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Review and Measurements of Sabaj D5 DAC & Amp

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It's more complicated than that - we can measure sound - vibrations in the air that impinge on your tympanic membranes. And we can determine from Amir's testing the liklihood of whether the measured noise or distortion of a piece of hardware will be audible.

However, we cannot measure what reaches your consciousness, or what you "perceive". People sometimes claim to hear differences, even when there are no differences, e.g. the sources are not switched in the ab testing. Also, sometimes small differences that are claimed to be heard cannot actually be identified - unless the listener knows in advance what hardware or variant in a sound system he is listening to.
Do we have microphone/preamp setups than have the same resolution as Amir's signal measurements? I am not aware of any. Maybe the military has some 120db s/n microphones.

How can you tell from his measurements what will be audible. I have been looking for correlation studies,
 

Xulonn

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I’m not sure about thresholds of hearing as I went from a AudioQuest Dragonfly Red to Matrix Audio X SABRE PRO MQA and the difference is stunning. I thought the Dragonfly was at the threshold of hearing as far as all the specs go but the Matrix Audio is definitely a huge step towards audio nirvana.
When you set up your blind testing to help eliminate sighted bias, did you level match by ear or with a voltmeter?
 
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When you set up your blind testing to help eliminate sighted bias, did you level match by ear or with a voltmeter?
It should be obvious, I think. I don't have Dragonfly Red but I have Apogee Groove, which is on par with Dragonfly Red in many ways, and I can instantly tell the difference between Apogee Groove and Topping D70 + JDS Labs Atom.
 

Xulonn

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How can you tell from his measurements what will be audible. I have been looking for correlation studies,
I am not an expert on audible differences in DACs, but everything I have read by the experts here and other knowledgeable ASR participants is unless they are defective or extremely poorly designed, no one has demnstrated that differences between DACs can be heard. The subject has been discussed in context literally hundreds of times here, and I hope that somone with relative hard data and a good memory for details will notice this conversation and share their knowledge.
 
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I have not done a blind a/b comparison yet but the difference is blatantly obvious. I tell you what, I have Behringer measuring microphone and REW software and also a simple dB meter and test tones. I’ll set up a blind comparison with my son’s help and get back to you. It’s not even close. The Dragonfly is congested and the soundstage collapses on loud passages and the treble detail the Matrix Audio has is amazing. I can tell the difference between Sabian, Zildjian and Paiste cymbals with ease. Not so with the Dragonfly.
 

Xulonn

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I have not done a blind a/b comparison yet but the difference is blatantly obvious. I tell you what, I have Behringer measuring microphone and REW software and also a simple dB meter and test tones. I’ll set up a blind comparison with my son’s help and get back to you. It’s not even close. The Dragonfly is congested and the soundstage collapses on loud passages and the treble detail the Matrix Audio has is amazing. I can tell the difference between Sabian, Zildjian and Paiste cymbals with ease. Not so with the Dragonfly.
Interesting. That likely means that the Dragonfly is likely being over-driven, since Amir's 12/31/2018 review and testing demonstrated that while it was not a great DAC/HPA, it was decent. Is it possible that the Dragonfly is not bad - just a lousy match for your headphones?

I suggest reading the review and comments, which might give you some clues.
 
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I don’t use headphones (except at work for noise cancellation and reduction from all the power tools) and the input impedance of my Audio Research ls1 is 100k ohms so it’s not stressed at all. I am talking about very small details. I was satisfied with the Dragonfly and really it’s a decent DAC especially for a dongle but moving into the Matrix Audio revealed what I was missing...I didn’t even know I was missing those details! I have spent a lot of time setting up my room (it was built specifically for my stereo) with REW and sound absorption and control, it’s extremely revealing. I have a friend who is a professional recording engineer who brings recordings over to “check out” on my system.
AC30CC75-8B63-4762-B697-D4B2357361D7.jpeg
 
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I am not an expert on audible differences in DACs, but everything I have read by the experts here and other knowledgeable ASR participants is unless they are defective or extremely poorly designed, no one has demnstrated that differences between DACs can be heard. The subject has been discussed in context literally hundreds of times here, and I hope that somone with relative hard data and a good memory for details will notice this conversation and share their knowledge.
Sorry, perhaps I misunderstood you when you wrote this. “And we can determine from Amir's testing the liklihood of whether the measured noise or distortion of a piece of hardware will be audible.”
 

Xulonn

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I don’t use headphones
Actually, neither do I - but I've learned a lot about them from reading dozens of reviews and hundreds of comments here at ASR.

Very nice system, by the way, and I have no doubt that it produces excellent music.

Still, blind testing can reveal interesting things about the tricks your mind can play by manipulating the music "signal" as it travels from your tympanic membranes to your consciousness - especially with DACs where most of them have noise and distortion below the threshold of hearing. Any differences with a DAC that is not broken or defective would have to be due to some interaction with the next component down the line - preamp If you use one (I don't) or amplifier that is creating distortion.
 
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Interesting, I tried my Matrix last week without the preamp (Audio Research) directly into the main speaker amp and subwoofer parametric EQ because it has a digital volume control and I can definitely say it sounds better with the preamp.
 

Xulonn

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I have not done a blind a/b comparison yet but the difference is blatantly obvious. I tell you what, I have Behringer measuring microphone and REW software and also a simple dB meter and test tones. I’ll set up a blind comparison with my son’s help and get back to you. It’s not even close. The Dragonfly is congested and the soundstage collapses on loud passages and the treble detail the Matrix Audio has is amazing. I can tell the difference between Sabian, Zildjian and Paiste cymbals with ease. Not so with the Dragonfly.
Cool. I will be interested in your results. According the ASR review, tests and comments here, the Dragonfly is not a great DAC, but output degrades on headphones when puched due to its low power output. So it shouldn't sound that bad unless it is defective or something is incompatible or overdriven.

My comments are based on what I have learned here from a science-based objectivist perspective, but even when the odds are against it, I appreciate it when people decide to test "perceived" differences for them selves. And if those differences are indeed audible, try to figure out why if the experts say they shouldn't be.

I plan to get a MiniDSP UMIK-1 microphone soon and play with it using REW.

I also have more than one DAC, an inexpensive ($100) SMSL Sanskrit 6th (my backup unit), and a $500 Topping DX7s. But I don't know if I am really interested in expending the time and effort in doing a blind comparison, because they both sound good to me. I bought the Topping because it is a more substantial unit with balanced outputs, a volume control, and an optional remote control that I will soon buy.
 
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Xulonn

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Interesting, I tried my Matrix last week without the preamp (Audio Research) directly into the main speaker amp and subwoofer parametric EQ because it has a digital volume control and I can definitely say it sounds better with the preamp.
I've read here at ASR that sometimes DACs don't have the correct impedance and/or output voltage level to drive some amps properly. My Topping DAC drives my vintage Classé Model Seventy amp nicely. There are still subtleties in component matching, but since I only have two sources - both digital - I wanted to keep my system as simple as possible and eliminate the need for a preamp. Maybe I will start a thread about that...
 

sonci

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I don’t use headphones (except at work for noise cancellation and reduction from all the power tools) and the input impedance of my Audio Research ls1 is 100k ohms so it’s not stressed at all. I am talking about very small details. I was satisfied with the Dragonfly and really it’s a decent DAC especially for a dongle but moving into the Matrix Audio revealed what I was missing...I didn’t even know I was missing those details! I have spent a lot of time setting up my room (it was built specifically for my stereo) with REW and sound absorption and control, it’s extremely revealing. I have a friend who is a professional recording engineer who brings recordings over to “check out” on my system. View attachment 31269
Oh boy, cable lifters at Audio Science..‍♂️
Bet you can hear the differences between them too..
 
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Oh boy, cable lifters at Audio Science..‍♂️
Bet you can hear the differences between them too..
Probably not but it keeps stuff neat and keeps cables away from each other by a few inches which I know can be beneficial especially keeping line level stuff away from power cords. Also we have very dry climate and a lot of static electricity buildup in the carpets, so much so I have to ground myself on my equipment rack before touching the preamp. Sometimes the shock will trigger the protection circuit on the preamp if I don’t.
 

Patrick1958

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I own the D5 for about 4 months now.
I have no complaints about performance, however one detail keeps annoying me.
No mather what you feed the dac via hdmi input the display will show it's receiving dsd signals when using 44.1khz or multiples of it, feeding it with 48khz or multiples it just shows "connected".
- feeding pcm 44.1 shows 2.8224 Mhz
- feeding pcm 48 shows "connected" no sample rate
- feeding pcm 88.2 shows 5.611 Mhz
- feeding pcm 96 shows "connected" no sample rate
- feeding pcm 176.4 shows 11.2896 Mhz
- feeding pcm 196 shows "connected" no sample rate
- feeding mp3 320 kbps shows "connected" no sample rate

Informed Sabaj on april 8 and got this answer :

"Because your output machine does not output DSD and PCM identification signals, the sampling rate of our machine Sabaj D5 will not display properly. However, this is just a sampling rate display that does not affect the normal playback and performance of the Sabaj D5."
 
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I’m not sure about thresholds of hearing as I went from a AudioQuest Dragonfly Red to Matrix Audio X SABRE PRO MQA and the difference is stunning. I thought the Dragonfly was at the threshold of hearing as far as all the specs go but the Matrix Audio is definitely a huge step towards audio nirvana.
It ought to be considering the Matrix is 2K
 
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