More Amazing DACs for Peanuts

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wushuliu

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More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« on: 11 Sep 2017, 07:29 pm »
The DAC turnaround cycle is nuts. Check this out:



SMSL Idea: Sabre ES9018Q2C USB DAC/head amp with XMOS XU208. 32bit/768khz. Up to DSD 512.

https://www.amazon.com/SMSL-IDEA-SABRE9018Q2C-DSD512-Black/dp/B06Y1WFT4W

Cost? $86
How does it sound? Very, VERY good. Bye Bye Dragonfly Red.
I'm indifferent to Archimago, but he has a good post about it here: http://archimago.blogspot.com/2017/05/measurements-smsl-idea-usb-dac.html

Then just 2 months ago, same factory, different company releases the same DAC for $63!!!

https://www.amazon.com/Sabaj-Da2-Portable-Headphone-Amplifier/dp/B0719FMRKH

Okay, that's nuts but THEN a month ago that company releases THIS:


https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073SSNMKK

DUAL ES9018 DAC with Balanced output. Cost? $97

That's. Just. Nuts.

Yes, I got the dual one. Had to. Curiosity was too much. It sounds the same as the single version, however I'm positive the noise floor is lower and the amount of inner
detail is impressive. I have a heavily modded PC and power supply chain so that helps a lot I'm sure, but this level of performance for this price is crazy. The key here IMO is the XU208. The XU208 and 216 XMOS had to be bought as a separate add-on just a year ago like the Singxer F1, etc. It raises the performance of a usb dac considerably and became very popular. A year later you can find it on a $63 DAC. Crazy.

« Last Edit: 13 Sep 2017, 01:20 am by wushuliu »

jtwrace

Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #1 on: 11 Sep 2017, 07:42 pm »
Have you ever seen any DSD with preamp for those costs? 

wushuliu

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Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #2 on: 11 Sep 2017, 08:17 pm »
Have you ever seen any DSD with preamp for those costs?

Not that I know of (but then I don't really use DSD).

Odal3

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Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #3 on: 12 Sep 2017, 02:46 am »
Thanks for sharing! How does it compare to your other DACs?

JLM

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Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #4 on: 12 Sep 2017, 10:09 am »
But are you buying features and specifications or sound quality? 

wushuliu

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Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #5 on: 12 Sep 2017, 01:40 pm »
Thanks for sharing! How does it compare to your other DACs?

The Sabaj DA3 is better than the dragonfly red no question. It is an audiophile dac that almost makes lossy Google Play tracks sound hi res. And that's just with unbalanced output.

Compared to my modded Signstek, the Sabaj/SMSL single chip sabre dacs are not as warm and magical in the mids. But overall fidelity goes to sabre dac. I don't know not really comparable. Just different presentations. But I will never get rid of the signstek. So good.

The dual chip Sabaj however, man, it does some things really well. The signstek I can understand folks being skeptical about. But the dual chip Sabaj I think any audiophile would be impressed.

wushuliu

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Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #6 on: 12 Sep 2017, 01:50 pm »
But are you buying features and specifications or sound quality?

Always sound quality first. That's what I'm trying to say. What you get for $100 is incredible. Maybe the benefit of the newer xmos is not as familiar here as elsewhere. I've brought it up before. They elevate performance. Instrument separation, clarity, micro details are improved. Plus they allow more flexibility with playback software like Jplay so you can squeeze out even more. It is not a minor addition.

I don't know any  other dacs with xu208 or 216 for this price much less dual sabre chips. And can fit in Palm of your hand. All this would have cost 500 or more easily two years ago.

charmerci

Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #7 on: 12 Sep 2017, 03:55 pm »
Always sound quality first. That's what I'm trying to say. What you get for $100 is incredible. Maybe the benefit of the newer xmos is not as familiar here as elsewhere. I've brought it up before. They elevate performance. Instrument separation, clarity, micro details are improved. Plus they allow more flexibility with playback software like Jplay so you can squeeze out even more. It is not a minor addition.



But what's your system that you are using/comparing with? I don't see it.

wushuliu

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Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #8 on: 12 Sep 2017, 04:22 pm »

But what's your system that you are using/comparing with? I don't see it.

Hm, show me your papers eh? Been here a while but that's okay. My system changes a lot as I try out different things and it leans heavily to diy. At present:

Headphones: Sennheiser 599
AMP: 3-eaudio TPA3251 Class D Amplifier
Pre: Just passive right now
Speakers: SB Acoustics SB17NAC/TW29R MTM (diy)

PC: i5 Kaby Lake Quad Core, SSD drives powered by linear power supply
USB: IFI iDefender 3.0, iSilencer 3.0, LT3045 .8uV linear power supply to iDefender so USB Dacs are powered by that supply
Software: Jplay, Minimserver, Fidelizer (critical), Tidal, Google Play (casual)

Recent DACs I've owned/listened to include last 12 mos: Soekris R2R (modded), Peachtree DacIT, Dragonfly Red, iDAC2, IFI Micro, Signstek. Probably some more I can't remember.

I am using headphones more and more these days and the Sennheisers most closely mirror the presentation of my MTMs. Haven't played the Sabaj DA3 yet with the MTMs.


wushuliu

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Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #9 on: 12 Sep 2017, 04:28 pm »
Let me add there's also been a lot of DAC-based diy including synchronous clocking boards and using the aforementioned XU208 and XU216 Xmos USB/SPDIF converters like the Singxer F-1 and related boards, etc.

Odal3

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Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #10 on: 12 Sep 2017, 04:28 pm »
Thanks for the comparisons! I appreciate that you share info on these type of products and I always read it with great interest. I agree there are some amazing bang for the buck DAC out there and it is tempting to try many.

I have lately been into raspberry pi hat DACs and am getting curious about this future and hopefully affordable ess9028q2m offering from Allo :

http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/digital-line-level/310338-dac-allo-ess9028q2m-rpi.html

Back to the Sabaj: Are you only using it with a computer and stereo amp  or also for portable and or headphones?
Do you know if it would be easy to mod it to power it separately?
What about drivers - do you need special drivers for windows,linux, android?

Here are some manufacturer (so take with grain of salt) provided pictures of the internals and some measurements
http://www.sabaj.com.cn/en/productshow.asp?id=74

wushuliu

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Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #11 on: 12 Sep 2017, 04:52 pm »
Thanks for the comparisons! I appreciate that you share info on these type of products and I always read it with great interest. I agree there are some amazing bang for the buck DAC out there and it is tempting to try many.

I have lately been into raspberry pi hat DACs and am getting curious about this future and hopefully affordable ess9028q2m offering from Allo :

http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/digital-line-level/310338-dac-allo-ess9028q2m-rpi.html

Back to the Sabaj: Are you only using it with a computer and stereo amp  or also for portable and or headphones?
Do you know if it would be easy to mod it to power it separately?
What about drivers - do you need special drivers for windows,linux, android?

Here are some manufacturer (so take with grain of salt) provided pictures of the internals and some measurements
http://www.sabaj.com.cn/en/productshow.asp?id=74

I'm excited about the RPi/Allo developments. Hearing great things recently. I'm going to wait a  little bit longer and then give their stuff a go. I'll check out the thread, thanks.

I use these dacs for desktop only, not portable.

Easiest way to power it separately would be to get an iDefender and then use power supply of your choice. Just need to make sure you use the appropriate usb connector for the iDefender power port.

I have read there may be some minor driver playback issues for Android/Linux users. So that's something to look out for. Windows 10 has new USB 2 drivers with the recent Creator's update so you can either let those automatically install or you can download the Xmos Drivers from the SMSL or Sabaj website.


charmerci

Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #12 on: 12 Sep 2017, 05:18 pm »
Hm, show me your papers eh? Been here a while but that's okay.



Here you go!


 

wushuliu

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Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #13 on: 12 Sep 2017, 05:20 pm »

wushuliu

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Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #14 on: 12 Sep 2017, 06:21 pm »
Don't need the Idea anymore so I'm happy to loan it out for an informal tour (stateside) if anyone's interested.

JDUBS

Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #15 on: 12 Sep 2017, 10:23 pm »
Have you tried the balanced output? 

How about 44.1khz upsampled to DSD512?

Any clicks / other sounds at the end of / between tracks?

Finally (sorry for all the Qs), how long did it take to get it here in the States?

Thanks,
Jim

wushuliu

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Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #16 on: 13 Sep 2017, 01:15 am »
Have you tried the balanced output? 

How about 44.1khz upsampled to DSD512?

Any clicks / other sounds at the end of / between tracks?

Finally (sorry for all the Qs), how long did it take to get it here in the States?

Thanks,
Jim

Hi Jim. I don't use DSD. Getting 512 playback may involve extra steps with Foobar. I'd recommend reading the Archimago post on the SMSL Idea. Someone posted this regarding DSD 512 playback:
http://archimago.blogspot.com/2017/05/measurements-smsl-idea-usb-dac.html?showComment=1496879168283#c6035919678852419577

Haven't tried the balanced output yet on the Sabaj DA3. No noises between tracks with either dac, but I use Windows. I think a couple Android users mentioned something about noises related to new firmware. The only issues I've read so far are related to Android.

Two weeks via Amazon.

Odal3

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Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #17 on: 13 Sep 2017, 01:27 am »
Thanks for the additional info. Testing all the latest is fun but I have learned that when it comes to firmware and drivers (regardless if computer audio or network related such as routers) it is often much less headache to have a little bit patience and buy when most of the bugs have been sorted out.  The having patience bit is the hard part :D

wushuliu

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Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #18 on: 13 Sep 2017, 01:59 am »
Thanks for the additional info. Testing all the latest is fun but I have learned that when it comes to firmware and drivers (regardless if computer audio or network related such as routers) it is often much less headache to have a little bit patience and buy when most of the bugs have been sorted out.  The having patience bit is the hard part :D

I think that's one of the trade offs for what you pay. Android users may have to wait a while for the issues to get sorted, if they get sorted at all, and by the time they do there may be another newer better product. These companies tend to use the stock drivers and that's it. Not much custom development. So Android/Linux folks should avoid.

danabunner

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Re: More Amazing DACs for Peanuts
« Reply #19 on: 13 Sep 2017, 04:19 am »
That $97 Sabaj Da3 is very tempting.  I don't have anything with the ESS DACs and do have a preamp with balanced inputs.  If it's crap, I could do without burning a C-note, but would be fun to check out.