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First impression of the SMSL PL200 CD Player/DAC

shanyechungu

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Nov 6, 2023
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My unit arrived last Friday. I have been listening to it for almost 3 days (on and off) and I couldn't stop. (You guys can imaging, I am listening to it as I am writing this post.) This is not just because how it sounds but also the way that I operate it, like my favorite toy. Sense of ritual is a very important aspect when playing with CDs nowadays.
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Design:
First impression, the package and box are upgraded which look way better than the cheap one with the M400.

The size is a bit smaller than it looks in the pictures which is better. With this size, it looks more premium when placed on top of the SP400.

The mechanic keys feel exactly as my keyboard. It is so satisfying to hear the crisp click sound when you press the keys down. The tactile feel of mechanical keys is much better than the microswitches which most devices use. A bit loose which is expected. Imaging that how the keys on your keyboard feel when you place your finger on them and wiggle.

The disc pressure weight block is secured by magnetic force, not by gravity. With a metal shell and plastic holding the magnet inside, it is not heavy and feels cheap. When placed on top of the CD, while playing, you can tell it is not perfectly concentric and wobbles a bit. This bugs me. I tried to play CDs without placing it on and it worked fine. This is something that I wish they nailed it further before releasing the product. Maybe just a piece of solid metal without a magnet does the job? Not sure. Maybe they have tested this solution and for some reason they did not adopt it.

The opening space by the edge of the disc is a bit narrow. It can be a bit tricky to take the disc out if you have thick fingers.

As for the lid, it is a solid one-piece metal and feels premium. I do wish the lid could be somehow transparent or at least left a window on it so that we can see the spinning disc while playing. The diameter of the lid is 5.5inch. I even looked for a glass lid with this size on Amazon and found the the following one. It is $39 made in France which looks very premium. It will immediately turn this thing into a wok or a pan. Just kidding. Anyway, I hope they can release a transparent lid as an accessory and I will order it without a doubt.
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Given that this thing is so beautiful, I can bear with those issues.
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Functionality:
This thing can replace my M400 for my purposes. I connect M400 to my MBP and to serve my JBL 308P monitors. In terms of this function, it somewhat covers it and plus, it plays CDs. As for BT, I don't use this function at all. For the opt out, I am not sure if I will use this function since the best DAC I have is the M400 and they are using the same chip, so there is no point to do so.

I saw other folks wish it had other means of digital inputs, I totally agree. I have a PS4 and it is currently connected to my M400 via opt in. However, I have two separate setups, one is in my garage with the PS4 and the JBL monitors; the other is in my office room with a some PCDPs and headphones. Plus, I don't play video games anymore. So this is not an issue to me.

For obvious reasons, some of the CDs are not readable by my old PCDPs and this thing reads it without any issue.

I also saw other folks wish it had SACD function, I do agree. But I do not have any SACDs so this is not an issue to me either.

Firmware:
Two weird things:
1. It only uses 4 characters or less to show the status. For example, Play, CD, USB, BT. However, when you pause it, it shows "Paus" ... This is so funny.
2. When you keep clicking the NEXT button and when you reach the end of the list, a typical CD player will stay at the last song. This one returns to the first song.
3. The loudness is displayed as dB which is different from the 0-80 digital range in the M400.
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Price:
I ordered it from China directly and shipped it oversea to the US. It was during the 11.11 time (similar to the Black Friday event in the US) and there was a discount around $100. So its definitely a good price to me. I paid similar for my M400 and this thing does more than it.

Sound quality:
I am very satisfied with the sound it renders. However, I do think I need more time to listen to it and run a systematic comparison between my other devices. This can be very time consuming which is beyond my capacity now. I will find a time for it and update my findings here. My first impression is it has less bass than the Sony D-303 thus sounds cooler and thinner than it. I use ATH-A1000 with D-303 and use HD6XX with PL200. Seems a perfect match.
 

Middle Earth

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Nov 12, 2023
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Cheap Audio Man did a review today
For a CD Transport the price is fair
I would be happier with this
I Heart M-Disc
This will play or record most any format for $119

BUFFALO 6X Portable Blu-ray Drive, TAA-Compliant, Read/Write, Plays and Burns BD/DVD/CD, USB 3.2 (Gen 1) Type-A/Type-C, Compatible with Mac/PC/Win 8 / Win 10 / Win 11 / Laptop/Desktop https://a.co/d/9TT8Pj6
 

JeffS7444

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It looks swell (how noisy is it, and does the optional lid help to silence it?), but my eyes are particularly drawn to the Sony Discman D25! I always did have a weakness for Sony's miniature, technological marvels, including aforementioned D25, a cassette player scarcely larger than a cassette case, the first DAT Walkman, and more recently, the DSC-RX100 digital camera.

But how are you powering the D25? IIRC, it used a proprietary lead-acid battery, and I needed at least one replacement, because the original didn't last too long.
 
OP
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shanyechungu

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It looks swell, but my eyes are particularly drawn to the Sony Discman D25! I always did have a weakness for Sony's miniature, technological marvels, including aforementioned D25, a cassette player scarcely larger than a cassette case, the first DAT Walkman, and more recently, the DSC-RX100 digital camera.

But how are you powering the D25? IIRC, it used a proprietary lead-acid battery, and I needed at least one replacement, because the original didn't last too long.
I use a power adapter that I ordered on eBay for it. The polarity of it is different from the 303s. I need to be super careful when plug them on. I like the 303s better than the 25/250. 303 sounds much more attractive to me.

You may want to check out the D-88 and D-j50. These two are the smallest and thinnest full size PCDP respectively.
 

JeffS7444

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Cheap Audio Man did a review today
For a CD Transport the price is fair
I would be happier with this
I Heart M-Disc
This will play or record most any format for $119

BUFFALO 6X Portable Blu-ray Drive, TAA-Compliant, Read/Write, Plays and Burns BD/DVD/CD, USB 3.2 (Gen 1) Type-A/Type-C, Compatible with Mac/PC/Win 8 / Win 10 / Win 11 / Laptop/Desktop https://a.co/d/9TT8Pj6
I haven't tried that specific product, but my LG B-D external drive isn't super-quiet. OTOH, with hacked firmware, it reads 4K UHD media too.
 

Middle Earth

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I haven't tried that specific product, but my LG B-D external drive isn't super-quiet. OTOH, with hacked firmware, it reads 4K UHD media too.
This looks good

PIONEER BDR-XD08UMB-S Pinnacle of The XD08 Series with a Matte-Black Body USB 3.2 Gen1 (USB Type-C) / 2.0 Slim Portable BD/DVD/CD Writer Features The Latest high-Grade Rubber Coating https://a.co/d/idkBfr1
 

JeffS7444

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You may want to check out the D-88 and D-j50. These two are the smallest and thinnest full size PCDP respectively.
I found a secondhand D-SJ301 for 5 USD :p I have not attempted to measure it, but my impression is that the headphone amplifier is weak compared to more modern portables, and better suited as a line output.
 
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shanyechungu

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I found a secondhand D-SJ301 for 5 USD :p I have not attempted to measure it, but my impression is that the headphone amplifier is weak compared to more modern portables, and better suited as a line output.
that's a cute one and for 5 bucks... really a great deal. Where did you get it?
 

VintageFlanker

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Thanks for your impressions.
I am very satisfied with the sound it renders. However, I do think I need more time to listen to it and run a systematic comparison between my other devices.
Or you can just consider it as it is: transparent... and call it a day. That should save you some time doing uncontrolled comparaisons.
;)
 

Iluzun

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Mar 31, 2020
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The PL200 is a beast. Topping PA7 Plus, PL200, ProAc1SC, Rel T9i. Great soundstaging. Exact imaging. Depth and extension. Smoothly organic w,PRAT. Took me a day to figure it out though. Bluetooth works great also. U won’t miss sacd. It’s got presence. Female vocals have been to die for. Haven’t tried it all out but it’s got an immediacy and technical prowess that’s hard to ignore. This and the PA-7 make a superb pairing. It’s a fun combo. Liquid and dynamic. Pair it with a good speaker, u won’t b disappointed…
 

Belgik

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Mine arrived yesterday, a €739 package deposited by South-American forest logistics right in front of my garage in plain view of any passer-by on the street ...but all is well.

Beautiful small and surprisingly heavy, full aluminium metal. It'll be a while before I come to full grips with all the features, at first hearing I experience the sound as very clean, precise, possibly somewhat clinical, but I haven't understood the "sound colour" settings yet, but I'm not worried, I already love this little player. Mind, I'm just into CD, I belong to the terminal fringe of music fans, and I couldn't really be bothered with intense application of the more eclectic complications.

I wanted a top-loading CD player and that's what it is, I'm already slightly worried about losing that small magnetic disk-weight, I'll be careful. My fingers aren't exactly nimble, and fishing-out both the CD as well as the larger aluminium weight-disk isn't the easiest, the "rim" to grasp is shallow, and I can well imagine dropping it to the ground ...

I'm contemplating a hack, as per the photos.
 

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