Hifime Sabre 9018 USB DAC

New Hifime Sabre 9018 DAC!



The new Hifime Sabre 9018 DAC is a great sounding audiophile DAC at an unbelievable price. We have picked the most important features to include in this DAC be able to make a incredible sounding DAC at this low price. It comes in a new nice looking case which is still simple and keeps cost down.



The sound from the Sabre 9018 is very detailed with a great soundstage. The 9018 DAC chip is a high end chip and combined with the Sabre headphone driver makes a great sounding combo. The noise is very low and can be used with also the most sensitive headphones. It is tested to work and sound great with Audio Technica ath-m50 (38 ohm, 99dB), Sennheiser hd650 (300 ohm, 103 dB), IEM: JH Audio JH-13 (28 ohm, 116dB).



The Sabre 9018 works without drivers with all major systems and programs; Windows, MAC, Linux. iTunes, Spotify, and Android see compatibility list).


First USB type C DAC ! (optional)

The Sabre 9018 might also be available with USB type C plug if there is enough interest for this. It connects and works without adaptors with the new Macbook, the newest Google Nexus phones and other computers using the new USB type C plug. Go here to contribute to the type C plug crowdfunding campaign: 




Sabre ES9018k2m DAC chip and SABRE9601 headphone and line out driverWorks and sound great with most headphone (including low impedance IEM and high impedance headphones) and all line level devices (preamps, amplifiers)Accepts 32kHz, 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz and 96kHz inputs files @16 and 24 bit.Volume controlled by computer vol +/- keysUltra low noise regulator LP5907 with added noise reducing aluminium solid capacitors (NCC PSF series)Patented Time Domain Jitter Eliminator (by ESS Technologies)Optical outputNo drivers required! Optional Windows ASIO drivers available



122dB SNR 110dB THD+N: 2V rms @ 600 ohm load100dB THD+N: 30mW @ 32 ohm loadNo DC blocking capacitors on the outputPower usage: 40-80 mA depending on sample rate and volumeDimensions:5.5 x 3.5 x 1.8 cm (without cable)Weight 30g


32kHz to 96kHz resolution

The Sabre 9018 DAC can play any format (MP3, AIFF, FLAC etc) from CD quality up to high resolution 96kHz files. It does not support 196k or 384kHz natively, nor does it play DSD files. Why? Most people does not have 192/384/DSD files. You do not benefit from a 384kHz capable DAC when playing CD quality (or high resolution 96kHz) files. If you need a 192kHz/384kHz/DSD DAC then we have other options for you. We have intentionally omitted this for all of our customers that don’t play 384kHz/DSD so you can save and get a better sounding CD quality DAC. 


But I thought higher resolution is better??

If you have bough high resolution 192kHz/384kHz files then yes it is better to have a DAC capable of decoding 192/384 without downsampling. If you like most people play CD’s, FLAC, Apple lossless, MP3's, iTunes, Spotify, Tidal high resolution etc then you will not benefit from a 192/384kHz capable DAC. 


The benefits of max 96/24 includes:

No drivers needed!Responds to system volume level in detailed 64 stepsIt works with the USB isolator to further reduce noise from the computer and improve clarity and sound qualityYou don’t pay extra for what you don’t need


More technical background

The most important parts in a DAC is:

DAC chipHeadphone/output driver (if any) Power supplyCircuit/implementation

We have chosen a great sounding and performing pair (ESS Sabre ES9018k2m DAC+SABRE9601 driver) and added DC noise filtering to improve the DC power quality from the USB port. There are great performing aluminum solid capacitors together with a new ultra low noise regulator (LP5907). We spent a long time designed and optimised the 4 layer PCB for the circuit in order to achieve the best performance and low ECM noise.


USB transfer mode

After careful experimentation we have chosen USB adaptive mode for this DAC. You can read more about the difference between synchronous, adaptive and async here: http://hifimediy.com/news/asynchronous-usb-audio--asynchronous-digital-to-analog-converters



The Sabre 9018 is also our first DAC to use our new case. We have made a simple case at minimal added cost compared to the generic case we have been using before. 

Questions moved from reviews:


Nice... But, es9018 or 9018 k2m??

Hifime: This is ES9018k2m chip.


Looks good for such price! But when will it be available?

It will be available in January. We will have the electronics ready in mid December, but the new cases are still in production, and will be ready in January.

Please add further comments to this thread (below)

It's nice because it seems to be reduced usb device current consumption.
Is it possible to work with iPhone (e.g. 4S)?
(Despite without compatibility list..)If possible, I would like to buy right now...


Description says Optical Out, but in the pictures it looks like it's 3.5mm line out?


we haven't tested 4S, it should depend on the software version. It worked with 5S and newest software. 


It has both analog out and optical out from that same plug. Most people will use the analog out as that's the main purpose of the DAC, however the optical out is a bonus feature that can be useful in same cases.

I'm sure you've done some testing with adaptive mode transfer, but surely this means the quality will depend to a degree on the USB host device used. I am aware that the 9018 design is great at removing jitter, but is it possible that it's working well because of the test USB host you're using. Have you tried comparing different types of USB host for overall quality? Many other implementations of adaptive mode don't get close to asynchronous mode with a reasonable clock.

We have tested it with several USB hosts, keep in mind that it's adaptive and not synchronous. With a low quality USB host the bigger problem you might face is the noisy USB power (which the USB isolator could help improve).

How does this DAC compare to the High Res version in terms of sound if 96 kHz files are used? Is it similar or is one of them superior?

When playing 96kHz files the most important difference between these DACs would be the output driver chip. They have a slight different sound signature.

Hi i read on your compare page this DAC running only 48kHz on android. Becouse android have this limitation .

but i found this player which promis more than 48kHz 


I now android api support only UAC1 which is 48kHz - https://source.android.com/devices/audio/usb.html but i would you ask for test with this player if is only 48kHz? Sometimes is android not only about supported API...

Yes, USB Audio player pro supports higher resolutions. This is useful if you have high resolution files you want to play.

USB audio player also enables USB audio on some phones that doesn't natively work with USB DACs, so it's a great and useful application.

"After careful experimentation we have chosen USB adaptive mode for this DAC."

Was adaptive found to be superior, equal to, or inferior to asynchronous?

Did you test objectively, use a sampling device to re-digitize the analog output of the DAC?  Or did you test subjectively, by listening to playback?

How much more (or less) would asynchronous mode have cost?

How does adaptive mode work, exactly?

Is adaptive mode simply averaging across the last N frames?  If N equals 1, then that would seem to be the same as synchronous.  If N is greater than 1, how much greater?  Is N a constant?  Or is there some form of exponential decay, such that more recent frame times affect the current playback rate more than older frames?


It was done in listening tests, we found the difference is not very big. 

Here is an article with some explanation about adaptive mode. http://www.thewelltemperedcomputer.com/KB/USB.html


In this mode the timing is generated by a separate clock.

A control circuit (sample rate guesser) measures the average rate of the data coming over the bus and adjusts the clock to match that. Since the clock is not directly derived from a bus signal it is far less sensitive to bus jitter than synchronous mode, but what is going on the bus still can affect it.  It’s still generated by a PLL that takes its control from the circuits that see the jitter on the bus. "

I own the 9018D and use it to drive a HD600. I experience slight background noise with the 9018D + popping sounds when play/pausing music. When looking into the new 9018 DAC it seems to be designed to address these issues. My question would be how the power output of the SABRE9601 compares to the MAX97220A? Is there more detail available about the output impedance and output power specifically? Also how does the volume control work with the SA9023? I own the asynchronous 9018 which only has the 8 volume steps.

Thank you for your time.


contact us regarding the 9018D, there is a fix for that noise.

The output power from the Sabre 9018 DAC is less than from 9018D, similar to the 9018 (http://hifimediy.com/9018-dac)

The volume level from ES9023 work in 64 steps, (same as the U2 DAC and others etc).

Quote "Responds to system volume level in detailed 64 steps" - how this works since it seems that 8  volume steps is some limitation in Savitech receiver.  What is the seceiver and volume handling approach.

Regarding: SABRE9601 it seems to have quite better specifications than MAX97220A (migh be less powerful though) so i am awaiting this to be released, i do not own high impedance headphones so i do not care much about handling of 600Ohm load. I don't seem to find any detailed spec for sabre headphone amp other than it's impressing specs.

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