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Second opinion: Eversolo DMP-A6 review

  • Eversolo is a name that’s been hard to miss this year. Despite offering just a handful of products thus far, rave reviews and highly positive forum discussions about the brand seem almost unavoidable. According to the Eversolo website, the design team has been around for years operating in the OEM/ODM space and only recently began actually launching products under their own banner. More familiar to me is the parent company Zidoo Technology, though their focus on video-based media playback is somewhat outside of my wheelhouse.

    In contrast, Eversolo’s portfolio of products does fit squarely within my realm of interest. There are a couple of compact portable USB DAC/headphone amplifiers, a pair of desktop DACs with integrated headphone outputs, and their latest product which is under review here today – the DMP-A6 streaming DAC.

    A streaming DAC is simply a D/A converter with added network functionality, allowing it to stream music via various methods. That might involve services such as Tidal/Qobuz/Spotify, it might be music stored on a local NAS or networked computer, or it could be files stored on a directly-connected USB drive. The Eversolo DMP-A6 (US$899) does all of that and more and looks great in the process.

    At its most basic level, the DMP-A6 is a DAC and a pretty nice one at that. It’s based around a pair of ESS Sabre ES9038Q2M chips used in a fully balanced circuit, which includes volume control capabilities for preamplifier duty. It’s got the latest XMOS XU316 USB solution which allows playback of crazy-high PCM sample rates up to 768kHz and DSD512 – far beyond what any native recordings actually use, but potentially useful for those who like running software upsampling via Roon or HQplayer. There’s also MQA support which some folks will appreciate (at least for as long as that remains relevant). Power comes by way of a low-noise regulated switching power supply module with a choke filter circuit for cleaner power, and clocking is handled by dual low-jitter oscillators of unspecified origin. Overall it’s a thoroughly modern design that covers all the bases for quality audio playback.

    Eversolo gives us XLR and RCA analog outputs which are selectable via software. This is handy for those with desktop systems where one output feeds a headphone amplifier, the other goes to active speakers, and the user can choose which one (or both) is live at any given time. On the digital input side, we get RCA, Toslink, USB, and Bluetooth with support for aptX HD and LDAC among others. It’s not quite the largest array of inputs you’ll find on a device of this size, but likely adequate for the needs of most users even if this was purely a “traditional” DAC.

    But of course, this isn’t just a standard DAC. The built-in streaming aspect makes it possible that many users won’t use those digital inputs very often, if at all. There is also a set of digital outputs featuring RCA, Toslink, USB, and HDMI (with a unique twist, but more on that later) for those eyeing the Eversolo as a digital transport. This aspect allows for the DMP-A6 to be used as a main source now whilst promising future relevance down the road when the budget allows for a DAC upgrade. Of course, this only matters if the device performs at a high enough level on transport duties – which thankfully does seem to be the case.

    From a physical standpoint, the first thing we notice when looking at the device is the large widescreen display. It dominates the otherwise minimalist front panel, flanked on the left by an Eversolo logo and on the right by a generously-sized volume knob that doubles as a power button when pressed. The hi-resolution capacitive touchscreen handles all other functionality, so no further hardware buttons are provided. Eversolo does give us a vertical array of five software control buttons that constantly appear along the right of the display, serving to anchor the experience. These provide consistent transport controls (play/pause, skip forward, skip backward) as well as “home” and “back” functionality no matter what else we might be doing in the software.

    Speaking of software – the DMP-A6 runs a custom version of Android 11, with Eversolo’s EOS sound engine baked in to bypass the usual Android bottlenecks on audio playback. That means bit-perfect output at the correct sample rates, even for hi-res and DSD material. This software can scan and organize a local music library stored either on a USB device or else via an M.2 drive which can handily be installed in a slot located on the bottom of the device. It even lets us connect a CD drive via USB and can play discs directly or rip them to the library, complete with automatic tagging and album art. There’s support for network playback via UPnP, NFS, and SMB, meaning no matter how you store your library, Eversolo has you covered. This all proves to be rather well executed, up there with the likes of Auralic, Innuos, or Aurender in terms of features and ease of use – which is to say very good if not quite perfect in all areas. For example, when given a torture test including obscure XRCD rips and vintage Japanese jazz artists, the Eversolo performed admirably but did not always find the correct album art. It also stumbled a bit at first when dealing with a staggering 6TB+ library stored on my NAS using UPnP or SMB sharing. But in the end album art was accurate most of the time, and browsing/playback did end up working despite occasional slight delays. That’s about the best-case scenario I’ve come to expect when using those protocols (which is one reason I typically prefer Roon), and the DMP-A6 is still up there at the top of the heap as far as these things go.

    More interesting to me are the apps which Eversolo lets us install. So far there’s support for the big names like Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Qobuz, and Amazon Music, lesser-known options including Deezer, HighResAudio, and KKBOX, plus various internet radio services like BBC Sounds, Tunein Radio, Radio Paradise, and more. Support for these apps will vary based on your region – a function of the services themselves rather than any limitation of the DMP-A6. Eversolo will likely be adding more options in the future, though I don’t have a specific list of what might come next. I’m also a huge Roon fan and thankfully the DMP-A6 is Roon Ready, though this is actually one of the few times where I don’t always mind using the integrated software if necessary.

    Unfortunately, words aren’t quite adequate to capture the user interface experience on a device like this. You can see from my pictures that it’s a crisp, high-quality display, and that the UI has a logical layout with good uniformity even across multiple third-party apps. What you can’t see is the smooth scrolling and snappy performance it gives when navigating menus or interacting with a library. There’s still a learning curve just based on the massive amount of features, but I found it surprisingly easy to pick up just from poking around a bit. No instruction manual was necessary for the most part. In my humble opinion, this interface is likely the key ingredient which has propelled the DMP-A6 to such popularity so soon after its launch. Yes, the DAC section is nicely designed and sounds great, but there is no shortage of quality DACs on the market. Meanwhile, there is a shortage of music servers/streamers with big, beautiful, and responsive touchscreen displays, particularly in this price range.

    If I touched on every single feature Eversolo offers, we could be here all day. I haven’t even mentioned the choice of multiple digital filters for subtly tweaking the DAC flavoring. The Eversolo app for Android/iOS with handy Cast option which mirrors the front panel display on your phone/tablet for use across the room. The multiple themes and (optional) VU meter choices for the display. The ability to set up SMB so that Eversolo becomes a server sharing its internal library with other devices on the network. Suffice it to say this is an extremely full-featured product which, more importantly, actually does everything it advertises rather well. I’ve had plenty of expensive network audio devices come through my system which ticked off all the boxes on a feature list yet were full of software bugs, slow/unresponsive UI, or other quirks which made the experience less than stellar, even if they did look great on paper. In my considerable history with these types, the DMP-A6 is one of the few which actually lives up to its potential.

    I began with what I consider the most straightforward use of the DMP-A6, which involves reading music from a USB drive, converting that digital data to analog, and sending the newly reconstructed signal out to an external headphone amplifier via XLR cables. I started with the Musician Audio Andromeda amplifier because its US$869 pricing makes it a reasonable match with the Eversolo. Ditto the $799 Campfire Audio Cascade headphones, though I confess to pairing those with an unequally-costly Effect Audio cable (my only compatible option with balanced termination).

    The resulting sound was everything I’d come to expect from Campfire’s bombastic headphones. That meant satisfyingly punchy blast beats from German technical death metal firm Obscura, and wonderfully rich and emotive vocals from Irish singer/songwriter Damien Rice. Magdalena Bay’s Mercurial World has been accurately described as a “dazzling pop smoothie”, and this setup allowed its mixture of synth-pop, disco, and electronica ingredients to shine through with an abundance of energy. The Cascade benefits from a clean, controlled, well-balanced chain, and certainly doesn’t need any additional warmth or bass bloom. The Eversolo/Musician combo proved to be an excellent pairing.

    A bit less synergy was found when swapping Cascade for the significantly more expensive ZMF Caldera (US$3500). The sound was still quite enjoyable and I remain a huge fan of ZMF’s debut planar magnetic headphones. But having heard them paired with lots of other gear, I do think the DMP-A6/Andromeda combo comes off as comparably a bit light in tonal weight and with too much emphasis on the upper registers. The Andromeda is an extremely neutral, revealing amplifier, which sometimes feels slightly tipped up. Feeding it with the clean/crisp DMP-A6 internal DAC makes for a bit too much of a good thing when paired with the Caldera – no doubt ZMF’s quickest, most technically accomplished headphones. There’s still a lot to like but it’s just not an ideal team in the grand scheme of things, though certainly not as mismatched as something like an Audeze LCD-5 or Sennheiser HD800 would be.

    Climbing a few steps back down on the price ladder led to the most pleasing match I could find with this setup – the lovely ZMF Atrium Closed (US$2500). The high impedance biocellulose driver paired with ZMF’s patented Atrium Damping System and of course their stunning wood cups made for a superb match with the quick and precise Eversolo/Musician combo. The bass extension felt generous but well-controlled, midrange projection was palpable, and the treble mix felt just right. Best of all the presentation sounded wonderfully open and airy, far beyond what one would logically expect from a closed-back headphone. If the Eversolo/Musician Audio duo had pushed the blank-canvas Caldera into slightly unflattering territory, it did the opposite here by accenting the strengths (namely soundstage and imaging) of the more sonically dense Atrium Closed. Similarly agreeable results were had with the Meze Elite and to a lesser extent with Sennheiser’s classic HD650, if that helps paint a picture of general sonic compatibility.

    My next move was to revisit the same headphones whilst swapping the Musician Andromeda for the more capable (and correspondingly more expensive) Cen.Grand 9i-806 headphone amplifier, also known as the Little Silver Fox. Selling for US$2400 and sporting an octet of Exicon lateral MOSFET output devices in a fully balanced configuration, the Little Silver Fox manages a richer, creamier tonality yet gives up nothing to Andromeda in the way of resolution or microdetail. Still utilizing the XLR outputs of the Eversolo, this time around the Caldera sounded every bit like the top-tier headphone I know it to be. The same applied with Audeze’s sonic scalpel LCD-5 which proved enjoyable with all but the brightest, most brittle sounding material. Even in those cases, the Roon Ready nature of the DMP-A6 meant I could compensate with Roon’s smoother-sounding Audeze DSP settings, or even use the EQ function to personalize a toned-down response. The bottom line here is that Eversolo’s capable DAC implementation feels right at home even with significantly more expensive gear, assuming care is taken with choosing the right match. The DMP-A6 is not necessarily what I’d call overly bright, but when paired with similarly voiced gear the end result may end up leaning too far in that direction.

    DAC comparisons
    The last workout I had in mind for Eversolo’s internal DAC was a direct comparison. At present, my DAC collection is a bit lopsided as far as contenders in the same bracket as the DMP-A6. While I do enjoy the DA Art Aurora (US$520) and Grace Design SDAC ($125), neither offers adequate competition for the Eversolo. And all others in my collection sit in the $3-6K range making them obviously unfair as well. So I brought out a Violectric V590 Pro (US$4300) which is an all-in-one device functioning as DAC, headphone amplifier, and preamplifier. The key here is that Violectric also sells a model called the V550 which is the same product sans DAC section for $700 less. We can thus isolate the D/A conversion of the V590 as being at least the equivalent of a $700 DAC, though that price surely rises when we factor in things like power supply and enclosure which are already present in the all-in-one design. It should thus be in the same general pricing ballpark as the Eversolo. Note that I’m using the original V590 which centers around an AKM chip for D/A conversion. The later V2 models switched to ESS Sabre silicon after a factory fire rendered AKM chips unobtainium for several years.

    The robust connectivity of these devices made it very easy to set up the comparison. Eversolo fed Violectric with both analog and digital cables, and I could thus easily swap back and forth between the DMP-A6 doing D/A conversion or just handling transport duties for the built-in Violectric DAC. Using the previously mentioned ZMF Caldera, Audeze LCD-5, and Meze Elite, I heard small but fairly consistent differences between the two DAC sections. Eversolo’s sound was faster and more incisive, with a bit more energy in the upper midrange and treble regions. Contrast that with the internal Violectric DAC feeling more relaxed, a touch more full-bodied, and with greater emphasis on overall musical flow and density. I would place these two on a similar performance tier, with each one outshining the other depending on context. The LCD-5 preferred the warmer, more subdued approach of the Violectric whilst the Meze Elite benefitted from the superior pace and focus of the Eversolo D/A section. The Caldera split the difference which meant it came down to the music and even my mood at the time in terms of declaring a winner. Long story short: the Eversolo DMP-A6 is at least on par with this $700+ DAC section from a highly regarded German audio firm.

    Digital transport comparisons
    Another thing that separates the Eversolo DMP-A6 from the pack is the fact that it offers an array of digital outputs in addition to the internal D/A conversion. Many of its contemporaries either act as strict digital transports with no analog outputs (see iFi’s Zen Stream, the Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra, most Aurender models) or else apparently place such confidence in their internal DAC implementations that they don’t allow expansion via outboard DAC (see Naim’s Uniti products or the Matrix Audio Element series). Meanwhile, Eversolo joins brands like Cambridge Audio and Korean firm HiFi Rose (with which it also shares visual similarities) in bringing us robust connectivity for both digital ins AND outs, along with the expected analog outputs. As mentioned previously, this allows one to use the DMP-A6 as a main source and later upgrade to a better DAC when budget allows, whilst retaining Eversolo’s well-executed streaming platform.

    I tested this aspect by using the DMP-A6 as transport to feed a Musician Audio Aquarius R2R DAC (US$3199). For those unfamiliar, Musician is a sister brand to Denafrips, designed by the same team and built in the same factory. My biggest focus here was pure sound quality, which of course stands on its own however good or bad the interface and functionality of the transport might be. That also meant confirming the correct sample rates were being fed via digital outputs regardless of our choice in streaming service. The Aquarius DAC answered both questions by providing LED sample rate indicators as well as being fairly sensitive to transport quality. While not the most picky DAC I’ve ever encountered, it will certainly let you know if your transport isn’t up to snuff, and will correspondingly scale up when fed with a quality signal. Amplification once again came by way of the matching Andromeda and Cen.Grand Little Silver Fox headphone amplifiers. Headphones ranged from the earlier trio of LCD-5, Caldera, and Atrium Closed, to custom in-ear monitors like the 64 Audio A18t and Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered.

    The Eversolo performed skillfully as a transport using either coaxial or optical connections. It displayed the usual traits I associate with that task being expertly handled – convincing transient snap, precision imaging, impressive dynamic contrast, and a spacious soundstage. Despite the Eversolo being the least expensive component in the chain by a considerable margin, it never felt like a weak link. Switching to USB did make a noteworthy improvement in tonal density and dynamic scale, and I would thus choose that option ten times out of ten. That said, my experience is that the Aquarius DAC almost always performs better via USB than SPDIF, so I can’t say how much of this improvement lies with the Eversolo versus the DAC itself.

    Comparing the Eversolo to my usual Stack Audio Link II with upgraded VOLT PSU (US$1355) had both transport solutions performing on a similar level. Both were very sonically pleasing and for the bulk of my listening endeavors, I could not reliably tell them apart. There were times when the Stack Audio transport made the system feel a bit richer and more full-bodied, but it was fleeting and inconsistent. Only when playing reference quality material using my most resolving headphones did I recognize the improved solidity as a more palpable, reliable trait. In my view the Stack Audio Link II remains among the best transports available with anything like a “sane” price tag, so for the DMP-A6 to trail it this closely is a big win. And keep in mind the Stack unit is an extremely focused device with just a single output, no display, no app support, etc. To put it another way – despite the very minor improvements it brought, under very specific situations, I would still gladly continue using the Eversolo as transport in a high-end rig with no worries about compromised performance. And in fact, I’ve been doing just that for months now, pairing it with such devices as the Cen.Grand DSDAC1.0 Deluxe (US$6219), the Cayin CS100DAC (US$3399), and the Wyred4Sound Anniversary DAC (US$4499). In all cases, the Eversolo performs at such a high level that I haven’t felt tempted to break out any of my more costly streamers.

    Odds and Ends
    One unique benefit of the DMP-A6 is the fact that it offers an HDMI output. While we do see more and more transports using HDMI as a “container” to carry I2S signals which certain DACs are capable of recognizing, that’s not the case here. Instead, the device uses the traditional HDMI format which makes it compatible with things like home theater receivers and processors. What makes this situation unique is that the DMP-A6 can handle multi-channel DSD over HDMI, and can even do so via Roon. This allows for the best possible quality during the playback of ripped multi-channel SACDs. I’ve seen folks searching for these capabilities for years and while it is without a doubt a rather niche situation, I’m glad there’s finally a product out there which delivers. Unfortunately, my Anthem processor is quite clear about converting incoming DSD to PCM so I am not able to fully take advantage of this feature – and I don’t do multichannel music so I wouldn’t really have a reference point anyway.

    Speaking of not taking full advantage – I currently subscribe to Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, and Apple Music. The DMP-A6 performs flawlessly with each of them, with support for gapless playback as well as bit-perfect output of native sample rates. In the interest of being thorough, I signed up for Amazon Music HD, only to learn that it is not perfectly supported at this time. Though comparatively a bit slow/clunky to navigate, it does work well enough in general and even supports gapless playback. But there appears to be some forced resampling shenanigans taking place where everything gets converted to 192KHz regardless of the native sample rate. Several people have told me their DMP-A6 does in fact give the proper sample rate with Amazon Music HD but despite trying every setting available, I continue to be locked at 192KHz. Either way, Eversolo tells me they are working with Amazon to get native app support, so the experience should hopefully soon be on the same level as Tidal and the rest.

    Lastly, I should mention the existence of the DMP-A6 Master Edition which is a limited edition, factory upgraded version selling for US$1299. That’s a difference of US$400 and it gets us upgraded opamps, “femto” level clocking, and a subtle bit of bling in the form of gold accents on the front panel. I have no experience with the Master version so am left guessing as to the degree of improvement it may offer. Given the explosive popularity the DMP-A6 has enjoyed I would not be shocked to see it becoming something of a baseline from which multiple versions end up launching. I could see the company doing a transport version with only digital outputs, or a budget “lite” model with simplified features for a lower price, or even an expanded offering with an integrated headphone amplifier on board. The enclosure itself looks roomy enough to accommodate all sorts of changes, and Eversolo/Zidoo seems very keen on giving users what they want, so none of this would surprise me.

    After spending several months with the Eversolo DMP-A6, I can absolutely see why it’s become one of the hottest hi-fi products of the year. In my view, the success lies not with its D/A conversion abilities (though that aspect certainly is formidable) but rather in the unique software experience, combined with the highly capable hardware platform and comparably reasonable price. While there are plenty of devices out there which accomplish (most of) the same tasks (on paper) I have yet to experience one that nails everything quite like Eversolo does.

    As a headphone user, a large, attractive, and easy-to-use touchscreen really takes the playback experience to another level. I’m not sure how much that will translate for the loudspeaker listener who sits across the room, but for me (and those like me) the DMP-A6 is a joy to work with. It offers everything I could possibly want in a device like this – and plenty more that I didn’t know I needed – whilst leaving room to grow by adding a high-end outboard DAC when budget allows. Bottom line: I anticipate quite a few “product of the year” awards when 2023 is all said and done.

    Further information: Eversolo

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    Written by John Grandberg

    John Grandberg is a US-based audio journalist who has been immersed in the scene for over a decade. A recovering percussionist, he has a particular affinity for headphones and associated gear.

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