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SMSL SU-9 Balanced DAC Review

jae

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We've already reached the point where [Chi-Fi] DACs have performance that is close to the limits of the AP for less than $500. What now?

My personal wish is that they (SMSL, Topping) now work on making their products more user friendly. How about putting dedicated buttons/knobs for inputs, volume, mute, etc.? So that we don't have to toggle a single knob/button and access menus. Perhaps a larger display or indicator LEDs on said buttons to make the vital info visible on your listening seat? Yes, these features would probably need a bigger case but why not make a "full size" DAC (i.e. standard 1U width/height)?

I do realize that these mini desktop DACs are mainly targeted to headphone users, so I'm not sure if these manufacturers would hear me out. I would gladly pay more for the extra aluminum, buttons and knobs needed for above mentioned full size features and I think a significant population of audiophiles would like the same.

Edit: the remote ought to be full featured too, with dedicated buttons for inputs, filters, etc. to do away with scrolling through menus.
Agreed. They've proven they have been able to reach the pinnacle of performance for lower cost. Now I think they need to start taking over the "high end" and "audiophile" offerings which for me means better build quality, big/robust knobs, more inputs/outputs, remotes, better power supply, etc.

I would like to see them ditch the screens unless they are really going to serve a purpose like metering. Of all the new chi-fi products the only one I find attractive is the topping.

They could essentially stick 90% of the current circuitry in a more attractive enclosure with some extra in/out and people would still buy them for double the price.
 
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amirm

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Hey Amir, thanks for the review! Any chance you can measure bluetooth performance? If it's good, I think this would be an excellent upgrade over my SU-8 V2.
Bluetooth causes considerable degradation due to lossy audio codecs. Traditional measurements are not a good way to assess its performance.
 
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So this looks like a M500 V2, Dac wise, without headphone output.
 

alont

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Bluetooth causes considerable degradation due to lossy audio codecs. Traditional measurements are not a good way to assess its performance.
I think it would be interesting to see just how much of a degradation it would be.
I've had some nightmarish ordeals with bluetooth in the past, so even knowing that it at least works OK and doesn't introduce any annoying buzzing/humming would be great.
 
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5.3 V at max volume. The DAC still plays clean at max! Crazy. Anyone got 1,500 - 2,000 watt @ 8 ohm monoblocks with 5.3v input sensitivity to hook this baby up to? Maybe the Boulder 3050? What speakers could do this justice at full range frequencies?
 
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So this looks like a M500 V2, Dac wise, without headphone output.
I know. I was already to buy a M500 last week but held back when I heard the annoucement on the SU-9. TBH, I am not sure if I will hear the different between a M500 and a Su-9 + some HA (to be decided) + additional cabling. Sure makes the like of their own M400 and Topping D90MQA look expensive. I appreciate the build quality may be better in the M400 and D90MQA, but the price differential will make a lot of people take a long hard look at budget vs perforamnce difference.
 
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I know. I was already to buy a M500 last week but held back when I heard the annoucement on the SU-9. TBH, I am not sure if I will hear the different between a M500 and a Su-9 + some HA (to be decided) + additional cabling. Sure makes the like of their own M400 and Topping D90MQA look expensive. I appreciate the build quality may be better in the M400 and D90MQA, but the price differential will make a lot of people take a long hard look at budget vs perforamnce difference.
Personally I doubt you would be able to tell the difference if they put you in a double blind scientific experiment between DACs with 120+db SINAD. That being said, I would opt for the separates with XLR output and get the best headphones and headphone amp within your budget. That way you can at least enjoy your music in mental peace and not have that nagging upgrade-itis feeling of wishing or wondering what else you could have gotten instead. As far as DACs with 120+db, the high output voltage on this would make it a great choice for connecting to high powered speaker amps as well as headphones. A lower priced high SINAD DAC like the Topping E30 only outputs 2vrms through RCA. That is still perfectly acceptable for most 29dB gain amps under 200wpc, but not as emotionally satisfying as 5.3vrms from XLRs where you know you have the headroom and can hook up almost any amp in the world, no matter how powerful and take said amp to the limit.
 
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JohnYang1997

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I know. I was already to buy a M500 last week but held back when I heard the annoucement on the SU-9. TBH, I am not sure if I will hear the different between a M500 and a Su-9 + some HA (to be decided) + additional cabling. Sure makes the like of their own M400 and Topping D90MQA look expensive. I appreciate the build quality may be better in the M400 and D90MQA, but the price differential will make a lot of people take a long hard look at budget vs perforamnce difference.
There will always be something cheaper and better.
 

Daverz

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Shape and color excluding, why would anyone buy this over the SMSL's own M500? v2 did pretty well in Wolf's measurements, better THD(F) as well.
For desktop usage, I can understand that. If I was sitting a few meters away, I'd pay extra for the larger volume display. The M500 has a dinky volume readout, though that's not a problem if it's right in front of you.
 
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AudioSceptic

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Agreed. They've proven they have been able to reach the pinnacle of performance for lower cost. Now I think they need to start taking over the "high end" and "audiophile" offerings which for me means better build quality, big/robust knobs, more inputs/outputs, remotes, better power supply, etc.

I would like to see them ditch the screens unless they are really going to serve a purpose like metering. Of all the new chi-fi products the only one I find attractive is the topping.

They could essentially stick 90% of the current circuitry in a more attractive enclosure with some extra in/out and people would still buy them for double the price.
Aren't Aurender, Aurelic, and Lumin already doing this?
 

PeteL

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Bluetooth causes considerable degradation due to lossy audio codecs. Traditional measurements are not a good way to assess its performance.
1600877865792.png

This is partial measurments from a Bluetooth portable amp-receiver I designed in the past. The Codec here is AptX HD. You are right that it's not competitive, but the Codec itself is quite good, if you look at the distortion figures. The noise "issue" was all about limitation of the antenna path in an extremely small package. It was good enough for me for the price and use case, and well... limitations and compromises. "traditional" measurments will not be competitive, but I disagree that they don't assess performance. You just have to compare comparables. Yes I know those are very partial, If you have an interest I could Inbox you a fuller report, and it's not all that bad past 10k neither, that's just the page i chose for a quick post.
 

JohnYang1997

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Just use a Xiaomi Tablet or phone that supports LDAC and measure the analogue performance. Cheap and gets the job done.
 
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This was a huge disappointment for me it performs very close to the m500 v2 and has the same features except it doesnt have a headphone amp but still costs $40 more. I was expecting it to be priced lower since it doesnt have a headphone amp and released over a year later...
 
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