SilverStone EB01-E DAC EB03

Silverstone Ensemble Series: EB01-E DAC and EB03 Headphone Amplifier Review

Price / Where to Buy:

US – Approx. US $199 each

SilverStone EB01-E Aluminum 24-Bit/192kHz USB DAC

SilverStone EB-03 Premium Aluminum Headphone Amplifier

SilverStone Ensemble 01

Need to upgrade your computer’s audio to having an audiophile level output? Although motherboard makers have been improving the audio processors in motherboards, this is still far from real audiophile level hardware. Even soundcards that produce a seemingly good quality audio output isn’t considered audiophile grade yet. With that in mind, there are dedicated digital to analog converters and premium headphone amplifiers for desktops and Silverstone Technology got some for you with their Ensemble Series. Read on as we check out the Silverstone EB01-E Digital Analog Converter and EB03 Headphone Amplifier.

Features

EB01-E Digital Analog Converter

  • High quality DAC with improved performance
  • Classic SilverStone Ensemble exterior design
  • Easy one touch button for USB, optical or coaxial input
  • Supports highest format of up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • Utilizes premium XMOS XS1 TQ128 USB decoder for accurate sound reproduction
  • Includes TI PCM1798 D/A converter for producing high quality analog signal
  • Includes TI NE5532 OP amp for optimal analog output

For audiophiles with good sound system and sizable digital music collections, the need for a device that can reproduce genuine sound is critical. After a short and successful launch of its first audio product, the Ensemble EB01 in 2006, SilverStone is back with another USB DAC that is better in every way. To fully satisfy computer users with affinity for higher quality sounds, the EB01-E is equipped with the ability to resolve signal rates of up to 24bit/192 kHz thanks to its inclusion of TI’s PCM1798 DAC chipset.

Complementing it are XMOS XS1 TQ128 USB decoder, which supports asynchronous throughput for accurate sound reproduction and TI’s NE5532 OP amp for connection to a power amplifier via integrated RCA output. With three methods of digital inputs via USB, Toslink optical, or RCA coaxial connection, the EB01-E is an excellent device for not only computer audiophiles, but also audiophiles with standalone CD players or other digital audio sources.

EB03 Headphone Amplifier

  • Premium amplifier designed to deliver full sound to headphones
  • Classic SilverStone Ensemble exterior design
  • Extra RCA bypass connection included for easy pairing with additional device
  • Studio-quality IC with THAT 1646W16-U & 1512S14-U
  • Independent volume control knob

For audiophiles, getting the most out of their high-end headphones is more than just about getting the best source or music format. High-end headphones often have higher resistance so if the equipment connected to them are subpar, the sound quality will suffer. With the Ensemble EB03, SilverStone aims to provide the power and quality necessary to unleash the full potential of headphones. EB03’s excellent sound amplification is produced by its internal studio-quality IC (integrated circuit) with premium Op-amp, current buffer, and enhanced power delivery. For discerning users, it also has an extra bypass connection for use with an additional amplifier or receiver. Finished with classic aluminum design that defines SilverStone’s longstanding tradition of excellent metal works, the EB03 is the perfect companion to high quality headphones. Besides using the EB03 on its own, users may also pair it with SilverStone’s own similarly styled EB01-E DAC to create a great looking, and sounding computer audio system!

Specifications

EB01-E DAC

  • Model No.: SST-EB01B-E (black) / SST-EB01S-E (silver)
  • Color: Black or silver
  • Material: Aluminum & steel chassis
  • Input: Asynchronous USB, optical, coaxial
  • Output: RCA
  • Sampling resolution: 16~24 Bit
  • SAMPLING RATE(FS): 32~ 192 kHz
  • USB Decoder: XMOS XS1 TQ128
  • D/A Converter: TI PCM1798
  • OP Amp: TI NE5532
  • Operating system support: Windows XP, 7, 8, MAC OS

EB03 Headphone Amplifier

  • Model No.: SST-EB03B (black) / SST-EB03S (silver)
  • Color: Black or silver
  • Material: Aluminum & steel chassis
  • Overall dimension: 152mm (W) x 82mm (H) x 176mm (D)
  • Dimension without knob, connectors, and feet: 152mm (W) x 55mm (H) x 156mm (D)
  • Input: RCA
  • Output: φ6.3mm stereo jack, RCA connector (bypass)
  • IC: THAT 1646W 16-U & 1512S14-U
  • Headphone resistance: 16-600 ohm

Packaging

Silverstone Ensemble Series

Both the EB01-E DAC and EB03 headphone amplifier come in a similar packaging.

Silverstone Ensemble Series

The EB01-E DAC comes with a manual, driver CD installer, USB connector and a female stereo jack to male RCA.

Silverstone Ensemble Series

The EB03 headphone amplifier on the other hand got a set of standard stereo jack connectors, RCA connector, manual and a 110v-220v adapter for power.

The EB01-E DAC

The Silverstone EB01-E DAC has a solid aluminum casing with two blue LED power and play indicators in the front. All the input and output sockets are at the rear of the EB01-E. It has a set of aluminum feet as well with rubber pads for a firm grip on any surface. The EB01-E DAC comes in two colors, silver and black.

The EB03 Headphone Amplifier

The EB03 has a similar casing to match the EB01-E Digital Analog Converter but is slightly larger and has a volume knob on the top which gives you the idea that this goes on top when you pair it with the EB01-E. Most of the input and output sockets are at the rear of the EB01-E with the exception of the 6.3mm stereo jack socket in the front.

Inside Look

Let us take a look at inside the EB01-E and EB03 and take a peek at the components and how well these are soldered.

Silverstone Ensemble Series

Here’s a look at the EB01-E and the premium XMOS XS1 TQ128 USB decoder Silverstone used for this DAC. Other brands that make audiophile hardware using XMOS chips include Astell & Kern and Cambridge Audio.

Silverstone Ensemble Series

 

Moving on to the EB03, you can see the THAT ICs used on this board which features stable driving long cable and capacitive loads with low distortion of 0.0007% @ 1kHz. You can check out the product sheet of the THAT 1646W 16-U & 1512S14-U IC here.

Testing and Subjective Listening

SilverStone EB01-E DAC EB03SilverStone EB01-E DAC EB03

We paired the EB01-E DAC and the EB03 Headphone Amplifier together and installed it in a desktop PC setup with the following specifications below:

  • Processor: Intel i5-4670K
  • Motherboard: MSI Z97 Gaming 5
  • Memory: Kingston HyperX Beast 8X2 2400Mhz
  • Boot Drive: Patriot Ignite M.2 480GB SSD
  • Graphics Card: Gigabyte GTX 770 OC
  • Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA P2 1200
  • Cooling: Custom Watercooling
  • Audio: Silverstone EB01-E DAC / Silverstone EB03 Headphone Amplifier

Preferences and hearing are both very subjective. However, differences between the output of the DAC and amplifier combo versus the on-board audio processor in typical desktop computers, smartphones and laptops are actually quite significant and if you have very keen ears tuned to audiophile-grade audio equipment, it would be like comparing SSD performance with hard disk drive performance. While some would argue there isn’t really much importance to having near-perfection audio quality when it comes to gaming, there’s still a significant portion of users today that desire such quality audio for gaming and audio listening.

I used a combination of different audio gears for this review including an Audio Technica ATH-PRO500MK headphones, Sennheiser PC 363D gaming headset, DUNU DN-2000 in-ear monitors, SoundMagic E80S in-ear earphones and an Altec Lansing 2.1 multimedia speaker to cover all possible audio equipment gamers typically use today. In all accounts, the Silvestone DAC and amplifier combination is significantly superior. Difference can be more pronounced when listening to lossless audio. The EB01-E DAC and EB03 combination has a much cleaner audio output with no audio static noise thus implying good shielding within the components. Static noise is a hissing sound caused by interference between components in an electronically produced sound. This is quite common with typical desktop on-board audio particularly if you max out the volume and play nothing. With good audio equipment, this should be non-existent and with the Silverstone EB01-E DAC and the EB03 Headphone Amplifier, it sure is not present.

Moving on with the lows, the bass is tighter with the EB01-E and EB03 combo. The lows are really more pronounced compared to a typical desktop setup or even compared to an iPhone 6 which is known to have a good audio processor.

Conclusion

There is a significant portion of the gaming community that aren’t satisfied with what typical desktop PCs offer in terms of audio quality. While some would go with soundcards to improve sound quality up a notch, dedicated digital analog converters paired with a premium headphone amplifier is totally on a different level and simply unbeatable. However, opting for this audio solution would dent your wallet a bit even though the Silverstone EB01-E and EB03 would be considered entry-level gears for an average audiophile.

Performance. The Silverstone Ensemble Series combo offers quality audio more than what the average gamers need. If you happen to be a gamer and audiophile in one, you’ll find the performance of the EB01-E and EB-03 up to par with entry-level audiophile gears which is way superior to on-board audio processors in motherboards today and even to most ‘gaming’ grade sound cards.

Build Quality. Silverstone’s premium products like the RAVEN series cases are synonymous to good build quality and the Ensemble Series EB01-E and EB-03 is no exception.

Functionality. This is outside the typical gamer’s PC setup and would be more of a luxury to have. Plus, if you are a dedicated FPS or MOBA player that uses a headset for communication or even a 7.1 surround sound headset with a USB plug, this obviously doesn’t apply. You’d have a hard time setting up your communication device. This would go best with other PC users that desire good sound quality when listening to lossless audio in their PCs.

Bundle. Silverstone packed the EB01-E and EB-03 with all the accessories you need to make them work or even to pair with other with another DAC or headphone amplifier from somewhere else. But given the price which is twice the price of Schitt’s Magni 2 and Modi 2 combo, Silverstone could have added a more premium quality RCA cable to go along with it.

Value. Looking at the value of the Silverstone EB01-E DAC and EB-03 Headphone Amplifier and comparing it to a typical gaming rig, having it is really more of a luxury than a necessity. Although it offers better quality audio compared to what motherboard audio processors and even most sound cards offer, its doesn’t offer 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound which some gamers particular want for gaming advantage. For gamer-audiophiles, the Ensemble Series would have more value to you.

Price / Where to Buy:

US – Approx. US $199 each

SilverStone EB01-E Aluminum 24-Bit/192kHz USB DAC

SilverStone EB-03 Premium Aluminum Headphone Amplifier

Silverstone gives a 1 year limited warranty on their Ensemble Series. We give it our B2G Silver Award!

B2G_Silver