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Bargain DAC Review: S.M.S.L Mini DAC - Sanskritt 6th

amirm

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#1
Went to clean up my work area and I find a box. Look inside it and it is another low cost DAC which I don't even remember ordering. :) I unbox it and find a nice little Chinese DAC called "S.M.S.L Mini DAC - Sanskritt 6th." Here is the Amazon link where I bought it ($107.99 including Prime shipping) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00SY9RBOM/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

As you see, it is a very functional device with multiple inputs, USB, Coax and optical. It comes with an external power supply which puts out 9 volts at 1.3 amps. It is mandatory as it would not power up with just the USB connection. It is labeled by their own name and seems a step above from cheap junk USB adapters thrown in by many other DAC companies.

The brushed, anodized aluminum case is hefty and stays put even with cables tugging on it. A front selector changes input. A long press puts it in standby or ON modes.

It came with a mini-CD with no instructions on what to do with it. Inside there are drivers for multiple models. I went in there, selected V6 and then in Win 10 driver which it says is WHQL Microsoft certified (pretty nice and rare). I run setup and nothing happens. I get the hourglass a couple of times but nothing else. I plug the device in and it installs fine but as a standard windows sound device (Dshow).

Rummaging through the CD I find a foobar extension folder. I installed the ASIO component first but it kept giving me errors when I tried to play to it. I then installed WASAPI and that worked. The measurements you see are from that.

As always, I start with the J-test signal at sample rate of 48 KHz (24-bit file). For reference, I am using the previously best budget DAC, the Behringer UMC-240HD. See my review of that here: http://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/budget-dac-review-behringer-umc204hd.1658/

Here are the results:

J-Test.png


So not a good showing. We see a bunch of distortion spikes (in yellow) which don't exist in the Behringer output. Their levels are quite low though, below the threshold of hearing especially noting that the analog output of the SMSL mini DAC is higher so the fair comparison would be to pull down those distortion levels by a few db.

Next up was harmonic distortion test using 7 Khz pure tone at 44.1 Khz:

7 Khz USB.png


Sadly there is a second harmonic distortion spike which does not exist in Behringer UMC-204 HD. That distortion also existed in iFi iDAC 2 so let's compare that:

7 Khz USB vs ifi.png

Looks like the SMSL Mini DAC beats the ifi which retails for 3X the money. So it is not all bad news.

Since this DAC has multiple digital inputs, I thought I check out USB versus S/PDIF on 7 Khz tone:

7 Khz SPDIF Using AP as source.png


The results are as I was hoping. USB (in yellow) has less distortion spikes than S/PDIF in either sampling rates (red and blue). Not having to chase the clock of a remote source shows its value. People who blindly think S/PDIF is better than USB should get their devices measured!

Conclusions
This is a good performing DAC. It beats the iFi iDAC2 at 1/3 the price. The mechanical build quality is pretty nice as is having three digital inputs. From purely engineering point of view, it loses to Behringer UMC-204HD which ironically is 30% cheaper! From audibility point of view, they are one in the same.

Give it to Chinese to build a DAC that beats the similarly priced, American Schiit Modi 2 (http://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/budget-dac-review-schiit-modi-2-99.1649/)!

As always, comments, feedback, corrections, spelling errors, etc. are welcome. :)
 
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Blumlein 88

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#2
How about a simple hurray! Another bargain DAC review.

Yes, if someone needed a very simple little DAC for that money not a bad choice.

Also, the link indicates this little DAC is 32/192 capable over the USB and 24/192 over the other inputs.

I would like to see the -4db white noise and silent signal noise levels combined on a measurement using 192 khz measuring rates. Gives us an idea of filter performance, aliasing present and noise floor modulation. Or maybe a good discussion about whether this test is useful or not.

Here are a couple examples of why I think it is useful.

First the ViewHD switcher. Blue is - 4db white noise at 48 khz recorded at 192 khz. Red is a portion of a slow sweep as it nears 19 khz. Green is the noise floor with a silent signal. You can see any signal raises the noise floor 20 db or more above silence. You can see the images of the sweep signal reflected above the 24 khz point. You can see the shape of the filter at and above nyquist.

jurgen hdmi switcher sweep.png





Same signal from a Tact RCS 2.0. You can see the noise floor is modulated by signal only 5 or 6 decibels and only over a portion of the audible band. Much better than above. You can see the reflections of the red sweep are much lower beyond 24 khz than the above result. I would suspect the Tact has more filter taps than the ViewHD the way the ultrasonic blue noise signal is shaped.

Jurgen sweep tact 48.png




This is the same signal from the Tact except with a twin sweep where the sweep signals are separated by 1 khz. So you see all the same info plus the 1 khz IMD level.

So this one graph shows 1 khz IMD levels, filter shape, noise floor modulation, whether response below 20 khz is basically flat, reflected signal levels above nyquist, and where constant idle tones lie (though not whether the idle tone is from the ADC or DAC). The sweeps can be a bit of a bother. You could substitute a 19+20 khz fixed signal and get much of the same benefit as the twin sweeps when combined with the white noise and silence.
Jurgen tact 48 dual sweep.png




Here is the ViewHD with 18+19 khz tones for a comparison.
ViewhHD Jurgen twin IMD 48.png
 
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Blumlein 88

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#4
Hey that is okay. Do you think it a worthwhile and useful test? Or in other words is it worth the time to run it?

And do you think it more instructive or easier to grasp with a sweep portion, twin tone, or single high frequency for the red part?
 

amirm

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#5
I think it is useful for people who want to examine filter response and noise floor modulation. My mission with these reviews has not been to provide comprehensive measurements but just enough to show enough to have meat on the bone while keeping everyone on the train with us. In that regard it may become overwhelming if we can't make use out of them.

Let me try it and then we can get feedback from membership.
 

Blumlein 88

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#6
I think it is useful for people who want to examine filter response and noise floor modulation. My mission with these reviews has not been to provide comprehensive measurements but just enough to show enough to have meat on the bone while keeping everyone on the train with us. In that regard it may become overwhelming if we can't make use out of them.

Let me try it and then we can get feedback from membership.
That sounds good. I think for ease of grasping the single sweep for the red might be simpler in appearance and explanation.

In fact looking at it, I might say just use the - 4db white noise and the silent noise floor. Much less busy graph. Easy to understand. Shows filter shape and ultrasonic noise floor modulation. Hopefully regulars will comment on if they find it desirable.
 

amirm

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#8
Assuming you run Win10 Creators Update, how come you don't use the Win10 native UAC 2.0 driver?
It may have been how it worked, i.e. the foobar was the generic WASAPI support for foobar.
 
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#9
First the ViewHD switcher. Blue is - 4db white noise at 48 khz recorded at 192 khz. Red is a portion of a slow sweep as it nears 19 khz. Green is the noise floor with a silent signal. You can see any signal raises the noise floor 20 db or more above silence. You can see the images of the sweep signal reflected above the 24 khz point. You can see the shape of the filter at and above nyquist.
Hi,

Sorry to dig up this old thread, but I had a question gor you...
When you talk about the ViewHD switcher, are you talking about one of the "ViewHD Digital Audio 4xX Switch" that you can find on Amazon for around $30 ?
I assume that the measurements in your post were about the DAC/RCA output of the device.
The reason I'm asking is that I was planning to use the "ViewHD" only in digital (i.e. optical out) and feeding that into the Topping D30 (I'm paying attention). In theory, it's all digital, so I should not be affected by those things in the graph. Well, maybe adding yet another crappy power brick in the smartest thing to do and I should try to find a DAC with more inputs (like DACMagic 100).
Enough rambling, what do you think about the "ViewHD Digital Audio 4xX Switch" ?

Thanks in advance,

Jean
 

Blumlein 88

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#10
Hi,

Sorry to dig up this old thread, but I had a question gor you...
When you talk about the ViewHD switcher, are you talking about one of the "ViewHD Digital Audio 4xX Switch" that you can find on Amazon for around $30 ?
I assume that the measurements in your post were about the DAC/RCA output of the device.
The reason I'm asking is that I was planning to use the "ViewHD" only in digital (i.e. optical out) and feeding that into the Topping D30 (I'm paying attention). In theory, it's all digital, so I should not be affected by those things in the graph. Well, maybe adding yet another crappy power brick in the smartest thing to do and I should try to find a DAC with more inputs (like DACMagic 100).
Enough rambling, what do you think about the "ViewHD Digital Audio 4xX Switch" ?

Thanks in advance,

Jean
The measurements I did of the ViewHD were from the RCA outputs yes. However, I later did check using it as a digital source over Toslink, and it does have rather high jitter that way. I don't notice anything using it for movies. I'll go amend my review thread adding this info and your question reminded me I never did. Give it a few minutes, and I'll have it added.
 

Blumlein 88

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#11
Okay look here for the results using Toslink from the ViewHD.

Short summary I wouldn't use the 44 khz from the ViewHD. I would use the View HD 48 khz via Toslink though it isn't fantastic. If you just wish to feed the Topping D30 for video purposes then okay. If using it to feed the Topping D30 for music only, you probably can do better.

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...er-ultrahd-hdmi-3x1-switcher.1560/#post-61147
 
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#12
Sorry, I had completely missed your review ! I'm kind of new ;-)
The device I was looking at was only a Toslink to Toslink switch, not the HDMI switch, but I bet performance will be similar.
https://www.amazon.com/ViewHD-Digit...16034177&sr=8-3&keywords=ViewHD+Digital+Audio
https://www.amazon.com/ViewHD-Prosu...sr=1-16&keywords=toslink+coaxial+spdif+switch

Short summary I wouldn't use the 44 khz from the ViewHD. I would use the View HD 48 khz via Toslink though it isn't fantastic. If you just wish to feed the Topping D30 for video purposes then okay. If using it to feed the Topping D30 for music only, you probably can do better.
Ok, thanks a lot ! Any suggestions for a great Toslink switcher/mixer/preamp ?

Jean
 

Jimster480

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#13
Funny that around the same time as you were reviewing this DAC I was looking at the SMSL Sanskrit and decided on the M8 instead... Too bad I didn't know about this site back then.
 
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#14
Would you say, @amirm , it is okay to run this dac with a DC 9V/1.67A smartphone charger rather than it's own power adapter? My friend has one and the original has started a "coil whine". So rather than investing towards a linear power supply we were thinking of a smartphone charger.
 

amirm

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#15
It is not ideal because the phone charger is switching and may not have clean power. But try it and see if you hear any degradation. Otherwise 9 volt linear power supplies are not expensive.
 

Arnold Krueger

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#16
It is not ideal because the phone charger is switching and may not have clean power. But try it and see if you hear any degradation. Otherwise 9 volt linear power supplies are not expensive.
Iron transformer (my preferred term because in fact, no power supply is very linear, especially the ones that take in AC and put out DC! :))

9 volt iron transformer power supplies may not be all that clean as they are usually just a diode rectifier and a simple brute force capacitor filter. The diodes can potentially produce HF hash.

Iron transformer power supplies geneally produce EMI @ the power line frequency which is pretty audible, while any decent switchmode device produces what noise it produces at ultrasonic frequencies.

Switchmode power supplies are also generally regulated because it is hard to make them any other way. This means inherent suppression of all but the most extreme (e.g. lightning strikes) power line surges. It is not uncommon for them to put out pretty much the same voltage with a power line voltage that ranges from 90 to 250 volts.
 

amirm

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#17
Arny, this DAC already coming with a switching supply. I am being asked if a phone charger is better, not a general question about switching supply. Phone charges are some of the most basterized, cheaply made, switching power supplies. They are made to be dirt cheap, and small. As such, I don't think it will be a step forward to use with this DAC. There are also some truly garbage chargers out there if you don't use the name brand ones:

 

Arnold Krueger

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#18
Arny, this DAC already coming with a switching supply. I am being asked if a phone charger is better, not a general question about switching supply. Phone charges are some of the most basterized, cheaply made, switching power supplies. They are made to be dirt cheap, and small. As such, I don't think it will be a step forward to use with this DAC. There are also some truly garbage chargers out there if you don't use the name brand ones:


OK, phone charger power supplies are cheap, but how do they perform, and what effects do they actually have on SQ?
 

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