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Is Sabre ES9018 the best DAC chip right now?

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  1. selvakumar
    Sennheiser HD820 uses
    Sabre ES9018 its consider as refeerence class
  2. Jimster480
    There are the ES9028 and ES9038 now also though.
    But I have to say from hearing both a 9018 and a 9028 device, they sound basically the same.

    I personally listen to a dual ES9018K2M (Topping DX7) device all day every day and sold my 9028 device (M8A)
  3. pibroch
    The make and model of the dac chips used in a dac is largely irrelevant. It’s how a particular chip is implemented that is responsible for sound quality - that is, the design of the digital and analog parts of the circuits and how they work together. Different chips enable different design options but a dac chip alone has no sound character as such.
  4. Jimster480
    I wouldn't exactly say that.
    Because things like SNR and THD don't actually talk about audio quality in terms of detail resolution, of which there is no actual global metric for.
    For example my Topping D30 has much better specs on paper (THD/SNR/Crosstalk) vs the Topping DX7 which looks pointless on paper but in practice actually has alot more detail resolution which is almost immediately noticeable if you listen to technical classical pieces or well-recorded jazz.

    But to some extent all the different "top tier" DAC's in proper implementations I'm sure have comparable SQ. Although ESS Technology has clearly spent more money and time on DAC technology especially in the recent years. This makes the most sense since its a company that basically just sells DAC's and a few other chips, unlike TI which has a wealth of products and hasn't had much in the way of new DAC chips in quite some time now.
  5. pibroch
    I suspect the Topping D30 would have greater measured distortion in a parameter other than THD or SNR or crosstalk, such as jitter.
  6. Jimster480
    Except jitter isn't measured either in terms of DAC specs.
    That is THD Because Jitter = distortion.
    SNR = noise floor

    And its not distortion that the D30 has or even the M8 or M8A or Modi Multibit have... the details are simply different on all of them.
    The M8/M8A are basically identical, but the Modi multibit has the least details with a sound that is more like an oldschool stereo/cd player vs modern technology. None of this is shown though in their specs, and this is what I am talking about.
    I went on a quest of DACs to see what the ruckus was about and if it was just marketing or measurable in any way.
    I tested DAC's with Wolfson (now Crystal), TI, ESS, AKM and Schiits ADI Multibit implementation. Despite comparable on paper specs they all sound different and reproduce music differently with varying levels of detail.
    Also part of this is due to the analog stage, but I don't really think detail retrieval has to do much with the analog stage.
  7. imran27
    That's great @Jimster480 , I am actually in process of designing a DIY AMP and then a DAC too.
    I was researching about the DAC chips available.

    Right now I find TI 5242 very attractive. Differential voltage output and easy to work with, also cheaper to source.
    I don't know if it sounds more detailed and revealing than the Wolfson.

    As of now I don't have enough courage and mileage to delve into the PCM1794A...
    Jimster480 likes this.
  8. Jimster480
    I want to get into the same thing, I was also looking at TI for some starting designs.
    I have to say they definitely have the best documentation, the most available options and the best prices.
    TI chips certainly win in bang for the buck, they have some great DAC's available for as low as $2.
    I also believe that some of their better Advanced Segment architecture DS DAC's will rival some of ESS Tech DAC's in detail retrieval even if I don't really think at this point they have anything to compete against ESS Top end chip.

    Something interesting to note about TI DAC's is that while many start with PCM, I more recently stumbled upon newer DAC's which start with DSD. But some/most also support PCM so..... not sure if those are actually better or not.

    I was thinking about building a DIY DAC with possibly 2 of their DAC's per channel (probably will try 1 per channel first) and then analog summing it together or comparing the two sets of samples.
    Funnily enough when googling around for such a thing I found that Benchmark's newest DAC is using 4x Sabre 9028 or 9038 (2 per channel) for additional quality aswell.
    Although using more than one per channel will not increase detail resolution (only accuracy), using 2 in Mono mode can result in a much better sound (since all of the DACs internal resources go towards decoding only one channel of the sample).
    jmpsmash likes this.
  9. selvakumar
    no 9028 is for SABRE PRO series DAC and its for mobile devices which consumes low power please do visit
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
  10. imran27
    What are your thoughts on the Wolfson DAC chips? How do they compare with others?
    Is there any chip, according to your experience, that you can say has best or great details, neutrality and bass/treble extensions?
  11. Jimster480
    Please read your own links next time.
    This type of stuff is just embarrassing....
    ^ Let me know the first few words of the sentence there.
  12. Jimster480
    Wolfson has the warmest sound.
    Personally I never enjoyed the Wolfson sound before.
    Although the CS4398 in the topping D30 doesn't have any coloration that I can tell of vs the Sabre in the M8A.
    In my tests I have found that Sabre DACs have the most treble details which some people consider extension. They are also less forgiving to poor recordings and artifacts.
    The CS4398 has a smoother sound and none of the same artifacts are heard.
    Now when comparing CS4398 VS ES9018k2m (D30 vs M8) the difference in detail is not as great as vs the DX7.

    It is worth noting though that the only dual chip DAC I own is the Topping DX7.
    I got mine on sale and wanted to see if dual DAC chips actually resolved more detail and they do.

    These tests were done on some of my favorite classical and jazz songs as well as 2 good R&B songs with female vocals and 3-4 other songs which have known artifacts or identifiable micro details or both.
    I also listened to every DAC for roughly 80 hours minimum while I worked in my office to see if I noticed differences in normal listening.
    During that time if I ran into a track that sounded sonically noticeably different, I would plug in the other DAC(s) and start testing.
  13. imran27
    And how does the SABRE compare to the TI Delta-Sigmas?

    Based on your observations, I assume that PCM5102A (E17k or E10k) must sound similar to the CS4398? To me the DAC sounded pretty good in my previous DIY setup (5102 with OPA2365, amazing)
  14. Jimster480
    I have only heard the TI DAC in one of my sound cards, in my car and in my FiiO K1 (atleast of the devices I know the DAC in).
    Its hard for me to compare but when I connected the output to my Amp instead and listened to it, I would say that it is similar to the CS4398 although the FiiO K1 lacks some detail, I don't believe it is specifically the fault of the DAC.
    Believe it or not, its semi hard to find decent constructed stand-alone DAC's these days running TI chips unless its a TEAC product that costs more than all the rest of my gear lol. The rest of the TI Products are just very cheap all-in-one devices from a variety of companies.
    I have considered ordering an ODAC RevB Because it is powered by a TI Chip just for comparison, but I haven't gotten around to it.
  15. imran27
    Just looked at the AKM differential output DAC's like the AK4490 and above are pretty intriguing.

    The best THD+N figures I have seen so far.

    @Jimster480 Can you comment on AKM DAC? (Assuming you have had an experience with AKM DAC based devices)
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