Audiophonics I2S DAC's I-Sabre ES9023 (two types)

Hi all,

After having used the RPi with an Audioquest Dragonfly USB DAC, which offered me a very satisfying experience in terms of sound quality, I decided I wanted to try out an I2S DAC as well. After some searching on this forum, I decided to go for the Audiophonics ES9023 DAC’s. I have a Raspberry Pi model B and as I also wanted to buy a Raspberry Pi 2, I decided I would have two different ones to try, and use one for the living room and the other for upstairs.

So I ordered the following two types: … -8962.html

for the Raspberry Pi B
and … -9978.html

for a new Raspberry Pi 2

I have tested them both and compared the sound quality to the Dragonfly. All the DACs were connected to a Harman-Kardon PM645 Vxi amplifier and Driade 71 MKII speakers.
I need to say that I did not ABX types of comparison so my conclusions might be a bit subjective. However the differences were big enough to make me think my conclusions are valid nevertheless.

So here goes: my conclusions:

  • The simple DAC (for the Raspberry B) had a clearly lesser sound quality compared to the Dragonfly USB DAC. The bass response is good but the high was sharp and unnatural. Also the stereo image was messy where voices would be scattered across the left-righ spectrum. This DAC might be nice for a simple hifi setup but definitely not a more high end system.

  • The more advanced model with high precision clock on board for the Raspberry 2, beat the Dragonfly clearly. The sound quality is crystal clear with very good stereo placement and a very detailed high. The sound is transparent and very realistic.

So my recommendation: if you are looking for an I2S DAC, make sure it has a high precision quartz clock on board. It makes a lot of difference!

By the way: the advance I2S DAC: on the Audiophonics website, the specifications say you need to use the Hifiberry+ driver. This turned out not to be the case. Both types worked with the Hifiberry drive (without the plus). If I selected the Hifiberry plus driver, the I2S card did not show up in the audio device list in the ‘playback’ menu.

How did you get the dac if it is new and out of stock?

Same for me.

I’ve asked them, I-Sabre TCXO edition was delivered instead of “standard” ones to compensate the long wait.


Today I tested the ES9023 TCXO version again against the Dragonfly USB DAC. This time I could do a more direct comparison as I connected two Raspberry Pi’s, each running volumio, to the same amplifier and played the exact same music on them so I could switch back and forth.

This time I could not hear much difference between the Dragonfly and the Audiophonics I2S DAC. I might have to try more types of music or listen together with someone else.
I am planning to do the same direct comparison between the two Audiophonics DAC’s. And another plan: solder the separate TCXO clock to replace the current one. The Audiophonics helpdesk pointed out ot me that the separate clock is better than the one already soldered to the DAC (0.5 ppm in stead of 1 ppm). I am curious if that makes a big difference.

Am I missing something or this dac haven’t hardware volume control? you too use fixed or software volume in volumio?

The Audiophonics website states that this card is supposed to use HiFiBerry+ driver and with Volumio it will allow bitperfect volume control.

Does anyone know what needs to be done to allow this to work?


No hardware volume control on Sabre ES9023, use ES9018 (or flat and slobbery PCM51XX) if you need it.

It’s a source, who need volume control on a source ? (to my mind it’s not really “Hifi”).

There is a third DAC from Audiophonics, the Audiophonics I-Sabre DAC ES9023 V2 TCXO: … 10176.html

Does anybody know the difference to the other two existing?


Just get mine not plugged yet, new form factor (easier to put in a case), HP out and faster TCXO

Please, can you post your experience, when you have assembled the DAC for a first test?


i’ll surely do, i surely try that this Week-end

Done yesterday , i’ve got the previous one (no big changes).

Sound great, natural and extremly dynamic.

For me definitly better than any PCM5XXX chip

More here :

My Audiophonics I-Sabre DAC ES9023 V2 TCXO just arrived today. After reading this post i was intrested to compare it to my original Audiophonics sabre.

As the previous posts suggest, this is such a different sound. The highs seem so much ‘higher’ and more detailed. The vocals also sound less harsh and more natural too.

The old one still is a good DAC to start with but this new one is a different level. I guess the TCXO is the key to a good DAC!

I’m gonna do a versus ASAP since i just get that ! :open_mouth:

So i’ll keep a I-Sabre V2 as reference to test the other boards i get.

Hello i have the sabre tcxo v2 too other dacs with the pcm chip…
the sabre has the sound more natural, in my system i like it better.

Honestly i totally agree and i’ve tried nearly every I2S DAC on the market (except those from Tjaekels).

Me too, i have hifiberry +, iqaudio +, durio sound, mamboberry dac, and sabre txco v2.
the best are the sabres, the mamboberry and the sabre txco v2. they sound almost the same but the mambo has a litle more overall bass.

I’ve got an ES9018 based Dac with XMOS on my main system (PC as source)

Never tried the Mambo (never heard of it before…) i know what to do :wink:

Dear pistollero,
Thank you for the comparison. Are you using the mamboberry with the toroidal Transformer ? Interested to know if the liner power supply makes a difference in sound quality.

Do you still prefer the mamboberry and the sabre txco v2 ?

Thank you !