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Sabaj A10h Review (Headphone Amplifier)

Dennis_FL

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Wow. I've been wanting to take my AVR receiver out of the loop ( my DAC outputs analog, and the Marantz converts to digital and after room correction and whatever, it outputs through its own DAC so it's DA to AD to DA ). I had a few problems along the way of getting the AVR out - how to hook in the sub when using a HA, how to trigger my external amp to power up (now using 5VDC trigger), how to do volume control, how to do room correction, and how to plug in a headphone - without the AVR.

So, I switched my sub to high level inputs (speaker wires), and used a dB meter to set the sub volume equal to the speakers. I left the AVR trigger setup so my remote turns on the AVR only to turn the power on the external amp (must be a better way). I can use the Sabaj for volume control and headphones. And I can use REW through Roon for room corrections.

And this does the trick in spades. Wow....really nice sound. No humming

I haven't yet ventured into REW yet, but I can't see it getting much better.
 
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roog

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Wow. I've been wanting to take by AVR receiver out of the loop (after my DAC outputs analog, the Marantz converts to digital and after room correction and whatever, it outputs through its own DAC). I had a few problems along the way - how to hook in the sub, how to trigger my external amp, how to do volume control, how to do room correction, and how to plug in a headphone - without the AVR.

So, I switched my sub to high level, and used a dB meter to set the sub volume equal to the speakers. I left the AVR trigger setup so my remote turns on the AVR only to turn the power on the external amp (must be a better way). I can use the Sabaj for volume control and headphones. And I can use REW through Roon for room corrections.

And this does the trick in spades. Wow....really nice sound. No humming

I haven't yet ventured into REW yet, but I can't see it getting much better.
I was very surprised by mine too, it really does sound good. I have thought that it might be fun to fit one inside a typical Audiophile style CNC’d case. I recon it would fool a few snobs!
 

Jr_gn

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Hello, I'm planning to buy a headphone to go with the Sabaj A10h. I'm a bit a novice on audio equipment - enjoyed this site quit a lot yet ! - and reading in on it. What would be the ideal impedance on a headset to be used with the A10h? I'm looking for a Beyerdynamic dt990pro in 250ohm or 600ohm.

By the way, I've hooked the A10a to the cheap but rather audiophile Lonpoo LP42 speakers in a desktop setup. It is an astonishing combo. Have a Fostex Pm-submini 2 coming in next week.
 

Veri

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Hello, I'm planning to buy a headphone to go with the Sabaj A10h. I'm a bit a novice on audio equipment - enjoyed this site quit a lot yet ! - and reading in on it. What would be the ideal impedance on a headset to be used with the A10h? I'm looking for a Beyerdynamic dt990pro in 250ohm or 600ohm.
The A10h is a pretty good amp but not absurdly powerful. For a Beyerdynamic 600ohm you would ideally need something like a Topping A30 Pro.. definitely if you want to use EQ which requires additional headroom. So for the Sabaj, definitely get the 250ohm and not the 600.
 

Veri

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Think I'm gonna try the Sabaj A20h. Seems like an attractive offering to me.
https://hifi-express.com/products/sabaj-a20h-headphone-amplifier
sIAE1wa.jpg

Maybe an update. The A20h arrived and I've been using it for a week. @SMSL-Mandy @SMSL_Liu if you could get hifi-express to ship @amirm one that would be awesome. I PMed him and he's not aware of any going his way. For shame..

That out of the way, let me review the full order/user experience :) first some negatives
  • I ordered from "EU Warehouse" but it was shipped from China from a service called "Yanwen". Full delivery took 16 days.. just shy over 2 weeks. Not terrible but not fast. I'll give it a pass though given corona/package overload, and the fact that customs and duties were at least included :)
  • On first plug-in I had buzzing using SE in/out. I then tested it further using XLR in SE out, and also tested it using an RCA>XLR adapter. Funnily enough after cleaning up my desk/workroom and hooking it all up again I am now using RCA in SE out with 0 noise in all case except for '0dB' volume in high gain, I need to use -1dB with RCA in to have an absolutely noise-free experience. Plenty loud for me.. but fair to mention.
    Perhaps there was another charger or cellular device disturbing the amp. Or after plugging into each and every input/output I fixed whatever was weird out of the box ;)
  • Knob is what it is not being analogue and all, it doesn't stretch out far from the case but the resistor clicks make up for the otherwise "okay" experience.

On to the positives:
  • Very competitive to Topping A90. I really like the resistor volume and the remote control. Hard to beat, an awesome and usually very expensive feature at this price point.
  • Power is pretty ridiculous. Normal listening volume is at lowest gain at -30dB with 600ohm HD600/HD650, this is with full 4-4.5Vrms input though, 100% system volume but ~-6dB digital volume applied in digital EQ. 4V minus 6dB would mean that default 2V input without EQ would achieve the same. This can definitely power Beyerdynamic 600Ω / Hifiman Arya/HEK/HE-6 level of headphones.
  • On that note. On my Topping L30 I used ~60% system volume so I could easily use all gain on normal knob levels (low with IEMs, medium/high with needy headphones depending on EQ used). On this one given the resistor volume network, I try to maximise volume on software side (100% on OS, 95% on application side to ensure no clipping or Windows volume limiting).
    Perhaps placebo, I'd be willing to admit it, but using max volume + resistor volume control seems to have proven to be an upgrade over my trusty L30 amp. I'm really liking the Sabaj A20h. SE in SE out / BAL in SE out would already power most traditional headphones to perfect degree. BAL in / BAL out would be there for extremely needy headphones, would not bother for other use cases, it'll just be really loud really quickly.

Another positive, to me, is the headphone port on the back. I actually like this in terms of cable management. All cables are plugged neatly behind my desk. Sure, mostly any amp has this port in front. And most people would prefer it this way. But for me this works :)

Overall would endorse this balanced Sabaj A20h product. Very nice work.
 
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Veri

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Meanwhile anyone in here who owns both the A10h and the A20h?
If so dropping a few words about subjectively perceived differences in sound quality highly appreciated!
It's likely like the L30 <-> L50. Same chips and design philosophy, more inputs outputs, and more output power due to the additional headphone amps chips inside. I would not expect sound difference, it's the same design but expanded.
 

nothingman

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Just throwing this anecdote out there in case it’s helpful to someone: for those trying to run serious EQ (e.g. requires -9db preamp headroom) out of a source that is limited to 2V, and you want to use headphones like the HD6XX, I doubt you will get enough power out of the A10h. It’s a lovely amp but like many headphone amps the input sensitivity is too high for headphones that require more power. If you can run digital out of your source then go with an amp with more gain. I ended up with the DX3 Pro+ (+19db on high gain) despite it costing more than I wanted to spend and I’m happy. More thoughts on that here. I didn’t expect any problems with the A10h because it seemed like it would be adequate but not in my experience.
 

_theLaughingman

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Just throwing this anecdote out there in case it’s helpful to someone: for those trying to run serious EQ (e.g. requires -9db preamp headroom) out of a source that is limited to 2V, and you want to use headphones like the HD6XX, I doubt you will get enough power out of the A10h. It’s a lovely amp but like many headphone amps the input sensitivity is too high for headphones that require more power. If you can run digital out of your source then go with an amp with more gain. I ended up with the DX3 Pro+ (+19db on high gain) despite it costing more than I wanted to spend and I’m happy. More thoughts on that here. I didn’t expect any problems with the A10h because it seemed like it would be adequate but not in my experience.
I have these paired to my Hifiman HE400se with -9.5 db headroom on the preamp, and they definitely need a lot of juice to push that current to the inefficient headphones. Definitely see the limitation with the Hifiman and A10h.
 

Dennis_FL

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Just reading the review and this is what amir said about power
I started listening with my Sennheiser HD650 headphones using H2 gain level. There was incredible amount of power available with deep bass notes easily rattling my ears in the second or two that I pushed the volume near max. Normal listening levels showed plenty of headroom. Detail, clarity, etc. was all top class as expected. I could detect no limitations or aberrations attributable to the A10h.

Switching to Drop Ether CX headphones, I had to push the volume near max for very loud listening but otherwise, I again could not detect any rise in distortion, etc. The sound was as clean as the headphone could deliver.
I also have the HD650's and it has no problem with gettin' loud.
 

Dennis_FL

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Yes. I equalized digitally in Roon upstream of the DAC.
 

nothingman

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Sorry, and is your DAC limited to 2V output? I’m genuinely just curious if there’s a workaround for this kind of problem.

Also, does Roon do any sort of volume normalization stuff that would boost quieter tracks?

Bottom line for me was, with a 2V limited source and running hardware EQ, associated headroom, with no normalization, the A10h didn’t have the signal it needed to power my HD6XX. Not on every track, something mastered to be loud would be fine, but at the same time I could easily listen to even that stuff at 0db. On quieter stuff, no way, and I’m no the type to blow my ears out.
 
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Dennis_FL

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My DAC is the Gustard X16 and yes Roon has volume leveling but I don't use it. If you equalize on the analog side...you need to convert to digital and then equalize and then convert back to analog........too much converting with low end chips
 

nothingman

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My EQ is all digital too. Source is the built-in Tidal functionality on the RPi inside the SHD. PEQ happens internally at 32/96, then hits the DAC which is limited to 2V single-ended output (like yours, I see).

When I run a 0db 1khz test track on Tidal, the SHD input meters see -1db, so there’s a smidge of headroom there, but it could be as little as 0.5db since the SHD rounds up to whole numbers. If I was running Spotify that would be different. When I play a 0db 1khz test track on Spotify the SHD input meters see -7db, so I would be losing a ton of voltage running -9db EQ headroom on a Spotify source since I only actually need roughly -2db EQ headroom with that source.

This could very well just be ”different strokes for different folks” when it comes to volume preferences. Like I said, I judge myself to be pretty conservative but maybe not!
 

Dennis_FL

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Well, I rarely use headphones. I use the A10 as a preamp and then onward to an big ol' AB amp and my KEF metas. I have the sub wired with high level.

I also have Bose 700 UC headphones which are either wired or bluetooth AAC coming directly from my computer.

And I tend to use the HD650's because they sound the best when I use the A10 as a headphone amp.
 
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confucius_zero

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Would you consider this amp better than the JDS Atom AMP+ or similar (diminishingly different) sounding?
 

_theLaughingman

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Would you consider this amp better than the JDS Atom AMP+ or similar (diminishingly different) sounding?
Known differences between the two:
JDS Atom+ has a bigger footprint vs the smaller and more compact footprint of Sabaj.
JDS Atom+ measured SINAD is 119db vs 118 dB for Sabaj A10h
JDS Atom+ has two levels of gain vs 3 levels for SabajA10h.

Other than that they are pretty similar and transparent as they can be based on measurements.

I do own the A10h and it is a good amp for headphones and IEMS.
 

confucius_zero

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Known differences between the two:
JDS Atom+ has a bigger footprint vs the smaller and more compact footprint of Sabaj.
JDS Atom+ measured SINAD is 119db vs 118 dB for Sabaj A10h
JDS Atom+ has two levels of gain vs 3 levels for SabajA10h.

Other than that they are pretty similar and transparent as they can be based on measurements.

I do own the A10h and it is a good amp for headphones and IEMS.
Thank you for the quick comparo
 

half_dog

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Known differences between the two:
JDS Atom+ has a bigger footprint vs the smaller and more compact footprint of Sabaj.
JDS Atom+ measured SINAD is 119db vs 118 dB for Sabaj A10h
JDS Atom+ has two levels of gain vs 3 levels for SabajA10h.

Other than that they are pretty similar and transparent as they can be based on measurements.

I do own the A10h and it is a good amp for headphones and IEMS.
Another not so obvious aspect is that A10h(L30) is able to drive lower impedance headphones (higher loads) "better" (more power) than Atom (Plus) because A10h can output more current.
 
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