ESS Sabre Reference DAC (8-channel)

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Joined 2006
New DAC chip
134 dB SNR and -118 dB THD are impressive, but I find some other things in the white paper more interesting, such as the discussion of dynamic element state space modulation by transients:
The time domain interpolation for SRC is reminiscent of what Anagram does in their DSP-based solution.
Too bad no mention at all of how they achieve their supposed 100% jitter rejection.
Looks like it should be easy to DIY with because it takes S/PDIF input and doesn't need that much around it on the digital side, and can be used as either voltage or current output due to the medium output impedance.

Does anybody know where to get hold of a unit or two of the ESS Sabre Reference DAC? The minimum dynamic range is 128dB!! THD better than -112dB any frequency.

Its the worlds best measuring DAC and supposedly the best sounding. The thing is, the DAC handles PCM, DVD Audio, SACD etc with unheard of quality and almost total lack of jitter. I was wondering if anybody may know how we can get our hands on them?

I was interested in this DAC too, so I hope someone has a resource of where to obtain them. It looks like they will be $29 each (@1000 units) according to a few articles online. Thats pretty pricey for a DAC, but being 100% jitter free (according to them) and some of its other properties make it look worth the money. I think I remember reading something about a voltage out also....

Looked it up and ESStech lists their American "Authorized Distributor" as Shaw Electronics ( However, their "request quote" page doesn't have a submit button. The submit button on their "request info" page produces an access denied error. And, when you email the address listed under the "contact us" page, the email gets returned. Also, trying to contact sales at ESStech directly via phone results in no answer and a full message box....

So, I have no idea how to figure out how to get some of these since I can't contact them or their distributor.
Hi Abzug,

Yes that is me. hmm, never thought my picture would be linked on this site. I have really not been following the DIY site closly for a long time since ive just been so busy doing derivative parts of the DAC. I will try to keep up with it more often now that people seem to have some interest in the part.

Found the thread

HI All,

I had no idea that people would be talking about this part on these sites. But it looks like its happening. So here is the scoop. The part is 29$ or something (honestly, that markiting are and I dont get too involved in that) but now that the DAC is officially announced, I was hoping we could give out some boards and get some feedback on them,, Perhaps even some pointers from the experts (you guys) since its obvious there is a ton of experience out there. So basically im saying I will give boards to people that are interested in reviewing the part and want to give me any feedback (posative and/or negative). I dont think Ill be able to send out 50 eval boards, but certainly a few should be no problem. Ross L from this site has the eval board and has pointed out that the sound can be much improved by chaing the el-chepo Xtal on the board, to a low jitter clock. He has said the difference is night and day, this is the kind of feedback I really appreciate. Well if anyone is interested in a eval board, please send me a personal message.
Same here - I cannot send you email/PMs Dustin!!

I will have to wait until retail or a group buy is under way. I would love a chip now but I am getting married next month and so wedding/honeymoon plans will prevent me tinkering (with the DAC) and providing feedback in a timely manner. But if I can buy one-to-ten at earliest convenience that would be OK for me.

borisov57 said:
I would love to try ES9008 dac. I have AK4396, AK4397, CS 4398 and PCM1794 modular dac to compare with.

Best regards

Which do you like best so far? What commercial CD players you like with these DACs?

I used to own a Chord DAC64 which was amazing on detail, resolution and tonality, but (with Chord amps too) it was too thin on depth and soundstaging. Yet when changing the amps for a Musical Fidelity KW500 the whole thing sounded jaw-dropping. Cables were Nordost Valhalla and speakers were Wilson Benesch ACT.

The best integrated CD player I ever heard was /is the Linn CD12 which is now supposedly bettered by the Linn Klimax DS wireless mediastreaming DAC. I am quite fond of Naim timing and its raw/live feel, as well as stuff from Accustic Arts, but not much else. In the cheaper stakes, I like late 90s Cyrus, Arcam and Meridian components. Meridian portrays the most bandwith, but Cyrus has the better drive and dynamics (particularly bass) to my ears. Arcam is simply a very good, more affordable all-rounder. Meridian use Crystal DACs, Cyrus use TI/BB and Arcam use Wolfson. I've heard good things about Analog Devices AD1955 but I've never heard a player with an AD DAC. Chord and recording studios have a bit of an affinity with AKM. I also heard a Burmester CD player and I don't know what that had inside, but it was the CD006 going into a Hovland pre-power combo on Eben Acoustic speakers in a Nordost Valhalla demo - that was very very good.

My listening to Musical Fidelity's top-end equipment has given me a slight leaning to tubed outputs in things, and so the Lampizator now intrigues me for using in place of a discrete output stage using op-amps and lots of components. Unfortunately, MF do not like making integrated amps with balanced designs. However, a DAC with on-board volume control into a power amp with balanced inputs could be absolutely stunning.

So the reason for my inquiry into this Sabre DAC is: I am looking at testing the PCM1794 in dual mono into a Lampizator styled tube circuit. If this Sabre Audio DAC is available, I will try and design something to compare the DACs into a tube I/V output stage. Based on my experience with high end components, I cannot imagine anything sounding better. However, I haven't made any complete DIY DAC components and was wondering what you like about each of the DAC chips?


All DACs sounds good. But if I must choose only one, it would be PCM1794 with resistor I/V. This is the one, that I listen to the most. Very close was AD1955 ( I blowed one channel ). AD is maybe a bit more transparent and with bit faster bass, but less quantity. Similar to AD is AK4396. It is very detailed. But I prefer PCM and AD, they seems more lively and dynamic. CS4398 is darker than AK4396, maybe more musical. AK4397 is strange, it is very good, it is the only DAC that played more than an hour on speakers and my wife did not turn down the volume.
All dac measures about the same, best SNR has PCM1794 with active I/V and lowest THD AD1955, but I am at limit of my measuring analog to digital converter.
The title of this thread may be a little misleading...

The Sabre is an 8 channel DAC,,, but it doesn't have to be an 8 channel DAC.

The part will configure for stereo and can have 4 channels summed for the left and 4 for the right.

Each channel is differential with a dual DAC. So, there are 16 DAC output pins in total.

I posted these links in another thread, they probably should be included in this thread.

Yes, it's a bit of a marketing disaster to have umpteen press articles stating how great it is, some in technical audio engineering circles and some in audiophile circles (like Stereophile) and then have nobody able to contact the company, or evaluate one as an engineer, or a consumer. :whazzat:

Whoever planned the marketing on this clearly was under-prepared and needs a slap upside the head! :smash: