Hifimediy Sabre USB DAC

Average User Rating:
  1. julian67
    "Looks cheap and anonymous, sounds golden and memorable."
    Pros - Tiny size, tiny price, easy compatibility, fabulous natural sound
    Cons - ? yet to be identified
    I wanted a small, cheap USB DAC for an mpd music server. The server makes my lossless music collection and some internet radio streams available wherever I am - at home typically via mpd clients on PC and Android, and away from home via mpd client and streaming using SSH tunnels on laptop and Android. The USB DAC is so I can also run the same audio to a small amp and speakers at home. I already have nice headphones (Sennheiser Momentum) and live somewhere rather noisy and so wasn't looking for high end, just something that works easily, consumes minimal power and can work on embedded ARM systems as well as PC. I have seen a presentation on these ESS Sabre DACs and their supposed competence in negating timing errors/jitter but really have no idea if this is actual physics or that special branch of mysticism that poses as physics under the guise of audiophilia. I also knew that the arch "objectivist" mystery man nwavguy had chosen a Sabre for the ODAC and probably Hong Kong Phooey likes them too. It really helped a lot that the hifimediy products are extremely cheap, and actually cheaper than some truly awful C-Media based external USB sound cards (I know their awfulness from experience). So I spent about £26 on the HiFimeDIY Sabre USB DAC ES9023 96/24 with USB receiver TE7022. I paid about another £4 for unregistered postage within the EU. This is $50 US or €36. I bought mine from the official site http://hifimediy.com. It's not as slick as amazon or ebay/paypal but is much better than many small time e-commerce sites and the transaction was easy, handled efficiently and communication was good.

    On receiving the DAC I set up a Raspberry Pi to work as my server (for mpd, samba, nfs, dictd, sshd, bittorrent, get_iplayer) but it turns out that the Pi's hardware is not as good as the spec suggests so there are latency problems with USB and networking, and problems with ground loop hum even when using USB DAC and it was all a bit frustrating and I never really got to relax and enjoy the DAC. Then I tried the Hifimediy ESS DAC with my EeePC. Holy ESS AICH AYE TEE!!! (good pun?). My Eee PC 1001P has pretty decent sound for a laptop but the Hifimediy took it to some other place. It sounded superb. Not just relatively good but actually good. OK, Raspberry Pi got relegated to dust collection duties and I repurposed an ancient (2007) Dual Core Celeron laptop as mpd server (it's silent and has a battery so will shut down gracefully in case of power outage) doing all the tasks mentioned above. I also bought a shielded 10m extension cable that can sit between my Momentums and the Hifmediy and lets me shuffle around my small apartment with headphones on. The Hifimediy sounds outrageously good. I set up the mpd server so it outputs bit perfect audio via the Hifimediy, or I can choose to run audio through a bs2b crossfeed before the DAC, or by pass the DAC and output flac/mp3/ogg/raw pcm streams to my LAN (or SSH tunnel). I choose bit perfect for natural sounding headphones like Momentums and Koss KSC75 and Meier type crossfeed for IEMs or anything which needs a bit of help to sound believable (and flac or pcm streams to Android according to device capability). The Hifimediy has enough voltage to power the 24 ohm impedance Momentums (I have the circumaural version) really nicely. It should have no trouble at all driving any IEM you might like to connect. If I feed the audio into my FiiO E7's line in I find the Hifimediy + FiiO amp sounds clearly better than using the FiiO as both DAC and amp. The Hifimediy offers a sound that is vivid and natural and dimensional in a way that the FiiO's DAC doesn't approach. I didn't expect this at all. Pianos sound like pianos, voices sound hauntingly natural, stringed instruments actually sound textured and vibrant. I may have to go on an ESS retreat weekend and learn their thetan kabbalist audio-gnostic alchemical secrets (or maybe just spend the money on claret and rioja, not quite decided...hmmm).

    I appreciate that this is mere opinion. I have no measurements or credentials to support my opinion that the Hifimediy sounds better than another DAC using the same source files, amp and headphones. So I'll put it another way: even if you consider it sounds non-different to DACs A, B and C it is still remarkably cheap and so compatible as to be a safe buy for anyone regardless of hardware, and as such is better value than probably any other USB DAC you can find (I'm assuming you do want to ignore all the $10 colourful crap that resamples everything to 48KHz, adds a few crackles and burns out your USB ports).

    If this isn't the ultimate value computer audio upgrade I'm not sure what would be. It is great value, plug and play on anything from Raspberry Pi to OS X to Windows, and sounds good enough it could make you lose sleep regretting the other stuff you bought.
    uncola, GioF71 and stellarelephant like this.
  2. uncola
    "Best entry level DAC"
    Pros - Small, useable with laptop
    Cons - 3.5mm instead of rca
    This DAC was good enough for me to buy twice.  90% of the sound quality of a odac for cheap.  Buy it from the oregon warehouse website if you're impatient, shipping from china is slow.  New savitech usb receiver version adds support for 88.2khz and an ASIO driver which is a nice option instead of wasapi.  Haven't heard the asynchronous version but it can only be even better.  Extended highs.  Nice fast bass.  Switching to this dac got rid of noise from scrolling web pages I had when using motherboard audio.
    BorisH likes this.
  3. xkonfuzed
    "A great little portable DAC"
    Pros - Sound, price, portable, really small
    Cons - cheaply built
    This little DAC really surprised me with its sound quality. I have an Aune T1, and this is about 85-90% as good for a third of the price! 
    Recommended to anyone just starting this hobby and is looking for better sound than his computer's onboard soundcard. Some improvements i noticed over my laptop's soundcard:
    -Tighter bass
    -More forward mids
    -treble a bit more sparkly
    -HUGE uprgarde in terms of imaging and soundstage
    Whenever im not using the Aune t1, this is plugged in. My only complaint is that it feels a bit cheap in the hand, but thats because it is. You can get it for under $40. 
  4. laughingbuddha
    "96K + Usb Isolator / Baby Sabre Usb Dac for Android."
    Pros - Small Compact,Well buit for price,well balanced,cheap not much on the market can touch it at this price point !!
    Cons - usb only, 3.5 mm output only ((no RCA's,could of been a higher spec dac in a small form factor (similar to Dragonfly) but has max res @ 48KHz
    Having tried the 96 K version with Savitech Chip & a USB Isolator made also by Hifimediy yeah it was definately value for money.Would be interesting to compare against the Odac & Dragonfly
    The Hifimediy has a really good attack less laiback than my Wolfson Dac Heed Dactil 1.2 . I have also tried it against the sound from a Woffson Sound Card made for the Raspberry Pi again more attack less of a warmth in the sound but just as much detail not as much refinement little less polite I guess.
    I liked it as much as the fiio d3 when I first got it. But needs spdif for my tastes. I think it sounds amazing with DSD rips in PCM back at 96k (Rips made on Korg DS-DAC 100M).
    I tried it with the iphone 5 playing 16 & 24 Bit 96K flac files straight from the lightening cable nice sound using Golden Ear.
    I have the smaller version of this Dac restricted to 48 KHz designed primairly for Android devices for £19. I tested with a Macbook Pro + via JDS Labs Cmoy, HIBIKI Player with DSD Rips using pair of Koss KSC75 It's definately a stocking filler comparing it to the Fiio D3 original version utalizing the wolfson spdif chip now out of production it can't come near the level of seperation and detail of the D3 but this is mainly due to optical & coax spec differences for it's size and price biggest bang for you buck....you simply can't go wrong with this !
  5. ag8908
    "Worth the money"
    Pros - Price; might be an improvement over my laptop jack for some (pop) songs
    Cons - Not better for all songs
    As I noted in my reviews of the Alpen E17 and the O2 amp, those two did nothing that my laptop couldn't do. However, unlike those two products, this thing might actually be doing something. I sense a little more bass and treble coming out of my HD800 which makes some songs a little bit more interesting. Not all songs -- for example, Swan Lake definitely sounds better on my laptop's dac -- but certain pop songs sound better on this.
    To give you a few technicals, this has the same DAC chip (ESS9023) as these much more expensive DACs http://www.alldacinfo.com/?tag=es9023/
    I don't have specs on its wattage output, but my ears can confirm that it is incredibly powerful and loud, so I would guess its wattage is impressive.
    Due to its $40 or so price, this is a no brainer 5 stars.
  6. olee222
    "Excellent DAC for the price"
    Pros - No drivers needed, clean audio, works as advertised
    Cons - Cheaply built
    I had the Hifimediy Sabre USB DAC for a couple of days. I bought it just as a low cost external USB sound card, as the docking station of my laptop has no audio output (how silly).
    I use it connected to a Tivoli Audio Networks setup. I'm don't consider myself an audiophile, so I won't comment on this part, although I like good sounding music and high quality sound.
    I bought the device on ebay's listing via "Standard shipping", and it arrived promptly in an padded envelope, labelled as USB to analog converter. I didn't have to pay for customs, I guess it was below the threshold level. The seller was responsive to questions and helpful, and sent the package on its way next day.
    I connected to in the following way: Sony S13 laptop > docked into Sony VGP-PRS30 docking station > Exsys USB 2.0 hub > and finally the Hifimedy Sabre USB DAC. 
    Operating system: Windows 8 Pro reinstalled on an SSD. It was recognized right away, ready to use. In the system it shows up as "SPDIF Interface (SABRE 24/96 DAC_DigiT)". I find the sound to be excellent, no hiss, no clicks.
    The only negative I can say that it feels cheaply built. Probably it is solid, and anyway, it is tucked away with the cables, but if feels cheap.
    All in all, even if you don't need audiophile quality, just an external sound card, this is an excellent value for the money, I can recommend it.
  7. dbbloke
    "either I got a hearing upgrade or mine just ran in"
    Pros - Excellent sound quality and detail, very low price
    Cons - soundstage could be a little better
    I felt I had to write.
    I've owned this thing for about 4 months and just today I turned it on and it sounded what I consider real hifi (The difference between a good sounding best buy and high end kit). It's not real high end but it's getting there.
    There is so much more detail I could not hear before now it's hit what i presume is it's run in period (must be  60-100 hours or so). Bass could be a little more extended/slamming, soundstage could be a little but wider. BUT it gets really close and certainly fills the room with a vivid image of the recording, the instruments / soundstage could be more anchored and deliniated. Otherwise assume everything else good.
    Mids and highs are listenable for sustained periods (unlike some reviews), very smooth from the start. Bass is fast and well formed but not quite 100% slam.
    I've heard many £1000-£2000 DACs and below sound not much better. I paid under 25 quid for this thing. Bargain until I can spend £150 on my next bargain real dac but perhaps I just got a hearing upgrade, it's night and day. Maybe I don't need to upgrade anymore im thinking, at least for a while. And this is the cheap uae23 without the usb isolation and seperate power of the uae23+
    As for a headphone DAC, it's probably excellent as the whole soundstage thing is irrelevant with cans. Price aside!
  8. Gilly87
    "Excellent bang for buck"
    Pros - Small, easy to use, great sound
    Cons - Seems somewhat cheaply built but good enough, not complaining
    Great little piece of kit! Just bought this bad boy to upgrade from my ELE DAC, which served its purpose but was too bright with my DT770s, and overall just couldn't really do justice to either the Beyers or my HD558.
    Compared to my other sources (Voodoo'd Samsung Infuse w/ Wolfson WM8740, ELE DAC), it is definitely a step up in terms of overall performance. The highs are not quite as sharp as the ELE, and the overall tone is clearly warmer with more bass. With my DT770, I get noticeably thumpier, slightly tighter bass, and more forward mids. With my HD558, the sound fills out nicely, with a darkish, authoritative sound that is great for a lot of my music: Tool/APC, Infected Mushroom. When I throw my E11 into the mix, the soundstage gets bigger and everything is pretty nicely spaced.
    Overall I would not hesitate for a second to recommend this unit to anyone who wants to upgrade from their PC/laptop sound card. I think I would choose a more neutral amp than my E11 to go with it due to the fact that it is a bit warm on its own, but overall it is a very noticeable upgrade over my onboard sound, and I imagine it will be for most budget PC users as well.
  9. 3Pillars
    "Good Sounding Cheap USB DAC"
    Pros - Works with no drivers needed. Sounds good, and I mean not just for the price.
    Cons - May have some noise on max output in some systems
    I found this little DAC online and found some good commends in diyaudio.com. I was looking for a 24/192 DAC, but needed something to hold me over until I found the right DAC. My old DAC was hampered by the USB to SPDIF device's 16/44 limit.
    Here is the info from hifimediy.com:
    "HifiMeDiy Sabre USB DAC. 96khz/24bit - ES9023+TE7022 + USB to optical converter
    This small and simple dac uses the ES9023 dac chip from Sabre with SABRE DAC technology. It's is a quite new chip that features outstanding audio quality in a simple implementation. The ES9023 dac chip has a driver built in which outputs 2Vrms line level signal,and are able to drive low impedance loads like headphones, but at 32ohm the output power is reduced to 1Vrms, so connecting to an amp/preamp is recommended if your headphones are low efficiency.
    The LT1763 low noise regulator is used.
    Output on 3.5mm headphone jack. New batch has a bonus feature: the ouput also acts as a optical output if you plug a optical cable in place of the normal 3.5mm cable. So this device can also act as a USB to optical converter.
    This DAC chip does not have any DC voltage at it's output, eliminating the need of a DC coupling capacitor at the output. 
    With patented HyperstreamTM architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator, the ES9023 delivers jitter-free studio quality audio with 112dB DNR. 
    With this DAC we combined the Sabre DAC chip with the quality Tenor TE7022 USB receiver. It accepts up to 96khz/24bit input signals from USB, and it will upsample lower input signals to feed the ES9023 dac chip with 96/khz/24bit signal. This makes it possible to get a great dynamic range of 112db. (in case a 16 bit receiver like pcm2706 were used it would have been limited to 96dB.) It responds to changes in system volume control (on MAC with volume hotkeys). No drivers required for Windows, Mac and Linux."
    Description: The small black matchbox-sized plastic case has 3.5mm jack with a red light emanating from it with a 3" USB cable. There are no other physical features to the unit. After putting a ferrite collar on the USB cable, I plugged in Win7 recognized it within a moment. I restarted Foobar and it worked. Very simple.
    Impressions: While I did not compare it to another DAC, the sound is excellent. Strong bass, nice air and smooth treble. Female vocals are particularly nice. On classical, I noted a hint of congestion on crescendos, but well articulated otherwise. Certainly, not a deal breaker. I was able to pickup small background sounds better than my previous DAC+USB converter. I would say the mids are slightly forward, but not unpleasantly so. I listened to bassy dance music, blues, jazz, classical, and rock. Mostly redbook ALAC/WAV files with some hi-rez FLACs.
    Issues: Some have reported noise, and recommended a USB isolator. On my rig, it was quiet at my fairly loud music levels.   However, at max volume on my 5 watt Vincent HP amp, I did note some noise on my HE500 with the music paused. With the volume @ 12 o'clock, the noise was not noticeable. Only at max could I hear it. I connected my Koss Portapros directly to the 3.5mm jack and it was dead quiet. Likely, it is the tube stage in my amp. It was fine for me, YMMV. 
    All in all, it was well worth the $52 (delivered) I paid.