding to that case though.

 

Anyway if they sent the item with EMS then it should arrive within a week or so, and there should be tracking.  If you believe the item is lost then you can open a case in ebay's resolution center.  Sellers that don't respond much are likely to get active after a case opened, because if they don't do anything they'll just get the transaction reversed.  Valab should prevent this by providing proper tracking info to ebay (and you can trust EMS tracking from China, normally).  Then ebay will come back to you either saying wait a little bit longer, or they will force refund to you eventually.  I would say, 2 weeks might be a bit too early to call them scammers.. I have experienced much worse (but not prices as high).

 

 

Right now, I would recommend the NFB-1P over this since price is similar.. and you get good communication and support from Audio-gd.  Bad luck as I believe it wasn't out 2 weeks ago.

http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/dac/NFB1/NFB1PEN.htm

Thanks for the link. If i hadnt the experience with vintage i would definetly check this item out since it reads very nice spec wise. About the voltage problem - i never had to tell the seller what is needed cause they see where im from before they send the item and can conclude which works for EU or USA etc. . I bought from minishow0328 a Sabre DAC which was very good. I can very much recommend this seller for good communication fast delivery and even after buy support. Sadly i bought the best of the best he had to offer for about 350 $ only so i dont need anything from him at the moment. He is one of the rare ones who also offers DHL or UPS if you ask him.

 

My bad experience surely has nothing to do with asian or not but it leaves me with a bad feeling buying again from a relative unsecure chinese no name brand such as vintage / gd audio etc...

The next Sabre DAC i want to buy is the Matrix X-Sabre but its only available from Hong Kong so i will wait till i find a dealer in Europe or in the USA at least.

 

Of course i will wait till i get my money back by Ebay where i already openend a case for this issue (no response by vintage tho). And 2 weeks is a long time for express delivery even its EMS.

About EMS ...thats another factor i will stay away from buying relative expensive gear from China in the future. This EMS is the most horrible, slow and expensive service i can imagine. UPS / DHL are the best hands down. FedEx is ok too dunno about the rest.

 

When i have to rely on EMS cause the chinese sellers only ship with this service i have to wait min double the time as with DHL plus some extra costs and a contract i have to sign before it gets further transported by them at all when it reaches my country (additionally to the custom fees).


Edited by Lyra5 - 10/27/13 at 6:11am
post #14 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lyra5 View Post
 

 

My bad experience surely has nothing to do with asian or not but it leaves me with a bad feeling buying again from a relative unsecure chinese no name brand such as vintage / gd audio etc...for express delivery even its EMS.

About EMS ...thats another factor i will stay away from buying relative expensive gear from China in the future. This EMS is the most horrible, slow and

The next Sabre DAC i want to buy is the Matrix X-Sabre but its only available from Hong Kong so i will wait till i find a dealer in Europe or in the USA at least.

 

Of course i will wait till i get my money back by Ebay where i already openend a case for this issue (no response by vintage tho). And 2 weeks is a long time expensive service i can imagine. UPS / DHL are the best hands down. FedEx is ok too dunno about the rest.

 

When i have to rely on EMS cause the chinese sellers only ship with this service i have to wait min double the time as with DHL plus some extra costs and a contract i have to sign before it gets further transported by them at all when it reaches my country (additionally to the custom fees).

 

I think you got this impression that EMS is like the worst thing on earth, puts millions of people worldwide to rage, but actually it's not..  there are cheaper and worse methods from China (non registered, non tracked Economy that can take 3-5 weeks).

 

I regard EMS reliable especially from Asian countries as a safe, fast and good tracked method online (I agree the best is DHL or UPS but they cost ridiculous normally).  EMS China is certainly better than USPS first class mail international from USA (non tracked and 2-4 weeks).  USPS Express Mail international from USA is actually EMS too.

 

Fastest record of EMS delivery to me (China to NZ or Japan, and Japan to NZ) was 3 days.  And the majority arrives within a week, never lost or delayed over 15 years, and so many items over that time.  This includes 4 or 5 shipments with EMS from Audio-gd.  None required any signed contract etc, they just arrive to my door (just signature on delivery).  Usually UPS and sometimes DHL hold the items at their depot and need me to call for delivery (and sometimes I need to pay extra for customs via DHL/UPS), so personally I don't like them lol..

 

By the way I wouldn't call GD an unsecure no-brand here... they have enough reputation and history, the man Kingwa reads and speaks for himself on Head-Fi too.

 

Anyway, I wouldn't just put EMS as the bad people in your case, the problem is that tracking info isn't provided from Valab.  The delays you're experiencing is something very rare and unfortunate.  I'm starting to even doubt whether it was really sent out with EMS or not.

 

If Valab doesn't respond, then the likely result is you'll just get your money back.  I understand your frustration but now you can sit back and see how things go... no need to totally discourage people buying this.  I'm even interested in brief impressions, from the ones that got this.

post #15 of 82

I was influenced also by this thread to look for this specific DAC so i tried it. Would be better i could give you a review now than rage and frustration i totally agree.

 

About EMS again. Yes it is horrible no better words to describe it. But that counts maybe only for my country where its called GDSK. And if you google for GDSK and experiences and help threads you will find em en masse. Problem is this company intercepts packages from EMS and demands money and a contract besides from customs to deliver it to you. They even charge per day 7 Euro until you sign the contract for storaging. So you have to pay them 25 Euro for processing and the customs of course plus these 7 Euro per day (can take up to 1 week - if intended i can only guess).

 

I doubt DHL or UPS do the same where you live.

 

And btw. DHL costs the same as EMS Express. Maybe few $ more than EMS Express but that doesnt matter if its 50$ or 60$ for safe and fast delivery instead of see above.


Edited by Lyra5 - 10/28/13 at 12:55am
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