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SMSL M10 initial impressions

wadec22

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Joined
Oct 9, 2018
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#1
I'm coming from Creative X7, Topping D50, Teac UD-501 and Monoprice THX desktop unit. Still have the Topping, have let go of the others.

I have no audio measurement gear and since we are talking a modern DAC from a reputable company, all I'm giving you is functional thoughts. It "sounds" transparent, just like the others I have owned and I doubt I could distinguish between any of them in blind testing. Like anytime I get new audio equipment, I feel like I'm picking up more detail but I'm sure it's placebo or confirmation bias or whatever the heck you want to call it. So..... on to other subjective impressions!

First - you can get this unit on sale for the same price you can the DX7s - so that would be it's main competition.


Build/Aesthetics/Connectivity
  • Love the balanced connections (simple luxury I did not have with the Topping D50). My OCD really wanted something with XLR out.
  • Attractive unit has heft to it. Nice quality case, similar to Topping style.
  • I like the case build with no real dust-catching ridges.
  • Looks like a more fitting match with my THX amp instead of the tiny Topping.
Display
  • I really like the ability to change the screen’s colors, I have it setup to match the rest of my desktop. Very nice, albeit subtle touch.
  • I thought the IPS display would be more impressive. Instead it is equal to or slightly below topping d50 quality, although it has 9 brightness levels. No auto off, but on 1st level brightness, it is near black. I imagine the dx7s display is nicer as it is bigger (but you are stuck with white).
  • The screen angling is no real difference, simple marketing gimmick.
  • Wish it displayed the bit depth but I assume it does not since always in 32 bit mode (see functionality).
Functionality
  • Driver is very Windows friendly, slightly better than Topping and definitely better than the Monoprice THX desktop unit.
  • Driver is very good but also only has a 32 bit mode. So it accepts all windows bit depths and sampling rates, but you cannot set the DRIVER to 24 bit (even though Windows will set to that). I notice no functional difference, but it still bothers my OCD.
  • Remote is very convenient, yet inexpensive build. Buttons work well but all plastic remote body. Did not realize how much I would love a remote on my desktop.
  • Tactile feedback of volume wheel is functionally effective but also feels a little cheap (not Monoprice button cheap, but similar to Topping D50 joystick cheap)
  • Don’t like the fact that both XLR and RCA are both always live outputs when you select “line out”, so I have to mute my speakers when I use headphones and make sure headphones are unplugged or amp off when using speakers. So using the amps RCA bypass is probably the better option?
****update****
I thought I would try the headphone output. The power stats are extremely underwhelming and I cannot find the output impedance spec. Interestingly it is a pretty good match on it's own with my Denon 7200's. The OI must be pretty low. Odd given everything I've read about the TPA6120 here. Apparently in order to achieve this low OI with this chip there is "oscillation"? Whatever they did to get the OI so low, may also be the reason it puts out pretty low power.
I've noted before how efficient and sensitive this set is and picks up hiss very easily with a OI over 1ohm. None detected here! So a good match on it's own with IEMs or efficient headphones. Looks like their spec'd SINAD is only 100 on the amp vs 108 on the line out, so if you are looking for peace of mind in a top tier DAC, the amp would only be a place holder solution until you could step up. No audible differences though. :) I'll still probably keep it paired up with the THX unit but figured it was worth sharing anyway.
***************

***update 2****
Finally adding some photos
After extensive testing of the M10 internal headphone amp - I do NOT recommend using the built in amplifier unit. I have done a ton of A/B testing and only using that headphone amp for an entire evening. It's odd - it causes listening and slight pain in my ears. Could this be due to distortion in high frequencies?

Strongly recommend using the M10 with an external amplifier like the 789 or Atom.
****************

I am enjoying the unit. I like how it functions in all my use cases and it is very aesthetically pleasing in my setup. I do think it is a better match for me than the DX7s, although by a very slim margin. I tried to snap some photos but my phone really struggles with the display and the night lighting in my office. I may try to snap some in the daylight tomorrow if anyone wants me to attempt it.

It would be very interesting to see how it measures. It is a single DAC chip versus others at this price point are mostly dual sabre chips. Although looking at pricing on single DAC chips, the 4497 seems to be pretty expensive.

Let me know if there is anything else you would like to know about it.
 
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Joined
Oct 9, 2018
Messages
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#3
Thx for your impressions!

How does it compare with the D50?
sonically? I find both to be transparent and doubt I could pick them apart in blind testing.

functionally - I prefer the smsl for the following:
  • color changing display
  • slightly better windows drivers (changing sampling rate works first time, every time - sometimes D50 takes multiple tries to get it to take)
  • balanced output instead of RCA
  • remote
  • more of a fitting match size-wise with the THX 789
  • no ESS distortion hump

I've thought about trying out the RME ADI 2 DAC.... honestly, I think I would have a tough time moving on from the M10 though, it is a very nice unit. I'll probably send to amir for measurements when his backlog comes down a bit. I don't want to be without a dac for a long stretch.
 
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#5
I agree this one pairs visually very well with the thx amp. Great that you seem to like this one. Question @wadec22 is there any selector for AKM filter used?
yes, you can pick any one of the 7 filters that are available on the AKM flagships. I am using filter 2. when I read archimago's measurement blog on the RME ADI pro, that was the one that appeared to me to offer the least distortion (although I am admittedly still a rookie at digesting them).
 
Joined
Oct 9, 2018
Messages
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#6
Added some photos and comments on the built in headphone amp.

Obviously I find it very aesthetically pleasing. Bummer about the built in headphone amp, but for my use case it's okay. Getting more and more tempted to order a RME to try and send the M10 off to Amir for testing. :cool:

*update - ordered the RME to compare and hopefully get the M10 to amir
 
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