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Is Sabre ES9018 the best DAC chip right now?

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  1. ssportclay
    The DAC chip is just a part of what to look for. The analog output stage or amplifier is just as important. This is what provides that big involving dynamic punch. Also look for a unit that has an AC power cord inlet in order to install a fat and probably expensive power cord. This does make a difference and never buy a CD player without this feature. This is one of the features that separates the contenders from the pretenders.
  2. j123my
    The DAC chip only tells part of the story. Implementation (i.e. circuitry, power supply, other components) would affect the sound quality as much as the choice of DAC chip itself.
  3. Chippy99
    Sorry to jump in here, but I felt compelled to comment.
    The above is fundamentally tripe.  Whereas there can possibly be some justification for a "fat and probably expensive power cord" for a meaty power amp, there is no conceivable justification for such a thing on a DAC.  A nominal 1V output from a DAC into any pre or power power amp - input impedances often 10,000 Ohms or higher - will need fractions milliamp at the output.  The electronics inside the DAC need a few watts at most to drive them properly - again a trivial amount for mains power device.
    To suggest that a 120V or 240V power cord rated at say 13amps instead of say 3 amps, can improve the sound even by an infinitessimal amount is completely ludicrous and plain wrong.
    Some people suggest RFI suppression by a power cord can improve sound quality.  This is an entirely different discussion (and also wrong, imho),  but nevertheless it at least stands up to some debate.  That a "fat" power cord can improve a DAC's performance is just plain nonsense.
    mandrake50, cizx, cjl and 2 others like this.
  4. seekadds
    Tripe tasted good in stew.
    On a related note, I'm gonna get an M-DAC soon so I can see what the Sabre fuss is about. =)
  5. wink
    A cutting remark?
  6. yfei
    From what I heard from multiple manufactures,  Yes, right now ESS Sabre 9018 is the best chip,  and the is ONLY choice (for making high-end DACs).
    Technically why?     I am not EE expert, but of you have 1 hour patience, this video explained everything:
    Price?  ESS Sabre 9018 is about $40, shouldn't be a problem.  Just a small fraction of the price of final product.    Portable player Hifiman HM-901 has 2 of them inside, priced at $1000.
  7. catfish
    None of the $10k+ Dac's use the ESS and there are many reasons why.  Have you heard of MSB they make their own and charge accordingly. Even the Berkley Alpha which gets most praise for mid-fi doesn't use an ESS instead their engineer chose an AD1955 which alows much more advanced proprietary oversampling algorithms andclock/jitter handling.
    The ESS is a solid mid-fi chip,  its best feature is the advanced digital attentuation (volume)  which is truley fantastic.  But most are trying to come up with ways to defeat the on board upsampling thru synchronous reclocking.  The sensitivity to clock jitter and low output impedance of the current output have caused troubles for many trying to make a world class product.   The chip has been on the market several years now,  hopefully they will fix some of these issues and release an improved version.  But to say it is the best DAC is a real stretch.
  8. nigeljames
    1. No DAC that uses the ESS chip would need to cost $10k. Even with a top class digital, analogue and power supply
    2. That just means you are paying for MSB's development costs, it does not mean it's chip is actually any good (not that I am saying it is or isn't). Ecomomies of scale will also come into play if they are only making chips for their own products.
    However any DAC manufacturer can make any chip sound like ****. As the DAC chip is not the most important aspect of a DAC then it's all moot as what is the best DAC chip especially as we all know that there is no such thing as 'best' anything in audio.
  9. hifimanrookie
    I just read peachtree uses the sabre ess 9023 for their dac-it dac..is that a better chip..never heard anyone using that chip..
  10. nigeljames
    The ess9023 I believe is a lower level chip than the 9018.
  11. catfish
    Well said and hence the subject title is a bit naive.  There are DAC's made with 20 year old TDA1541's that sound like a million bucks,  and DAC's made with the ESS9018 that sound like mush (the recent "ebay" boards) and vice-versa.
      I would argue that the MSB's are worth paying their development cost if you are a recent lottery winning because they do sound unbelieveable there is something to be said for discrete R2R if you ever get a chance to hear it do,  but owning one is just to expensive for me,  can by a nice car for what they go for.
  12. zackzack
  13. AN94Master
    The ibasso dx 100 uses this chip...I've heard that its one of the best portable dap around-second only to the ak240.Is this true though?
  14. TimSchirmer
    Forgive my ignorance, but wouldn't the ES9012 be the ideal Sabre dac since it is in stereo and the 9018 is 8 channel? 
  15. Clemmaster
    The 9018 can cluster 4 DAC together to work on one channel (and reduce the noise / increase dynamic range by a factor ~4).
    On paper the ES9018 has the best figures on the large scale DAC chips market.
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