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SMSL Q5 Pro DAC And Stereo Amplifier Review

Xulonn

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I have an SMSL Q5 Pro that I use to drive a pair of tiny old Yamaha NS-A325 speakers on my desktop. I didn't expect it to measure excellently, but it is worse than I thought. Mine sits under my computer monitor in the same room as my main system, and I do not use it for serious listening. It does o.k. for my computer sound needs, but seems to cut out occasionally, and work again after a power off, then back on.

Unfortunately, as I reported elsewhere recently here at ASR, my Intel NUC8i7 mini-PC running Windows 10 Home will not connect via USB with the Q5 Pro. I mean, Windows doesn't even detect that a USB device is connected, much less "recognize" what device it is. (I tried several different known good micro-USB cables.) So I am using USB from the NUC to my backup mini-DAC, an SMSL Sanskrit 6th, to feed a line level signal to the Q5.

Compulsive and hopeless optimist that I am regarding cheap mini-ChiFi components, an I.AM.D v200 FDA (pic below) sans power brick (no BT) for $98 including shipping to Miami is on its way to me here in Panama. I kept a couple of 32V Topping SMPS bricks from the two Topping PA3 mini-amps that died on me last year, and will use one of them to power the I.AM.D FDA. The other "known brand" mini FDA's that I considered were Alientek and FX Audio.

The I.AM.D v200 was once sold by Audiophonics and was liked by a small group at DIYAudio, but now seems to be available only via AliExpress and other Asian internet resellers. It is based on the Texas Instruments TAS5614LA amplifier, which was apparently introduced in 2012, and output power at 1%THD+N is stated as 65wpc. Max input voltage is 36vdc, so the 32V Topping SMPS bricks should power it properly without going over its voltage limit. Searching for "TAS5614LA" doesn't bring up much besides the I.AM.D v200/v200bt amplifiers, so I assume that it was either unpopular, or used in pedestrian consumer audio systems that don't mention the chip that they are based on. (Can any of our resident experts see what might limit this chip for HiFi applications, based on the TI spec sheet that I linked to above?)

If the I.AM.D v200 works with Windows 10 USB via my Intel NUC8i7, is hiss free, and drives my little speakers to decent levels, I will be happy. It will also eliminate a power brick and a couple of cables.

I.AM.D v200-1.jpg

I.AM.D v200-2.jpg


I will not argue semantics, and I accept "Full Digital Amplifier" (FDA) as the descriptor for amplifiers with digital input, and the term works better than DAC/Amp for Google searching.
 

mkawa

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the irony of this is is that the internal parts choices on this device are excellent. this is not a bad implementation of a good chipset (ok the channel imbalance is blech, but who knows, maybe i blew that up at some point). this is pushed about as far as the tas55xx chipset can go. at best it is suited for soundbars with ultra high efficiency tranducers and convoluted plastic housings to get some flabby low-end.

using it for mid-fi audiofi is clearly not a huge success. it's too expensive for the lack of performance, and the small size is not as persuasive to the market as it is for soundbars and BT speakers.
 

Kegemusha

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I bought one of these 6 years ago for 90€, and the remote is indeed just crap, i replaced for a better on, I just have it for the Xbox and TV sound but is not good IMO. I will change it soon.
 

Skylamar

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Hi. I'm new to this site and I hope this post isn't inappropriate. I'm looking for recommendations of a replacement for my Q5 Pro though I'm not sure I'm ready to buy a replacement just yet, but I would if I can find something worthwhile.

First I should make clear: I'm no audiophile. Here is my situation:

I bought an SMSL Q5 Pro back in 2016 and I've been using it since then. I have it connected to my TV via the optical audio output. I also have a bluetooth receiver hooked up to the auxiliary input and I use the bluetooth receiver to connect an Amazon Echo Show. I've also connected some budget Polk speakers and a Polk subwoofer.

I've read in this thread that the Q5 Pro didn't test well and that most people seem to be underwhelmed by its performance. However, I've actually been pretty happy with it. There is some slight hiss when I have the sound source set to the auxiliary input and the volume is past 20 but when I'm playing music I don't notice the hiss. The sound is better from the optical audio input and I've been especially pleased with the sound quality when watching movies.

However, the display has begun losing some of its lights; it's now tricky to tell what the volume is set to because of the missing digits. The remote, which was terrible to begin with, also just stopped working.

So I decided to get a replacement and impulsively bought the LOXJIE A30 on Amazon after reading some positive reviews on a few different sites. I got it yesterday and found out today after hooking it up that it doesn't do well with optical audio output. There's a constant hiccuping where the sound will go out for a fraction of a second. I thought maybe it was my particular unit but then I found a post on this site from someone who had the same exact problem. So, I'm going to return the LOXJIE A30.

I've also reconnected my Q5 Pro. And after listening to it again, I think I may actually prefer the sound of the Q5 Pro to the LOXJIE A30. The bass output from the LOXJIE A30 was more distorted and human speech sounds crisper to me on the Q5 Pro. But again I'm not an audiophile and I also didn't tinker with the LOXJIE A30's equalizer settings.

I also realized I can get a new remote for the Q5 Pro on Amazon. I had thought SMSL was too obscure of a company for their remote to be available anywhere so I hadn't looked. I also was pleasantly surprised that the remote on Amazon has been updated to use AAA batteries instead of a watch battery, which is what my original remote for the Q5 Pro used. So I ordered the remote and I'm no longer in a hurry to replace the Q5 Pro.

However, I would consider replacing it if I could find something better that would be a worthy upgrade. Also, I'm worried the display on my Q5 Pro will continue to deteriorate.

So I'm wondering if there are any good recommendations for replacements of the Q5 Pro. My needs are:

Optical Audio Input
Subwoofer Output
The ability to connect speakers with speaker wire
RCA input for the bluetooth receiver (I prefer using an external bluetooth receiver so I can leave it turned on all the time for the Amazon device)
A low footprint because I'll have it sitting in front of my TV and the TV's stand isn't very high.
As for price: I don't really care. I'm interested to see what's available and I'd be willing to pay more for something good. However, I've had a hard time finding amplifiers on my own that fit my critieria.

Thanks in advance for any help.
 
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I had a Q5 Pro and then saw the review here and thought I needed to upgrade. But my unit seemed to work and sound fine. I can't help but wonder if the unit Amir tested was busted.

I got the Loxjie A30, and I like most things about it, except that the remote stopped working (a problem others have had on this site). It sounds like the A30 you tried was defective. Most people seem to love them. Maybe it's worth trying another unit?

I prefer an SMSL C200 (or SMSL D-6) combined with a Topping PA3s amp. No subwoofer output, but you can use the RCA outs of the C200 for that (and balanced outs for the PA3s). The volume for both outputs is linked (I use a PA3s/D-6 combo in another room the same way). The C200 has BT, so maybe you could just keep it on all the time?
 

Skylamar

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I had a Q5 Pro and then saw the review here and thought I needed to upgrade. But my unit seemed to work and sound fine. I can't help but wonder if the unit Amir tested was busted.

I got the Loxjie A30, and I like most things about it, except that the remote stopped working (a problem others have had on this site). It sounds like the A30 you tried was defective. Most people seem to love them. Maybe it's worth trying another unit?

I prefer an SMSL C200 (or SMSL D-6) combined with a Topping PA3s amp. No subwoofer output, but you can use the RCA outs of the C200 for that (and balanced outs for the PA3s). The volume for both outputs is linked (I use a PA3s/D-6 combo in another room the same way). The C200 has BT, so maybe you could just keep it on all the time?
I don't believe my Loxjie A30 was defective. I think there's a flaw in the design of the amp. I've now read multiple posts from people saying they also had audio problems with the Loxjie A30 and optical out.

I just hope the replacement remote works with my Q5 Pro and that my Q5 Pro's display doesn't get worse. If the remote doesn't work, I'll be back looking for another replacement.
 
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I don't doubt the reports. I guess I'm lucky in the optical department. I run my A30 only in optical only and it sounds as good as any other system I have used (just not as loud as some). Indeed, some reports here suggest that COAX and optical are the best ways to run it. This post talks about it: #638

I also wonder if you have the LG TV optical out problem that many have experienced. My Q5 refused to run optical (or sputtered) if it was sub-par.

Anyway, good luck finding a solution.
 

Skylamar

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I don't doubt the reports. I guess I'm lucky in the optical department. I run my A30 only in optical only and it sounds as good as any other system I have used (just not as loud as some). Indeed, some reports here suggest that COAX and optical are the best ways to run it. This post talks about it: #638

I also wonder if you have the LG TV optical out problem that many have experienced. My Q5 refused to run optical (or sputtered) if it was sub-par.

Anyway, good luck finding a solution.
I did read about some people having issues with LG C2 TVs' optical out in my research on problems with the A30. I've only had my LG TV for three weeks (before I had a low-budget Roku TV) and it's working perfectly fine connected to the Q5 Pro via optical out.

I also read in Reddit that someone had suggested changing the audio output on the LG TV from Bitstream to PCM as a possible fix for problems with the A30. But I'd already put the A30 back in its box and had reconnected my Q5 Pro so I didn't want to do any more testing.

I do wonder whether the specific Q5 Pro reviewed on this site had something wrong with it, as you surmised. As I said, I'm generality pleased with the sound from the Q5 Pro.

I'm also surprised that SMSL hasn't released a successor to the Q5 Pro. They don't seem to be selling the Q5 Pro anymore and haven't released anything with the same number of inputs.

That's good you're happy with the A30. Have you found the sound better than the Q5 Pro?

Anyway, I'm not really in a rush to get a replacement for the Q5 Pro, unless I have trouble with the new remote which is arriving tomorrow, but I thought maybe some of the experts on this site would have some suggestions. There seems to be a bunch of brands that have similar looking amps to the Q5 Pro and A30 but it's hard to tell which ones are better. My experience with the A30's optical output proves that there are some differences.
 

LDvo

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I don't doubt the reports. I guess I'm lucky in the optical department. I run my A30 only in optical only and it sounds as good as any other system I have used (just not as loud as some). Indeed, some reports here suggest that COAX and optical are the best ways to run it. This post talks about it: #638

I also wonder if you have the LG TV optical out problem that many have experienced. My Q5 refused to run optical (or sputtered) if it was sub-par.

Anyway, good luck finding a solution.

I still use my old
I did read about some people having issues with LG C2 TVs' optical out in my research on problems with the A30. I've only had my LG TV for three weeks (before I had a low-budget Roku TV) and it's working perfectly fine connected to the Q5 Pro via optical out.

I also read in Reddit that someone had suggested changing the audio output on the LG TV from Bitstream to PCM as a possible fix for problems with the A30. But I'd already put the A30 back in its box and had reconnected my Q5 Pro so I didn't want to do any more testing.

I do wonder whether the specific Q5 Pro reviewed on this site had something wrong with it, as you surmised. As I said, I'm generality pleased with the sound from the Q5 Pro.

I'm also surprised that SMSL hasn't released a successor to the Q5 Pro. They don't seem to be selling the Q5 Pro anymore and haven't released anything with the same number of inputs.

That's good you're happy with the A30. Have you found the sound better than the Q5 Pro?

Anyway, I'm not really in a rush to get a replacement for the Q5 Pro, unless I have trouble with the new remote which is arriving tomorrow, but I thought maybe some of the experts on this site would have some suggestions. There seems to be a bunch of brands that have similar looking amps to the Q5 Pro and A30 but it's hard to tell which ones are better. My experience with the A30's optical output proves that there are some differences.

I still use my old SMSL Q5 Pro (got it for $42 on clearance) - little weak on watts but work just fine with little speakers for near field non-critical listening.
This is what I've done to make it stable and to make it to work with LG TV:

- replaced external 19V power supply with new better 24V power supply (orig. one is simply dangerous to use)
- use optical splitter out from LG TV to the unit and to my main receiver - splitter from Monoprice did not work, got one from Amazon
- use good OFC speaker cables - speaker terminals are too small for very thick cables
- use passive subwoofer

It is not that bad sound for 5-6 years old small amp (no comparison with new modern SMSL or Topping - they went long way since that time).
Amir said in his review - The sample sent to me is "well used:" So maybe that sample unit has been overused slightly? :))))
 
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That's good you're happy with the A30. Have you found the sound better than the Q5 Pro?
I haven't compared them in a blind test or even with the same speaker/sub combination. The Q5 was attached to NHT Super Zeros (which got a poor review here, though I still like them OK) and a Yamaha sub (nothing special). They're fine for the bedroom using a Belkin Airplay unit. They're never played very loud. They sound just OK. Perfect for background music.

The A30 is my office amp, connected to Polk ES10s and a PSW10 sub. That system sounds fantastic.

But it's an apples/watermelon comparison.
 

Skylamar

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I haven't compared them in a blind test or even with the same speaker/sub combination. The Q5 was attached to NHT Super Zeros (which got a poor review here, though I still like them OK) and a Yamaha sub (nothing special). They're fine for the bedroom using a Belkin Airplay unit. They're never played very loud. They sound just OK. Perfect for background music.

The A30 is my office amp, connected to Polk ES10s and a PSW10 sub. That system sounds fantastic.

But it's an apples/watermelon comparison.
Yeah, you'd have to try both amps with the same setup.

I also have a PSW10 and I'm using Polk T15 bookshelves.

I also used to own NHT Super Zeroes many years ago.

I find the Q5 Pro gets as loud as I need it to be. I live in an apartment complex so to be respectful I don't blast my music or movies. But the Q5 Pro gets loud enough that I can hear the sound throughout my apartment.
 

Skylamar

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So, I just read on a Twitter thread that "DACs like the Topping use ESS chips which cannot handle the high amounts of jitter that a lot of TV optical outputs put out (my C2, OPs C1, etc.) When you listen the audio will drop out momentarily very frequently. Since all of the new DACs come with ESS chips you need to find one where you can adjust the threshold."

If that poster is correct, A30 probably uses the ESS chips and the Q5 Pro probably doesn't. But I wonder if there is an easy way to tell which newer amps have the feature to adjust the threshold.
 

Kegemusha

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I also have a Q5 pro, it is fine for TV/XBOX, I have it on the 2nd TV setup, for that is fine, but not for music.
For music you better with other amp.
 

Count Dacula

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I got one 5-6 years ago for AV at my wife's place, so it has very little use. I thought it filled the LR pretty well, driving little KEF Q1.

25074942_1516493235071211_486446583229459880_o.jpg


Massive WAF for both components, but we left the property since then, so the Q1+Q5 is now my upgrade SS at homehome for the *low power* bedroom computer/TV source. I have my main system in here too, which sucks a lot of power for just watching TV. It's a nice dead room with a lot of clothes on shelves and hanging up. We are in here way more than the living room.

Just finished the re-install and booted it up just in time for the wife to go to sleep. I don't expect miracles, but don't consider it a bad item either. USB syncs easily. Tone control is a plus on an all-in-one unit like this, especially a small amp & small speakers which need a little help.

Are there better desktop separates or AIO units on the market now, sure....but I just want to get my money's worth out of this nice compact device. If it were my only amp, sure to drive the KEFs I could upgrade all the way up to a 100w 2ch receiver....which is often my solution for 2ch AV. A compact desktop AIO with a little punch is a nice thing to have, it's just a matter of knowing which unit to buy. I have 2 newer SMSL DACS, a cheaper amp and this Q5, and I'm pretty happy with the brand....just need to be more picky about the unit I buy.
 
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