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SMSL Q5 Pro DAC And Stereo Amplifier Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the SMSL Q5 Pro DAC and stereo integrated amplifier. It is on kind loan from a member. The Q5 Pro costs US $140 from Amazon with Prime shipping.

The sample sent to me is "well used:"
SMSL Q5 Pro USB DAC and Stereo Amplifier Review.jpg

If you were a real audiophile, you would think those scratches change the cabinet resonances leading to less black backgrounds, micro detail and PRAT. But since you are not, let's read on. Here is the back panel:

SMSL Q5 Pro USB DAC and Stereo Amplifier Back Panel Connectors Power Supply Review.jpg

The owner sent me two power supplies. The other one outputs 24 volts but since it says on the back the limit is 19, I went with this one. Heaven knows if I blew it up, I could not buy another one and scratch it up the same way this one is! Strangely if I squint, the fuzzy picture on SMSL website shows the other power supply.

As you see, you have both digital and analog inputs. I tested both as you see below.

Amplifier Audio Measurements
Let's start with analog input performance:

SMSL Q5 Pro USB DAC and Stereo Amplifier AUX In Audio Measurements.png


Well, that is not good. One channel is producing far more distortion. And noise level is quite high. Switching to USB input improves the good channel significantly:
SMSL Q5 Pro USB DAC and Stereo Amplifier USB In Audio Measurements.png


The bad channel is insisting on producing far more distortion. Averaging the two, we get a SINAD score that is pretty much at the bottom of our rankings:

Best Mini Stereo Amplifier.png


From here on, I stuck with USB input since it performs better. Frequency response was refreshingly good:
SMSL Q5 Pro USB DAC and Stereo Amplifier USB In Frequency Response Audio Measurements.png


Power into 4 ohm load shows poor response:
SMSL Q5 Pro USB DAC and Stereo Amplifier USB In Power 4 Ohm Audio Measurements.png


Doesn't get much better into 8 ohm:
SMSL Q5 Pro USB DAC and Stereo Amplifier USB In Power 8 Ohm Audio Measurements.png


And we are way off the spec. But that is typical. Or maybe it needs the higher voltage power supply.

Thermal stability
Not much was changing after power up:
SMSL Q5 Pro USB DAC and Stereo Amplifier USB In Warm UP Audio Measurements.png


Conclusions
It is one thing to have random performance when an amp is $50 or so. But once you get to $140, I expect better than what SMSL Q5 Pro delivers. If you want a little baby amp, get the SMSL SA100. It behaves better and is much cheaper. So no recommendation from me.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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Sancus

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#2
Headless panther is putting in a lot of overtime lately, I hope his medical bills are covered at least.

E: I have decided to add some money to the pot on Patreon to make sure he is covered ;)
 
Last edited:

Azeia

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#3
It's odd how SMSL can have some amazing products like the SP200, but then have broken ones like this Q5. I also had a really bad experience with their "sAp II Pro", which granted is only around 70 bucks, but even so the thing would clip very easily with my DT 990s on bassy music. I replaced it once and had the same issue, so I returned and just spent more cash for a DX3 Pro.

Topping seems to have more consistent quality across their product line.
 

gr-e

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#5
Q5 pro is the predecessor of AD18 and uses the same TI "direct digital" amp.
Wonder how the Infineon chip that SMSL uses in their new SA300 and DA-8s performs.
 

Koeitje

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#6
I think SMSL's problem is that they are trying to make cheap products. You can get good performance for cheap with DACs, but a non-headphone amplifier is a different beast all together. I'd rather see them try and make a pre (with dac) and power amp combo for something like $1000-1500. Not class D (unless Ncore) but just class A/B.
 

mmicko

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#7
Hello @amirm thaks for interesting review - looks like cheap class D power amps are still not on acceptable level :-(
Could you please measure some active monitors as we already discussed (I believe you said, that some JBL model you have at home) to see, if active monitor + some good cheap dac (like Loxjie D10) can beat these cheap class D power amps.
Thank you in advance.
 
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#8
I have a couple of these Q5 Pro amps (paired with decent speakers--PSB imagine Minis and a sub). Unfortunately, I bought both units at the same time directly from a Chinese seller for about $100 and didn't bother returning. The amps sound terrible, and the remotes are crap.

I replaced one amp last year with the Klipsch Powergate, and it was a huge improvement. I know the Powergate's DAC didn't measure that well, but the end-to-end performance connected to a turntable sounds great and digital music sounds night-and-day better than the Q5. The Powergate is still selling for only $10 - $40 more than the Q5 Pro on Amazon.

Curious if anyone has other suggestions for a < $200 (or $250) small integrated amp with sub out? The Yamaha WXA-50 looks nice, but it's more than twice the price. I definitely want pre-outs or a sub out... I may just get another Powergate. Thanks.
 

renaudrenaud

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#9
I have a couple of these Q5 Pro amps (paired with decent speakers--PSB imagine Minis and a sub). Unfortunately, I bought both units at the same time directly from a Chinese seller for about $100 and didn't bother returning. The amps sound terrible, and the remotes are crap.

I replaced one amp last year with the Klipsch Powergate, and it was a huge improvement. I know the Powergate's DAC didn't measure that well, but the end-to-end performance connected to a turntable sounds great and digital music sounds night-and-day better than the Q5. The Powergate is still selling for only $10 - $40 more than the Q5 Pro on Amazon.

Curious if anyone has other suggestions for a < $200 (or $250) small integrated amp with sub out? The Yamaha WXA-50 looks nice, but it's more than twice the price. I definitely want pre-outs or a sub out... I may just get another Powergate. Thanks.
Something with TPA3255?
 

beefkabob

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#10
I have one of these. I bought it from massdrop because people said it was great, but mainly because it was the cheapest USB DAC/AMP I could find at the time. I ran McIntosh LS310 speakers, which are 4 ohm. It did not sound good. I eventually unhooked it and shoved it in a box. Oh well.
 

anmpr1

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#11
If you were a real audiophile, you would think those scratches change the cabinet resonances leading to less black backgrounds, micro detail and PRAT.
In the world of electric guitars, some people pay x-tra for that 'beat up' look in their new instrument. Only $7,000.00. LOL

R92051-angle-large.jpg
 

TimW

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#14
Curious if anyone has other suggestions for a < $200 (or $250) small integrated amp with sub out? The Yamaha WXA-50 looks nice, but it's more than twice the price. I definitely want pre-outs or a sub out... I may just get another Powergate. Thanks.
The NAD C320BEE Amir measured has quite good performance. Especially considering the great price you can sometimes find them for. A neat feature they have is Pre Out and Main In connections. You can use a splitter between these connections to send full range signals to the main speakers and the subwoofer. If you want proper high and low pass filters you could also add a piece of gear such as an analog crossover. A miniDSP 2x4 would work well also, giving you phase, delay, and PEQ to play with.
 

SEKLEM

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#15
Q5 pro is the predecessor of AD18 and uses the same TI "direct digital" amp.
Wonder how the Infineon chip that SMSL uses in their new SA300 and DA-8s performs.
The DA-8 uses an ICEPower 50ASX2 module. Assuming they didn’t cock up the preamp it would perform pretty well. The 50ASX2 was measured here.

I’d also like to see how the “Infineon” unit performs.
 

confucius_zero

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#16
I guess the FDA cult just got epic destroyed...
 

gr-e

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#17
The DA-8 uses an ICEPower 50ASX2 module. Assuming they didn’t cock up the preamp it would perform pretty well. The 50ASX2 was measured here.

I’d also like to see how the “Infineon” unit performs.
They already released an update: DA-8S. Its cheaper and has bluetooth, balanced inputs and aforementioned Infineon chip
 
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amirm

amirm

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