• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

SMSL M500 MKII Review (DAC & HP Amp)

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 4 1.8%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 4 1.8%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 28 12.7%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 185 83.7%

  • Total voters
    221

Jimster480

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 26, 2018
Messages
1,480
Likes
966
Location
Miami
Wow, looks great. I wonder what the headphone output impedance is...
However this utterly destroys my entire stack basically for less than the cost of my stack and I have a THX 789... amazing to see how far performance has come in a short period of time.
 

t$$

Member
Joined
Feb 26, 2021
Messages
10
Likes
8
This or ex5 is my question for an aio unit. What's better for iem's in your opinion ? Does anyone know if this can output xlr and rca at the same time ? Would like to connect it to a sub down the line. I know ex5 can do that.
Personally, I think the EX5 is a better value, particularly if the 10% coupon at Amazon is still available. Full disclosure, I own the EX5 and have never used any SMSL product, so I'm probably biased.

EX5 does allow for both RCA and XLR outputs simultaneously and the EX5 remote is nicer (IMO).

I don't have the _most_ sensitive IEMs, but the EX5 is dead silent with my Etymotic ER4P, and by measurements, the EX5's headphone amp is slightly quieter than the M500, while the M500 makes a tiny bit more power, so I guess theoretically the EX5 amp is marginally better for IEMs.

Really you can't go wrong either way, which does paradoxically make the decision harder.
 

Caemel

New Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2022
Messages
1
Likes
1
I just bought the M500 Mk.II for audio measurements with an E1DA ADC and the Linear Audio Autoranger. While I am waiting for the E1DA to arrive, I measured the output impedance of the XLR output and the Cinch output at 1kHz: 101 Ohms for the Cinch output and 140R to GND for the XLR output, i.e. 280R differential.
 

Archon43

Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2022
Messages
8
Likes
13
This thread has gone off topic a few times.

I currently have a Topping E50, I also have a Topping E30, Khadas Tone Board, and Khadas Tone 2 Pro.

This DAC is really tempting me, the measurements are off the charts, pretty much. The issue I have is with SMSL themselves, and I am not the only one.

I had a past SMSL DAC which would not do what it was advertised to do, I heard a firmware update fixed this. So I went to the SMSL support site and chatted to the two mods on there. I asked if they can send me the firmware to fix the auto-shut off not working issue I was having. They told me they would get the file for me, I actually kept the chat open on one tab while watching YouTube videos on another.

After they left me hanging for over two hours, I told them I was waiting for two hours and they said they would email the firmware update. I asked why I was told they would send it to me and they left me waiting. One mod logged off, the other told me off in bad English and logged me off. I logged back in, and she was still there. I asked her why she logged me off, and she mentioned I was rude (rude for asking why I was waiting two hours for a firmware they said they would send in a few minutes?).

I apologized and asked about the firmware, she told me she was busy but would send it to me in a few minutes. I waited a half hour, keeping SMSL on a tab, and still nothing. 10 minutes later, I was going to message her but she logged off and never sent me firmware. In fact, I never got anything from them and end up returning the DAC three days later. I think it was the SMSL M8 original, but it was a few years ago. I heard the auto-off got fixed with the M8A updated model.

That makes me weary to buy anything from SMSL, and I have heard a lot of people complain they got similar treatment to mine and never actually got helped with their problem or question.

But this SMSL M500 MkII, the display, form factor, and performance? It is very tempting to pick this up. I just know if I actually have an issue, I am kind of hung out to dry.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: pjw

Bud Spencer

Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2022
Messages
6
Likes
9
This thread has gone off topic a few times.

I currently have a Topping E50, I also have a Topping E30, Khadas Tone Board, and Khadas Tone 2 Pro.

This DAC is really tempting me, the measurements are off the charts, pretty much. The issue I have is with SMSL themselves, and I am not the only one.

I had a past SMSL DAC which would not do what it was advertised to do, I heard a firmware update fixed this. So I went to the SMSL support site and chatted to the two mods on there. I asked if they can send me the firmware to fix the auto-shut off not working issue I was having. They told me they would get the file for me, I actually kept the chat open on one tab while watching YouTube videos on another.

After they left me hanging for over two hours, I told them I was waiting for two hours and they said they would email the firmware update. I asked why I was told they would send it to me and they left me waiting. One mod logged off, the other told me off in bad English and logged me off. I logged back in, and she was still there. I asked her why she logged me off, and she mentioned I was rude (rude for asking why I was waiting two hours for a firmware they said they would send in a few minutes?).

I apologized and asked about the firmware, she told me she was busy but would send it to me in a few minutes. I waited a half hour, keeping SMSL on a tab, and still nothing. 10 minutes later, I was going to message her but she logged off and never sent me firmware. In fact, I never got anything from them and end up returning the DAC three days later. I think it was the SMSL M8 original, but it was a few years ago. I heard the auto-off got fixed with the M8A updated model.

That makes me weary to buy anything from SMSL, and I have heard a lot of people complain they got similar treatment to mine and never actually got helped with their problem or question.

But this SMSL M500 MkII, the display, form factor, and performance? It is very tempting to pick this up. I just know if I actually have an issue, I am kind of hung out to dry.
Hi, I have a positive experience.
I sent my M500 V1 to audiophonics for upgrade because of the third harmonics problem.
They couldn't upgrade it and offered me new M500 MK2 in exhange. It was slow process but now I have new M500 mk2 for free.
 

Lupin

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2021
Messages
421
Likes
613
It is very tempting to pick this up. I just know if I actually have an issue, I am kind of hung out to dry.
Just spend the couple extra dollars/euros more to get it from a (more) local source instead of importing it from China.
That way you don't have to deal with SMSL directly if your unit have issues.

I made that "mistake" with the SMSL M200.
Thinking to save a couple euros I ordered directly from China. About a year later the unit was broken. Considering what the M200 cost it's just not worth it to send it all the way back to China (hope it will get there in the first place) and then back to me again.
 

Calleberg

Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
52
Likes
71
No crossfeed huh? But a totally unnecessary choice of filters, since you only need the default one.
Nah, rather have the RME, which includes EQ/Crossfeed and ze jerman qualität :)
 
Last edited:

Archon43

Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2022
Messages
8
Likes
13
I appreciate the responses, but it is not so much that I am worried what would happen if something went wrong or sending it back to SMSL. I do buy from APOS or Amazon, so if something was wrong I could just send it back to either and I am sure I would be taken care of. I returned the SMSL M8 DAC to Amazon when SMSL failed to fix the issue I had with the SMSL M8.

It is more, "Do I really want to give money to a company that showed it does not care that I am a customer?" The way I was left hanging, told off for asking why I was left hanging, then just logged off on for a simple firmware email that would have taken a couple of minutes left an impression on me that SMSL seems to not care about it's American customers. Considering on reviews of others who have SMSL products, including another guy who had the exact same problem and experience I had with the exact same DAC, he posted his chat log on his Amazon review and it was identical to the experience I had. He was dubbed rude for waiting 8 times longer than they told him, then logged off on.

The other issue is I am really happy with my Topping E50, so spending nearly 2x more on a DAC that performs maybe 5% better (I doubt there would be a ton of audible difference). Still, I really like both the SMSL SU-9 and M500 MkII. Too bad I dislike the company selling them, for obvious reasons. I also bought an iFi linear power supply, which increased the E50 performance even more.
 

Lupin

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2021
Messages
421
Likes
613
The other issue is I am really happy with my Topping E50, so spending nearly 2x more on a DAC that performs maybe 5% better.
Audibly it will perform 0% better.
Keep your money in your pocket of it is that kind of "upgrade" as it is not worth it.

Buy it for the features and/or form factor, otherwise it not going to make any difference.
 

JeyElDee

Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2021
Messages
38
Likes
54
Just arrived. The listening (and compairing) can begin. First impressions are ok !

m5002.JPG
 

GiFi

Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2021
Messages
59
Likes
19
Location
Rome
Ok, it will be very useful to compare this one to the other two. could you kindly di that?
 

JeyElDee

Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2021
Messages
38
Likes
54
Ok, it will be very useful to compare this one to the other two. could you kindly di that?
That is the intention. Subjective comparison is to follow. I will also compare with the Topping DX7s as headphone dac/amp.
 

JeyElDee

Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2021
Messages
38
Likes
54
One day later... Just boxed the M500 MKII to send it back.

At first I thaught everything was ok but nothing sounded interesting, not involving. So I put back on the RME ADI-2 PRO FS R and back was the midrange, soundstage and fun. OK perhaps the RME is an overkill in comparison to the M500 but than I swapped to the Topping D70s. The sound of the D70s is almost exactly the same as the RME. Slightly more recessed in the mids and perhaps slightly less deep bass but actually very "musical". Involving.
I told it was going to be subjective, so let's continue.

Because I could not believe the M500 MKII was so less enjoyable than both the RME and Topping, I also connected the Topping DX7s. Same results, both Topping DAC's and the RME soud very silimar and way more involving, transparent, musical than the SMSL.
Connecting the SMSL all fun was gone as was my interest in listening to the music.

All 4 DAC's were tested over USB in DAC-mode, on the same computer, every time connected balanced to the McIntosh C46 preamp.
I tested with the Neumark kh300 and with the same setup but the C46 RCA out connected to the power amp in of the McIntosh MA5300. Speakers are JBL 4412 studio monitors.

As musical it gets with any of the three DAC's, the SMSL was way back. Nothing wrong but ... nothing interesting.

So last night I took the lot downstairs and rented the ears of my wife. Downstairs we have a McIntosh C48 and MC252 connected to a pair of old fun JBL Ti5000.

Without connecting the SMSL I used our normal setup, using the built-in DAC of the McIntosh.
I sampled a track or three from Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin (my wife likes this kind of music) and asked what she thaught. Nothing special, as usual - interesting music ;-)
Than I connected the SMSL - again XLR out to XLR in of the C48.
Same tracks.
Immedeatly she noticed a sweeter sound - guitar had less details. Somewhat recessed highs, lower mid. We listened a few more tracks than I had enough of it because we started talking and stopped listening to the music. I removed the SMSL and back to the original setup - immediatly music, fun etc... came back. Also : bass was much more detailed with slightly more bass and deeper.

Not wanting to spend any more time with the SMSL M500 MKII, back it went in its box, printed the label to send it back etc...

I do believe in measurements - that is why I bought the RME and the Topping products and why the M500 seemed a good idea as a second (third actually) headphone amp for on the go... - but I never could have believed that a product, tested with such good results would sound so dull.

I do not intend to ask for a replacement, I have had it with SMSL (this is the third SMSL product I tested - the M500 was better than the MKII - the SU-9 was fine-ish but both had the sereo-issue).
Back it went, I will stuck with Topping and be happy :cool:
 

JeyElDee

Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2021
Messages
38
Likes
54
And yes, I did a reset, used the standard filter, no special sound selection (I did play a bit with these settings - the tube-sound is fun, it now is confirmed I don't like tubesoud) and used the correct driver...
Edit : forgot to talk about the lack of soundstage with the SMLS, especially with the large JBL setup, it was remarkably ... bad alas boring.
 
Last edited:

GiFi

Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2021
Messages
59
Likes
19
Location
Rome
And yes, I did a reset, used the standard filter, no special sound selection (I did play a bit with these settings - the tube-sound is fun, it now is confirmed I don't like tubesoud) and used the correct driver...
Edit : forgot to talk about the lack of soundstage with the SMLS, especially with the large JBL setup, it was remarkably ... bad alas boring.
hi Jey, have you ever tried to change the fuse in the d70s?
 

Dmitriy

Member
Joined
Oct 12, 2021
Messages
16
Likes
16
One day later... Just boxed the M500 MKII to send it back.

At first I thaught everything was ok but nothing sounded interesting, not involving. So I put back on the RME ADI-2 PRO FS R and back was the midrange, soundstage and fun. OK perhaps the RME is an overkill in comparison to the M500 but than I swapped to the Topping D70s. The sound of the D70s is almost exactly the same as the RME. Slightly more recessed in the mids and perhaps slightly less deep bass but actually very "musical". Involving.
I told it was going to be subjective, so let's continue.

Because I could not believe the M500 MKII was so less enjoyable than both the RME and Topping, I also connected the Topping DX7s. Same results, both Topping DAC's and the RME soud very silimar and way more involving, transparent, musical than the SMSL.
Connecting the SMSL all fun was gone as was my interest in listening to the music.

All 4 DAC's were tested over USB in DAC-mode, on the same computer, every time connected balanced to the McIntosh C46 preamp.
I tested with the Neumark kh300 and with the same setup but the C46 RCA out connected to the power amp in of the McIntosh MA5300. Speakers are JBL 4412 studio monitors.

As musical it gets with any of the three DAC's, the SMSL was way back. Nothing wrong but ... nothing interesting.

So last night I took the lot downstairs and rented the ears of my wife. Downstairs we have a McIntosh C48 and MC252 connected to a pair of old fun JBL Ti5000.

Without connecting the SMSL I used our normal setup, using the built-in DAC of the McIntosh.
I sampled a track or three from Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin (my wife likes this kind of music) and asked what she thaught. Nothing special, as usual - interesting music ;-)
Than I connected the SMSL - again XLR out to XLR in of the C48.
Same tracks.
Immedeatly she noticed a sweeter sound - guitar had less details. Somewhat recessed highs, lower mid. We listened a few more tracks than I had enough of it because we started talking and stopped listening to the music. I removed the SMSL and back to the original setup - immediatly music, fun etc... came back. Also : bass was much more detailed with slightly more bass and deeper.

Not wanting to spend any more time with the SMSL M500 MKII, back it went in its box, printed the label to send it back etc...

I do believe in measurements - that is why I bought the RME and the Topping products and why the M500 seemed a good idea as a second (third actually) headphone amp for on the go... - but I never could have believed that a product, tested with such good results would sound so dull.

I do not intend to ask for a replacement, I have had it with SMSL (this is the third SMSL product I tested - the M500 was better than the MKII - the SU-9 was fine-ish but both had the sereo-issue).
Back it went, I will stuck with Topping and be happy :cool:
a device that refutes audiophile nonsense that all dacs sound different
A-B.jpg
 
Top Bottom