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Sabre DAC ideal for HD800?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I plan on pairing the Burson Conductor with the DNA Sonett/Sonett 2 (which I hear gives the HD800 a great tubey sound without sounding overly warm or lush). The hard part is deciding whether to order the Conductor with the PCM 1793 chip or the Sabre ESS 9018. My understanding is that the Sabre chip will prove more detailed and punchier all-around, and I'm all for playing to the HD800's analytical strengths, but my biggest fear is that it will cause the harsh treble to come back and override the sound signature of the Sonett/Sonett 2. Any thoughts on how these combinations will play out?

 

Feel free to toss in your recommendations for similar or superior DACs at around the same price range. Thanks!

post #2 of 17

While I haven't heard the Conductor, I'd say go with the most accurate sounding DAC and tube-roll to tweak the sonics. The amp (or headphones) should be used to color the sound, not the DAC (IMO). There should be plenty of flexibility in terms of sound character with the Sonett. You just gotta find the right tubes. This flexibility is one of the advantages of buying a tube amp.

post #3 of 17

May I ask why you are considering the Conductor?  As far as I know the Conductor is a dac/amp, doesn't seem like much point in paying for the amp if you are planning on buying the DNA Sonnett.

 

From my experience I would tend not to go Sabre for the HD800 as the Sabre treble can be a little much, though if you are going to pair it with a tube amp you may find the combination works.

post #4 of 17
I absolutely love my ESS9018 equipped Matrix X-Sabre with my HD800s. I plan to keep it for a very long time. The only other DAC I will even try is the Schiit Yggdrasil, mostly out of respect to Mike's mad DAC skills and Jason's irresistible marketing making it impossible not to try it. I've heard quite a few rigs, but I've never heard a DAC and headphone more perfectly matched. It's hard for me to even describe the combo because dumb words like 'perfect' are the only things that come to mind and that isn't helpful.

As far as amp combinations, I'm not going the tube route. For a while I was pretty against tubes, now I've come back closer to middle ground, but still have no intention of going for one. I used the X-Sabre with the Bryston BHA-1 (slightly bright, aggressive) and HD800 and enjoyed it, despite what some thought of the combination based on their reading about the gear, not listening to it. It was not the most neutral setup, but I've heard the HD800s MUCH brighter since then and it was not pleasant. I'm glad it wasn't something I'd purchased.

My current plan is to stop with the X-Sabre, Headamp GS-X (neutral, good attack, but not aggressive) and HD800s. Again I will probably be too tempted to pass up an audition of the Schiit Ragnarok, but it will be incredibly tough to beat what I heard with the GS-X when I had my endgame setup together at a meet.
post #5 of 17
I'm not sure what the Conductor costs, but I preferred my Master 7 and Lampizator by a considerable margin over the three Sabre's I had (W4S, Anedio D1, EE Minimax) with the HD800. I thought the Anedio had the fewest issues in the upper registers among the sabre implementations I heard and unless you need the amplifier section of the Conductor I'd weigh all other options strongly. The HD800 is a difficult headphone to get right, but is very rewarding when you find that synergy. If the Conductor is in the 2k range I would strongly urge you to look towards an M7, which compared to what I've heard, is truly phenomenal in the 2k bracket.
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Moostrkraaft View Post
 

While I haven't heard the Conductor, I'd say go with the most accurate sounding DAC and tube-roll to tweak the sonics. The amp (or headphones) should be used to color the sound, not the DAC (IMO). There should be plenty of flexibility in terms of sound character with the Sonett. You just gotta find the right tubes. This flexibility is one of the advantages of buying a tube amp.

Makes sense, I'll try to aim for the most neutral DAC I can find. I noticed in your signature that you've a Grace M903 paired with your HD800. This was another combo I was considering, would you mind sharing how that's worked out for you so far? 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stapsy View Post
 

May I ask why you are considering the Conductor?  As far as I know the Conductor is a dac/amp, doesn't seem like much point in paying for the amp if you are planning on buying the DNA Sonnett.

 

From my experience I would tend not to go Sabre for the HD800 as the Sabre treble can be a little much, though if you are going to pair it with a tube amp you may find the combination works.

 

 

I actually went for it because of the all-in-one design. I liked the idea of using it as a standalone piece for my other phones in the event that I prefer its sound signature. You're right though, it is a stretch from a financial perspective. 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Maxvla View Post

I absolutely love my ESS9018 equipped Matrix X-Sabre with my HD800s. I plan to keep it for a very long time. The only other DAC I will even try is the Schiit Yggdrasil, mostly out of respect to Mike's mad DAC skills and Jason's irresistible marketing making it impossible not to try it. I've heard quite a few rigs, but I've never heard a DAC and headphone more perfectly matched. It's hard for me to even describe the combo because dumb words like 'perfect' are the only things that come to mind and that isn't helpful.

As far as amp combinations, I'm not going the tube route. For a while I was pretty against tubes, now I've come back closer to middle ground, but still have no intention of going for one. I used the X-Sabre with the Bryston BHA-1 (slightly bright, aggressive) and HD800 and enjoyed it, despite what some thought of the combination based on their reading about the gear, not listening to it. It was not the most neutral setup, but I've heard the HD800s MUCH brighter since then and it was not pleasant. I'm glad it wasn't something I'd purchased.

My current plan is to stop with the X-Sabre, Headamp GS-X (neutral, good attack, but not aggressive) and HD800s. Again I will probably be too tempted to pass up an audition of the Schiit Ragnarok, but it will be incredibly tough to beat what I heard with the GS-X when I had my endgame setup together at a meet.

 

Thanks for the recommendation! That's one really solid price point too...just for clarification, at the end there, are you referring the original GS-X or the upcoming GS-X MkII?

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by ericfarrell85 View Post

I'm not sure what the Conductor costs, but I preferred my Master 7 and Lampizator by a considerable margin over the three Sabre's I had (W4S, Anedio D1, EE Minimax) with the HD800. I thought the Anedio had the fewest issues in the upper registers among the sabre implementations I heard and unless you need the amplifier section of the Conductor I'd weigh all other options strongly. The HD800 is a difficult headphone to get right, but is very rewarding when you find that synergy. If the Conductor is in the 2k range I would strongly urge you to look towards an M7, which compared to what I've heard, is truly phenomenal in the 2k bracket.

 

Thanks for the recommendation, the Master 7 looks absolutely beautiful :eek: Will look more into it for sure. 

post #7 of 17
GS-X Mk2. Should be done soon! Can't wait to have the trio back together (HD800, X-Sabre, GS-X)
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ericfarrell85 View Post

I'm not sure what the Conductor costs, but I preferred my Master 7 and Lampizator by a considerable margin over the three Sabre's I had (W4S, Anedio D1, EE Minimax) with the HD800. I thought the Anedio had the fewest issues in the upper registers among the sabre implementations I heard and unless you need the amplifier section of the Conductor I'd weigh all other options strongly. The HD800 is a difficult headphone to get right, but is very rewarding when you find that synergy. If the Conductor is in the 2k range I would strongly urge you to look towards an M7, which compared to what I've heard, is truly phenomenal in the 2k bracket.

Did a bit more research on the Master 7, it seems like one of the biggest splits on opinions is in regard to the quality of the USB connection vs the other interconnects (i.e. some people love the USB, others say the OR5 converter is a necessity, etc). Could you please elaborate on your experience with this?

post #9 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by RebelRising View Post
 

Makes sense, I'll try to aim for the most neutral DAC I can find. I noticed in your signature that you've a Grace M903 paired with your HD800. This was another combo I was considering, would you mind sharing how that's worked out for you so far? 

 

 

Although I use the m903 mostly as a DAC, I think it makes a great transportable DAC when you're on the road. It's a really compact all-in-one solution. Having said that, here's what I think of the m903/HD800 combo's sound:

 

(1) Detailed, But Unforgiving: It's very revealing of the recording's quality, but unforgiving for poor quality recordings. When the HD800s are plugged into the BA, I get transparency from both great and poor quality recordings.

 

(2) Solid Micro Details, Mediocre Macro Details: Again, I can hear the subtleties in a recording, but I don't get the feeling of being there. It's more technical than smooth (or leaning toward cold rather than warm), but not by much. It doesn't punch or engage as much as I'd like, and so I find I have to put in some effort into listening. With great recordings, however, this isn't nearly as much an issue.

 

(3) Soundstage: The soundstage is very good with above average width and depth. However, the soundstage seems to have a defined boundary. With the BA, the soundstage seems to gradually vanish in the distance, creating a more natural decay.

 

(4) Type of Music: This is a terrible combo if you usually listen to bass-intensive music or subpar recordings. It works best with jazz and classical, especially high-res recordings. With other music, I tend to lower the volume to avoid stridencies.

 

I'm convinced the HD800s are meant for tube amps. With the right choice of tubes, you can retain the HD800's technical merits while adding naturalness to its sound signature. The m903 drives them pretty well, but the HD800s have so much more potential that it's tough to recommend the combo. The BA has truly spoiled my ears.

 

Having criticized the m903, I must stress that it's hard to find a better headphone section on a DAC. Headphone outputs on DACs are usually afterthoughts. The m903 is an excellent compact all-in-one solution. While it does drive the HD800s fairly well, I wouldn't recommend the HD800s as my top pick for it.

post #10 of 17

I agree that the BA > HD800 is the best I've heard the HD800. The DAC is also very important in the equation, as the Lampizator is capable of smoothing out the upper register peakiness in a way that my PWD was never able to (with or without the Offramp). The HD800 is practically never strident now, and the BA extracts information from a recording unlike any other amp (excepting the Dynahi, which does it in a bit of different way). You have a great combination there :) 

post #11 of 17
I really happy with X-Sabre / CSP3 combo driving my HD800. So far X-Sabre is the best Dac I have, Arcam irDac is next
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxvla View Post

I absolutely love my ESS9018 equipped Matrix X-Sabre with my HD800s. I plan to keep it for a very long time. The only other DAC I will even try is the Schiit Yggdrasil, mostly out of respect to Mike's mad DAC skills and Jason's irresistible marketing making it impossible not to try it. I've heard quite a few rigs, but I've never heard a DAC and headphone more perfectly matched. It's hard for me to even describe the combo because dumb words like 'perfect' are the only things that come to mind and that isn't helpful.

As far as amp combinations, I'm not going the tube route. For a while I was pretty against tubes, now I've come back closer to middle ground, but still have no intention of going for one. I used the X-Sabre with the Bryston BHA-1 (slightly bright, aggressive) and HD800 and enjoyed it, despite what some thought of the combination based on their reading about the gear, not listening to it. It was not the most neutral setup, but I've heard the HD800s MUCH brighter since then and it was not pleasant. I'm glad it wasn't something I'd purchased.

My current plan is to stop with the X-Sabre, Headamp GS-X (neutral, good attack, but not aggressive) and HD800s. Again I will probably be too tempted to pass up an audition of the Schiit Ragnarok, but it will be incredibly tough to beat what I heard with the GS-X when I had my endgame setup together at a meet.

 

I can also vouch for HD800 and sabre being a good combo. I personally love the clarity, detail and texture.

 

From what I've been hearing the x-sabre is a touch warmer than the Anedio D1 I have so that would make a good match with the HD800.

 

The Sonett 1 and 2 are also great matches for the HD800 if you like neutrality and clarity, they will play to the strengths of both the sabre chip and HD800. But don't expect a overly warm tubey sound, it's more musical and transparent.

 

I can also recommend you get a pure copper cable for the HD800.

post #13 of 17

Obviously there is inherently nothing wrong (or right) with either chip type, it's what you (the DAC developer) do with it.

Put either in a wrong set up and both sound brash. So just making the choice based on what type of chip is used doesn't seem wise to me.

 

For what it's worth, I drive my HD800 with the single ended stock cable directly with a e20 DAC (exasound) and I love it:D.

post #14 of 17
The only decent part of Conductor is amp and you are not going to use one, why getting it then?
post #15 of 17

I used the X-Sabre with the Soloist and HD800 for quite a while and I found it to be a bit difficult at times. For me the X-Sabre seems to have a slight incoherence in the treble which was made worse by the Soloist's treble presentation. 

 

Considering the money you are willing to spend I think you can find better.

 

I looked for a long time to find a DAC at the same price point as the X-Sabre and it was quite a challenge to find anything better, as in truth it is a very good DAC despite its flaws. I ended up getting a NAD M51 for a discounted price and I think I am out of the upgrade free fall for now and have a sound that I am happy with.

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