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Sabaj A20d 2022 Review (DAC & Headphone Amp)

Rate this DAC & HP Amp

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 3 1.2%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 1 0.4%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

    Votes: 34 13.3%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 217 85.1%

  • Total voters
    255

Mobster

Member
Joined
Jul 22, 2022
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6
Likes
5
Considering the price, I think these choices could have been some cost cutting measures to get the price where it is.... unless it's not supposed to be this way and a firmware upgrade comes along and magically fixes things (USB-C, not the amp). One can dream.

I'm all for an OLED, Fully Balanced, True USB-C premium model for 2023.
Totally agree on the price even though I paid EUR 444,44 for mine from Amazon (including delivery and 25 % VAT). Still feels like good value.

It would have been great with a OLED as well so you get a pitch black screen, but I wouldn’t mention that earlier as I felt I was a bit harsh e
already considering I’m happy with it so far, excepts for the cons mentioned. I’ve only had it for a couple of days and I already knew from this forum that it wasn’t fully balanced, but that it wasn’t USB-C compatible surprised me since it has a USB-Input. I took that for granted.

I must admit that the reason I bought this DAC and not one of the other clean and well performing Chinese DAC’s in these tests was the design as they all sound very similar from what I understand. It really looks cool in addition to sounding great, which of course is the most important. I like the retro vibe and the silver look makes it go along nicely with the MacBook on my desktop compared to your usual black boxes
 

MisterOZ

Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2020
Messages
19
Likes
10
Nice DAC! Can anyone confirm the power consumption of 0.5 watts in standby mode? And does it have auto on/off with the usb signal?
 

BostonJack

Active Member
Editor
Joined
Jul 2, 2019
Messages
264
Likes
299
Location
Boston area, Cambridge, MA
Ok, I see pre-amp capability mentioned earlier in this thread, but I still have a question. Preamp usability for me means that the volume of the balanced outputs are controlled by the knob on front. The devil is in the details. Is it possible to fat-finger your way into switching modes on the remote and suddenly blast full line level to your power amp? Does the DAC/preamp stay in preamp mode through a power cycle? These seem like important questions to me.

That aside, this unit looks like top-notch performance at a very reasonable price.

I'm Jones-ing.
 

BHazard

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2021
Messages
53
Likes
59
Ok, I see pre-amp capability mentioned earlier in this thread, but I still have a question. Preamp usability for me means that the volume of the balanced outputs are controlled by the knob on front. The devil is in the details. Is it possible to fat-finger your way into switching modes on the remote and suddenly blast full line level to your power amp? Does the DAC/preamp stay in preamp mode through a power cycle? These seem like important questions to me.

That aside, this unit looks like top-notch performance at a very reasonable price.

I'm Jones-ing.
The remote doesn't have a switch to change between "Vol Fixed" to "Vol Variable". You might be able to create a function or button to do so, but I haven't looked into it.
I set mine to "Vol Fixed" for XLR Out and it remains when turned off/on via the remote.
 

Trell

Major Contributor
Joined
May 13, 2021
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1,566
The remote doesn't have a switch to change between "Vol Fixed" to "Vol Variable". You might be able to create a function or button to do so, but I haven't looked into it.
I set mine to "Vol Fixed" for XLR Out and it remains when turned off/on via the remote.
By power cycle he probably meant if the device loose all power will it recall it’s preamp state when regaining power?
 
Last edited:

bayard1music

Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
6
Likes
1
Hello Amir and thanks for another great review.

I'm currently using an Audiolab 6000A as a pre amplifier with a pair of active Acoustic Energy AE1 speakers. Music comes via a Logitech Touch (via Raspberry Pi server) straight into the digital input on the 6000A. The Amplifier is set in Pre Amp mode. Does anybody believe that sustituting the Sabaj is going to bring about any improvement in perceived sound quality with my system ? Music is predominantly CD ripped to FLAC using EAC. My understanding is there's a lower noise , less distortion , balanced outputs ... that might be in it's favour over the Audiolab. I know the latter may not be so familiar to your readers but it's well recieved here in the UK and had a good review in HiFi News. Thanks in advance.
 

BostonJack

Active Member
Editor
Joined
Jul 2, 2019
Messages
264
Likes
299
Location
Boston area, Cambridge, MA
By power cycle he probably meant if the device loose all power will it recall it’s preamp state when regaining power?
yes, exactly. I guess it is mainly a usability factor, but if it powers up in a mode presenting full line-levels to the balanced outputs that would require some sort of action (like having the power amp powered off or muted) to prevent a blast of signal to the speakers.

ungood.
 

BHazard

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2021
Messages
53
Likes
59
yes, exactly. I guess it is mainly a usability factor, but if it powers up in a mode presenting full line-levels to the balanced outputs that would require some sort of action (like having the power amp powered off or muted) to prevent a blast of signal to the speakers.

ungood.
So I set the device to Vol Variable and pulled the plug to it. (The device doesn't have a hardware on/off switch).
When it powered back on, it stayed on Vol Variable.
 

Mobster

Member
Joined
Jul 22, 2022
Messages
6
Likes
5
So I set the device to Vol Variable and pulled the plug to it. (The device doesn't have a hardware on/off switch).
When it powered back on, it stayed on Vol Variable.
It actually has a hardware on/off switch. You do not have to pull the plug. It’s the (control/volume) knob. Press it and hold it for a second or two and you’ll turn it off. Press it again and you’ll turn it back on :)
 

BHazard

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2021
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59
It actually has a hardware on/off switch. You do not have to pull the plug. It’s the (control/volume) knob. Press it and hold it for a second or two and you’ll turn it off. Press it again and you’ll turn it back on :)
Ah, I didn't think it truly shut it off when doing that. Good to know.
 

Trell

Major Contributor
Joined
May 13, 2021
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It actually has a hardware on/off switch. You do not have to pull the plug. It’s the (control/volume) knob. Press it and hold it for a second or two and you’ll turn it off. Press it again and you’ll turn it back on :)

It will be in a standby mode drawing less than 0.5 W (according to the manual) but it will not be off.
 

oli2000

New Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2022
Messages
3
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5
Hi,

I’m having MQA issue with roon and optical input with my a20d 2022. MQA streams are not recognised with the optical input but they are with the usb. I see pcm logo instead of MQA badge on the dac display. I’m using ropieee endpoint in both case.

Whatecer I specify on the endpoint in roon (decoder only, renderer only, or both), it doesn’t work. Did somebody experienced the same orcan sombody can help me to fi this issue/
 

nsfgp

Active Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2020
Messages
124
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98
Hi,

I’m having MQA issue with roon and optical input with my a20d 2022. MQA streams are not recognised with the optical input but they are with the usb. I see pcm logo instead of MQA badge on the dac display. I’m using ropieee endpoint in both case.

Whatecer I specify on the endpoint in roon (decoder only, renderer only, or both), it doesn’t work. Did somebody experienced the same orcan sombody can help me to fi this issue/
Set to S/PDIF Processor mode??
 

CEAV

New Member
Joined
Feb 14, 2022
Messages
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3
Thanks for the review. This combo looks really impressive.

I was set on getting an E50/L50 stack but curious now about this. Aside from the combined form factor and built in PSU (and $100 cheaper) does the Sabaj have anything that the Topping stack doesn't as far as features or performance? To me the Topping still has a true balanced out, a more universally useful USB input, and the appearance match in the PA5 if one wanted to add a speaker amp.

I'm not beholden to either setup. I was just about to buy the Topping stack so wondered if anyone had any insight on the differences. Thanks
 

laudio

Active Member
Joined
Dec 30, 2019
Messages
248
Likes
225
After being banned on this site for posting my opinions on gear, am hesitant to comment on this one. But here goes. Yes.... from a measurement standpoint one can say it's state of the art as many agree. But no... in terms of feature set of what real users want/need (tone controls multiple preamp inputs) it's just another Chinese DAC that measures above the threshold of audibility and doesn't matter. SMSL/Sabaj please make a product that can do what the market wants, not what ASR wants :)
 

renaudrenaud

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Apr 20, 2019
Messages
943
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Location
Paris
Hello Amir and thanks for another great review.

I'm currently using an Audiolab 6000A as a pre amplifier with a pair of active Acoustic Energy AE1 speakers. Music comes via a Logitech Touch (via Raspberry Pi server) straight into the digital input on the 6000A. The Amplifier is set in Pre Amp mode. Does anybody believe that sustituting the Sabaj is going to bring about any improvement in perceived sound quality with my system ? Music is predominantly CD ripped to FLAC using EAC. My understanding is there's a lower noise , less distortion , balanced outputs ... that might be in it's favour over the Audiolab. I know the latter may not be so familiar to your readers but it's well recieved here in the UK and had a good review in HiFi News. Thanks in advance.
It will be a great improvement.
If you are not happy with it I will refund you
 

Jimster480

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 26, 2018
Messages
2,190
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1,471
Location
Tampa Bay
After being banned on this site for posting my opinions on gear, am hesitant to comment on this one. But here goes. Yes.... from a measurement standpoint one can say it's state of the art as many agree. But no... in terms of feature set of what real users want/need (tone controls multiple preamp inputs) it's just another Chinese DAC that measures above the threshold of audibility and doesn't matter. SMSL/Sabaj please make a product that can do what the market wants, not what ASR wants :)
Banned? I doubt that.
I think everyone would like devices with more inputs.
 

poxymoron

Active Member
Joined
May 7, 2021
Messages
193
Likes
202
Thanks for the review @amirm
I've a couple of questions if you guys can help please:
  1. Can this be used as a dedicated DAC? I suspect that it can.
  2. Would this be a good amp to use with HiFiMan Edition XS planar headphones? Amir notes some clipping at impedances below 32 ohm - the HiFiMans are 18 ohm.
Thanks.
 
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