PRIME AUDIO 2017

Sabaj D3 DAC – Tiny footprint packed with features

Our Score

Now more than ever people are beginning to realize that they can get a much better audio experience by forgoing the onboard sound from their computers or smartphones in favour of a dedicated DAC. Not only that but it’s becoming less of a hardcore enthusiast type of product because with so many new startup companies such as Sabaj bringing prices down, DACs can now be found at mainstream prices that are far less prohibitive to mainstream consumers and non-audiophiles.

Also with the booming increase in streaming and digitally downloaded music, there are more people than ever using computers as their main storage device and source for their music collections. It’s for reasons like this that products such as the Sabaj D3 DAC are created and that is what we’ll be looking at today. Read on to see if this is something you want to add to your setup.

Disclaimer: I purchased this item directly from Amazon for the purpose of this review.

Sabaj website

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Pros
  • The unit is really small, making it perfect if you have limited space
  • It is versatile with good input and output options
  • Price
Cons

Sabaj (SHENZHEN DAHAO TECHNOLOGY CO., LTD) was founded in 2016 in Shenzhen China. According to their website, they are an “internet-direct factory store” with a goal of allowing music lovers and audiophiles to “get a good unit with a much less cost”. At the time of writing the Sabaj D3 is retailing at $78.99 USD.

Packaging and accessories

The Sabaj D3 DAC comes in a simple, clean looking box that is black on the sides and white on the front and back. On the front is just some basic text with brand and model and on the back are diagrams of the front and back panels plus specifications and features printed in Chinese and English.

Inside the box are the Sabaj D3 DAC and bundled accessories, all held securely in black foam. It’s simple and to the point, basic but includes everything you need to get up and running with minimal fuss. So let’s see what we have inside: Sabaj D3 DAC/AMP, 5V power adapter and USB to micro USB cable. Okay, well that was short and sweet but that just means we can get to the listening sooner!

 

Sabaj D3 DACSabaj D3 DACSabaj D3 DACSabaj D3 DAC

Build and functionality

The Sabaj D3 DAC boasts an aluminium chassis with a matte finish, small form factor and rounded sides. It’s really quite small, not much larger than your average drink coaster so it’s perfect for those who have limited desk space.

On the front panel are the power/source select switch, LED indicators, headphone jack and volume knob which also functions as a button. The power button also acts as the source selection switch. Simply give it a short press to cycle through the available inputs and a longer press turns the unit on and off. LED indicators on the front display the currently selected input and bitrate.

Next is the headphone jack which is a standard 6.35 mm. Finally, the volume knob which is also a button (can I call it a knobbon?) It changes the volume and when pressed acts as a mute button. Because the volume is digitally controlled the knob spins infinitely and also means that there’s no output channel imbalance.

Sabaj D3 DACSabaj D3 DACSabaj D3 DAC

Moving around to the back we have (from left to right):

  • Left and Right RCA analogue outs
  • coaxial In
  • optical In
  • USB in
  • DC5V In

The analogue outs are variable level outputs so the Sabaj D3 DAC can be used as a preamp. This unit also has support for the OTG function so can be connected to some smartphones as well.

Sabaj D3 DACSabaj D3 DACSabaj D3 DAC

Specifications

-USB input:16bit-32bit/44.1kHz-384kHz(asynchronous)
-Optical,Coaxial:16bit-24bit/44.1kHz-192kHz
-RCA Output:2Vrms
-DAC Dynamic range:111dB
-DAC SNR:91dB
-Headphone Amp SNR:89db
-DAC THD+N:0.0009%
-Headphone Amp THD+N:0.0035%
-Decoder IC:CS4932
-Digital Receiver IC:LC89091
-Op Amp IC:NE5532
-Power consumption:1.3W
-Headphone power: (@0.1%THD+N)
-32ohm/152mW 64ohm/236mW
-150ohm/114mW 300ohm/55mW
-Distorton:0.003%@10mW 300ohm
Accessories: 5V power adapter,Micro USB cable

Sabaj D3 DAC
The Sabaj D3 is almost the same size as my laptop’s mouse!

Sound

Surprising to say the least. When you’re talking about a DAC/AMP that’s less than a hundred bucks you tend to expect some pretty serious drawbacks but the Sabaj D3 is really a strong performer. The sound is clean and balanced and throws out sound with an ease that belies its modest price tag. It’s immediately apparent that the sound is a step up from a computer’s built-in audio solution and it only takes a good song to let it be known.

Throw on Triosence’s Go For It and the D3 flexes its rhythmic agility and conveys the upbeat excitement of the track with aplomb. Of course it’s not as refined as a higher end product, lacking a little of the dynamics and greater detail of a higher end DAC but nevertheless, it impresses with a transparent and uncoloured presentation that’s sure to challenge its low budget peers.

The amp section also does well with its clean output and no apparent background noise even when using sensitive IEMs. There’s enough grunt to power the Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro (250 ohms) but that’s starting to push it to its limits as far as output power goes. It won’t be able to drive really inefficient or higher impedance headphones but for 250 ohms and under, all the way down to low impedance IEMs it does an admirable job indeed.

To get an idea of the DACs performance I hooked the RCA output up to the class-A Phatlab Sassy II portable tube amplifier and the result was gratifying. The DAC really shone here, delivering an uncoloured and clear sound that was further enriched by the warm characteristics and enhanced soundstage of the Sassy II. Having mentioned that, it goes without saying the D3 is also great for using as a preamp to power speakers as well.

Sabaj D3 DAC

Conclusion

I’m going to say this right now – at $78.99 the Sabaj D3 DAC/AMP is a steal. Able to decode up to 32-bit files it’s actually ahead in that regard to most competitors in the sub $100 niche. With its clean and balanced sound, versatility with several input options plus an analogue output, there’s a lot of functionality packed into this little thing. It will comfortably power most things up to 250 ohms, OH and I forgot to mention that it can be powered from your computer’s USB or even a power-bank, without the need to plug into the mains?

If you want to get your feet wet in the world of HIFI and are looking for an affordable upgrade from your computer’s built-in sound then this is a great place to start.

You can buy the Sabaj D3 on Amazon HERE.

Reader Score
[Votes: 1 Average: 5]
Founder of Prime Audio
  1. Hi, since this is the only good review I can find on this interesting product, I’d like to ask something I can’t find an answer anywhere: the official spec say that it uses a CS4932 dac chip, but i can’t find anything with this name on the net… Could it be an error and the actual chip is the old CS4392 instead? I know that you can’t answer unless you dismantle the device and look at the pcb (implying you still own it), but I already asket to Sabaj official info e-mail with no reply, and I don’t know who else to ask.
    Thank you for your work.

      1. Hi, thanks for your quick reply. I already found that chip, but it is a DSP, not a proper DAC, and it seems to me that it can only decode audio format such as AC3, DTS, MP3, etc… to PCM, and not convert to analog. Anyway I managed to find a picture of the D3 pcb https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/296858b291ee47a28f044ee45bc5a871f575764d90614e8462749b7e4b898cc1.jpg ) and my theory was correct, it actually has the CS4392 dac http://www.mouser.com/ds/2/76/CS4392_PP3-33391.pdf , a pretty decent midrange chipI think, but obvyously not capable of 32 bit 384 khz stated by the producer
        Moreover, on the web site they say Ne5532 as opamps, but for what I can see I think they are used only for the line out, since near the phones out there is clearly a JRC4556.
        Anyway, I really appreciate your reply, and since I’m really interested in the D3, after some time can your confirm your good review?
        Thank you again, and sorry for my bad english, I’m from Italy.

        1. Hi. I just hooked up the D3 to double check and it definitely is capable of 32 bit 384. I just plugged into my PC via USB and Windows installed the driver automatically. Listening to it now and it sounds just as good as I remember. I definitely can confirm I still believe this is a great DAC for the price.

          Just keep in mind that the line out is not very powerful so its only good for small speakers. For easy to drive headphones and IEMs it’s great, although you do need a 3.65 mm plug. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6e743d99b5738d7fb752596b46a64880f1a86f76f11234a81b16879aa5957c5a.jpg

          1. Hi, thanks again for your efforts.
            About the 384 Khz, it seems a bit odd, since not only the DAC chip, neither the USB controller CM6631A supports that format
            https://www.cmedia.com.tw/products/USB20_HIGH_SPEED/CM6631A
            don’t know how they achieved to get 384 🙂
            Anyway, I’m interested in this product expecially because I have only 32 Ohm cans (at leat for now, Samson SR850 and SR950) and 16 Ohm IEM, and in your review you said there where no hiss or noises with this type of headphones, while on head-fi I see some people remarking those problems with the very similar SMSL M3.
            I’m seriously thnking of buying it, but still unsure because of the new Fiio K3 after reading your enthusiastic review of it… Sadly it doesn’t have the optcoax input, they are not necessary to me but I’d like to have them for future possibilities. Is there a noticeable sound quality gap between Sabaj D3 and Fiio K3?
            Thank you one more time.

          2. Both the D3 and K3 and very linear so there is not much difference in the tonality, although I find the K3 to have slightly better dynamics.

            The K3 has several advantages: low and high gain, bass boost, native DSD support plus the additional 2.5 mm jack. The D3 has the advantage of some extra input options and a little more maximum output power.

            Both are great and you should be happy with either one. Personally I would choose the K3 but that’s only personal preference.

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