Review: Wolfson WM8740 USB DAC from China

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Unfortunately, high-quality digital-to-analog converters (DACs) can be really expensive for what they do (that is converting digital pulses into analog waveforms). Luckily, eBay is flooded with cheap DACs with bold audiophile claims. But how good are these actually? Let’s find out.

I have recently purchased a Chinese made DAC on eBay for under 50 Euros from seller along1986090 (btw, I highly recommend this guy) with the Wolfson WM8740 chipset and full USB audio support. Not only did it work perfectly right out of the box but the quality is absolutely mind-blowing – not just for the price.

Important 2020 Update: Some of you have alerted me that there were problems with recent editions of this DAC board and from what I can judge based on those pictures you sent me, my version is apparently a different design. Who knows, maybe the developers decided to change the circuit or the layout in the meantime. Although my own board still works great, I’d be cautious with newer (or potentially counterfeit) versions. Nevertheless for the price it’s always going to be good value as you cannot buy much at this price point, especially if you love tinkering with electronics. But if you prefer a ready-made product that just works, luckily there are a number of alternatives on Shenzhenaudio, eBay or Amazon for under 100 Euros including a case. If you want to compare your version of this DAC board with mine, just drop me a note – would be interesting to see how or if they differ in any way.

A reader of my blog has even posted a YouTube video about his experiences and performance with this DAC. As you can see, the WM8740 can also be purchased with a nice aluminum case. Check out his video review here:

Before purchasing this DAC, I drafted my personal requirements.

All I was looking for was a cheap DIY solution to test new loudspeaker setups. In addition, I wanted to be able to use the DAC as an external soundcard for my laptop. I prefer watching movies or listen to some occasional background music without chirping high-frequency noise generated by onboard sound chips.

Here’s what arrived in my mailbox after 2 weeks:

dac1 Figure 1: WM8740 DAC board arrived!

My DAC is powered by the 24 bit/192 kHz Wolfson WM8740 chipset. Audio manufacturers such as Arcam or Cambridge Audio just to name a few are also using the exact same chip in much higher priced products.

The board dimensions are 11.5 x 8.5 cm. It features a height of 2.5 cm. You also need a power supply which is not included with the DAC board itself. The required voltage is 9V AC. Ask the seller for a suitable supply as it tends to be a lot cheaper than purchasing locally outside of Asia.

So what are the obvious downsides?

Unfortunately, its potential is held back a bit by the onboard DIR9001 digital receiver which is only capable of 96 kHz max sampling rates. But nevertheless this should be fine for most people and I personally cannot hear the difference between 96 kHz and 192 kHz anyway (can you?).

USB is also somewhat limited to 16 bit/48 kHz only due to the ageing PCM2704 chipset by Texas Instruments. But as I said, you are going to be fine if you down-sample high-resolution audio with no audible loss. Fortunately, you won’t need any drivers for USB audio. Everything is plug-and-play right out of the box. Windows or Mac computers would recognize this DAC like an external soundcard.

I even tested this little beast with the Apple Camera Connection Kit and a USB hub. I was instantly able to play lossless files from my iPhone. How cool is that?

dac2 Figure 2: USB chipset by Texas Instruments

If you absolutely must have 24 bit audio via USB and don’t mind paying a few extra bucks, you can bypass the limitations of the DAC with an external USB to SP/DIF converter. But from an economic standpoint it makes little sense as this would easily cost more than the DAC itself.

Let’s look at other features of this little DAC board. You also get one coaxial input which is great if you plan to hook up an older CD player or DVD player for improved sound quality. It’s a shame that the Chinese designers did not implement any optical inputs. If this feature is important to you, check out how to get a coaxial to optical converter off eBay or from Amazon.

Update 29, September 2015: Check out my article on how to cheaply retrofit an optical output to this DAC.

Other than that, I must say that the board layout itself is absolutely well executed. The same goes for the parts quality. Even for this low price you get Sanyo OSCON and Nichicon capacitors as standard. After initial inspection, I cannot tell whether the parts are genuine or fake.

The output buffer dual OP amp is installed on a DIP socket for easy removal. You could replace the cheap default choice with another “audiophile” operational amplifier such as the LME49720 or LM4562. This costs you only a few euros and I highly recommend it for slightly improved sound quality.

dac3 Figure 3: Rear view of DAC board

So how does this little gem sound?

Absolutely stunning! I and my friend Alex did a head-to-head comparison with his expensive Marantz SACD player (a 1500 Euro machine) and to our surprise, this Chinese DAC was audibly better than the Marantz’ built-in DAC.

To be fair though, the difference was not night and day and rather subtle. But who would have expected this level of performance from such a low budget module from eBay? The sound is crystal-clear with razor sharp resolution, yet full-bodied with a mellow tone and great dynamics. I also extensively tested the USB input with my music library and I honestly couldn’t find any faults. I haven’t done extensive testing against megabuck DACs but I am pretty sure this little guy can more than hold its own against stiff competition.

So if you are looking for a great DAC and don’t want to spend a fortune, look no further than this Wolfson DAC board. It’s a real giant killer and a downright steal for the price.

I should mention that you are not going to get an enclosure for this but you could install this board inside a CD player or simply drop it into a generic box. Both work equally well.

Updates as of December 20, 2016 Beware of fake boards. I’ve seen a number of them popping up across the internet. On some boards I found no ground plane, fake capacitors and bad soldering joints. Other than that, I still consider this DAC a great value. Updates as of March 9, 2018 You might want to keep a closer look at other Chinese DACs on eBay. New ones featuring the best AKM and ESS chipsets are popping up. Check out my article for more up to date details.

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80 thoughts on “Review: Wolfson WM8740 USB DAC from China”

  1. Pingback: How I Rip CDs to iTunes for Best Sound Quality – Music Server Tips

  2. Please note that following your suggestion, I bought the same DAC from eBay. The problem is that I cannot control the Master Volume from my PC.
    Could you please advise which software you use to control volume?
    Many Thanks

    1. I basically use Foobar for volume control but most of the time I send the DAC output to my STAX SRM T1 amplifier which controls the volume.

      1. Hello,

        After reading your review I purchased one of these and I am really happy with its performance. I was just wondering if changing the op amp makes a real difference and also is there a driver for the USB to allow ASIO in j river? My current system is a Ferrograph F307 amp with Ruark Sabre MK1 speakers and now this DAC. Cheers, Steve.

        1. Hi Steve,

          Yes, the opamp cleans up the midrange and I find it quite noticeable. It costs only 4-5 bucks so worth giving this a try. As for the USB port, this would work without drivers. I think you can get Asio4All working with this DAC in JRiver.

          Regards, Michael

          1. Hi Micheal. Sorry for all of the questions but i was wondering if there is a particular psu you recommend for this dac? Im just using a cheapy 12v 500ma ac ac adaptor. Many thanks. Steve.

          2. Hi Steve, that sounds fine although a linear PSU would theoretically be the best choice. Check out the noise cancellation PSUs from ifi Audio, pretty expensive but their measurements look impressive. You can always return those for a refund if you don’t hear a difference.

          3. Ok i will check the site out many thanks! Can i just ask if the original op amp in your dac was a jrc5532dd or something different? Its just that mine is a jrc5532dd and I read somewhere that they sound very similar to the lm4562. As you can tell i don’t really know alot about op amps. Many thanks again.

          4. Hi Michael, I too have purchased this DAC because of your review. It really does sound very good. I am going to try your suggested opamp. Are there other mods/parts replacements you can recommend to improve things further? I am comfortable working on PCB’s
            Thanks, Larry

          5. Hi Larry,

            You could swap out the WM8740 for the WM8741 if you’re comfortable with desoldering surface mount components. Other than that, I’d tackle the power section – specifically the 3.3V and 5V lines which are too noisy but inherent with the design. offers low noise power kits. This way you’d bring the DAC to reference class level. The PCB design is actually pretty good.

            Regards, Michael

        2. Ok i will check the site out many thanks! Can i just ask if the original op amp in your dac was a jrc5532dd or something different? Its just that mine is a jrc5532dd and I read somewhere that they sound very similar to the lm4562. As you can tell i don’t really know alot about op amps. Many thanks again.

        3. You can get better sound by swapping op amp ic. Do not listen to everyone else’s opinion. You will not agree with them after you have tried the same op amp ic. I’ve tried many and it’s easy to get sharp edges in the sound that irritate your ear! Make up your own opinion. My favorite after trying many is LT1057 op amp ic.

    2. Many dac. uses almost the same usb chip. Main volume does not work on many dac. When using usb. That’s how it’s designed! I dont know why!

  3. So if I connect this via USB, will I get 24-bit 96KHz as shown on the PCB and in the Ebay listing description, or will I get a down sampled 16/48 result? I was thinking of getting a Cambridge Audio DAC Magic Plus to plug into my Synology DS415+ NAS box which supports SACD files amongst other things. However after seeing your recommendation, I am keen to buy this if it offers a similar USB DAC result. I also use foobar by the way.

    1. Unfortunately, this little DAC only does 16/48 max. sample rate through USB because it is using an outdated chipset. But you could hook up an external USB/SPDIF converter via coax that does the trick. I’m not listening to high-res material so I’m fine with the limitations.

      1. Another model I have seen for the same money is here and amongst other things says, “Supports USB 1.1 and USB 2.0; Analog input, stereo output; Analog output: RCA, stereo headset; LPF OPAMP: TI LM4562 x 1; Main OPAMP: TI LM4562 x 1; Digital output:: S / PDIF; Sampling rate: 24 bit / 96kHz (Max.); Power supply: DC 5V (USB powered)”

        Not sure if it (a) works in foobar as an output device and (b) outputs 24/96 via USB.

      2. Thanks for your help which set me on the right path to what I needed. After some research and questions here and elsewhere, I have ordered a bundle consisting of SMSL M8 DAC + SMSL P1 Linear Power Supply + SMSL VA2 Headphone Amp + SMSL W6 OFC Braided RCA Phono cables. The whole lot cost £255 which included a 10% discount. (M8) (P1) (VA2) (W6)

          1. That is good to know and I look forward to your review. My only reservation was the lack of balanced TRS or XLR outputs, but hopefully that will not be an issue for me. However it does have digital I/O but only up to 192KHz and I require correct SACD playback. My next challenge is to find a good pair of headphones, to replace my old and worn out Sony MDR-333 that I bought in early 1991!

          2. I’ve used my new setup quite a lot since my last comment, and yes you are quite right… really is fantastic! My initial concerns about the unbalanced connections, proved to be no problem at all in any way. I’ve been playing a wide selection of music on SACD, DVD-A, Blu Ray, DXD, HD FLAC, Vinyl rips upto DSD128. The only downside is that my old collection of red book CDs now sound horrible in comparison, although a few have surprised me too by sounding way better than before. My monitors are hand made Quested S7 active reference model which are very smooth and revealing, and the ultrasonics extend to 75kHz at -3dB and subsonic down to 30kHz at -3dB without a separate sub speaker, and they deliver approx 400watts RMS, so not too shabby! My headphones are AKG K712 PRO and are in my opinion magnificent. I know it is a cliché but this setup is making music sound fresh, exciting and brand new all over again. Even when I first experienced a good audiophile setup in 1984/5 with a CD player, although it sounded impressive I found it to sound un-musical; with CD we gained clarity and convenience, but lost the organic and natural experience that vinyl or tape (2″ reels) gave us.

  4. What if I need a Toslink input. All the Toslink to RCA converters have their own DAC’s built into them. Then a good DAC like this one can’t be used. They are all very cheap also so I’m leary of buying one and finding the DAC was poor quality. Any suggestions?

  5. What if I need a Toslink input. All the Toslink to RCA converters have their own DAC’s built into them. Then a good DAC like this one can’t be used. They are all very cheap also so I’m leary of buying one and finding the DAC was poor quality. Any suggestions?

    1. Normally, a Toslink to Coax converter should keep the signal in the digital domain with no DAC in the mix so no issue here. Toslink receivers in DACs do the same by simply converting optical pulses into electrical SP/DIF. It may as well be possible to DIY a simple circuit for optical inputs and attach it to the Chinese DAC.

  6. Does anyone know what O AMPS work best on this DAC, for soundstage?

    Anyone with a list of OAMPS that work well to test?


  7. I have this. and I use this without buffer op-amp at all. The sound is a lot better. Does using this DAC without buffer op-amp have consequences?

    1. The WM8740 has the capability to drive a line output directly but it isn’t optimal according to its data sheet. But who cares when it sounds good ;) Just make sure you have negligible DC offset to protect your components downstream.

  8. Hi, I bought one of these, but the sound level is so low, I am maxing the external amp and can still barely hear it. Am I doing something wrong, is there an easy way to boost the line level amp signal, or should I return it?



    1. Sounds like a defective unit to me…output level was high enough on mine to drive a power amp with a passive pot in between. Have you tried swapping the OPAmp? Should sit firmly in its socket. Are you using coax or USB?

  9. Waiting for this dac board to arrive, ordered from Ebay.
    Same selle could also sell a better opamp, psu and wm8751 that my friend will solder.
    About powerfiltering, have no clue how to do it or what to buy.
    Any suggestions how to do a better powerfiltering?

  10. i`m interested in using this dac. can i have a step by step tutorial. I will be using it to connect my old laptop to my yamaha amp

  11. Can please tell me what do you mean by ” But as I said, you are going to be fine if you down-sample high-resolution audio with no audible loss “. Most of my music files on my laptop is 320 kps. Will this board works for me

  12. Your article is very interesting. I’m have already ordered this dac. I am not well.conversant with dacs. How to improve the sound quality of this dac and get the maximum of it

    1. No, unfortunately it is based on an old Texas Instruments chip so no async operation unless you get an off-board USB to SPDIF converter.

  13. Hi one last question.Ihave searched the internet but got no answer.
    If I use a dac with an opamp to connect to line in of my amp can it cause damaged to the input ¿
    as the output is not line level will it cause distortion ¿
    Will it be better to have a line level dac or an opamp¿

    1. Check out the Gustard U12, the M2Tech Hiface or the Breeze Audio units sold on eBay (incredible value)

  14. thanks Michael. The Gustard U12, the M2Tech Hiface or the Breeze Audio units are all dacs, so i can buy one of them directly and connect from laptop to amp without using a USB to SPDIF converter?

    If i understand well Passive attenuator should be used when line out is above normal level that is more than 2volts?

    Are SMSL M8 better than the dacs you mentionned?

    Can i use this passive attenuator

    l know that i asked a lot of question but i wanted to thank you as you really help me

  15. hi
    I have found 9v ac 1 amp adaptor on ebay and aliexpress. Will i be able to use it with this board? If no, anylink where can i have a 9v ac 0.5a adaptor? thanks

  16. Hi,

    I’ve ordered the equivalent dac from the seller mentioned but it seems slightly different from yours on the spec sheet. The problem is that I’m getting random spitting sounds out of the RCA inputs when using a RCA to 3.5mm headphone socket. This is from both my phone and computer using USB in.

    1. Sounds like a defective connection. Try coaxial inputs as well to make sure USB is not the culprit. If the results are the same, play with the RCA connectors. Could be a bad solder joint. Can you upload a picture of the board (top and back side)?

        1. Hmm, can’t spot any faults at first glance. Yes, any RCA cable would do although the impedance isn’t strictly 75 Ohms. But good enough for testing to identify whether the problem is coming from the analog or digital side.

          1. Seems to have been fixed with coaxial input. Registers as digital output on computer but is there any possibility of the output being modified by the motherboard dac?

  17. I just wonder if it is possible to skip the AC power in this. What does the AC even power in this board? I see “+5V, +3V” in the item description which indicates DC, but there is also “+/-10V” which I have no idea what component needs that. My main point is that, I wondering if it is possible to make this board portable in a small case powered by a USB external battery (or maybe devise a plan for internal batteries).

  18. I just wonder if it is possible to skip the AC power in this. What does the AC even power in this board? I see “+5V, +3V” in the item description which indicates DC, but there is also “+/-10V” which I have no idea what component needs that AC power. My main point is that, I wondering if it is possible to make this board portable in a small case powered by a USB external battery (or maybe devise a plan for internal batteries).

  19. Hi there, thanks for a fantastic resource for people like me searching for DACs on a budget.
    I would like to buy one of these WM8740s on ebay, but I’d prefer one in a ready-made box like this (difficult to find time to customise own box sadly):
    As far as I can tell, it uses the same PCB layout, the only differences I can see are the caps (indeed, the description does not list Nichicons etc unlike along1986090’s), some parts are oriented differently, and board doesn’t say ’24 bit’ on it. Many of the
    Would you be concerned about such differences, or would it be likely to sound identical as long as the parts are within spec? Cheers.

    1. Hi Adam,

      Looks like a good find – could be a copy though. Layout is absolutely crucial. The only way to find out is to get the original and compare both…

  20. I have a similar issue as Mark above, in where the output volume is incredibly low. I purchased it from the same retailer you listed above, but the volume is incredibly low and increasing the amplifier volume increases the noise to the point that it is unusable. I am using windows 10 and it automatically installed the DAC drivers, is it because of that? Should i use another software for the driver? Also, what is a good software to control the volume? The one on windows doesn’t allow me to adjust the volume.

  21. Also bought this car,standard sound very good,replaced op amp for op 275 as recommended on sellers site,big improvement,bought a pair of op 134s for another project,i thought I,d give them a whirl with brown dog adapter (I think that’s what it’s called,?)I own a aune t1 with a very good Millard valve in output stage,very happy with sound of this USB DAC until I changed op amps on 8740,the 8740 has now become an extremely good DAC,not that it wasn’t good anyway,am going to sell aune ,PS using 12v AC power supply

    1. Update: After taking Michael’s suggestion on replacing the 5532 opamp with an LM4562, I found improved sound, however, a friend suggested I try a “genuine” 5532 to see if any difference.

      Well – yes the 5532 from Mouser did indeed sound better than the original (probably fake) 5532 as well as sounding better than the LM4562 Michael suggested.

      Wanting to have optical connection to the DAC so I could send a Bit Perfect signal from my PC, I found a good NOS Radio Shack Toslink to Digital Coax converter on E-Bay for cheap! ($5) eBay item number:142126830358. I works great with no sound degradation.

      The same friend that suggested the genuine 5532 opamp suggested I try 2x NE5534AP opamps using a Dual DIP8 to DIP8 Mono Opamp socket adapter. Wow! I thought it sounded great before, but it really opened up with NE5534AP opamps.

      Being happy with DAC, I decided to put it in a case, so I contacted one of the sellers on E-Bay that sells this DAC in a case to see if they would sell the case separately. I found one that would, and I now have a properly cased, sweet sounding DAC that pulls way beyond the dirt cheap cost. Highly recommend this DAC…….


    2. Also had problems with fake op amps from eBay,registered with texas instruments and buy direct from them, lot cheaper, genuine article and good service, hope this helps

      1. have changed my dac board to wm8741from ebay,seems to be a bit more of everything very analog sounding,going to try your suggestion of 5534 op amps,still using opa134,s four of them better than opa2604 that came with board,i hope your suggestion is going to pleasantly surprise me,keep you posted

        1. bought 4 5534s from ti,very good sounding op amps quite suprised given the price, 4 for £3 shipped from the states,very detailed first impressions,as you say better than lm4562 which i,ve also tried,sound characteristic is lean however, my own personal preference is a slightly fuller sound without the loss of detail the 0pa,s134 give me,they,re quite natural and musical,but thanks for tip now i know how they sound can be used in another project,thanks for your blog,good boards though,a proper decent bargain

          1. ps,running the dac output to a little bear valve preamp, upgraded with mullard tubes,peanuts on ebay,to a nad 3020,takes sound to another level,should,nt work but it does,as a friend commented it puts meat on the bones,if you have access to something similar may be an interesting experiment,thanks again,excuse any ropey spelling

  22. I just purchased an equivalent board from the same seller and the board has extremely low volume and distortion in the mid range? The first few seconds after turning it on the board are a little better, afterwards the sound deteriorates in both volume and quality. Any ideas?

    1. What are you using for a power supply. It needs AC AC9-12V input. What is the rest of your system (source, preamp, poweramp). Are you using digital coax in or USB?

  23. Hi all and thanks to the author for this great review.

    I just saw a nice dac with WM8740 chip. It seems to be an upgraded version of the one reviewed here, as it can support 24Bit-192K ,with AD827JN opamp.
    What do you think of this little boy, I would like to read your opinion :)

    Hifi USB PC External Sound Card DAC Decoder USB to Coaxial Optical Output WM8740

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