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Is Sabre ES9018 the best DAC chip right now?

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  1. Vandal
    I've been lurking around DAC threads, and I have a query. I'm looking to upgrade one of my DAC's, the Audio GD DAC19 DSP, which is PCM1704 based, and single ended. I am looking at the ES9018 based NFB-1 which is a full balanced DAC, to go with my balanced NFB-6.
    While Kingwa has assured me that the NFB-6 can balance the output of the DAC19DSP, since I am using ACSS connects, I do need a bit more dB level, and was wondering if a discrete balanced DAC would be an upgrade in terms of SQ.
    Any comments, especially given they're based on two separate DAC chips?
  2. Vandal
    Any comments guys?
  3. money4me247 Contributor
    don't do it!!! =P
  4. Clemmaster
    Since this is the ES9018 thread (or not, actually), I highly recommend the NFB-7.
  5. Vandal
    Hi Clemmaster, would your recommendation be stay with the PCM1704 or move to the Sabre chip? Either way I need a balanced setup :)
  6. nigeljames
    Not Clemmaster but in answer to your question it would depend on what attributes you value most in your music which is also influenced by the music you listen to.
    So what do you listen to and what attributes are the most important to you?
  7. Vandal
    Hi, I listen to a variety of music, but mostly rock, some country, some easy listening with a bit of metal thrown in, but not the new-age heavy stuff. I value clarity, detail, and other than that, am not a bass, or treble head.
    What are the attributes of these 2 chips? And is it that noticeable that I would notice it at first listen? BTW I do not have golden ears, and am a normal listener.
  8. nigeljames
    Well given your tastes I would recommend the Sabre32 over the PCM1704.
    Although the chip is not the only factor in actual performance or character of the sound I have always found the Sabre32 gives a faster, livelier and more detailed sound than the PCM1704 which often gives a more laid back relaxing sound.
    I currently own the NFB-7 and also listen to rock and metal (not the extreme versions) and love my DAC. I have also listened to the Audio-gd Ref 1 and 5.32 and although both are very good could not compete with the NFB-7 with regards speed, detail, dynamics and general excitement and involvement. I have also listened to expensive Naim CD players/DAC's that use the 1704 chip and had the same impression, although not in my system.
    If you have not already read it may I direct you to my NFB-7 review (http://www.head-fi.org/t/572385/review-audio-gd-nfb-7) Even if the NFB-7 is not an option it may still give you some points to consider.
  9. Clemmaster
    Yeah nigeljames nailed it.
    The only PCM1704 that can compete with the NFB-7 in these aspects is the M7 + offramp-5. We're looking at a $3,500 combo vs a $1,500 standalone DAC.

    The Sabre is a much cheaper alternative.
    The NFB-7 does not exhibit much (if at all, depending on the upstream gear) of the Sabre shortcomings (weird treble roughness, poor bass definition) that many mid-tier DAC have (e.g. Yulong DA8). It has a very lively/impactful sound but is not bright or glary.
  10. preproman
    I'm serious thinking about getting the NFB-7 and keeping the Master 7.  These DACs are really the best bang for your buck around.  I like the high part count and the special attention he pays to the power supply section.  
    One really down not need to spend a fortune on a DAC for good SQ.  
    Besides it will be good to have a Saber DAC in the house to see what all this BS is about harsh treble.  I really don't think Kingwa would put out anything with a major flaw.  The output stage will more than likely take care of that.
  11. Clemmaster
    What about the AMR?
  12. nigeljames
    I have always considered bass definition & control a Sabre32 specialty, especially compared to some 1704 chipped dacs I have heard.
    I do agree though that the treble is one of the first things to go with a poor Sabre32 design.
  13. preproman
    It stays as well [​IMG]
  14. Vandal
    OK. So the NFB-1 is balanced as well, and for 650$ but half the price of the NFB-7. What are the crucial differences I would be missing on? I have read terms like TXCO and such, but can't make much of the differences out. How noticeable would they be on say a balanced HD650, or AKG702, RS1i?
  15. isquirrel
    I have been trying out some high end DAC's recently and that's bought me to ask the question of myself and others what is the best method, FPGA or more traditional off the shelf chips.
    The conclusion I have come to is I am no expert on DAC chips however I'm not sure how you can determine how a chip sounds in isolation without having it converted back into analogue.

    And I would imagine that what actually determines the sound quality is how the DAC is executed and not just the individual components and chips used. You could have a good chip sound average in a DAC unless the rest of the DAC is executed properly.
    The only valid test for me is listening to it and letting my ears and heart decide.
    I am currently trying out the Chord DX1000 which has the same DAC as the QBD76 and comparing it to my Hugo. I have a Gryphon Kalliope arriving next week for a trial, I hear that has one of the best if not the best implementation of the Sabre 9018.
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