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SMSL DP5 Music Streamer and DAC Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the SMSL DP5 music streaming player and DAC. It was kindly sent to me by shenzhenaudio. The DP5 costs US $599.99.

The DP5 sports a very nice, high resolution display:

SMSL DP5 Streamer Balanced USB DAC stereo review.jpg


Alas, I am not a fan of the rotary control. It has sharp edges and generally feels very cheap. And oh, lest you are tempted to touch the screen to select items, don't as it is not touch sensitive.

The icons are the "VCR controls" are too tiny, especially the menu one.

See if you can find the volume level on that display! It is top left in the tiniest font you can imagine. Even when that menu is not up, it is the same size. It is enlarged nicely when adjusting but then you get a bland picture showing the connection, not the existing volume. I routinely check the volume before hitting play to make sure I am not going to blow my ears off. I can't do that with such a tiny display.

By far the worst part of the interface is that there is no way to select an input! Yes, you read that right. I read the manual 10 times, played with all the menus repeatedly and still can't figure out how you select any input. Hooking up USB cable selected that fortunately so I tested that as you see below. But I could not figure out how to select any other input.

OK, the above is not the worst thing. The worst thing is reliability of the firmware. Airplay was off by default (why? this is a streamer). I turned it on and my Roon player nicely detected it. As soon as I tried to play anything to it, it disappeared from Roon menu and would not come back. Power cycling the DP5 caused it to come back, only to disappear the same. Given this, I could not test any streaming performance.

Even if Airplay did work, it would limit performance to 16 bits which is well below the capabilities of the DAC in this unit. SMSL needs to support Roon. I can get Roon support in a $20 Raspberry Pi. I should be able to get it just as well in this much more expensive device.

There was a System Update option which I selected, only to be told the firmware file is missing. I know desktop products rarely do this but it is time to support network update of the firmware. What was there was version 1.1 by the way.

The back panel shows the myriads of inputs and outputs:
SMSL DP5 Streamer Balanced USB DAC back panel inputs ethernet wifi bluetooth stereo review.jpg


Nice to see balanced out which I used exclusively for my testing.

DAC Audio Measurements
By default, the USB interface activates in mass storage mode and you need to go into setup to convert it to USB. Once done, this is our dashboard:

SMSL DP5 Streamer Balanced USB DAC Audio Measurements.png


It is nice that the output reaches up to 5.6 volts but performance drops as you go above 4 volts or so:

SMSL DP5 Streamer Balanced USB DAC THD+N vs Level Audio Measurements.png


Still, good to have the option of higher output.

SINAD at 112 dB is in competent category:

best music streamer review 2020.png


I was surprised to see IMD vs level start so good but then degrade toward the end:


SMSL DP5 Streamer Balanced USB DAC IMD Distortion Audio Measurements.png


Is that our ESS IMD Hump but moved to higher level?

Linearity is excellent:

SMSL DP5 Streamer Balanced USB DAC Linearity Audio Measurements.png


I did not see any options to change the DAC filter but the standard one is better than many other choices:

SMSL DP5 Streamer Balanced USB DAC Filter Audio Measurements.png


Would have been nice to have one that is super sharp and truncates at 22.05 kHz, rather than 24 but this is typical of DAC chip default filters.

Dynamic range was superb:

SMSL DP5 Streamer Balanced USB DAC Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


I was surprised to see so much excessive noise and spurious tones in our jitter test:

SMSL DP5 Streamer Balanced USB DAC Jitter Audio Measurements.png


These are not audible artifacts (levels are below -110 dB) but from engineering point of view, is a good step backward from even cheap $100 DACs these days. Likely the Linux subsystem running the networking/streaming software is impacting the DAC performance.

Multitone performance is excellent although the above issue may have degraded it some:

SMSL DP5 Streamer Balanced USB DAC Multitone Audio Measurements.png


Conclusions
The DAC performance of the DP5 is very good to excellent. Alas, I was going to test a streaming device and I could not. Unless I am going blind, lack of simple options like changing inputs shows the product has not been properly tested. When and if that happens, I will test the DP5 again. Until then, I cannot recommend it.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Check out this perfect specimen of a Bosc Pear, peeled and ready to be sliced and dunked in chocolate fondue:

Bosc Pear.jpg


As they say in the south, that was good eating!

Massive number of boxes have arrived as of late for testing. So if you have any interest in these grumpy reviews, please consider donating generously using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

gvl

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#4
Roon may be a corner case, but who wants a streamer that can't stream from popular services these days?
 

gvl

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#6
It's said that Roon is supported.
It is supported but it doesn't work, that's what I meant, or rather the fact it is supported is irrelevant to most people as they don't have it but they use Spotify, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon. If it did support those services than it would have been an attractive device at this price, provided it actually worked. Looks like a missed opportunity here, but maybe the plan is to add software features in the future.
 
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RichB

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#8
This product has good base performance and will be interesting when they fix the software.

Why are so many DAC/Streamers with volume control lacking in trigger outputs?

- Rich
 

boblinds

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#9
So, Amir couldn't use Roon to stream and then just gave up, rather than trying another option to test the streaming (the main functionality of this device). Pointing out the Roon issue is admirable but the "my way or the highway" approach to testing isn't responsible, IMO.
 

gvl

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#10
It would seem their plan was to offload streaming to Roon, and Roon integration doesn't work. Unless it was a user error I feel that the missing head is deserved on that account. Hardware seems decent enough for a streamer at this price, so hopefully they can fix the bugs and add features, then it can be a nice device. Experience tells however that this is highly unlikely, these companies just through the device out there, release a couple of firmware versions to stomp on major bugs, and move on to new models. At least after one who coughed up 4 grand for Linn Majik DS-1 got 10 years of software support from the manufacturer.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #11
So, Amir couldn't use Roon to stream and then just gave up, rather than trying another option to test the streaming (the main functionality of this device). Pointing out the Roon issue is admirable but the "my way or the highway" approach to testing isn't responsible, IMO.
Roon compatibility is a different thing. I was testing Airplay and it would fail to play. The only thing left to test it with would be DLNA and I am not a fan of that. Nor do I have a setup to test with that.
 

gvl

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#12
Roon compatibility is a different thing. I was testing Airplay and it would fail to play. The only thing left to test it with would be DLNA and I am not a fan of that. Nor do I have a setup to test with that.
DLNA can be convenient when it works, but there is always something that spoils the experience.
 

boblinds

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#14
Roon compatibility is a different thing. I was testing Airplay and it would fail to play. The only thing left to test it with would be DLNA and I am not a fan of that. Nor do I have a setup to test with that.
So you gave up on DLNA, too. Sorry, Amir, failing to test a device's main functionality and then giving it a headless panther on that basis doesn't speak well for your critical integrity. (Sometimes a critic has to make a little more effort than a normal customer, in my professional opinion. And I did so when I was reviewing consumer electronics way back in the '80s. OK, my rant's over. :) )
 
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Rja4000

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#15
So you gave up on DLNA, too. Sorry, Amir, failing to test a device's main functionality and then giving it a headless panther on that basis doesn't speak well for your critical integrity. I have to call it the way I see it, just as you do.
That's an interesting comment.
If you'd purchase a device like this, would you be so forgiving ?
1 mainstream streaming functionality (maybe) working out of 3 promised, screwed user interface preventing or, at least, strongly discouraging proper usage,...
What does that deserve if that's not the headless panther ?
 
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#16
So you gave up on DLNA, too. Sorry, Amir, failing to test a device's main functionality and then giving it a headless panther on that basis doesn't speak well for your critical integrity. (Sometimes a critic has to make a little more effort than a normal customer, in my professional opinion. And I did so when I was reviewing consumer electronics way back in the '80s. OK, my rant's over. :) )
Technically he did test it, and it didn't work properly.

A consumer doesn't want to buy a semi-working product with excuses made about it. If part of the core functionality advertised simply doesn't work it really should be a show stopper IMO. Especially when it's the claim to fame of the device.
 
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#17
Roon compatibility is a different thing. I was testing Airplay and it would fail to play. The only thing left to test it with would be DLNA and I am not a fan of that. Nor do I have a setup to test with that.
I stream over DLNA from my NAS (Synology, running a customized linux) I am very happy with that. I am against closed systems and protocols like airplay. DLNA is a standard (then well documented and open), also ubiquitous ( smartTVs, AVRs...). For me DLNA should be the protocol to be used for testing streaming, not a particular proprietary one.
 
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#18
So you gave up on DLNA, too. Sorry, Amir, failing to test a device's main functionality and then giving it a headless panther on that basis doesn't speak well for your critical integrity. (Sometimes a critic has to make a little more effort than a normal customer, in my professional opinion. And I did so when I was reviewing consumer electronics way back in the '80s. OK, my rant's over. :) )
There's two different arguments here that have been confusingly mixed together. They should be decoupled: 1) The headless panther rating is incorrect. 2) The review is incomplete (less informative than it could be).

1) As others have pointed out, failing a core competency is clearly grounds for lowest tier rating.

2) A comprehensively detailed review of all system functionalities would be more informative, indeed. But you have to remember the reviewer is one retired person expensing costs from donations. I've seen many reviews here where follow up measurements are provided after the initial review. EDIT: We also see new tests added over time so maybe DLNA could be one of them once a test environment is set up.
 

BillG

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#20
So you gave up on DLNA, too. Sorry, Amir, failing to test a device's main functionality and then giving it a headless panther on that basis doesn't speak well for your critical integrity.
Had the first streaming protocol I attempted to test fallen over, I'd have stopped right there as well as this indicates a QC issue that should have been resolved prior to releasing it for sale. If I was a consumer of the product, it's not something I would accept and it would've been returned immediately.
 

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