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E1DA 9038D & 9038SG3 Susumu Headphone Amp Review

E1DA 9038D & 9038SG3 Susumu Headphone Amp Review

 

Author:Andy.EF

DAC Chip: ESS Sabre single ES9038Q2M-OPA1622-OPA1602 & AD8397 (SG3)

PCM 32bit - 384khz DSD256, SNR: -125dB, Power: 200mW 40Ω, USB Type-C Female, 3.5mm SE OR 2.5mm BAL (Microphone: NO), 48x22x9mm, 12g, Aluminum Chassis

E1DA #9038SG3/9038D Firmware Pack Version-C

 

Strengths:

  • Energetic natural airy smooth timbre, faithfully neutral
  • Matured disciplined dynamics with well controlled vibrancy.
  • Reference grade coherence with pristine clarity and great transparency
  • Slightly forward Mids with rich textures and definition, lush Male/Female vocals
  • Crisp smooth Treble with matured finesse, depth, extension, and textures
  • Richly textured Mid-Bass with commanding vibe and crisp decays
  • Deep, richly textured Sub-Bass with realistic decay
  • Excellent details retrieval, Macro and Micro. Polished nuances
  • Realistic and crisp guitar, piano, cello, and bass guitar tones
  • Sweet sounding percussions (chimes, bells) and realistic drums and taps
  • Wide soundstage with great depth and disciplined layering
  • Reference grade imaging, razor sharp precision with holographic spatial staging
  • Reference grade speed and transients handling, handles everything with ease.
  • Zero floor noises with black background
  • Free of any coarseness or grainy edges overall
  • Great synergy with any type of headphones/IEMs
  • Immensely powerful SE output with commanding drive
  • Reference grade driving power. Drives Tin HiFi P1 at 50/100 for desktop fidelity.
  • User upgradable Firmware that provides lots of tweaking options

Weaknesses:

  • Not as airy as the other top contenders, just mildly so.
  • Slightly on the bigger side compared to competitors within the same bracket.
  • No hardware volume adjuster
  • Rare occasions may exhibit Treble sheen that can be perceived as peaky (on an already very resolving IEMs/Headphones)
  • FW dependent and not an easy thing for casual users. Chose the wrong FW and it sucks with synergy.
  • Barely intelligible differences between SE 9038D vs BAL 9038SG3

VERDICT:

E1DA 9038D. This is one DAC/Amp model which is quite popular among portable audio enthusiast, and for good reasons. I must say E1DA 9038 series is another very refined and matured ES9038Q2M implementation with deft tuning. This is one of the top performer dongles that seriously question the need for full sized DAPs or even some desktop DAC/Amp if your usage does not exceed beyond 250Ω. Fidelity level is reference grade with well-balanced presentation across the board.

E1DA 9038SG3. Sounds identical (both with same FW type). The SG3 offering slightly wider headstage and spacing. Fidelity wise literally the same. Even volume level remained the same.

Note: Both 9038D and 9038SG3 Susumu uses  12MHz_LinPhase_slow_C_noSTBY.hex Firmware as this one sounded the most balanced. Tried the Appodizing_C_noSTBY and it sounded too bright, dry with unrealistic Treble sparkle that is so prone to sibilance (perhaps you can use this if you have an already warm and dark sounding IEMs/Headphones)

 

E1DA 9038D vs Ovidius B1:

  • Ovidius B1 exhibited a hair stronger dynamics vs E1DA 9038.
  • Ovidius B1 has mildly crisper and meatier tone to Treble and Bass decays vs E1DA 9038.
  • E1DA focuses more on lush decays vs Ovidius B1 crisper approach.

 

E1DA 9038D vs Hidizs S9 Pro:

Another dongle with excellent ES9038Q2M implementation, E1DA 9038D offers slightly forward Mids. Otherwise they are similarly matured sounding.

While exhibiting great flexibility and tuneability, E1DA will be best served if you become a techie nerd, and this will not do justice to casual users. On the other hand, S9 Pro can just simply be plugged straight out of the box – no UAPP – no FW tinkering etc, and you just focus on enjoying the music. For this reasons, I find it hard to rate E1DA any higher than 97.

 

OVERALL RATING: 97/100

Recommended Pairing: Anything below 250Ω or above 94db sensitivity.

 

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