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SMSL HO100 Review (Headphone Amp)

Rate this headphone amplifier:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

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

    Votes: 5 3.2%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

    Votes: 32 20.4%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 119 75.8%

  • Total voters
    157

Cars-N-Cans

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This suggests there is a rather 'quick acting' DC protection in the amp.

A potential benefit of the Pentaconn (aside from convenience) is that with low impedance headphones with long cables there is a chance stereo separation is technically better when a Pentaconn connector is used compared to a TRS jack (when it has a 3-wire connection).

Seems like a technically competent and affordable amp with both balanced and SE inputs. Balanced in could prevent ground loops as the safety ground may well be connected to the signal ground (needs confirmation of close to 0ohm between RCA shield and safety ground pin).
I was thinking the same thing in that it’s DC offset protection which makes the amp even better in my opinion. Lots of the other inexpensive headphone amps such as those from Schiit just pass the DC on to the output. Not so good if you don’t know to check for it first from a source before hooking up the headphones.

Now the real question is does it have DC servoing? Or does it just monitor the residual DC offset from the source and go into protection? Either would work, but I had an old Soundblaster Z card that had both offsets on the amplifier section, and even more in the DAC once it became active. So much for using nice headphones for video games with that PC.

This is one area that would be nice to see more clarity from the manufacturers. Might even be a nice item to check in testing as well.
 

_theLaughingman

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I am driving Hifiman HE400se at High gain with these because they do feel the need for more powah!!!
I bought this amp specifically to drive the Hifiman He400Se due to their inefficiency and the amount of headroom I was seeking after EQ'ing them.
The HD560s are comfortably driven by medium gain at low volume. They're definitely worth the pennies.
 

Acerun

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Whatever happened to the SH-6 review?
 

groot

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Amir explained this already, it went in protection so there was no output below 14Hz. This is (very likely) caused by a (too) fast acting DC protection.
At lower levels I am sure the frequency response will be down to DC or at least well below 1Hz.

Amir explained this already, it went in protection so there was no output below 14Hz. This is (very likely) caused by a (too) fast acting DC protection.
At lower levels I am sure the frequency response will be down to DC or at least well below 1Hz.

Just noting that this is basically the same behavior observed in the HO200.
 

solderdude

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Yep, I suspect the HO100 is simply the stripped down and SE out version of the HO200 which aside from balanced outputs also has RCA + XLR outputs at the back.
So the HO200 basically is what @HansHolland wanted the HO100 to have :).
 

audiofun

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Yep, I suspect the HO100 is simply the stripped down and SE out version of the HO200 which aside from balanced outputs also has RCA + XLR outputs at the back.
So the HO200 basically is what @HansHolland wanted the HO100 to have :).
that's not true. HO200 is a balanced version of SH-8s, with signal from headphone hot out inverted as cold out (so balanced performance is worse than single ended).
HO100 is the differential input version of SH-6.
see https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...2-version-owners-feedback.34165/#post-1198489

Most SMSL/Sabaj HP out should have the same DC protection circuit. it's just for some models amir had not test the FR or the output signal was not that high.
It cuts at 14khz at 4V. if amir tested the device with 2V (for some single ended model) it won't trigger the protection.
 

solderdude

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It cuts at 14khz at 4V.

14Hz .. and yes, lower levels will very likely not trigger the DC protection or at a much lower frequency.

The HO200 is what HansHolland wanted to see in the HO100 (XLR + RCA out), except the HO200 is pre-amp only not a pass through of the input signal.
 

PeteL

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Are there any headphones drivers that can push < 14 Hz to audible levels at distortion numbers that are under control?
 
Last edited:

solderdude

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Yep, most planars and also some closed dynamic headphones.
As most music does not contain frequencies that low (some vinyl with poor cartridge/arm matching and no subsonic filters might) so not a practical issue.
 

Ra1zel

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So, better than the $3,000 Benchmark HP4A's SINAD for $150....?

How do they do it? And why does Benchmark feel they can ask $3,000?
HPA4 is 2500$ line amplifier and 500$ headphone amp. Considering much more power and vastly superior build quality I think price is fair.

LA4 is the same as HPA4 minus headphone amp and costs 2500$, in comparison this funny little thing could never approach volume matching precision of the benchmarks. Also LA4 is the best measuring preamp there is.
 

Tks

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Wow a buck fiddy for balanced input, nice.
 

dib

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No, it is primarily a Class D integrated power amplifier. The on board DAC is more of a bonus feature which SMSL will not even provide information on. It only allows for USB A input (no coaxial or optical); I agree it is useful if you want to use USB prior to getting an external DAC. This makes it a great amp to start your system with however the on board DAC performance is very far from the performance you get when adding an external balanced DAC such as the DO100. The AO200 is not the same as a Topping MX5 which is a true DAC amp combo unit.
Since there are no measurements based reviews on any of them,, I've just checked the specs and some graphs of both MX5 and the AO200.
They both have a relatively high S/N ratio of 110db or above, BUT SINAD of 0.003% (-90dB) which means that performance limits are dominated by distortion.
If you use it for CD audio of 16bit you can reach about -96dB of noise or distortion even if you use D90SE... These models are "good enough" or at least almost.
If you hear music on sensible volumes (up to 80dB) it should give you good sound that will be limited by your speakers.
My take: If you have it and satisfied with the sound- ENJOY IT! If you are not satisfied- upgrade the speakers first, after it the Amp and leave the DAC last.
 

ayane

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As with other SMSL products I have tested, it comes with regulator and safety certification
The CE logo they're using is not compliant with the correct CE mark, which raises suspicion for me.

It's "just" a headphone amplifier, so it's unlikely to cause mission-critical problems, but it's still concerning.
 

PeteL

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The CE logo they're using is not compliant with the correct CE mark, which raises suspicion for me.

It's "just" a headphone amplifier, so it's unlikely to cause mission-critical problems, but it's still concerning.
Really even when it's compliant to form, that don't mean much since CE is self declaration. It's based on trust that it complies, you can have suspicion for every products out there but that said, you seem to have an eye for details because to me it looks quite darn close to the correct one, I don't see what you see from the product picture.
 

audiofun

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Simple Topping l30 has a pre out. The smsl h0100 doesnot. I think it depends on what you need.
you can simply buy/make a 3.5 -> rca cable and make ho100 a preamp.
but you cannot mod an l30 to balanced input.
 
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