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SMSL D400ES DAC Review

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 12 5.1%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 11 4.7%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 58 24.8%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 153 65.4%

  • Total voters
    234

waveuk

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No offence taken. But if nowadays any DAC has measurements beyond audible spectrum what is the point of this site and keep measuring then.

If we all agree using different filters in the same DAC sounds different then why different DACs cannot sound different?

Beyond other factors just different implementation of filters will make an audible difference.
 
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mocenigo

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What does this add to the market that doesn't exist already?
On a different note, the writing on the backplate is a huge failure. You don't know what are inputs and what are outputs, how can such a grave oversight make it through to the final production unit?

Unless you believe that a pure DAC can have analog in or USB out, no, the backplate is extremely clear.
 

Trell

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Is this satire?

My guess is that it's a tongue-in-cheek comment but as this is a consumer device SMSL could have been more liberal with labeling the inputs and outputs. Here is what RME (a pro audio company) does for the HiFi (consumer) version of the RME ADI-2 Pro:

1675010940150.png


RME just released a new product Digiface AES ($2000+) for the broadcast industry, so very specialized and for the pro market:

1675011088214.png


Now, compare that to the following where not even the RCA analog out is color marked:

index.php
 
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peniku8

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Unless you believe that a pure DAC can have analog in or USB out, no, the backplate is extremely clear.
If the DAC only had USB and analog connections this wouldn't be a problem.
My speakers have Toslink, S/PDIF and AES inputs (on the digital side). So, can I use this DAC with them if I want to avoid needless double analog conversion? Well better go read the manual first before you buy, because the product photo doesn't make it clear whether these 3 connections are inputs or outputs!
My Topping D10b has a S/PDIF output, which is great. My EX5 doesn't, which is why my speakers are connected via XLR on that setup. My Fireface has S/PDIF inputs *and* outputs, which is great. On top of that, the RME is clearly labled, while the other devices aren't. Silkscreening an additional line and two words onto the backplate costs nothing, which means this is nothing but an oversight or ignorance.
 

mocenigo

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If the DAC only had USB and analog connections this wouldn't be a problem.
My speakers have Toslink, S/PDIF and AES inputs (on the digital side). So, can I use this DAC with them if I want to avoid needless double analog conversion? Well better go read the manual first before you buy, because the product photo doesn't make it clear whether these 3 connections are inputs or outputs!
My Topping D10b has a S/PDIF output, which is great. My EX5 doesn't, which is why my speakers are connected via XLR on that setup. My Fireface has S/PDIF inputs *and* outputs, which is great. On top of that, the RME is clearly labled, while the other devices aren't. Silkscreening an additional line and two words onto the backplate costs nothing, which means this is nothing but an oversight or ignorance.

Ok, understood! And I see your situation. You got something there.

And where the Topping DACs in general fail is interface flexibility. Why not due optical? Or two usb? Why no EQ?
 

anynameiwish

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My guess is that it's a tongue-in-cheek comment but as this is a consumer device SMSL could have been more liberal with labeling the inputs and outputs. Here is what RME (a pro audio company) does for the HiFi (consumer) version of the RME ADI-2 Pro:

View attachment 260883

RME just released a new product Digiface AES ($2000+) for the broadcast industry, so very specialized and for the pro market:

View attachment 260884

Now, compare that to the following where not even the RCA analog out is color marked:

index.php

The ADI-2 Pro (your first photo is the ADI-2 DAC, btw) and Digiface AES are both AD/DA. The SMSL D400ES is a DAC so it only takes digital information (digital inputs) and converts it into analog audio (analog outputs) so it's pretty self explanatory that the digital connections are inputs and the analog connections are outputs, right...? Do people see POWER and think that these are battery packs, too? I don't own any SMSL products but the only "grave oversight" here is not knowing what a DAC is before buying one. As far as the RCA colors, ehh, they're clearly labeled and it's not like the color coding is anything more than a minor convenience.
 

anynameiwish

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If the DAC only had USB and analog connections this wouldn't be a problem.
My speakers have Toslink, S/PDIF and AES inputs (on the digital side). So, can I use this DAC with them if I want to avoid needless double analog conversion? Well better go read the manual first before you buy, because the product photo doesn't make it clear whether these 3 connections are inputs or outputs!
My Topping D10b has a S/PDIF output, which is great. My EX5 doesn't, which is why my speakers are connected via XLR on that setup. My Fireface has S/PDIF inputs *and* outputs, which is great. On top of that, the RME is clearly labled, while the other devices aren't. Silkscreening an additional line and two words onto the backplate costs nothing, which means this is nothing but an oversight or ignorance.

What on this SMSL DAC suggests that any of the digital inputs would be digital outputs?
 

Trell

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The ADI-2 Pro (your first photo is the ADI-2 DAC, btw) and Digiface AES are both AD/DA. The SMSL D400ES is a DAC so it only takes digital information (digital inputs) and converts it into analog audio (analog outputs) so it's pretty self explanatory that the digital connections are inputs and the analog connections are outputs, right...? Do people see POWER and think that these are battery packs, too? I don't own any SMSL products but the only "grave oversight" here is not knowing what a DAC is before buying one. As far as the RCA colors, ehh, they're clearly labeled and it's not like the color coding is anything more than a minor convenience.

The RME ADI-2 DAC FS is the HiFi/consumer version of the ADI-2 Pro as I wrote, but perhaps I should have written the model name explicitly. The ADI-2 DAC also don't have any digital output (SPDIF, TOSLINK, AES) like the SMSL D400ES. Clearly the ADI-2 DAC is much better labelled than the D400ES, and don't have the XLR jacks upside down either.

Attention to details like these is part of why RME is more expensive, and I've not yet mentioned the extensive and comprehensive manuals RME have for their products.
 

peniku8

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What on this SMSL DAC suggests that any of the digital inputs would be digital outputs?
Nothing. That's the issue. Because also nothing suggests that they're digital inputs.
 

Lsc

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Feb 27, 2020
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Well this one had same day delivery from Amazon so I just placed the order. All these DACs are so similar but the wait on some of them vary. I don’t currently have a dedicated DAC and have 30 days to see if it works out so we will see.
 

Lsc

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The volume seems to fluctuate from time to time on my D400ES. Otherwise it was a good buy.
 

Lsc

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What? Does this happen when you change filters?
Maybe fluctuate is not the right word. There is one volume that I expect and then sometimes the volume is reduced.

I was doing some research and saw there was a firmware upgrade for the D400EX but haven’t seen one for the D400ES. I’ll reach out to SMSL tomorrow.
 

Lsc

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Well I was given a .zip file from SMSL support but it was just a hex file. Looks like I will be returning this soon if this isn't resolved. Shame because it sounded great otherwise, despite me paying $300 too much for this over the SU-9 pro that looks to be functionally identical.
 

zhgutov

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Something I remarked in these new ESS9039PRO measurements out so far, another one courtesy of RAA here
is that the harmonics are extremely controlled, some H2 and H3 but all higher harmonics are really suppressed.

ESS9038 (Q2M):
View attachment 256400
(we are talking levels below 110dB until the very end so not an audible thing, but still cool to see this measured)

ESS9039 (Pro):
View attachment 256401
In a way this is yet another thing that bridges AKM's and ESS's final analog response closer together in that they perform almost exact same. All that's left is the implementation of the oversampling filters which are still quite different between the two manufacturerers.
The same for ESS9038 (Pro), look at the D90SE there.
 

zhgutov

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This should be printed in large letters and hung across every high-end audio dealer's door.
There are some remarkable things about this $42000 dCS Vivaldi DAC. Look at this (filter 1):
114dcsDvivFig04.jpg

114dcsDvivFig07.jpg

I hope someone who develop these Chinese DACs will finally implement the accurate linear phase fast rolloff filter.
I know, it is possible to use some software players for that, but I don't want to. I want it right out of the box.

And this one is interesting too (maybe not music-related, but anyway):
114dcsDvivFig17.jpg
 

zhgutov

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Just for example.
This is the Impulse Response Envelope (Energy Time Curve) of D90SE:
raa-d90se-impulse.png

Look at the filter 5 (which is the fast-linear).
For some reason I always prefer this kind of filters.
Or maybe some brickwall (F6) variations, but with more smooth "ends".
My guess is this is the key thing (along with the right amount of energy).

This is another example (I like it in both cases):
raa-impulse.png

V800 uses SRC4392 and PCM1792A, so this is the filter of SRC4392 at the first place (44.1 to 96 kHz), and some hint of PCM1792A.
I think the truth is somewhere in between. But these filters don't have enough attenuation before the Nyquist frequency.
 
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mocenigo

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But, how does it sound? LOL....all joking aside, at this price point, it would be nice to see usb electromagnetic isolation built in to eliminate ground loops when using RCA outs.
Just do not use RCA.
 

mice

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I am going to return my D400ES. There is something not convincing me. I have tested again side by side with my old DAC (Chord Qutest) and Chord sounds more natural, SMSL sounds a bit harsh with and without filters.

I wanted a DAC that offered more connections and native DSD but in this case specs and measurements do not seam to translate to sound quality.
But is this Chord a good benchmark? Doesn't it play rather gray and as if from behind the curtain?
 
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