• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required. There are many reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

SMSL D12 DAC & Headphone Amp Review

Rate this DAC & HP Amp

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 1 0.6%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 16 8.9%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 101 56.4%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 61 34.1%

  • Total voters


Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Feb 13, 2016
Seattle Area
This is a review, listening test and detailed measurements of the SMSL D12 stereo USB DAC with Bluetooth support. It was sent to me by the company and is selling for US $126.

SMSL D12 Stereo DAC USB Bluetooth Review.jpg

The D12 deviates from typical SMSL DAC by using a 7 segment display. It is white and get hyper bright (there are many levels of brightness to choose from). A remote is provided as well which makes navigation surprisingly easy despite use of such a display. It is clear that company wanted to reducing the cost as much as possible by only allowing USB and Bluetooth inputs:

SMSL D12 Stereo DAC USB Bluetooth back panel usb-c Playstation Xbox Review.jpg

Which is fine by me as most people don't need S/PDIF and those who do can well, spend more money and get a higher up model. :) USB class type switch is there I believe to allow compatibility with game consoles. Power is provided through USB-C for that input. Or an external USB power for exclusive Bluetooth support (not provided).

If you are not familiar with DAC measurements, here is a video to get you started.

SMSL D12 DAC Measurements
As usual we start with our dashboard (max output was 2.2 volts so I reduced the volume by 1 dB):
SMSL D12 Stereo DAC USB Measurement.png

Distortion is incredibly low at -130 dB so SINAD is determined by noise alone:

best cheap stereo dac review.png

best cheap stereo dac zoomed review.png

Our stand alone noise measurement shows what I already mentioned:
SMSL D12 Stereo DAC USB DNR Measurement.png

Multitone is excellent:
SMSL D12 Stereo DAC USB Multitone Measurement.png

Jitter and linearity however are not up to usual SMSL standards:
SMSL D12 Stereo DAC USB Jitter Measurement.png

SMSL D12 Stereo DAC USB Linearity Measurement.png

IMD distortion is very good but wished that it was a tad better to match our higher performance reference:
SMSL D12 Stereo DAC USB IMD Distortion Measurement.png

We have the usual AKM filter set:

SMSL D12 Stereo DAC USB Filter Measurement.png

SMSL D12 Stereo DAC USB Filter Frequency Response Measurement.png

AKM DAC used here seems to have a bit more out of band noise than its competitor:
SMSL D12 Stereo DAC USB THD vs Frequency Measurement.png

SMSL D12 Headphone Measurements
Power delivery is modest but sports very low noise and distortion:
SMSL D12 Stereo DAC USB Headphone 300 ohm measurement Measurement.png

SMSL D12 Stereo DAC USB Headphone 32 ohm measurement Measurement.png

There is no noise penalty for high gain so might as well use that all the time seeing how the volume control is digital (and hence no channel imbalance).

Because there is no true low noise mode, at 50 mv, while performance is above average, it can't compete with top of the line products:

SMSL D12 Stereo DAC USB Headphone 50 mv Measurement.png

Lowest noise headphone amplifier dac review.png

SMSL D12 Listening Tests
I was pleasantly surprised by the ability of the D12 to drive both my difficult Dan Clark Stealth and Sennheiser HD650. On both headphones I could get to above average loudness levels. I can only imagine that the peak power available is more than the average I measured. Overall fidelity was excellent with no hint of distortion at even maximum volume. I could not find anything to complain about.

Getting a combination DAC and headphone down to $125 price is not easy these days. SMSL delivers a good package here. Yes, it doesn't have the stellar performance of other SMSL products but the D12 still managed to literally beat hundreds of DAC as far as noise and distortion. Measured headphone power is modest but subjectively there is enough drive for most headphones for average to somewhat higher than average playback levels.

I am going to recommend the SMSL D12.
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
Last edited:
Is it possible to get anything better for the price? I don't think so right?
As nice as an AK4493S can be, with this super slow filter option. But there are much cheaper AK4493S based models with headphone output like Topping DX1, probably good enough for me. Anyway choice will be more a question of features rather than absolute performance.

Incredible when you stop and think about it. A year ago performance at this level for this price would have been a 10 out of 10 and topped the charts. Amazing that we can get this level of sophistication at such a low price. Thanks Amir, you have been an incredible force upon the Audio device market. :cool:
Great but better to buy C200 when it's on a deal
This might be compatible with the ps5 because of the uac1 switch. Something small like the shanling up5 with uac1/uac2 mode is working for me now, but this with 2 volts will be a great upgrade to power an active speakers.
Impressive performance for the price.
Thank you for the review @amirm !

The work here on ASR seems to have had a major impact on the industry part that is willing to listen. Hats off to amir and the community

To my eyes DACs and for the most part amps (i.e. classd) are a non-issue technically. Price will come down inevitably and hopefully features added.

What if ASR would now focus more on room correction (better quality, cheaper, easier/more flexible to implement in systems) and speakers ? Where would we be then in 3-5 years?
@amirm I appreciate all the work you do, but if you wouldn’t mind I’d like to make a suggestion. Perhaps you could begin to include a rating criteria for the remote controls of the DAC’s you review.

First, because many of us use these units as preamp/volume control devices, and secondly because the differences in even the least expensive of these units are often negligible. You might include a reading of the remote’s strength (usable distance) , off axis measurements, (semi) obstructed performance, as well as whether they are IR or RF ?

Again, thanks for all your hard work, it is most appreciated.
Last edited:
-SMSL SU-6, D-6, DO100
-Khadas Tone2 + BT Magic
C200 too if need a combo unit.

D12 can compete with Topping DX1, offering some more features (basic bleutooth, remote, display, XMOS316 and uac1 mode), DX1 having a bit more power (from L7audiolab measurements) and manual gain selection for 3/4 the price.
Isn’t it though.
I prefer a red or blue PCB but black is popular for some reason. If the yellow marked section is for buffers and the red section is for muting then what is the green section for?
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz 99.png
Top Bottom