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Sabaj A20h Balanced Headphone Amplifier Owner's Thread

carlcamper

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http://www.sabaj.com.cn/en/productshow.asp?id=86

Since @amirm hasn't reviewed this yet (he's only reviewed the A10h so far), I'd like to open an owner's thread for the Sabaj A20h. It cost me around $200 USD.

For me, this is one of the best values in the Balanced Headphone Amplifier space, as it has relay volume control for perfect channel matching, a remote control, excellent noise floor in SE and Balanced, 3 gain stages, and fully balanced Input and Output for a very reasonable price. The only downside for me is the inputs are located at the back, but I mitigate this by running Adapter cables to the front (one for TRS to 3.5mm, and another for XLR to 2.5mm balanced)

I personally pair it with the Topping D10 Balanced DAC, for a very reasonable ~$330 USD in total

For others out there, what are your thoughts?

WhatsApp Image 2022-06-01 at 12.46.55 PM.jpeg
 
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carlcamper

carlcamper

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Veri

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Thanks for the link, good review! By the way, what DAC are you using with it?
I used to couple it with a Pecanpi (XLR) but currently have an Aune X8 which I bought on sale, single ended to A20h. Both SE/BAL inputs have worked fine. SE might be more susceptible to laptop/grounding noise though, but only noticed that with the most sensitive of IEMs. And my Topping A90 had that issue too..
 
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carlcamper

carlcamper

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@Veri I recently discovered my unit in balanced mode has very slight crosstalk in High Gain, meaning when I play a LEFT and RIGHT tone in my IEMs (ex. the Windows Playback Test), I can hear it bleed in the other side . Can you confirm it in your unit as well? (I tried it in my Gustard H16 in balanced mode, and confirmed it has no crosstalk/bleed, but the unbalanced mode has noticeable hiss even in Low Gain for my unbalanced IEMs.)
 
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Veri

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@Veri I recently discovered my unit in balanced mode has very slight crosstalk in High Gain, meaning when I play a LEFT and RIGHT tone in my IEMs (ex. the Windows Playback Test), I can hear it bleed in the other side . Can you confirm it in your unit as well? (I tried it in my Gustard H16 in balanced mode, and confirmed it has no crosstalk/bleed, but the unbalanced mode has noticeable hiss even in Low Gain for my unbalanced IEMs.)
Just tested, no crosstalk issue here. This is using dynamic sennheiser headphones though. Can I ask why you are using IEMs with the Sabaj in high gain? I don't need remotely as much power using more insensitive full-size headphones so a bit confused by that.
 
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carlcamper

carlcamper

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It's more of wanting to stay on a single gain setting when I shift from my IEMs to my other headphones. Anyway, thanks for confirming its not an issue on headphones (I'm assuming its a high impedance one), If you have any low impedance headphones/IEMs, it might manifest.
 
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carlcamper

carlcamper

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Just got word from Sabaj this is normal especially on very sensitive IEMs and headphones.
 

reasons

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Seems that new versions of all there amps/dacs are releasing. Might want to wait on this one.
 

Dunring

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PXL_20221019_210919912.jpg

Just got the matched set today and have the SP200 and Topping A90 to compare it to. Including a photo at the bottom I discovered when it sounded flat and lifeless. The power supply has to be connected one way or it doesn't sound very good at all. When hooked up right everything sprang to life and I'm really impressed. I'd compare the sound to the Drop THX 789 as nearest to it with sound stage, bass dynamics, etc. Listening to both blind I don't think I'd be able to tell the difference. With the claimed 500mw into 600ohm on either XLR or single ended, it's packing more power. Nobody has done measurements yet, I'll send one in if wanted, but I know how busy Amirm is with moving.

Temps not even very warm, the amp and DAC are the same temps to the touch, just to give an idea how not warm it is.
Headroom for equalizing feels limitless
Volume wheel on both is a little wobbly but not bad, the connectors on the back need extender cables, and the XLR cable ports are all upside down for some reason.
The DAC is really solid and on the SP200 I love the sound and 5.14 volts I think it does. No driver issues, standard USB drivers and ASIO like every SMSL DAC.
The Amp and DAC both have a remote which functions independently but look identical, need some tape on one of them.
Same power from balanced and single ended, it says it's truly balanced but I don't see how that could be. Maybe internally it's not since there's no seperate spec for balanced. A lot of amplifiers are playing it fast and loose with "truly balanced" in their sales copy when internally they aren't.
Silent noise floor with a song on pause and max volume, others reported something but with USB into the DAC the combo doesn't have an issue here.

Important! when hooking up the power supply it has to be with that number on the blank side. On the other, you'll see a different one with a mix of letters and numbers, that goes on the side with the labeling. If you ever hear someone complain it sounds lifeless or flat, it's because they have the power supply hooked up backwards. There's no mention of this in the manual, and I happen to have two of them so I was able to find out by pure chance. The one that was hooked up properly sounded amazing, so I switched the other and both sound great now.

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Veri

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With the claimed 500mw into 600ohm on either XLR or single ended, it's packing more power.
Headroom for equalizing feels limitless
Yeah that was definitely my feeling too.. :)
 

Dunring

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I've had more time to try this and compare it to the SMSL SP200 using an M300 DAC with the same default settings. With the Beyerdynamic T90 I like it more overall, but the differences are few. Wednesday the 600ohm DT880 is coming in so I can adventure in high gain mode and really give it a workout. On the T90 in middle gain -24db is already feeling too loud to stay at. I'll try to keep a spare one here to send in for measurements if Amirm gets time, but with the move that's a big project by itself.

I can compare to the other amps I've had this month and spent time on. It's a lot like the Drop THX789 but the drum beat dynamics isn't as pronounced as it is on the 789 which I think is the most "fun" amplifier. The SP200 has more noticeable microdetails, and I mean you hear faint sounds on both but on the SP200 it's just more noticeable. Soundstage is more like the 789 than the SP200. Noise floor is silent, even with a song on pause and volume all the way up. Power seems the same on all the HP outs. Tonight I'm going to verify with a decibel meter app and using the Hifiman Arya which I have balanced and the stock cable for. The email to Sabaj support bounced with a server error, so I can at least find out if the power level/volume is the same on all connectors.

I also had the Topping A90 until yesterday. If you have one and need more single ended power for a favorite, it's the one amplifier I'd just recommend send it to the Etsy guy and convert them to balanced and keep the A90. That's the nicest amp I've ever heard and probably ever will. If an HPA4 sells at the right price I'd buy it, but it's unlikely since they keep their value so well. If you have an A30Pro and it's warming the room up too much, this is ideal as it's not even faintly warm on it or the power supply brick. Also you don't need the remote to use it, the jog volume wheel sends it into the menu, which really short and simple. I might keep one as a daily driver, when the 600ohm Beyers come in Wed I'll take it for a spin and see if it's a good match.
 

Dunring

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Update: I did some testing with the Hifiman Ananda which I have standard and balanced cables for using a decibel meter. Setting it at -50db volume, the playback of the same song was 70db on the balanced XLR side, but just 62db on the single ended one. So it is truly balanced from what I can tell without taking it apart, since it was a substantial difference between SE and XLR for volume.
Had some more time and a ton of headphones to try them with. Going to keep the A20D DAC and A20H together as a daily driver. With the Hifiman HE5xx in low gain and Autoeq profile I think it sounds great. Even the Arya could stay in medium gain, and the HE6Se used high gain, but never ran out of power. Doing a direct comparison to the other amps last night, its nicer than the SP200 but the A90 has a rich bass and mids which justify the higher price if you can afford it. I'd take this over the Drop THX 789 since it can handle the full 5volts from the A20d DAC and go into high gain. I've got the HE5xx equalized with a -5.5db preamp reduction and still havent left low gain mode. They are fairly easy to drive, but still seems like a ridiculous amount of power on this combo. The single ended will still light up the DT880 600ohm just fine. At the price I think I'm going to keep this combo for a while.
 
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Jarlaxle

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About the single ended and balanced power levels, last year I tweeted to the official sabaj account and
 

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Veri

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I hope he means 500mW or something and not 500W lol. But yes it is for sure balanced XLR out, I mean there are 2x 2 TPA6120A2 chips.
 
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GPJ

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I just bought one from Amazon. Seems a no brainer at the price. Really wish I could have got in on the matching DAC for $170 on the cheap but looks like I was a bit too late. I do have an E50 and DO100 to feed it. Looking forward to see how it goes with HE6se. Thanks to Veri, Dunring, and Carl for providing info on these devices. Not much out there!
 
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Shinrei

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I ordered one from Amazon yesterday as well. However, I currently have an Aune X1s GT i will be using as a DAC to feed the Sabaj A20H with a RCA connection. Will that limit the amount of power delivered from the Sabaj? I'm considering the SMSL DO100 in case of the Aune will limit the power and in case of a ground loop.
 
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Veri

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I ordered one from Amazon yesterday as well. However, I currently have an Aune X1s GT i will be using as a DAC to feed the Sabaj A20H with a RCA connection. Will that limit the amount of power delivered from the Sabaj? I'm considering the SMSL DO100 in case of the Aune will limit the power and in case of a ground loop.
I suggest to just try it out. I'm also using a single ended Aune DAC right now and I don't even need to go over low gain for my headphones.
But yes if you have any grounding/noise issues balanced inputs can help. But IMO, no need to spend before you really need it.. :)
 

Shinrei

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I'm also using a single ended Aune DAC right now
Great to hear. I've had a IFI stack previously connected single ended without issues. It was first by reading reviews by Amir and forum posts I learned about balanced connections and ground loops.

So I was a bit nervous going the SE route would give me trouble, since I use my PC as source but everything is connected to the same outlet.
 
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