I think the huge difference in unbalanced vs. balanced sound quality needs to be pointed out. This is an advantage that stacks up in favor of the ES9038Pro for the no-holds bar patrons of HiFi HW (large budgets). Sadly it is true, in order to get an amplifier with XLR in will cost a pretty penny. There are a few exceptions to this rule, especially if you go with used equipment (I do this, see Pioneer VSX-919AH) or DIY.
When using my XLR/balanced setup the sound stage seems to expand by at least 2 fold, it’s immediately noticeable if sitting near the sAp-10 with both RCA and XLR hooked up from the ES9038P (switching between the 2 inputs because the ES9038P can output both). It’s not only sound stage size that changes, the texture of the highs and lows have more detail. The dynamic range seems to be better too, the XLR input from the ES9038P seems louder on the sAp-10 by a few decibels, nothing crazy. Just the change in the details you can pick up on, like someone hitting a mic stand or the pianist foot tapping against the ground while playing brings an old album alive again.
When we are comparing brass instruments you might as well lay down the cards on balanced audio, it’s not even close, especially on the high frequency side. The RCA output of the ES9038P is a tad darker, even when running through the C-2 with V6-OPA-D “Vivid” op-amps for the flat amp. Perhaps this is why I kept hearing a high frequency shift with the Burson Play for most of the review (because of the darker RCA signature).
Perhaps the ES9038P has a darker signature on the RCA outputs than the XLR or, it could also be how the sAp-10 handles the two input types. Sadly I only have one amp that can take XLR in, so I can’t confirm this observation. I do have another XLR DAC on the work bench (see DSC1 article). Over the days following the release of this review I will be making measurements trying to get all of these audible claims to show up on an oscilloscope or in RightMark, so keep an eye out for the update.
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)
- Listening Tests Part 3: Movies/Concerts (High Quality): (Pearl Harbor Blu-Ray ES9038P on I2S) Coming Soon
- Measurements/Technical Page: More Measurements Coming Soon
- Closing Remarks: (The Verdict)
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