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ESS DACs "Sabre glare" measurements?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by abm0, Feb 21, 2018.
  1. abm0
    Well, that's a bit aggressive. :) I was just talking to someone else about the differences between the E17k and HA-2, most obviously the crosstalk being -75 dB vs. -98 dB. With the widely accepted(?) threshold for audibility of unwanted material in "real life" conditions(?) being -85 dB relative to the useful signal, one could expect problems (incl. limited imaging performance) from the E17k that they shouldn't from the HA-2, for example. (Though, interestingly, NwAvGuy said the good-enough limit for crosstalk was -60 dB, even while quoting the -85 dB limit for every other measure of noise.)
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2018
  2. castleofargh Contributor
    meme aren't in general my main tool for rigorous arguments. I got inspired by your baiting question. as there is no practical mean to ever confirm that all DACs sound the same, I assumed it wasn't a question at all, and only a good old trap.
    if your question was in fact serious, well sorry and the answer is no. without special care, it's in fact very likely that 2 DACs will sound audibly different. but mainly because the output voltage is often different, making one DAC louder. wich can lead to a vast range of subjective impressions. that doesn't mean other causes can't make DACs sound different of course, but the typical failure to control volume levels before listening has certainly been a leading reason as to why people reach faulty or exaggerated conclusions about audible differences from DACs.

    I start failing to notice crosstalk somewhere below -40dB. I wouldn't notice a -75dB vs -98dB crosstalk for sure.
    with that said, the amp will have some more. the cable will have some. if the headphone is a low impedance one, then the crosstalk levels will increase as a result, sometimes significantly. so if we hit a threshold, it could still be headphone dependent. in the end it would be hard to claim anything without a proper measurement of the crosstalk at the headphone instead of the unloaded output of the DACs.
  3. bigshot
    All DACs should sound the same because they should be audibly transparent. Every player and DAC I've ever owned have sounded the same- and that ranges from a $40 Wal-Mart CD player all the way up to an Oppo HA-1. If I ever bought one that wasn't audibly transparent, I would return it as defective. I do line level matched A/B switched comparisons of every piece of equipment I buy to make sure it's audibly performing to spec. The reason I do that is because I EQ on the last set in my chain. I've been pretty careful about perfecting the response curve. I don't want to have one player sound different than another, because then I would need a response curve for each one. That would be a pain in the ass.

    What I was referring to about high end equipment is that in audiophool territory, all bets are off. High end manufacturers sometimes deliberately design things that perform out of spec. They do this so audiophiles can detect a difference, which they will assume is an improvement since it cost so much more. It's counter intuitive to think that you have to pay more to get messed up sound, but that is the case sometimes.

    If you want to learn a little about the thresholds of audibility, check out Ethan Winer's videos in my sig. He does some demonstrations that show that the threshold is MUCH higher than most audiophiles like to claim. My theory is that if you give an audiophile any number, they'll demand that it be increased by at least 50%. It's easy to throw around numbers for thresholds if you don't know what those numbers represent in real world sound and you steadfastly refuse to do a controlled listening test yourself.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2018
    abm0 and Jazmanaut like this.
  4. Jenz
    I have been listening to music on the LG V10 smartphone for almost 3 years now. For a few months I use the Primo 8 from Nuforce. A very neutral sounding in ear. A few weeks after buying the Primo 8, I bought a cheap Philips MP3 player at the flea market. I was surprised that this 5 € Philips player played the height playback without hardness than my V10 with DAC on.
    Then I tried it on the V10 - otherwise the HiFi DAC was always on when music was playing. Now I was amazed that the V10 without DAC also played very softly at high frequencies. So, after some deliberation, I bought a DAP, the Fiio X7 first generation.
    I am excited about this DAP. Both have the same Saber chip installed, but the DAP sounds better in all areas! And there is not that hardness in the heights my V10 unfortunately gives to many songs. then I read on the net that incorrect implementations of this Saber chips are responsible. Whether it really is because I do not know.
    However, it must have reasons why both devices sound different? I think the built-in hardware in total can be responsible. After all, when released the DAP costs as much as the smartphone, which has to be able to do a thousand other things ... the FiiO DAP is primarily intended to play music as neutral as possible.
  5. Davesrose
    I don't understand how people can assess DAC chips by hearing. A DAC chip is part of an entire system of circuits, and the final stage you're listening through is an amplifier stage. Mainly just on this forum have I read Saber chips are bright, while my SMSL streaming player (which has Sabre chips) is a pretty muddy sounding component. My Benchmark DAC, which uses Burr Brown chips (and are rumored to be "warm sounding") sounds really neutral to me through the headphone stage.
    castleofargh likes this.
  6. bigshot
    My Oppo HA-1 sounds exactly the same as every other digital playback device I own. Differences are usually due to impedance issues, not DACs.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
  7. SilverEars
    I actually have a Sabre based DAP that sounds darker than usual and it's due to the circuit around the chip I'm sure. It's opposite of the stereotype of the ESS Sabre or 'glare.'
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2019

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