Hq9038 Tube DAC digital to analogue converter

Hq-Audio is proud to announce the latest addition to our level ES9038PRO series with the new Hq-9038 Tube DAC. 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.


HQ9038 Tube DAC features include

  • ES9038PRO chip.
  • CRYSTEK CCHD-575 Ultra-Low Phase Noise Oscillator.
  • All Low Noise LT3042 for DAC.
  • Controle Volume and Remote.
  • New 12AU7 & 6DJ8 Balanced i/V.
  • New HQ-HV dual Power Supply.
  • Hq- Transformers.
  • Power Supply Board For Music Server.
  • Raspberry Pi 3 Music Server.
  • RCA SPDIF input.
  • Toslink input.
  • Neutrik AES/XLR input.
  • Amanero USB Module.
  • USB Input Cable.
  • Assembled (Finished Product).

Our brief was to build on our current DAC expertise and develop one of the finest digital to analog converters on the market today. We leveraged our Mentor shunt power supply technology and combined that with a film capacitor architecture dedicated to delivering unparalleled performance.

The dynamics, the smoothness, the end result - a staggering experience for the modern audiophile and a chance to re-experience their entire digital collection.

  Pictured: Hq9038 Tube Dac digital board with the regulation board behind, I/V transformers & the line board  

Hq9038 Tube Dac architecture

1. All new digital DAC board using 7 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 Tube board.

3. Analog output stage incorporating a 12AU7 & 6DJ8 zero feedback  configuration with both single ended output using RCA connectors and true balanced output using XLR connectors.

4. Beautiful remote control in casted Aluminum.

5. Music server using 1.2GHz quad core CPU in a Raspberry Pi 3 setup.  The Server runs Linux operation system.


HV Dual Power Supply for Tube i/V

The Power supply for the Audio system is very important as the power supply factor feeds the whole audio system. Not only that, power is also a key factor in determining the output audio quality. In fact the noise level of a power supply must be designed to minimum noise level. Hq-Audio has succeeded in using and designing voltage sources for audio systems such as Pre-amps, Phono-amps, DAC and Power Amplifiers. The Hq9038-HV regulator is a dedicated high voltage regulator designed for Tube preamplifiers with the following features.


Pure Tube i/V Output

The HQ9038-Tube DAC has an Analouge output design that surpasses all earlier designs. The DAC chips balanced outputs are converted to unbalanced using the HQ unique technology, which gives great experiences and creates unbelievably stunning soundstage.

In particular, the output of the DAC has an impedance of less than 100 Ohm and 3VRMS. Which makes it ideal for connecting the ES9038PRO to the power amplifier without the need of a pre-amplifier. In addition, the high-voltage supply for the Tubes in the analouge output is optimized using Mosfets with very low internal resistance and a noise level of 1 uV. The high- voltage supply are equipped with high end components including several non-polarized MKP capacitors to provide crystal clear sound, increased dynamic and create deep and wide sound stage.


Music Server in HQ-9038 Tube Dac 

DAC integrates a Raspberry Pi3 to be the dedicated Music Server. It take advantage of the endless digital music sources, especially the DSD64 format are very close to the sound of the SA-CD. The time for using bundles of expensive CDs and SA-CDs is over.

This Music Server will give you choose High resolution audio files. Actually, the DAC plays all formats of digital music file.

HQ Audio has selected the Raspberry Pi3 for music server, as this piece of a small computer can be setup as a Music source that plays with an immersive listening experience. that HQ Audio appreciate and admired for playing music better than a most then most of computers used as Music server


Finished Product
You can order the HQ-9038 Tube Dac 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-9038 Tube Dac 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.


Back to disconnected USB fi—sans Internet connection to not combat intrinsic router noise—HQ's Amanero module registered as 384kHz compliant on the iMac. Logically, integer upsampling to 352.8kHz in PureMusic's 64-bit software showed as such on the display even if '352' blinked like a steady heartbeat which it did not at 44.1kHz (this reportedly is fixed already with a software revision). Because with our speakers and cabling the tubes+classD marriage was such a happy affair, I ran with that for the duration. Obviously it downplayed the two-stage tube voicing. Another listener might want it maximized. That's a personal call. My combined ideal results netted very capacious staging in both the left/right and front/back axes, complete bandwidth without spot-lit zones and fully convincing tone which didn't eat into fine micro detail. At this stage of finalizing my thoughts, an email arrived. "Greetings from Hindustan. I still continue my search for a suitable DAC. And I just came across your review of the Metrum Onyx ( actually the Jade), something in my price bracket! You seemed to like it a lot without exactly being over the moon as you were with the Denafrips. And yes, it is less than half the price. The only "negative"—which is a matter of perspective and partnering equipment—I could elicit from your review was your comment that it was leaner than your top units. So I just needed to know from you if this would be a deal breaker for the likes of Rethm. We used an excellent delta-sigma DAC from LinnenberG at the DC show two weeks ago and the Aqua LaScala at the NYC show last week. I preferred the LaScala because I fancy R2R but both are out of my price range."

That was Jacob George of Rethm. With his stated preferences and wallet power, I pegged him an ideal candidate for today's machine. For his very quick widebander speakers whose voicing emphasizes very open-throated immediacy, Jacob has always preferred valve amplification. By working slightly deeper in that sector than the LaScala, the HQ9038 (which incidentally runs the same converter chips as the LinnenberG) should fit perfectly. By now the triangulating reader has determined whether he or she would follow suit. Even without the Raspberry Pi, this machine would be a lovely value. With it, the network-savvy PCfi user reaps unexpected functionality. Meanwhile those without use for it aren't financially penalized when one such module sells for all of $35. Building it in becomes the proverbial full-size spare tyre in a car. When suddenly you do need it, it saves your day in a big way.

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PS: As it turned out, this story was far from over. Taking my findings under advisement, team hq audio felt that they could do even better and decided to retune their voicing. "We are planning to send an updated DAC back to you. Our plan is that this will primarily be updated to have an even more neutral sound, higher detail and a more controlled size of the images than what you tested. The updated DAC will also have the newest software installed which fixes the 352kHz blinking and adds the display on/off function." Stay tuned then for the real conclusion to these exciting developments. WIth hq audio in end-run mode, I asked whether wiring the Raspberry module internally to the selector switch to add a 'server' input wouldn't be preferable to having to use the external USB input as in my first loaner. If changed, one could then connect a standard PC/Mac to the USB input and run Ethernet or external SSD/HHD sources in parallel without having to reseat a single USB cable. "That sounds like a good idea and we will evaluate your suggestion."

Srajan Ebaen



Output Tubes: 2pcs. 12AU7 Electro Harmonix, 2pcs. 6DJ8
Audio Outpust:Audio Outputs: 1pcs. Single ended RCA, 1pcs. Balanced XLR.
Output Levels: 3.0V RMS fixed, 6.0V RMS Balanced.
Total Harmonic Distortion:  <0.015%

Digital Inputs: Amanero USB SPDIF RCA, XLR digital. 
Input Format Support: PCM to DSD512
Music Server software: Moodaudio, Runeaudio, Volumio, PiCorePlayer.                        

Wifi – Ethernet: 802.11 b/g/n Wireless LAN.

USB: 4 x USB 2.0 ports.
Mains Power:  220-230V, 50/60Hz
1 Power Consumption:  <100W


Dimensions: 90 x 430 x 350mm

(H x W x D)
Weight: 13.5 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



Hq9038 Tube DAC



Flagship Ship DAC
Factory assembled


The Hq9038 Tube Dac is now available as a Finished Product or in DIY form. Download the new construction manual here.


Thong ke