Hq-Audio is proud to announce the fist addition to our level ES9018S series with the new HQ reference DAC ES9018S . Under development for over 5 years it’s quite incredible this product is available as a kit, rather it is an exceptional piece of high-end audio that can also be purchased in kit form or as factory assembled.



  • ES9018S chip.
  • All Low Noise LT3042
  • Control Volume and Remote.
  • Lundahl LL1684 Transfomer  output
  • New HQ-HV Power Supply.
  • Full ground isolation from USB module
  • Toslink input.
  • Neutrik AES/XLR input.
  • Amanero USB Module.

Available as a Kit or Factory Assembled
(Finished Product).


The Premium USB interface 

USB is supported by a unique true asynchronous FPGA based solution from the italian company Amanero. We believe it is the sound leading USB interface and gives a perfect Audio match for the Raspberry Pi. Besides being excellent in sound, the USB interface supports future high resolution audio format in PCM up to 384 and up to DSD512

  Pictured: circuit I/V transformers    

HQ reference DAC ES9018S architecture

1. All new digital DAC board using 8 pcs of the Ultra low noise Regulator LT3042 (<1 uV noise) to feed ultra quiet DC voltages to the digital board.

2. i/V conversion with a dedicated resistor to transfer the analog signal from the DAC board to the Transfomer board.

3. Analog output stage encorporating a LL1684 zero feedback configuration with both single ended output using RCA connectors and true balanced output using XLR connectors.

4. Beautiful remote control.

5. Amanero USB moldule.



After many listening tests with my friends I consider this configuration as the best.

I don't suggest an I/V made with a transformer so use only 1:1 configuration with center 10K // 2.2 - 22uF Sanyo OS-CON as described in the old Glass Audio article of Stefano Perugini.

The LL1684 with the amorphous core is the best choice as output transformer.


I/V transformers LL1684

Current to voltage transformers are key to the Hq-Audio philosophy. These amorphous core I/V transformers in the HQ reference DAC facilitate the ultimate in signal transfer between the digital and analog domains. 

This preserves the small analog signal at birth and presents it to the line stage 100% intact. It is one of the most critical components (and little understood) of the Andra and Quanghao design philosophy.


The REMOTE Control

The DAC includes a gorgeous remote control is made of cast aluminum. Convenient, beautiful and easy to use. Just press the button and you have great features like: On-Off function, Volume control of the 32bit Attenuator, input select, mute function, select of PCM/DSD filter types and the frequency cutoff of the filters. All the settings can easily be memolised. The Remote is the PERFECT COMPANION FOR YOUR DAC.


Finished Product
You can order the HQ reference DAC ES9018S as FACTORY ASSEMBLED for an extra $600. Simply select the ‘FINISHED PRODUCT’ option in the shop section of the website.


Construction manual

Download the build instructions for the HQ reference DAC ES9018S here. The manual will give you a good idea of all the componentry involved in the making of this very high level digital to analog converter.


Through the HQ Reference ES9018S DAC, the "It's Too Late" song evoked many fond memories of that era. It was capable to provoke real emotions and in a sense showed some great “time machine” qualities, meaning it could transport the listener to some distant space and time, on his musical journey. Although this is not an audiophile recording, the overall quality was beyond any serious criticism, especially the 1999 remaster which was later put on the SACD. The drums had a rhythmic, propulsive quality that made the whole track really attractive to listen to. Carole`s voice was intimate and alive sounding, provoking intense emotional involvement. A quick comparison with the CD version showed some (expected) differences: the SACD version was smoother and less mechanical but to say the CD version was hugely inferior, would be an exaggeration. Music from the seventies was largely recorded without excessive compression that the current production strives for and was hence MUCH MORE listenable and enjoyable. Of course, this is something the modern producers couldn`t care less for; their singles simply need to be louder in order to be memorized by the general public which in turn should provide the endless stream of coins for their pockets. Of course, all recorded music is commercial but these guys have pushed things to the sickening levels. 

Regardless, the HQ Reference ES9018S DAC showed some real musical qualities when it came to bringing out the best in contemporary or old recordings of yore.

Jim Hall - “Concierto” album (recorded in 1975) is an album full of instrumental  lyricism and creative improvisation. Out of nine tracks, three are JimHall`s originals but the highlight of the album is certainly the rendition of Joaquín Rodrigo`s Conceirto de Aranjuez (Adagio):

Of course, the musicians took the right to interpret the piece their own way but the end result is simply enchanting and highly captivating. The interplay between the instruments is...well, it goes beyond mere words, it needs to be experienced. The HQ Reference ES9018S DAC showed itself in a very positive light, as far as musical involvement goes. It showed all the subtle nuances contained in this marvelous recording, showing finesse, power (when called for) and emotional content. Of course, not only Concierto de Aranjuez but the the whole album is simply phenomenal. One of my favorites is Cole Porter`s “You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To”, another great interplay of legendary musicians.

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At this moment the HQ Reference DAC ES9018S - USB PCM / DSD DAC proved to be my favorite of the bunch; a very aesthetic one box solution that plays all formats exceedingly well, is cleverly constructed and remarkably well made. In sound quality terms it provided everything the competition has to offer and in some cases even more. It takes a lot of knowledge, experience and sensible thinking to design a DAC like this and thus my only possible conclusion is: the HQ Reference DAC ES9018S - USB PCM / DSD DAC deserves much wider recognition and acceptance - highly recommended.



Reference ES9018S-Resolution 32 Bit
Output Tubes: 02 x LL1684
Audio Outputs: 1 x Stereo Pair RCA, 1 x Stereo Balanced.
Output impedance: 100 Ohm

Output Levels: 2.0V RMS fixed, 4.0V RMS Balanced
Digital Inputs:

Amanero USB, SPDIF RCA, XLR digital. 

Input Format Support: PCM to DSD512  
Mains Power:  220-230V, 50/60Hz
1 Power Consumption:  <50W


Dimensions: 70 x 330 x 320mm (H x W x D)
Weight: 7.5 kg
Finish: Silver
Parts Compliment includes:
Remote Control
Use Manual
Cap Power supply
Product certification

*Specifications may be subject to revision.

Or Request separately Hq-Audio variant at extra cost




please e-mail me


Factory assembled

SIGNATURE ANALOGUE DAC is now available as a Finished Product or in DIY form. Download the new construction manual here.


Thong ke