Eversolo DAC-Z8 Review: Beautiful Design, ES9038PRO Perfection

As a huge fan of ESS DACs, I’ve had the chance to hear quite a few ESS variations over the last few years. I’ve heard quite a few different ES9038Q2M/PRO designs as well. There have been really well implemented DACs and some rough ones too. I’ve personally never heard of eversolo or its parent company Zidoo but I was asked if I wanted to check their new DAC-Z8 offering under this new brand called eversolo. I had zero expectations when it came to the DAC implementation itself and I was way more interested in the digital VU meters and said yes on that reason alone haha. I had no idea I was in for a ride on what I would consider one of the best implementations of the ESS ES9038PRO DACs I’ve personally heard. The eversolo DAC-Z8 is a Desktop DAC/amp that comes in at $699.00. It uses the ESS ES9038PRO DAC.

Quick shoutout to David from eversolo/Zidoo for setting me up a review unit to check out. While I always appreciate stuff being sent in to test and review, It never affects the rating of my review.

Looks and Feel

The DAC-Z8(Z8 for the rest of the review) is a fairly large unit given it’s mostly a high end DAC with value added headphone amp built in. The unit weighs quite a bit and the black finish feels and looks super high quality. The feet are nice and wide and have good traction. That and the added weight means this thing doesn’t move on a desk unless you really push on it. The front of the unit has a very nice display and the multifunction volume knob feels good too. There is a power button on the front which I appreciate since I never was a fan of holding down a capacitive touch button or volume knob in order to turn power on/down a DAC/amp. The screen is decently sharp and it gets bright. The display is definitely meant for desktop and up close use. I don't think this would be easy to see from far distances. A really good looking device IMO.

Power switch and volume knob 

The power switch on the back is fairly wide so if you like to leave stuff powered down, this is a nice feature. The volume knob rotates easily and while I thought it was meant to control the headphone amp side of the Z8 only, I assumed it didn’t have a “DAC only” output option so at first I was a little bummed about that. Once I tried the headphone amp side of the Z8, I found out it has two different saved volumes for when there is a headphone plugged in or not. Which is great. Crank it up for DAC only usage and when you plug in a headphone, it will swap over to the last headphone volume you set.

Inputs and outputs

On the back of the unit we get RCA and XLR outputs, Bluetooth, optical, coaxial and two USB inputs. The RCA and XLR jacks look high quality and I like that you can have two source USB inputs. I currently have the USB-B set to my desktop PC and the USB-C available for my DAP or Macbook Pro. There's also a standard USB-A port for firmware updates which I’ll get into later. I’m super happy with this layout though!

Accessories and unboxing

The Z8 comes in a very nice well designed box which gives an extremely high end unboxing experience. Once inside the box, we get the Z8 in its own little fabric travel like bag, remote, a nice power cable, braided USB-B cable and user manual/warranty cards. I do like the included braided USB cable quite a bit and it gives a sense of attention to detail.


These impressions were done with the DAC-Z8 connected to the SMSL SP400 headphone amp via XLR. While I’m treating this a DAC first over DAC/amp combo, I will mention the amp section later on.This is what the DAC-Z8 sounds like with the current headphone/IEM inventory I have on hand. Things like headphone pairings or different headphone amps will produce different results and impressions versus what my ears hear on my specific gear.

I will say this right off the bat. I’ve heard a good amount of ES9038 DACs and I’ve come to the conclusion that designs with a really good implementation of a ES9038PRO or any ESS DAC will almost always have very little to no “Sabre Glare” that a lot of ESS DACs are known for in the audio community. That’s not to say that “Sabre Glare” is bad but that those who steer away from ESS DACs for that reason might want to give something like the DAC-Z8 a try.

The Z8 has a fairly neutral sound tuning but I would call it dynamic. The bass is fairly neutral sounding but when something calls for impact and slam, it delivers it really well and it sounds strong with clean force. Bass is accurate and doesn’t show any compressions or bloatedness when paired with the few amps I connected it to. The mids are laser accurate and stay true to the source but speed from the instruments is fast without sounding too sharp. The vocals are accurate but they sound more intimate and “lifelike” if you will. They have a great presence and I really enjoyed this on my specific setup. Upper mids and treble lack the “Sabre Glare” seen in other ESS implementations and while they do sound sharp and neutral for the most part. The Z8 really pulls out every last detail of the ES9038PRO(I think) given the price. I’m not saying this is the best DAC out there or even the best ES9038PRO implementation but it does sit at the top when it comes to my experience which is right around the $1.5K mark for DACs. 

The Headphone Amp Section

The headphone amp section seemed like a value added feature and when I asked about it, it was confirmed to be just that. I can say that I think those starting off with the Z8 as an all in one device and then adding a nice headphone amp later on will be really happy going this route. For the rest who just want an all in one desktop unit, I think the Z8 headphone amp is good enough but I feel a lot of performance is lost relying on just the included headphone amp. That’s not to say it’s bad but let's get into my thoughts on the sound from the built in headphone amp!

The bass has a weird boost somewhere where it sounds like there is extra subbass impact but it sounds a little lean in the mid bass so it sounds like it is missing something in the bass area. Mids are alright if not a little hazy sounding but I would say still decently accurate. Vocals are ok but they lack some presence so once again, not bad, not astounding. The treble does sound neutral and a little soft. It lacks some sharpness and detail retrieval comes in about average. Staging has a more closed in sound. Imaging was perfectly fine. If someone told me this was a good entry level amp around $100-$150 I would agree. I think the headphone amp side of the Z8 will be perfectly fine for those starting out. I would prefer people put more money into a higher quality DAC before an amp personally so I see this as a good starting point then adding an headphone amp later.

Filters and fun features

The Z8 does have all the standard ESS filters and as usual, I couldn’t hear a single difference. I set it to Apodizing as I do all ESS DACs to keep things consistent.

Personal grips with the DAC-Z8?

I don’t honestly have any issues with the Z8. Which is kinda strange to just be like “every is fine”. I suppose I would personally like the Z8 as an option without the headphone amp side but that’s really just an attempt at splitting hairs over nothing. One thing to note might be some firmware issue concerns I’ve seen online. While I don’t have any issues with the current firmware I’m using, I’ve seen others mention issues with dropping out audio problems. I updated my Z8 the moment it came in and so far I’ve only used optical, both USB inputs and only function checked the Bluetooth input. So in my use case, I’ve not had any problems. I’ve also been upscaling in Audirvana so I figured if I was gonna have something happen, it would show up there. I’ve been alerted a new firmware would eventually launch on their site that should fix any possible issues others have. So take that as you will.

Firmware Updating

Speaking of firmware! The process to update is fairly easy, the only real issue I personally ran into was a USB drive to update the Z8 with. You have to use an exFAT formatted device which I had none on hand due to all my portable storage being too big to allow exFAT(outside of portable SSDs and I wasn’t formatting those). I happened to find an old 8gb SD card on a determined hunt for an old storage device so, I used that and an SDcard reader to update and it worked just fine.

DAC/Amp comparison


The SU-9 is another DAC that is fairly close in sound signature to the Z8. It does sound neutral yet dynamic with everything I throw at it. It’s been my review workhorse for over 2 years now. I found the bass was a little thicker sounding on the SU-9 and the vocals are quite detailed. Detail retrieval in the treble is also noticeably better on the Z8 as well as staging and imaging. I still think the two are great options but I do think the Z8 edges it out sound quality wise. I don’t think those with something already good like the SU-9 need to upgrade but they might want to and I do find the Z8 is an upgrade as an overall package.

Topping E70V

The E70V also impressed me recently but I do find the bass is punchier on the Z8. Both do good mids and vocals well but I do find the vocals a little more artificial sounding on the E70V. Treble is sharper and can be uncomfortable sounding when you run both side by side. I think the E70V is a little more clinical sounding and the Z8 is a little more neutral sounding without being boring. E70V and Z8 have close to the same sound detail retrieval but the Z8 just adds something special to the overall sound. I find the Z8 is better for longer sessions due to a better controlled sound signature as well.

Overall thoughts

I had low expectations going into the DAC-Z8 and I walked away so surprised by the sound performance and overall experience. So much so that I actually decided to retire my SMSL SU-9 as my review DAC and the Z8 is now my main DAC to review stuff going forward. So! To possibly no one's surprise, I highly recommend the DAC-Z8! I do want to mention that I think of the DAC-Z8 as a “DAC” first and it should be paired(IMO) with a good desktop headphone amp and used as a type of “stack”. I think the headphone section is ok to get started but the Z8 really shines and scales well when it has a separate headphone amp to pair with. Overall a really good experience and I really look forward to seeing what eversolo releases next. Especially their upcoming DMP-A6 Stream AIO. Great job to the eversolo and Zidoo team and thanks for reading!!!


  1. I definitely know Zidoo is they make what my opinion is the best Android boxes (z9s/z9x), so I will definitely be checking out this DAC--along with the brand new A6.


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