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SMSL D400ES DAC Review

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 12 5.2%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

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

    Votes: 58 24.9%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 152 65.2%

  • Total voters
    233

bennetng

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If the DAC allows user setting the volume to +2dB, then it simply means the built-in filters are calibrated to have 2dB of headroom to reduce the chance of intersample clipping. A 1kHz sine does not have intersample clipping issue so it won't clip.
1669821862-Photo-1536x1024.jpg



...and filter bypass is not a new feature of ES9039, as shown in this post in 2021 and the datasheet is dated back to 2016.
index.php


Other details are already explained in page 6:



Here is an example that a DAC clipped a 7kHz sine with 0dBFS input due to lack of headroom:
index.php
 
Last edited:

Veri

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...and filter bypass is not a new feature of ES9039, as shown in this post in 2021 and the datasheet is dated back to 2016.
Indeed, I think there's several devices that already allowed this on ESS chips (for the true audiophiles to play around with..)
 

Aleksandar RS

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Your assumption is wrong, digital filter is a part of DAC and turning it off for measurements doesn't have any sense.

If it is possible to use the DAC in the filter OFF option, I don't see why measurements of 1 kHz tone at full volume using USB connection and XLR/RCA output under those conditions doesn't have any sense.
 

piaseczek

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If it is possible to use the DAC in the filter OFF option, I don't see why measurements of 1 kHz tone at full volume using USB connection and XLR/RCA output under those conditions doesn't have any sense.
Because it makes sense only with external upsampling.
 

Trell

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What happened to messages posted after Friday 2:42 AM
Moved to another thread by a moderator. Here is a moved post by you.

 

Aleksandar RS

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Moved to another thread by a moderator. Here is a moved post by you.


Thanks.
 

dustinyo

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It's getting pretty difficult to pick a DAC in the $500-$1,000 range these days. I'm mainly looking for SOTA performance and balanced output but I don't really need Bluetooth or MQA (fine having either, just don't need it). A balanced headphone out and analog input would be a nice bonus too. What's the best option at this point?
 

MadMaxx

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It's getting pretty difficult to pick a DAC in the $500-$1,000 range these days. I'm mainly looking for SOTA performance and balanced output but I don't really need Bluetooth or MQA (fine having either, just don't need it). A balanced headphone out and analog input would be a nice bonus too. What's the best option at this point?
FiiO K9 Pro ESS is worth a look. It retails at $850, but occasionally goes on sale for $700. I had one for about 6 months. It performed well, but I sold it to a friend who wanted it for his headphone dac/amp. I'm a speakers only guy.

 

waveuk

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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.
 

Aleksandar RS

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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.

I think you made the right decision, considering that you can return it without any monetary loss. This DAC definitely has problems, let's say problematic solutions (poor implementation of the filter OFF option). And until you buy another one, you have a solid DAC at home. If Qutest has even a fraction of what Robert Watts did for Dave then I believe it sounds very nice.
 

mocenigo

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If you suspect Amir deliberately manipulated the test results, then you should not expect Amir will tell the "truth" depends on what you are suspecting. In this case the only way is to measure it yourself. Not by fragile listening of unknown music content, with unknown clipping threshold and unkonwn audible clipping threshold.

In the past I doubted Amir’s testing methodologies (with the wrong choice of words, and I apologised for that) and I think he is not as consistent as he would like to be. So he could have made mistakes. This is human, I do mistakes all the time, and for instance when I give my security trainings I tell the audience “I am not claiming I am better than you, but I have experience and this should count for something: for instance I had the time to do more mistakes than you. I hope I learned from that!”. I would be highly surprised if he had made no mistakes in all his measurements.

However, I doubt he doctors the results. He is providing a great service to us and, for instance, the results saved me quite a bit of money.

Roberto
 

Aleksandar RS

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This DAC is a great example that too many options to choose from for a typical user is not good;)

I would like to ask you that before you write something related to SMSL D400ES measurements, first look at the displayed measurement results that were published in the first post. And if you had looked, you would have seen what I'm talking about on the graph for the filter OFF option. If it's still not clear, I'll give you Amir's words from the same post. I quote: "Not that you would want to use it anyway as it cuts way into the audible frequency response".
I hope it's clear now. It was the same thing with your previous post, so I repeat that you first look at the measurements and then write.
 

Snix

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I have been using DX7 Pro for few years, once I A/B tested with my friend's D90SE, couldn't tell any meaningful difference.
Couple weeks ago, I bought SMSL D-6 ($160ish)...
Lo and behold... completely being honest... I can live with with D-6 easily lol

So for me, if I would start fresh today, instead of buying 500$+ DAC I would rather put more budget to backends (be them speakers/headphone)
 

Aleksandar RS

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I have been using DX7 Pro for few years, once I A/B tested with my friend's D90SE, couldn't tell any meaningful difference.
Couple weeks ago, I bought SMSL D-6 ($160ish)...
Lo and behold... completely being honest... I can live with with D-6 easily lol

So for me, if I would start fresh today, instead of buying 500$+ DAC I would rather put more budget to backends (be them speakers/headphone)

I agree with you. All those DACs you mentioned, as well as others of that type, in principle have nothing that would set them apart. They all have very similar analog circuits, power supplies, PCB layout, passive parts, quality of built-in components. So, it makes sense that they sound very similar, if not the same. Maybe for SMSL VMV D1SE this is not true considering the different (higher quality) approach that was applied in the creation of this DAC.
 

MadMaxx

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I have been using DX7 Pro for few years, once I A/B tested with my friend's D90SE, couldn't tell any meaningful difference.
Couple weeks ago, I bought SMSL D-6 ($160ish)...
Lo and behold... completely being honest... I can live with with D-6 easily lol

So for me, if I would start fresh today, instead of buying 500$+ DAC I would rather put more budget to backends (be them speakers/headphone)
Most I've ever paid for a dac was $1700 for a Denafrips Pontus 2. I bought into the hype about Denafrips figuratively and literally. I kept it for 6 months, comparing it to Topping D90, FiiO K9 Pro, and a few more. I couldn't tell much, if any, difference between them. On some songs and games, I heard some subtle differences, but that was about it.

I sold or returned each dac after a few months. Lesson learned. I won't pay more than $600 for a dac, now.
 

Aleksandar RS

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Most I've ever paid for a dac was $1700 for a Denafrips Pontus 2. I bought into the hype about Denafrips figuratively and literally. I kept it for 6 months, comparing it to Topping D90, FiiO K9 Pro, and a few more. I couldn't tell much, if any, difference between them. On some songs and games, I heard some subtle differences, but that was about it.

It's good that you wrote about the Denafrips Pontus 2, I was thinking of buying that DAC. I've already been advised to take a closer look and think about it by member bennetng (thanks to him for that) so I'm definitely giving up now.
 

srkbear

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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.
Sorry, absolutely no offense intended at all, but what you’re suggesting from this pure DAC makes no sense, particularly on this forum! There’s nothing coming out of this pure DAC that sounds any more or less “natural” than whatever is coming out of that Chord—either your ears are tricking you (because it’s cheaper!) or you’re not comparing apples to apples in your setup.

The two DACs may have slightly different output voltages that could affect the resultant sound to an extent, but otherwise what you’re hearing out of this digital device is the sound of the original master and nothing more—other than given Chord’s measurement performance historically, less distortion and noise in the SMSL’s case (but not audibly so). Save your money, you bought the best there is!
 

srkbear

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I was looking forward to this review, after Amir’s recent review of SMSL’s 400EX—this is the first example I’ve seen comparing what are arguably two near identical devices, released simultaneously, differing only in that this ES has the latest TOTL ESS chip, while the EX has the resurrected AKM’s latest flagship.

I’m not sure if this one is slightly edging out the measurements of the EX version based on the chip performances alone, but I’d sure love to hear other’s thoughts about this!
 
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