AUDIO SABRE-32 DAC ,Any advantages ???? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 07-12-2013, 03:06 PM - Thread Starter
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I stumbled on this write-up while Googelng: Sabre 32 DAC vs ...Was just wondering if i should wait for the new Pioneer 1523-k to come out using these Sabre-32 DAC's or just buy the 1522-k

Found this write-up from MSB Technology :



A DAC is a circuit that converts digital measures of audio amplitude in discrete steps into a continuous analog electrical equivalent of the sound to be reproduced. We have been taught to associate the number of bits in that digital word with the quality of the calculation, but the rate of the converter also comes into play. If we do conversion at 16 bits, 48,000 times per second, it is not the same as doing conversion at 16 bits and 96,000 times per second. Along comes 1 bit DACs and SACD that convert at a much higher rates and the whole idea of performance and bit depth falls apart. But in a ladder DAC like MSB uses, the performance of the DAC is directly linked to the precision of the ladder, and the number of bits in that ladder are critical.

MSB has been shipping a true 24 bit DAC for many years, and now has produced a true 26 bit DAC in the Diamond DAC IV. But we are now facing bold product claims about a new 32 bit DAC availible, namely the Sabre 32 DAC chip. This is a DAC chip just like any other from Burr Brown, AKM or Analog Devices. Lets look a little deeper to avoid any confusion about what this DAC actually is.

Here is what their web site says. “The advantage of using this 32-bit process to reconstruct a 16-bit digital signal (i.e. Redbook CD) is simple; This process interpolates the digital information more accurately by calculating the finer steps with 32-bit resolution that were lost during the analog-to-digital 16-bit mastering process. “

Notice that they use the word “process “ not DAC. Notice they talk about “reconstruct “ and “interpolate “ - both digital terms, not analog conversion. All this is saying is that they are using a digital filter with “32 bit resolution “ to do their math. Big Yawn.

The DAC in question is the Sabre DAC with a retail price of $39. According to the ESS web site, this DAC is designed to bring “true professional digital audio to the mass consumer home entertainment market “.

Lets look at the Sabre Datasheet. Input resolution is 32 bit. Digital filter: 32 bit architecture. Thats all it has to say except it has a THD of -110 dB. So what is the DAC technology? They do not even say!

We dig deeper and find a White Paper. Ah, it is a delta sigma DAC just like everyone else's. Then we find this quote. “After all the DSP and complex noise shaping of the signal is complete the digital number must be converted to an analog output. In principle the typically six bit number may be applied to a six bit DAC and the analog output is produced. “

So the hot new 32 bit DAC is actually a 6 bit DAC! Right from their own white paper. It is undoubtably a good DAC for the mass consumer market it was designed for. It is certainly nothing of interest to the high-end community, especially as the the DAC, digital filter and sample rate converter that cannot be dissabled are all bundled in a single chip so no opportunity exists to improve its performance.

So be informed and do not be fooled by the over-the-top advertising made by the audio companies who actually use this $39 chip.


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post #2 of 7 Old 07-12-2013, 03:19 PM
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While all DACs do the same thing, it's the implementation that makes the difference. I have players that have Cirrus Logic, Burr-Brown and ESS Sabre DACs. I can honestly tell you that there definitely a difference in sound on all the DACs, with the ESS9018 in the Oppo-95 sounding the best to me.

Note that the newest crop of receivers use the ESS Sabre 9016 DACs, not the more expensive latest 9018. While the 9016 is still a great DAC, the 9018 does have some slight improvements.

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post #3 of 7 Old 07-12-2013, 03:24 PM
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post #4 of 7 Old 07-12-2013, 10:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon S View Post

While all DACs do the same thing, it's the implementation that makes the difference. I have players that have Cirrus Logic, Burr-Brown and ESS Sabre DACs. I can honestly tell you that there definitely a difference in sound on all the DACs, with the ESS9018 in the Oppo-95


I wish there were AV reciever shootouts like they have with Subs and Flat screens.

Blind tests would be very interesting to see what people prefer , if any difference at all !!,..(Without Knowing) what they are listening to ??
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post #5 of 7 Old 09-02-2014, 05:45 AM
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Spec Sheets - Listening experience - natural sound

First: I am not natively English speaking so please forgive any (minor) mistakes!
It is very interesting to read all of the stuff about the (relatively) new ESS Sabre DACs.
The numbers and spec sheets are impressive.
For me, one thing only matters, always: HOW DOES IT SOUND?
I did have the opportunity to compare an "older" Yamaha RX-A820 AV receiver to a new Yamaha RX-A1040 AV receiver. Both are high quality receivers.
The 820 uses Burr Brown. The 1040 uses ESS Sabre DACs.
Now, to better understand this, I am a professional musician, I am classically trained (highschool), but currently active in both pop and jazz music.
My RX-A820 with Burr Brown sounds far better than the newer 1040, which uses ESS. Voices sound more natural with the 820 / Burr Brown DACs. Mid- and low ranges are very transparent / natural sounding. ESS is good at extreme highs and extreme lows as well as channel separation and S/N ratio. They are brilliant to that extend.
But frankly, my ears are not interested in extreme highs, extreme lows or stellar high S/N ratio. My ears are interested in what comes closest to reality...
To me it's clear: Burr Brown easily wins this contest! They definitely sound more natural. So to me ESS Sabre is a bit of a hype, created by technicians, for technicians. Burr Brown is for musicians...
Sadly enough Yamaha chose ESS Sabre for it's latest Aventage receivers. I hope they will revert to Burr Brown again in the near future..!

Update September 3rd: I fumbled around a bit with the settings of the new RX-A1040, did a new measurement with the mic. I now have ALL settings to neutral (default) and the EQ of the Setup to "Natural". It actually sounds quite nice now and I am gaining a bit of affinity for the newer ESS Sabre chips. But still not fully satisfied. Still lacking a bit of "purity" in the mid ranges that I liked so much from the Burr Browns in my older RX-A820. But otherwise the sound is crystal clear. Does anybody have any suggestions here?

Last edited by JerryZ; 09-03-2014 at 08:56 AM. Reason: More positive opinion on the ESS Sabre chips.
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post #6 of 7 Old 09-02-2014, 06:34 AM
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Misunderstanding of the technology. Oversampling and noise shaping in delta-sigma DACs (and ADCs) is utilized to obtain high-resolution results from low-resolution elements in the circuit. A 1-bit converter can produce 32-bit performance in theory if the oversampling rate is high enough and sufficient noise filtering is applied. Most modern delta-sigma designs use multibit, e.g. 4 to 6 bit, converters in the loop to reduce the required oversampling ratio. There are a lot of trades involved but I really think a detailed architecture and circuit description is beyond the scope of this thread. Suffice to say (but it won't) it is a very complex thing to design at any speed (my designs were up in the GHz range but generally lower resolution, 8 - 16 bits, still non-trivial). I have some threads on WBF describing the architecture at a very hand-waving level. - Don

p.s. For most audio DACs, IMO the biggest difference is the design and implementation of the analog output stage.
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"After silence, that which best expresses the inexpressible, is music" - Aldous Huxley
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post #7 of 7 Old 09-02-2014, 08:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DonH50 View Post
Misunderstanding of the technology. Oversampling and noise shaping in delta-sigma DACs (and ADCs) is utilized to obtain high-resolution results from low-resolution elements in the circuit. A 1-bit converter can produce 32-bit performance in theory if the oversampling rate is high enough and sufficient noise filtering is applied. Most modern delta-sigma designs use multibit, e.g. 4 to 6 bit, converters in the loop to reduce the required oversampling ratio. There are a lot of trades involved but I really think a detailed architecture and circuit description is beyond the scope of this thread. Suffice to say (but it won't) it is a very complex thing to design at any speed (my designs were up in the GHz range but generally lower resolution, 8 - 16 bits, still non-trivial). I have some threads on WBF describing the architecture at a very hand-waving level. - Don

p.s. For most audio DACs, IMO the biggest difference is the design and implementation of the analog output stage.
Analogue output stage is important you're saying. Yes, I follow that. The first time I became aware of that was with Marantz CD63SE and KI Signature models (CD players). Although at that time there were some extremely good players by other manufacturers too, these models sounded kind of friendly and analytical at the same time, but what I found most impinging was the depth of the sound stage in the recording. I was like listening 3D !!! And I had a Sony ES player as well almost twice as expensive, very exclusive built quality, but it did not have that sound stage.
Maybe it's odd, but I always listen to voices (both spoken and sung) and if that comes across pure. So if the DAC design can handle that, then mostly music sounds good as well - per my experience.
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