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Audiophonics EVO-SABRE Balanced RPI DAC Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Audiophonics EVO-Sabre Balanced DAC. It was requested by a member and the company was kind enough to send me one. It costs 239,00€ including tax and 199,17 € without (US $235).

The EVO is an unusual DAC in that it both works stand-alone due to use of an on-board microcomputer and display, and also as a slave to Raspberry Pi single board computer:

AUDIOPHONICS EVO-SABRE RPI Streaming Balanced DAC Audio Review.jpg


I tested it in stand-alone mode but you can plug in the RPI on the right and it will feed it power and I think its USB port becomes a peripheral to RPI.

The unit requires 9 volt input and is not self-powered with USB. I used my bench power supply to provide that as no power supply comes with it.

I was impressed with the quality of the OLED display with sharp, clear graphics. A remote control is also provided which is nice.

DAC Audio Measurements
As usual we start with our dashboard driven by the USB input:

AUDIOPHONICS EVO-SABRE RPI Streaming Balanced DAC Audio Measurements.png


Not bad! Distortion is below audible threshold at -115 dB. A bit of noise reduces SINAD which takes into account both factors and results in 110 dB:

Best streaming RPI Balanced DAC.png


Dynamic range is excellent, providing a noise-free 20 bit data path:

AUDIOPHONICS EVO-SABRE RPI Streaming Balanced DAC Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


Multitone matches the same:
AUDIOPHONICS EVO-SABRE RPI Streaming Balanced DAC Multitone Audio Measurements.png


Jitter performance was very good as well:

AUDIOPHONICS EVO-SABRE RPI Streaming Balanced DAC Jitter Audio Measurements.png


Linearity was text-book perfect:

AUDIOPHONICS EVO-SABRE RPI Streaming Balanced DAC Linearity Audio Measurements.png


THD+N tracked my reference Khadas tone Board which was fascinating:

AUDIOPHONICS EVO-SABRE RPI Streaming Balanced DAC THD+N vs Frequency Audio Measurements.png


IMD distortion relative to level unfortunately brought back our old friend the "ESS IMD Hump:"

AUDIOPHONICS EVO-SABRE RPI Streaming Balanced DAC IMD Audio Measurements.png


The low noise floor accentuates the hump.

Finally, I was so happy to see one of the few technically correct default DAC filters in the market:

AUDIOPHONICS EVO-SABRE RPI Streaming Balanced DAC Filter Audio Measurements.png


Conclusions
Other than the IMD ESS Hump which can be fixed with a few minor circuit changes, the performance of Audiophonics EVO is solid. And the form factor and functionality is great to build your own streamer in a much more integrated way than using desktop DACs, or shoehorning elaborate DAC board on top of RPi.

I am happy to recommend the Audiophonics EVO Sabre given the unique functionality, form factor, and performance.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Second article/review of the day... I DEMAND OVERTIME!!! So reach in your pocket and donate what you can using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
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#3
I'm very happy with my Audiophonics nCore power-amp and looking for a Streamer DAC to replace my Yamaha WXC-50. If they could fix the ESS hump and bundle a pre-amp stage, I could see myself running a balanced Audiophonics stack.
 

gvl

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#6
THD+N tracked my reference Khadas tone Board which was fascinating:
This seem to be the typical 9038 mobile chip profile. The 9028/38 Pro don't have that sharply rising THD level above 2kHz and I find them a bit more laid back sounding (blind test pending), can this be the reason?
 

pierre

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#7

Daverz

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#8
What are the cheaper alternatives? with remote, balanced XLR? I am genuiny interested, looking for something cheaper than an RME + an extra box for the pi.
Schiit Modius + RPi (no remote)

But now that I see what they are going for, a full streamer with a nice display, balanced output, and all the typical inputs plus bluetooth, the price makes more sense. Some people want a full streamer with a nice display.
 

bakker_be

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#9

renaudrenaud

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#10
I'm very happy with my Audiophonics nCore power-amp and looking for a Streamer DAC to replace my Yamaha WXC-50. If they could fix the ESS hump and bundle a pre-amp stage, I could see myself running a balanced Audiophonics stack.
Buy a raspberry or a NUC and use USB port with a DAC not ESS hump compliant.
 

somebodyelse

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#11
What are the cheaper alternatives? with remote, balanced XLR? I am genuiny interested, looking for something cheaper than an RME + an extra box for the pi.
Soncoz LA-QXD1, Schiit Modius, SMSL SU-8 or similar for the DAC (assuming balanced out is a requirement), plus your preferred case for the Pi which could include a screen and/or IR remote. It won't come in that much cheaper than the Audiophonics bundle though, and may involve considerably more DIY which may or may not be your thing.
 

godmax

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#12
I received the full kit about 4 weeks ago and I am still very pleased with this unit running Moode. The case is very solid manufactured with
accurate gap dimensions and good displays (even so the secondary display controlled by the RPi is a little different in brightness and white "color" tone).

I use the unit as standalone DAC with USB or streaming from RPi togther with my Violectric V281 and can recommend this combo also very much!
 

starfly

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#13
Would there be a way to use any kind of room correction software with a unit like this?
 

jsm

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#15
so, we have to wait a v2 :D, Audiophonics like to tagged the ASR test on their product, they have all the reasons to be reactive with the troubles revealed
 
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#18
Other than the IMD ESS Hump which can be fixed with a few minor circuit changes
@amirm Thanks for reviewing this DAC, I think its a brilliant (and still surprisingly rare) mix of combined functionality, with the user-customisable/future-proofing of an RPi dock. Would you suggest that the IMD ESS Hump fix could be done by someone with competent soldering skills and a labelled PCB diagram/image, or is it a fix that is going to have to come from the manufacturer in a revised version? I have to say, I'm a little surprised to see the IMD ESS hump, given the amount of discussion it has attracted, and now multiple devices from several manufacturers, using these chips, that have engineered the hump out. Has anyone tested audibility of the hump through ABX? I know it's been discussed extensively on the forum, but I've not found a controlled comparison.

Many thanks for yet another excellent review!
 

RichB

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#19
This is an intriguing device. The Raspberry Pi 3 running Volumio works well and sounds a bit better (IMO of course) than the Oppo UDP-205 native Roon streaming.

I'd also like to try a Pi Zero W configured with USB 2 connector as a power source. The Oppo USB 3.0 ports should have no problem powering it.

- Rich
 
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