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S.M.S.L. SD-9 Set-Up and Basic Review

Shoaibexpert

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Why would you buy this when you have things like Bluesound Node 2021 and the much better sounding IFI Zen Stream on the market...given SMSL track record...
 

Reynaldo

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Mar 17, 2021
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I received SMSL SD-9 and almost everything worked fine.
The only problem was with the I2S with Gustard X16 that in DSD the channels are inverted.
Has anyone found a solution?
 

Victor BR

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Aug 16, 2021
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Wow factor is high with this SD9 connected via USB to D90SE from the start. Jawdroping! Lots of details, huge and holographic soundstage. Without any burn in used with a dedicated pre/power/speakers is amazing.
 

Frank Sol

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Wow factor is high with this SD9 connected via USB to D90SE from the start. Jawdroping! Lots of details, huge and holographic soundstage. Without any burn in used with a dedicated pre/power/speakers is amazing.

Thank you... I'm undecided on this one or the ifi Zen Stream
 
OP
0ldSchool

0ldSchool

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Thank you for this detailed description of your connection process, which helped me to connect exactly the same units as yourself. However, even though I'm getting excellent quality from Tidal's MQA files they're being received at the DAC as HiFi quality only, not MQA. There is no indication on the SD9 or X16 that quality is any higher than 44.1 kHz. Also, in the SD9 manual on the final page is this comment, copied & pasted here: "Only the USB interface of SD-9 supports MQA decoding, other interfaces do not!"
Can you please clarify how you've achieved MQA output, or if there's anything I've missed here? As far as I can tell I'll need a direct usb connection from my iPhone to the SD9 to achieve MQA playback.
Thanks again for your help above, without which I would not have made any connection at all!
Michael (Fluty)
I had total hip replacement the last week of July. I have not been on this forum since about a week before that surgery. I am finally (I think - will find out in next couple of days) able to get down on hands and knees to look and take pictures of the X-16 and SD-9. Both units are sitting on the floor, because initially I thought I would send the SD-9 back because the mconnect software is so terrible. BUT, I couldn't give up the MQA sound just to spend 3X-12X more on a simple streamer. So - long-winded way to say SORRY, I did not respond to your questions yet.

I will say that I do not believe Airplay (or Airplay2) is capable of greater than 44.1 playback. After two months, I almost need to relearn everything I knew about MQA - and will attempt to answer in depth by the 28th of Sept.

One note - I feed the SD-9 directly via Ethernet directly from my router and then pass the TIDAL signal to the X-16 via the I2S LVDS level output (HDMI port, but not HDMI signal) to the I2S input on the X-16. Since I was interested in only the professional (at least studio and backstage in several places) I2S, I never selected nor tried UBS, coax, Airplay, etc. interfaces. Having used TIDAL Airplay2 from iPhone to RX-A3080 Yamaha for at least a year, I guarantee the iPhone can do ONLY the first unfold (of three) of MQA files. More later.
 

Victor BR

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One strange thing here. With QOBUZ streaming via Ethernet and using USB output/cable connected to my Accuphase DC950 DAC, It shows the correct frequencies but also shows two bit more than the standard signals. 26 instead of 24 and 18 instead of 16 bit. When using Tidal everything return to standard 16 and 24 bit. Go figure!
 

d'Brit

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As a noob, if I posted to the wrong place, let me know and I will delete and repost.

All I wanted from the SD-9 was to be able to stream bit-perfect music from TIDAL (over Ethernet) with control similar to what I have enjoyed via TIDAL Connect, BUT NOT using WiFi or Airplay2!

I ordered this unit from APOS Audio because I could not find it on Amazon at the time I knew the units had begun shipping from China. It turns out that S.M.S.L. equipment is usually listed with the periods on Amazon (NOT as "SMSL").

Ordered June 21, 2021. Delivered July 6, 2021. Fifteen days with APOS customer suppprt giving me three updates on expected delivery. DHL International gave detailed updates as soon as the unit was in their hands in Shenzhen China. Normally, I suspect the unit would have been delivered in 7-9 days, but it went on back order just as I ordered it. APOS has been a wonderful vendor. I would order from them again.

Since I was so concerned that everything come via Ethernet to be sent to my Gustard X-16 I turned off Bluetooth before I began the setup.

I won't make a long story longer by detailing my mistakes during setup. Instead I will list step by step how I would set up the SD-9 IF I had a do over.

[Nota bene: after two days spent with the unit, I am beginning to search for how to play songs from my phone via the unit to my DAC. At 258kbps (Apple Music File) versus generally 1700kbps HiFi or MQA, I doubt I will be playing anything from Apple Music. But I want to know all the interoperability of this unit - in the meantime, this initial review is for my TIDAL music, via Internet direct, over I2S to Gustard X16 DAC, via XLR into Yamaha RX-A 3080 integrated amplifier.]

BEFORE the S.M.S.L. SD-9 comes in you will need:
  • 2 AAA batteries for remote
  • Ethernet patch cable, Cat. 5e or better speed
  • The cabling to run from the SD-9 to your DAC (I ordered a 1 foot 8K HDMI cable for the I2S interface)
  • Access to 120 or 240 Volt AC
  • The full paid "mconnect Player" App by ConversDigital Co. Ltd., installed on your Android or iPhone. DO NOT install the "Lite" version. You don't want vestiges of the free program to interfere with the paid app which is what you will use for full functionality.
STEPS to take getting ready:
  • Update your phone to the latest operating system.
  • Cold boot your phone and then install "mconnect Player."
  • Flip SD-9 switch to select 120 or 240 Volts
  • Hook up cabling to the SD-9: I2S (or USB), Ethernet, and AC power.
  • Put batteries into the remote
  • FIRST (before pressing any other buttons) PRESS THE "B" button on the remote control.
  • Press the remote ON button to turn the SD-9 on.
  • Press the remote DOWN button and go to Settings (You MAY have to EXIT DLNA mode first to get to the GEAR icon.) The DOWN arrow functions as the "BACK" button, or LEFT pointing "RETURN" button on US remote controls. When you are finally in the "MENU" function on the screen, use the right or left cursor remote buttons to page through Settings (NET, NOW PLAYING, MY MUSIC, EXPLORER, PLAY SETTINGS, SYSTEM SETTINGS) and choose "System Settings." Press the center cursor control button and then the down cursor control button 12 times. You should now be at "RESTORE FACTORY SETTINGS," so press center button to SELECT it. Confirm your choice, and it will perform a factory reset, which clears any settings set up for unit testing before it left the factory!
  • Power cycle the SD-9.
  • Go back into SYSTEM "SETTINGS" and begin to go down the choices. You are looking for 1) Change I2S/SPDIF to whatever output you will use, back out and 2) turn "Fix Sample Rate OFF, 3) DSD Output Mode "Native," 4) USB mode "DAC," 5) EQ "close."
  • Turn the SD-9 off and use the I2S or USB cable to connect to your DAC
  • TO AVOID SPEAKER POP, turn amp off or volume all the way down. NOTE - MUTE on my Yamaha amp did not stop speaker pop while turning the SD-9 on or off while XLR input was selected on the amp.
  • Turn the SD-9 back on. IF you are using WiFi, check and setup the "NET" Settings on the SD-9 to insure you are connected to your network.
  • With the SD-9 on, take your phone and load the "mconnect Player."
  • Bottom far right of the app, press "Play through" and select the SD-9.
  • Go to "Browser" and put in your credentials for TIDAL, Qobuz, etc. Or select your NAS, SD Card, etc.
  • Adjust your "Settings" on your streaming service(s) for "Master" or "HiFi."
  • Select and play music, slowly turn up your amp volume, look at your DAC display and confirm that MQA, the green dot, and the bit rate show you are playing high res music.
  • Congratulate yourself!
PROS: outstanding soundstage, depth, dynamic range, price for a clean clear sounding streamer. NO USB Cable running across the floor to my DAC (FINALLY!!). Compared to the Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra at US $849, this S.M.S.L. SD-9 streamer running mconnect and not needing Roon or Volumio is a bargain.

CONS: Speaker POP; 4 out of now about 150 songs exhibited a half-second digital noise burst as a song began to play; crude interface with mconnect. The mconnect queue is terrible - hard to set it up and make songs "stick." When they do "stick" in the queue, they don't play in the expected order. TIDAL now supports Folders in the Playlists - mconnect doesn't see folders. Mconnect has crashed at least four times on my iPhone 11 running iOS 14.6. Crashing apps on this phone NEVER happen. I leave my equipment ON. The SD-9 screen will probably burn-in as there is no screen auto-off feature, and even the dimmest setting (#1) is still VERY BRIGHT. I sometimes still get digital noise between cuts of music and mconnect can't yet do gapless playback. The R/L Channels are reversed when using the I2S interface to my DAC. This is corrected by using the I2S "inverse" switch in the SD-9 settings. This error is reported by other users. Some might consider US $400 too expensive for a bleeding edge box which is essentially just a streamer, USB drive, and NAS manager. The RPi I was considering building would have been $200-250 (with touchscreen interface), no remote, and no mconnect! Just a few years ago NAS setups were $800-1600+. This SD-9 offered reasonable value for me.
Great review and very informative. A big thumbs up for relating the issues with mConnect. That's a deal breaker for me. I'll look elsewhere while waiting to see if S.M.S.L. fixes the issues.
 

Victor BR

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Aug 16, 2021
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By the way can you point a top app to iphone that can replace mconnect without the gapless issue?
 

Fluty

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Jul 21, 2021
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I had total hip replacement the last week of July. I have not been on this forum since about a week before that surgery. I am finally (I think - will find out in next couple of days) able to get down on hands and knees to look and take pictures of the X-16 and SD-9. Both units are sitting on the floor, because initially I thought I would send the SD-9 back because the mconnect software is so terrible. BUT, I couldn't give up the MQA sound just to spend 3X-12X more on a simple streamer. So - long-winded way to say SORRY, I did not respond to your questions yet.

I will say that I do not believe Airplay (or Airplay2) is capable of greater than 44.1 playback. After two months, I almost need to relearn everything I knew about MQA - and will attempt to answer in depth by the 28th of Sept.

One note - I feed the SD-9 directly via Ethernet directly from my router and then pass the TIDAL signal to the X-16 via the I2S LVDS level output (HDMI port, but not HDMI signal) to the I2S input on the X-16. Since I was interested in only the professional (at least studio and backstage in several places) I2S, I never selected nor tried UBS, coax, Airplay, etc. interfaces. Having used TIDAL Airplay2 from iPhone to RX-A3080 Yamaha for at least a year, I guarantee the iPhone can do ONLY the first unfold (of three) of MQA files. More later.
Thanks for this message Old School, very sorry to hear you've had to have a replacement body part! Hopefully you can get around now without too much discomfort or pain.
Since my last posts here I've replaced the SD-9 with an iFi Zen streamer which does everything that the SD-9 was supposed to do. It does so with the greatest of ease and sounds every bit as good. It does not look as good though, the iFi Zen has a poor, almost amateurish look about it, and has no screen either. The biggest problem I found with the SD-9 was that it was prone to making loud and frightening (speakers!) banging noises sometimes between tracks, and also did not always manage gapless playback. With Classical music gapless is vital. My dealer suggested that the banging could have been an earthing issue between the SD-9 and X16. Maybe an optical connection would have solved it, avoiding the earth, but optical does not sound as clean and detailed as usb, or the coax which I prefer and use for CD. Maybe the 12S connection would have worked, but too late now since I returned it. Thanks for your continued interest.
 

Victor BR

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Aug 16, 2021
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So, iFi Zen streamer is a better solution with same sound quality but without the gapless issues of SD-9. What a pity since the SD-9 seems to have more bang for the bucks.
 
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