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SMSL SU-8 Version 2 Balanced DAC

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@Mike Rife

This website is really science oriented, so let's start with factual facts:
- the unit has very good measurements
- around 200$ is a low cost for a DAC
- personal fact: my very expansive DAC is now unplugged

After that, with no relation with science, I can say that I like:
- a surprising 3D image when used with my other low cost equipment,
- timbral characteristic,
- balanced sound,
- a kind of sweet decay,
- plenty other points I cannot describe with my poor english.

Another point is power consumption: I do not want to spend a lot of electricity to listen to music, I want my hobby low impact for the planet.

First, there is no reason to apologize for your "poor english". Your grasp of the language is better than you know. Much better.

Second, thanks for your information. I will assume that what I call "glare" is a problem with my older DAC that was added to my pre/pro most likely as an afterthought (the design is now at least 6 years old, the chip is probably older than that). I will purchase an SU-8 soon and try it for a month while hoping I don't hear what I hear now.

Thank you, sir!
 
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@Mike Rife It's not much help if some people say what you are calling 'digital glare' is equivalent to fairy farts, now is it? Personally, I believe you are hearing something you don't like and would like a solution, right? However, I struggle to understand exactly what it is you hear from your description. Is there anything particularly different about the audio files presenting this 'digital glare' compared with those that don't? Maybe they are all empty3? Or maybe they are super Hi-Res files and your old DAC can't handle them well?


The problem is difficult to define, obviously, and I hope it is related to the age of the DAC in my pre/pro. Your diagnosis might be correct. I will find out soon.
 

frogmeat69

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If it's just certain songs or files you hear this glare, maybe it's the recording you are playing that has this problem? I have had an iFi Micro iDSD, iOne DAC, SMSL M8, Sanskrit Pro, SU-8, Topping D10, D50, TEAC NT-505, and an OPPO HA-1 and UDP-205, along with quite a few DAPs with various DAC chips, and crappy recordings sound crappy no matter what I used.
Sure, I've thought I could hear differences between them, but that could be many other factors besides just what DAC chip is in said unit.
Right now, the D50/Atom amp or SU-8/iCan Pro amp get all my time, they both sound great.
 
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If it's just certain songs or files you hear this glare, maybe it's the recording you are playing that has this problem? I have had an iFi Micro iDSD, iOne DAC, SMSL M8, Sanskrit Pro, SU-8, Topping D10, D50, TEAC NT-505, and an OPPO HA-1 and UDP-205, along with quite a few DAPs with various DAC chips, and crappy recordings sound crappy no matter what I used.
Sure, I've thought I could hear differences between them, but that could be many other factors besides just what DAC chip is in said unit.
Right now, the D50/Atom amp or SU-8/iCan Pro amp get all my time, they both sound great.
Can't argue with your logic. I will just wait to see (and hear) what the files sound like through the SU-8. Thanks.
 
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How much of an improvement is this over the Dragonfly Red (I know it's a SE DAC)...since both cost almost the same. Also, is the balanced out reaching reference class in any way? Just asking as I am contemplating an upgrade from my Dragonfly Red DAC to a balanced DAC. Thanks
 

amirm

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How much of an improvement is this over the Dragonfly Red (I know it's a SE DAC)...since both cost almost the same. Also, is the balanced out reaching reference class in any way? Just asking as I am contemplating an upgrade from my Dragonfly Red DAC to a balanced DAC. Thanks
I want to make sure there is no confusion here. "Balanced" here means there are XLR outputs in the back that you can connect to an amplifier with the same connection. If you don't have that and will be using RCA outputs, then you are not using this feature.

Almost all DAC chips used inside these units are balanced in nature. Their output is then converted to unbalanced for RCA output, or kept as balanced to the output.

Do not think that balanced means better sound here either unless measurements show it so. The benefit of XLR/Balanced is that it reduces hum/ground loop potential significantly.

I can't tell you if you will get better sound than Dragonfly but yes, this is a much better DAC technically even if you use its RCA output than Dragonfly Red. The Red is good for portable use, otherwise there is no reason to use it.
 
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I want to make sure there is no confusion here. "Balanced" here means there are XLR outputs in the back that you can connect to an amplifier with the same connection. If you don't have that and will be using RCA outputs, then you are not using this feature.

Almost all DAC chips used inside these units are balanced in nature. Their output is then converted to unbalanced for RCA output, or kept as balanced to the output.

Do not think that balanced means better sound here either unless measurements show it so. The benefit of XLR/Balanced is that it reduces hum/ground loop potential significantly.

I can't tell you if you will get better sound than Dragonfly but yes, this is a much better DAC technically even if you use its RCA output than Dragonfly Red. The Red is good for portable use, otherwise there is no reason to use it.
Thanks, you nailed it again. I have the THX AAA 789 so yes, balanced matters to me! I wished it had MQA processing... Even the 2nd fold... Would have been future proof then!
 
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I use Roon player and it does the MQA decoding so little need for support in the DAC.
Thanks for that. I can't pay for Roon knowing it does what the Tidal app already does=1st unfold of MQA only, maybe I'm missing out on some 'brilliant' feature of Roon that merits $120 pa or so for SW usage cost.. Considering I only stream High Res and have no local library as such (nor do I feel the need to have in 2019).

Your review was great, but didn't say much about how the SMSL SU-8 sounds to your ears. Is it better or equivalent sounding in clarity, depth, sound stage and quality in balanced mode than say the DX7S or the D50 or the Mojo... And would you recommend any other DAC under USD 500-600 range to go better in balanced mode with the THX AAA 789 - if it does MQA, that'd be a plus but not a must? Thanks
 

Veri

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Your review was great, but didn't say much about how the SMSL SU-8 sounds to your ears. Is it better or equivalent sounding in clarity, depth, sound stage and quality in balanced mode than say the DX7S or the D50 or the Mojo...
This isn't the kind of website where the main articles will spew out subjective comparisons to popular products :p
 
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This isn't the kind of website where the main articles will spew out subjective comparisons to popular products :p
I agree...we all love facts! I just trust @amirm when it come to his own interpretation of sound and that it would be unbiased and close to what he observed technically..in comparison with the huge list of equipment he has been fortunate enough to have experience with. Hence the question. Sorry if it caused a misunderstanding mate. Cheers
 
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BTW this is on sale for $224.99 with free shipping around the world from eBay and AliExpress. The lowest it went was $200 at Massdrop but they're sold through so I guess it won't be coming back there. For anyone else interested
 
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Shenzhen Audio has had it on sale twice in the last few weeks for $212.49. Free shipping from China. And you get full warranty and 30 day return.

Shane D
 
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Shenzhen Audio has had it on sale twice in the last few weeks for $212.49. Free shipping from China. And you get full warranty and 30 day return.

Shane D
Yeah, just saw it! And just bought it! I hope its a decent balanced DAC and a true upgrade to my existing Dragonfly Red. Thanks
 
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Yeah, just saw it! And just bought it! I hope its a decent balanced DAC and a true upgrade to my existing Dragonfly Red. Thanks
I would be curious to see how you make out. Can you tell us where you ordered from and update your delivery time? I am hearing just several days.

I am holding off until I get my OTG cable from Asia. Hopefully I get that by the end if the month and then manage to catch a sale. I like the idea of a 30 day trial window in case my DAP to OTG to DAC plan doesn't work.

Shane D
 
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I would be curious to see how you make out. Can you tell us where you ordered from and update your delivery time? I am hearing just several days.

I am holding off until I get my OTG cable from Asia. Hopefully I get that by the end if the month and then manage to catch a sale. I like the idea of a 30 day trial window in case my DAP to OTG to DAC plan doesn't work.

Shane D
Ive ordered from the UAE and am due to receive by 03-June I guess. I think if youre dead set on the SU-8, go for it - an OTG cable shouldnt stop you! And if you are aware of and are waiting for a better balanced DAC to go with decent amps like the THX 789, plz let me know as well and Ill cancel my order ;-)
 
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Ive ordered from the UAE and am due to receive by 03-June I guess. I think if youre dead set on the SU-8, go for it - an OTG cable shouldnt stop you! And if you are aware of and are waiting for a better balanced DAC to go with decent amps like the THX 789, plz let me know as well and Ill cancel my order ;-)
This DAC is definitely the best bang for the buck in balanced DAC's. I have been looking at higher end used DAC's and was going to buy a Cambridge Audio DAC MagicPlus but I spoke to a few people on Head-Fi that stated it would not recognize the Sony DAP's using the "official" Sony OTG cable.

So, I am now thinking to buy new and have the option to return if they don't work together. Of course I would have to pay the shipping from Canada to China, but I am OK with that.

Shane D
 
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You seem to be well updated with your equipment. My candid advice...dump DAPs man! The Tidal App now does MQA on both PC and all mobiles and these devices do everything that a DAP can do and more! With a balanced DAC, i suggest use a direct feed from Tidal native app or Roon if youve got useless money lying somewhere) to avoid any sound coloration by the DAP. Just my 2 cents mate. I hope you work it out with the OTG should you continue that route! CHeers
 

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