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Review and Measurements of SMSL SP200 THX HP Amp

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It's really a pity that every THX amp does not come with a preamp section... if you need a pre, you still have to go on the Atom, which however is an incredible amp.
Anyone knows if it's a limitation of the THX circuitry not being able to have a pre out? Even the THX 887 lacks one, otherwise it would be the perfect endgame headphone amp.
Wait didn't the OP of this thread post that you can use the front panel, XLR connector as sort of a pass-through (pre-amp)? I hope that is true because this is one of the reason why I bought this after cancelling. Can you not use an adapter to use the XLR output in the front panel to hook up to an external power amp?

Also, if I misunderstood that, is there any other solution at all to connect the DAC to the SMSL SP200 and then to an external amp as well?

So far I have D30 connected to the K5 (which I am replacing with the SMSL SP200) which then has an output to a FOSI amp that drives my external speakers.

thanks!
 
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Now I'm going to talk about something most people here don't know about.
Are you using the rca input? If so that's the issue. With smps, the low frequency mains noise from mains leakage is unavoidable. They grounded the output ground to the earth to reduce the issue. However, first, there are still residue which is quite high in my standard. Second, the earth can be noisy and can make your sound goes shit.
What you can try: use two terminal plug iec cable to bypass the earth and see what happens. Then if possible use xlr input and see does that fix the issue.
Very interesting! (thx) - But I am using XLR inputs, balanced, and with a hospital-grade electrical / grounding scheme. (This is a professional recording studio.)

If NOT, then I'm positive that the things you are describing is from your head, you won't be hearing the difference in a controlled test. .
And you would be wrong.

This isn't my first rodeo. You don't know who I am, but just believe me I know what I'm doing. Over the years, I've conducted double-blind A-B tests, in NYC, for several major manufacturers of various gear, including ADC, outboard gear, speakers, tubes, etc. We used to invite all the "golden ears" in the pro audio community. I was literally the guy in charge. I also beta-test for several major software & hardware companies.

Really.
-------------------------------------------

- But I'm not an electronics expert (at all) which is why I post here, looking for help.

Well, aty this point I suspect that I must have a faulty unit.

Of course, I'd STILL like to lower the input gain if possible, but no one has addressed that issue. - though I guess I can just make some L pads, if headroom is not a problem on well-functioning units.
 
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Hey Guys,

I'm new in the forum and this is my first post. I've had sennheiser hd650 and fiio e9 headphone amp for 8 years, and after reading a lot and checking the new tech from 2019, I decided to pull the trigger to hopefully have a new AMP (and a topping d50s that should arrive next month from drop), for another 10 years.

My setup is pretty simple, I never had a DAC before, so the sound comes directly from my monitor, or my sound card P2 output.
Usually goes from monitor P2 headphone output to FIIO RCA in. (I use a p2 to RCA stereo standard cable). And the HD650 connected to the FIIO. My monitor gets the sound from PC via the displayport cable.
It always worked like that, and I never had any issues before.

So, my boss came back from the US today and brought the SP200 I bought from amazon. And this is where the nightmare story begins:

I never expected to have any issues, so what I did as soon as I got home, was simply plug in the sp200, and move the RCA cables from the Fiio to the sp200. As soon as I turned it on, I could hear a lot of noises/static.
That bothered me a lot, and the first thing I thought, is that it could be the HD650 cable. I had a spare one, replaced it, and the noise/static was the same. Just to make sure, I got the RCA cables back to the Fiio, and it was clear of static.
The next thing I thought, was the P2 > RCA cable, so I ran to the closest store, got a new cable, plugged it in, same thing, static/noise.
I was getting really frustrated with that.
So, next step, would be to try to eliminate the noise from the monitor, so I plugged the P2 directly in my sound card output > sp200. Still a lot of noise/static. Tried the new cable, still static.
Now, It was time to try something different. I brought the SP200, and instead, connected it to the p2 of my wife's iMac and hd650 still connected to the sp200. Now, surprisingly, the noise was pretty much gone. When I had high gain setting, I could hear some kind of low tone, so I started thinking my unit was defective or there was some noise coming from the AC/PSU/Power outlet it was connected to?
Then, I wsa pretty much hopeless, and connected it to my macbook pro. WOW, no noise, perfect sound, as clean as the angels singing.
This made me really puzzled, 3 different inputs, one perfect, one with horrible noise, the other one with a low tone, WTH?

After seeing that apparently the unit was good, I decided to try it again in my PC, still connected to both monitor and directly sound card, both with a different power cable (the one who came with the unit, just in case), the noise was still there.
So, my monitor has multiple inputs and is also connnected to a nintendo switch, so I tried it. Still noise. I decided to try one last thing. I shutdown my pc, with the sp200 connected to the monitor to output the sound of the nintendo switch.
The static is GONE.
Now, I'm really thinking either my PC is the issue generating noise out of nowhere, or my unit could be somewhat defective, not sure yet.
Last thing I have to try, is to connect it directly to my pc, and unplug everything from my PC, so maybe something connected to it could be could be generating the noise.

Until my d50s arrives (at least another month), I'm stuck with this setup. I'm hoping that with the d50s connected to the PC through USB, and with the premium RCA to RCA cable to connect the d50s to the sp200 the noise will be gone.
So, my question, is: does anybody have any idea what could be causing this noise/static in my PC so I can try to fix it before the d50s arrive?
Second question: could my sp200 be defective? It's really odd it's outputtinng so much noise while my FiiO e9 has no noise at all. Could it be that more sensitive to noise?
I really thought that my unit was defective, but after hearing it clean and flawless from my macbook pro I don't think my sp200 is defective anymore.

Well, looks like this was a much longer post than I intended.
Cheers!
 

JohnYang1997

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Hey Guys,

I'm new in the forum and this is my first post. I've had sennheiser hd650 and fiio e9 headphone amp for 8 years, and after reading a lot and checking the new tech from 2019, I decided to pull the trigger to hopefully have a new AMP (and a topping d50s that should arrive next month from drop), for another 10 years.

My setup is pretty simple, I never had a DAC before, so the sound comes directly from my monitor, or my sound card P2 output.
Usually goes from monitor P2 headphone output to FIIO RCA in. (I use a p2 to RCA stereo standard cable). And the HD650 connected to the FIIO. My monitor gets the sound from PC via the displayport cable.
It always worked like that, and I never had any issues before.

So, my boss came back from the US today and brought the SP200 I bought from amazon. And this is where the nightmare story begins:

I never expected to have any issues, so what I did as soon as I got home, was simply plug in the sp200, and move the RCA cables from the Fiio to the sp200. As soon as I turned it on, I could hear a lot of noises/static.
That bothered me a lot, and the first thing I thought, is that it could be the HD650 cable. I had a spare one, replaced it, and the noise/static was the same. Just to make sure, I got the RCA cables back to the Fiio, and it was clear of static.
The next thing I thought, was the P2 > RCA cable, so I ran to the closest store, got a new cable, plugged it in, same thing, static/noise.
I was getting really frustrated with that.
So, next step, would be to try to eliminate the noise from the monitor, so I plugged the P2 directly in my sound card output > sp200. Still a lot of noise/static. Tried the new cable, still static.
Now, It was time to try something different. I brought the SP200, and instead, connected it to the p2 of my wife's iMac and hd650 still connected to the sp200. Now, surprisingly, the noise was pretty much gone. When I had high gain setting, I could hear some kind of low tone, so I started thinking my unit was defective or there was some noise coming from the AC/PSU/Power outlet it was connected to?
Then, I wsa pretty much hopeless, and connected it to my macbook pro. WOW, no noise, perfect sound, as clean as the angels singing.
This made me really puzzled, 3 different inputs, one perfect, one with horrible noise, the other one with a low tone, WTH?

After seeing that apparently the unit was good, I decided to try it again in my PC, still connected to both monitor and directly sound card, both with a different power cable (the one who came with the unit, just in case), the noise was still there.
So, my monitor has multiple inputs and is also connnected to a nintendo switch, so I tried it. Still noise. I decided to try one last thing. I shutdown my pc, with the sp200 connected to the monitor to output the sound of the nintendo switch.
The static is GONE.
Now, I'm really thinking either my PC is the issue generating noise out of nowhere, or my unit could be somewhat defective, not sure yet.
Last thing I have to try, is to connect it directly to my pc, and unplug everything from my PC, so maybe something connected to it could be could be generating the noise.

Until my d50s arrives (at least another month), I'm stuck with this setup. I'm hoping that with the d50s connected to the PC through USB, and with the premium RCA to RCA cable to connect the d50s to the sp200 the noise will be gone.
So, my question, is: does anybody have any idea what could be causing this noise/static in my PC so I can try to fix it before the d50s arrive?
Second question: could my sp200 be defective? It's really odd it's outputtinng so much noise while my FiiO e9 has no noise at all. Could it be that more sensitive to noise?
I really thought that my unit was defective, but after hearing it clean and flawless from my macbook pro I don't think my sp200 is defective anymore.

Well, looks like this was a much longer post than I intended.
Cheers!
It's the nature of single end and the smps. Single end has no immunity to interference or ground loops. Smps has large mains leakage that it will need a very low impedance path to earth at the secondary.
If everything else is not earthed then there will not be ground loop issue. Likely this is why mac book doesn't have noise
 
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It's the nature of single end and the smps. Single end has no immunity to interference or ground loops. Smps has large mains leakage that it will need a very low impedance path to earth at the secondary.
If everything else is not earthed then there will not be ground loop issue. Likely this is why mac book doesn't have noise
Ouch, that looks more complicated than I initially thought. If that's the case, will the d50s connected to my PC through USB fix the noise issue?
In the meantime, is there anything I can do to kill this noise? My pc, monitors and the SMSL are all connected to an old UPS. I thought the UPS was supposed to also try to clean the signal.
Maybe a power stabilizer could help?
 

JohnYang1997

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Ouch, that looks more complicated than I initially thought. If that's the case, will the d50s connected to my PC through USB fix the noise issue?
In the meantime, is there anything I can do to kill this noise? My pc, monitors and the SMSL are all connected to an old UPS. I thought the UPS was supposed to also try to clean the signal.
Maybe a power stabilizer could help?
Directly connected everything to your wall outlet if possible. If not plug only the dac and the amp to a power strip and directly to the wall outlet. And use toslink for your dac input.
 
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Directly connected everything to your wall outlet if possible. If not plug only the dac and the amp to a power strip and directly to the wall outlet. And use toslink for your dac input.
Unfortunately I don't have the option of plugging everything into different wall sockets :(, also that would mean I'd lose my UPS.
Currently I have this connected to this UPS: 2 monitors, desktop, fiio e9, sp200, nintendo switch charger.
I tried changing the SP200 to another wall socket but the noise was still there. Looks like i'll be using my fiio for another month until my dac arrives and I'll do it like you suggested and plug both of them to another power outlet. I know that the d50s comes by default with a power cable to usb, so if I connect that to my computer it could be guaranteed noise. Guess I'll be buying a separate PSU for the d50s in the end.
Never thought I'd use my PC's onboard card to output toslink to the DAC, but i'll do it like you said, sounds like the easier path.
I'm glad in the end that my unit isn't defective, but it's really frustrating for this to be expected from the design. What if somebody who doesn't own a DAC and wants to use it on his PC buys it again?
Too bad I don't have my old sound card to test it.

If you know any other PC user that had this amp, without a DAC that was able to make the noise away please let me know. I'll try to look for other options in the meantime. I even thought some crazy things like a P2 > XLR cable, but I have no idea where I'd find a cable like that.

If there was an UPS/Surge Protector with some kind of noise protection I also would easily buy one to help with this.
 

JohnYang1997

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Unfortunately I don't have the option of plugging everything into different wall sockets :(, also that would mean I'd lose my UPS.
Currently I have this connected to this UPS: 2 monitors, desktop, fiio e9, sp200, nintendo switch charger.
I tried changing the SP200 to another wall socket but the noise was still there. Looks like i'll be using my fiio for another month until my dac arrives and I'll do it like you suggested and plug both of them to another power outlet. I know that the d50s comes by default with a power cable to usb, so if I connect that to my computer it could be guaranteed noise. Guess I'll be buying a separate PSU for the d50s in the end.
Never thought I'd use my PC's onboard card to output toslink to the DAC, but i'll do it like you said, sounds like the easier path.
I'm glad in the end that my unit isn't defective, but it's really frustrating for this to be expected from the design. What if somebody who doesn't own a DAC and wants to use it on his PC buys it again?
Too bad I don't have my old sound card to test it.

If you know any other PC user that had this amp, without a DAC that was able to make the noise away please let me know. I'll try to look for other options in the meantime. I even thought some crazy things like a P2 > XLR cable, but I have no idea where I'd find a cable like that.

If there was an UPS/Surge Protector with some kind of noise protection I also would easily buy one to help with this.
Well this is a common issue regarding interfacing ground referenced devices. It's most likely the USB ground being polluted and thus the whole ground is polluted. There can be other causes as being said previously.

Do you have multiple devices connected to your other computers? I have experienced two usb audio devices causing audible noise. This is a serious issue and conflict between functional design in the usb power supply and high performance audio. If you have the issue fixed by using toslink, then it will be clear that the cause is the polluted usb supply/ground.

One last point is that the high gain setting on sp200 is humongous. You are most likely to hear some sort of noise in that setting. If you don't hear the noise in low gain setting (which is +6dB and is generally the high gain setting on other amps), then it's fine. As long as the noise is low enough that you can enjoy music it's good.
 
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Well this is a common issue regarding interfacing ground referenced devices. It's most likely the USB ground being polluted and thus the whole ground is polluted. There can be other causes as being said previously.

Do you have multiple devices connected to your other computers? I have experienced two usb audio devices causing audible noise. This is a serious issue and conflict between functional design in the usb power supply and high performance audio. If you have the issue fixed by using toslink, then it will be clear that the cause is the polluted usb supply/ground.

One last point is that the high gain setting on sp200 is humongous. You are most likely to hear some sort of noise in that setting. If you don't hear the noise in low gain setting (which is +6dB and is generally the high gain setting on other amps), then it's fine. As long as the noise is low enough that you can enjoy music it's good.
So, in the other computer where I could still hear a low tone I did have other usb devices connected, but never really tried to disconnect anything.
In the macbook, I had nothing connected, not even the charger. Just the p2 to AMP and it was perfect.
I tried disconnecting all of my USB devices from my primary PC, one at a time to see if the noise would go away, but it never did. I unplugged them all until nothing was left.
I just remember I have a very old astro mixamp I used to use before my current amp. It has toslink, so i'll try tonight once I get home to connect it to my PC's onboard toslink > mixamp toslink > amp
This mixamp is usb powered, so I'll use a powered USB hub in another wall socket just in case.
 
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I had a similar problem and I was surprised by the fix.

I ran my SP200 from the sound card while awaiting my DAC and unsurprisingly there was a lot of noise starting at about 11 o'clock on low gain and 9 o'clock on high gain. It only marginally changed with higher impedance headphones. After putting a Topping D90 in the chain with USB out it improved. No perceivable noise on low gain with higher impedance headphones but still significant on high gain or with low impedance headphones. I changed to SP200 and D90 to a separate power board with a noise filter and no perceivable noise at max on high gain. I only changed to a separate power board for easier access so I was very surprised that this completely fixed the issue.

Might be useful for others.
 

JohnYang1997

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I had a similar problem and I was surprised by the fix.

I ran my SP200 from the sound card while awaiting my DAC and unsurprisingly there was a lot of noise starting at about 11 o'clock on low gain and 9 o'clock on high gain. It only marginally changed with higher impedance headphones. After putting a Topping D90 in the chain with USB out it improved. No perceivable noise on low gain with higher impedance headphones but still significant on high gain or with low impedance headphones. I changed to SP200 and D90 to a separate power board with a noise filter and no perceivable noise at max on high gain. I only changed to a separate power board for easier access so I was very surprised that this completely fixed the issue.

Might be useful for others.
Thanks for sharing.
Now it seems the earth was polluted as the SP200's output ground is earthed.
 
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I bought SMSL SP200 for use with SMSL M500.
HP out of M500 disappoints... (a little bit) And it needs good burning (all unit). Because the sound is very airy, as if the sounds lack physicality (M500 from the box). I had a similar problem when burning iBasso DX200. All need burning!!!
In my version of SP200 (I connected it by RCA cable to M500) there was no noise (hiss) and being unbalanced only on 0-3 volume.
I can hear hiss only with Shure SE846 on Hi gain (RME ADI-2 pro also has hiss on Hi power with SE848).
I'm glad I bought this device. So much energy in this little box and everything is directed only to amplify the sound in its pure form as it is at the output of the dac!
 

Veri

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I bought SMSL SP200 for use with SMSL M500.
HP out of M500 disappoints... (a little bit) And it needs good burning (all unit). Because the sound is very airy, as if the sounds lack physicality (M500 from the box). I had a similar problem when burning iBasso DX200. All need burning!!!
In my version of SP200 (I connected it by RCA cable to M500) there was no noise (hiss) and being unbalanced only on 0-3 volume.
I can hear hiss only with Shure SE846 on Hi gain (RME ADI-2 pro also has hiss on Hi power with SE848).
I'm glad I bought this device. So much energy in this little box and everything is directed only to amplify the sound in its pure form as it is at the output of the dac!
Good to hear, hiss in only high gain is acceptable. Glad you like it :D!
 

Etrix

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@amirm I will get myself this amp for sure and power my 1990 Pro‘s with it (instead of using my Magni 3), but now I‘m concerned whether I should upgrade my Modi 3 aswell (for example to an SMSL SU-8, I‘m open for recommendations).
Can I expect noticable differences in sound quality from switching out the DAC or is the new amp enough of an upgrade?
 
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Hello
Is there an audible difference between 1/4 and XLR out?
And which headphones make the most of this difference?
 
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It's been two days since I bought the smsl sp200 amp for my akg k712 + sennheiser gsp500 and I paired it with my ifi zen dac by the rca output. My problem is that during my listening to the test I noticed that the treble and bass are more detailed on the zen dac headphone output compared to the sp200, at the same time the output of sp200 is cleaner with good separation of the instruments and more power.
-1) is it normal that the ifi zen is more detailed on the treble and bass than the sp200?
-2) is zen dac not the ideal solution to power the sp200?
-3) does the smsl sp200 amp require a burn-in ?
-4) do I have to change the Zen dac with a better dac like topping d50s to take advantage of the performance of the sp200 amp?
 

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