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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
Manufacturer Specifications:

View attachment 372296
The SNR and THD+N seem to vary a little from Amir's measurements I assume SINAD and THD+N are the same thing.

There is his other image on the Sabaj product page - see below, so between the -122, below, the spec quoted above- 121, and the measurements of Amir - which put SINAD somewhere in the ballpark of -117/118, there is a variance. Not that it's a heaven and earth variance, but generally I find Amir's testing is usually having less variation, than in this review, when compared to the manufacturers published specs.

The SNR of 137 dB, quoted by by the manufacturer - Can't seem to find any correlation of that within this review. Especially where the manufacturer has published specs, it's nice to be able to understand better, any deviations. Is the manufacturer wildly overstating the truth, and where exactly is the truth to be found. All this may be academic, but that's what measurements are - many are academic, much ado about inaudible facts.

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May I take the opportunity to commend again the usability of this web site. All kinds of features, as if I was in a word processor - cut and paste images, inline, resize images, tables, what else will they think of. Best forum features I have ever used. Really promotes getting involved. Well done and thank you.
 
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.
View attachment 372251
Can you use the same remote control for both of them?
 
Yes the A/B/C buttons do it, and third is for the power amplifier. I still have one of those remotes laying around. I tried but it doesn't work on SMSL stuff despite them being a sister company.
 

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It does NOT have an RCA output. Read all about it here :

Obviously he means the input
__
The 108 price is real, and for that it's a bargain
 
Yes the A/B/C buttons do it, and third is for the power amplifier. I still have one of those remotes laying around. I tried but it doesn't work on SMSL stuff despite them being a sister company.
Wow, this is news to me - Sabaj and SMSL are sister companies. Interesting. Now I've bought the Sabaj A20h as my Headphone Amp for (hopefully) the next 30 years!, now trying to narrow down which USB DAC, to go alongside it. Guess with that choice of headphone amp done, I'll now have to go and take a good look at the DAC only products, which I had hitherto ignored.

Initially I had wanted a product with DAC (+ headphone amp) budget friendly, but now I have the Sabaj A20h, if I can save money by purchasing a DAC only device, if it is cost effective compared with a DAC+Headphone combination device.

At the back of my mind I definitely wanted and preferred to go with separates - A dedicated DAC and a dedicated headphone amp. for so many reasons., Potential to upgrade this independently should the need arise.

I'm hoping the Sabaj A20h will be able to support IEM's properly. Amir says they can power any headphones, and I assume that includes IEM's. Their output impedance is specced as near zero, which should help. On this thread I read contrary comments about the ability of this headphone to support IEM's and wonder where is the justification for that opinion. Normally when I read Amir's reviews, albeit this one is a bit scanty, he'll be very clear about how well an amp can drive various kinds of headphone. Such as low impedance low sensitivity, Dan Clarke Stealth, and HD 600, which should be fairly representative of a good chunk of the more difficult to drive headgear out there. So trying to understand this concern about this device being able to drive low impedance IEM's.

I am not an electrical engineer, only an audio engineer focussed on the mix, and not too much on the gear. This bit about an amp which can do 4 watts - that's 4,000 milliwatts @ 16 Ohms load, not being able to drive IEM's properly takes a bit of head scratching to appreciate. Hope someone can explain this "physics" to me. My apple dongle costing $9 drives my 17 ohm JVC cheapo IEM, to levels that I have to attenuate the peak coming out to the dongle to -30 dBFS, when playing audio from my DAW, through to the Apple dongle - via WASAPI on Windows. And I don't think the Apple dongle puts out more than 40 milliwatts @ 32 Ohms. i.e if my Apple dongle leaves me with over 25 dB of headroom to go deaf, how will a 4,000 milliwatt amp @ 16 Ohm, not be able to drive IEM's, sufficiently?
 
Obviously he means the input
__
The 108 price is real, and for that it's a bargain
Indeed it does have RCA inputs. With two line level inputs (Balanced XLR and Unbalanced RCA) and two headphone outputs (6.35mm unbalanced and 4.4mm balanced - duplicated on XLR 4 pin balanced headphone sockets) that's a permutation of 2 x 2 - i.e a full test would be 4 sets of tests

1. Balanced to Unbalanced
2 Balanced to Balanced
3. Unbalanced to Unbalanced
4. Balanced to Balanced

Now that would be an exhaustive review. Guess Amir chose to focus on the most likely best results - balanced to balanced, and we can assume that this is the best case and most interesting one, for the purpose of ranking, with other gear - giving it the best chance of a fair competition.

My thoughts are, anyone concerned with measurements, just use the best connection - balanced. and the unbalanced inputs are a nice to have, just in case. In an ambient room, with noise from cars, children playing, and sitting behind double glazed windows which cut out so much noise, yet I can still hear birds chirping outside, the difference between balanced inputs and unbalanced are likely to be inaudible., i.e maybe not worth measuring, unless one is doing Quality Control at the factory.

WIth the device out of production, guess Amir considered that any feedback to the manufacturer of such additional measurements, are redundant.
 
I voted poor. It may sound like honey being poured from the breasts of 1000 virgins, but the headphone connection at the back is, for me, simply unforgivable (who the heck had this idea?? )
 
There is his other image on the Sabaj product page - see below, so between the -122, below, the spec quoted above- 121, and the measurements of Amir - which put SINAD somewhere in the ballpark of -117/118, there is a variance.
They are testing at 5 volts while I have standardized on 4 volts in/4 volts out. 5 volts improves SNR which in turn improves SINAD since we are noise limited.
 
Absolutely love the design - a clean front panel with only display and volume control, and all other connections at the back.
 
I still own this unit. It has plenty of power and a great noise floor, but there’s slight crosstalk even in balanced mode. @amirm does yours have crosstalk bleed as well?
 
I voted poor. It may sound like honey being poured from the breasts of 1000 virgins, but the headphone connection at the back is, for me, simply unforgivable (who the heck had this idea?? )
Because of this invalidating the whole device? That is too harsh. If you don't swap your headphones regularly or only have three of them, using the three different outputs, you should not have to care too much.
 
but the headphone connection at the back is, for me, simply unforgivable (who the heck had this idea?? )

Ergonomics vs economics. Sadly economics won. But it's discontinued, so clearly it wasn't a good seller.

Anything that is frequently touched or plugged in/out needs to be on the front panel. Simple stuff. That goes for power switches, USB drive sockets (type A female), headphone sockets etc.

It's a bargain if you want to make a short male to female headphone extension to lie on the desk.
 
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.

I never use headphones if I do not have to (people visiting my wife, me working outdoors [I only use the one pair that I have, a wireless set TR180 Sennheiser that I bought when they first came out] or something like that). I live in a singe house on .25 acre but the houses around me are on 1/3 acre or more, so I would have to have my in house speakers at a phenomenal volume for me to disturb them.
In my personal world, being tethered by a headphone cable defeats the reason that I would be wearing headphones: being mobile within or outside (in the yard) of my house.
 
My unit A20h also has slight crosstalk, but it is less then my Asgard 2 and way less then Zen Can.
Actually when balanced to balanced it gives more crosstalk, then balanced to 6.3mm.
Funny Little Dot mark 2 has zero audible crosstalk also Creative AE-5 headphone amp has no crosstalk at all.
 
Weird that theres no output in the front where the dial control is, you need to plug in from the back.
 
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