AUDIOPHONICS I-Sabre DAC ES9018K2M - now reviewed

The Kali reclocker buffers .7s so will not sync with the other RPis

Can’t you adjust for that time shift in Roon audio settings? Might not be 100% sync, but in multi room set up probably not noticeable.

Also consider ES9018K2M that without reclocker is as good or better (depending on you audio style preferences) as Piano 2.1 with recklocker.

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hey guys,

Janis, as usual, a pleasure to read!

Its a positive review for the ES dac.

Our best selling bundle is the PIANO 2.1 + KALI, price tag is more than 20EUR less than the ES (especially if you use the exclusive coupon code wink wink ) and you get “da dass”!

In terms of sync… i am sure there is a way around it.


As Janis writes… [quote=“Janis, post:10, topic:17134”]
HW installation requires connecting one loose wire plus need to find one more to build a bridge of IR pin to +5V.

If I am not mistaken that applies to all usages with Raspberry Pi’s solutions? Then surely @Audiophonics, that 2 hardware interventions can be done in-house?

More serious obstacle for me, as a buyer and part-time DIY-er with basic soldering skils surely is lack of driver! I, for one, am very keen to go down the Audiophonics I-Sabre route, but this is really holding me back. It is not about 112 EUR, but if I find I like it and multiply that by 10 (I have a large setup), then the price tag is too much for unpolished product.

As the general consensus here is that it is one of the best cards for RPi, I suggest @Audiophonics that you fix those issues and give us an update. Pretty please. :slight_smile:

Audiophonics ES9018K2M DAC is good sounding (natural round and soft sound with good bass, mid, and high distinction), but not finalized product for advanced DIY enthusiasts, ideally understanding French… :smile:

You need to know what you are signing up to when buying it.

Thus, in my view for general customer the Allo Kali Reclocker with basic Piano DAC (attention not the 2.1 version) is better choice (if you don’t mind a little more harsh sound, which again on some tracks gives very pleasant sparkling transparency feeling comparing to more subtle Audiophonics).


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First kudos for our friends at audiophonics for the Sabre DAC.

Regarding your findings.

Sabre 9018 is a very good IC. The only problem is drivers are not open sourced. From what we know they will never be.
Now Kali was designed to improve the clocks of RPI and I think it does a great job . No matter what DAC board you will get in the future including Sabre (slave DAC) Kali will always help.
Piano 2.1 was designed to take full advantage of the DSP capabilities (xover). I think that Dan from DietPi is implementing it right now. Please retest it then.

Meanwhile , we are launching a few more HATs.
First the BOSS , a master DAC with PCM 5122 (clocks on board). They should be ready for independent testing in 2 weeks. Best bang for the buck.
Second the galvanic isolator HAT. It will work with both master and slave DACs. Needs a extra power supply (we recommend battery )
Third , relay attenuator . It will work as stand alone and for our DACs exclusively . Attenuate volume in hardware using Susumu low noise resistors.
Forth and maybe the most important for all of you. Hiend DAC made by allo. An R2R Dac with 0.01% resistors and reclocking circuit. At about 150$ it will be a game changer. Mark my words. Please be patient on it since we want to make it right .

Oh yeah, we have a 5 project. I call it the Digiless. A recloaked Spidif output with galvanic isolation that will have 4ps (max) measured at output. This again will be a game changer for transporting (a la microrendu)

Enjoy the music . Please post your replies on the allo thread and keep the discussion here for Audiophonics Sabre.


Hi Janis,

Excellent hands on and in-depth review.

Just wanted to check if you were using DietPi for these tests, and, version v142?
In DietPi v141, we were using the Piano 1 DAC dtoverlay for Piano 2.1 aswell. As of v142, the new/dedicated overlay for Piano 2.1 is now being used and will improve sound quality:

I did upgrade to v142, and tried to use Allo Piano DAC 2.1 driver, but it didn’t work. DAC 2.1 was not visible in Roon with the 2.1 driver. Might be shall, do all clean installation of DietPi instead of upgrade?

Therefore, I did testing for both Allo Piano DAC and Piano DAC 2.1 with the same basic Piano DAC driver.

If I don’t use xover, would it have any impact on sound quality in full range from Piano DAC 2.1?


Yes it does. Not because of the Xover only, but because the new driver bypasses the PLL of the DAC IC completely (pll introduces about 75ps of jitter). Basically you will be running on clean SCK instead of PLL SCK

. Please move your questions to allo thread.

Lets keep this for Audiophonics Ess Sbare Dac

Oh… Write me up for testing this one! :blush:

Now new issues with 9018K2M DAC.
This week either because of Roon bridge update with Roon 1.3 or because this DAC again broke down, I have new metallic distortions while doing 16 bit playback. Sometimes not much audible, sometimes very strong.

I really don’t understand is this again technical failure of the Audiophonics DAC or bug due to new Roon SW.
On 24 bit no issue, as well with the serial drive the DAC is switching to 16 bit playback as before.


Hello Janis,

Sorry to barge into this discussion like this. I bought the audiophonics sabre 32 ess9018 and i want to use it to stream tidal using shairport. I gather from a lot of sources, especially lampizator (he’s great!), that this is the best dac. Before i go for the allo kali reklocker and burn more money… do i understand correctly that this will make the dac work correctly? or is this only for certain audio files? I’m kind of new to this stuff.

Daniel, le pay bas.

Allo Kali reclocker will not help you to get Audiphonics DAC working. If you are knowledgeable enough to get it working with Roon, it then would the just further improve quality of sound.

9018K2M doesn’t work out of box. Even with Audiphonics poorly supported manual image it has high frequency distortions on 16 bit playback, and Audiphonics team hasn’t been able to fix it over last three weeks - starting from rejecting issue to stopping replaying…

While more expensive 9018K2M is a superior chip with better sound quality (specifically on vocals) than moderately priced Allo PCM5122 DACs, it currently works only with 24 bit files via ALSA from Roon, and on Runeaudio MPD image provided by Audiophonics but without Roon support (it needs ALSA).

If you want only Tidal streaming, then use Shairport with Runeaudio image from Audiphonics and MPD, but forget Roon. However, Shairport streaming is much below theoretical capabilities of this DAC.

Unfortunately the issue is ESS chipmaker not supporting Audiphonics with driver for this DAC on Raspberry PI …

i have this dac working on my raspberry perfectly now. can play everything i want through shairport. tidal, radio, itunes, name it!

I’m running jessie light raspbian. sounds really good!

If someone is still interrested, this is what i did:

But in stead of dtoverlay=hifiberry-dac in the /boot/config.txt i use dtoverlay=rpi-dac because the last one 64bits.


Audiophonics have just released there new I-Saber DAC running the new ES9028Q2M:

The board has been made to work perfectly in “hardware mode”, and it will have hardware volume control, Oled support and input selection with SPDIF coax input.

It looks very promising! :slight_smile:
I am planning to buy one :slight_smile:


Here is review

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Hi, any update on the availability of the R2R DAC? Eagerly waiting for it!

We are busy with other projects , will update on the r2r dac when we are more advanced

@janis (and others), trying to awake this thread. This is some years later, but have you further results from your very interesting analysis of Kali (or ianCanada for that matter) reclockers?

I have 3 AudioPhonics DACs (9028, 9038) and this on the link. They all sound fantastic, but the linked one is the best. So I am considering doing some testing on Kali with these DACs.