For the complete guide on I2S cables go to my guide here, found in the How to Section above (in the site header).
The job of putting I2S into the ES9038P DAC enclosure is no small feat. The mod takes someone who can use both soldering irons and power tools! Most decent CAT6 jacks will require a 6/7” to 1″ hole in the back of the DAC to fit the jack. Then you need to remove the stock pin header from the DAC PCB so you can hard-wire the I2S line (in my case, using Belden Catsnake™ CAT6A) between the I2S header location and the punch down/keystone jack found on the Neutrik plug. Using a keystone jack makes it easy to change the order of the wires, if ever needed in the future.
Not all XMOS/Amanero units have the same I2S output order, even just leaving a pin out can wreak havoc on your Hi-Fi experience (if you don’t adjust the order to match)! Once you punch down the CAT5/CAT6 you can hook up your CAT6 cable between your XMOS/Amanero module and the DAC’s CAT6 jack you just installed. Congrats, you now have a custom DAC (takes just one mod to qualify for the word “custom”)! If anyone has questions about why I did something or how to apply this information and the info found in the I2S Catsnake™ article, please email me at email@example.com for more info.
I2S opened a huge door for the ES9038P across the board (RCA or XLR). The highs are better, more transparent signature, less fatigue on an already low fatiguing setup. Then of course the ability to now play DSD256 or 32-bit FLAC at 352.8 kHz+ adds to our High-Res options!
Before, running the ES9038 on coax was a little unfair, but not by a stupid amount. I apologize as the majority of this review was written with the ES9038 setup running on coax, but I will be including listening tests where the ES9038 is also on I2S (like the Play is by default). I hope this little “change in our program” will go to showing the strengths of XLR + I2S vs. RCA + Coax. This will give us a sub-review in the main review; as I will distinguish Coax tests from those made on I2S and see what differences or similarities exist.
Table of Contents:
- Review Main Page
- Competition Hardware Descriptions:
- Review Hardware Info v2.0 vs. v1.6 Burson Audio Play:
- Digital Noise/Mouse Distortion + Solution: (USB Ground Headaches)
- Opening Thoughts on Voicing of Burson “Play” vs. ES9038Pro:
- Listening Tests Streaming: ES9038 on Coax + RCA out
- A Closer Look at Oversampling & Noise Filtering: (It’s Not Magic!)
- Listening Test Music (Pt 1): (Adele with ES9038P on I2S)
- Listening Test Music (Pt 2): (Tedeschi Trucks Band with ES9038P on Coax)
- A note on Converting PCM to DSD with Foobar2000: (DSD64 Clicking)
- Balanced vs. Unbalanced: (Understanding the ES9038’s Performance)
- Adding I2S Input To ES9038 DAC: (Power Tools and Soldering Irons)
- Measurements/Technical Page
- Closing Remarks: (The Verdict)
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