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Sabaj A20d 2022 Review (DAC & Headphone Amp)

Rate this DAC & HP Amp

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 3 1.1%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 2 0.8%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

    Votes: 36 13.6%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 224 84.5%

  • Total voters
    265

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Sabaj A20d 2022 balanced stereo DAC and headphone amplifier. It was sent to me by the company and costs US $420.
Sabaj A20d 2022 Review Headphone AMplifier Stereo USB DAC Balanced.jpg

The new revision is very attractive and stylish. It belies its low cost. I like the colorful display and clear indicators. Headphone amplification is included and is output in both 1/4 and 4.4 mm. Note that the latter is not balanced and is simply there for compatibility (which I appreciated).

Back panel is what you expect:
Sabaj A20d 2022 Review back panel Headphone AMplifier Stereo USB DAC Balanced.jpg


A remote control is also provided. I like using the unit and my only wish was for acceleration support in volume control. Otherwise it takes a bit too long to go from one extreme to another.

Sabaj A20d 2022 DAC Measurements
Performance is exceptional using both balanced and unbalanced output even after bringing the levels down to nominal:
Sabaj A20d 2022 Measurements Stereo USB DAC Balanced.png


Sabaj A20d 2022 Measurements Stereo USB DAC UnBalanced.png


It lands the A20d comfortably in our top 20 best DACs:
Best stereo balanced dac review 2022.png


Dynamic range goes with that:
Sabaj A20d 2022 Measurements Stereo USB DAC DNR Balanced.png


Performance keeps improving up to maximum output level:
Sabaj A20d 2022 Measurements Stereo USB DAC THD vs Level  Balanced.png


Multitone performance is exceptional:
Sabaj A20d 2022 Measurements Stereo USB DAC Multitone Balanced.png


Linearity is perfect:
Sabaj A20d 2022 Measurements Stereo USB DAC LInearity Balanced.png


IMD is excellent as well although we see a hint of famous ESS DAC signature:
Sabaj A20d 2022 Measurements Stereo USB DAC IMD Balanced.png


Jitter is exemplary with all three inputs:
Sabaj A20d 2022 Measurements Stereo USB DAC Jitter Balanced.png

Sabaj A20d 2022 Measurements Stereo USB DAC Toslink Coax Jitter Balanced.png


Note that I have refined this test to have less noise. So be careful in comparing it to past reviews although difference is not large.

Filter performance is the usual:
Sabaj A20d 2022 Measurements Stereo USB DAC Filter Balanced.png


Using the default Fast Linear, THD+N performance is superb across full audible band:
Sabaj A20d 2022 Measurements Stereo USB DAC THD vs frequency Balanced.png


Sabaj A20d 2022 Headphone Amplifier
I was very pleased to see so much output in this combo:
Sabaj A20d 2022 Measurements Stereo USB DAC Headphone Amplifier 300 ohm Balanced.png


Sabaj A20d 2022 Measurements Stereo USB DAC Headphone Amplifier 32 ohm Balanced.png


With no clipping, what you hear is the headphone distortion and not the amp (at 32 ohm and higher). This is plenty of power to drive 95% of the headphones out there to very loud levels.

50 mv output is very good and above average:
Sabaj A20d 2022 Measurements Stereo USB DAC Headphone Amplifier noise Balanced.png



best dac and headphone amp balance review.png


So even sensitive IEMs should be good to go.

As noted, the amp only clips at impedances below 32 ohm. Performance otherwise is excellent:

Sabaj A20d 2022 Measurements Stereo USB DAC Headphone Amplifier distortion vs load vs power Ba...png


Sabaj A20d 2022 Headphone Listening Tests
I started with my everyday Dan Clark Stealth and was so pleased to see the A20d drive it with ease. Only at maximum volume did I hear some crackling but that was above comfort already. The sound was dynamic, detailed and just a delight. I saw no need to test with headphones with less drive requirement than the Stealth. You have my promise that it will blow your socks off! :)

Conclusions
Sabaj A20d 2022: a formula driven to perfection. Don't know what else to say. In every test and every angle, performance is incredibly good -- often at state of the art. Combine that with unique good looks and you have an easy winner.

It is my absolute pleasure to recommend the Sabaj A20d 2022 revision.

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

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amirm

amirm

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I don’t think Rob Watts would care in the slightest, totally different customer base.
Not anymore. More and more people who used to buy expensive gear are buying this class of device and happy with them. It just a matter of messaging.
 

Anthony T

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Not anymore. More and more people who used to buy expensive gear are buying this class of device and happy with them. It just a matter of messaging.
They’ll always be consumers with more money than sense, Mscaler is just audio jewellery.
 

cheapmessiah

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Jun 10, 2021
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How can it have less power than the a10d?

What's the value proposition of this unit over the a10d?
 
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amirm

amirm

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They’ll always be consumers with more money than sense, Mscaler is just audio jewellery.
The jewelry aspect is quite weak and won't save it. They need to step the performance so it is not a choice between looks and performance.
 

Vict0r

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Impressive! Also, this thing would look even better with a nicely polished, stainless volume knob.

volume-knob-89263.jpg
 

Lukino

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Jul 19, 2022
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Slovakia
I don’t think Rob Watts would care in the slightest, totally different customer base.
But he has to admit that these devices have recently been significantly strengthened by engineering and even surpassed the old /used-to-think/. It is excellent for the customer. Most of you do not have a follow-up device at home that will use these excellent measurement results.
 

fordiebianco

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Mar 11, 2020
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I grew up in a time when the 'reference' class (Krell, Mark LEvinson, Burmester) were unaffordable for even a middle class chap. It's wonderful to see how technology and engineering has made these so affordable. Top marks to Sabaj. All we need now is an affordable power amp in the 100w->8Ohm class. Endgame.
 

gavagai

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Not anymore. More and more people who used to buy expensive gear are buying this class of device and happy with them. It just a matter of messaging.
I agree. I see Rob Watts new technical and perceptual achievement as the result of multiple panic attacks. PTSD can destroy a human being you know...
 
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