• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

My blind AB comparison: SMSL SU-8 - SMSL SP200 - Xduoo XD-05 - Shanling M5s - iPhone 7+

Joined
Dec 10, 2019
Messages
24
Likes
54
#1
Hi everyone!

I will try to make this post short: Based on everything I have learned here, I will do my blind test with all the equipment I have. And I wanted to share it here.

Purpose: I want to confirm that every good dac is transparent and every good amp is just needed if a headphone needs more power. It is stated here almost every day but I want to convince myself with my own ears. Stop all the BS from other forums, subjetive reviewers, fancy words, etc etc.
I also was in the way of "want to upgrade to the next". But thanks god I found this forum.

Equipment to test:

- Burson Soloist SL
- SMSL SP200
- SMSL SU-8 v2
- Xduoo xd-05
- Shanling M5s
- cayin N3
- iPhone 7 plus

headphones for testing:

- Beyer Amiron Home
- Senn HD-650

Procedure:

I found this miracle:



Initially, I was watching the MC-102, but the problem of that unit is that it has a button than gets in 2 different states, so I can know which one I am listening. The pro version in the image is far more interesting, as the main unit has buttons without memory and so I can switch back and forth without knowing which one I am listening, I only can know if I see some leds (I dont use the colorful control unit, it is not necessary).


I will connect 2 devices and listen to my music, pressing the button several times so I can blindly change the source, and then want to find out if I am able to find differences. I will use my favorite music (no special testing tracks) as I consider this is what I do care to listen. the music is on ALAC 44.1/16 ripped from my own cd collection.

Every comparison will last close to 1 hour, or until I find a clear difference. I will be updating the thread with the results.

I know the volume is important and I will be matching it with my own ears. I have kind of a capable ears so I trust I will be doing quite right. I know I should be using a multimeter for this, but I dont want it to be extremely complicated (someone can teach me how to measure volts from 3.5mm connector, because I actually have a multimeter at home).

I will do one comparison per day, So I can be more effective.



TEST 1: SMSL SU-8 + SMSL SP200 vs SMSL SU-8 + Burson Soloist SL ( amp comparison)

SP200 is the super THX and is on the better measured units here, should be "clinical". the Soloist SL is class A amp so should be "warm"....

result: NO DIFFERENCE

after almost 1,5 hours trying to listen different songs.... I was not able to find any difference between them, with both Amiron and HD-650, both sounds great...... AMAZING



TEST 2: SMSL SU-8 + SMSL SP200 vs iPhone 7 plus with apple dongle

due to my first result, this time I wanted to listen a difference!! so I tried the more extreme test. My very best option agains my worst. SU-8 and SP-200 are state of the art devices and the iphone does not even have a headphone output, so I used the normal dongle.

result: NO DIFFERENCE!!!!!

Now...I am in chock... I was 2 hours trying to find something, passed through all my different music, tested low and high volumes.... listen carefully some changes in the bass, voices.... whatever!! but I could not find anything....... both options sounded exactly the same for me. I am 33 years old and I am kind of an amateur musician so my ears should be better trained than a "normal" person like my mother for example. Still I was not able to find a difference.
Before this test I did a comparison by memory and of course the SMSL stack sounded a lot better..... now I understand my brain play obscure games with me.

I still have more tests to do, I will update the thread. I know understand the matrix effect. Thanks and sorry for grammar mistakes, english is not my first language.

update:

TEST 3: SMSL SU-8 + SMSL SP200 vs Shanling M5s

result: NO DIFFERENCE

TEST 4: SMSL SU-8 + SMSL SP200 vs Xduoo XD-05

result: NO DIFFERENCE

update 2

TEST 5: Shanling M5s vs Xduoo XD-05

result: NO DIFFERENCE.... small ultra minimum difference in favor of Xduoo, may be, at hight volume

as always I listened close to 1 hour and found no difference. then, after this, for the first time in all this tests I put the volume very high, no way I could normally listen to music in this way as I would damage my hearing... and it is uncomfortable. But at this high level (I remembered the subjective tests Amir always do, and he always mentioned to test at "earing danger levels") I was able to tell a small, very small and subtle difference being the Xduoo a little better.

This was, again, very subtle and very minimal, no way I could tell both apart in a abx test. It is needed an instant switch to tell it, and also could be just a mistake of level matching.

Due to this extremely minimal difference at higher volume, I could repeat every test in this mode but:

- I will not, I want to take care of my ears
- even if I find new differences, they are so minimal than the tests are not worth.

and this difference... if it exists and not a level mistake, it is related to precision, clarity, or in other words I found that Shanling was little bit distorted compared to Xduoo. I mean, no way at all this difference has something to do with soundstage, air, space, imaging, presentation, clinical, brighter, warm bla bla bla bla bla bla
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jun 9, 2019
Messages
21
Likes
10
Location
Portugal
#2
very interesting test and kudos for sharing it!
I have found "credible" sources like stereophile and ken rockwell saying very good things about apple products' sound. They're also bat powered which eliminates many unwanted elements. So, I am not that surprised by your results.
It's a pity that tmk @amirm hasn't yet reviewed any iphones (especially since he has the 6)
I do wonder if the switch couldn't be a tad of a bottleneck here somewhere? What brand/model is it?
Both of your HPs should be enough for everything (though not that familiar with Amiron's signature, detail, etc)
What is, your first language? ;)
(btw. English, or any language for that matter doesn't belong to any individual person, and your few and apart mistakes are no where close to being an obstacle to your communication. In other words, absolutely no need to say sry :) or maybe you're Canadian!
 
OP
V
Joined
Dec 10, 2019
Messages
24
Likes
54
Thread Starter #3
I do wonder if the switch couldn't be a tad of a bottleneck here somewhere? What brand/model is it?
The model is the one I put a picture in the post, it is a new version of the Nobsound-little bear MC102 pro:

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000575101171.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.56044c4doODrev

I was wondering if it could be good enough before doing my tests, but then Amir just reviewed another swith from the same company and found it perfectly capable.

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...und-3-in-1-out-xlr-audio-switch-review.11062/

So I guess it is a good one as well.
What is, your first language? ;)
I am a spanish speaker! we spanish speakers are well known for our low power and low capability to speak another languages!! :D

thanks for your nice comment, I did an update with Shanling M5s vs Xduoo XD-05
 
Joined
Jun 9, 2019
Messages
21
Likes
10
Location
Portugal
#4
well, it seems the results speak for themselves!
And if Amir gave the nod who am I to guess differently.
How long have you had the HPs and the smsl SP200? I'd love to get the drop one, really like the clean and spacious layout, though not so keen on losing 50% of power with non-balanced cans :( So in the end, I think I'll have to "settle" for the smsl one, which is hardly if at all inferior.
un saludo
 
OP
V
Joined
Dec 10, 2019
Messages
24
Likes
54
Thread Starter #5
How long have you had the HPs and the smsl SP200? I'd love to get the drop one, really like the clean and spacious layout, though not so keen on losing 50% of power with non-balanced cans :( So in the end, I think I'll have to "settle" for the smsl one, which is hardly if at all inferior.
I think I dont understand your question or the problem you have, can you explain me again please so I can answer you?
 

Albinoid

New Member
Joined
Feb 4, 2020
Messages
1
Likes
0
#6
I am curious, were you able to distinguish a sound signature difference between the headphones? This is however harder to test since it isn’t blind anymore…
 

solderdude

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
4,924
Likes
9,003
Location
The Neverlands
#7
I think I dont understand your question or the problem you have, can you explain me again please so I can answer you?
How long have you had the HPs and the smsl SP200? (as in how long, as in months, years) did you own the SP200 and the Beyer & HD650.

Then he mentions:
I'd love to get the drop one, really like the clean and spacious layout, though not so keen on losing 50% of power with non-balanced cans :(
I think he means he would love to have an amp from MassDrop and assume he means the THX 789 as he really like the clean and spacious layout.

What he doesn't like is the lower output in SE mode versus balanced mode. (is not 50% less power though) but aside from 1 or 2 amplifiers with XLR and TRS outputs all of them have less output power on TRS outputs.

So in the end, I think I'll have to "settle" for the smsl one, which is hardly if at all inferior.
He is probably going to settle for the SP200, most likely because of availability or price and thinks (as do I) that the SP200 is not worse than the THX789.

He offers you his greetings.
 

ninetylol

Active Member
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
104
Likes
88
#9
I just made the "jump" from an 600€ source setup to the apple dongle for 10 bucks. Cant complain at the moment :cool:

Gotta say, that some headphones really may need an more powerful amp, but for my purposes the apple dongle does fantastic.
 
OP
V
Joined
Dec 10, 2019
Messages
24
Likes
54
Thread Starter #10
I am curious, were you able to distinguish a sound signature difference between the headphones? This is however harder to test since it isn’t blind anymore…
Yes, I think this is quite evident. one can argue that as it can't be blind then it is not valid. But I think the difference is easily detectable. Plus the frequency response of every headphone is measurable.

I prefer the Amiron over HD650, I think it just sound better. I love the Amiron, but I have to say I haven't heard another "first level" headphones, like to Focal ones or Dan Clarke or whatever. It is impossible to audition them in my country. You Euro and Usa guys are so lucky
 
OP
V
Joined
Dec 10, 2019
Messages
24
Likes
54
Thread Starter #11
hahaha thanks @solderdude


How long have you had the HPs and the smsl SP200? (as in how long, as in months, years) did you own the SP200 and the Beyer & HD650.
I have the Amiron from 2017, this is my first "pro" headphone and it was the one who got me into this world. I bought the SP200 2 months ago. I mainly bought it because I wanted to try myself a thx amp, as they had good results here in ASR. the SP200 is the easiest and cheapest to get from my country.
I bought the HD650 just 1 month ago. Mainly because I wanted to try it because is a very popular one. and it appeared on sale here by $250 with the bundle hd650 + apogee groove (and Im selling the Apogee). Now I have to headphones to try and enjoy, but I must to say I prefer the Amiron.

I think he means he would love to have an amp from MassDrop and assume he means the THX 789 as he really like the clean and spacious layout.

What he doesn't like is the lower output in SE mode versus balanced mode. (is not 50% less power though) but aside from 1 or 2 amplifiers with XLR and TRS outputs all of them have less output power on TRS outputs.
I have just used the SP200 in the SE output and the power is just too much... I have seen some reports of a heavy channel imbalance in the low level part of the volume pot (I haven't experienced this myself), so, in order to avoid this (mostly thinking in my peace of soul) I put the pot at 50% (12 pm) (low gain).... and this is just excessive for both Amiron and HD650. No way I can listen at this volume, so I have to low the volume from the dac.

He is probably going to settle for the SP200, most likely because of availability or price and thinks (as do I) that the SP200 is not worse than the THX789.
Based on the measures here, and my conclusions of the tests I did, you should not worry about difference in sound quality. Only important matter here are the features and the looks.

This is what I can say from SP200:

good things:
- solid aluminium structure, looks nice
- I thought the "non-rectangular" shape would bother me, but not, its ok
- It has AC power supply. This is great as most things as this price include the external transformer
- both inputs, rca and xlr

bad things (for me):
- volume pot!! it is plastic and it has a cheap feel to it. Don't like it and feel fragile as well. it has nothing to do with the rest of the device. I think you can change it, but anyway the included one is just bad.
- strong led. Even if the led is small, is quite brilliant and it bothers me a little bit cause I listen music in the night, so it kind of iluminate a part of my room haha
- too much power: As I already said, it is too much powerful for my headphones.
 
OP
V
Joined
Dec 10, 2019
Messages
24
Likes
54
Thread Starter #12
I just made the "jump" from an 600€ source setup to the apple dongle for 10 bucks. Cant complain at the moment :cool:

Gotta say, that some headphones really may need an more powerful amp, but for my purposes the apple dongle does fantastic.
nice

Yea, I think after all it is a matter of usability and whats better for your needs. For example I will not use the iPhone with dongle for my normal listening, only because I dont like the big steps in the iphone volume changes. I like the circular pots, the ones who has a nice feel to it. Also i would like an external device in order to not use the iphone battery. These reasons has nothing to do with the quality of sound.
 

ninetylol

Active Member
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
104
Likes
88
#13
nice

Yea, I think after all it is a matter of usability and whats better for your needs. For example I will not use the iPhone with dongle for my normal listening, only because I dont like the big steps in the iphone volume changes. I like the circular pots, the ones who has a nice feel to it. Also i would like an external device in order to not use the iphone battery. These reasons has nothing to do with the quality of sound.
Yeah I actually use the apple dongle connected to my windows pc, so none of those disadvantages apply for me. And since the AKG K361 are so easy to drive, the dongle does very fine with it. I actually can't hear a difference to my 600euro setup. And since Amir measured the apple dongle and it does fine there I surely have a good peace of mind and the full setup didn't even cost 100 bucks. I hope I stay strong with this :)
 
Joined
Jun 9, 2019
Messages
21
Likes
10
Location
Portugal
#15
How long have you had the HPs and the smsl SP200? (as in how long, as in months, years) did you own the SP200 and the Beyer & HD650.

Then he mentions:


I think he means he would love to have an amp from MassDrop and assume he means the THX 789 as he really like the clean and spacious layout.

What he doesn't like is the lower output in SE mode versus balanced mode. (is not 50% less power though) but aside from 1 or 2 amplifiers with XLR and TRS outputs all of them have less output power on TRS outputs.



He is probably going to settle for the SP200, most likely because of availability or price and thinks (as do I) that the SP200 is not worse than the THX789.



He offers you his greetings.
hahahahaha been lmfaoing for the past 20 minutes. Had never seen such a break down of any writing of mine.
Love the "MassDrop" what are they going to change it to next, MicDrop?
Yes, the THX 789 AAA MassDrop being a little larger allows for more room for plugs, switches and knob. And I prefer the finishing.
however, on the figures of the beast, let me just c/p what is stated on MassDrop's site:

Balanced Output
  • Output power: 6000 mW, 16 ohms, <1% THD (watts per channel)
  • Output power: 400 mW, 600 ohms, <1% THD (watts per channel)
Single-Ended Output
  • Output power: 3000 mW, 16 ohms, <1% THD (watts per channel)
  • Output power: 100 mW, 600 ohms, <1% THD (watts per channel)
so, when you say "(is not 50% less power though)", you're right, it's more than 50% less :p hehe
I have felt some concern regarding pot volume discrepancies on smsl's thx, so I am going to continue lurking behind the 1-click purchase curtain for now.

Goedenavond
 
Joined
Jun 9, 2019
Messages
21
Likes
10
Location
Portugal
#16
I think I dont understand your question or the problem you have, can you explain me again please so I can answer you?
Hi again, sorry for not having been clearer! I meant to ask how much time have you had your current headphones, the Amiron and the 650 in combination with the new smsl amp?
And since I am here, how much are you enjoying the SMSL SU-8 v2? Clean? transparent? Noise?
 

solderdude

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
4,924
Likes
9,003
Location
The Neverlands
#17
Now people will wonder what goedenavond means... it means good evening.... in Dutch.

And yes, the power increase between balanced and single-ended is impedance dependent because of current limiting in the amp in question.
If it didn't have current limiting the output voltage would be double in balanced mode and the output power 4x higher.
 
OP
V
Joined
Dec 10, 2019
Messages
24
Likes
54
Thread Starter #19
Hi again, sorry for not having been clearer! I meant to ask how much time have you had your current headphones, the Amiron and the 650 in combination with the new smsl amp?
And since I am here, how much are you enjoying the SMSL SU-8 v2? Clean? transparent? Noise?
I already answered the first question in a previous post.

and about SMSL SU-8 V2: as my tests confirmed to me.... same transparency as every other good dac.

good things about SU-8:
- nice solid aluminum body, is a beauty device
- nice remote control. It works wherever I point (not only straight to the device)
- It has AC power supply. This is great as most things as this price include the external transformer
- both outputs, rca and xlr
- it has display
- can change volume so it can work as preamp

bad things about SU-8:
- the display is way too small. cant see it when using the remote
- cant change parameters without the remote control.I mean, if you use from your desktop, you need the remote control to change the volume or the input.
 

raistlin65

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2019
Messages
494
Likes
652
Location
Grand Rapids, MI
#20
Initially, I was watching the MC-102, but the problem of that unit is that it has a button than gets in 2 different states, so I can know which one I am listening. The pro version in the image is far more interesting, as the main unit has buttons without memory and so I can switch back and forth without knowing which one I am listening, I only can know if I see some leds (I dont use the colorful control unit, it is not necessary).
What is that model of the audio switcher that you did get? I'm tempted to get one myself and try it :)
 
Top Bottom