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A Thank You to Hallman Labs for Helping Select my DAC and Associated HW

Dear Hallman Labs/Keith,

I wanted to give a BIG thank you for all your effort/advice on my audio hardware adventures. My quest for a dedicated DAC began about a month ago. Some background, I’m totally new in the high end audio market, and even more so in the DIY audio market. Well, about a month ago I started looking for a dedicated DAC. I had been reading that it could give a very nice sound improvement over a built in DAC found inside my AVR amplifier. After some Googling, I found out that most dedicated DACs are either very limited or VERY expensive.

My DAC requirements:
Very good audio DAC chip and network streamer. Since the DACs with built-in network streamer functionality were quite expensive, I started looking at what chipsets were used in the best DACs available on the market. Soon I was looking for the relatively new ES9038. I found 2 variants of the ES9038, the ES9038Q2M and the ES9038PRO.

The idea arose to build my own DAC with built in streamer capability in the form of a Raspberry Pi. After some information gathering, I found the ES9038Q2M and ES9038PRO boards at Aliexpress and Audiophonics. Audiophonics had a very nice Raspberry Pi hat based on the ES9038Q2M. The price was pretty steep, even more so for the ES9038PRO board they offered.

I then decided I wanted to buy the ES9038PRO, however, I found no mention on the ES9038PRO connected to a Raspberry Pi anywhere. Until I finally hit the search results to the pages! Since I know nothing about DIY audio, I was feeling really doubtful if the parts I wanted would even work. Like would the DAC I2S interface accept the raspberry Pi’s I2S out. How could I connect the Pi and USB board? Would a 2nd transformer actually make a noticeable difference in sound quality?

So I thought, lets just send Hallman Labs/Keith an email with my first basic questions and see if I even get a response. I say that mainly because I am/was a stranger to Keith and my questions were kind of extensive to ask and required even more extensive responses. I felt a bit ashamed to even ask a stranger all those technical questions, but I took a chance.

The responses I got from were just bursting with detail and he was very patient with me, going back and forth through about 10 emails. He explained everything I wanted to know and all of my follow up questions. Really Keith, thank you so much for your kindness and willingness to share your knowledge with the community.

I decided to buy a Raspberry Pi 3b + and an ES9038PRO DAC board with Amanero USB module, toroidal transformers, an I2S switch and linear power supply (to power the additional modules and the PI). Keith and I discussed all of these pieces of hardware in detail before I decided what to go with.

Anyway, thanks for your patients and detailed responses. They are very much appreciated!


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Computer Engineering student with a background in IT. Such as dealing with large scale network infrastructure upgrades at Lowe's HQ and former lead hardware tech for the NC Government. My specialty has shifted over to audio hardware and vintage hardware re-certifications.