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First impression of the SMSL PL200 CD Player/DAC

Iluzun

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Joined
Mar 31, 2020
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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.
Take the time to read my recent post below and try the filter adjustments noted. The updated filter settings, I would bet, would allow the PL200 to show your Sony its heels. Bigger bass is a couple menu selections away, give it a try…
 

Iluzun

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Joined
Mar 31, 2020
Messages
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15
Test
text WOJCIECH PACUŁA
photos of "High Fidelity"
No 240
April 1, 2024​

⌈ Founded in 2009, Foshan ShuangMuSanLin Electronics (S.M.S.L) is a manufacturer based in the industrial part of China, in the province of Schenzen. It offers nicely made products aimed at the audiophile part of society, such as: D / A drivers, headphone amplifiers and power amplifiers. We are testing its Compact Disc PL200 player. ⌋
TWO MORE, MAYBE THREE YEARS AGO writing about the Compact Disc player I would explain why I do this. I would probably recall my own experience with this format, only very good, I would say something about the sound quality, still better (in my opinion) than what we get with the files and often competing with analog discs, I would definitely also refer to the convenience of using that the format gives, and finally I would mention the millions of CDs that you can buy for pennies at the moment and that these will be OUR CDs that we will be able to listen to anytime and anywhere, unlike streaming files that are today and may not be tomorrow.

Today I don't have to do it anymore, it's obvious. And that's because the trends are slowly but still changing. While until recently, producers from the so-called mainstream argued that "only streaming and nothing else", now they have to admit that they exaggerated a bit with this stream enthusiastism. As it turns out, there are still many audiophiles, because they are mainly concerned, who have a lot of CDs of this type and who do not want to part with this medium.
The financial aspect is also not to be despised - streaming is made mainly by the studios, not the artists, and if anything, only the most famous (clickable) ones. In addition to the LP releases, many of them are also pushing to release the material on CD. This can be seen in the statistics on the sale of CDs, which show that the downward trend has slowed down and may be slightly reflected in the future.
Audio producers also noticed it. And it's not only tiny manufactors like Polish Ancient Audio, Italian Norma or Slovak Canor, but also medium and heavyweight players. It is enough to mention that Cambridge Audio has CD transports in its offer, that the British company Leema Acoustics also offers devices of this type and that the American company Ayre has never, in fact, left this format, and the Austrian Ayon Audio offers both transports and complete players. Transport Compact Disc also offers JBL (!).
And then there are Technics, Yamaha, Denon and Marantz SACD players, companies like Ruarek mount CD drives in their all-in-one systems, which makes the silver (CD) and gold (SACD) discs do well. I would say there is something to it.
▌ Compact Disc+
I DON'T KNOW IF YOU remember, but the Compact Disc format was created as a result of a very long research and development process and cost millions of millions of dollars. It was a breakthrough format that completely changed the music map, in every way, and at the same time "froze" it for many years. Because it was so handy, and the publishers and hardware manufacturers made so much money from it that - literally - they didn't know what to do with this sudden harvest. The people managing them thought that it would always be so, which is why streaming surprised them so much and spread their business models.
Already at the time of the premiere, it was known that the edge parameters of the digital signal that can be written on the disc, i.e. 16-bit depth and sampling rate of 44.1 kHz, are a compromise. It resulted both from the agreements between the two creators of the system, i.e. Sony and Philips, as well as from the physical limitations of the most widespread digital mastering systems, stereo cassette recorders U-Matic PCM-1600/1610/1630, which worked with such parameters.
But relatively early, because already in 1995, the first new format based on CDs was created, namely HDCD - High Definition Compact Disc. Developed by "Prof." Keitha O. Johnson and Michael "Pflash" Pflaumer from Pacific Microsonics Inc. allowed to write a 20-bit signal on the disc. To decode it, you needed a player with the right Pacific Microsonic chip. On the other hand, however, these discs were backwards compatible with regular CD players. Although the Super Audio CD format presented by Sony in 1999 was promoted as a successor to the CD, we know that it is a completely different format, differing from the Compact Disc in virtually everything, except for the size of the disc.
Nothing happened in this respect until 2018, when Ultimate HQCDs with a signal encoded in MQA appeared on the market. MQA is a data compression format developed by Meridian, designed to transmit a signal of up to 32 bits and sampling rates of up to 384 kHz over limited bandwidth Internet links. At the beginning of 2018, MQA and Universal Music Group in a material titled "The World's Greatest Hits". MQA and Universal Music Group are working together on advanced hi-res streaming on request announced the cooperation and availability of UMG titles on Ultimate HQCDs with MQA signal; more of these techniques → HERE.
Ordinary Compact Disc and SACD players "see" this type of discs like ordinary CDs, and those with an MQA decoder can unpack the signal as if it were streamed. Until now, almost all the players I knew that MQA decoded were SACD players, from companies → CH PRECISION, → ESOTERIC, Luxman, Pioneer and Technics. Compact Disc player of this type had (ma?) Meridian company (808 V6), TEAC (VRDS-701) also has it, and it is also offered by Chinese companies. And it is with them that devices of this type are the cheapest. One such producer is S.M.S.L.
▌ PL200
S.M.S.L IS AN AUDIO EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURER from China. Shenzhen Shuangmusanlin Electronics Co., LTD, because that's its full name, together with a separate brand VMV technology (HK), they produce amplifiers, headphone amplifiers, file players and D/A converters. In addition, in addition to production, the company has its own research and development (R&D) department, thanks to which - as we read - "they are up to date with the development of technology, as well as with the demand of customers, whose requirements they try to effectively meet". The S.M.S.L. brand has its sales networks in more than 30 countries, including the UK, Germany and Japan.
The manufacturer in the press materials on the PL200 in his description asked: "CD player, or digital-analog converter?" And immediately he replied: "Now we no longer have to choose, because we can have the best of both worlds". Because the latest product of the S.M.S.L brand is to be an offer for those who want to have a digital-to-analog converter, but also want to be able to play CDs on the same device. And this is because the PL200 has a CD transport, using a specially developed P.A.S.S. servo system. (Precision Access Servo System) designed to be characterized by "fast operation and high resistance to reading errors". One of the most important features of the device is also the presence of an MQA decoder.
PL200 is therefore a Compact Disc player. In fact, if we were accurate, we should say that it is an MQA-CD player, because with compatibility we go down and start with the highest common denominator; similarly, players with an HDCD decoder should be called HDCD players, not CD players, just like SACD players are not SACD/CD or CD/SACD players, but simply SACDs. But - let it be.
APPEARANCE • The device is tiny because S.M.S.L targets the market of "desk" devices. In its offer, the player would therefore complement the AO200 integrated amplifier (test → HERE). It measures only 200 x 42 x 175 mm and weighs less than 2 kg, so it is tiny. Its execution is excellent and perhaps that is why small sizes work in its favor - the player looks really Cossack.
It owes this to both extremely precise execution, the housing is made of milled aluminum, as well as the manufacturer's choice regarding disc loading - this is a classic top-loader player. That is, one in which we put the plate from the top immediately on the axis of the engine, without the mediation of a drawer. We press the disc with a small aluminum circle, and cover the whole with a large lid, also made of aluminum. The same way to load the disc, although using other materials, can be found in Ayon Audio players, including the CD-35 HF Edition I use. Thanks to this solution, and I say this from my own many years of experience, the playback of discs uses the physicality of the medium, it is very sensual.
The cover and pressure are low, it was about keeping the form of the device, but they are not very easy to use. People with slightly thicker fingers may have a problem with their operation. So it would be useful to knarsles on their edges or rubber rings that would prevent these elements from sliding out of their hands. However, already the control of the disc playback is convenient and really cool. Four buttons on the top wall, about which the manufacturer says "piano", because they really resemble the keys of this instrument. On the company's website you can even find a joke about the fact that in your free time the buttons in question can be used to broadcast the Morse alphabet :) However, we also get a plastic, but even handy, remote control.
There is a knob in the middle. The element is unusual for CD players, but justified here. The knob in PL200 is used both to move around the device menu and to change the voice strength on both the headphone and analog output; the latter can also be set in the menu to a fixed output with a voltage of 3.75 V (XLR sockets). We will also turn on the power and turn it off with the knob.
On its left, on the black part of the front (the entire remaining surface is silver, unfortunately there is no black version), there is a large IPS (In-Plane Switching) display. Although his indications are white, it is a color display. We will see this when a blue or green dot lights up next to a nice MQA logo, informing you what type of MQA file it is, as well as when we enter the menu, where we approve the selection with orange squares. It's a pity that when playing CDs you don't display their logotype, but only a boring 'PCM'. The display was covered not with acrylic, but with a tempered glass plate.
FUNCTIONALITY • PL200 is both a Compact Disc player and an MQA-CD player. What's more, the device can also work as a digital-to-analog converter. It offers an asynchronous USB-C input that accepts a high-resolution digital signal up to and including PCM 768 kHz and DSD512 and through which we will also send an MQA signal, for example from the Tidal service. And it can, finally, work as a DAC or CD player with a preamp; the volume control is done in the digital domain.
It's not the end. The antenna visible on the back is part of the Bluetooth receiver (5.1). This is one of the newer Qualcom decoders, thanks to which we will collect signals encoded in SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD and LDAC, i.e. high resolution (24/96). The company writes:
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Such a wide and unique set of functions makes the latest proposal an interesting bite for all those who want to have a very good CD player without giving up the wide functionality of modern DAC and Bluetooth connectivity with codecs in the latest standards.
And there is something else that turned out to be an extremely successful addition - a headphone amplifier. His nest was placed in the back so as not to disturb the clean front, but I didn't have much of a problem with that. The signal is sent via a TRS socket (large jack) with a diameter of ø 6.3 mm. The amplifier has a power of 1 W per channel at a load of 32 Ω, which is a lot. Its design was based on the original and patented system with the acronym PLFC (Precision Linear Feedback Circuit) providing not only - as the manufacturer writes - "extremely low distortion", but also "clean, natural and organic sound known from dedicated, external headphone amplifiers". It is based on the Texas Instruments TPA6120A2 integrated circuit.
Outside, we will send a line signal with both RCA balanced sockets and balanced XLR sockets. We can also use digital outputs, RCA and Toslink, which makes sense - the mechanics of the player is from a high shelf - which is about in a moment. Now let's say that in the menu we can change many parameters of the device, such as digital filter, oversampling, amplification for the headphone output, active outputs, etc.
TECHNIQUE • We mentioned mechanics - not coincidentally. Its upper part received a carbon fiber plate, characteristic of the latest CD-Pro8 transports designed by the Austrian company StreamUnlimited Engineering. We will find it players of Pro-Ject, which participated in their creation (more → HERE), as well as Gryphon (more → HERE) or Ancient Audio (test → HERE).
The company designed its own servo, but it does not perform mechanics - it's too complex a process, even for such a specialist. Their physical production is handled by one of the Taiwanese companies (ASA Tech). The Austrians offer three different versions of mechanics, but the one in PL200 seems to be slightly different from them. First of all, the fact that there is no cast body, it also has a slightly different shape of carbon fiber cap and plastic, not a metal plate on which we put the plate. However, the sled and stroller with optics look identical to DM-3381 Pro, a module used in CD- Pro8.
Whatever one say, it's high-class mechanics. In addition, it is controlled by software written by the company, named by it P.A.S.S. Precision Access Servo System is to be characterized by "fast operation and high resistance to reading errors". The CD drive used in PL200 is mounted on anti-vibration insulators.
Equally high-end, there is nothing to wrap in cotton, they are used by the manufacturer of the digital-analog converter bones: these are the top chips from Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM), Verita AK4499EX model. In addition to devices from China, we find them in very expensive products, and here we have as many as two such bones, one per channel. As we wrote in the news, it was first shown at IPS / HIGH END 2022 in Munich, so it is a new product. Their special feature is the built-in MQA decoder (more about the system → HERE). OPA1611 integrated circuits work at the output.
The digital section is clocked by the author's CK-03 clock system, which guarantees, as we read, a very low level of jitter. And the additional PLL loop is to further reduce this type of distortion from digital signals fed to S/PDIF and TOSlink inputs. The power supply is provided by a tiny pulse system, but - as the manufacturer assures - it is a high-end system. It is a pity that the player does not have a socket for an external 12 V power supply.
In a word - high-end in a good edition for completely not high-end money.
▌ LISTENING
HOW WE LISTENED • The S.M.S.L PL200 player was tested in the HIGH FIDELITY reference system. He stood on the top, carbon shelf of the Finite Elemente Pagode Edition Mk II table on his legs. Its sound was compared to the SACD player AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF EDITION and the Lumin T3 file player.

The PL200 was combined with the Ayon Audio Spheris III preamplifier with Crystal Absolute Dream cables. One of the features of Ayre devices is a balanced signal path and probably a fully balanced system would be worth trying this option as well. The HIGH FIDELITY system, however, plays better connected with RCA cables, which is why I decided on such a system. Power supply for PL200 was provided by the Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version cable.
⸜ Discs used in the test | selection
→ COMPACT DISC
⸜ CZESŁAW NIEMEN, Niemen Aerolit, Polskie Nagrania MUZA/Polskie Nagrania | Warner Music Poland 50541 9 79358 9 3, "Polskie Nagrania catalogue selections - Limited Edition SACD Hybrid" ˻ SERIES 4 ˺, SACD/CD (1975/2024), review → HERE.
⸜ MICHAEL JACKSON, Thriller, Epic/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDSACD 2251, series "Original Master Recording, Ultradisc II", SACD/CD (1982/2022).
⸜ HAPPY END (はっぴいえんど), Hapy End, URC Records/Sony Music Labels MHCL 30914, BSCD2 (1970/2023).
⸜ BILLIE EILISH, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Darkroom | Interscope Records/Universal International UICS-9161, “7” mini LP”, CD (2019), more → HERE.
⸜ BILLIE HOLIDAY, Jazz at the Philharmonic, Clef Records/UMG Recordings UCCV-9476, "David Stone Martin 10 inch Collector's Selection", SHM-CD (1945, 1946/2013).

→ MQA-CD
⸜ VARIOUS, Jazz Hi-Res CD Sampler. Jazz, Universal Music LLC UCCU-40126/7, CD + MQA-CD (2018).
⸜ VARIOUS, Jazz Hi-Res CD Sampler. Rock & Pops, Universal Music LLC UCCU-40217/8, CD + MQA-CD (2018).
⸜ VARIOUS, 2L - the MQA experience, 2L-MQA-CD-2021 (2021).

»«

JUST YESTERDAY WICIU, a member of the Krakow Sonic Society, wrote in the group's chat that he was just listening to the new version of Niemen Aerolit's album, i.e. with a remastered by Damian Lipiński, and that he felt like he was listening to an LP in the 1970s. As he says, although one can find the fascination of the Mahavishnu Orchestra in this music, but that - if I understood correctly - these are good associations and that it is one of CZESŁAW NIEMEN's most interesting albums. I think so too.

Listened to via the PL200 player, it sounded exactly the same way, that is, dark, dense, low. There is not much higher mountain here, which Damian captured brilliantly, but there are also a lot of things going on on this CD, we don't have time to get bored. Also when, as in ˻ 2 ˺ Pilgrim, we are dealing with electronics and vocals. The player from China wonderfully, really perfectly captured it.
Niemen's voice was large, with a clear echo in the left channel, with a nice depth and a mastered higher center of the band, that is, resolving, but not bright. And when Mellotron speaks in the right channel, every now and then, he has weight, we almost feel his gravitational gravity. The tested player, although an inexpensive device, showed these things effortlessly, calmly, as if all his life "doing" in high-end. And even heard sometimes underneath, under the instruments, the overtones that Damian - fortunately - did not eliminate with aggressive "cleaning", adds to the whole taste.
So we have a low, dense high-resolution sound. It is also a sound with a strong and dense bass. We have such a principle in audio that large equipment for a large sound, and a large sound is built by energy and depth of low tones. That's why we reach for large, strong amplifiers, we are happy to see overgrown power supplies and smile at the very sight of a solid, large housing. Well, PL200 is an exception to this rule.
That's why, when at the beginning in ˻ 5 ˺ Beat It, a song coming from - we all know, but for the sake of order - MICHAEL JACKSON's Thriller is hit by a synthesizer, a bit like the bells of a cathedral, but a cathedral from the late 20th century, and therefore deconstructed, it can be heard in a really big, powerful way. Eddie Van Halen's solo, which enters right after, maintains this illusion of fullness and "cathedral" reverb, because it is massive and simply - large.​
What I talked about at the beginning is confirmed: the Chinese player tones the treble by putting everything on one scarf, weighting the middle of the band and its bottom. I like it, oh how I like it! It's not a neutral sound to be clear. The aforementioned Damian Lipiński probably wouldn't recognize the sound of the album he has prepared, and that's because he likes open, strong acting, which is provided by the active APL speakers he uses.
For me, however, it was something I'm looking for in music: emotion, flow, fluidity, coherence. These are elements that in the so-called "digital sound" are extremely desirable and which - attention - are an immanent part of digital formats, only that far too rarely implemented. That's why Billie Jean, on Jackson's album at number ˻ 6 ˺, "floated" smoothly, while maintaining an excellent rhythm.

The low tones of this player are something that will catch the attention of the listener from the very beginning, from the first few seconds. That's why I couldn't help but reach for one more album from the 1970s - the excellent debut of the Japanese band HAPPY END. Remastered by the great Mixer's Lab studio and released in 2023 on BSCD 2 (Blu-Spec CD2), it sounded phenomenal! Really and without exaggeration. There was density, there was excellent resolution, there was also a sense of communing with music, and even musicians in the studio at the moment of "becoming" sounds.
| Our records

⸜ HAPPY END (はっぴいえんど) Hapy End (はっぴいえんど)
URC Records/Sony Music Labels MHCL 30914
BSCD2 ⸜ 1970/2023

IN THE WORLD LITTLE KNOWN, IF AT ALL, in Japan, the band Happy End (jap. はっぴいえんど, Happī Endo) enjoys the status of a “cult” band. And without exaggeration. Although he was very short-lived between 1969 and 1972 and released only three studio albums, he then disbanded on December 31, 1972, even before the final title, bearing the title Hapy End (in the Latin alphabet), was released.
The reason for the end of the activity was the disagreement to "close" artists in the American way of seeing their work. The final album was recorded in Los Angeles under the supervision of Van Dyke Parks, known mainly for his collaboration with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys group, and who wanted the musicians to sing in English. The musicians could not agree with this - the band was a pioneer of Japanese rock sung in Japanese.
The turn of the 1960s and 1970s was the time when the debate known as the Japanese-language rock controversy (日本語ロッ�ク論争, Nihongo Rokku Ronsō) swept through the music press (and not only) in Japan. It was about determining whether there was a chance to appear in a wide music market with rock music sung in the native language - previously all Western music genres had words in English. The success of the debut of the band Happy End ended it by proving that it is possible and that it is possible. The most famous bands that followed this path Wikipedia include the rock bands Carol, RC Succession and Funny Company, and among the musicians playing folk include Tulip, Banban, Garo and Yosui Inoue.

Hapy End is considered one of the best albums of Japanese folk-rock music, even though it brought music from both this circle and avant-garde solutions that have served other performers as a guide and textbook. Julian Cope, English musician and author of the book Japrocksampler, in which he describes the post-war fate of rock music in the Land of the Cherry Blossom, ranked it among the best albums of the band, comparing his performance to the group Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
The version in question this time was released in 2023 on Blu-spec CD2. URC Records (Underground Record Club), the experimental label where the album was released, now belongs to Sony Music Labels, and Blu-Spec and BSCD2 are its developments (more → HERE). Due to the inscription on the cover, the album is also known under the title Yudemen (ゆでめん).
It's a nice box with a thick booklet and a CD in a classic jewelbox. The material for the album was remastered by ISAO KIKUCHI from Mixer's Lab; Tetsuia Naito from Sony Music Studios Tokyo was responsible for the digital transfer from the analog "master" tape. The studio has a STUDER A-820 tape recorder and records material in DAW-ie Pro Tools HD. In addition to the basic eleven songs, we also get two additional, or rather two different approaches to two songs from the basic program.

I'll say briefly: this is a zaje...the st CD! Soundwise, it's once, in which it reminds me of Three Blind Mice's releases, but most of all musically. What guitars, what synthesizers! Great vocals and strong, dynamic drums with dense, low bass emphasize the motor skills of subsequent songs. The recordings from this disc have fantastic harmonies and an amazing atmosphere. My daughter, who threw an ear at them by passing, said that they sound - for less - very modern. In the sense that although they have the atmosphere of the 1970s, they are not "old", so to speak, they are not a museum artifact worth talking about, but which does not necessarily have to listen to. I highly recommend it! ●
www.SME.co.jp

SO THAT WE understand EACH OTHER WELL: this is not a sound that everyone will like. Knowing what people are looking for, I would even say that a smaller minority will like it. Not because something is wrong in it, but because the audio market is, in my opinion, not fully calibrated. We all seem to be talking about the same thing, that is, about neutrality, purity, etc., and yet each of us thinks about something different. And good, that's normal, each of us hears differently. But the interpretation of what we hear could be, as I think, more coherent and more - and, let it be - in "my way".
And that means: low, dense and resolving, with perfect differentiation (some call it "contrast"). The live sound is brighter and clearer. So much so that we don't listen to live sound. We do not listen to the sound in the concert hall, or even in the free space, where it becomes soft and "physiological" in a specific way. And then there's the sense of sight, which determines 80% of how we hear something, such a life. When listening to the recorded sound, we have to avoid these obstacles and it's best to do it the way PL200 does.
Because when in ˻ 4 ˺ Tobenai Sora (飛べない空, Unflyable Sky) you can hear a tambourine in the left channel, it is with the tested player both clear and slightly withdrawn. You can hear that it was quite close to the microphone, but also that the producers did not allow its sound to dominate and that the sound of the synthesizers underneath, the sound of guitars, etc. were more important. That's why the sound of this album delighted me so much - it was on the one hand very "direct", and on the other "produced", that is, it was an artistic proposal, not an accidental recording of sounds.
But let's get back to the point. The S.M.S.L player can pump a lot of air into the room. He does it, of course, with an amplifier and loudspeakers, but - as Linn says - this source is at the beginning of everything. But that's why I liked so much what I heard from the tested player, that's why I listened so well to every music, but every music I reached for, whether it was the aforementioned albums or BILLIE EILISH zWhen We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, but also Jazz at the Philharmonic BILLIE HOLIDAY.
The latter, short, lasting only a little over 23 minutes, consisting of three fragments of performances from 1945 and 1946, sounded in a focused and deep way. I've heard before that the tested player puts the message into this type of orgies that we see the whole thing, we know that there are a lot of bends and planes, but we can't quite say where they are and from what angle we see them. The most important is the idea behind the figure.
Here it was similar. The music was everything and I listened to it, not the sounds. That's why I talked earlier about the need to reorient a large part of the audiophile environment - from looking for details to looking for emotions. With PL200 we will get them easily. It won't be the most detailed sound we can think of, or even particularly selective. The details in this sound are, there are plenty of them, but it is more information about sound than isolated "islands of sounds". That's why we embrace the whole thing, not delve into the mechanics of the message.
MQA-CD • One of the most interesting options offered by the tested player is to decode the MQA signal from MQA-CD discs, i.e. looking like a Compact Disc, played on CD players as a CD, but with the appropriate equipment "unpacked" to a high-resolution signal.
The comparison I made with two samplers released by the Japanese label Universal Music with Memory Tech, which prepares these discs, showed that the MQA-CD versions sound clearer, that there is more tone energy in them. The tonal balance was still based on the middle of the band, but now I've heard more of everything, so to speak, which is why the whole thing was more vivid.
But also slightly masked was what I was about before, i.e. the saturation of the low center and the density of the bass. These were clearer and more point-pointed, only not so low. Every time I switched from one version to another, I had to acclimatize for a while before I started listening to music, not sounds. After some time, however, I began to appreciate what MQA-CDs offer and respectfully approach subsequent titles. Despite the fact that in long listens I preferred the sound of 'regular' CDs, one CD and even several songs heard from the hi-res version gave me a 'kick' of energy, which was also very cool.
On the other hand, the CDs showed a close foreground and seemed more filled. It seems that this is because the dynamics on the macro scale were slightly lower with them. The MQA-CDs slightly dismissed the sounds on the line connecting the columns, like the voice of JOÃO GILBERTO and his wife Astrud from The Girl from Ipanema, placed on the aforementioned sampler at number ˻ 3 ˺, and the CD showed it in a tangible way. So I have the impression that the most on MQA-CD gain classical music recordings, like those played from the 2L sampler - the MQA experience, because we get a breath with them and a large scale also in further plans.
DIGITAL FILTERS • The player in the test offers six digital filters, developed by the D/A dice manufacturer, Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM). The differences in sound between them are quite clear, although they do not change the basic structure of this sound. The differences between them boil down to how deep the sound is. After several attempts, I determined that "my" filter is "Super Slow". It gave the deepest sound, with a strongly saturated center of the band. The treble with a few other filters are stronger, but they don't have the sophistication I chose.
The second group of filters, called by the manufacturer "Sound Colour", and which is a signal reactating system (5.6 MHz, two modes, or 11.2896 MHz, two modes), brings smaller changes, but they complement the choices made in the previous filters section. This time it's mainly about focusing the sound and the length of the sound. After several attempts, I chose "Sound 4 (11M)", and this is because of the most "analog", i.e. deep and natural sound. Together with "Super Slow" he gave the sound I wrote about above.
HEADPHONES • And there are still headphones. I have to say that it was with them that I started listening to this device, because the PL200 fit perfectly into the size of the table standing on my right side while I use my laptop.

The initial attempts were disappointing. Whether with HiFiMAN HE-1000 v2 planar headphones or Sennheiser HD-800 dynamic headphones, or with Leema Ears Pneuma in-channel. The sound was squealing and some kind of repulsive. After several attempts, I let it go, ready to pack the player and send it back to the distributor with an apology that I would not test it. However, I just so happened to leave the PL200 on all night and gave it one last chance in the morning. My God, what a change! Everything I talked about above disappeared and there was a full, thick sound.
To be sure, I repeated this experiment twice more and the result was the same. It turns out that the Chinese player requires a long "start-up" and that its components must gain the right temperature to get what I'm writing about. Since then I've been listening to it every day, for a few hours, just on headphones, His amp prefers an easier load on dynamic headphones and that's what I would stick to.
Beyerdynamiki, Sennheisery, or - as in my case - Leema Ears will be a good choice. The headphone amplifier is tiny in it, but very nice color and dynamic, it also gives a large sound. The resolution is not as good as in the speaker reference system, but the quality did not interfere with. So I see no reason to buy an external headphone amplifier for it, unless we want to spend over 5000 thousand zlotys.
▌ Summary
I DON'T KNOW HOW TO START A summary so as not to come out as a son idiot on fire. Let's try this: PL200 is one of the biggest discoveries and surprises of recent months for me. For ridiculous money we get top transport and top pickups in an excellent housing and with high-class components and components. And it's a top-loader with a top shelf USB input and an MQA decoder.

His sound is big dense and low. It is also brilliantly dynamic. PL200 sounds great through the line outputs, but also its headphone amplifier is high-quality. Everything in it has contributed to something that gives an incredibly satisfying message in which we do not fight the records, but make friends with them. It is thanks to him that I have recently auditioned for pleasure, without connection with work, more silver discs than in many previous months.
I know that Chinese products are a difficult topic, both in terms of politics, economy, human rights, etc. However, until we completely cut ourselves off from products from the Middle Kingdom, and this is impossible, let's not be hypocrites and admit that this is an important part of the modern world. And PL200 shows what can be done with the means, knowledge and musical sense, which the creators of this player do not lack. You can even feel their passion and commitment when we put the next album, press it down with the disc and close it with a cover, pressing the 'Play' button. Then the magic happens. From us, the distinction ˻ RED FINGERPRINT ˺. ●
▌ Technical data (according to the manufacturer)
Playable disc types: CD, CD-R/RW, MQA-CD
Dynamic range: XLR - 132 dB, RCA - 127 dB
SNR: XLR - 132 dB, RCA - 127 dB
Maximum output power for headphones: 1 W / 32 Ω
USB input: USB2.0, asynchronous
USB input sampling rate: PCM 44.1 - 768 kHz, DSD 2.8224 - 22.5792 MHz
Bluetooth: 5.1, support SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC
Power consumption (work/standby): 10/<0.5 W
Dimensions (W x H x D): 200 x 42 x 175 mm
Weight: 1.7 kg
Distribution in Poland

MULTIMEDIA INTELLIGENT PRODUCTS


ul. Działdowska 12/MIP
01-184 Warsaw ⸜ POLAND

MIP.biz.pl



The test was created according to guidelines adopted by the Association of International Audiophile Publications, an international association of audio presses that cares for ethical and professional standards in our industry; HIGH FIDELITY is its founding member. More about the association and the titles that create it → HERE.
 
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