XI Audio SagraDAC Review

XI Audio SagraDAC

Package:

My unit did not come in official retail packaging, but I received all the accessories. Which are none. That’s correct. You don’t get an AC power chord. Neither do you get a USB cable or any other cable of that sort. You get the DAC. Here in Europe you are actually obligated to provide a unit that works out of the box, so not supplying a power cable could get you into trouble. Maybe XI Audio will change that. For a 3,395 USD unit it would be appropriate to at least supply some cables.

Build Quality:

The design language of XI Audio is, let’s say rudimentary and simplistic. It might not appeal to everyone out there. The SagraDAC is held in all black coloring, with the exception of the white print on the front and top and labeling on the back. It’s a very simple look that won’t turn many heads, but in the end, it’s all about the sound, isn’t it?
Overall the SagraDAC is well built. It gives a solid impression and stands on four feet that appear sturdy and effective.

XI Audio SagraDAC

Sound:

Up to this point my experience with resistor ladder DACs has been very limited. Mostly to audio shows around Europe or some rare show room sessions at dealers. While I did always get a feeling for the sound there, it’s nowhere as solid of an impression as when you really sit down with the unit and spend proper time with it.

I installed the XI Audio SagraDAC into my two channel home audio system. It gets fed digital signals by my self-built Roon ROCK server and fires directly into the Ragnarok II amplifier. From here on my Kef LS50 speakers spoil me with high fidelity sound. That’s how most of my listening sessions were constructed. But there were also instances where I used headphone amplifiers with the SagraDAC.

One thing I noticed during the review-time with the SagraDAC is that I tend to sit back more when I listen to it. The SagraDAC really puts me in a position where I get soothed by the sound. It has a rich tone that spreads throughout the entire frequency range. There is an organic warmth in the mids, that makes each note sound particularly natural to my ears.

The SagraDAC has a well defined, rich and textured low end. It does put a mild focus on the mid- and upper bass segment. It creates a sound in the lows that comes with good body and resolution. There is good air in the bass to sound big when needed. Lower keys for example come with good weight, strength and texture.

XI Audio SagraDAC

The mids of the SagraDAC are smooth, lush and warmth infused. It sounds very natural and realistic. Instruments and singers all have good body with wonderful weight and density. To me the mid-range is the star of the show here. It’s such a wonderfully rich sound that makes listening to Jazz, Blues or Soul records an insane pleasure. I don’t know how many times I put on a Nina Simone album and just drifted off dreaming.

The XI Audio SagraDAC has a certain quality to make those particular records sound insanely good to me. It’s a soothing and smooth sound that can take the edge off of me after a hard day at work. Simply put on Sinnerman by Nina Simone and lean back and dream away. There’s a lot of strength in her voice in that track, which I absolutely love. The SagraDAC however does put on extra smoothness to everything, which makes it an even more powerful track to me.

Treble is something the SagraDAC also does with smoothness. There’s not a tiny bit of grain or harshness in the highs with the XI Audio DAC. It’s still well defined and with good brightness, but it’s undeniable to me, that the SagraDAC makes high notes a touch silkier than other DACs I have heard. The SagraDAC gives good air and extension, but calms things down a bit.

In terms of technical performance, the SagraDAC is a good achiever. However, there are some draw-backs for me. While it does create a well spread sound stage, it sometimes struggles with instrumental separation and background contrast to me. This might be due to the overly rich and euphoric sound it produces. The SagraDAC does well with imaging and instrumental placement. It organizes the stage with care, but it could do a better job at layering for my taste. It creates a room that’s more of a smaller and intimate venue. Don’t expect any majestic arenas when you listen to the SagraDAC.

With its warmer, smoother and richer sound I found the SagraDAC to be best paired with a transparent amplifier. When using headphones I mostly came back to my Flux Lab Acoustics FA-10 amp. The pairing was just spectacular as it delivered on all fronts. It also came as no surprise that the Broadway amplifier from XI Audio is also a great match for their DAC. So if you’re after using the SagraDAC with a headphone amplifier, those two are certainly recommended if you ask me.

Comparisons on page three!

4.2/5 - (101 votes)
Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedin

A daytime code monkey with a passion for audio and his kids, Linus tends to look at gear with a technical approach, trying to understand why certain things sound the way they do. When there is no music around, Linus goes the extra mile and annoys the hell out of his colleagues with low level beatboxing.

2 Comments

  • Reply September 4, 2020

    Joon

    I have this DAC and I also owned the Metrum Pavane L3. They sound similar: organic and smooth, emminantly listenable and not in your face. I also owned the Hugo 2 which grated on my nerves after some time; sort of like long term listening to cello music for me.

    XI Audio is under the radar but they make superb components for the music; there is a reason why Abyss collaborates with them. People would do well to audition their components, especially if they are into music and not gear.

  • Reply March 27, 2021

    Andrew Denis

    There’s a reason why this DAC is the top recommendation for pairing with the arguably best headphone in the world, the Abyss 1266 TC Phi— it is capable of revealing every nuance of musical detail that the 1266 is capable of reproducing, without sounding overly analytical, unforgiving or fatiguing in any way.
    I own or have owned a wide range of DAC’s at prices from under $50 to almost $40K, and this is at a very rare place in that I could easily use the Sagra in place of any of those other DAC’s and never look back. I wound up selling two DAC’s after acquiring the Sagra. It should cost more than the Chord Dave, which it betters in many respects, while it constantly reveals musical details in music I have listened to for years, but had never been fatiguing.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.