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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

glc650

Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2021
Messages
46
Likes
16
Great review, thank you for that!

Is is it possible to get rid of the front handles? I don't find them very appealing... Can you just unscrew them?
I don't see any screws. As far as I can tell they are not modular.
 

glc650

Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2021
Messages
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Likes
16
I just got one of these and after a couple hours of use I found it to be a more polished/complete product than the Topping D90SE. So much so it has permanently replaced my D90SE. Why?

1) All settings are easily accessible via remote on the A20d. No more reaching over the top of and behind the D90SE trying to find the rocker switch.

2) The A20d's IR receiver actually receives IR signals. I was using a Harmony Companion Remote with Hub with the D90SE. I use IR blasters (more than and different from the two that come with it) and commands (from the remote or from start/end sequences) would frequently get missed. That was with the IR extender right over the IR receiver on the D90SE. With the A20d in the same place the D90SE was, and with the IR extender well away from the A20d's receiver (if it was this far from the D90SE's receiver all commands would be missed), I have yet to experience a missed command.

3) I had the D90SE set to automatically turn off the display (after 30 seconds I think). The display would frequently light up when switching songs even when the songs were from the same album (so same bit depth and sample rate). The A20d does not do this.

4) Turning the A20d off actually turns off the USB link between it and my Zen Stream. With the D90SE off, the Zen Stream would still "see it" over USB so it would stay on the USB output instead of defaulting to the coax output like it is supposed to when USB is not available. I don't use the Zen Stream's coax output all that often but when I do it is nice to not have to hop on the Zen Stream's web GUI and force it to SPDIF.

5) I use Roon and Tidal exclusively and I frequently had glitches/static/pops between MQA songs on the D90SE. This was with songs from the same album playing back-to-back. I think it was an issue (for whatever reason) with gapless albums but I don't know for sure because I stopped troubleshooting after trying a different USB cable between my Zen Stream and the DAC and after I bypassed Roon by using Tidal Connect directly on my Zen Stream (I also tried the Tidal app on my Macbook with the Macbook connected directly to the D90SE). The only thing that would "fix" the issue was setting Roon's 'MQA capabilities' setting to 'No MQA support' with Roon doing the first unfold. This forces Roon to not preserve MQA signaling after it does the first unfold so the DAC doesn't do any further unfolding.
Nitpicks two weeks later:

1) I'd like the option to have the display light up automatically upon bit depth/sample rate changes, however, the Topping never handled this correctly so I'm not missing much. Plus, I use Roon and a Zen Stream, both of which indicate bit depth/sample rates so it's really not needed but would be nice to have.

2) So the only thing I'm really missing is the ability to toggle display brightness/auto dim via the remote without having to be close enough to the display to see and navigate the menu to make these changes.
 
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Carlo2AC

Active Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2019
Messages
104
Likes
43
Forget this, SMSL (parent company of Sabaj) has just released M500 mkiii, successor to ii which was in turn the same as A20d in a different enclosure (Amir has tested both and measure the same). It has improved XMOS XU-316 processor, better CK-03 clock and 6 more OPA1612A. Price is about 100$ more.

https://hifi-express.com/products/smsl-m500-mkiii
It is hard to justify spending 120 U$ more on this compared to the a10d 2022 and you are suggesting something that cost even more?
 

Robocop

Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2021
Messages
16
Likes
7
Location
Tauranga, New Zealand
(Amir has tested both and measure the same)
Amir has not tested the SMSL M500 MKIII as of yet. I would expect it to outperform both the Sabaj A20d 2022 and M500 MKII version. It does have USB-B input over the C in the A20d.
 

Matias

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
3,586
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6,761
Location
São Paulo, Brazil

Matias

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
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6,761
Location
São Paulo, Brazil

abhi8569

New Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2022
Messages
1
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0
Location
Bonn, Germany
I am noob when it comes to high end audio equipment, so please excuse my ignorance.

I am planning to buy Adam Audio T5V for listening to music. As I also have Sennheiser HD650 l, I am thinking of buying Sabaj A20D which I can use with Hd650(4.4 balanced) and T5v(XLR balanced). Will this setup work fine? Is there any issues you see with setup? Kindly let me know you opinion.

Thank you!
 

BHazard

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2021
Messages
55
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62
I am noob when it comes to high end audio equipment, so please excuse my ignorance.

I am planning to buy Adam Audio T5V for listening to music. As I also have Sennheiser HD650 l, I am thinking of buying Sabaj A20D which I can use with Hd650(4.4 balanced) and T5v(XLR balanced). Will this setup work fine? Is there any issues you see with setup? Kindly let me know you opinion.

Thank you!
I think you'd love it.

One thing to consider... you may be startled at what seems like a complete lack of bass when you switch over to a DAC and Amp like this, as it doesn't color the sound in any way and may seem "flat" or "boring" at first. You may even think you wasted your money.

You'll want to consider a hardware or software EQ to boost bass when you want a little more warmth and impact to your music, and then adjust other frequencies when you learn how to use it. It adds back what you may perceive as missing, and if you haven't had a high (ish) end DAC before, you may hear things you've never heard before in tracks you're very familiar with.
 

m3nthal

Member
Joined
Aug 4, 2022
Messages
16
Likes
2
I am noob when it comes to high end audio equipment, so please excuse my ignorance.

I am planning to buy Adam Audio T5V for listening to music. As I also have Sennheiser HD650 l, I am thinking of buying Sabaj A20D which I can use with Hd650(4.4 balanced) and T5v(XLR balanced). Will this setup work fine? Is there any issues you see with setup? Kindly let me know you opinion.

Thank you!
Hi,
I have HD 560s and Genelec 8030 active speakers and it works perfectly. Some points you might take into consideration:
- 4.4mm port is not truly balanced
- you can’t play XLR and headphones simultaneously
Not a dealbreaker for me, but I think worth noting.
 

gtcore

New Member
Joined
Sep 21, 2020
Messages
2
Likes
1
Greetings!

I'm really sory, if this question was already placed but..., I would like to buy Sabaj a20d as my main DAC and PREamp for MC2 MC1250 power amp... Is the (digital) volume control of the Sabaj good enogh for beeing the main PREamp? Or do I need a seperate preamp for the best quality sound?

Best regards and really gratefull for the answer!

Miha from Slovenia
 

Chilli

Member
Joined
Nov 7, 2018
Messages
47
Likes
40
Location
Hamilton, NZ
Greetings!

I'm really sory, if this question was already placed but..., I would like to buy Sabaj a20d as my main DAC and PREamp for MC2 MC1250 power amp... Is the (digital) volume control of the Sabaj good enogh for beeing the main PREamp? Or do I need a seperate preamp for the best quality sound?

Best regards and really gratefull for the answer!

Miha from Slovenia
It's probably fine. I am running mine every day directly into an ncore amp and it sounds good. The dac level is only at 17 out of 99! However, I might try a volume control in the near future but it's convenient at the moment, as I can just use the supplied dac remote to control the volume.
 

stakatchh

Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2020
Messages
11
Likes
6
It is really good looking combo with HD800
.....................It's funny how far progress has come. A few years ago I bought similar devices for about 1000 euros (RME ADI-2 DAC) or even more(benchmark dac2 without any fancy screens).......... and now for 370$
 

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Dodgexander

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Joined
Jun 6, 2022
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2
I tried posting this in the feedback thread but it doesn't seem as popular as this thread so I'll give it a go here.

I bought this from Hi-fi express (@peterwen) and waited patiently for it to arrive from China. Overall impression is good and I enjoy using my headphones with the DAC/H.AMP

However I want to also use this to power my Klipsch The Fives on my computer. My setup is used for everything, not just music but video games and movies too.

Sadly when I'm using the speakers either connected via RCA>RCA or RCA>AUX there is sometimes drop outs for a second here and there with the sound. These can happen anywhere to as often as every 5 mins to as little as once a day.

These drop outs do not happen when using the headphone output and only when using the A20d as a pre amp.

The cut outs also do not occur when I've tested my speakers with an older DAC and they do not occur when my speakers are connected to the computer themselves via USB.

The really odd thing about this issue is that it seems to mainly occur during gaming. When listening to music I haven't experienced any cut outs at all.

Does anyone have any suggestions or similar experience? I have tried installing the drivers from the website but it doesn't help.
 

Mobster

Member
Joined
Jul 22, 2022
Messages
6
Likes
6
Ah, I didn't think it truly shut it off when doing that. Good to know.
Sorry I misinformed you. I meant power button and not switch.

It's been awhile and I've been upgrading further. I bought a Topping A90 Discrete and use the A20d as a DAC/pre-amp. Funny enough the Topping A90d has a USB-C input for Firmware upgrade, which does not work USB-C to USB-C either. Shenzen hasn't gotten USB-C to USB-C to work properly and as intended in general apparently. As long as USB-C to USB-C doesn't work I would have much preferred USB-A or B on the DAC side as PC/MAC usually have USB-C these days (USB-C seems to be the future)

It's however an amazing combo if you want clean, neutral, transparent sound. And the silver chassis match perfectly, so much so that I'm certain it's done by the same manufacturer. I bought Focal Clear (OG) as well when I felt the headphones was holding it back and the sound then was stunning!! I'm running it balanced all the way now btw. It's so detailed. If I was mixing a record I would definitely have used this set up. It's so revealing. I would say it's as close to end-game as you can come when it comes to clean, analytical, neutral sound if you consider price vs. value. This set up is around $2500 and it's worth every penny. It's astonishing. For pure listening pleasure I would probably suggest something warmer sounding and relaxed as this is so detailed I could not get any work done while listening to this set up and work at the same time... Sabaj A20D + Topping A90D + Focal Clear OG is awesome!!
 

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BHazard

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2021
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Sorry I misinformed you. I meant power button and not switch.

It's been awhile and I've been upgrading further. I bought a Topping A90 Discrete and use the A20d as a DAC/pre-amp. Funny enough the Topping A90d has a USB-C input for Firmware upgrade, which does not work USB-C to USB-C either. Shenzen hasn't gotten USB-C to USB-C to work properly and as intended in general apparently. As long as USB-C to USB-C doesn't work I would have much preferred USB-A or B on the DAC side as PC/MAC usually have USB-C these days (USB-C seems to be the future)

It's however an amazing combo if you want clean, neutral, transparent sound. And the silver chassis match perfectly, so much so that I'm certain it's done by the same manufacturer. I bought Focal Clear (OG) as well when I felt the headphones was holding it back and the sound then was stunning!! I'm running it balanced all the way now btw. It's so detailed. If I was mixing a record I would definitely have used this set up. It's so revealing. I would say it's as close to end-game as you can come when it comes to clean, analytical, neutral sound if you consider price vs. value. This set up is around $2500 and it's worth every penny. It's astonishing. For pure listening pleasure I would probably suggest something warmer sounding and relaxed as this is so detailed I could not get any work done while listening to this set up and work at the same time... Sabaj A20D + Topping A90D + Focal Clear OG is awesome!!
If you want a warmer sound, attach a hardware EQ like the Schitt Lokius via XLR in the chain for $299.
The Lokius keeps the balanced connection and outputs to the amp via XLR. It also has passthrough if you want the sound pure and direct.
I use it to get the extra warmth I like on my Hifiman Edition XS.
 

sthaus

Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2021
Messages
54
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17
This is my after 30 days review with this product.

It does has a "good measurement" BUT it does not provide a great sound signature as I expected with ES9038Pro.

I bought a whole Sabaj A20a/d 2022 combo set from Hifi-Express(Shipping is nice 15 days); I tested with few of my speakers (active,passive) such as Tannoy Gold 8 Monitor, Mordaunt Short, Polk R200 and Canton DC Floorstanding by using XLR cable (Belden 8402) and speaker cable (Canare 4s11) and number of Dacs.

As the result, it does provide a nice warm and clean sound but less meaty and punchy than my Loxie D50 AK4499 dac+ SMSL AO200. It seems a bit harsh on treble or upper mid range. It is also less resoution than Topping E50 Dac with ES9068AS. Comparing it to Musician Pegasus R2R, Pegasus provides smooth sounding and wide soundstage than A20d, like the air blow smoothly to your face rather than directly point to your face. My rekon you should pair with EQ or Pre-amp (hardware). (* I dont like Roon EQ)

In conclusion, if you are looking for a nice looking set and not too picky on sound signature.. This is one. But hey .. there are plenty of more opt out there .. not just for nice looking ... !!! Sometimes UGLY is great. Measurement is not all our stories.

Cheers

I forgot to mention about headphone ports ... dont over fancy about the combo headphone ports ... it sounds less resolution than I paired my headphone with Hidizs S9 (AKM) and Fiio KA3 (ESS) dongle. Whats a shame.
 

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morillon

Senior Member
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Apr 19, 2022
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fatwa!
the god sinad "1khz" said that there can be no audible differences and that divine excellence can only be there!
;-))
 

stakatchh

Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2020
Messages
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6
Can it run both HP output in same time? For example Sundara 6.35mm + HD800 4.4mm balanced?
 
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