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The new Hifime Sabre 9018 DAC is a great sounding audiophile DAC at an unbelievable price. We...

Hifime Sabre 9018 USB DAC

  • The new Hifime Sabre 9018 DAC is a great sounding audiophile DAC at an unbelievable price. We have picked the most important features to include in this DAC be able to make a incredible sounding DAC at this low price. It comes in a new nice looking case which is still simple and keeps cost down. The sound from the Sabre 9018 is very detailed with a great soundstage. The 9018 DAC chip is a high end chip and combined with the Sabre headphone driver makes a great sounding combo. The noise floor is very low and can be used with also the most sensitive headphones. It is tested to work and sound great with Audio Technica ath-m50 (38 ohm, 99dB), Sennheiser hd650 (300 ohm, 103 dB), IEM: JH Audio JH-13 (28 ohm, 116dB). The Sabre 9018 works without drivers with all major systems and programs; Windows, MAC, Linux. iTunes, Spotify, and Android. The Sabre 9018 DAC can play any format (MP3, AIFF, FLAC etc) from CD quality up to high resolution 96kHz/24bit files. It does not support 196k or 384kHz natively, nor does it play DSD files. Why? Most people does not have 192/384/DSD files. You do not benefit from a 384kHz capable DAC when playing CD quality (or high resolution 96kHz) files. If you need a 192kHz/384kHz/DSD DAC then we have other options for you. We have intentionally omitted this for all of our customers that don't play 384kHz/DSD so you can save and get a better sounding CD quality DAC.

Recent Reviews

  1. Rish732
    For the price and on the go, this is an essential part of any audiophile's kit
    Written by Rish732
    Published Sep 28, 2016
    Pros - - Tiny, simple operation, plug and play with ios (and probably android), refined soundstage, bass response, vocals, more and more for less
    Cons - low-rent construction, not to be banged around, do not hand to child to use as a toy
    This little DAC punches way way way above its weight.  
    I fell deep into the audiophile hole about a month ago, waiting for our 2nd son to be born.  If I could be so bold, I went through a rebirth.
    I bought a Chord Mojo (Which I will be selling by the by, explanation to follow) and I prefer the sound of this little DAC coupled to the Cayin C5.
    The Mojo is exemplary and quite possibly future proof save for the advent of holographic audio, but this little sabre dac made by some DIYers is on par with it.
    CAVEAT - when amped!  Get an amp, please.
    I did some A/B testing between the Mojo and the Sabre DAC+Cayin C5 combo and found that I preferred the Cayin's smooth sound and possibility of bass boost.  I'm not a basshead but I do find myself fatigued by too much treble.
    The Chord is on another level, but that level - for me does not justify the $300 price difference as of this writing (9/2016)
    1) Chord Mojo - $599 
    2) Sabre DAC $82 + Cayin C5 $129 + Camera Connection Kit $39 (usb3 version) + Wireworld 3.5mm cable $42 = $300
    EDIT - Important distinction for hours of unfatigued listening - the bass boost helps.  It smoothes out frequencies.  If you want to listen for a short time and in reference mode, turn off the bass boost and enjoy you'll get 8/10ths of the way to the mojo (again you need the amp).
    But I digress.  The Sabre DAC is the backbone.  If you don't have audio files north of 96khz/24bit then you are golden with this DAC.  I stream Tidal hifi and find my involvement with the music soaring. With this combo, I want to listen to everything and good recordings or bad, they both sound good through this DAC + Amp combo.
    And if you want a portable audio solution for your office and commute, you can't do too badly by this combo.  Even the DAC itself will power a wide variety of headphones.  I plugged my Beyer DT770 250ohms into it directly and am quite happy with the sound!
    Get it, you won't be disappointed
      stalepie and trellus like this.
  2. peter123
    Wonderful sounding small footprint DAC from HiFime
    Written by peter123
    Published Jun 11, 2016
    Pros - Sound quality, no hiss, great value, optical output
    Cons - Won't win any design awards, no physical volume control
    The HiFime Sabre9018 USB DAC was sendt to me from HiFimeDIY in exchange for my honest review of it.
    I’d like to thank Steinar and HiFimeDIY for giving me the chance to check out the HiFime Sabre9018 USB DAC,  THANK YOU!
    The HiFime Sabre9018 USB DAC is available from the HiFimeDIY website:
    Or their Facebook page:
    I’m not in any way affiliated with HiFimeDIY.
    About HiFimeDIY:
    I was first introduced to HiFimeDIY several years ago when I was building an power amplifier for my home speaker system. I stumbled upon their tripath based amplifier modules and purchased a couple of them and used them in one of my projects. The result was very good and it’s still in use to this day.
    Since then they’ve developed a lot of other products as well and I’d describe them as a “no nonsense company” putting the money where it makes most sense: in the performance of their products.
    This is what they say about themselves on their website:
    “Who we are:
    ​We are an international team of engineers and audio enthusiasts that share the background from the audio DIY (do it yourself) community. Some of us come from jobs designing and developing PCBs for electronics factories while some are hifi enthusiasts with a good ear and special interests for equipment modding, experimenting and improvement. We started in 2010 as a non-commercial forum, but we soon found that we would like to share our products with a wider audience, which would also enable us to spend more time on what we love.
    What we do:
    We design and produce a range of audio products, mainly digital to analog converters (DACs) and power amplifiers. Our DACs are mostly based on the ESS Sabre DAC chips, and our amplifier are using class D chips from Tripath and St Microelectronics.
    We also find and distribute other products that we we have found to be very useful and with good quality. This includes the Connexelectronic and Gopher power supplies, and various small useful accessories, cables and adaptors.
    We also do OEM, we help to develop products and we supply parts to other brand’s products.
    Our goal:
    Our main goal is always to produce the highest sound quality products at the best price. We have our focus on improving the inside electronics while keeping a simple effective product design. Of course we also don’t mind a good looking case, so we have recently hired professional packaging and product designers to design some new cases for us.
    Where we are:
    We have several locations around the world. Our main research and production centres are in China. We also have an office in the UK for european sales, and we have warehouses in China, USA, UK, Canada and Japan.” 
    About me:
    I’m a 43 year old music and sound lover that changed my focus from speakers to headphones and IEM’s about five years ago. At that time I realized that it wasn’t realistic for me to have all the different setups that I wanted and still house a family of four children and a wife so my interest turned first to full sized headphones and later also IEM’s.
    My preferences are towards full sized open headphones and I believe that also says something about what kind of sound signature I prefer (large soundstage in all directions, balanced and organic sound).
    My music preferences are pretty much all over the place (only excluding classical music, jazz and really heavy metal). My all-time favorite band is Depeche Mode although I also listen to a lot of grunge/indie, singer/songwriter/acoustical stuff as well as the typical top 40 music.
    I do not use EQ, ever.
    I’m a sucker for value for money on most things in life Head-Fi related stuff is no exception.
    I tend to value function over form.
    Built and accessories:
    The HiFime Sabre9018 USB DAC is a combined adaptive USB DAC and headphone amplifier designed to be used with computers, laptops and some Android devices.
    The external build of the HiFime seems to be very durable. That being said this is not a device that will win any design awards. To me that perfectly fine, HiFimeDIY has obviously put the focus on the sound and not the form.
    The DAC comes with a USB cable permanently detached to it for connections to your lap top, computer or Android device. Although it’s sturdy and well functional I’d ideally had preferred a detachable cable in case something goes wrong with it. Some people may also be interested in playing around with different USB cables and that’s not possible with the Sabre 9018 DAC.
    The 3,5mm output on the HiFime also doubles as an optical output. This makes it possible to use it as a “bridge” between a computer or lap top and another DAC that don’t have an USB in option. I’ve tried this by connecting it to the optical input on my Burson Audio V2+ and it works as it should.
    Since the HiFime DAC is an “all in one” solution there’s really no need for other accessories and there’s none included either. 
    IMG_3719.jpg IMG_3720.jpg
    IMG_3726.jpg IMG_3729.jpg
                                                                      Combined headphone and optical output
    The HiFime Sabre9018 supports Mac, Linux and Windows. Apparently some people are having issues using it with Windows 10. I’ve used mine with two different laptops running Windows 7 and it works great with both through both USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports. It also works pretty well with Android devices. It runs fine with the third party app USB Audio Player Pro (UAPP) without any extra power from my LG G3 phone and it also works with UAPP from my Chuwi Vi8 tablet. It’s also worth noting that the HiHime works on all platforms without the need to install any drivers. There is however an optional ASIO driver for Windows available. HiFimeDIY also offers a version with USB C connector.  The HiFime Sabre9018 draws quite a bit of power when connected to the phone or tablet but still less than the likes of DACport Slim and GO720.
    The HiFime support sample rates up to 24bit/96kHz. This is a deliberate decision by HiFimeDIY to keep the cost down and they also offer an asynchronous version supporting up to 32bit/384kHz sampling rate for those willing to spend $30 more. I like that they allow the customer to choose what they’re willing to pay depending on their needs.
    Despite being small the HiFime Sabre9018 USB DAC offers a quite good amount of power. It can power my my AKG Q701’s alone (and it sounds very good I might add) at about 50- 60% volume but when it comes to my notoriously hard to drive modded Fostex T50RP’s I need not bring the volume very close to maximum to reach my preferred listening level and the sound is not very satisfying. It also runs very cool even when pushed hard.
    IMG_3721.jpg IMG_3725.jpg
    Adding a USB OTG adapter makes the Sabre USB9018 work with many Android devices
    The specs:
    1. Sabre ES9018k2m DAC chip and SABRE9601 headphone and line out driver, SA9023 USB receiver chip
    2. Works and sound great with most headphone (including low impedance IEM and high impedance headphones) and all line-level devices (preamps, amplifiers)
    3. Accepts 32kHz, 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz and 96kHz input files @16 and 24 bit.
    4. Volume controlled by computer vol +/- keys
    5. Ultra-low noise regulator LP5907 with added noise-reducing aluminum solid capacitors (NCC PSF series)
    6. Patented Time Domain Jitter Eliminator (by ESS Technologies)
    7. Optical output
    8. No drivers required! Optional Windows ASIO drivers available
    9. 122dB SNR 
    10. 110dB THD+N: 2V rms @ 600 ohm load
    11. 100dB THD+N: 30mW @ 32 ohm load
    12. No DC blocking capacitors on the output
    13. Power usage: 40-80 mA depending on sample rate and volume
    14. Dimensions:5.5 x 3.5 x 1.8 cm (without cable)
    15. Weight 30g
    I’ve used the HiFime Sabre9018 quite a lot during the last month and it has played for well over 100 hours.  
    I’ve combined it with my LG G3 phone, Chuwi Vi8 tablet and two laptops running Windows 7 and it has worked very well with all combinations.
    Demo list:
    Mark Knopfler – Sailing to Philadelphia
    Røyksopp (Feat.Susanne Sundfør) – Save Me
    Ane Brun – These Days
    Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana
    Metallica – Die Die My Darling
    The Peter Malick Group – Immigrant
    Eva Cassidy – Songbird
    Thomas Dybdahl – A Lovestory
    Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why
    Celldweller – Unshakeable
    Jack Johnson – Better Together
    Seinabo Sey – Younger (Kygo remix)
    Dire Straits- So Far Away
    Bjørk - Moon
    Lupe Fiasco - Deliver
    Morrissey – Earth Is the Loneliest Planet
    I’ve got to be honest and admit that I find it pretty difficult to describe the sound from DAC’s. To me the sound of headphones and IEM’s are easier to describe than that of amplifiers and DAC’s. Because of this I’ll do a brief description of the overall sound from the Slim and then compare it to a couple of other amplifiers to highlight the difference and similarities to them.
    The HiFime Sabre9018 got a full and rich sound without ever feeling muddy or losing control. Sub-bass reaches low and the mid bass has a nice drive too it. I find it to be a bit on the warm side with lush and full mids and full, smooth highs without being rolled off too early. Soundstage width is excellent as is depth and it has a good separation as well. It’s also delivers great transparency. All of this together makes for an effortless presentation that’s very easy to enjoy and doesn’t bring any listening fatigue whatsoever.
    I do find the HiFime to pair very well with every pair of headphones and IEM’s I’ve tried it with.
    Please note that the comments in the comparison section are not in absolute terms but in comparison between subject A and B. This means (as an example) that if subject A is found to be brighter than subject B it does not necessarily mean that subject A is bright sounding in absolute terms. I hope this makes sense.
    I this comparison both DAC/amp combos where fed by different Android devices both running USB Audio Player Pro (UAPP) with the exact same settings and I was listening through my Philips Fidelio X2’s and DQSM D2 IEM’s.
    I used a splitter/switch box to easily switch between the two units being compared and a simple Android app to volume match them.
    Geek Out 720 vs HiFime Sabre9018 USB DAC:
    These both use the Sabre 9018 chip. Although I’ve compared DAC’s with the same chip before and found quite big differences that’s not the case here. To be honest these two sounds so similar that I’m sure that I could not tell the two apart in a blind test if they were both volume matched.
    The GO720 ($169) is about the same size as the HiFime and they both connect to the computer with a male USB A connector.
    The GO720 offers two 3,5mm outputs, one with 0,47Ohm and one with 47Ohm while the HiFime has a combined headphone out and optical out. The GO offers a line out functionality by maxing out the volume while the HiFime don’t offer this feature.
    The GO get much hotter than the HiFime but it’s also the more powerful of the two.
    None of them have a physical volume button.
    The GO720 isn’t really suited to be paired with Android without the use of an external battery due to its severe battery drain. The HiFime does not need nearly the amount of power compared to the GO720.
    Both are very quiet (little background hiss) but the GO has some while the HiFime is dead silent.
    The GO720 support up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD (up to 64/128) while the HiFime only support up to 24bit/96kHz.
    Since they sound virtually identical the choice between these two comes down to what features you’re looking for. The GO720 has a more fancy design, offers two 3,5mm out puts and is the more powerful of the two. The HiFime on the other hand has an optical output included in its headphone output, need less power, work better with highly sensitive IEM’s and are less than half the price of the GO720.
    SHOZY Lancea vs HiFime Sabre9018 USB DAC:
    The SHOZY Lancea ($179) and the HiFime sounds a bit different from each other.  The  Lancea has a bit more bass presence than the HiFime but still manage to retain the same sense of space. The HiFime sound cleaner due to lesser bass and a bit more natural to my ears. Switching between the two there’s no doubt that although the bass on the Lancea doesn’t necessarily reach deeper it definitely hits harder and has more presence.
    The Lancea is much smaller that the HiFime, maybe about a sixth of its size and is connected to the source through a female micro USB port.
    Both have a single 3,5mm output but the one on the Lancea acts as a line out function when maxing out the volume while the one on the HiFime doubles as a optical out for connection to other DAC’s.
    None of these gets very warm.
    The Lance is very well suited to be paired with Android devices due to its lesser power demands and high compatibility with such devices
    Both are very quiet (little background hiss) but the Lance has some while the HiFime doesn’t have any that I could detect.
    The Lancea supports up to 20bit/48kHz sample rate while the HiFime supports up to 24bit/96kHz.
    The choice between these two does not only comes down to what of sound you’re looking for but also how you intend to use it. The Lancea is very well suited to be paired with phones and tablets in addition to a computer or lap top while this might not be the most convenient with the HiFime. The HiFime on the other hand offers more power, support higher bitrates and offers an optical out option.
    CEntrance DACport Slim vs HiFime Sabre9018 USB DAC:
    Compared to the HiFime Sabre9018 the Slim ($99) has less bass presence, especially in the mid- and higher bass giving the HiFime more drive in the music but also a more intimate presentation. Sub-bass is quite similar with both. The less bass presence on the Slim gives a perception of better separation, a less in your face presentation and a bigger stage.  Switching from one to another makes the HiFime feel a bit sluggish and bassy in comparison. The difference in sound between these two is quite easy to hear and the HiFime is definitely fuller but also slightly more congested sounding.
    The Slim is smaller than the HiFime, maybe about a half of its size and is connected to the source through a female micro USB port as opposed to the USB A port used on the HiFime.
    Both have a single 3,5mm output and both offers a line out function when maxing out the volume.
    The Slim runs hotter than the HiFime but also offer more power.
    The Slim has a physical volume control while the HiFime doesn’t.
    None of these are very well suited to pair with Android devices due to their power draw but the HiFime still works better with this kind of set up.
    Both are very quiet (little background hiss) but the Slim has some while the HiFime doesn’t have any that I could detect.
    The Slim supports up to 24bit/192kHz sample rate while the Slim supports up to 24bit/96kHz.
    The choice between these two does not only comes down to what of sound you’re looking for but also how you intend to use it. The Slim is less well suited to be paired with phones and tablets in addition to a computer or lap top. On the other hand it supports higher bitrate, has more power and offers a physical volume control. The HiFime on the other hand needs less power, are more quiet with easy to drive IEM’s and offers an optical out option.
    As already mentioned I find it really hard to find significant differences between well designed and built DAC’S/amplifiers but the differences mentioned above does exist but are rather subtle when properly volume matched.
    The HiFime Sabre9018 USB DAC is a great “no nonsense” product with a sound quality identical to the much more expensive Geek Out720.  It’s not going to get any design awards but it does what it should and it does it very well.
    The HiFime Sabre9018 USB DAC has really impressed me both with its performance and its excellent value. The fact that it works with (many) Android devices without an external battery, works very well (without any need for drivers) with computers and also offers an optical output option makes it very versatile as well.
    Although I've chosen to drop half a star on the overall rating for the generic design and lack of a physical volume control I'd still advice anyone looking for a full but yet detailed sound should at an excellent value to consider the HiFime Sabre9018 USB DAC.
    Once again I'd like to thank HiFimeDIY for sending me the sample, tusen takk :)
      Brooko, Pastapipo, mgunin and 4 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Pedro Retador
      I'm in the market looking for a DAC for my Sennheiser Momentum 2M, super low impedance headphones over ear, just 18 ohms. Hifime sellman told me to buy Sabre 9018 to pair my headphones. What do you think about? I'm searching for a budget DAC and would like to have another option, if exist for my low impedance headphones. Know any?
      Pedro Retador, Aug 17, 2016
    3. Suwarna
      Just wondering if this dac work with ckk iphone 6 plus ?
      Suwarna, Oct 28, 2016
    4. Razornova
      Just to clarify, the HiFimeDIY has line out via the 3.5mm? Slightly confused by this statement
      Both have a single 3,5mm output but the one on the Lancea acts as a line out function when maxing out the volume while the one on the HiFime doubles as a optical out for connection to other DAC’s"
      Razornova, Dec 24, 2016
  3. BloodyPenguin
    The Little DAC That Could
    Written by BloodyPenguin
    Published Feb 23, 2016
    Pros - Great Value, Easy Install, Quiet Operation, Small Size/Portable
    Cons - It Can't Do My Taxes
    Introducing the updated Sabre 9018 USB DAC from HiFime.

    Product Link: http://hifimediy.com/Sabre-9018-DAC
                                          ~ All Photos Taken By Me ~

    **Dislaimer - I was provided a sample of the Sabre 9018 USB DAC from HiFime in return for an honest review**


    - Sabre ES9018k2m DAC chip and SABRE9601 headphone and line out driver, SA9023 USB receiver chip
    - Works and sound great with most headphone (including low impedance IEM and high impedance headphones) and all line level devices (preamps, amplifiers)
    - Accepts 32kHz, 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz and 96kHz inputs files @16 and 24 bit.
    - Volume controlled by computer vol +/- keys
    - Ultra low noise regulator LP5907 with added noise reducing aluminium solid capacitors (NCC PSF series)
    - Patented Time Domain Jitter Eliminator (by ESS Technologies)
    - Optical output
    - No drivers required! Optional Windows ASIO drivers available


    122dB SNR 110dB THD+N: 2V rms @ 600 ohm load
    100dB THD+N: 30mW @ 32 ohm load
    No DC blocking capacitors on the output
    Power usage: 40-80 mA depending on sample rate and volume
    Dimensions:5.5 x 3.5 x 1.8 cm (without cable)
    Weight 30g

    It must be noted that this DAC is purposely designed not support 196k or 384kHz naively, nor does it play DSD files.

    HiFime is quick to point out that they do have another product that fills those needs for $21 more: HiFime 9018 Asynchronous High resolution USB DAC: http://hifimediy.com/9018-DAC


    As you can plainly see, the HiFime Sabre 9018 USB DAC is built to keep the price low and the performance high. That said, this unit has a new and improved body, though it is still a basic plastic shell. There is no volume or bass control, just a straight up DAC/Amp.

    I found the little DAC to be put together well, with a good strain relief at the USB Cable out. There is one, simple red led light to indicate when you are connected to a source. I noticed this same light proceeds delightfully out of the 3.5mm input, giving it a almost laser like look.


    Tested with multiple windows computers. I found the Sabre 9018 USB DAC was quickly recognized, installed itself and I was on my way, Plug and Play. As an added benefit, there are also optional ASIO Drivers that can be installed as well.

    The little DAP can also be used with some Android Devices if it matches their Compatibility List. Unfortunately for me, I did not have any of these items or the matching Android version to test. [Hifime 9018 should work with most Android Lollipop 5.X and above phones.]

    While the HiFiMe USB DAC can be used with the devices, like the ones I have mentioned above, I found it was most beneficial when used with my ancient Compaq Netbook.


    The Sabre 9018 is well known in the Audiophile world for its good price to performance ratio. HiFime did well harnessing the power of this chip for use in their USB DAC.

    When coming from a basic sound card (like the netbook in this review), this seeming little and simple DAC offers a considerable upgrade in sound quality.

    For testing, I used foobar2000 and YouTube.

    I found output of the USB DAC to be unbiased and accurate. It adds slight bump in soundstage and width. As advertised, floor noise is extremely low, allowing playback to be much soother than stock.

    Overall presentation of the HiFiMe DAC is clear and focused.
    (Shown with optional USB Isolator)

    *Optional USB Isolator*

    I had the opportunity to also test out the optional USB Isolator ($29 http://hifimediy.com/usb-isolator). The Isolator is not required for use with the Sabre 9018 USB DAC and did not show any benefit when in use with my current desktop. Instead it can be helpful with devices suffering from ground loop problems, like my old netbook and smooth out a slight buzz it was displaying.


    Nothing to see here, please move along. Currently, I really have not tested/owned anything quite like the HiFime Sabre 9018 USB DAC, though I'm well aware that there are many other like it out there.

    I do have a few products that I will be receiving in a short time that fit in this same category. Once those come in, I will update this section of the review.

    *Overall Thoughts*

    As you can see by my "Cons:" list, there really is nothing bad to say about the HiFime Sabre 9018 USB DAC at this price point. For less than $100, it does so well to upgrade older computers.

    I also found its small size pairs well with my netbook as both are so easy to take on the go. A mini little audiophile workstation.

    For those starting off in the audiophile world or those looking for a simple portable solution, the HiFiMe is an easy recommendation.

      Light - Man likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. redmonkey
      what is that iem in the picture ?
      redmonkey, Feb 25, 2016
    3. BloodyPenguin
      @leeperry, looks like those issue were for the old version, I am not sure if the new version, that is in my review has the same problem.  Thank you for the heads up though.  I have yet to experience any malfunctions.
      BloodyPenguin, Feb 25, 2016
    4. BloodyPenguin
      @redmonkey, that is the Elecom CH3000 (or CH3000BK, Black Version). 
      BloodyPenguin, Feb 25, 2016


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