Topic: Change to ESS DAC chip

Looking at the RME website, it appears that the DAC chip has been changed from an AK chip to an ESS chip in the ADI-2 DAC.  The data in the manual suggests that the chip change has improved the S/N ratio and THD figures.

Does anyone know when the revised versions will be available and if there is any noticeable difference in the sound quality?

I ask because I have an ADI-2 DAC with the later AK chip and intend to buy another for use in a headphone system, and want to know whether I should snap up an AK version, or wait for the ESS version to be available.

Thanks!

2 (edited by KaiS 2021-07-04 18:25:54)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Thanks for mentioning.

This explains the difference in specs between ADI-2 DAC and ADI-2 PRO, which where extensively discussed just lately, without anybody realizing the fact that they now use different chips!

I don’t know how this changes chip specific menus, specially the DA-Filter selection.

Maybe wait for, at least, the mentioned updated user manual containing the explanation, or @MC could step in here for information, please?!

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Details of the filters are given in the new version of the manual. See here:

https://www.rme-audio.de/downloads/adi2dacr_e.pdf

I have not studied these in detail, but there would appear to be some differences.

4 (edited by KaiS 2021-07-04 18:41:29)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

This is the manual that was valid for the AKM version (only?).

Looking through it I couldn’t reveal what’s told on RME’s site:

“There are no significant changes in operation, features and behavior compared to the predecessor, which is why neither appearance nor name have changed. All differences are explained in the detailed manual of the ADI-2 DAC.”

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

I assumed that it was for the latest version of the DAC as it has a recent revision date (03/21) and the data given for the S/N ratios and THD are different from those in the previous version of the manual (dated 09/19), which I assumed from its date related to the latter AK chipped version. Of course I could be wrong!

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

The THD+N and S/N ratios quoted on the website for the ESS version also match those given in the latest version of the manual, which is why I thought that it applies to the ESS version.

7 (edited by ning 2021-07-04 20:57:24)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

the manual is not updated. it's still for the 4493 one.

I don't expect there to be a lot of noticeable difference. Probably the filters are different. The analog headroom may be changed (the 2.5db headroom is a 4493 feature). The "DSD direct" may not be available.

a reasonable move for RME given the akm chip shortage. though i guess the performance should be a bit better than the 4493 version.

internally the the iv conversion circuit may be changed. other parts can remain intact.

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

My ordered ADI2 DAC Fs is now on the way from Germany to Hongkong, could be it was built with the new chip, I guess RME changed the chip is due the shortage of AK chips after the factory burnt ..... I think, the performance of the DAC with new chip will remain the same or better, no chance to became worse than before.

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9 (edited by ning 2021-07-04 20:57:59)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Timcat wrote:

I assumed that it was for the latest version of the DAC as it has a recent revision date (03/21) and the data given for the S/N ratios and THD are different from those in the previous version of the manual (dated 09/19), which I assumed from its date related to the latter AK chipped version. Of course I could be wrong!

No. the 9/19 manual refers to 4490. 3/21 manual refers to 4493. you can refer to sec 31.7 of the manual and see when did RME perform the thd experiment. the 3/21 manual test was done Oct 2019, which was when the 4490 became out of production by akm.

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Johannes AU wrote:

I think, the performance of the DAC with new chip will remain the same or better, no chance to became worse than before.

of course! es9028q2m if implemented well should outperform ak4493. It's RME so you know it for sure that they optimize everything to the extreme.

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

ning wrote:
Johannes AU wrote:

I think, the performance of the DAC with new chip will remain the same or better, no chance to became worse than before.

of course! es9028q2m if implemented well should outperform ak4493. It's RME so you know it for sure that they optimize everything to the extreme.


Thank you ning for the insight, I myself don't know nothing about the chip technology, only know some very expensive DAC use ESS chips ....

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Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Johannes AU wrote:

Thank you ning for the insight, I myself don't know nothing about the chip technology, only know some very expensive DAC use ESS chips ....

ess produces da chips for both high end and low end. the sub $200 MOTU low end audio interface for instance, has been using ess for long.

RME does not switch to ESS to create a hype. It's just because of the simple fact that AKM chips are no longer available given their factory was burnt down.

In the end, the better THD and noise performance will not produce any audible difference. The ADI-2 product line is already perfect, since 2016.

13 (edited by KaiS 2021-07-04 20:34:36)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Here‘s the link to the ESS ES9028Q2M datasheet:

https://www.esstech.com/wp-content/uplo … _v0.41.pdf

There are 3 selectable DAC-filters built in (page 8).

The chip has the option to load custom programmed filters too (last line table page 1):

Page 35 ff. shows the built in filter graphs.


Probably AKM and ESS try to stay head to head in the design race smile
Anyway we are far beyond what‘s audible, but nice to have such a huge quality margin.

14 (edited by ning 2021-07-04 21:06:20)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

right. those filters are simple FIR filters. In theory with the right coefficients RME could recreate all of the filters that was previously available.

ESS also has THD Compensation, which allows RME to optimize far beyond AK4493 THD performance. The 9028 also has lower noise than ak4493.

I don't know if the headphone amplifier has been further optimized to take advantage of the lower noise. In the current version 5 1688 drivers have a feedback loop back to one 1688, which is also driving the load. I guess looping back to the previous 3db gain op amp (1602) may give even lower noise performance.

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Interesting that the DAC now ships with a Sabre ESS chip, there's potential for even better specs like Topping managed with the D90SE. It'll be interesting what measurements will be squeezed out.

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

I guess that I was wrong about the manual, but my own DAC was built with the later MK chip and had the later (current remote), but shipped with the older manual (I bought it around March 2020).  Apparently, quite a few were, so I am told!

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

right, probably a close to -120db THD+N would be a reasonable guess.
on the other hand, RME probably has no interest in racing the so-called THD+N leaderboard.
RME designs and sells products that are affordable, and make sense.
You can notice the difference between ADI-2 and other device (be it premium or not) from the moment you turn on the device or insert a headphone jack into ADI-2.
It's just an amazing and unique experience.
Sound perspective ADI-2 has already been perfect since its first appearance in 2016.
I think RME only moves to newer chip when there is availability issue.

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

ning wrote:

I think RME only moves to newer chip when there is availability issue.

That would be my guess.

19

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Sometimes we think that forums are the center of the universe, but they are not. We are shipping the DAC with ESS for more than 2 weeks already, and not a single customer has released that information. Because most of them don't even write in forums!

The printed manual (version 2.6, online now is 2.7) does not hide this fact. Here is what page 4 has to say:

-------------------
Note about the current ADI-2 DAC

At the end of 2020 a fire destroyed AKM's production facilities for AD and DA converter chips. A resumption of production and thus availability of these components is not expected before 2022. Therefore, many manufacturers - like RME - are forced to either discontinue products based on AKM chips, or to use other chips for the foreseeable future.

The ADI-2 DAC was initially based on an AK4490, later on the AK4493. The current unit uses an ES9028Q2M for its high-quality DA conversion. This chip is very similar to the AK4493 in features and technical specifications, which allows RME to continue offering the ADI-2 DAC in its well-known supreme quality, and with a nearly identical feature set.

Even though this chip is a central (sometimes sole) quality determining element, the ADI-2 DAC is just not a normal DAC. Tech specs and features are based on RME technologies, and they are available unchanged also with the ESS chip:

- Complete DSP functionality (PEQ, Bass/Treble, Loudness etc.).
- All sample rates, PCM as well as DSD
- All digital formats (SPDIF/AES/ADAT)
- Analog input and output circuitry, including Auto Ref and 2.5 dB digital headroom
- Extreme Power headphone output stage
- SteadyClock FS, including the latest 1 Hz filter technology
- Lightning fast sample rate change on playback
- Remote, display, general behavior, operation and handling....

ADI-2 DACs with AK4493 and ES9028Q2M are neither sonically nor visually easily distinguishable. However, the ESS version is recognized by a small C at the end of the serial number sticker (B stood for AKM 4493). Furthermore, the units differ in the available filters. The unit with AKM has a filter called Short Delay Low Dispersion, while the one with ESS has a filter called Brickwall (the other filters, SD Sharp, SD Slow, Sharp, Slow, NOS, are identical). Further Chip dependent differences are mentioned in this manual.
------------------

Regarding Tech Specs: forget the data sheet tech specs. AKM and ESS both have their pros and cons, a simple THD+N comparison won't do it. Additionally we needed to reserve 2.5 dB headroom as that feature of the 4493 DAC should be there as well, and - even more important - the ESS chips do not handle intersample overs as gracefully as AKM chips do. So that headroom is a must - and naturally already steals 2.5 dB of SNR and THD+N.

Reading the manual you might notice the new Loopback feature (mainly for Mac DIGICheck to show playback data) - it will come to all DAC and Pro, don't worry.

And yes, we added all missing filters ourselves by loading them into the ESS chip in real-time.

Regards
Matthias Carstens
RME

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Mathias,

Thanks for clarifying the situation!  I did think that the AK fire prompted the change.  I'll go ahead and order the second ADI-2 DAC and take whichever version is available!

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

MC wrote:

don't worry.


Happy Music Listening :-)

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22 (edited by ning 2021-07-05 12:01:02)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Wow! Thanks Matthias! So smart!


ning wrote:

right. those filters are simple FIR filters. In theory with the right coefficients RME could recreate all of the filters that was previously available.

ESS also has THD Compensation, which allows RME to optimize far beyond AK4493 THD performance. The 9028 also has lower noise than ak4493.


I guess it right! RME replicate AKM filters and ported them to ESS. And I can see the THD tuning feature available in the "Expert Mode settings"


MC wrote:

Regarding Tech Specs: forget the data sheet tech specs. AKM and ESS both have their pros and cons, a simple THD+N comparison won't do it. Additionally we needed to reserve 2.5 dB headroom as that feature of the 4493 DAC should be there as well, and - even more important - the ESS chips do not handle intersample overs as gracefully as AKM chips do. So that headroom is a must - and naturally already steals 2.5 dB of SNR and THD+N.

Oh, it's great to see RME implementation drives the chip to its extreme, again!
Good engineering choice, by the way!

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

https://www.rme-audio.de/files/uploads/ … quote2.jpg

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Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Is there any particular reason why you choose the older chip 9028q2m and not the later 9038q2m?

25 (edited by ning 2021-07-05 18:30:38)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

par.linden wrote:

Is there any particular reason why you choose the older chip 9028q2m and not the later 9038q2m?

I think Matthias's intro already made it very clear --- "Even though this chip is a central (sometimes sole) quality determining element, the ADI-2 DAC is just not a normal DAC. Tech specs and features are based on RME technologies, and they are available unchanged also with the ESS chip"

RME produces products that make sense, and careful engineering considerations are made in their product.
Questions such as why choose chip X but not Y don't really matter.
Practically when implemented well 9028 or 9038 has almost no difference.
It's the RME technology that differentiate it from other products.

26 (edited by par.linden 2021-07-05 18:24:44)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

ning wrote:
par.linden wrote:

Is there any particular reason why you choose the older chip 9028q2m and not the later 9038q2m?

Questions such as why choose chip X but not Y don't really matters.

I think there are design choices. You say it do not matter what DAC chip is used. Well I think it does. I think the choise of one chip over another is due to a reason. I don’t think it is random.

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

par.linden wrote:
ning wrote:
par.linden wrote:

Is there any particular reason why you choose the older chip 9028q2m and not the later 9038q2m?

Questions such as why choose chip X but not Y don't really matters.

I think there are design choices. You say it do not matter what DAC chip is used. Well I think it does. I think the choise of one chip over another is due to a reason. I don’t think it is random.

cheaper, good enough, and do the job equally well.

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

ning wrote:
par.linden wrote:
ning wrote:

Questions such as why choose chip X but not Y don't really matters.

I think there are design choices. You say it do not matter what DAC chip is used. Well I think it does. I think the choise of one chip over another is due to a reason. I don’t think it is random.

cheaper, good enough, and do the job equally well.

Obviously RME engineers thought selected chip integrated best with their total device technology

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

MC wrote:

while the one with ESS has a filter called Brickwall (the other filters, SD Sharp, SD Slow, Sharp, Slow, NOS, are identical). Further Chip dependent differences are mentioned in this manual.
------------------


Dear Matthias, could you please kindly explain a bit more about the filters when you free?

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30 (edited by ning 2021-07-05 19:51:15)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Johannes AU wrote:
MC wrote:

while the one with ESS has a filter called Brickwall (the other filters, SD Sharp, SD Slow, Sharp, Slow, NOS, are identical). Further Chip dependent differences are mentioned in this manual.
------------------


Dear Matthias, could you please kindly explain a bit more about the filters when you free?

technically, those filters are just FIR during oversampling.

If you are not familiar with FIR, you can refer to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finite_impulse_response

The tl;dr is, the current output sample is a linear equation of past input samples, for instance:
y(n) = A0 * x(n) + A1 * x(n - 1) + A2 * x(n - 2)
where y is the output sample, and x is the input samples.

OK. Now with the same A0, A1, A2, you can always expect even with different chip/implementation you'll get the same results back.



AKM 4493 has a few filters built in, but one cannot create new filters.

ES9028Q2M on the other hand, has fewer but different (brickwall) set of filters built in, but allows you to implement arbitrary FIR when coefficients are given. by coefficients I mean the A0, A1, A2 in the previous equation.

What RME did is, they programmed ESS chip with the correct coefficients, so they can have exactly the same (SD Sharp, SD Slow, Sharp, Slow, and NOS [this is called bypass in ESS]) filters as the previous ADI-2 implementation so you get same impulse response back.

The brickwall filter is something only available in ESS. so not possible with a previous AKM based device.

the SD LD filter in AKM is almost never used by anyone. so RME didn't program it into the new version.

For further info you can refer to the manual sec 31.3, or the akm/ess specsheet.


I personally cannot differentiate those filters other than NOS (bypass). I wonder there're people who can reliably tell them apart, though.

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

ning wrote:
Johannes AU wrote:
MC wrote:

while the one with ESS has a filter called Brickwall (the other filters, SD Sharp, SD Slow, Sharp, Slow, NOS, are identical). Further Chip dependent differences are mentioned in this manual.
------------------


Dear Matthias, could you please kindly explain a bit more about the filters when you free?

technically, those filters are just FIR during oversampling.

If you are not familiar with FIR, you can refer to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finite_impulse_response

The tl;dr is, the current output sample is a linear equation of past input samples, for instance:
y(n) = A0 * x(n) + A1 * x(n - 1) + A2 * x(n - 2)

OK. with the same A0, A1, A2, you can always expect different chip/implementation you'll get the same results back.



AKM 4493 has a few filters built in, but one cannot create new filters.

ES9028Q2M on the other hand, has fewer but different (brickwall) set of filters built in, but allows you to implement arbitrary FIR when coefficients are given. by coefficients I mean the A0, A1, A2 in the previous equation.

What RME did is, they programmed ESS chip with the correct coefficients, so they can have exactly the same (SD Sharp, SD Slow, Sharp, Slow, and NOS [this is called bypass in ESS]) filters as the previous ADI-2 implementation so you get same impulse response back.

The brickwall filter is something only available in ESS. so not possible with a previous AKM based device.

the SD LD filter in AKM is almost never used by anyone. so RME didn't program it into the new version.

For further info you can refer to the manual, or the akm/ess specsheet.


Thank you ning, are those filters built in and no need to set by the user, so we don't have to care about it at all?

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Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

> Thank you ning, are those filters built in and no need to set by the user, so we don't have to care about it at all?


You don't need to care about the math. RME already did it for you.

You just need to go to the filter setting and choose the filter you want from the following list:
Short Delay Sharp, Short Delay Slow, Sharp, Slow, NOS, SD LD (only AKM), Brickwall (only ESS).

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

ning wrote:

> Thank you ning, are those filters built in and no need to set by the user, so we don't have to care about it at all?


You don't need to care about the math. RME already did it for you.

You just need to go to the filter setting and choose the filter you want from the following list:
Short Delay Sharp, Short Delay Slow, Sharp, Slow, NOS, SD LD (only AKM), Brickwall (only ESS).

OK, you mean at the setting we can choose one of these filters at a time? and how it affects the output sound? ( I do not know anything about those filter tech at all )

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34 (edited by ning 2021-07-05 20:06:51)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

> OK, you mean at the setting we can choose one of these filters at a time?

Right. Or you can just use the default setting.

>  and how it affects the output sound? ( I do not know anything about those filter tech at all )

it affects the sound in terms of frequency/response, latency, etc, in theory
But I doubt people can reliably tell them apart.
At least I can't, with the exception of NOS for certain music only.
You can try when you have the device in hand.
experiment with them and have fun!

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

ning wrote:

> OK, you mean at the setting we can choose one of these filters at a time?

Right. Or you can just leave it as default.

>  and how it affects the output sound? ( I do not know anything about those filter tech at all )

it affects the sound in terms of frequency/response, latency, etc
But I doubt if normal people can reliably tell them apart.
At least I can't, with the exception of NOS for certain music only.
You can try when you have the device in hand.
experiment with them and have fun!


I see, I will try it when the DAC arrives, may be I will ask even more when I get confused .... so, you mean I should start with all filters off at first few days and repeat with different filter playing back same music file(s)?

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36 (edited by ning 2021-07-05 20:17:30)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

> so, you mean I should start with all filters off at first few days and repeat with different filter playing back same music file(s)?

there's a default filter (probably SD Sharp. don't quite remember as my device was sent for service...)
you can quickly switch filters back and forth and compare how it affects the same music while the music is playing.
the difference is super super trivial. though.

oh I know where you were confused. you have to select one filter, and one filter only, from the given set of filters.
there's no such thing called "all filters off" in the menu.
though NOS does mean bypass the FIR calculation.

37 (edited by ning 2021-07-05 20:22:11)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

perhaps you should watch the RME official tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enZD40j-kjI
filter starts at 4:04

it's better you watch the entire 5 episodes to understand how to operate this machine:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDadqF2 … BXHW8oMCGx

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

ning wrote:

perhaps you should watch the RME official tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enZD40j-kjI
filter starts at 4:04

it's better you watch the entire 5 episodes to understand how to operate this machine.

Thank you my friend :-)

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39

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Thanks ning for taking the time! Some corrections if I may:

ning wrote:

ES9028Q2M on the other hand, has fewer but different (brickwall) set of filters built in

Brickwall is not part of the ES9028Q2M. Neither is NOS and SD Slow.

ning wrote:

What RME did is, they programmed ESS chip with the correct coefficients, so they can have exactly the same (SD Sharp, SD Slow, Sharp, Slow, and NOS [this is called bypass in ESS])

NOS  has been implemented as before. It is not true NOS (bypass, no filter) but a highly reduced filter. We even optimized it a tiny bit so that the overshoot seen on the pic in the manual does no longer occur.

ning wrote:

the SD LD filter in AKM is almost never used by anyone. so RME didn't program it into the new version.

Exactly our thoughts. @johannes - read the filter chapters in the manual, they basically answer your questions.

Regards
Matthias Carstens
RME

40 (edited by ramses 2021-07-06 08:36:26)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Johannes AU wrote:

OK, you mean at the setting we can choose one of these filters at a time? and how it affects the output sound? ( I do not know anything about those filter tech at all )

With google you can find some articles related to filters:
http://nihtila.com/2017/01/07/dac-digit … y-domains/
http://nihtila.com/2019/10/18/dac-digit … 3-filters/

BR
Ramses
X10SRi-F, E5-1650v4, Win10Pro21H2, Cub10Pro, UFX+, XTC, 12Mic, ADI-2 Pro FS R BE, RayDAT

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

MC wrote:

Exactly our thoughts. @johannes - read the filter chapters in the manual, they basically answer your questions.


I am a mechanical guy, not understand much about electronics especially audio electronics, BUT, I will try, learning is good thing !

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Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

ramses wrote:
Johannes AU wrote:

OK, you mean at the setting we can choose one of these filters at a time? and how it affects the output sound? ( I do not know anything about those filter tech at all )

With google you can find some articles related to filters:
http://nihtila.com/2017/01/07/dac-digit … y-domains/
http://nihtila.com/2019/10/18/dac-digit … 3-filters/


Thank you, I will read and try to understand and learn more :-)

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43 (edited by Johannes AU 2021-07-06 09:16:56)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

ning wrote:

perhaps you should watch the RME official tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enZD40j-kjI
filter starts at 4:04

it's better you watch the entire 5 episodes to understand how to operate this machine:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDadqF2 … BXHW8oMCGx

Watched entire 5 episodes, now have a clearer picture of the menu tree..... Many thanks !

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Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

MC wrote:

Brickwall is not part of the ES9028Q2M. Neither is NOS and SD Slow.

NOS  has been implemented as before. It is not true NOS (bypass, no filter) but a highly reduced filter. We even optimized it a tiny bit so that the overshoot seen on the pic in the manual does no longer occur.

Thanks MC for your correction! Wow, the solution is even prettier than I thought about!

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Will there be ESS version of PRO, or PRO would stay AKM ?

46 (edited by ning 2021-07-09 20:07:17)

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

puddingoreo wrote:

Will there be ESS version of PRO, or PRO would stay AKM ?

Well, my guess is there will be a new version for Pro in the near future as well.
I guess RME sells far more DACs than Pros, so the DAC inventory ran out much quicker once the last AKM based batch was manufactured.
The other reason may because it will take longer time for RME to redesign the Pro, as the AD circuitry needs to be changed as well.

47

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

puddingoreo wrote:

Will there be ESS version of PRO, or PRO would stay AKM ?

The ADI-2 Pro FS R BE will not change to ESS. We have enough AKM chips in stock for these units for some time.

Regards
Matthias Carstens
RME

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Carsten if you allow: how about the Babyface: will there be a change or stay on the AKM chips?

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

I hope that RME use 9028 PRO chip to new RME ADI 2 PRO

Re: Change to ESS DAC chip

Mr. Matthias Carstens explains the change to ESS chips himself.....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43kkU49sRLo

He looks thinner and a bit tired in the video compare with his Hi-Power phone output clip .... could be he works too hard in past months .....

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