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Sabaj A20h Balanced Headphone Amp Review

Rate this headphone amplifier:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 1 0.7%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 6 4.3%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 28 19.9%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 106 75.2%

  • Total voters
    141

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Sabaj A20h balanced headphone amplifier. It is on kind loan from a member. It is discontinued but I see it at one site for just $108.
Sabaj A20H Balanced Headphone Amplifier Review.jpg

The look is kind of outdated but it works. Back panel shows the odd choice of putting headphone jacks there:
Sabaj A20H Balanced Headphone Amplifier back panel Review.jpg


Member had shipped this to me a year ago (!) but it was hidden on a shelf until he reminded me of it. Since the unit is not in production anymore, I am going to shorten the review a bit by focusing on balanced input and outputs. Unbalanced would be close.

The A20h has resistor ladder relays for volume control which should assure perfect channel balance.

Sabaj A20h Measurements
Our usual dashboard shows excellent performance:
Sabaj A20H Balanced Headphone Amplifier Measurement.png

best balanced headphone amp review 2024.png


Noise performance is good at unity gain but just slightly above average at 50mv:
Sabaj A20H Balanced Headphone Amplifier SNR Measurement.png

most quiet headphone amplifier review 2024.png


Frequency response is nice and flat:
Sabaj A20H Balanced Headphone Amplifier frequency response Measurement.png


Best news about A20h is its huge amount of output power while keeping noise and distortion at bay:
Sabaj A20H Balanced Headphone Amplifier power 300 ohm Measurement.png

Sabaj A20H Balanced Headphone Amplifier power 32 ohm Measurement.png


This should let it drive just about any headphone with ease.

Conclusions
I regret not reviewing the A20h earlier given its excellent performance. Assuming the $108 price is real, it is a superb bargain given the functionality and performance.

I am going to recommend the Sabaj a20h.

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

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
Lovely to see that Sabaj continues to deliver. Very happy with my Sabaj gear. Thanks for another great review, @amirm .

Have a great weekend y'all.
 
Ive had those a few times and it's great to see the results. Also explains the noise floor, but at the price it's a lot of power and perfect channel matching. The cable connectors on the back are upside down (the matching A20d 9038Pro DAC is the same way, but they haven't made it in years). Prices have gone up to $119 currently, but still half the price of most competitors with that much power. It powers the He6se well with its 5 volt DAC, just finding an A20D is a trick since production was limited.
PXL_20221031_122457046.jpg
 
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I've owned it since release. For higher impedance it's really excellent and insane value. For more sensitive gear you might run into noise, for that reason IEMs might not be the best match..
 
My friend also owns one but I have no chance to listen to it. Because this is a headphones amp, not the power amp for speakers, I don't know why they designed the headphone plugs on the back of the device with the DC power plug and the audio input?. Devices like this may be cheap and have good sound quality, but in return, product build quality and ergonomics are things that are overlooked.
 
Interesting find. Hopefully the performance is similar in their current products!

Thanks Amir!
 
I am kind of amazed at (apparently) how many members use headphones. I did not realize they were so popular. My father had the original Koss Pro 4AA in the 80's. They were so uncomfortable I think they scarred me for life.

 
the volume control can be operated by remote (not all that clear in the review).

A good remote controlled BALANCED 256 step resistor-relay attenuator control for $109-$120 (current Amazon price) by itself would be a great price. Bare boards for such things go for as much or more on eBay. Add a well performing amp and it’s a hole in one I think.

Sabaj could ditch the amp part and add a source selector and it’s a killer 2-3 source balanced preamp. Looks like another pair of xlr might fit in the back instead of the headphone jacks…or they could get creative and use a space saving balanced interface like Khadas has used (or a trrrs /4-5pin xlr).

After owning a few headphone amps and speaker amps in this price range, I have found the channel imbalance on the analogue volume controls a noticeable problem up to half way up and quite problematic at lower levels for more sensitive headphones or using as a pre-amp. My Aiyma a07 and fossi v3 has noticeable imbalance on the vol pot as well. Though I am mostly happy to manage volume mostly in the digital domain (a DAC or software), but not needing too would ve great.

Having the headphone jacks —however plentiful—on the back is terrible ergonomics imho however. Unless you use only one set of headphones ever what a PITA.

I appreciate the number of options for the headphones, but it’s not worth the inconvenience. Or rather the inconvenience of rear jack location is greater to me than having to use an adapter for a single 4 pin xlr on the front. I know some audiophile types might balk at adapters 2.5mm/4mm trrrs to 4pin XLR degrading the signal but thats a bunch of baloney (and if they are obsessed with signal degradation by connectors they shouldn’t be using TRRRS anyway (to be clear: I seriously doubt there is any meaningful measurable difference between a TRRS VS 4pin XLR interface — except perhaps where xlr potentially allows larger gauge wire for really long cables…soldering canare or Mogami star-quad wires to even a 4mm trrs is no fun to impossible. And IEMS with a relatively huge xlr plug is sort of funky…but that’s what a $10 adapter is for.
 
Combine this with a Topping D50 III which is selling for $201 USD on Amazon currently, and you have transparent, balanced, system complete with 10 band PEQ that will drive virtually any non-electrostatic headphone, with an all in cost of $311 plus cable.

I think we're getting very close to rock bottom pricing which is absolutely great for consumers. All we need now is a $200 version of a Smyth Realiser! People bemoan the death of the High End, focusing on things like store closures and the like. What they fail to realize, I think, is that a whole lot of high end performance in things like Dacs and Class D amplifiers certainly has very quietly been moved into the mainstream because of the commodity level pricing which now obtains for so much of this stuff. That a clear win for everyone except the guys who charge $20 k for Dacs and $50 K for tube amplifiers.
 
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I have this and a20d dac. I think this headphone amp is subjectively better than the dac. For some reason I like the sound of my Topping DX3 pro+ dac better. Placing the outputs at the back makes it difficult to use. When I bought this and the dac, the price was really cheap. I paid about 200 euros for them in total.
 
Thank you for reviewing it @amirm even if a bit late.
As an axtremely pleased owner of an A10h i was on the verge of buying it since it was at 90€ at Amazon for a long time, never done because I mostly use iem and the lack of negative gain was a concern. The 50mv measurement confirmed that it would not be a perfect choice for my scenario, otherways very very nice for less sensitive phones.
 
After owning a few headphone amps and speaker amps in this price range, I have found the channel imbalance on the analogue volume controls a noticeable problem up to half way up and quite problematic at lower levels for more sensitive headphones or using as a pre-amp
Not only in this price range, even headphone amplifiers costing three times this, using expensive analog potentiometer from ALPS, can't avoid channel imbalance.
 
Could you also measure the RCA output?
It does NOT have an RCA output. Read all about it here :

 
The price is not exceptional, but the location of the headphone jacks is exceptionally bone-headed. Given the competition around this price, this would be a pass for me.
 
Combine this with a Topping D50 III which is selling for $201 USD on Amazon currently, and you have transparent, balanced, system complete with 10 band PEQ that will drive virtually any non-electrostatic headphone, with an all in cost of $311 plus cable.

I think we're getting very close to rock bottom pricing which is absolutely great for consumers. All we need now is a $200 version of a Smyth Realiser! People bemoan the death of the High End, focusing on things like store closures and the like. What they fail to realize, I think, is that a whole lot of high end performance in things like Dacs and Class D amplifiers certainly has very quietly been moved into the mainstream because of the commodity level pricing which now obtains for so much of this stuff. That a clear win for everyone except the guys who charge $20 k for Dacs and $50 K for tube amplifiers.
I am so glad, that the prices are becoming more affordable. So glad. I'd be happy to spend more if I had no choice, but it is satisfying to be rewarded for one's interest in good sounding gear.

In a way that more resembles neuron networks in the brain, the web community, from sites like gearspace (formerly gearslutz), kvraudio (formerly kvr-vst), archimargo, ASR (this forum web site), and others, has amplified the knowledge, cross fertilisation of ideas, collaboration - like the brain of the earth has just grown. I still do not understand it all, cos I am NOT an electrical engineer, or an acoustics engineer. But now you do not have to be a geek to appreciate a little bit of what should be paired with what. 30 years ago, high end audio was the domain of either those with money, who probably did not understand what they were buying, or geeks who could tell you all about current, watts, resistors, etc, and it was pretty much all analog.

A couple of things have thankfully led us to this point.

1. The Internet, now widely available to all.
2. Much better trading between countries
3. Improvements in the transportation, reducing the delivery time, things like Amazon's next day delivery (who every thought such things were possible)
4. China has had a huge impact, with competition between Chinese businesses further driving down the end price to the buyers.
5. Clearly also improvements in manufacturing and the material sciences. Human beings simply know more, and more manufacturers have similar opportunities.
6. Convenience - once upon a time, you had to get up and change the record, every 5 to 15 minutes. Now we can listen to hours of audio on stream, at high quality if you are willing and able to pay for a subscription. And we can do this from anywhere, mobile phone, laptop, tablet, piped to speakers, headphones, and wireless headphones, literally from anywhere in the world to anywhere else, either at home, or on the move, a whole new world - very different from one which was limited by audio and music on physical media..

In the same way that remote medicine allows the expert to amplify their reach and perform operations on a patient remotely, the number of us who can benefit from the intelligence of those experts on ASR, has increased, and we do not have to fully understand everything. We can now treat audio like a car, no need to learn how to disassemble an engine, to be a driver. This has massively grown the number of people taking an interest in the hobby/profession. It is also thanks to the huge generosity of many folks here who - for not personal gain, do what they do - making measurements, reviewing, contributing their knowledge - for free.

And the pace of change has accelerated. No longer are we depending on updates once a month or once every few months from magazines, like Sound on Sound which I still revere, and read when I get a chance, but now change happens by the minute. By the day, by the hour. I only discovered this Sabaj A20h a few days ago, mentioned by Static-V3 on one of the threads. Looked up the specs and price, and penned it down for a more extensive appraisal. I had started this appraisal a day or two ago, and about an hour ago, having read this review, realised upon reading it again, that the product was discontinued. With only one remaining on Amazon. Bought it ASAP, with my heart pounding as I went through the process, to make sure I would not miss the opportunity. First desktop audio gear item bought in about a decade.

But there is a downside, the manufacturers put in so much effort into these designs and their products no longer remain in production for more than a few years. Like Amir said in the review "I am so glad I am not in desktop audio business to compete with products like this! " - link below

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...sabaj-a10d-2022-version-review-dac-amp.34918/

On that note - never heard the brand name Sabaj, until a few days ago. Had spent several weeks poring over the specs of the well known brand names - Tempotec, Hidizs, FiiO, Ibasso, SMSL, Topping, - Sabaj who? The review here of both the Sabaj A10d, and the A20h were compelling - considering price vs performance.

Enough said. Some may hint at bias (which I have read on a few other sites as well as here) as to the accuracy of Amir's measurements, but he's the only one doing them, with the humongous attempt at remaining consistent, and he's done more independent tests than anyone else, with a lot of them aligning closely to the manufacturers specs ! At least we have something independent to base our purchasing decision on. which is much better than relying 100% on the manufacturer's specs.!!
 
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