ESS’ ES9018. The Most Dynamic DAC.

I’ve built one of these recently, so here is some information about DIYINHK’s ES9018 DAC :

ES9018 32bit Audio DAC PCB kit | eBay

The Circuit Board

There is another page about it here :

$99 ES9018 DIY DAC BOARD H i F i D U I N O

and another here :

Building the $99 ES9018 DAC Board H i F i D U I N O

and some very helpful tech info that’s not in the sparse datasheet

Sabre32 H i F i D U I N O


Download ES9018 datasheet here

It doesn’t come with a parts list or any instructions, and although the values are marked on the board, the parts are mostly not numbered so this page should help anyone trying to decide about whether to build one or not.

This DAC can be software controlled and Hifiduino is very generously offering code and advice about how to use an Arduino controller. Free. Read the Intro page and the code page.

If you don’t want arduino, you can use a Wolfson WM8805 receiver – something like this : Multi-input/converter module for DAC 8805X-J | eBay but it is limited to 96Khz 24 bit SPDIF data. There is an AK4113 version with more jitter that does 192Khz.

You can also add an I2S input switch so you can have other inputs. A 74VHC157 will do that job.


It’s worth reading this paper by ESS about parts.…PCB_Layout.pdf

I’ve listed the parts with estimates for their cost in US$. Total cost including board, parts and power should be around $200 – $300 depending on options.

Resistors ~$1-$5

All but two of the resistors can be through hole 9mm max length, and there are also pads that suit 0805 smd for all resistors. There are two resistors that only have pads, no through hole, and these are for LEDS, but you could use a really small through-hole like a Multicomp MF12 if you don’t want to solder any smd resistors.

ESS recommend using metal film or thin film smd. Dale RN55 are good so you should definitely use these or better for 100R and 680R because they are in the I/V. Technically, thin film smd are better because they have lower inductance so perform better at very high frequencies, but the resistors are in an analogue stage (<100Khz) so that’s not particularly relevant.

20R x4
(There are 4 on the board plus you might want extra for I2S input as there is no termination. )
100R x8
140R x4
470R x4 (4 on the board plus 2 more for the LEDs – see below)
680R x4
3.3KR x1 (for the reset, so quality doesn’t matter)
10KR x2 (might need to be matched/adjusted for low output DC offset)

…. and 270R ? The board shows 2x 270R smd only for the leds. They have 3.2V to 3.8V so 270R is okay if you want very bright. The datasheet shows a higher value and I’d suggest between 470R and 680R. I used a bi-colour led, red-white, common cathode. I used 470R for the red and 680R for the white, because this gives the brightness balance I need for pure white (lock), pink (lock and mute) and red (mute). Quality doesn’t matter much here.

Film caps ~$5

These have smd pads and through hole with 5mm spacing. With the exception of the 1uF, I’d suggest 5% or better, because they are signal path filter caps.

100pF x4 $1.25
10nF x4 $1
0.1uF x4 $0.6
1uF x5 $1.3 

Ceramic X7R Caps ~$1

There are six op amps which all need local decoupling/bypasses. I’d suggest something like a 10uF cap, tantalum or electrolytic, and a 0.1uF X7R in parallel. However, there is only one cap position so this means soldering a through-hole electro from the other side and then soldering an smd on the pads. If you don’t want to do this, you’ll need to change the number and type of ceramic and electro caps.

WARNING ! There are no polarity markings (+/-) so be very sure you have understood which way the cap should go before you switch on. If not, there’ll be a large power drain and then a cap or caps might go bang.

I’m using :

1uF X7R x2 for the adp151 1.2V reg. The board says 10uF but the adp151 is stable with 1uF. $0.04 each.

0.1uF X7R x27 0805 (one needs to be smaller – 0603 size for the oscillator’s power decoupling) ~$1
with 15 of them paralled with an electro. 12 of the parallels are for the op amps, and 3 are for the 1.2V supply for the ES9018.

Electrolytics ~$5

10uF 16V x15 (see above) I can’t recommend any that fit – the holes are too far apart. Whatever you choose, you’ll have to bend the legs to make them fit, which is against most cap manufacturer’s advice. However, SilmicII are my favourite caps : 10 X ELNA SILMIC II 10uF 16VDC ELECTROLYTIC CAPACITOR! | eBay I also like Panasonic ECA (AM, their audio grade) – a smooth sound, but they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. Anyway, they’re $3 for 15.

470uF 16V x4 $1.3  

Op Amps ~$13 to ~$26

The op amps will have a strong effect on the sound quality of this DAC, and its tonal signature. There is no perfect op amp so inevitably, you’ll end up wanting to try several to find ones you like, especially the four that do the current to voltage conversion = I/V.

You need 6 single channel, 4 for I/V and 2 for buffer/lpf. I’m using 2x LME49990MA in the buffer, mounted on adapters, and  ADA4627B, again on adapters, in I/V.

The LME49710 are the best value for the 2 buffer op amps. $5 for 2. Best I’ve heard are LME49990 and they need soic adapters. $11 for 2.

The I/V is more demanding, so generally an FET will be more linear and BJT like LME49710 don’t suit it. So the OPA134 are probably the best value for the I/V. $8 for 4. If you don’t mind getting soic adapters, then OPA1641 are great; $15 for 4. OPA132 are better versions of OPA134.

6x op amp sockets – $0.5 cheapest way is to buy 3x 18 pin and cut them in half, keeping the spare pin for who-knows-what.

Other ~$80-$90

2 Leds $ free here ! I used a bi-colour red/white common cathode. 10 White / Red 3mm Common Cathode White Lens Diffused LEDs | eBay

An Oscillator: $6 This is very important.

Lower frequencies use less power ( be mindful of your choice of regulator if you want to run a 100Mhz clock and 192Khz music ) but can have signal lock problems with high sample rate music like DSD. Apparently, they can have more dynamic range and less noise but also more quantisation noise/distortion. Opinion is divided about what clock freq sounds best, and even what type sounds best, and even how to connect them.

I’d recommend a SAW 75Mhz 50ppm as a first choice, and you can fit a jumper on the board to disable it and feed in other clocks. The SAW is the best sounding clock I’ve heard.

Anything between 40Mhz and 100Mhz should work, and even lower frequencies will usually work with low sample rates such as CD, perhaps after a warm up period.

If your I2S source has a clock between these frequencies you can tap that and feed it into this board for “synch” operation. Of course, the quality of this clock matters too.

You don’t need to buy a clock if you buy either of these two usb_i2s cards (from the same seller) because they have clock outputs (45.1584Mhz and 49.152Mhz) to connect to this DAC for synch operation.
Standard output 
24bit 192kHz USB to I2S PCB CM6631/A w/Ultralow noise 6.5uV regulator for ES9018 | eBay
Isolated output 
Isolated 24bit 192kHz USB to I2S/SPDIF CM6631A PCB for ES9018 AK4399 PCM1794 | eBay
However, routing the clock through ordinary wire will degrade the signal and the sound quality. So you might decide to try RF cable and a u.fl socket. Keep the RF cable under 10cm, and as short as practical, because cable has capacitance and this loads the clock and degrades the signal.

For asynch, having tried over 6 clocks now, I’d recommend the Epson SAW 75Mhz 50ppm as suggested above. It’s actually better than the much more expensive Crystek CCHD-957 imo. I even prefer it to synch from the CM6631A.

SAW – Epson XG-1000CA series (low ppm is better)
$6 for 75Mhz 50ppm or
$5 for 50Mhz 100ppm or
$5 for 100Mhz 100ppm

5 ferrite beads; through hole $1 for 5

One or two 3.3V power supplies, minimum 500mA

One of these 3.3V supplies should have a very low output impedance, and be adjustable and so you can try increasing the supply voltage for the analogue part of the DAC IC ; AVCC ; don’t exceed 4V, and aim for about 3.8V max, power consumption and heat dissipation all increase with higher voltages. The other needs to be very low noise, like the Super Teddy Reg.

One +/- 15V or +/-12V power supply for the op amps, minimum 70mA

There’s an almost unlimited choice.

Search for regulator in Sound & Vision on Ebay… e.g this Kubota : Kubota low noise regulator full blown version kit !! | eBay
or this 
PRECISION +/-18VDC ~ 60VDC 50 ~ 500mA SHUNT REGULATOR! | eBay It’s a TL431 based shunt regulator, or this simple 7815/7915 Power Supply Board,Module,Kit,PCB,Based on 7815 7915 IC | eBay and this 317/337 xy LM317 337 dual power adjustable power supply board kit -18 | eBay

Examples of excellent diy regs:

AMB’s Sigma11 and Sigma22 are excellent series regs.
The &sigma;22 Regulated Power Supply
The &sigma;11 Regulated Power Supply

Of course, you’ll need a transformer.

You’ll need a 0-9 AC V @ 7VA minimum, and 15-0-15 @ 3VA minimum.

For example :
$17 for 18VA 
or try a transformer like this :

So the power supplies should cost around $70-80 for this DAC. 

Here is the DAC nearly finished :

DAC built with Sigma11 Regulator

Here is another of the DAC in a case :

The Finished DAC

A photo of the rear with silver-plated output connectors and usb input :