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Measurements Of SMSL M8 DAC

Ron Texas

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#21
I've also owned the hifime 9018D which has the ES9018K2M chip and it was also "bright". Sounded similar to the M8A in my memory though less "perfect" perhaps. These are both ESS mobile DAC chips.
I've also owned the Yulong D200 (I think, keep forgetting the model number) which has an ES9016 chip (full version not mobile) and the Melokin DA9.1 which has the ES9038PRO (full version not mobile) and both these DACs did not sound bright to me at all. Though implementation matters a lot of course.
Perhaps part of the bright sound has to do with the upsampling/resampling taking place in the DACs? My upsampling listening experience seems to suggest this. And perhaps the upsampling / resampling in the DACs is different for the mobile versions than the full versions? Perhaps someone here knows?
All I know is many refer to this brightness effect, many of these DAC's are loved by their owners, get great reviews, and manufacturers of audiophile gear are showing a definite preference for ESS chips as compared to their direct competitors. Sorry, I don''t know the answer. I don't know why Schiit has so many fan boys when their gear measures poorly and has all sorts of issues. Amir says they are great at marketing, which is a useful skill indeed. The only thing I know is instrumented tests don't lie. Perhaps these anomalies are urban legends or memes...
 

Ron Texas

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#23
lol. Sounds like a good nite's worth!
I hope the bar-tab-dac works out for you :)
Knob Creek for me... Chardonnay for Mrs T. Due to my schedule, I will not order anything for several weeks. D30 is also on the radar. Seems like a lot more folks have experience with it. Separate power supply is nice, too.

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/topping-d30-dsd-dac-xmos-cs4398.821559/

No 352.8/384, but 192 is probably enough. The CS chip is widely used in pro audio gear and by Marantz in the HD-DAC1.
 
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#24
Just received the SMSL M8A v3 (ES9038Q2M DAC chip).
My subjective experience is that it is fantastic. Just about perfect actually.
Perhaps it is a little bit on the bright / sharp side, but I switched on quality upsampling to 352.8kHz on my computer and this may have made a small improvement here because I think it sounds fully balanced / filled in now to me but haven't tested this well.

Also got the matching SAP-12 headphone amplifier. My subjective experience is that it's not great. It's a bit on the warm side perhaps but the worst thing is that it has a channel imbalance problem. Left channel is a bit louder, imaging isn't great, etc. Bit dissapointed, I will send it back.
Perhaps it's a better design to do digital volume control in the DAC instead of an analogue volume pot on the headphone amp?
I've decided to order a Topping DX7S and compare it. Hope the DAC will sound as good but with the headphone amp able to keep up this time..
Well, this was before a subjective A/B listening comparison between the M8A v3 and an Anedio D2 (ES9018, measures better in every aspect than the M8A v1, see https://web.archive.org/web/20161206045028/http://www.anedio.com:80/index.php/product/d2_measure ).
I now think my M8A v3 (ES9038Q2M) has some serious flaws! It is not a little bit on the bright / sharp side as I said before but quite a lot actually! So much so that I can't believe both the D2 and M8A v3 measure flat. I think the D2 measures flat and the M8A v3 must be way off. They may well have screwed something up since the M8A v1 measures well and the relatively small measured differences can't possibly explain the big subjective differences in sound. (alternatively if it does measure flat and as well as claimed then we must be missing some very important measurement to show the big difference in sound and perceived frequency balance).
The M8A v3 sounds quite tilted up in comparison, but the extra treble and high mids are not "resolved" / fully transparent. I guess the often used "glare" describes it somewhat. It does give a tilted up "hi-fi" type of sound. But it is tiny sounding in comparison to the Anedio D2, very much including the bass which is also lacking. It does do this in a "precise sounding" way though. The mids are also very much affected by this. They don't sound anything like the big transparent see through mids of the D2.
The matching SAP-12 amp is even worse than I thought before. Its a joke compared to the built in amp of the D2. Muddy (yes it manages to make the tilted up M8A v3 sound too warm and muddy, complete opposite), grainy, big flaws in imaging etc and even a channel volume imbalance where the left channel comes on much sooner than the right when turning up the volume from min, and the difference never fully equalizes.
 

Krunok

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#25
Well, this was before a subjective A/B listening comparison between the M8A v3 and an Anedio D2 (ES9018, measures better in every aspect than the M8A v1, see https://web.archive.org/web/20161206045028/http://www.anedio.com:80/index.php/product/d2_measure ).
I now think my M8A v3 (ES9038Q2M) has some serious flaws! It is not a little bit on the bright / sharp side as I said before but quite a lot actually! So much so that I can't believe both the D2 and M8A v3 measure flat. I think the D2 measures flat and the M8A v3 must be way off. They may well have screwed something up since the M8A v1 measures well and the relatively small measured differences can't possibly explain the big subjective differences in sound. (alternatively if it does measure flat and as well as claimed then we must be missing some very important measurement to show the big difference in sound and perceived frequency balance).
The M8A v3 sounds quite tilted up in comparison, but the extra treble and high mids are not "resolved" / fully transparent. I guess the often used "glare" describes it somewhat. It does give a tilted up "hi-fi" type of sound. But it is tiny sounding in comparison to the Anedio D2, very much including the bass which is also lacking. It does do this in a "precise sounding" way though. The mids are also very much affected by this. They don't sound anything like the big transparent see through mids of the D2.
The matching SAP-12 amp is even worse than I thought before. Its a joke compared to the built in amp of the D2. Muddy (yes it manages to make the tilted up M8A v3 sound too warm and muddy, complete opposite), grainy, big flaws in imaging etc and even a channel volume imbalance where the left channel comes on much sooner than the right when turning up the volume from min, and the difference never fully equalizes.
Are you sure you're on the right place for a subjective review like this one? :D
 
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#26
Are you sure you're on the right place for a subjective review like this one? :D
Yep. It's a subjective review. Ears are a measurement device as well you know ;) Combined with measurements it is useful info.
And let this serve as a warning that it is quite possible the M8A v3 does not measure as well as the M8A v1.
Alternatively it could be that my Anedio D2 is somehow broken, but as it clearly sounds better than the M8A v3 to me I don't think this is the case. Could also be that my particular M8A v3 has a fault but it's brand new and was well packed so this is not very likely either.
 

Krunok

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#27
Yep. It's a subjective review. Ears are a measurement device as well you know ;) Combined with measurements it is useful info.
Well, good luck with subjective reviews on a scientific forum, but in my opinion it really presents no value in this context.

Btw, ears are definitely not a measurement device. ;)
 
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#28
Well, good luck with subjective reviews on a scientific forum, but in my opinion it really presents no value in this context.

Btw, ears are definitely not a measurement device. ;)
Not saying I trust my ears fully. Certainly not the case.
But I fully trust them to show a difference like I very clearly hear between the D2 and M8A v3. Anybody with healthy ears would hear the difference I think. Really not a small difference.
And ears are measurement devices in a way. They convert vibrations in the air to neural impulses and our brain analyzes these and even stores them to some degree.
In any case, there are measurements of the D2 and none of the SMSL M8A v3 I'm aware of, only of the SMSL M8A v1 which uses a different DAC chip. If the audible difference is so large then I think it's likely that the M8A doesn't measure almost the same as the D2 as it should / is claimed..
 

Krunok

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#29
Not saying I trust my ears fully. Certainly not the case.
But I fully trust them to show a difference like I very clearly hear between the D2 and M8A v3. Anybody with healthy ears would hear the difference I think. Really not a small difference.
As far as I know you would be the first man in the world to have that capability. Assuming of course you are able to demonstrate it in a repeatable manner in a blind test.

And ears are measurement devices in a way. They convert vibrations in the air to neural impulses and our brain analyzes these and even stores them to some degree.
Microphones and various acoustic sensors also do that but when I was studying electrotechnics they were not called measurement devices. Perhaps that was changed since then..
 
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#30
As far as I know you would be the first man in the world to have that capability. Assuming of course you are able to demonstrate it in a repeatable manner in a blind test.
If this website should have taught you anything it is to not trust manufacturer claimed specs. The SMSL M8A v3 is not the same DAC as the SMSL M8A v1 which is tested in this thread and in another thread by Amirm. The M8A v3 has a different DAC chip than the M8A v1 and these DAC chips are not interchangeable without changing the surrounding electronics. So it could well be that the M8A v3 does not have a flat frequency response or there's something else which makes it sound so bright compared to the D2.
And in fact, SMSL doesn't even make any claims about the frequency response deviation. The specs read simply 0.0003% THD+N, 125dB dynamic range and 117dB S/N. I can't find any claimed number regarding frequency response deviation.
The Anedio D2 however has a claimed frequency response of -0.15dB 20Hz to 20 kHz and measurements back that claim up showing -0.15dB at 20kHz.
 

Thomas savage

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#31
There’s nothing wrong with expressing ones subjective listening impressions, they can provide a good point for objective investigation.

We do however need to respect the significance of ones subjective musings can be limited in the veiw of others. It’s no personal slight on anyone though it can feel like that I know.
 

Krunok

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#32
There’s nothing wrong with expressing ones subjective listening impressions, they can provide a good point for objective investigation.
Sure, nothing wrong about that, but here we are actually discussing his claim that he can differentiate the DACs by hearing and I believe such claims shouldn't be made unless they can be proved.
 

Thomas savage

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#33
Sure, nothing wrong about that, but here we are actually discussing his claim that he can differentiate the DACs by hearing and I believe such claims shouldn't be made unless they can be proved.
Of course, with what we know such claims will encounter great skepticism here.

To some that can feel insulting, no ones fault we all just need to understand and make room for this as it’s a common occurrence on the forum and one that can derail discussion.

My preferred solution is those who make claims back them up and if they can’t they should not expect such claims to be accepted at face value.
 

Ron Texas

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#34
I don't have any trouble disbelieving claims. But, you never know. There have been a few times around here where something probably wasn't working the way it should be, and it stood out.
 
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#35
I actually did back up my claims with links to data. Did anybody bother to follow these links? Except for the M8A v3 for which there is no measurement data available. And don't have to believe me but I can guarantee you that anybody with healthy ears will be easily able to tell the difference between it and the D2 with just about any speaker or headphone.
Who came up with the idea that differences between DACs are not audible? If anything this website has shown that there are great differences in harmonic distortion, intermodulation distortion, linearity, channel imbalances, frequency response, etc. I sure as hell don't trust the published specs of SMSL, and they don't even publish the specs for frequency response for the M8A v3.
So sure, take my listening comparison with a grain of salt, I would too. But to outright say I'm saying nonsense and proclaim to be superman because I can hear differences between DACs is by far bigger nonsense and unrealistic..
 

Krunok

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#36
Who came up with the idea that differences between DACs are not audible? .
A few researchers who more or less all agree that THD below 0,1% cannot be heard by human ear. There are lot of scientific papers on that topic on the forum, all you have to do is search.

If anything this website has shown that there are great differences in harmonic distortion, intermodulation distortion, linearity, channel imbalances, frequency response, etc. I sure as hell don't trust the published specs of SMSL, and they don't even publish the specs for frequency response for the M8A v3.
Well, difference in THD between say 0,002 & and 0,0002% is by all means great, but totally irrelevant to a human ear. Not necessarilly so if you were born on Krypton.
If you read Amirs review of SMSL M8 you will see that his results prove that it is a very good device and that the measured figres don't really differ much from factory specs.

https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-and-measurements-of-smsl-m8-dac.2457/
 
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#37
A few researchers who more or less all agree that THD below 0,1% cannot be heard by human ear. There are lot of scientific papers on that topic on the forum, all you have to do is search.



Well, difference in THD between say 0,002 & and 0,0002% is by all means great, but totally irrelevant to a human ear. Not necessarilly so if you were born on Krypton.
If you read Amirs review of SMSL M8 you will see that his results prove that it is a very good device and that the measured figres don't really differ much from factory specs.

https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-and-measurements-of-smsl-m8-dac.2457/
I never even mentioned THD+N being the reason for the difference?
Furthermore I already said that the M8A v1 (notice the v1) tested in this thread and by Amirm is NOT the same DAC as the M8A v3 which I have.
The v1 has an ES9018M2K DAC chip, the v3 has an ES9038Q2M DAC chip. These DAC chips are not interchangeable, they require a different I/V stage and I have no idea what else. So while they were both put out by the same company (SMSL) they may well measure completely different and after hearing the not so great SAP-12 headphone amp also by SMSL which is pretty much guaranteed to be a bad design with the channel imbalance I can tell you that SMSL is not beyond making errors.
Edit: btw SMSL have the SAP-12 as matching headphone amp for the M8A v3 and describe it as having been voiced for the M8A v3. The SAP-12 is tilted to the warm side, so much so that it turns the bright M8A v3 into a warm sound after the SAP-12 headphone amp. If SMSL themselves thought the sound signature of the M8A v3 was neutral wouldn't they describe it as such and put a neutral sounding headphone amp after it?
 
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Krunok

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#38
The point is you offered no objective proof you can hear the differences betweeen DACs, the reason being THD+N, frequency response or some other parameter. The point is also that audio researchers during all these years have also not been able to find any living person who can tell the difference in such small variations of these parameters.

Of course, every now and then somebody hits this forum with the claim identical as yours, but eventually nobody really proved that any person can hear such small differences. On the other hand, there is actually more than a few scientific papers who performed really legit DBX test claiming that such variations cannot be heard.

Once again, wee are not speaking here that there is no measurable difference between these DACs (as of course there is), neither we are speaking that SMSL, or any other company, is "beyond making errors" - we are hear speaking about the fact that human beings cannot hear those "errors" unless they are really obvious, but in those cases measurements look really, and here I mean REALLY, ugly.
 
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#39
The point is you offered no objective proof you can hear the differences betweeen DACs, the reason being THD+N, frequency response or some other parameter. The point is also that audio researchers during all these years have also not been able to find any living person who can tell the difference in such small variations of these parameters.

Of course, every now and then somebody hits this forum with the claim identical as yours, but eventually nobody really proved that any person can hear such small differences. On the other hand, there is actually more than a few scientific papers who performed really legit DBX test claiming that such variations cannot be heard.

Once again, wee are not speaking here that there is no measurable difference between these DACs (as of course there is), neither we are speaking that SMSL, or any other company, is "beyond making errors" - we are hear speaking about the fact that human beings cannot hear those "errors" unless they are really obvious, but in those cases measurements look really, and here I mean REALLY, ugly.
Nope I didn't offer proof. And didn't expect people to take my subjective finding at face value (clearly labeled my post as subjective). But how the hell would you know the difference is of "such small variations of certain parameters" that "audio reseachers have shows all these years no living person can tell the difference"?
A difference of one dB in volume was long seen as the general minimum that most people can tell the difference. (not withstanding that under the right circumstances smaller variations can be detected by a trained ear). I don't know what deviation in frequency response is detectable but I'm sure one dB of variation in the right part of the spectrum is detectable by a trained human ear with the right audio equipment, perhaps even less. And what is the lower detection limit for intermodulation distortion? I don't know, but it's surely a lot lower than harmonic distortion.
And you have no idea how far the M8A v3 differs from the D2 in these and other aspects. So to ridicule me for simply sharing my findings (again, clearly labeled as subjective) is something I find both uncalled for and rude.
 
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amirm

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#40
Casual subjective comments are fine. As long as they are not used in debates to convince the validity of such, it is OK to state them. So let's not get worked up over them.
 
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