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SMSL D-6s Balanced DAC Review

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 9 2.4%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 5 1.3%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 24 6.3%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 344 90.1%

  • Total voters
    382

staticV3

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You do know how distortion is calculated don't you? Just asking.
Here ya go:
Screenshot 2023-10-20 at 02.32.15.png Screenshot 2023-10-20 at 02.27.25.png
Screenshot 2023-10-20 at 02.24.07.png Screenshot 2023-10-20 at 02.22.11.png

Screenshot 2023-10-20 at 02.49.02.png

Spreadsheet link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1kacqEAqWEHK1mbMBWY2TG1JxPxCaRncxBJt7YrveJug/edit?usp=sharing

Now tell me again which of these has clearly much higher distortion ;)
 

pattox

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I'm hoping someone might know how well the smsl d6s would work with the optical output of a TV. Specifically, tv optical outputs seem to generate noise nd other artifacts that many dacs see as jitter problems. In turn they try to resynch which results in pauses and other sound discontinuities. Some smsl dacs with ESS chips have adjustable dpll settings which allows more tolerance to these artifacts. How well does the akm chip in the d6s react to these artifacts?
 

milosz

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I think it's great that companies continue striving for engineering improvement.

I think that if you buy one of the top tier DACs as reviewed here, there would be no need to upgrade - at least in terms of performance. Maybe some new feature will be offered that you just HAVE to have, but I doubt very much that anyone could hear the difference between this DAC and - for example -a Schiit Modius, even though the Modius doesn't measure quite as well. I don't think that the human hearing system can hear any differences between a DAC with 122 dB SINAD ( this SMSL ) and one with 112 dB SINAD (Modius) Some people just reflexively buy the latest-and-greatest, which is more about owning the "latest best" than it is about sound quality. And if that's your thing, OK; some people enjoy that kind of experience. But in terms of getting better sound - I can't see how "upgrading" from a DAC with 110 dB SINAD to one with 122 dB SINAD could make any audible difference. Lower quality DACs like those in home theater receivers or those from Audio GD MIGHT make a discernible sonic difference, though my brief double blind tests using an Audio GD DAC reviewed here and a Topping DAC also reviewed here did not find any listeners who could hear the difference either on pure tones or music. A small sample, to be sure, but I think it points to something important - that people can't actually hear much difference in DACs.

If anyone here has any information about double blind studies ever having been done to show that anyone can hear differences of this type, please let me know. I would love to learn that I've been proved wrong.
 
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restorer-john

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Oh, so now it's equaled.
It wasn't clearly bested. Maybe equaled. And if you don't know, you don't know.

In proper AB test using my measurements, the SMSL easily beats the Chord Dave:

index.php


index.php


SMSL D-6s has distortion that is 15 dB lower.

There you go again Amir. Moving the goalposts to deflect. It won't work.

The test concerned is the 50Hz test- the exact one you made the extraordinary claim about Stereophile's testing. That is the subject.
 

restorer-john

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Glad you did it. I couldn't be bothered. :)

The Dave clearly has much lower, low order distortion on that particular test. That's undeniable. It's only by taking out the harmonic calculation to H19 the two draw in line, and only just.

Widen the bandwidth, capture more harmonics get a completely different number.
 

staticV3

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The Dave clearly has much lower, low order distortion on that particular test. That's undeniable. It's only by taking out the harmonic calculation to H19 the two draw in line, and only just.
This is really not the case. Even with just H2 and H3, THD barely changes:
Screenshot 2023-10-20 at 03.47.34.png

-120.4/-120.6 vs -119.4/-120.1
Which one has clearly much lower distortion here? If your answer is anything but "they're functionally identical", then IMO, you're fooling yourself.

Furthermore, IMO, the next logical step would not be to decrease the measurement bandwidth, but to apply weighting to the THD calculation so that higher order harmonics are weighted more, in line with research into HD audibility.
That would naturally make the DAVE's numbers quite a bit worse than the D-6S's.
So I'd say that my basic THD calculation benefited the DAVE more than anything.
 
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JSmith

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Some smsl dacs with ESS chips have adjustable dpll settings which allows more tolerance to these artifacts.
This is an ESS DAC, not AKM like the D6, so it's "available"... whether the DPLL setting has been made user selectable on this model however, I'm unsure. @SMSL-Mandy?


JSmith
 

restorer-john

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IMO, the next logical step would not be to decrease the measurement bandwidth, but to apply weighting to the THD calculation so that higher order harmonics are weighted more, in line with research into HD audibility.
That would naturally make the DAVE's numbers quite a bit worse than the D-6S's.
So I'd say that my basic THD calculation benefits the DAVE more than anything.

But back to the point concerned. It's the very first and only D/A converter I brought up the Stereophile test report on. How many more are there with even better 50Hz results tested by @John Atkinson and Stereophile?

Remember, I didn't make the claim, Amir did. :)
 
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staticV3

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But back to the point concerned. It's the very first and only D/A converter I brought up the Stereophile test report on. How many more are there with even better 50Hz results tested by @John Atkinson and Stereophile?
Tbh, I don't really feel like combing through approximately 303 different Stereophile DAC reviews :D
 

totti1965

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Some are complaining about the „no equalizer build in“ fact.
Can you guys tell me why someone has spoken about Qudelix as a choice with equalizer?
Isn’t this Qudelix is just a cheap portable DAC?
Are there any cool Desktop DACs with build in equalizer (from USD 20,— to USD 1.500,— or so)?
I am using Roon for concentrate, intense music listening, so there is no need for me to buy such a thing,
because Roon has an equalizer build in, but I want to give a recommendation for a friend, and I think espacially parametric equalisation is a completely cool thing for speaker and headphone calibrating.
I hate Apple for not integrating a parametric Equalizer in the iPadOS or iOS Operating System.
Live could be so easy with a parametric equalizer build in, because Roon just works for Tidal etc.
and not for watching YouTube videos.
Equalisation?
Crinacle says: ….. if you are on android, use Poweramp. And if you are on iPhone, go f…ck yourself!
So - on second thought - why not a DAC with build in equalizer - even for me!
 

Grooved

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Maybee I am the typical audiophoooool, but I would go for FL 5 because of it´s slightly higher output / lower attenuation at 21 kHz....... ;). But the behaviour for FL 5 in the ultrasonic frequencies is not as good as FL 2.......

Would be quite interesting to see this graph for FL 2; FL 4; AND FL 5 -
and to see whether there will be big differences in the 5 kHz to 20 kHz range between the different Filters!


But I don´t dare to ask.... ;) because..... is there anything less important?

If you hear a difference on a song between these filters, I'm not sure that it will come from a difference of frequency response/lower attenuation in this zone, even if you are able to hear those frequencies. Yes, some of the younger users might hear this zone, but the majority of users won't.
But we can all hear another impact of the filters, like when a bass is playing at the same time than kick/snare drums. The difference in impulse has certainly a bigger impact on what you hear than the frequency response.

This graph is good to see what kind of filters are included, if there's no problem on the device (I remember the Tone2 Pro having one at first and it was visible on the graph, before it was corrected with a quick firmware update), but the higher zone will not match the difference we might hear
 

staticV3

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Are there any cool Desktop DACs with build in equalizer (from USD 20,— to USD 1.500,— or so)?
With DSP, the only ones I know are the RME ADI-2 DAC, the miniDSP Flex, the JDS Element 3 and Element 3 MKIII, and somewhat the PowerDAC V2.1
Also, the Qudelix 5K can totally be used like a desktop DAC (ditto for the IL-DSP)

However, everything that they can do in hardware (and much, much more), can be done just as well with freeware like Equalizer APO, so I don't really see the value personally, unless your OS forbids the use of software EQ.
 
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amirm

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But back to the point concerned. It's the very first and only D/A converter I brought up the Stereophile test report on. How many more are there with even better 50Hz results tested by @John Atkinson and Stereophile?

Remember, I didn't make the claim, Amir did. :)
You are forgetting your own claim that the Dave is much better. We have shown that at best it is equal. Even if it were a bit better, any level of common sense should have stopped you from making that comment and bringing up this example. The previous case of Vivaldi DAC did make the point properly. Yours did not remotely so.

I also showed you other measurements to demonstrate conclusively that the D-6s is far superior. All of this should have closed the door to your comment but here we are.
 

Talisman

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However, everything that they can do in hardware (and much, much more), can be done just as well with freeware like Equalizer APO, so I don't really see the value personally, unless your OS forbids the use of software EQ.
It's not the first time I've heard this objection, but honestly not everyone uses or wants to use the PC as a music source, I have various inputs, a CD player, a streamer, an Xbox, Bluetooth etc etc, my way of listening music cannot ignore a DAC with integrated PEQ (if I want to equalize).
 

frabor

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@amirm, this one has to make you happy, 3 dB below best ever, great specs, balanced out, remote control and built in universal power power supply for less than 200 usd. If I was picky, I would say that it is missing the arc HDMI port ( as the latest smsl ao300 integrated amp/dac). I really like the HDMI arc as it enables to connect a device capable of casting.
 

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Palladium

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I voted only fine because their own C200 at around the same price with balanced and unbalanced HPA outs is clearly the better product.

Unless you really hate 6.35mm TRS for some reason.


It's hilarious to me that with all the money audiophiles spend on sound systems, if you're in a small-medium sized room, you can basically buy this $200 box, a pair of Neumann KH120-II or KH150s (depending on room size), a pair of standard XLR cables, plug your laptop in via USB, and you're done, for $2000-$3000 total. You have effectively perfect performance -zero noise, zero distortion, zero jitter, flat frequency response from ~50Hz-20khz. Add a sub if you want to fill out the bottom octave.

IINW the KH120-II have daisy-chained RCA SPDIF in and outs with selectable L/R on the monitors so you might not even need a DAC box.
 
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GeekyBastard

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@amirm Apparently it supports MQA/MQA-CD as well, wonder why the company didn't put it in specs...
Screenshot_20231020_115732.jpg
 

MAB

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With DSP, the only ones I know are the RME ADI-2 DAC, the miniDSP Flex, the JDS Element 3 and Element 3 MKIII, and somewhat the PowerDAC V2.1
Also, the Qudelix 5K can totally be used like a desktop DAC (ditto for the IL-DSP)

However, everything that they can do in hardware (and much, much more), can be done just as well with freeware like Equalizer APO, so I don't really see the value personally, unless your OS forbids the use of software EQ.
Agree on the power and flexibility of software filters.
Unfortunately the computer then becomes the central source of unreliability in your system.
JRiver hanging is no big deal, unless you use DSP Studio for a software crossover and the filters are disabled when the application restarts, to cite and example from my experiences.:mad:
Computers as appliances still remind me of this:
wogkb8kes3k61.jpg

And I still listen to additional sources. And my daughter can play her music over Bluetooth, for instance. For some people's use, it is going to be brilliant and by far the best option. I still dabble with it, maybe I need to stop dabbling though...:cool:
 
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amirm

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