We are proud to be releasing several new DAC's made with the Sabre ES9018K2M DAC chip. This chip has great specs like 127dB DNR, -120dB THD+N and patented Time Domain Jitter Eliminator.
First out is Hifime 9018, which uses the same small compact box as our U2 and UAE23 Sabre dac's. We used a double PCB to be able to fit in this small box.
Hifime 9018 uses the Savitech SA9227 USB receiver in asynchronous mode (more about that here) and support sample rates up to 384Khz/32 bit. It has a MAX97220A headphone chip that can drive headphones down to 16 ohm as well as higher impedance headphones as the Sennheiser HD650. The volume level goes quite loud, more than enough for 300ohm HD650's.
It works without drivers in Mac, Linux, and requires drivers to be installed in Windows. Note that 384khz only works with ASIO which is accepted by some programs only, and not by Chrome, Youtube etc. Chrome on Mac's also doesn't support 384kHz. It uses by default USB Audio Class 2 which is required for sample rates above 96kHz. It will switch down to Class 1 if USB High speed mode is not available. It also have (like the U2 and UAE23) an optical output, which works up to 192khz. In addition to normal PCB format It can play DSD files.
We think the sound of this DAC is really great! Another cool features is that it works with Android 5.0! This makes it a super small portable highly audiophile solution. Only caveat with phones is that it draws much more power than our smaller "Android" DAC. The Nexus 6 battery last 6 hours when playing constantly with the 9018.
Then, In just a few weeks we'll have its bigger brother ready, the HiFime 9018D. It comes in stylish small aluminium box and has a digital controlled lossless volume control, and a display showing the sample rate.
Benefits of the 256 step digital volume control.
This DAC utilises a ultra low power MCU chip to control the volume level output from the DAC chip. This is different from controlling volume at USB level which reduces the signal level going into the DAC chip and causes loss of dynamic range and lower SNR when volume is reduced. Using a digital volume control this way will be better than an analog one unless you have a analog volume control that has a lower noise floor than the DAC itself. You would need a exceptionally low noise analog volume control to beat the Sabre chip impressive -127dB.
An explanation from Sabre chip makes ESS Technology:
The specifications for the two 9018 dac's are the same except for the volume control, switch and display.
We will also make another version of the 9018 featuring a i2S input using HDMI plug. This dac can be connected to a USB to i2S (HDMI) device, or a small i2s (TTL) to HDMI board.
More info on this devices will follow.