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Oppo Sonica DAC (an affordable ES9038PRO Sabre DAC)

Discussion in 'Dedicated Source Components' started by mtoc, Sep 11, 2016.
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  1. rafabro
    Is modded Sonica better then modded LKS 004?
  2. jgwtriode
    Ric indicates that to be the case currently. But he is working on more mods from what he has told me that may change that. Best to talk to Ric to find out. He may even have some more Sonica mods in the near future. Ric never rests seemingly..he is always about improving the sound. Besides it is fascinating and entertaining to talk audio with him. The EVS Sonica is my endgame for awhile. But if Ric has another round of tweaks for it I'm still in the game!

    Happy Listening
  3. zek4u

    Still liking the Sonica running balanced to the V280?

    I've been using a Chord 2Qute unbalanced with Chord Anthem 2 RCA-RCA interconnects. Has a very nice analog sound that I enjoy. Been told that using a TT over a 2Qute would be an improvement, space between performers, etc. I'm moving the 2Qute across the room to my 2 channel setup. Thinking I might try the Sonica balanced to my V281/HD800S. My other thought was to try a Sony NW-WM1A DAP running balanced from a TRRS 4.4MM to two XLR cables into the V281. Then I could take the Sony NW-WM1A with me to work. Not having a true balanced pre-out and easy accessibility to my music via jRiver/microRendu is another thing I have to consider unless I get a dock and a second microRendu along with dealing with the variable gain.
  4. LCMusicLover
    Yep -- very detailed, with wonderful open, airy image on my 560s. Lush, lovely, musical.

    Finding my T1 2ndGen a bit fatiguing. Could be the Sabre + Beyer brightness. Or, maybe the OPPO has nothing to do with it. Same story with my Plenue 2 (AKM 4497) and x5iii/AlgoRhythm Duet (AKM 4490). Both the AKM DACs are neutral/warmish. Maybe I just can't tolerate the T1.

    Gonna try the damping mod on the T1.
  5. zek4u
    At one time, I was thinking of getting some T1s but I've been a Sennheiser fan for so long. From what I read and heard at RMAF, I did perceive the T1s to be brighter then the Sennheisers. At the time, I had PM3s and liked them better with my Leben CS300XS.

    I just don't know what to do. Because I've my room, I really need to separate my desktop headphone rig from my 2 channel system. It kills me to buy two DACs and two media servers with their related power supplies, power conditioners and USB cables. I wonder if a Chord TT running cheap Canare balanced cables around the room to my V281 would work. Maybe spending the money on some 50' better balanced cables would be better then a second DAC, media server, etc. Other options, buy a second 2Qute/microRendu/PSUs, try a Sony NW-WM1A balanced into the V281. Maybe even hook up a second microRendu to the NW-WM1A so I can DLNA from jRiver. What HiFi liked the Peachtree over the Sonica and the 2Qute over them all. It just kills me to downgrade. Maybe with good balanced cables, the Sonica wouldn't be much of a downgrade with the 2Qute/v281/HD800S. I really like the idea of being able to take the NW-WM1A with me to work to use balanced with my SONY MDR-1A headphones but I already have a Oppo HA-2SE.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2017
  6. niknik
  7. Dexon
    Sure. XLR came frome pro audio industry designed to carry signal over longer distances yet no to pick up noise along the way.
  8. zilch0md
    That's cool! I hope their approach doesn't hog-tie the ES9038Pro in any way, but I'm always attracted to great sound at low cost.

    Quoting one sentence from that link:

    I would have to disagree with their use of the word "all," in that Oppo's asking price of $799 is ridiculously low, compared to all of the other currently available ES9038Pro DACs, that have similar features.

    Even these guys want $1460 for a dual-ES9038Pro DAC with no WiFi features:


    Or $1600 for the same DAC, but with DSD support for all inputs:


    That's twice the cost of an Oppo Sonica DAC (albeit, with twice as many ES9038Pro chips.)

    Oppo now offers an ES90389Pro Blue-Ray Player for only $1299:


    And that's at the low end of the prices asked for ES9038Pro offerings that can compete with the features of the Oppo Sonica DAC.

    $8950 will get you this bad boy, which, we can at least hope, sounds 11 times better than the Sonica DAC:


    I've never spent any significant amount of time with a DAC that retails for more than $1200 new, so take my assessment with a grain of salt but, for what it's worth, the Sonica DAC is the best DAC this tight-wad has ever heard. Incredibly fine detail with the HD 800 and a Metrum Acoustics Aurix headphone amp, with none of the treble glare and "etch" heard when using the HD 800 with the Oppo HA-1's ES9018 DAC. The noise floor is extremely low, lending great improvements to the sound stage and imaging. Low-energy signals are revealed that I just can't hear with other DACs.

    I can't stand how the HD 800 sounds with the ES9018 HA-1 DAC+amp - I rapidly fatigue. I therefore use the HA-1 strictly with planer magnetic headphones, which don't have the HD 800's vulnerability to the ES9018 glare and to the HA-1's amp section's use of negative feedback. (The HA-1 DAC+amp is absolutely awesome with the Audeze LCD-2 rev.1, Oppo PM-1, PM-2 and PM-3, by the way.)

    The HD 800 is much happier with the zero-feedback Metrum Aurix amp, fed by the ES9038Pro Sonica DAC, but anyone using any dynamic headphones with the wonderful HA-1 DAC+amp, would probably very much appreciate how the HA-1's amp section sounds when driven by the nicely stackable, matching cosmetics, Sonica DAC - as an upgrade to the HA-1's ES9018 DAC - and to add streaming capability.

    I'd take a picture of mine stacked, but my HA-1 is silver and the Sonica DAC is black - not (yet) offered in silver.

    Last edited: Nov 5, 2017
    niknik likes this.
  9. AltCtrl
    I had the T1.1 and actually prefer the DT 1990 Pro. If you haven't tried that headphone please do. Highly considering the Oppo Sonica as my first hifi DAC. Does the ES9038Pro really make that much of a difference vs the ES9028Pro that's in the Gustard X20 for example? Obviously the chip isn't everything it's also how it's built. The Denafrips Ares R2R is also interesting.
  10. zilch0md
    I still haven't heard the Gustard X20, but it surely has a big following - lots of satisfied customers.
  11. escknx
    HERE I just compared Burson Conductor ES9018 to Sonica, Hugo and Mojo.
    Just using pure A/B blind tests with TH900 and HD700 I found zero difference in sound between Burson all in one ES9018 DAC and Oppo Sonica RCA to Burson's AMP.
    No measurements, thinking, believing - just pure subjective seamless listening side by side.
    kiras likes this.
  12. AltCtrl
    I think that what someone else mentioned is correct in that you have to spend at least a week or two with each DAC to really realize a difference. Once you get used to one sound signature you'll either dislike or like the other better.
  13. escknx
    I respect every opinion, but my own is that's the is nothing but placebo effect and marketing strategy.

    WIth headphones I hear immediate difference between X00 and TH900, and even between different batches of X00.

    But with DACs on the same song I cant spot the moment when DAC is changes. That's not the case when I'm ABing cheap pc motherboard or cell phone DACs. It applies only to HighEnd DACs I've tested.

    So my idea is that all these DACs, 9038, 9018, Chord perfectly recover analog signal, they may use different technique but resulting analog signal is the same, at least to my hearing. They may measure differently, but measurements and hearing are 2 different stories.

    I cant say anything about AK / Burr Brown or Wolfson DACs since I haven't tried them yet, but for ESS array and Chord Hugo they're same to me. If one DAC claims to be warmer that the other then I have to notice that immediately, rather that using this for a week to start believing in warmness.

    BTW if anyone can recommend the warmest DAC on a planet so I can test it with ESS side by side?
    niknik likes this.
  14. jgwtriode
    There are pretty clear cut differences between each generation of Sabre DACs. The Sonica with a 9038 is the best dac stock I have heard. But upgrades from EVS have shown me it is nowhere near perfect, especially in stock form. It also improves substantially with an Ifi Galvanic 3 and Wyred For Sound RUR reclocker.

    No doubt there are more improvements possible. I know that a dedicated PCIE USB
    Card also makes a difference as well. There are also a number of more expensive implementations of the 9038 that would beat the Sonica. I am pretty happy with my current setup...but I am under no illusion that it is perfect
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2017
  15. escknx
    Well, after all the most important thing is to be happy with the setup. The only thing worth investing in HiFi gear is happiness.

    About external usb cards. If regular USB port does not introduce any interference and background is dead black, then what is the purpuse of expensive usb cable and external ports? If you have some hissing noise while using internal USBs then yea it does make sense, but otherwise? Does it have an impact on sound quality?

    Personally I have some hiss from USB w Sonica paired with Burson Conductor when USBs are connected on either side. External USB may fix that, dunno I dont have that card currently. But if I feed Burson with Tosling from Sonica with USBs disconnected in both devices - background is dead black.
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