Sabre DACs sounding a bit boring?

Discussion in 'DACs' started by AuFX, May 4, 2018.

  1. AuFX

    AuFX Member

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    My ODAC rev. b (ONLY when using external power supply instead of USB power) definitely performs like a ~$120 DAC but it sounds really great, from the bass to treble its very pleasing.

    I bought the Hifime UDA9038pro, a budget DAC using Sabre 9038 Pro, and it outperforms the ODAC in seperation and detail but its painfully boring. the sound is very clean and detailed but lacks the 'body' and 'energy' of the ODAC, Music sounds very emotionless and distant and I think it is a drawback of this Sabre DAC as the ODAC simply sounds more realistic/live even with poorer detail retrieval, seperation and imaging/soundstage

    The ODAC uses a Burr Brown chip (PCM1502), could those impressions be down to going from a Burr Brown to Sabre DAC? Or perhaps its a poorly implemented DAC and I should look for a different Sabre DAC?

    edit: after the intial impressions with this DAC the sound has grown on me. it just has far better range in its abilities, poor recordings sound poorer, good recordings sound better. its far more interesting to listen to. where the ODAC adds the same colouration to everything.
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2018

     

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  2. kray

    kray HE>i Subscriber

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    This seems to be everything I've read online about the Sabre chips. I don't have one and haven't actually heard one, but from all my research it's made me shy away from any Sabre based DAC. Obviously there's more than just the chip itself, but...
     
  3. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps this is how a well measuring DAC sounds like? If seriously Sabre has more tech inside, like the jitter removal and what not, I suspect in the most simple configuration when it runs in async mode it tends to overprocess the data this is the kind of sound you get.
     
  4. E.Auer

    E.Auer Super Member

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    One persons "Boring" could be another persons "Clean" I guess.

    Expectations vary greatly. Personally I like a DAC that sounds like "Nothing" :)

    Eric
     
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  5. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

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    It just depends on the design. DACS are SO MUCH MORE than just the chip used.
     
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  6. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    I've found that using Western Electric 20awg tinned copper IC's after Sabre DAC's really improves their performance quite a lot, bringing lead vocals and instruments slightly forward in the mix. Without that, yes, quite boring.
     

     

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  7. AuFX

    AuFX Member

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    I think the main problem is the bass. you can hear it, its all there, but it has no density. this Sabre DAC uses a OPA1622 in the output stage, people say the output stage has the biggest impact on sound but I have used OPA1612 and OPA1622 in my amp and they have some of the best bass Ive heard from an op amp, punchy , weighty and no bleed/smear. the quality of this DACs sound is very good so It would be nice to try a different one to see if this really is a Sabre thing but it already seems like it might be
     
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  8. AuFX

    AuFX Member

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    btw do you have any suggestions for an alternative?
     
  9. kray

    kray HE>i Subscriber

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    Hard to say. I use the Maverick D2 tube DAC which uses the old trusty AD1955 chip with sparkos discrete op-amps and really enjoy it...

    But I’ve been really interested in getting a R2R style DAC next like the Soekris 1321

    If I were to try another DS style DAC I’d prob choose one with AK4497 chips
     
  10. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

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    I like my ESS Sabre 9018 DAC chipsets.

    Clean? Yes.

    Clear? Always

    Concise? Absolutely.

    I'd call it an open and honest sound that punches superbly when the music tells it to. Of course, some system arrangements have an impact on the liveliness and punch of the music. For me, they work well with my system and they more than satisfy my listening preferences.
     
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  11. pete_mac

    pete_mac Super Member

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    Absolutely!!

    Regarding Sabre DACs, my experience is that there are a vast number of DACs out there with a less than optimal design - they simply follow ESS's recommended circuit and datasheet and leave it at that.

    Despite all the hyerbole ("Hyperstream DAC architecture, Time Domain Jitter Eliminator" et al) these chips are very sensitive to the power supply, source, clock and output stage circuitry - just the same as every other DAC chip on the market.

    With all that said, the ESS chips tend towards the brighter, more revealing end of the spectrum IMHO.

    I've very much enjoyed the sound of my current Gieseler Klein DAC with the AKM AK4490EQ chip. It treads the middle ground between my previous R2R PCM1704UK DACs and the brigher Sabre DACs. Again, implementation is king (and this is a very good implementation!) but I'm sold!
     
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  12. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

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    EVERY tube DAC I have heard sounds like shit and they seem to have very high background noise. That includes the high dollar lampizator DAC's.

    Why have a tube on a digital end? Just get a well designed DAC.
     
  13. kray

    kray HE>i Subscriber

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    Thanks I enjoy listening to complete shit
     
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  14. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

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    Just saying what I heard. May at shows like AXPONA too. Where they have super high end ones, which are supposedly designed better.
     
  15. kray

    kray HE>i Subscriber

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    I get it, but if I thought my DAC sounded like shit, obviously I'd have bought a new one yesterday. Also my DAC has both a tube out and a pre out that bypasses the tube all together.
     
  16. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

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    The thing about tubes, is the soft clip, which adds distortion and a more analog sound. If I want that, I listen to tape or vinyl :D .

    If you enjoy your DAC, that is all that matters.
     

     

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  17. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    Agree 100%. The Gieseler DAC's are phenomenonal. Love my Gieseler Groß. I'm waiting for Clay to release the budget version of it so I can get one for my second system. He's still busily building Groß DAC's though
     
  18. wushuliu

    wushuliu Well-Known Member

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    Personal taste aside, the ODAC uses the older and lesser Sabre ES9023 while Hifime uses the best Sabre chip, the ES9038Pro. This chip is head and shoulders above the old ES9018/9023 etc. I used to have the ODAC. I thought it was awful. I had to mod it to take away the harsh and overly bright presentation. My mod must have been on the right track because I then compared my modded ODAC to the Audioquest Dragonfly (v.1) and they sounded almost exactly alike. The Dragonfly also used the 9023.

    Then again with USB DACs there are so many other factors to consider - especially the source. Pete mac is correct - If the source quality and power supply is poor, the DAC will suffer, always.

    Personally, I find the Hifime UDA38Pro to be one of the best dacs I've heard. Don't know the OP's setup, but the new Hifime it does *not* sound like a typical Sabre dac. It actually sounds more like an AKM. It's more bold, enveloping, with amazing mids. Other owners seem to think likewise. But I use low noise linear power supplies and my PC uses the lowest latency possible. It is not a dac to just add on any old usb source and call it a day. As Pete mac said, implementation is particularly important for the Sabre DACs.

    And if the OP finds the Hifime 'boring' compared to the ODAC, I'm going to guess it's because the Hifime has much lower distortion. All his descriptors point to that IMO. Cause it is the *least* boring Sabre I've heard.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2018
  19. wushuliu

    wushuliu Well-Known Member

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    Oh dear.
     
  20. wushuliu

    wushuliu Well-Known Member

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    I see that the ODAC chip was replaced in 2015 from the ES9023 to the Burr Brown. Color me skeptical but I'm going to chalk that up to it just being cheaper to implement. And if the OP really wants advice he needs to provide some actual info about the setup. If we're talking a laptop or phone for instance, well... expectations should be set accordingly.
     

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