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SMSL SU-8 Version 2 Balanced DAC

Shoaibexpert

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I've been thinking of upgrading my SMSL SU 8 (yeah! Way deep into this rabbit hole!!)...and so I am wanting to hear thoughts and experiences with DACs under $1000 mark that would pose as genuine upgrade to the SU 8 in terms of sound quality, naturalness and smoothness. I'm kinda not liking the edgy sound of ESS based SU 8 DAC on my THX 789 and Hifiman Arya ... and presume the M500 would sound equally edgy...thinking of AKM based DACs are more musical. Also considering Denafrips Ares as it's a R-2R DAC and perhaps is smoother. Any help in suggesting a DAC upgrade would be helpful...and thanks in advance!
 

Veri

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I've been thinking of upgrading my SMSL SU 8 (yeah! Way deep into this rabbit hole!!)...and so I am wanting to hear thoughts and experiences with DACs under $1000 mark that would pose as genuine upgrade to the SU 8 in terms of sound quality, naturalness and smoothness. I'm kinda not liking the edgy sound of ESS based SU 8 DAC on my THX 789 and Hifiman Arya ... and presume the M500 would sound equally edgy...thinking of AKM based DACs are more musical. Also considering Denafrips Ares as it's a R-2R DAC and perhaps is smoother. Any help in suggesting a DAC upgrade would be helpful...and thanks in advance!
The edgy sound is not your DAC, it's the Arya...
 

Veri

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By which I mean, headphone makes biggest difference. Amping needs/having enough power second biggest. DAC, unless broken, is dead last. R2R when done 'proper', not intentionally full of distortion, will sound just like a non-R2R DAC. I've done the test :/
Don't chase the DAC Dragon :p
 

Shoaibexpert

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By which I mean, headphone makes biggest difference. Amping needs/having enough power second biggest. DAC, unless broken, is dead last. R2R when done 'proper', not intentionally full of distortion, will sound just like a non-R2R DAC. I've done the test :/
Don't chase the DAC Dragon :p
So you wouldn't recommend the SMSL M500 over the SU8 for the better chip and USB chip...MQA feature aside?
 

Veri

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So you wouldn't recommend the SMSL M500 over the SU8 for the better chip and USB chip...MQA feature aside?
No I wouldn't. If you need no features you should aim to simply tame your headphone's edginess differently. Passive filter, EQ/DSP, tuning materials ...
 

Shoaibexpert

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No I wouldn't. If you need no features you should aim to simply tame your headphone's edginess differently. Passive filter, EQ/DSP, tuning materials ...
Yup passive filter worked for me. How about detail? Would a well Implemented Pro DAC chip based DAC sound more detailed than a well Implemented Q2M mobile DAC chip based DAC...excuse my English ...with all those extra channels and better board etc.?
 
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The edgy sound is not your DAC, it's the Arya...
I purchased the SU-8, paired with that THX thingy and HD6XX and I love what I hear, whether the source is a CD player (Nakamichi MB-10), the Blu-Ray player or else. I haven't tried the Beyerdynamics Tesla yet, but I should in the next few days. I was concerned that DAC (which is an "upgrade" from Grace DAC balanced) would not be that great, but the more I listen to it, the more I am accustomed to it and I don't regret my choice. No issues so far.
 

Veri

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Yup passive filter worked for me. How about detail? Would a well Implemented Pro DAC chip based DAC sound more detailed than a well Implemented Q2M mobile DAC chip based DAC...excuse my English ...with all those extra channels and better board etc.?
Pro chip has potential for less distortion but that's it. Perfect implemented Q2M chip should get 99% there. Whether that last 1% is worth it is up to you. I personally have a Q2M DAC and it's perfectly suitable to me.

I don't think you'll get "more detail". Just less distortion, which is probably inaudible at these sub zero numbers ;)
 

Shoaibexpert

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Pro chip has potential for less distortion but that's it. Perfect implemented Q2M chip should get 99% there. Whether that last 1% is worth it is up to you. I personally have a Q2M DAC and it's perfectly suitable to me.

I don't think you'll get "more detail". Just less distortion, which is probably inaudible at these sub zero numbers ;)
Thanks for the info mate
 

MediumRare

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I just upgraded
Pro chip has potential for less distortion but that's it. Perfect implemented Q2M chip should get 99% there. Whether that last 1% is worth it is up to you. I personally have a Q2M DAC and it's perfectly suitable to me.

I don't think you'll get "more detail". Just less distortion, which is probably inaudible at these sub zero numbers ;)
I just upgraded DAC from SINAD 105 to 119 and I find that difference audible, both in bass and treble. I can’t say if Balanced line out was also a factor. Perhaps worth another 2 or 3 dB?
 

Veri

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I just upgraded

I just upgraded DAC from SINAD 105 to 119 and I find that difference audible, both in bass and treble. I can’t say if Balanced line out was also a factor. Perhaps worth another 2 or 3 dB?
Balanced will also double the signal level so hard to compare, really. Volume matching alone would be quite difficult. What did you upgrade from/to?

I think if you upgrade from sub 90dB SINAD to 100+, maybe you will hear increased fidelity. But over 100dB I would find it very unlikely there would be a difference in a controlled test honestly. I certainly wouldn't pass such a test...
 

maxxevv

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I just upgraded

I just upgraded DAC from SINAD 105 to 119 and I find that difference audible, both in bass and treble. I can’t say if Balanced line out was also a factor. Perhaps worth another 2 or 3 dB?
Most like a difference in output levels being the main cause of the perceived improvement. Or the output amps behave differently under dynamic loads.

If both are level matched via say voltage or SPL measurements, the likely outcome would be marginal if not imperceptible differences.
 

MediumRare

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Balanced will also double the signal level so hard to compare, really. Volume matching alone would be quite difficult. What did you upgrade from/to?

I think if you upgrade from sub 90dB SINAD to 100+, maybe you will hear increased fidelity. But over 100dB I would find it very unlikely there would be a difference in a controlled test honestly. I certainly wouldn't pass such a test...
Volume matching for me is pretty easy because I use the McIntosh power meters. Can easily compare 2 V line to 4 V balanced line input because my amp handles them differently and net output is very similar.

Anyway, I upgraded from Musical Fidelity V90 to DX7 Pro.

Remember, too, headline SINAD is just one measurement of one tone at 0 dB. There are a lot of other factors and real listening situations. But a 14 dB difference is a lot.
 

Shoaibexpert

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Thanks for the information guys. The SMSL sepcs show that maybe the M500 has SiNAD difference of more than 15 odd Dbs over the measured SU8...so should be perceptible as per above comments...not to mention the Chip and the USB kit improvements.

Some reviews also recommended the Denafrips Ares as being the R2R...but others who have used it say it's not worth buying...
 

Kane1972

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So this will be competing with their own M500 but they should have ironed out any bugs the M500 has so could be better than the M500 unless one needs the headphone amp.

Could be exactly what I’d like.
 

Shoaibexpert

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So does the M500 have issues that are persistent? I mean by now their SW update should have fixed it...I was seriously thinking of getting one for myself...should I wait then?
 

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