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Add Me to the List of SMSL Fans: DL200 Has Arrived


Jun 4, 2023
This is not an endorsement, and this positive sentiment will instantly erode if long-term stability crumbles at any point.
With that out of the way, the decision on a DAC/HP amp was not an easy one for me.
If you've read my lengthy musing on the challenge of being an audiophile AND professional in audio production who is also on a budget, then you know there were multiple hurdles in my choosing what was right for me.

Also a disclaimer: I have not tried with my range of headphones, just my daily pair: cheap but nice sounding OneOdios. Planars from Dan Clark are my expected pairing with this amp. Will also be listening with K240s and isolation headphones.

If there weren't any good options in DACs on a budget, and separately great HP amps on a budget, then I would have accepted the idea that anything sub-$500 was a compromise on one vs. the other. But, the truth is there is some great engineering around several ADC/DAC chips, and this is a great time for Chinese brands to show what they're made of, and hopefully similar trends from other mass-producers.

I was almost certain my first new purchase would be a Topping, but there are numerous sources that I use as a template to give me a real picture of the audio profile and quality level. For instance, there are audiophiles that you know are going to revert to the more expensive options really no matter what, so if they deter from their standard preferences for any reason, there's a better change something special is going on. In this case, items like the EX5 were rightly getting "yeah, it's really good for the price" kinds of responses despite it being built around a design I believe in.

But, the SMSL DL200 was really making similar people here and elsewhere surprised at the level of quality and power it can produce.
I still have to test optical connections, but initial break-in of just 2 days, and it performs solidly on Windows 7 Pro 64-Bit and Windows 10 Pro. Ironically, it had trouble recognizing in DAWs on Windows 10 Pro without the XMOS-based driver. Windows 7 I went ahead and found drivers and installed them before purchasing, because I figured there is less chance it won't work if the drivers themselves are playing nice. It actually did not perform nicely out of the box with ASIO, but the WDM drivers worked flawlessly. There were clicks and dropouts before getting drivers to play nicely, only inside DAW software. I guessed it might be limited bandwidth from many USB devices sharing resources, but it was interaction with the driver.

I expect the sound profile to settle in over weeks, but initially there are several aspects to the sound profile that have me breathing a sigh of relief. Depth, width, sense of space, highs, lows, are all consistent with what I hope to hear compared to my other high end equipment and my sub-standard "work room" interface. I have not done the most extensive testing. I did not hear a trade-off in speed and punch, which sometimes is the case when something has great depth and width. It's sometimes less of a problem with solid state than tubes, but can be an issue with tuning opa's to play nice with the chip: sometimes power also means a little bit of smear on super fast transients, and one of the things I like about the ESS is how tight and punchy it is from other listening tests and visual graphs that show speed of cycles.

It has a lot of power. It is very quiet...but I wouldn't be able to hear a -90dB noise floor let along -123+.

It played nice with using a separate interface to record audio input, and latency was low enough to monitor from the SMSL live while recording in from the other device.

So, my concerns over quality, compatibility, and value are now eliminated, and from here it is only about whether it is a lasting winner or shabby build reveals itself over time.

Negatives? The learning curve...it didn't take me long but only because YT's Cheapaudioguy walked me through what things meant lol. The owner's manual is Chinese, unless I missed an English side...I wasn't very patient in looking. Once you know your way around it is very logical. I'm currently on filter curve 7 but will play around with that.

So, the only real negative was a funny one: the remote changes my LED light strip lol. Yeah, they tend to use common freq bands for Chinese gear.
That's all. Just figured if anyone else was on the fence on this one for any of these reasons: sound, latency, power, quality of the headphone amp, my initial experience is a good one.


Senior Member
Apr 11, 2022
Try using the bluetooth input. I would be interested if it works stable over time.
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