hello again everyone :)
so, i got me an x-sabre some time back, and now i feel i spent sufficient time with it to write a few words.
i will update when i run the stagedac side-by-side, this is all out of memory.
so, my setup is:
generic usb cable (i have a fancy one on order, will be here when i do the comparison with the stagedac)
kimber hero interconnects
meier corda classic
HD800 (original cable) - i will be writing more in march when i get a black dragon for them
i've also heard electrostatic headphones, LCD 2 and 3, no LCDX yet, the tesla t1, and some very nice speaker setups (the best i heard were the focal utopia, the big boys, my god my god..) - though i did not spend that much time with them, and, not on my music.
i also like to go to listen to the orchestra in my home town, and since they performed unamped (thank good!) i have an idea of how instruments should sound.
this is not to show off, just to let you know what my references are.
so here we go:
x-sabre is warm sounding. much warmer than the stagedac (i can listen without low freq boost on the amp)
now do not think of it as overly warm. my stagedac was cold in comparison to what i heard, so the x-sabre is just slightly warm.
x-sabre is much more laid back.
i'm going to elaborate a bit here. because to me this is important.
so, ACDC thunderstruck. very involving stuff. not so on the x-sabre. i can hear all the details. everything has it's place in the soundstage. nothing jumps out at you. that is a good thing especially for my hd 800. but it just does not have the same drive. for example, in the last half of the song, there is guitar going on on the right channel. with the sabre it's there, in the background. i can hear it. it is fast, detailed, but kind of distant. with the meier dac, that thing would have been all like "i'm here, i'm here, listen, listen!". this is good on one side, because i find this song less fatiguing, but the song does not grab you like it should. this is not to be mistaken for lack of resolution, or, i read this somewhere, the inability of the x-sabre to extract micro detailes. it can do that, just does not shove them in your face. this is also evident on vocals, if the recording lets you hear the lips of the singer opening as he/she takes a breath before singing. on the stagedac that would grab your attention, it would have higher volume, and seem closer to you. on the saber, it happens, but somehow distant, at lower volume (so, maybe less dynamics with these lower volume events). again, not to say the x-sabre does not have dynamics, or is flat sounding. far from it. i must also note that i find the stagedac a bit exaggerated with details. it seems more mechanical, like it's trying too hard.
something else that was mentioned by someone in this thread. cymbals on the x-sabre. is it just me, or do they have a bit too much warmth to them? there is no glimmer in the highs. not as extended. it's more like a "swoosh". there isn't enough metal there.. can get dull with metal music, but again, contributes to the laid back-ness of the dac, making it non fatiguing (this is one of the aspects that i hope the usb cable i have on order will fix - if you believe in this sort of thing - more extension in the highs).
another thing, the bass. while powerful, and controlled, there is something off.. well, i listen to a lot of pink floyd. i like the bass guitar very much in all tracks. with the sabre, while the presence is undeniably better than the stagedac, i feel it is a bit harder for me to distinguish between all the bass instruments that happen at the same time. don't know how to describe it.. like the pitch of things isn't that clear so it's hard to say what is what.. texture is not that good i think. the bass is controlled, the soundstage does not cave in. it's just not as easy as it was to identify the instruments. i did however notice that this went away the longer i used the dac, so it might better itself further. though right now i do have more than 100 hours of play time on it...
like the review at the beginning of the thread says, soundstage. wider, deeper, and more precise than with my stagedac. i am a detail and soundstage freak (hence the HD800) but the soundstage simply wonderful, whereas i could wish just a bit more details (say it's a 90% of what i would want right now). the extra details would also bring a bit more focus to the stage.
voices. the fact that the DAC is warm, makes male vocals strong. female vocals just float about, in an effortless way, so relaxing, with no bite to them. i have no complaints with voices. spot on for me :)
must also write something about DSD tracks. i use to listen to them converted to PCM, 88.2. on the x-sabre via DoP they sound amazing. so much information. i can hear so many details in the music, even imperfections of the recordings. pink floyd dark side of the moon is just incredible!
on to something i noticed, and would like to ask of all the x-sabre owners out there to try. i'm not going to tell my opinion just now, so as not to influence. do you spot any difference between the recommended asio setup (with the ASIO driver), and WASAPI event output?
thanks for reading.
let me know if this is useful, and will write a follow-up when the usb cable gets here. i will do a side-by-side with the stagedac then.