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Sabre Distorion(Design Flaw?)


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I was reading a review of the Henry Audio USB DAC.. I'll let the quote speak for itself

 

"In your first iterations of the DAC, you employed an ESS Sabre chip. The new DAC has gone with a different chip. Why?

"ESS don't make their products available through typical electronic parts distributors. Getting them in low volumes was a big hassle. But what made me choose another chip was the discovery of an internal math bug in the ES9022/9023. A >-1.3dB full-scale square wave played through their chip will generate great amounts of distortion. With modern compressed music, that isn't just a theoretical occurrence. I worked many years with signal conditioning and was able to see what goes on. In technical terms, the internal FIR filter does a 2's complement overflow where a very positive number actually flips around and becomes a very negative number. This occurs before the sigma-delta modulator. A digital limiter or lower gain in the FIR would solve this."

 

- 6moons audioreviews: Henry Audio USB DAC 128 MkII

 

I'm currently in the market for a new DAC, and stumbling across this brought my search to a halt. Much of my music collection is sadly highly compressed. If I'm going to remove all Sabre DACs from consideration I don't want to do so based on a single account. I was wondering if anyone else has tested this theory or has the background to look over the whitepapers and determine if there is any truth to this. Most importantly if there is anything to this; is it an issue in all Sabre chips or specific products?

 

I have experience with a DAC using the ESS 9010-2M and whilst I did find the sound of it far from neutral I feel that I'd be a bit like an inquisitor trying to make the problem fit the impression.

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I haven't read that review, but in my experience, Sabre chips can sound fabulous. But I'm curious if there might be better options out there.

 

I have only one experience with a Sabre (ES9018) DAC. I've read much about Sabre DACs being a bit hard or shrill in the treble and lacking musicality. In limited comparisons to non-Sabre DACs (including a Zodiac), I can't say that about mine (Burson Conductor). (I did find upsampling to be hugely beneficial - although, I wouldn't have said those general criticisms of the chip to hold true without upsampling.)

 

Exasound and AURALiC seem to be able to make well regarded DACs using the ES9018 chip.

Music on TF cards -> GentooPlayer in RAM on mini fanless/supercap NUC -> Audio GD R-27 -> S.A.T. Infinity monoblocks -> Gallo Stradas + TR-3 sub / Erzetich Phobos

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The 9023 is one of their least expensive chips and, IIRC, it is only 24 bits, not 32. The 9023 is what is in the original Concero, which sounded pretty good to me considering the price. The 9023 is not, however, in the same league as the 32 bit Sabre DACs.

Main System: Auralic Aries G2, Ayre QX-5 Twenty, Ayre KX-5 Twenty, Ayre VX-5 Twenty, Revel Ultima Studio2, Iconoclast speaker cables & interconnects, RealTraps acoustic treatments

Living Room: Sonore ultraRendu, Ayre QB-9DSD, SimAudio Moon 340iX, B&W 802 Diamond

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Noticed that the Henry Audio USB DAC is being sold on Amazon but they have a different but good picture instead at this time!

 

http://www.amazon.com/Henry-Audio-USB-DAC-mkII/dp/B00WKFJJ5A

 

Ha! Nice Framework. And it does look good from behind as well ...

But this Dac has the worst WAF factor I could imagine ... ;-)

Esoterc SA-60 / Foobar2000 -> Mytek Stereo 192 DSD / Audio-GD NFB 28.38 -> MEG RL922K / AKG K500 / AKG K1000  / Audioquest Nighthawk / OPPO PM-2 / Sennheiser HD800 / Sennheiser Surrounder / Sony MA900 / STAX SR-303+SRM-323II

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That's a whole new level in minimalist marketing. At least when the product is in the photo there is some reassurance they didn't just lift a stock photo.

 

So the consensus is that the distortion is probably limited to the low-end chips and even then it doesn't come up? I'm mostly concerned as my collection is not mastered well. The loudness war hit the genres I like hard; if this flaw is real I'd be running into it more than not. And being that reviewers use music that pulls the most from a test system I can see many of them never experiencing this problem.

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I can't speak for other Sabre DACs, but I feel I am able to enjoy most of my library. Although, like most here, I do play the better recorded albums more frequently.

Music on TF cards -> GentooPlayer in RAM on mini fanless/supercap NUC -> Audio GD R-27 -> S.A.T. Infinity monoblocks -> Gallo Stradas + TR-3 sub / Erzetich Phobos

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I can't speak for other Sabre DACs, but I feel I am able to enjoy most of my library. Although, like most here, I do play the better recorded albums more frequently.

 

Received a LH Infinity a month ago. Let it run for a couple days. It has the latest and greatest Sabre dac chipset. Not sure why exactly I liked my old dac with AKM chips better.

Some say the new one needs 400 hours to sound its best. I did not give it that long.

Many very regarded dacs use the Sabre chips. Have not seen any distortion from the test results. They generally measure very well.

 

2012 Mac Mini, i5 - 2.5 GHz, 16 GB RAM. SSD,  PM/PV software, Focusrite Clarett 4Pre 4 channel interface. Daysequerra M4.0X Broadcast monitor., My_Ref Evolution rev a , Klipsch La Scala II, Blue Sky Sub 12

Clarett used as ADC for vinyl rips.

Corning Optical Thunderbolt cable used to connect computer to 4Pre. Dac fed by iFi iPower and Noise Trapper isolation transformer. 

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