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SMSL HO200 Review (Headphone Amplifier)

Rate this amplifier:

  • Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 7 3.1%
  • Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 15 6.7%
  • Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 109 48.9%
  • Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 92 41.3%

  • Total voters
    223

Carlo2AC

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for that price? happy panther, if the balance performance was what we saw the unbalanced one being then it would definetly be a golfing one
 

respice finem

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I wouldn't buy this one, but not because of its minor "sins", but because it doesn't have a remote.
We are spoilt for choice and comfort nowadays.
 

Tks

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So this basically a SP400 without a screen, remote, and relay based volume control?

If one doesn't care about pre-outs, I'd hop for the SH-9 instead. At least there you get the remote volume control that's possible with relay volume control. And it clocks in at around $100 less for a pretty great value for a balanced headphone amp if you ask me.

It feels weird seeing what is virtually a thx789 on steroids being a "meh" buy. I really wish SMSL would focus on putting out more products like this, but that don't have weird quirks and lapses in functionality or performance (or most importantly, reliability). We're all satisfied with SINAD, folks' interests are moving to more functionality - performance has been doing great for a long time already.
 

Koeitje

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Having a poll is really great. I would love to have it included in every future review. Perhaps, a durability/reliability poll (e.g. die after X months, channel imbalance, etc.) or some sort is better since just saying good-bad is not that meaningful.
And where would we get a proper sample size from?
 

alekksander

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this is nice, but a bit pricey. also it's not a new topping dac, leaving me kind of unsatisfied.
 

StuartC

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this is nice, but a bit pricey. also it's not a new topping dac, leaving me kind of unsatisfied.
TBH I'm getting a bit tired of seeing yet another Topping DAC being reviewed lately (DACs in general really), it's good to see some different HW that in the grand scheme of things we'd all have cut arms off to have 3-4 years ago!
 

don'ttrustauthority

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Wondering which model is the competition for this one. Topping A30Pro is $50 cheaper with almost twice the power. :oops:
Magnius is half the price and should have enough power through it's balanced outputs to satisfy most. Interface is a bit on the wee side for some.
 

EXIF68

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Nice device.
But the question for me is: Who nees such a device in this days? Normally more or less all DAC´s offer a headphone connector, most of all amplifiers do so. So where is the benefit of this thing? Okay, if you are using a cheap DAC with no headphone plug, than this device could make sense, but otherwise? Im using an older Benchmark DAC2 with headphone plugs and when im listening with my AKG K701 it does sound very well and more than loud enough. No distortion audible and no problems with sub-frequencies like 12 Hz or so ;-)

LG Walter
 

Walter

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I appreciate what you do and hate to ask you to do extra things, but spot checks on preamp outputs for these amplifiers seems like a good idea, especially when a device exhibits odd behavior in other ways like this one does. The 'desktop preamp' is certainly a marketed use case for these kind of amps. Maybe just make it a simple dashboard for preamp to verify performance....your review depth has certainly expanded over time, and you've had some noteworthy findings as you've done so.
Yes, same here, as that would be my primary use. Maybe even just one spot check to see if the preamp matches up in one specific in/out combination, and only check others if it does not. In particular, I think balanced in to balanced out. It might even show better performance, on par with the unbalanced headphone out, which would then warrant further testing.
 
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vkvedam

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I am bit confused on this opinion poll on the panther awards @amirm :rolleyes:
 

Morpheus

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IMO headless is the best rating a headphone amp with no PEQ functionality can attain.

That's a bit definitive, and I do own one that I love, with very nice PEQ settimgs, wich I always leave on... Many of us deploy EQ on the source, and that's enough for all use cases, with different presets..Then there is no use of pilling EQ on the source, then on the DAC , the preamp or amp, and even on the loudspeakees, if active, its nonsense..
So, excellent DAC/can amps or preamps with no EQ, at a lower price than Equing variants still have their place, and are a valid and cost effective solution, I think.
Depends on your setup and where you need to insert it, but with so many of us using computer based sources it actually makes more sense implementing it there, and with better results, with much more processing power.
 

nyxnyxnyx

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Nice device.
But the question for me is: Who nees such a device in this days? Normally more or less all DAC´s offer a headphone connector, most of all amplifiers do so. So where is the benefit of this thing? Okay, if you are using a cheap DAC with no headphone plug, than this device could make sense, but otherwise? Im using an older Benchmark DAC2 with headphone plugs and when im listening with my AKG K701 it does sound very well and more than loud enough. No distortion audible and no problems with sub-frequencies like 12 Hz or so ;-)

LG Walter
Anyone who are looking for headphones amplifiers in this price range will probably consider this device, especially if said person trusts the ASR standards and this amplifier got a recommendation from Amir.
Not all 2-in-1 DAC/Amp devices are great, some have good performance DAC but subpar headamp section. I could see someone buying a great amp like A90, THX, SMSL etc... and plugging it with a "passable" DAC if they don't really believe in the benefits of DAC (also goes in line with how it works objectively).
 

Robbo99999

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I voted "Poor (headless panther") but only because it goes into protection with content below 12Hz. I might change it to "Great (golfing panther)" if I can get a couple of questions clarified about the 12Hz protection issue. So there's a fair bit of music and movies with content below 12Hz, so what actually happens with this amplifier if it were to play such a movie or song - as soon as it tries to play any amount of dB below 12Hz then it will go into protection? What happens when it goes into protection - does it cut out all audio for an instant?
 

respice finem

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...So there's a fair bit of music and movies with content below 12Hz...
I could think of some "extreme" organ or electronic music, but I believe any sane mastering engineer would apply a high pass to the sub 20Hz range. Why? Because it strains speakers (possibly to the point of damage) and amps, without audible "profit". For me, it's the same nonsense as having >20kHz content in the audio signal.
 

Robbo99999

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I could think of some "extreme" organ or electronic music, but I believe any sane mastering engineer would apply a high pass to the sub 20Hz range. Why? Because it strains speakers (possibly to the point of damage) and amps, without audible "profit". For me, it's the same nonsense as having >20kHz content in the audio signal.
From googling it I found out that below 20Hz content is quite common in movies, and I remember reading about a scene in Black Hawk Down where the helicopter blades were captured by like a 8Hz sound. My question was really what happens to the amp when it tries to play any level of signal below 12Hz? When it goes into protection what do you notice as a user? I'm trying to put it into perspective so that I can potentially change my vote from headless panther to golfing panther.
 

respice finem

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If the amp goes into protection it should cut out completely. 8Hz is plain insane, some subs are likely to simply not play it in reality, because they have subsonic filters, and for good reasons. If your sub doesn't have one, try to play a 20Hz tone (cautiously, starting from -60dB at least) and look what it does to the membrane. This will get worse with lowering the frequency, but you won't hear it, only feel the air moving.

For music (not movie effects): https://www.researchgate.net/figure...several-musical-instruments-30_fig3_228446442
 

Robbo99999

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If the amp goes into protection it should cut out completely. 8Hz is plain insane, some subs are likely to simply not play it in reality, because they have subsonic filters, and for good reasons. If your sub doesn't have one, try to play a 20Hz tone (cautiously, starting from -60dB at least) and look what it does to the membrane.
It's not so much of an issue of what happens to your speakers / subs / headphones, it's more what happens to the headphone amp when it tries to play any content below 12Hz. If you're saying that the amplifier cuts out completely as soon as it encounters any level of signal (rather than 0dBFS?) below 12Hz then that's just an annoying bug - I can imagine that being tripped by quite a few movies, maybe less so with music. But is the amp tripped into protection mode with say a -5dBFS signal below 12Hz, or perhaps a -10dBFS signal below 12Hz, maybe only with 0dBFS signal?
 

respice finem

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It's not music, it's generated spectra, I don't think you will be able to provoke it at a non-deafening level with real music signal, unless the amp is really to weak. My BD T1 Mk2 would be a good test object, reaching almost 1kOhm ("voltage hungry"), or at the other end, IEM with extremely low impedance ("current hungry"). IDK the specifications of this amp, many middle class HPA are specified for a headphone impedance range ca 50-300 Ohms.
 
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OP
amirm

amirm

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When it goes into protection what do you notice as a user?
It mutes until condition is removed and then it plays again. Front panel LED indicates this situation.
 
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