I received an email from the Eversolo company asking if I am willing to look at their newly released DAC-Z8. Since I wasn’t familiar with the brand, I quick search showed that this model belongs to the company’s first DAC series ever. It consists of two models, a more affordable DAC-Z6, and its bigger brother Z8 that we’re looking into today. Sure enough, both devices looked very attractive on paper, which spiked my curiosity and I accepted the offer. So let’s find out if the newcomer has something to offer aside from looking good on paper.
Build and Features
The first thing I noticed after taking DAC-Z8 out of the box is that it looks even better in real life. Thick aluminum used, and its finish too feel as if I’m holding a truly premium product. Clean and sharp esthetics only add to it. One such detail is tempered glass covering LCD, that stretches from top to bottom of the front panel. That LCD can be filled with usual information or one of three different VU meters that make this DAC look really sweet in my humble opinion.
The front panel also hosts 6.35mm headphone output, but the back of the device is where most of DAC-Z8’s connections are located. On the right side of the back panel, we can see an AC power inlet, meaning that the power supply is located inside the unit. Eversolo claims it’s a low ripple power supply but doesn’t talk much about its type. I’m making an educated guess here that we’re talking about a good-quality switching mode power supply. The selection of digital inputs is decent with two USB ports – B and C type, coaxial, and optical. There’s Bluetooth connectivity onboard too which you can see in the form of a small BT antenna. As for the outputs, we have a pair of single-ended RCAs and a pair of balanced XLRs. Both of these can be used as variable outputs so you can connect this DAC directly to a power amp and use its internal signal attenuation to control the volume level.
The whole DAC is based around the ESS Sabre ES9038Pro DAC chip. In the company of the 3rd generation XMOS XU316 signal processor, this DAC can handle anything up to PCM 768KHz od DSD512 Native. If you’re wondering, all three inputs support full MQA decoding and rendering.
Finally, there is no physical remote control. Instead, you can use the Eversolo companion app on your smartphone and control the DAC and its features. I’ve tried it and it seems to function very well.
Sound (Line Output)
Eversolo DAC-Z8 sounds as you would expect from a good Sabre implementation. Notes are super clean, with crisp and well-defined edges. It doesn’t matter what type of instruments are playing, Z8 will present them with firm focus and outline them very clearly. Tone separation is also great, and everything is drawn over a dark background, which only adds to the whole sensation of clarity. Luckily, this DAC is well-balanced and with enough smoothness in its presentation to never overstep into excessive sharpness or annoying brightness.
A nimble and well-controlled bassline never oversteps its boundaries to lend some sort of warmth or thickness to the midrange. This goes hand in hand with the overall sound signature that boasts good speed and timing and will never sound too slow or sluggish no matter the material being thrown at it. This of course means that if warmth and fullness are what you’re looking for in your DAC, Z8 will not be it. It’s more for those looking for a clean and tidy presentation with plenty of speed and pinpoint precision.
Soundstaging is once again in line with what I came to expect from a decent Sabre DAC in this price category. Everything is decently separated and instruments do have a space to breathe, even being slightly laid back behind the speakers – opposed to many Sabre DACs sounding more forward. That said, the absolute limits of the soundstage are quite modest, but I’ll touch more on that in the comparison section.
Sound (Headphone Out)
The headphone output is implemented well and doesn’t really change the nature of the sound of a DAC section. Basically, everything said above stays true here too, and we’re still talking about clean, quick, and nimble sound without added warmth or some kind of holographic soundstaging. The power of the headphone amplifier feels decent for most headphones but bear in mind that this is not a powerhouse that will gladly drive some power-hungry high impedance hogs. That said, I’m quite happy with the overall clarity and details retrieval of the headphone section. The background is dark and I couldn’t hear any noise or hum even with highly sensitive low-impedance IEMs.
SMSL M500 MKII has been my trusted champion for around $500 for a long time. These two offer similar features too but DAC-Z8 looks and feels noticeably more premium. They also sound surprisingly similar over the headphone output – clean and precise, but DAC Z8 is in the slight lead to my ears with smoother presentation and darker background.
Once you compare their line outputs, SMSL proves to be a warmer and fuller-sounding DAC. Its thick midbass presentation lends a nice body to the midrange so all instruments and vocals feel more palpable in space. You could of course argue that DAC-Z8 sounds cleaner and more precise, but generally speaking both of these dig very similar levels of details from the recording, they just present it in a slightly different manner. Their soundstage and dynamics are comparable too. Simply put, choose SMSL for a fuller and bolder presentation, and Eversolo for a tighter and leaner one.
Topping DX5 is another slightly cheaper offering with a similar feature set. If we’re talking about their line-outs, I feel that DAC-Z8 has a clear lead with a cleaner sound, darker background, and deeper soundstage. Move to the headphone output and DX5 takes the lead with its powerful headphone amplification that brings drive, dynamics, and punchiness to the level that DAC-Z8’s headphone-out can’t fully match.
Finally, if you don’t really need a headphone output at all, you should also consider fantastic new entries into the market such are SMSL SU-9 pro and Topping E70 velvet, which can both slightly outmatch these 2in1 units with greater tone richness.
You can find stand-alone DACs that can offer better sound fidelity, and you can also find better-sounding headphone sections, but the biggest strength of DAC-Z8 is how well-balanced it is in all of its features. High-quality sound, premium build, and very appealing aesthetics with a reasonable price tag. Eversolo DAC-Z8 is a competent entry into the market.
|EVERSOLO DAC-Z8 – CHARACTERISTICS|