Sabaj D5

Sabaj D5 Review

This review includes detailed measurements and a description of the Sabaj D5 DAC headphones amplifier. The Sabaj D5 comes with the top-of-the-line ESS ES9038Pro DAC chip leading users to believe the performance should be top-flight.

Overview: Sabaj D5

OLED displays are very sharp. Unfortunately, the font size is not large enough to allow for menu adjustments. The font used for status display, as seen above, was too small. I wish they had used a much larger font instead of the large symbol.

There are two types of headphone output: 1/4 and balanced 4-pin XLR. You will need to choose each one individually in the menu along with Line Out in back.  It is easy to navigate menus by using the click button or wheel. To exit the current page, press the button.

Although the remote control is not included, I haven’t used it. It looks almost identical to Topping’s. But with slightly different labeling.  However, these products don’t have Bluetooth input. As I would like to see it in this price range, the power supply is internal.

DAC Audio Measurements

We started by testing the Sabaj D5 DAC with XLR output. The Sabaj website stated that heatsinks are installed and that the unit must be heated up for 30 minutes. While I documented other facets of the Sabaj D5, my performance skyrocketed.

The cold SINAD (signal above noise and distortion) was 107 dB to 12 dB lower, as I noted. The unit would have been easily blended with other “good” DACs at that rating. At 119, however, it rockets to the top.

This is a stunning performance for a combination DAC/headphone amplifier at such an affordable price point.  The distortion levels at the highest point are approximately -130 dB. This is much higher than what we need for “provable” audio transparency.

Some mains interference is evident, but their levels are still extremely low at -130.3 dB.  This is partly due to the very low noise floor, which makes it possible to see what we wouldn’t otherwise see.

Headphone Amplifier Measurements

My analyzer uses unbalance input, which causes a fair amount of mains noise. The limit is set by the second harmonic at 112 dB. This is an excellent performance, but it’s a little lower than the class-leading headphone amplifiers JDS Labs Atom.

Our power is very clean up to 56 watts. The Topping DX3 Pro’s 100-milliwatt output is what I want.   There is some distortion, but we are closer to the Topping DX3Pro at 0.04 watts.

It is a healthy 1.3 Watts and should be strong enough to power many inefficient headphones. The distortion mechanism limits the low-end to -100dB. The D5 is an excellent product, but without it, other products could have fallen from their perch.

Sabaj D5 Reliability

D5 is a desktop amp/DAC combo in one unit with an easy-to-use remote control.  The D5 driver was set up with foobar200 and can natively play DSD512. I also up-sampled all PCM into DSD. D5 therefore supports DSD and sampling rates of up to DSD512/768Khz.

Listening Tests

The measurements were mirrored by the listening tests. As with the Sennheiser HD650, the Sabaj D5 had very good output. While not overwhelming, the bass notes were supple enough to be enjoyable.

Sabaj D5 MQA

It doesn’t support MQA currently.

Sabaj D5 vs SMSL SU-9

The Sabaj D5 features a top of DAC chip that has an OLED display. The Sabaj D5 controls have an intuitive design and are easy to use. The distortion spikes, unbalanced RCA output and noise levels were all within the audible transparency range.

The SMSL SU-9 will be the next generation of the SU-8. Although the footprint of the model is unchanged, the functionality has been markedly enhanced. The SU-9 is now equipped with the ES9038Pro chipset and Bluetooth. It produces a clear, transparent sound and supports all high-resolution formats. It is bright and easy to use, but it has a lot of options. However, this system allows unlimited tweaking. The screen is less stable with four feet but the upgrades far outweigh that.

Sabaj D5: Specifications

  • Type of product: DAC
  • Headphone amplifier
  • DAC Chip
  • ESS ES9038Pro
  • 1x USB/B Inputs
  • 1x Optical Toslink
  • 1x Coaxial
  • 1x I2S via HDMI
  • Outputs
  • 1x Stereo XLR Line Output
  • 1x Stereo RCA line output single-ended
  • 1x Balanced XLR4 poles Headphone Output
  • 1x Single-ended Stereo Jack 6.35mm output for headphone output
  • THD+N, DAC: 0.0002%
  • Headphone output – 0.001%
  • Dynamic range, XLR – 127dB
  • RCA : 124dB
  • SNR DAC – 120dB
  • Headphone output – 110dB
  • USB Transmission mode Asynchronous
  • USB Compatibility: Windows 7/8/8.1/10
  • Mac OSX 10.6 (or later)
  • Linux
  • Supported sampling rates
  • USB / IIS – PCM up 32bit 768kHz, Native DSD Natif – DSD512
  • Optical / coaxial: PCM until’a 24bits, 192kHz; DSD DoP Jusqu’au DSD64
  • Headphone output power
  • Balanced : 1912mW @ 32 / 1025mW @ 64 / 455mW @ 150 / 231mW @ 300
  • Single-ended : 480mW @ 32 / 265mW @ 64 / 115mW @ 150 / 58mW @ 300
  • Package
  • 1x Sabaj D5
  • 1x Remote control
  • 1x USB Cable
  • 1x Power Cable

SMSL Specifications

  • Input: USB / Coaxial/Optical / Bluetooth
  • Output: RCA / XLR
  • THD+N: 000090(-121dB)
  • Dynamic Range : XLR/130dB, RCA/123dB
  • Output Impedance: XLR 207O; RCA 142O
  • USB Transmission : Asynchronization
  • USB Compatibility: Windows 7+, Mac OSX, Linux
  • Bit Depth: USB 1bit; 1632bit. Optical/ Coaxial 1bit. 1624bit.
  • Sampling Rate USB PCM 44.1 768kHz
  • DSD 2.8224 22.5792MHz Optical / coaxial PCM 444.1 192kHz
  • DSD DSD64(DoP).
  • Hi-Res Bluetooth Codecs: UAT: 24bit/192kHz (1200kbps)
  • LDAC: 24bit/96kHz (990kbps) aptX-HD: 24bit/48 kHz (576kbps)
  • Energy Consumption – 5W
  • Size: 187.5*154*40MM(W*H*D)
  • Weight: 0.79kg

Sabaj D5 Packaging

The SU-9 comes packaged in a cardboard rectangular box. SMSL wanted to create a cleaner design, as the specifications aren’t listed on the outside of the box. The following accessories are included with the package:

  • 1x SMSL SU-9
  • 1x Power Cable
  • 1x Remote control
  • 1x Bluetooth Antenna
  • 1x USB A to USB B Cable
  • 1x Manual

Sabaj D5 Listening Test

The results of the listening tests were the same as the measurements. Sennheiser HD650 recorded very clear sound until it stopped working. It was difficult to feel bass notes in your ears. Hifiman HE-4000i made the situation much easier. There was much less distortion and volume. It was also very enjoyable to listen.

Conclusion: Sabaj D5

The Sabaj D5 DAC/headphone amplifier has excellent engineering. It’s superior to any other DAC that I’ve tried. If used correctly, the ESS ES9038Pro produces remarkable levels of distortion. If Sabaj implemented the fix for the IMD hump, it would be a major game-changer. This would render other DAC devices obsolete from virtually any price range.

The headphone’s output is great. I felt the sound was clear and free of distortion. This DAC would work well for someone who has low headphone efficiency or listens to very loud music. A fantastic DAC can be used for whatever purpose you may need. The Sabaj D5 may be my favorite DAC. This is a wonderful example of a well-engineered product that’s extremely affordable for the value provided.

FAQ: Sabaj D5

Is Sabaj D5 a great headphone amplifier?

The Sabaj D5 DAC/headphone amp is a highly engineered product. It is nearly as good as any DAC that I have tested. If the ESS ES9038Pro is used correctly (which is rare), it produces stunningly low levels distortion.

What is DAC for headsets?

A DAC is a device that converts digital audio signals into analog ones so you can use the sound via headphones or speakers. DAC chips are in the source component that you’re listening, regardless of whether it’s a smartphone, a portable music device, or a laptop. The analog headphone jack, however, seems to be a dying feature.