E1DA 9038D – 9038SG3 Susumu

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


LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING


💚PROS

  • 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
  • User upgradable Firmware that provides lots of tweaking options

💔CONS

  • 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 recognizable differences between SE 9038D vs BAL 9038SG3
  • Very prone to getting static disturbances from phone phone signals

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 9038SG3 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 9038 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 9038D any higher than ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

UPDATE: 31 July 2021

I have decided to re-test E1DA 9038SG3 Susumu with #donglemadness Torture Test – driving the brutal FOSTEX T40RP MK3 (91db/50Ω). This time I used my Samsung Galaxy S20 which runs on USB 3.2 (3.0 Power Delivery). I must admit I am quite impressed with driving power of the 9038SG3 under such load. Needing only 65/100 of volume for proper loudness (equal to Ovidius B1), 9038SG3 scaled up significantly with better power feed. Under these conditions, the performance is so very identical to Ovidius B1 SQ wise. The performance of this 9038SG3 is nothing short of mind-blowing with superb dynamic range offering even deeper extensions on both ends (as compared when running on USB 2.0 power). It is a lot smoother and polished too – with full bodied dynamics, clean edged separation lines, spacious soundstage and sharp spatial imaging. It is quite evident that E1DA has placed lots of tuning optimization to make 9038SG3 shine with more power. All these considered I have no reservation to upgrade 9038SG3 from 4½ stars to 5 stars segment. However worth to note that these power optimization tuning from E1DA may not work with some iPhone models. On my iPhone 8 it was rejected by iOS for excessive power draw attempts from the E1DA unit. Strangely enough it worked perfectly on my iPhone 7. Both iPhones on the latest OS.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ E1DA 9038SG3

⭐⭐⭐⭐½ E1DA 9038D ($100)

Best Pairing: Anything below 250Ω or above 90db sensitivity.

Back to #donglemadness

8 Comments

  1. Thanks a bunch for the review.
    Just one correction: both the S and the D can absolutely be used with an iPhone, it’s just that Apple’s MFi program has made that needlessly complex for the end user.
    What’s required is a Lightning to Type-C cable with an Apple chip inside. Even then, some cables may work, others won’t work at all or will deliver just 3.5V instead of the standard 5. It all depends on your iPhone model and 9038 version.

    Here’s a spreadsheet that hopefully clears this up a bit: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1_Yqd7lpt3N2B0kVwzqzHoRmCTO7ZTe32p_xhjuGluh8/edit?usp=sharing

    It’s curated in part by E1DA customers, so if you get the chance to test out a combination that’s not yet on the sheet, then please contact me so that I can bring the list one step closer to completion 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi again. E1DA 9038SG3 works perfectly with my iPhone 7! (it failed on my iPhone 8). ddHiFi TC28i works perfectly, so does direct Lightning to USB-C cables from Xduoo, Audirect and L&P. Thanks for the heads up

      Like

      1. No worries. Yes iPhone 8 failed on all cables and adapters. So weird. The adapter I used was a ddHiFi TC28i. I was referring to Audirect Lightning cable that came with my BEAM 2S unit. Cheers

        Like

  2. Hi! B1 plays smoother with the same details as the 9038s?

    Is the sound signature darker in the b1 or s9 than in the 9038s?

    Now I have LPW2 and 9938s, but I don’t like the latter with its sterile sound. I’m choosing between b1 and s9 to replace E1DA

    Like

    1. B1 actually one of the most detailed among all 5 Star dongles. But I will only recommend B1 if you are not using sensitive IEMs. The floor noise on anything super sensitive will annoy you, otherwise B1 is perfect. Yes B1 is smoother and more musical than 9038SG3

      Like

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