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SMSL M10 initial impressions

wadec22

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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.
 
Last edited:
Joined
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#2
Thx for your impressions!

How does it compare with the D50?
 

wadec22

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Oct 9, 2018
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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.
 

Veri

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#4
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?
 

wadec22

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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).
 

wadec22

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Oct 9, 2018
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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
 
Last edited:

Tavy

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Dec 19, 2018
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#7
Hi,
First of all I just want to say hello as it is my first post and kindly ask you not to be too critical for my English :)
I have SMSL M10 since one month and to my (old) years it sounds better than all other devices I have.
My setup: QNAP NAS (DLNA) -> Auralic Mini -> USB SMSL M10 -> Yamaha A-RX3080 -> Heco (Celan 502 Bi-Amp front speakers).
All my previous music devices are Sabre based (9006.9008, 9016, 9018 and 9026PRO in RX3080) but as soon as I had my first AK based device (Oppo 203 – AK4458) I’ve noticed a clear increase in audio quality. Therefor I’ve decided to invest in one dedicated DAC based on AK4497 but TEAC was well above my budget limits so decided for SMSL M10 and proved to be a good decision (at least until now :)).
I’m using Super Slow Roll-off Filter which deliver the most quality to my (old) years (clear bass and crisp cymbal ) but for younger years could by a little too much (I guess :) ). Also it is the first time when I can feel the difference brought by DSD format – it is impressive indeed what AK4497 can deliver.
So in 2018 I’ve made two new friends, Auralic Mini and M10 (replacing my old Pioneer N-50A ).
 

wadec22

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#10
RME ADI 2 DAC arrived today. I have it all setup and will get a chance to give the amplifier a full subjective testing this evening.

For now, some initial impressions - contrasting it to the SMSL M10:
  • RME unit is a nice, small form factor. Seems much cleaner on the desk than the M10/THX solution.
  • It is noticeably lighter - almost to a fault. While it feels like a quality unit, the M10 feels like it is a higher quality unit by weight & chassis design.
  • The display is nice and shows WAY more information than the M10, as it should for the price.
  • Navigation is complex and even with the remote, you need the manual to have any clue how to operate it.
  • With the newest firmware - it is pretty windows friendly allowing you to change sample rates, but just like the M10 - it has a static mode of 32 bit.
  • When you install the driver off the website, you can only access 16 & 24 bit but still have all the sample rate choices. weird.
I'll update as I use it more and I SHOULD have time to get the M10 packed and shipped tomorrow for amir to test.
 
Joined
Dec 10, 2018
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#11
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.
I can confirm not recommending the SMSL M10 using it for the headphone amplifier specifically the 4pin XLR output. Just got the SMSL M10 to replace my SU-8 v1.1 that I returned to Amazon. I did some testing with the 6.35mm and the 4pin XLR headphone output and noticed a lot distortion using track Someday My Prince WIll Come by Dennis Marcellino at 2:30 on the XLR headphone output. I can not hear the distortion out of the 6.35mm output. Tested with 2 headphones HD6xx and iSine 10. I can not hear the distortion using 2 other amplifiers Loxjie P20 amp and JDS Labs Atom amp using the dual 3pin XLR and RCA outputs from the SMSL M10.

Good DAC just not a good XLR balanced output headphone amplifier. Not sure if I just got a bad unit. I think I may return the SMSL M10 and get the V2 of SMSL SU-8 due to M10 not worth the $544 price point. The SMSL SU-8 is on sale right now for $212.49:

https://www.shenzhenaudio.com/hifi-...khz-dsd64-dsd512-dsd-balance-dac-decoder.html

According to the "Customer Questions and Answers", they're selling the most up to date version 1.2 of the SMSL SU-8 board. I'll order it and hopefully post back with good news for confirmed V1.2 or V2.0 board.
 

Veri

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#12
I can confirm not recommending the SMSL M10 using it for the headphone amplifier specifically the 4pin XLR output. Just got the SMSL M10 to replace my SU-8 v1.1 that I returned to Amazon. I did some testing with the 6.35mm and the 4pin XLR headphone output and noticed a lot distortion using track Someday My Prince WIll Come by Dennis Marcellino at 2:30 on the XLR headphone output. I can not hear the distortion out of the 6.35mm output. Tested with 2 headphones HD6xx and iSine 10. I can not hear the distortion using 2 other amplifiers Loxjie P20 amp and JDS Labs Atom amp using the dual 3pin XLR and RCA outputs from the SMSL M10.

Good DAC just not a good XLR balanced output headphone amplifier. Not sure if I just got a bad unit. I think I may return the SMSL M10 and get the V2 of SMSL SU-8 due to M10 not worth the $544 price point. The SMSL SU-8 is on sale right now for $212.49:

https://www.shenzhenaudio.com/hifi-...khz-dsd64-dsd512-dsd-balance-dac-decoder.html

According to the "Customer Questions and Answers", they're selling the most up to date version 1.2 of the SMSL SU-8 board. I'll order it and hopefully post back with good news for confirmed V1.2 or V2.0 board.
V2 is 1.3! 1.2 is older
 

Jimmy

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#13
I think that 1.3 is the firmware version shipped with the 1.2 boards. If the matching SH-8 amplifier is good enough both units can be purchased for the same or a bit less than a DX7s and certainly quite a bit less than the M10.
 
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#14
Thanks Jimmy yes to confirm. V1.3 is the firmware version that is displayed when you press the power button while plugging in the AC cable for SU-8 pcb board V1.2. Version 1.2 that I mentioned above is the the version of the PCB board. If you open the SU-8 case, you can see the pcb board version. I had a V1.1 pcb board and displayed V1.2 on the LCD on boot sequence.
 
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#15
Just got my SMSL SU-8 V2 today from www.shenzhenaudio.com (ordered 12/24 received 12/28 - massdrop also has SU-8 active today). Going to do more testing with them before I decide whether to return the M10 or not. So far I can't honestly tell the difference between the SU-8 V2 ES9038q2m and M10 AK4497 XLR line out outputs.

If you guys know a better way to distinguish the differences let me know like how to listen for the ESS hump, etc...

audiosetup.jpg
 

wadec22

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#16
Just got my SMSL SU-8 V2 today from www.shenzhenaudio.com (ordered 12/24 received 12/28 - massdrop also has SU-8 active today). Going to do more testing with them before I decide whether to return the M10 or not. So far I can't honestly tell the difference between the SU-8 V2 ES9038q2m and M10 AK4497 XLR line out outputs.

If you guys know a better way to distinguish the differences let me know like how to listen for the ESS hump, etc...

View attachment 19563
I doubt there are any audible differences. Reasons to keep M10 are aesthetics & features. If you don't think either of those are worth the difference, I would go with the su-8.

I prefer the M10 as I think it looks much nicer between the display and black case. I like that it doesn't have the ess hump, but that is more of a technicality than anything.
 
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#17
I doubt there are any audible differences. Reasons to keep M10 are aesthetics & features. If you don't think either of those are worth the difference, I would go with the su-8.

I prefer the M10 as I think it looks much nicer between the display and black case. I like that it doesn't have the ess hump, but that is more of a technicality than anything.
Thanks. It's a relief since I don't think I'll be missing much with the M10 (remote actually works on both su-8 and m10 so I can only keep one).

I agree with the black. The silver is harder to match. The red was easier to match by 3d printing a red jacket around the atom.
 
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#18
For anyone interested, here's a comparison of SMSL SU-8 and SMSL M10 using RMAA (RightMark Audio Analyzer).

Summary
SMSL_SU8_M10_XLR_LINEOUT_COMPARISON.PNG


RMAA save, graphs, and test output files can be downloaded here:

https://mega.nz/#!nLhhwKzQ!hU1fhTS6r2fbqOVdRzOY5p0I9EgzuJPFDaH_Qt7eCXk

Levels were adjusted to -1.0db using the line levels on the behringer UMC202HD interface prior to starting tests. Tests were only done with XLR line outs of the SMSL SU-8 and SMSL M10 (PRE-AMP ON) since I don't have cables to connect RCA LINE OUT to XLR or RCA LINE OUT to 6.35mm Phono of the UMC202HD interface.

I'm new to all to this so any advice on how to do the test better is welcomed.
 

helloworld

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#19
For anyone interested, here's a comparison of SMSL SU-8 and SMSL M10 using RMAA (RightMark Audio Analyzer).

Summary
View attachment 19594

RMAA save, graphs, and test output files can be downloaded here:

https://mega.nz/#!nLhhwKzQ!hU1fhTS6r2fbqOVdRzOY5p0I9EgzuJPFDaH_Qt7eCXk

Levels were adjusted to -1.0db using the line levels on the behringer UMC202HD interface prior to starting tests. Tests were only done with XLR line outs of the SMSL SU-8 and SMSL M10 (PRE-AMP ON) since I don't have cables to connect RCA LINE OUT to XLR or RCA LINE OUT to 6.35mm Phono of the UMC202HD interface.

I'm new to all to this so any advice on how to do the test better is welcomed.
UMC202HD interface is the limitation of this measurement. I think you should use a better ADC.
 

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