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Reminder to consumers:(Probably) inferior SMSL SP200 Clone

WolfX-700

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#1
Recently I learned that a certain Chinese manufacturer has released a new headphone amplifier: F.AUDIO AM01.

The link for this product in Massdrop is: https://drop.com/buy/f-audio-am01-headphone-amp

From the information I have received so far, this is an inferior imitation of SMSL SP200

A friend of mine got a unit and disassembled it. (Unfortunately, my AP is not there, otherwise I will be eager to measure it)

In my opinion, this is the result of twisting the amplification part of SP200 by 90 degrees.:

AM01.jpg


A simple review from my friend:The workmanship of the shell is very poor, soft and can be pressed, the gap is wide.

The most important point is that he can clearly hear the noise floor when using IEM and XLR input!

AM01-2.jpg



Of course, none of this is supported by measurement data. When my 555 comes back, I will get this product for measurement as soon as possible.
 

Strompel

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#6
I have this amplifier and been listening for a few days now.
And I am wondering about the measurements of it too. I don't have any noise with it on the 3.5 connector with IEM (16 ohm). But didn't use the xlr or 4.4. As far as I understood from some people it should not make a difference in power since it is not a full balanced just like the SMSL.
I did use the balanced input for the dac.

The build could be better compared to some, but it is not terrible. If the chips are fake I can't tell (how can you tell?). I did open it to see if it looked okay. And it did look as advertised.

A friend of mine has the SMSL SP200. So I will compare them in sound later. But for the price I think it sounds very good. I compared it to a monolith liquid spark and a Aune X7s. And I did enjoy the sound of this amplifier more.

So now I am curious how it measures.

These are just my impressions of it from a users point of view based on my experience.
 
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#7
I've had the unit for about a week now and been using it off and on. I used to own the SMSL SP200. It does have the same look and general subjective sound of the SP200 but its cheaper made. I did find some of these annoyances, which I recall being on the SP200 as well:

The chassis isn't the best. It has a very industrial look to it, which amounts to an everyday aluminum project box with cutouts where needed. The top of the box feels a little flimsy, and because of that, it sags a little bit and doesnt fully cover the side panels.

The connectors also aren't the smoothest to insert and eject cables from. They take a bit of force to put them in and don't have a satisfying sound that better connectors have. This was across the board on the connector types, with the 4.4mm and 3.5mm feeling the worst.

Some of the same annoyances that were present with the SP200 seem to be the ones here too. This includes:

Too much gain on Low Gain

This is a problem with a lot of amps so not just this one. The low gain mode just has too much power for IEMs and sensitive headphones to really make full use of the volume pot. This can be remedied by reducing the source volume if that is possible (e.g. DAC, Windows 10, etc.). In my case, I set my iFi Zen DAC to variable output, and set the knob at 50%.

This becomes a problem because...

Channel Imbalance

This is an issue with many analog pentiometer volume controls. If you don't turn it past 7 o'clock or so on the dial, then usually one sound will come out of one channel. This obviously isn't a problem if you are using harder to drive headphones, but if you are using a higher sensitive set of headphones or IEMs, and the first issue affects you, this will double down on the issues.

White Noise/Hissing (Noise floor)

There is some noise in the system that is audible on highly sensitive IEMs and headphones. It was very noisy when I tried this unit with the Empire Ears Wraith which is probably the most sensitive IEM I've used outside maybe the Campfire Andromeda or a set of Shures. I didn't hear any noise with any of my headphones however, with the most sensitive and easiest to drive one being the Fostex TR-X00 headphone.

Please note that this is a bigger problem on 4.4mm and XLR output (balanced) than it is on the 3.5mm output. That said, on my most sensitive IEMs, there is a small faint amount of noise on the single-ended 3.5mm output.

All of that said, I still think if you have a "normal" headphone that doesn't have super high sensitivity like an IEM, you won't experience the issues mentioned above. Take those away, and I think it sounds pretty solid and for the most part reminds me of how I remember the SP200 sounding -- I've owned all the THX-AAA units at one point or another except the Benchmark one. I know this is a measurement science site, so I can't offer any measurements myself -- unless you want me to measure headphones/iems with it -- then I have measuring rigs. :)
 

Vasr

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#11
If people in the West are upset about some Chinese manufacturers reverse-engineering Western products and cloning them with no regard to intellectual property rights, people in the West should not patronize companies that violate IP rights of original Chinese Manufacturers regardless of price and how it measures. Just an opinion.
 
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#12
If people in the West are upset about some Chinese manufacturers reverse-engineering Western products and cloning them with no regard to intellectual property rights, people in the West should not patronize companies that violate IP rights of original Chinese Manufacturers regardless of price and how it measures. Just an opinion.
Shouldn't matter if you're in the West, East, North, or South. Reverse engineering to steal and the theft of IP are wrong no matter WHAT your nationality is, no?
 

Vasr

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#13
Shouldn't matter if you're in the West, East, North, or South. Reverse engineering to steal and the theft of IP are wrong no matter WHAT your nationality is, no?
Yes, that is the general principle of fair-trading practices. It is an agreed-upon convention/agreement which works as long as it is reciprocal.

As a special case, I am just pointing out that it doesn't help the West where criticism of IP thefts from Asia is widespread with stereotyping to encourage it when someone else (wherever they are from) is stealing IP of Asian companies (after it is known to be so) because it is cheaper or good enough for the price. This is what creates the problem of IP theft in the first place.

The reaction in the US would be far more sanguine I think if some company in Asia had ripped off Schiit products to sell back in the US. Making the same point as you for a specific case that it needs to be both ways regardless of who is ripping off whose IP.
 

Tks

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#14
Shouldn't matter if you're in the West, East, North, or South. Reverse engineering to steal and the theft of IP are wrong no matter WHAT your nationality is, no?
Clean room reverse engineering I have no qualms with as long as it's a product destined for the market (public). If you're fine with releasing products into the public, then whenever that product reaches someones hands for example, there should be no expectation that anything should or shouldn't be done with said product.

I can agree with though, the notion of stealing schematics or something of that sort, that should be illegal and prosecuted heavily. Or false labeling of brand trademarks and logos as a counterfeit, that also should be illegal.

As far as the shakey notion of IP theft, that's marred in philosophical and more importantly, legal pitfalls based on what one defines as "Intellectual Property". Hard-set laws on this matter are destined to fail and be riddled with inadequacy and constant loopholes and exceptions which begs the question of how useful the law itself may be.
 
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#15
Yes, that is the general principle of fair-trading practices. It is an agreed-upon convention/agreement which works as long as it is reciprocal.

As a special case, I am just pointing out that it doesn't help the West where criticism of IP thefts from Asia is widespread with stereotyping to encourage it when someone else (wherever they are from) is stealing IP of Asian companies (after it is known to be so) because it is cheaper or good enough for the price. This is what creates the problem of IP theft in the first place.

The reaction in the US would be far more sanguine I think if some company in Asia had ripped off Schiit products to sell back in the US. Making the same point as you for a specific case that it needs to be both ways regardless of who is ripping off whose IP.
All good points, but I'd be willing to bet that only a small percentage of the people who end up buying this particular amp will realize that it's a rip-off design, or are even aware of the SP200.
 
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#16
Clean room reverse engineering I have no qualms with as long as it's a product destined for the market (public). If you're fine with releasing products into the public, then whenever that product reaches someones hands for example, there should be no expectation that anything should or shouldn't be done with said product.

I can agree with though, the notion of stealing schematics or something of that sort, that should be illegal and prosecuted heavily. Or false labeling of brand trademarks and logos as a counterfeit, that also should be illegal.

As far as the shakey notion of IP theft, that's marred in philosophical and more importantly, legal pitfalls based on what one defines as "Intellectual Property". Hard-set laws on this matter are destined to fail and be riddled with inadequacy and constant loopholes and exceptions which begs the question of how useful the law itself may be.
I was referring more to the moral aspects of these questions, not the legal ones.
 

Vasr

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#20
Clean room reverse engineering I have no qualms with as long as it's a product destined for the market (public). If you're fine with releasing products into the public, then whenever that product reaches someones hands for example, there should be no expectation that anything should or shouldn't be done with said product.
There is a bit of a nuance there though. If you acquire the product then do whatever you want with it for your own use. This is covered by fair-use laws amongst others. But when you reverse engineer to create a competing product and sell it, then it may violate one or more of copyright law, patent law, etc., if it applies. It is the non-adherence to the latter types of prior agreements and trade laws that I am referring to as IP theft. The agreement is part of reciprocal arrangements done as being mutually beneficial among companies and nations, not a moral imperative.

If a manufacturer took no necessary precautions to protect IP by patenting, registering copyrights, trademarks, etc., as may be applicable, then they would not be able to have a recourse under those laws.

As far as consumer behavior is concerned, I was talking more about hypocrisy than a moral imperative. If one nation wants to hold another for IP theft (whatever that definition might be) that affects them adversely, they shouldn't be encouraging it when it benefits them.

Hard-set laws on this matter are destined to fail and be riddled with inadequacy and constant loopholes and exceptions which begs the question of how useful the law itself may be.
This is the Nirvana (perfection) fallacy often advanced against things one doesn't like. People who create IP and people who are encumbered by IP rights usually fall on either side of this thing.
 
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