Sabaj D5 Review

This review includes detailed measurements and a description of the Sabaj D5 DAC/balanced headphone amplifier. The company graciously sent it to me. Amazon US sells the D5 for $470. It is equipped with the ESS ES9038Pro DAC Chip. Performance should therefore be very good.

Although the D5 is a fairly common DAC at this price, some effort has been made to make it unique.

The OLED display is very sharp. The font is too small, but it is perfect for menu adjustment. As you can see, they could have used a larger font for the volume level symbol.

You have the option of 1/4 or 4-pin balanced XLR headphones out. Each one must be selected separately in the menu, along with Line Out at the back.

You can navigate the menus with just a click and a wheel. To exit the current menu, hold the button down.

It comes with a remote control, which I didn’t use. However, it looks exactly like the Topping remote control. However, the labeling is slightly different.

The back panel displays the addition of I2S input, in addition to other typical ins-and-outs we expect.

These products do not have Bluetooth input, but it is becoming a standard.

As I prefer to see in this price range, power supply is internal. I believe the CE and FCC regulatory marks are legitimate.

DAC Audio Measurements

Let’s first test the DAC section with XLR output. Sabaj had sent me a picture of the Dashboard and I was disappointed that I couldn’t get close to their SINAD rating. The website explained that heatsinks were used, and the unit takes 30 minutes to reach the required temperature. Although I don’t usually put too much weight on comments like this, this was an amazing experience. Performance soared after about 30 minutes of being distracted by other tasks.

As I noticed, the cold SINAD (signal over distortion and noise) was approximately 107 dB. This rating would have made the unit blend into a lot of “good” DACs. It rises to the top at 119.

This combination DAC/headphone amplifier is a remarkable performance!

The highest level distortion spikes are around -130dB, which is far beyond what we need to “prove” audible transparency.

Just slightly behind was the unbalanced RCA output

There is some mains interference as expected. However, they are very low at -130dB.

The filter was in use and the frequency response was not affected.

Sabaj D5 Headphone Amplifier Frequency response Audio Measurements.

The Jitter test reveals a fair amount of sidebands

Some of this may be due to a very low noise floor that exposes more than we might otherwise see. The levels are below -130dB, so there is no audible effect.

The 32-tone display has the same outstanding performance.

Linearity test shows excellent accuracy of 20 bits/-120dB

Sabaj D5 Headphone Amplifier and DAC.

A very clear spectrum also shows frequency and distortion:

It’s not perfect. Well, no. Intermodulation tests show the “ESS IMD Hump”, where distortion increases at mid-levels:

The graph begins with very low levels IMD/noise. It’s a shame. It also ends with very little distortion.

You can set the tones at 19 and 20 khz to see what intermodulation is there.

This template was based on the recent, reviewed boutique Totaldac d1-60 DAC in blue. While the d1-six is more expensive than US $14,000, this $460 DAC beats it by a wide margin. The DAC has a lower level of noise and distortion, which allows all the details in your music to be heard. D5’s worst case distortion is at -115dB, which again crosses the line of transparent performance.

There are many reconstruction filters that you can choose from. Here’s what they do to frequency response.

“Fast Linear”, is the default out-of-box.

Dynamic range tests show that the D5 is a quiet DAC

Sabaj D5 Headphone Amplifier Dynamic Audio Measurements.

Audio Measurements for Headphone Amplifiers

Let’s begin with the dashboard view using 2 volts from 1/4 XLR headphones out:

We see quite a bit of mains noise due to the unbalance input of my analyzer. However, the second harmonic at -112dB sets the limit more or lesser. Although this is a very impressive performance, it is still a bit lower than our top-of-the-line headphone amplifiers (JDS Labs Atom etc.). ).

The most important measurement for headphones are power and distortion. Let’s begin with 300 Ohm load, which is high impedance headphones. It also indicates the amp’s ability to produce high voltages.

The power output is very clean, up to 56 milliwatts. As the Topping DX3 Pro offers, I prefer to see more than 100 milliwatts.

Moving to the opposite extreme of 33 Ohm, emphasizing the current delivery we receive:

This is much better. We get closer to the Topping DX3Pro at 0.4 Watts, even though there is some distortion.

We have 50 ohm loads and are switching to XLR output

This is a good 1.3 watts, and should be capable of driving a lot more inefficient headphones. A distortion mechanism is used to limit the low end to -100dB. Although this is a great feature, many other products could have been displaced by the D5 if it wasn’t.

The channel balance is as perfect as you would expect from a combo DAC+amp, which can also use the DAC to volume control.

The knob is only 40 steps and moves quickly so you might not be able to control it as well as other competitors.

Edit: I forgot to add the output impedance.

Listening Tests

The results of the listening tests were identical to those of the measurements. Sennheiser HD650 produced very clean sound until it stopped working. It was impossible to create the sensation of bass notes inside your ears. 🙂 But there was more.

The situation was much improved with Hifiman HE-4000i. The volume was higher and there was less distortion. It was also a joy to listen to.

Conclusions

The Sabaj D5 DAC/headphone amplifier is a well-engineered product. It outperforms almost every other DAC I’ve ever tried! When used well, the ESS ES9038Pro produces astonishingly low levels distortion. This is what you see here. It also causes the IMD hump, which I blame ESS for not solving before unleashing this design on implementers. It would be a game changer if Sabaj used the fix others have begun to roll out. This would make it impossible for products in any price range to be obsoleted.

The output of the headphone is excellent. Although it doesn’t push the boundaries as much as the DAC side, what is there is clean and free from distortion. A person who needs to listen to very loud music or has very low headphone efficiency would be able to use this DAC. If so, you can use a fantastic DAC for whatever it is.

It is a little odd that the unit must be left on for a while to get its best performance. However, even the unit’s “cold” performance will likely be transparent enough.

I am happy to recommend the Sabaj D5. This is a great example of a well-engineered product at an extremely affordable price.

Folks, I’m in trouble! Google’s language translator has been extended to translate from English to the Panther language. My phone was stolen by one of my panthers, who brought up these reviews to see the translated versions of all these ridiculous jokes. You can see that they are as angry as possible. To make them forget everything, I love to treat them with ice cream. However, I am in dire need of funds. Please help me to avoid angry bites by donating what you can.

 

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