Practical-experiences using the UHD2000 compared to Z9S+USB-DAC

Discussion in 'HDD Media player(RTD 1296)' started by Nice Monkey, Jun 16, 2020.

  1. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    This is a practical review of the new UHD2000 comparing it with my trusty Z9S.
    In fact a friend was so nice to lend his player to me for this purpose. It is not owned by me so future testing will not be possible by myself.

    My use of colors:
    - Action Point (my to do list)
    - Positive market differentiator
    - Inconvenience open for improvement
    - Caveat or serious shortcoming to be fixed

    It builds on top of my review for the Z9S to be found here:
    For comparison the same FW v2.3.35 was used on both models. As soon as new stable FW is released by Zidoo for both models also the above experiences will be updated again to actualize it.
    I probably will integrate the total as a final total review for UHD2000 here. Made some space reservation for that reason as there are size restrictions per reply on this forum.

    Being positioned as a HiFi player special attention will be given to the audio aspects. These will be practical compared with using my USB External DAC together with my Z9S. Both use the same Sabre ES9038 chip plus XMOS as the basis.
    A full recently updated review of that setup can be found there.

    The HW-box connectivity and specifications:
    The UHD2000 in contrary to the base model Z9S is a Full-Size HiFi component fitting nicely in a 42cm wide rack with units of other brands. It is only available in black as used by many brands of Audio/Video equipment. There are many reviews available detailed with pictures of it so I am not going to redo that here.
    -It looks and feels like a very solid unit with Dual HDD bays and a central front display also including 2x USB2 ports and a power switch. The total is covered with a flap.
    - The nice display with many icons is of high quality and big enough to be read at my viewing distance. Unfortunately the window in the mentioned flap uses a dark filter degrading the quality and brightness of the display a lot. Looks great with the flap down but once up most of the quality aspects are lost. Putting the display to low makes it almost totally invisible which is a shame. I suggest Zidoo to modify the flap with a quality transparent cover.
    - It also has both an UB3c and a standard USB3 port on the back, next to Audio RCA/XLR, Dual HDMI OUT, HDMI IN and SPDIF connectors. Overall it results in perfect connectivity. It really is all there.
    - Mainboard specs are high end too with 32 G FLASH, 4G RAM and Dual Band Wi-Fi with detachable antennas.
    - It is fast enough to boot (35 - 45 sec range) connected either via external SATA or via USB. Add 10 - 20 secs for detection of every additional HDD. Strange enough it takes a few seconds longer to boot than my Z9S?
    - HDMI-CEC is supported and has no negative side-effects. It also switches my setup to the designated HDMI port when powered on. Actual functionality will vary per setup and actual use but the basis is correct just like for Z9S.
    - There is a serious problem though with detecting my 2.5 inch drive powered by USB used for music. It mostly is NOT found at power-on and it may take several plugs/unplugs to get it finally going. That same drive works perfectly with my Z9S which is strange as both are running at the same FW level. A slight difference in mainboard design (powering ports up)?
    - With the box comes no printed/online manual just a quick setup folder. I even needed to add the limited setup assistant in the Help APP myself by copying it from my Z9S. Why is not included anymore? In fact with complex new features in HT3 and MP5 the need for a good manual is higher than ever before.
    - It comes with the excellent BT V8 remote. I like BT a lot more than IR and it has also some more programmable IR keys. This remote is really excellent, but would have liked it even more including a real pointer mouse function and not including just a cursor mouse feature. That mouse feature in fact is a bit hidden amongst the other special function keys.
    - There are many other ways to control the media players remotely: Webinterface, Zidoo Controller APP, Control4 and even a RS232 port plus Trigger port for control too.
    - The UHD2000 will also formally support an external ROM Drive via USB. It worked functionally for playing music MP3/FLAC, DVD and BD with a good user interface. Playing DVD/BD works well once going but Menu processing if selected is terribly slow. It also includes a CD-Ripper APP for this model more about that APP later.

    The chassis heat/noise and HDD bays
    One of the main features next to the HiFi Audio Panel are the inclusion of Dual HDD bays. Essential for a HiFi unit is that it cools adequately paired with absolute silent running. During low volume passages of music listeners don't want to hear any disturbing sounds made by either the drives or fan. This is a real challenge for the UHD2000 design as it just uses a very small fan to extract the air from the unit positioned at the back. My personal experience is the smaller the fan the nastier is the noise they typically make. The UHD2000 is no exception here just as I have seen with many STB's and Media Players. Tried different things myself like using Ultra Low Noise fans and rubber mounts resulting in some improvement.
    - The fan can be used in Auto or any of 3 manual positions Low/Medium High. The noise level at low is almost inaudible, (mildly) disturbing at medium and very loud at high. The most popular deployment is probably populating the bays with 2 big 3.5 inch HDD's. So tested this first.
    -The HDD bays include Quick Loading Handles which works perfectly in practice. HDD's can also be ejected and swapped when desired. The Noise of the spinning HDD's is perceived as acceptable. Hint: choose your HDD's on noise and heat produced not on performance for this deployment and use the spin-down timer to reduce heat/noise when not in use.
    - When the FAN is on AUTO the player mostly runs on medium speed with random changes to high speed. This must be temperature controlled but disappointing there is no feature to display that inside temperature measured. For listening to music this mode is regarded unusable by me. The constant changing speed adds to someone's aggravation substantially.
    - Changing manually to medium speed is acceptable noise wise but power hungry HDD's may become quite hot as a consequence. To be precise they may heat up to barely touchable. Using High /Auto speed settings is recommended despite the noise produced with those. A possibility to map manual fan speed control to a colored key or having it with Zidoo Controller could be handy for mixed HDD deployments.
    - For my own deployment I put in a 2.5 HDD using a 3.5 => 2.5 adapter (ICY BOX IB-2535) for playing music with the fan set to low. That combination worked out just fine regarding noise and also the temperature remained well under control. A SSD can be used this way too obviously but that is a lot more expensive per TByte without any real advantages. Using both slots with 2.5 inch HDD's is highly recommended when noise/heat is an element of your considerations.

    With case modding something should be possible to improve noise/heat. A big fan at the bottom (like some Dune had) might improve both a lot, this e.g. combined with noise absorbing (& heat conducting) padding of the interior.

    About the Power Supply Unit (PSU) and power consumed
    UHD2000 comes with an excellent Earthed PSU which is curiously not mentioned at all in the specifications list. I even need to guess it is a 12V 5A Linear PSU. A linear PSU uses a traditional transformer with a rectifier, some big capacitors and stabilizer circuits per voltage/section as needed. Here a quality ring type (toroidal) transformer is used. These are known to produce far less stray-fields and therefore reduces the amount of hum and noise in the output signal as picked up by the analog circuits.
    Using a superior Linear PSU comes also with some other design consequences to be dealt with:
    - It uses roughly 10% of energy when not in use, so an auxiliary small switched mode PSU needed to be added to deal with the standby mode (< 1W). When powered-on a relay switches on the main PSU next. A Sleep mode is therefore not available this in contrary to all other Zidoo models using a switched mode type of PSU.
    - Linear PSU's can't deal with very large voltage ranges (100V-240V) like switched mode PSU's do nicely. So Zidoo also implemented a voltage sensor on the auxiliary standby PSU. Using a second relay this automatically switches the main PSU to 110V and 230V voltage ranges. I have my doubts how safe/stable the auto-voltage sensing/switching is for countries with very bad 230V power provisions. Would modify it to be fixed at 230V myself when living in a region where such a condition applies.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2020
    McBluna likes this.
  2. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Last the power consumed measured by me: Standby is 1.2W, Startup peak 54W with dual HDD, 33W running dual HDD and 18W running without any HDD. No surprises here. For sure all values are higher than with Z9S but who really cares?

    The GUI/Launcher
    High-End Zidoo models come with a different GUI/Launcher on the home menu. Being really graphical with nice backgrounds it looks very fancy and may appeal to many.
    Being more a technical/functional type of guy myself compared also the functionality with the classic GUI/Launcher available on the cheaper models including my Z9S.
    - Less APP choices (only 5) and also less information on the standard main panel. I am dearly missing the Weather App and the configurable Quick Launch bar. Why the Weather App is not added as an add-on instead escapes me. In fact use it configured for multiple countries myself.
    - Mapped Android Setup to a colored button myself. Did the same for Snapshot and HDMI/Analog output swapping
    - Going to all APP's the overview shown won't display the version when pressing MENU (as Z9S does). Regarded by me as essential when reporting problems with version also for Zidoo!

    The SABRE ES9038/XMOS based Audio Panel
    The most likely reason to buy this top model is the inclusion of HiFi Audio by means of the audio panel. This is an excellent DAC with state-of-the-art components above all in combination of the also excellent already detailed Linear PSU. The analog amplifiers for RCA/XLR ports, the DAC chip and crystal oscillator circuitry benefit a lot from a matching quality PSU.

    First the most relevant part "how does it sound?". As already mentioned compared it with my USB External
    SABRE ES9038/XMOS based DAC using a Dual Linear PSU (for Analog /digital sections) and quality components for AMP's and Crystal. In a nutshell I can say based on pure listening that is sounds close to identical for both PCM and DSD output modes. Nothing wrong with its sound using PCM or DSD. It also supports all formats up to DSD256 and PCM 32bit/768khz. Did not find a PCM or DSD track not playing as it should.

    When it comes to practical day to day deployment we need to look at the way both setups are supported by the Zidoo FW. The UHD2000 Internal DAC is supported straight by Music Player 5 next to HDMI output. Any External DAC works via USB and requires installation of a Music Player APP supporting that USB DAC including SACD DSD (ISO, DSF or DFF sources) output. As these Music APP's are all developed with Smart Phones in mind they only can be fully operated using a Pointer Mouse.

    - Using FW v2.3.32 DAC Analog and HDMI Digital output modes can be changed not only via Quick Setup but also be toggled using Zidoo Navigator and/or mapping the HDMI/DAC toggle to one of the colored keys on the remote control. This works quick and easy in practice.
    To change between Multi Channel Home Theater mode and 2CH Stereo DAC mode one just needs to switch source on the AMP and Toggle the output mode for UHD2000 concurrently. The Zidoo FW is smart enough to switch HDMI output from RAW to 2CH when going for DAC output and switch it back again when going for HDMI once more. This way all MCH audio sources are always being downmixed when using DAC analog regardless if the source is Video or Music.
    - The status of HDMI/DAC output is made visible on the Main/Home Page by the display of a DAC ICON. Unfortunately there is no DAC ICON on the front display as might be expected.
    - The DAC Setup has parameters for Source Selection, PCM Filter, Volume and XLR polarity. For an optimal s/n ratio volume is best left at the maximum. XLR ports may be useful straight with some headsets as it gives reasonable power (4V max).
    - What I am missing is a setting for DSD Filter which is a simple analog filter with various high limits as a choice. My external USB DAC includes it and should be easy to add this.
    - Also missing is the DAC feature to choose for Downmixing 7.1 channels versus Native L+R channels. My external USB DAC does neither includes this feature but it will be appreciated at least by some.
    - As an alternative the excellent HiByMusic APP can be used as it finds also the (USB based) Internal DAC of UHD2000. The also excellent USB Audio Player Pro APP does not work with it as the Internal DAC is not found.
    - Music Player 5 also plays MCH SACD ISO's flawless combined with DAC output (The 2CH track only obviously). With HDMI output this does not work without distortions which seems to be due to lack of horsepower required for the DSD to PCM conversion next to ISO extraction and decompressing DST.
    - The Zidoo Controller APP works well to control Music Player 5 album selection and playback with the TV turned off.

    Bottom-line I really like the Audio Panel and prefer using the integrated Audio setup of UHD2000 combined with Music Player 5 above my current setup using my External DAC combined with HiBy Music/USB Audio player Pro. The achieved sound quality is close to identical but offers far more convenient player control and switching between Home Theater and Music modes. Then taking the many current MP5 shortcomings like gapless playback for granted. Also looking at price/performance the choice for UHD2000 is an easy one.

    By the way I highly recommend the excellent Windows XRECODE3 APP for bypassing the most important current MP5 playback shortcomings:
    Gapless playback for live recordings and MCH SACD=>MCH PCM playback.

    This model also includes a CD-Ripper APP to be used to do Digital Audio Extraction (DAE) from an USB Attached CD/DVD/BD-Player. It is extremely simple to use this APP so it makes this feature available also to users with less advanced PC skills/resources.

    What it does is Extracting the Audio Tracks to WAV-type files to a configurable folder/drive. These WAV folders can be played next straight away but most will prefer to compress them to something like FLAC or MP3. Options for this are not included. It creates directories with the Album Title and Tracks named accordingly with/without sequence numbers. There are no other configuration items. Album and Track information is retrieved automatically from an unspecified source. Some remarks here:
    - In fact apples and pears get ripe on the trees but a CD is being ripped (or extracted).
    They don't get any better by aging unfortunately. (=CD-Ri
    - There is an option for adding the
    Sequence Number (it is not a Serial Number)
    The CD's in fact do have a serial number used for identification (so it is confusing).
    It looks that one up (at Gracenote?) to created matching folder + track names.

    Actual ripping did not work with 2 of my 3 CDROM's attached via USB. Tracks were mostly truncated at random lengths using the failing units. There is clearly an incompatibility issue here. Being v1.0.0 that is to be regarded as an initial flaw.

    Final Verdict:
    The UHD2000 is well designed making its claim as HiFi component certainly true. Seen the quality of the general build and excellent DAC plus Linear PSU included there is neither anything wrong with the price/performance ratio. The playback sound it produces can compete with products in far higher price ranges today. For audiophiles it is highly recommended after having a critical look at using the Dual HDD bays regarding heat/noise. Using it with 2.5 inch drives is in my view the only acceptable solution playing music next to keeping them empty going for a NAS setup. For Zidoo there is still considerable work to be done improving Music Player 5 but I am confident this in on their road map.

    When compared with dedicated Music Players from relative expensive brands the HW build is close to a fair match as-is but the software functions, features, friendliness and stability have still a lot of room for improvement. The other side of the coin is that this player already now brings top quality music playback for both PCM and DSD to a new audience at a breakthrough price level.

    Personally I am waiting for the upcoming Zidoo Z model but without that would have been a serious candidate for getting me an UHD2000 myself.

    For those asking themselves now but what about X20 Pro? The answer in a nutshell is: As long as you only play HiFi Audio in PCM format the sound will be close and very subjective to judge. If you also play SACD in native DSD then the story is different as converting DSD to PCM is definitely not the same. If you have a nice collection of SACD's being a classical music or jazz lover then for sure it makes a difference. Not a world of difference but definitely audible.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2020
    McBluna likes this.
  3. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Last edited: Jul 2, 2020
  4. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Reserved space
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2020
  5. mirror

    mirror Well-Known Member SUPER Administrator Zidoo TECH Supporter

    We are developing the seamless playback function of music. When the musics have the same sampling rate, it will play seamlessly. also can be forced conversion of sampling rate to play all music seamlessly
  6. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    That is good news. Will be happy to give it a go. :)

    Any comments on the nasty USB3 connect problem? It is very strange that it behaves so different on these 2 models. I know these 2 models use slightly different mainboards.

    Updated the text on several places mostly on language, typo's and some small corrections/additions. Also my power consumption measurements and not unimportant my final verdict were added. :)

    Come on guys there must be some comment on this? ;)
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2020
  7. paolo65

    paolo65 New Member

    Hi, I share all the above concerning the audio quality of UHD2000. Just one remark. With latest beta firmware, 2.3.32, PCM hi-res files play with right and left channels swapped. DSD native ones are fine. With the last stable firmware, 2.3.10, it was the opposite. DSD native files played with channels swapped, while PCM versions were ok. I've tested WAV and FLAC files (24-192 and 24-176.4).
    Ciao, paolo
  8. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Interesting but also nasty find! Happens only with higher PCM sample rates with DAC output I understand? Or with all PCM? Or with both HDMI and DAC output?

    Frankly tested most with DSD sources as that is the differentiator with Z9S.
    Will wait for a reply to know for conditions to be tested specifically. If confirmed will add it to the review.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2020
  9. paolo65

    paolo65 New Member

    Apparently yes, high rate PCM samples played with the internal DAC and RCA output. I didn't test 16-44 samples. It seems a recurring issue with this type of DAC (9038). Dune Ultra HD shows the same problem, but on DSD samples (like UHD2000 with 2.3.10 firmware). On Dune, I had to revert to an older firmware to get everything (PCM and DSD) right.
    I usually test my DSD needledrops made with KORG DAC-10R, downsampled to 24-176.4 PCM. So it's pretty easy to spot differences in the same song when played through DSD vs PCM format.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2020
  10. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Thanks for confirming. :)
    The fact that Dune got it right at least with some firmware gives hope it can be fixed. :eek:
    Frankly I don't exclude the possibility that it is an XMOS decoding error. I think that chip takes care of unpacking and streaming to the ES9038? :confused:
  11. paolo65

    paolo65 New Member

    Yes, it is probably more an XMOS issue. I remember reading something similar regarding the Khadas Tone Board (same chip). They fixed it almost immediately.
  12. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    My External USB DAC is identical to the one used by Dune but in my case went for the Amanero Chip instead of XMOS.
    So yes I think it is that chip causing it. I hope Zidoo knows how to fix it quick too.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2020
  13. Sampinto89

    Sampinto89 Member

    After reading your review, I just want to say this is the most thorough review of the capabilities of the both the Z9s and UHD2000. My review didn't touch on any of the analog stuff, hard drives, etc. because I have a nas and I use the 2000 for mainly movies and tv shows.

    I think you hit the nail on the head for people who are looking at this and other machines for audio. My only gripe at this point is the lack of subtitle memory; I wish they provided an option to keep the height for srt subs.

    Another thing I just noticed on the new firmware is the resolution being kept as set. Remember my post last time about that? It seems to have been resolved on the current firmware.
  14. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Updated with FW 2.3.35 goodies which remedied for a big part difficult to find Android Setup with the Black GUI by moving all essential items to Quick Setup.
  15. Sampinto89

    Sampinto89 Member

    Do you notice any audio pickups during each episode of a show? It happens once each episode...
  16. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    You need to explain to me what you are referring to in more details. Missing a small part at each new song or audio track is known to happen.
  17. Sampinto89

    Sampinto89 Member

    • Its usually when I play mkv files of tv episodes. There is a slight hiccup and then fine after that.

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