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Sabaj D5: the DAC that is unquestionably a digital to analog converter

Discussion in 'Dedicated Source Components' started by Dadbeh, Apr 6, 2019.
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  1. bwcgrx
    I owned a D5 for a short period back in May when it first hit the market.

    Level matched into the same external headphone amp, a Gustard H10, the sound is essentially indistinguishable from my RME ADI-2 DAC. I felt I could detect a bit of difference between the two when using their built in amps. The D5 seaming slightly warmer/smoother and the RME brighter/clearer. Then again both DACs have fantastic objective measurements so I'm suspicious anyone could, in blind tests, detect significant changes, golden ears or not.

    Now that Amirm has confirmed that the objective measurements are quite good, this is definitely a good buy.

    Unfortunately my unit had to go back due to a complete failure and shutdown after only a few days of off and on use. I opted to not get a replacement as I already have the RME.

    I'm thinking about snagging a DROP + THX AAA 789 before that buy closes so I may try to snag another D5 later if it ever hits that PrimeDay price again. I'd like to compare the RME and D5 through the 789. Doubt I'll hear much difference but it would be nice to compare them using a balanced amp that is, probably, significantly cleaner than the Gustard H10.
    Light - Man, Baten and maxxevv like this.
  2. muths66
    output impedance 3ohms good for my 8ohm headphone.
    What does the hum thing does?
    How the sound compare with thx aaa 789?
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
  3. Alboxing
    I own some Sabaj products, they are all greatly made and I like that they do put attentions and focus on the details.

    I believe Sabaj, together with Fiio, is actually one of the best chinese audio companies. Thumb up.
    HungryPanda and Light - Man like this.
  4. MarCo7
    That's really good to hear, it's on my top 2 now. I have heard this is one hefty unit! Now to look for a deal (I didn't see the Prime Day deal) or wait until 11/11.
  5. sandman2575
    I wonder if someone could explain what the problem is with the "Ess hump" in layman's terms - ?
    Light - Man likes this.
  6. wushuliu
    If someone can't hear the difference between an ESS-based dac and an AKM-based dac then they shouldn't be spending that kind of money on a component anyway. Any $20 dac off Amazon should suffice. People realize the *engineers* for both companies specifically design these chips to have a certain sonic signature, right? Martin Mallinson of ESS and the engineers from AKM are on record about what they're trying to do.
    Alboxing, Light - Man and Dadbeh like this.
  7. Dadbeh
    This ESS hump that amir talks about, is a tendency in ESS DACs to have less than ideal IMD. IMD is a completely unwanted type of distortion (ofcourse every distortion is unwanted but there is much more to this, things like even harmonics distortion that some say might be pleasing to the ear), it is frequencies that come about as a result of non-linearities of any signal processing. completely different than harmonic distortion. so most manufacturers give you a number called THD and boast about it being vanishingly low but dont tell you anything about IMD. But what it does to the sound? I have no idea, I just know that I usually do not like the sound of any ESS 9018 DAC and therefor in my head I connected these two together because in every other measurement I dont see any other pattern that distinguishes Sabre DACs from others. so I related the fatiguing, soul-less sound from those Sabre DACs to this inter-modulation distortion. what you need to know is that in Amir's reviews ideal behavior would be the red line but most ESS DACs have a hump like the blue line that is less than ideal. again what this hump actually means for the sound trhat you hear, if any effect at all, I have no idea. for example if another product has a hump with a different shape would it sound different? is this hump even significant enough for anyone to ever possibly hear? i have no idea. but this much we know that IMD is an imperfecion that we always want less of.

    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
  8. sandman2575
    @Dadbeh -- many thanks for this. I enjoy Amir's site but cannot pretend that I understand 90% of what all his graphs and measurements mean -- and even that percentage may be generous.

    Anyway, it's great to see such stellar results for the Sabaj D5. I've been enjoying mine for a couple of months and was eager to see if it would get reviewed on ASR.
  9. Alboxing
    That's exactly right, AKM has that "velvet sound" thingy that imho is them trying to replicate a NOS/filterless sound in an oversampling dac.

    They are in fact hellbent on that "superslow" filter which is more or less a slowly rolled off treble like a NOS dac would behave.

    I personally do not trust what ESS does under the hood. Does anybody remember when GPU makers were found implementing tricks in their video cards and driver to artificially increase their scores with common benchmarking programs such as 3dmark etc?
    I have this impression (no hard proof) that in ESS they seem more concerned developing tech to make them measure pretty in static limited tests (such as the ones Amirm runs) than to actually make good sounding dacs.

    I remember a few users running independent, multitone complex measurements where the ESS dacs start doing weird stuff and going haywire
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
  10. Baten
    The 9038Pro has received the best subjective reviews for a Saber chip so far though, so I'd think whatever was up is fixed now :)
  11. Alboxing
    Yeah the Pro one is probably a different beast than the cheap mobile versions that are commonly used, but still I was talking about the company's general vibe rather than any specific chip.

    I should have added that is just how I feel about that company, again no hard proof so I am not trying to sell it as a truth nor I want to start no flame :)
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
  12. Dadbeh
    This evening i was in the mood for some Tom Waits and stout. I dug my early serial number but new HD650 out and went hunting for the cables that I made some months ago but never used and what a treat with Sabaj D5:

    sound is detialed yet relaxed and the bass is tight and fast, nails the tone.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
    florence, HungryPanda, Baten and 2 others like this.
  13. Alboxing
    Is that blue headband protector one of those hand-knit ones that are sold on ebay from china? I got the same (or similar one) for my fidelio X2
  14. Christoph
    Have you compared it to the RME ADI-2 Dac or the RME ADI-2 Pro?
    Do you mean the amp sounds better than the ADI-2 (whatever) but as a DAC only the ADI-2 sounds better?
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2019
  15. SteveOliver
    Does anybody know if the I2S output on the Cayin N6ii is compatible with the Sabaj D5 I2S input and what cable could I use to connect the two together assuming they are compatible?
    Light - Man likes this.
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