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SMSL SD-9 Player Review

Rate this player:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 37 31.4%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 56 47.5%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 20 16.9%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 5 4.2%

  • Total voters
    118

amirm

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This is a review and measurements of the SMSL SD-9 network and local audio player. It was kindly drop shipped to me by a member and costs US $400.
SMSL SD-9 Network USB Player Player.jpg

I am confused about the form factor here. A streaming/media player device by definition goes into an audio system, used at a distance. As such, the little display will not be visible at all. On desktop use it is frustrating to navigate the unit with just a clickable rotary control. The remote control helps a bit here but still very non-intuitive and rather slow to respond. No DAC is included as all outputs are digital:
SMSL SD-9 Network USB Player Player Review back panel.jpg


I connected the Ethernet input and found the menu to update the firmware. I was surprised that it was looking for a file still rather than over the air update.

No Roon support is included, forcing me to deal with its interface to try to play things. I understand there is a remote app from Hiby but I did not try to use it.

I enabled Airplay and while Roon player could see SD-9 over it, it could not play anything to it (I had selected Airplay on SD-9). I then tried to setup DLNA on my windows machine. No matter I did, I could not get the SD-9 to show any files available for playback. Maybe it was pilot error on my part but after half hour of messing around, I gave up and tested the unit using a USB thumb drive.

SMSL SD-9 Player Measurement
With a digital only device, there is not a ton we can test for. But let's see if it is bit perfect playing 24-bit 1 kHz (dithered) tone:
SMSL SD-9 Network USB Player Measurements.png


I was surprised to see harmonics of 1 kHz in the FFT spectrum causing a bit of reduction in SINAD. It is certainly not a cause for concern but a bit strange.

The only other test was J-test but measuring the spectrum of jitter:
SMSL SD-9 Network USB Player Jitter Measurements.png

The amplitude here is higher than I like to see but again, not an audible concern.

I ran a few other tests but none generated anything useful. It is a digital device and plays what you feed it.

Conclusions
The SD-9 exemplifies what I dislike about "pull" streaming devices. Every one has its own quirks and operational issues you have to learn and deal with. In sharp contrast, push support for Roon gives instant and familiar functionality. I understand if you don't use Roon then you don't have this option but I have to rant anyway. :) Operationally I find the unit challenging to use but ultimately it will pass the bits you send it with 24 bit resolution (assuming you don't use Airplay).

I personally have no use for SMSL SD-9 but you may think differently. I rather save money and get a higher end streamer with larger and easier to use touchpanel. And company supported remote app.

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

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
Hard to come up with an application for this which wouldn't be much better served by a $400 laptop or DAP. Without an app (and a good one at that) this seems less than useless. Especially in a world where nearly every AVR at this price level or above already includes this functionality (and many can also be Roon endpoints for push configurations as well).
 
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Thanks for the test (attempt).

The Jitter test Y scale in ps is unusual, isn't it ?

I was xondering: is it LDAC compatible ?
If it is, couldn't you use this LDAC A2DP driver for windows to push your usual tests ?
(I gave it a try here.)
 
The Jitter test Y scale in ps is unusual, isn't it ?
Not in this test. The analyzer has a special mode where it just captures the jitter, not the audio signal. In that regard, the captured data is timing data so expressed in picoseconds.

Normally we infer jitter by analyzing analog (voltage) output of the DAC. Here, we are measuring it directly.
 
If it is, couldn't you use this LDAC A2DP driver for windows to push your usual tests ?
LDAC is good but is not 24 bit lossless.
 
I think this is SMSL trying to be twee by releasing a device that they expect their DAC owners to buy as complimentary but really?? $400 for this kind of half baked nonsense?

by the same token I think $1,000+ streamers are taking the piss (so to speak)

i think streamers requires a certain specialty and really, smsl and topping dont have it

these things requires a fair bit of thought as far as UI goes and really, we kind of know they arent specialists at UI and forcing you into a knob and a tiny little screen is torture
 
Hi Amir, your conclusion on usability of this device is severe, are you planning to give it another chance by testing the Hiby app? There is a lot of people that do not want to pay Roon and just stick to standard Tidal/Qobuz, i'd like to know if Hiby is ok in such scenario
 
Hi Amir, your conclusion on usability of this device is severe, are you planning to give it another chance by testing the Hiby app?
I am not the judge or jury on its functionality. Feel free to rely on other sources. My job was to measure its performance and I did that. It won't change with Hiby app.
 
I had one of these and it is crap (compared its competitors) for every reason Amir stated ... and more
Rating = poor (since crap was not an option)
 
Hi Amir, your conclusion on usability of this device is severe, are you planning to give it another chance by testing the Hiby app? There is a lot of people that do not want to pay Roon and just stick to standard Tidal/Qobuz, i'd like to know if Hiby is ok in such scenario
I have occasionally used the Hiby app on my Topping M50: it is a rather poor UI to select the music you wish to play from an external SSD. A slightly better remote app is the Cambridge Audio one. By far, the best one, that reliably does find the music by Composer, Performer or Album title is the Weiss one. Unfortunately it is only specific to the MAN301 and I wonder if a good market move for Daniel Weiss could be to have a universal one, for a price, that works with the Cambridge and Topping. It is important to remember that it is very important to archive your music with impeccable criteria: the metadata on the CDs are often incomplete and inconsistent.
 
Yes, I agree, SMSL SD-9 is a box of uncertain functionality and dubious flexibility. It is impossible from a review of the info to ascertain if it will play a large FLAC collection (80k files), if and how it will display the album pic, how easy is to find a music file by composer, performer and album. In the end, I have suspended any purchase of players, servers and streamers, as manufacturers are not forthcoming in standardizing UI and functionality.
 
Yes, I agree, SMSL SD-9 is a box of uncertain functionality and dubious flexibility. It is impossible from a review of the info to ascertain if it will play a large FLAC collection (80k files), if and how it will display the album pic, how easy is to find a music file by composer, performer and album. In the end, I have suspended any purchase of players, servers and streamers, as manufacturers are not forthcoming in standardizing UI and functionality.
Exactly, but i would exclude matrix from your list. In my experience (5 separate devices) they are (now) forthcoming and meet their specs
 
I guess the use-case is a digital preamp, connected to active speakers with interior dac? If the volume control is consistent across inputs, it could be a nice gadget.
 
I am not the judge or jury on its functionality. Feel free to rely on other sources. My job was to measure its performance and I did that. It won't change with Hiby app.
I was considering this unit some time ago but most of what I found online about the functionality of the thing convinced me to steer clear of it.
 
I’m missing the selling point of this device!

Move along everyone, not much to see here.
 
How can a SINAD of 138+ (!) draw ire? The science is sound it seems. No audible flaws. Not liking the controls or price is subjective, no?
 
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