Saturday 27 August 2022

REVIEW: Sabaj A20d 2022 Version DAC [Part III] - DSD, Headphone Out, AMPT, Subjective Impressions and Summary. (And some more Peru pictures!)

Okay, we're in the final stretch of my measurements/review series on the Sabaj A20d 2022 DAC. This time, let's finish with some measurements around DSD performance, the headphone amp output quality, and let's talk about subjective listening impressions before the final summary on my impressions of the device. (See Part I and Part II for earlier instalments in this review.)

Friday 19 August 2022

REVIEW: Sabaj A20d 2022 Version DAC [Part II] - Resolution & Distortion. (Windows 11 22H2 available. Greetings from Peru!)

Let's continue our discussion of the Sabaj A20d 2022 today as we dive into the core of  the DAC's PCM resolution characteristics. You might want to review Part I as I had discussed much about the hardware itself, the filter options for the device, and jitter already.

Saturday 13 August 2022

REVIEW: Sabaj A20d 2022 Version DAC (ESS ES9038PRO) [Part I] - Hardware, Filters, and Jitter.

[Disclosure: Most of the products I review have been purchased personally or loaned from friends. On occasion, a manufacturer or seller will contact me about a device which I might have an interest in. This Sabaj DAC is one such device which was sent to me from the company for an honest, independent review. As I have done over the years, my review process focuses mostly on objective performance with some subjective listening opinions. Objective data rather than pure subjectivity I believe will help substantially mitigate bias.]

Over the last few years, we have seen an impressive proliferation of high resolution DACs at very reasonable price points coming from audio companies in China. In the world of consumer electronics, this should surprise nobody given that much of our technological products hail from that part of the world. Everything from Apple phones, to computer motherboards, to high-tech multinationals like AMD and Intel having manufacturing and assembly lines there.

On the test bench, we have the Sabaj A20d 2022 Version (currently ~US$420). Make sure to take note of the "2022 Version" because there is also the original A20d "2021 version" which clearly looks very different, does not feature headphone outputs, but is also based on the flagship ES9038PRO chip.

At the heart of this DAC, the ESS ES9038PRO is aided by the ES9311 "ultra-low noise" linear regulator to provide reference voltage to the DAC. Headphone amplifier is based on the TI TPA6120A2.

As I have been doing in the last year (like with the Topping D90SE, and S.M.S.L. DO100 previously) I think it's good taking my time with multi-part reviews to examine the various facets of these modern devices. Unlike back in the "old days" of digital where CD players only handled 16/44.1 content, modern DACs provide a whole host of samplerates, PCM + DSD, filtering options, potential noise and jitter variation, headphone output and input options typically USB and S/PDIF variants; even with these tests, as an audiophile who prioritizes sound quality, I haven't even seriously examined the Bluetooth audio options available in these devices over the years.

Saturday 6 August 2022

REVIEW: iFi GO Bar - Portable DAC / Headphone Amp (Cirrus Logic DAC, Balanced & Unbalanced).

My friend AudioPhil is really into his headphone gear. Recently he acquired the product above and asked if I might want to play with this for a few days... Sure, this looks interesting!

This is the new iFi GO bar (around US$320), a portable headphone DAC/amp. The USB interface is a USB-C form factor (480Mbps USB2.0 Hi-Speed), and there are outputs for single-ended/unbalanced 3.5mm TRS and balanced 4.4mm pentaconn. Interestingly, the company (iFi, subsidiary of AMR/Abbingdon Music Research) does not specify which DAC chip is used inside. Suspicion is that it's likely the Cirrus Logic CS43198 or CS43131, both are recent chips circa 2017 capable of "pseudo-differential" outputs and low-power consumption <40mW with rated THD+N of -115dB, DR 130dB, maximum PCM 32/384, and DSD256. The specs look good but don't get too excited about these ideal numbers when implemented in a USB dongle.

I don't know what's the point of being so secretive about the DAC chip used (Crutchfield says it's the 43131).

Monday 1 August 2022

Pacific Audio Fest 2022 (PAF 2022) - Concluding observations and thoughts... (MoFi One-Step DSD controversy, and a few videos!)

Well, the first PAF 2022 is now in the record books (see Day 1 and Day 2 for context). I honestly hope that the organizers, companies showing off their goods, and attendees all had a great time. I regret not getting the RMAF2019 T-shirt so made sure to grab one this time around and will wear it with pride among fellow audiophiles. ;-)

As I was driving home to Vancouver, BC, I was thinking about audio shows in general and also specifically about the PAF... What was seen, the experience of these shows as an audiophile, stuff like that.