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SMSL M500 MKIII DAC & Amp Review

Rate this DAC & HP Amp

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 6 2.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 5 1.9%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 48 18.4%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 202 77.4%

  • Total voters
    261

Grooved

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i am sorry but I don't fully understand the second part. What do you mean they tell the labels they should never offer their best masters to customers? Isn't the whole authentification thing about the labels confirming they get the true masters? What you mean "keep the best version"? You mean they have to use for other high res versions a modified master from the original? In your previous post you said it was just a conversion. I am confused.
It's a bit off-topic (even if this DAC supports MQA), but:
- I'm not talking about a modified version. I should not have used "best" as there are not necessary several masters, but let's say it's the highest bit depth/sample rate they have (it can be 24/44.1, it's not necessary higher), and I'm not sure MQA said that in the sense of providing a lower version to customers, but more to keep the original master/format so it can turn into a marketing trick to justify the use of something else than WAV/FLAC
Don't forget that in 2014, Bob Stuart himself was saying that there no point to change anything in audio, that all we had we perfect. Then he goes 180°. Maybe because they lost big money in video (in fact, there's no "maybe")
- When I talked about "conversion", it's because it's what you get in most MQA tracks. They are not mastered while using MQA equipment, it's encoded after that, from the original master, and it's what make it impossible to be what the artists/engineers want you to hear. There are some cases like 2L label working with MQA encoder, but it's presented like every MQA in created like that, which is not the case at all.
 

PeteL

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It's a bit off-topic (even if this DAC supports MQA), but:
- I'm not talking about a modified version. I should not have used "best" as there are not necessary several masters, but let's say it's the highest bit depth/sample rate they have (it can be 24/44.1, it's not necessary higher), and I'm not sure MQA said that in the sense of providing a lower version to customers, but more to keep the original master/format so it can turn into a marketing trick to justify the use of something else than WAV/FLAC
Don't forget that in 2014, Bob Stuart himself was saying that there no point to change anything in audio, that all we had we perfect. Then he goes 180°. Maybe because they lost big money in video (in fact, there's no "maybe")
- When I talked about "conversion", it's because it's what you get in most MQA tracks. They are not mastered while using MQA equipment, it's encoded after that, from the original master, and it's what make it impossible to be what the artists/engineers want you to hear. There are some cases like 2L label working with MQA encoder, but it's presented like every MQA in created like that, which is not the case at all.
To be honest grooved, I am not sure I am much more enlighten about the point you are making. It’s not necessarily that but… I am not sure mqa said that… anyway, I think that what you are trying to say is that the marketing material makes unproven claims and that the end result is not necessarily better than how it was mastered initially…I guess? To me on that front… I am not so outraged by marketing word inflatating like that. I mean it’s the oldest thing in the book, my stuff is better than this guy stuff. If we hold gripe everytime We read something like that, it would make for a miserable life. Every body does that. Where I guess I am less tolerant, is when real lies are put forwards, like if mqa didn’t have any time domain algorythm, or if a straight up rebook 44/16 file was hidden in a mqa container and after unfolding you’d get the exact same file. stuff like that.
To me it’s pretty simple. I accept it’s lossy, I don’t want to pay to purchase High res files, MQA comes bundled with my Tidal subscription and in most case sound better than CD quality files from Tidal. I don’t think that it would sound better that any 24/192 or 96 Flacs, but It’s not part of the reasoning, I don’t have acces to them. So to me… It delivers.
 

Garrincha

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Midfi is a price tier , and SOTA is tech teir, so it’s not as oxymoronic as you think, I wonder if you listen to music or just a/b test all day to convince yourself to stay stuck in midfi hell
Ok, let's clarifiy things. "HiFi" means high fidelity, which means that the original sound is reproduced with great care such that it comes as close as possible to the original recording. This has nothing to do with price. "Midfi" would mean the reproduction is only partly successful. Using the term "midfi" for a piece of gear which is inexpensive but still SOTA just falls in the trap of the Hifi industry which lives by the false assumption that more expensive gear always is better. Yet this site has demonstrated time and again this to be plainly wrong.
 
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srkbear

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Fair enough, I didn't know the MQA had the pretention of being better than lossless FLAC
Oh it does, amongst the hypnotically converted, like the folks at Stereophile. All sorts of misguided folks proclaim that Tidal sounds “better” because of MQA, without realizing that with MQA’s “provenance” they’re often getting better quality masters, or louder ones anyway, which some perceive as “better”. That and a hefty dose of cognitive bias. Once the pretense stuck the myth has been very difficult to fight against.

Plus some folks get very excited by achieving that magenta or blue light—they feel a sense of technical accomplishment by getting that last unfold to work, and they feel like they’ve achieved something rarified and exclusive, like “MQA Studio”. Qobuz offers no such sophisticated wizardry whether it sounds exactly the same or not. The idea is that they’re getting something better than lossless, kinda like Roon’s “enhanced” signal stream. It’s all smoke and mirrors.
 

mediocrebutarrogant

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Ok, let's clarifiy things. "HiFi" means high fidelity, which means that the original sound is reproduced with great care such that it comes as close as possible to the original recording. This has nothing to do with price. "Midfi" would mean the reproduction is only partly successful. Using the term "midfi" for a piece of gear which is inexpensive but still SOTA just falls in the trap of the Hifi industry which lives by the false assumption that more expensive gear always is better. Yet this site has demonstrated time and again this to be plainly wrong.
You have a sophisticated way of articulation of concepts
 

Jimbob54

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Oh it does, amongst the hypnotically converted, like the folks at Stereophile. All sorts of misguided folks proclaim that Tidal sounds “better” because of MQA, without realizing that with MQA’s “provenance” they’re often getting better quality masters, or louder ones anyway, which some perceive as “better”. That and a hefty dose of cognitive bias. Once the pretense stuck the myth has been very difficult to fight against.

Plus some folks get very excited by achieving that magenta or blue light—they feel a sense of technical accomplishment by getting that last unfold to work, and they feel like they’ve achieved something rarified and exclusive, like “MQA Studio”. Qobuz offers no such sophisticated wizardry whether it sounds exactly the same or not. The idea is that they’re getting something better than lossless, kinda like Roon’s “enhanced” signal stream. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

In fairness to Roon- they are quite clear what "Enhanced" means in their use of the word. It isnt synonymous with "better" in their case, more like "added to" . https://help.roonlabs.com/portal/en/kb/articles/signal-path#Enhanced_Signal_Path_Examples

"Enhanced signal paths are indicated by a bright blue light. This means that Roon is performing some signal processing steps on the audio because you asked for them. The most common reason for a blue light is that features like Volume Leveling or DSP Engine are in use. This is an example of an "enhanced" signal path, in this case because upsampling is configured in DSP Engine."
 

PeteL

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Oh it does, amongst the hypnotically converted, like the folks at Stereophile. All sorts of misguided folks proclaim that Tidal sounds “better” because of MQA, without realizing that with MQA’s “provenance” they’re often getting better quality masters, or louder ones anyway, which some perceive as “better”. That and a hefty dose of cognitive bias. Once the pretense stuck the myth has been very difficult to fight against.

Plus some folks get very excited by achieving that magenta or blue light—they feel a sense of technical accomplishment by getting that last unfold to work, and they feel like they’ve achieved something rarified and exclusive, like “MQA Studio”. Qobuz offers no such sophisticated wizardry whether it sounds exactly the same or not. The idea is that they’re getting something better than lossless, kinda like Roon’s “enhanced” signal stream. It’s all smoke and mirrors.
OK, me I use Tidal because I believe it sounds better than Spotify and I like the interface and suggestions. Qobuz is not an option, we don't have it in my country. Amazon don't integrate with my streamer and I refuse to support them anyway. Purchasing individual High Res is too expensive and I think it's not worth it. Nothing mythical here. My Bluesound streamer is from 2008 and I paid 150 bucks for it. My Dac is non MQA and I don't care about the last unfold, I believe 96k is enough. MQA is also smaller in size than High Res FLAC.
 

srkbear

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It's a bit off-topic (even if this DAC supports MQA), but:
- I'm not talking about a modified version. I should not have used "best" as there are not necessary several masters, but let's say it's the highest bit depth/sample rate they have (it can be 24/44.1, it's not necessary higher), and I'm not sure MQA said that in the sense of providing a lower version to customers, but more to keep the original master/format so it can turn into a marketing trick to justify the use of something else than WAV/FLAC
Don't forget that in 2014, Bob Stuart himself was saying that there no point to change anything in audio, that all we had we perfect. Then he goes 180°. Maybe because they lost big money in video (in fact, there's no "maybe")
- When I talked about "conversion", it's because it's what you get in most MQA tracks. They are not mastered while using MQA equipment, it's encoded after that, from the original master, and it's what make it impossible to be what the artists/engineers want you to hear. There are some cases like 2L label working with MQA encoder, but it's presented like every MQA in created like that, which is not the case at all.
Not sure this is all accurate, unless I’m misreading you. The “MQA Studio” catalog is promoted as being “approved” by the original artist/producer/engineer—per MQA allegedly the “best” or most “authentic” version of the master available. Whether that is accurate is another unsolvable problem obviously, since few artists (save the most earnest, and usually richest, like Neil Young) are objecting to their output being promoted on Tidal.

There are so many masters out there for any given album that it is impossible for me to be certain which one is “best”. Some still exist that were originally mastered for iTunes during the Loudness War, and were then updated more recently now that Apple is embracing the lossless/hi res Tidal wave. Every streaming service is vying for the “definitive” master so they can claim their catalog is superior to their competitors (other than maybe Spotify), but Tidal/MQA has gone farther than any other with their “provenance”/MQA Studio shill—who knows how many masters of any given artist have been granted “definitive” status at this point? Remastering occurs so frequently these days that the full story is never told.

As an example, I think Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” has been re-released with new masters at least twelve times, maybe more. And it has been subjected to multiple iterations of surround formats—first for laserdisc, then DVD-Audio, a DTS version, and finally Atmos. And it has been remastered a couple of times for vinyl, well after the CD era, and has been released in standard, hybrid and SHM SACD formats. There’s an MQA Studio version for Tidal, a “new” hi res lossless version on the Apple Music Store (along with an Atmos version), and a non-MQA “remaster” on Qobuz and Amazon HD. How could anyone possibly sort through all this nonsense?

Out of learned helplessness, I’ve opted to subscribe to both Qobuz and Tidal, and host both of them through Roon. I listen to versions from both platforms and make a rather capricious decision which one to add to my playlist. Even then I’ve oft revisited my decision and switched to the other one, then switch yet again when a new master is released. The whole mastering industry has become such a marketing tool that it’s hard to know which one most closely resembles the original vision of the artist. It’s become so frazzling and arbitrary that I occasionally long for the analog days when there was only one choice to make.

But I sure as hell don’t trust any streaming service that claims “provenance” for their catalog. There is no such thing as the “definitive” master—not in the digital era, anyway.
 

BDWoody

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I wonder if you listen to music or just a/b test all day to convince yourself to stay stuck in midfi hell

I thought mid-fi was a price tier by your tortured definition...

What's so hellish about that?

You can lose the aggression.
 

srkbear

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OK, me I use Tidal because I believe it sounds better than Spotify and I like the interface and suggestions. Qobuz is not an option, we don't have it in my country. Amazon don't integrate with my streamer and I refuse to support them anyway. Purchasing individual High Res is too expensive and I think it's not worth it. Nothing mythical here. My Bluesound streamer is from 2008 and I paid 150 bucks for it. My Dac is non MQA and I don't care about the last unfold, I believe 96k is enough. MQA is also smaller in size than High Res FLAC.
There’s nothing wrong with Tidal—I use it myself. Spotify’s catalog is still stuck in mp3 format so it’s no surprise to me that you prefer Tidal’s MQA format—it is technically lossy but when fully unfolded the differences from the lossless version are surely inaudible. My only point pertained to claims that MQA sounds “better” than lossless, which it simply cannot. It wasn’t to discredit Tidal’s sound quality. It’s just unfortunate that we’ve all had to absorb all the licensing fees MQA has foisted on the industry that offers us no sonic advantages—it’s literally tantamount to us paying a tax to keep MQA in business, that’s all. Peace
 

srkbear

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In fairness to Roon- they are quite clear what "Enhanced" means in their use of the word. It isnt synonymous with "better" in their case, more like "added to" . https://help.roonlabs.com/portal/en/kb/articles/signal-path#Enhanced_Signal_Path_Examples

"Enhanced signal paths are indicated by a bright blue light. This means that Roon is performing some signal processing steps on the audio because you asked for them. The most common reason for a blue light is that features like Volume Leveling or DSP Engine are in use. This is an example of an "enhanced" signal path, in this case because upsampling is configured in DSP Engine."
Sure, I’m a big fan of Roon and I don’t equate the two in terms of deviousness in any way whatsoever. MQA’s tactics are pure subterfuge. But even if Roon makes it clear what “enhanced” means in the fine print, the casual user might still be fooled—they could’ve used a less delicious term to describe the end result maybe—“modified” would perhaps have been less hyped.

But Roon’s motives aren’t about deception in my view—MQA/Tidal is a whole different story.
 

PeteL

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There’s nothing wrong with Tidal—I use it myself. Spotify’s catalog is still stuck in mp3 format so it’s no surprise to me that you prefer Tidal’s MQA format—it is technically lossy but when fully unfolded the differences from the lossless version are surely inaudible. My only point pertained to claims that MQA sounds “better” than lossless, which it simply cannot. It wasn’t to discredit Tidal’s sound quality. It’s just unfortunate that we’ve all had to absorb all the licensing fees MQA has foisted on the industry that offers us no sonic advantages—it’s literally tantamount to us paying a tax to keep MQA in business, that’s all. Peace
You did say that MQA was louder tough. That to me is strange and deserve investigation. There shouldn't be dynamic compression. Does Qobuz normalise at less than 0 DBFS?
 

srkbear

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I thought mid-fi was a price tier by your tortured definition...

What's so hellish about that?

You can lose the aggression.
I must agree with you—to be frank I’m not sure what this fella is up to. I can’t get a handle on his point of view. @mediocrebutarrogant, could you shed some light on the position you’re taking throughout all this? Shedding some light on the meaning of your handle would be of interest as well…
 

srkbear

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You did say that MQA was louder tough. That to me is strange and deserve investigation. There shouldn't be dynamic compression. Does Qobuz normalise at less than 0 DBFS?
No on that point I need to clarify—“louder” sounding “better” is a common cause of cognitive bias. See the Loudness War on examples of how studios have manipulated the masses to give the impression that their catalogs sound superior. I meant it as an example of how mastering has been a source of manipulation to entice buyers into a certain format or platform, to explain how MQA managed to convince folks that their format sounds better than lossless, sorry for the confusion.
 

Veri

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There’s nothing wrong with Tidal—I use it myself. Spotify’s catalog is still stuck in mp3 format so it’s no surprise to me
Well, it uses OGG Vorbis at 320kbps which is arguably a bit more than advanced than MP3. And all source material gets a 256kbps AAC version too which is used in the web player.
 

Jimbob54

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Well, it uses OGG Vorbis at 320kbps which is arguably a bit more than advanced than MP3. And all source material gets a 256kbps AAC version too which is used in the web player.
And (take this with a pinch of salt) they are soon to launch a "platinum" lossless tier. With some kind of headphone eq (?).

We have been here before though.
 

Veri

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And (take this with a pinch of salt) they are soon to launch a "platinum" lossless tier.
I think Spotify never really intended to, though. So artists who uploaded content at that time, it was transcoded to these given lossy formats. I wonder if they still have all originals to make Spotify Premium happen. There must be some reason it's taken this long for them to give the option, I mean it's kinda ridiculous.
 

Thomas savage

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I thought mid-fi was a price tier by your tortured definition...

What's so hellish about that?

You can lose the aggression.
Forget MidFi , Middle management now that's a living hell.

On that note How's it going ha ha
 

abdo123

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I have a question for the more technically inclined, if the second harmonic is at -130dB, and if S/N is also 130dB, then why is SINAD only 123dB?
 

Garrincha

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I have a question for the more technically inclined, if the second harmonic is at -130dB, and if S/N is also 130dB, then why is SINAD only 123dB?
Wow, a question pertinent to the actual thread! I think the unbalanced S/N ratio is taken into account (written at the bottom of the graph), which is "only" 123dB.
 
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