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Review and Measurements of Sabaj Da3 Dac compared to Dragonfly Black

amirm

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#41
Hello, Amirm, thank you for this review!
Hi there. Welcome to the forum and thanks for the kind words. :)

Is it possible to put this unit into a line out mode, meaning the AMP portion of this combo is bypassed and it its just the DAC signal.
I don't think so. Just read the manual and there is no such facility. You can always turn down the volume to line level (about 50%) and with it, reduce its power stage distortion.

I also wonder if you can put the balanced output into line out mode, if so one could get a balanced 2.5mm to RCA cable and a balanced DAC on the cheap.
Should work but you may have to make your own cable per answer from max.
 

WondrousHippo

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#42
There are some options on Aliexpress and eBay for 2.5mm TRRS to XLR, but if you're comfortable with soldering, then it might be faster and cheaper to do it yourself. Otherwise, you're gonna pay at least $40 for this adapter: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/ATA...R-Male-Cable-For-Astell-Kern/32822840419.html

I say I should learn to solder, but I struggled with twisting together the wires of Ethernet cables, so I'm just accepting my limitations. :)
 

maxxevv

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#43
There are some options on Aliexpress and eBay for 2.5mm TRRS to XLR, but if you're comfortable with soldering, then it might be faster and cheaper to do it yourself. Otherwise, you're gonna pay at least $40 for this adapter: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/ATA...R-Male-Cable-For-Astell-Kern/32822840419.html

I say I should learn to solder, but I struggled with twisting together the wires of Ethernet cables, so I'm just accepting my limitations. :)
Wow ... didn't realise that those could be found !
But they sure are expensive though.

On a side note, those 2.5mm TRRS jacks / plugs are really tiny. Not easy at all for a beginner solderer.
 
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#44
Hi there. Welcome to the forum and thanks for the kind words. :)


I don't think so. Just read the manual and there is no such facility. You can always turn down the volume to line level (about 50%) and with it, reduce its power stage distortion.


Should work but you may have to make your own cable per answer from max.
Appreciate the response! That is unfortunate but not surprising given its price. Still very impressive performance.

There are some options on Aliexpress and eBay for 2.5mm TRRS to XLR, but if you're comfortable with soldering, then it might be faster and cheaper to do it yourself. Otherwise, you're gonna pay at least $40 for this adapter: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/ATA...R-Male-Cable-For-Astell-Kern/32822840419.html

I say I should learn to solder, but I struggled with twisting together the wires of Ethernet cables, so I'm just accepting my limitations. :)
Thanks for finding those! I found a few other options but 40 dollars was as cheap as they got. That Astell Kern player uses them which created somewhat of a market for them, but still quite niche so high prices.

Still 113 for the Sabaj itself and 40 dollar cable is quite a good price for a balanced dac setup assuming no strangeness happened when the balanced output was connected to an amp. When Massdrop has the Topping D50 for 200 its less of a good prospect given that you can just get it, have more input options and better performance but that is not always available.
 

Timbo2

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#45
Wow ... didn't realise that those could be found !
But they sure are expensive though.

On a side note, those 2.5mm TRRS jacks / plugs are really tiny. Not easy at all for a beginner solderer.
Not just a beginner, that 2.5mm jack is really difficult to work with.

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/diy-sennheiser-600-650-cable.3335/

Somewhere on eBay I saw a vendor selling 2.5 mm to 4 pin XLR for $20 shipped coming from China. After making one I don’t think that is a bad price.
 
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#46
First, Amirm, thanks for your time for share with us all these measurements and knowledge.

So... I have a SMSL iDEA (Sabaj DA2?) and a NX4 DSD and, if SMSL iDEA and Sabaj DA2 are the same thing, I'm curious how those performs compared to SABAJ DA3. I've seen the NX4's measurements, but I could not compare those to sabaj "little brother" or get any conclusion.

In a subjective listening using an external amp (O2) I can't tell any difference between smsl and topping (through line out) units. My NX4 has the channel imbalance issue and it goes up to 10 o'clock knob position! - very high volume for iems and even for a HD650 some times, that's why I prefer a external amp. I'm curious about that because I'm thinking of selling my nx4 (channel imbalance is really bothering me) and keep the smsl - its power is more than enough for on-the-go gear.
 
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#47
+1 If you could do some SMSL iDEA vs Sabaj DA3 comparison, it would be great.
Personally I´m looking for the best DAC to use in desktops setup in this price category, so amp performance isn´t important to me.
 

amirm

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#48
+1 If you could do some SMSL iDEA vs Sabaj DA3 comparison, it would be great.
If I remember and have a bit of free time, I will do that. With two "ifs" the odds are not good though. :D
 
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#49
Thanks for the measurements.
Although there are measurable differences between both units, I don't see the Dragonfly as having "bad" performance. -72dB SINAD, 0.03% THD (and primarily 3HD at that) and -125dB noise are not "supposed to be" audible values. Whether the difference in output voltage is an issue, with an individual's choice of headphone (1.2V is fine for line level) it may be irrelevant as well.

To me it seems to come down to the desire for balanced out and your preference for size overall, and there is the power draw to also consider. Oh, that and whether you can decrypt Enigma transmissions ;-)

Speaking of WWI and II, I find it interesting that the Dragonfly and Da3 seem to have a "Cold War" heritage. I'm reminded of a conversation I had with an E8 at [undisclosed] AFB around 1992 or so. A North Korean defector had flown his Mig-25 to Japan a few years earlier. The differences in technology were, amongst others, that "there were exposed rivets on the airframe, something we would never allow" yet "precision high alloy parts of titanium were there where they needed to be" and "the engines were way more powerful than necessary" with a "large fuel capacity" and a "high fuel consumption" with the result that, like all Soviet fighters, top speed was higher than Western equivalents. And then we have the Chinese DAC with sharp corners, large physical size, more than adequate performance and high output power with high power drain.

Regards
 
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maxxevv

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#50
Speaking of WWI and II, I find it interesting that the Dragonfly and Da3 seem to have a "Cold War" heritage. I'm reminded of a conversation I had with an E8 at [undisclosed] AFB around 1992 or so. A North Korean defector had flown his Mig-25 to Japan a few years earlier. The differences in technology were, amongst others, that "there were exposed rivets on the airframe, something we would never allow" yet "precision high alloy parts of titanium were there where they needed to be" and "the engines were way more powerful than necessary" with a "large fuel capacity" and a "high fuel consumption" with the result that, like all Soviet fighters, top speed was higher than Western equivalents. And then we have the Chinese DAC with sharp corners, large physical size, more than adequate performance and high output power with high power drain.

Regards
You have got it all completely mixed up.

The North Korean pilot that defected flew a MIG-15 and that was into South Korea. They never got any MIG-25's to begin with.

The guy that flew into Japan with a MIG-25, at that time the most advanced Russian jet fighter was an expert Russian pilot from one of its elite squadrons.
 

Wombat

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#51
You have got it all completely mixed up.

The North Korean pilot that defected flew a MIG-15 and that was into South Korea. They never got any MIG-25's to begin with.

The guy that flew into Japan with a MIG-25, at that time the most advanced Russian jet fighter was an expert Russian pilot from one of its elite squadrons.
Facts. Who needs facts on audio forums? o_O
 
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#52
So ... the "North Korean" was a "Russian". Am applying my 40 lashes as I write, for the sin of forgetting a detail from my conversation of 26 years ago.
 
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#53
If I remember and have a bit of free time, I will do that. With two "ifs" the odds are not good though. :D
I would be greatful.
There is 5€ discount on amazon.de now for Sabaj DA3 and DA2, and I´m not sure if the jump from DA2 to DA3 is worth an extra 30€.
(Both cheaper on amazon.de than on any other site I´ve found (da2 for 65€ and da3 for 95€).
I plan to use the DAC mainly with an external amp, Fiio K5, so I am curious mostly about the performance of the DACs inside, are they the same?
Regarding an amp section, the balanced out can be useful, if you have some balanced gear :)
And from what I´ve read DA2 is basically rebranded SMSL Idea, right?
 

amirm

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#54
I would be greatful.
I went looking for SMSL idea for an hour but could not find it. Then looked at the review for it and it was on loan! So no way to retest it.

Eyeballing the measurements (kind of difficult since they were made with two different analyzers), I would give the nod to Sabaj DA3.
And from what I´ve read DA2 is basically rebranded SMSL Idea, right?
I don't keep track of such things. Other members do and I think they confirmed this.
 
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#55
Oh, unlucky :D
Comparing results of two different measurement is difficult, that is why I asked at the first place, but thats all we got for now :)
Anyway, I jumped on da3, should have it next week. I can compare it to Hifime 9018, I am curious how much of a difference I will be able to pick up..
 
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#56
Oh, unlucky :D
Comparing results of two different measurement is difficult, that is why I asked at the first place, but thats all we got for now :)
Anyway, I jumped on da3, should have it next week. I can compare it to Hifime 9018, I am curious how much of a difference I will be able to pick up..
The guy i got my SabajDa3 from had hifime 9018, he said if you never heard hifime and sabaj before you wouldnt know which one is playing. Thats how close they are. He kept the hifime and sold sabaj just cause hifime is more expensive and he would lose more selling used gear while Sabaj was brand new. Im very happy with mine (115 euros without waiting for delivery from china).
 
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#57
The guy i got my SabajDa3 from had hifime 9018, he said if you never heard hifime and sabaj before you wouldnt know which one is playing. Thats how close they are. He kept the hifime and sold sabaj just cause hifime is more expensive and he would lose more selling used gear while Sabaj was brand new. Im very happy with mine (115 euros without waiting for delivery from china).
I´m not sure we are talking about the same thing, because I own this dac which was also tested here: https://hifimediy.com/DACs/Sabre-9018-DAC
This one is far cheaper than Sabaj DA3.
I wouldn´t feel a need to upgrade, but recently I´ve bought a Hifiman Megamini DAP and it kinda destroys my Hifime dac...
 

amirm

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#58
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#59
My DA3 arrived and I´ve already sold the Hifime. It was muddy compared to DA3, I was wondering how can my HD580 be too bassy? Now I know, it was the dac in Hifime.. Not that it was that bad, but maybe when you take into the account it high output impedance, it doesn´t sound as clear.

So far I am really satisfied with DA3, it is kinda warm in these summer days, but that shouldn´t be a problem. Looking forward to try the balanced out, once I solder some cables.
I will compare it to my Megamini soon if anyone is interested..
 

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