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SMSL SU-9 Balanced DAC Review

mario_rouge

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Yes, I used a scarlett 2i2 audio interface and REW software for the measurements (with ASIO4ALL drivers for both the SU-9 and the scarlett). I connected the SU-9 DAC ouputs to the scarlett line inputs (with XLR to TRS cables). The right channel measurements give similar results for the old and the new SU-9. For the left channel I have the following results on the new unit (with updated firmware):
View attachment 152178

and the following results for the old unit:
View attachment 152179
I would like it if you could do a little review of the su9 after the new measurements.
 

SHENZHENAUDIO

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304290

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I get occasional static coming from my SMSL SU-9. Just to verify, I have tried the setup on another PC/optical connection to a TV/Bluetooth to a phone. I have swapped out the interconnects, headphone amp, headphone cables, and headphones. Still get a very minor intermittent static sound that I have not had on my previous few dacs.

I love the su-9 itself but clearly the static is bugging me and considering I am still within my 30 days of purchase I am going to return the item. Do I go for another SU-9 considering it ticks the boxes and perhaps I was unlucky with the unit or do I go for something with high-quality parts (perhaps they cheaped out on the internals considering the price/feature ratio on the SU-9 is probably the best.)

I have been searching high and low for a quality DAC under 700$ that will last.

Any recommendations? I love having Bluetooth considering my partner likes to sit down and listen without having to go through my PC etc.

I have been strongly debating between the d70s and D1se.

I returned my su-9 a few months ago and purchased a d70s. I hated to have to spend the extra cash to get it, but I've been extremely happy. Love the feature set, especially the auto on/off feature and most importantly, the sound. It's the upgrade I've been hoping for with no issues or quirks. It just works and sounds fantastic.
 

mario_rouge

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the su9 with the updated firmware is a good dac? what other dacs would you compare it to?
 

muslhead

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I returned my su-9 a few months ago and purchased a d70s. I hated to have to spend the extra cash to get it, but I've been extremely happy. Love the feature set, especially the auto on/off feature and most importantly, the sound. It's the upgrade I've been hoping for with no issues or quirks. It just works and sounds fantastic.
Looking at this path too.
 

Shoaibexpert

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I returned my su-9 a few months ago and purchased a d70s. I hated to have to spend the extra cash to get it, but I've been extremely happy. Love the feature set, especially the auto on/off feature and most importantly, the sound. It's the upgrade I've been hoping for with no issues or quirks. It just works and sounds fantastic.
Good to hear that. If you are OK with AKM sounding DACs, the D70s is hard to beat in that price point from what ive read so far...but in terms of calling it an upgrade over the SU-9, i doubt it as its the same measured performance with worst jitter management over Optical for $190 more...
 

WoollyGeezer

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Good to hear that. If you are OK with AKM sounding DACs, the D70s is hard to beat in that price point from what ive read so far...but in terms of calling it an upgrade over the SU-9, i doubt it as its the same measured performance with worst jitter management over Optical for $190 more...
I’ve always been under the impression that akm dacs are superior to saber? Also that the measured performance on both dacs is beyond the range of human hearing. According to Amir’s tests
 

Veri

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I’ve always been under the impression that akm dacs are superior to saber? Also that the measured performance on both dacs is beyond the range of human hearing. According to Amir’s tests
It really doesn't matter what they use, not really. All that needs be avoided is a botched implementation due to zero verification of performance. As we still occasionally see in reviews. They can use an ESS9038Pro or whatever newest chip and still make some dire mistake.
 

304290

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Good to hear that. If you are OK with AKM sounding DACs, the D70s is hard to beat in that price point from what ive read so far...but in terms of calling it an upgrade over the SU-9, i doubt it as its the same measured performance with worst jitter management over Optical for $190 more...

That's assuming getting one with the upgraded firmware which is still a crapshoot at this point. And yes I'm perfectly fine with akm sounding dacs because with this one, it just works the way it's suppose to. That's more than I can say about the su-9. The firmware issue isn't the only issue. There are several posts through this thread about other issues with this dac. So given a fully functional su-9 that works the way it should, no I probably wouldn't hear a difference between the two. But I was returning mine before knowing about the harmonic distortion issue because of how it sounded.

It was easily bested by the cheapest dac in my house which is a khadas tone board which I use mostly for testing purposes. I was so surprised by this I came on this thread to search for user data about this dac only to then learn about the harmonic distortion issue. If I had to guess, I would say that the spike is probably audible based on my listening impressions and comparisons to other dacs in my house. I can barely hear a difference between any of them including my lowly portable sonata hd pro. The su-9 sounded dark with with bloated bass compared to any of them . I also posted my impressions earlier in this thread.
 

Shoaibexpert

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That's assuming getting one with the upgraded firmware which is still a crapshoot at this point. And yes I'm perfectly fine with akm sounding dacs because with this one, it just works the way it's suppose to. That's more than I can say about the su-9. The firmware issue isn't the only issue. There are several posts through this thread about other issues with this dac. So given a fully functional su-9 that works the way it should, no I probably wouldn't hear a difference between the two. But I was returning mine before knowing about the harmonic distortion issue because of how it sounded.

It was easily bested by the cheapest dac in my house which is a khadas tone board which I use mostly for testing purposes. I was so surprised by this I came on this thread to search for user data about this dac only to then learn about the harmonic distortion issue. If I had to guess, I would say that the spike is probably audible based on my listening impressions and comparisons to other dacs in my house. I can barely hear a difference between any of them including my lowly portable sonata hd pro. The su-9 sounded dark with with bloated bass compared to any of them . I also posted my impressions earlier in this thread.
I agree with you. I have 2 SU-9 units and both have taken the US trip to get reflashed and upon return they sounded...well not as dark as before. You're right about the bloated bass earlier....I am assuming it was the 3rd harmonic issue. As of now, I have them running fine...no issues whatsoever. Conversely, I got my hands on a new SU-9 woth new serial numbers recently and upon listening I could easily tell it still had bloated bass presentation...but Shenzen insists it is updated. In summary, yes best to avoid SMSL going forward but for the time being it sounds fantastic..an impression I'm sure you will see people sharing throughout this thread...

Can anyone other user chime in as well...is it sounding dark to you guys after the update? Thanks
 
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Sanlitun

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Hi Are you saying that the 'Pre-amp' mode on the SU-9 sounds better than the Var volume mode?

Which makes me wonder how do DACs attenuate signals while keeping the signal bit perfect....

That's a great question and I have no idea how it is done with Sabre DACs or if the SU-9 uses analog volume circuitry. I have two Sabre DACs that allow variable volume and they both have SQ issues when not used with fixed volume.

Some DACs like the NAD M51 are actually designed to have the bit depth to allow a great deal of digital attenuation.

It would be a great project for @amirm to look into sound quality and attenuation.
 

Pdxwayne

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That's a great question and I have no idea how it is done with Sabre DACs or if the SU-9 uses analog volume circuitry. I have two Sabre DACs that allow variable volume and they both have SQ issues when not used with fixed volume.

Some DACs like the NAD M51 are actually designed to have the bit depth to allow a great deal of digital attenuation.

It would be a great project for @amirm to look into sound quality and attenuation.
Can you describe more about the SQ issues?

I have Gustard x16 and Gustard said best not use its volume control as it is lossy.
 

Paul_d

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Hi.

My question is: Can I hear difference between this mid-range DAC and some $100 DAC, for example Topping D10s, if I use HiFiMan ANANDA headphones and some mid-range amplifier ?
Trying understand, is this SU-9 really need me... If looking on graphs and numbers - there is critical low different between low-price good DACs and mid-range DACs, but in hearing, musical aspect maybe difference is bigger ?
 

AnalogSteph

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Let's put it this way, you certainly don't need a DAC with 126 dB worth of dynamic range like the SU-9 (which is at least upper midrange in my book) if all you want is a plain line-level source. 105 dB will do fine.

That being said, the D10S gets you exactly one USB input (without any galvanic isolation), one pair of unbalanced outputs, one fixed (and IMHO non-ideal) choice of reconstruction filter and that's it. The feature set (and build) is not remotely comparable.

Define your use case(s) and the required feature set, and it should be possible to find decent solutions across a fairly wide budget range.
 

Paul_d

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possible to find decent solutions across a fairly wide budget range.
Maybe you can advice some good item without useless money spent (100-300$ is acceptable) but with good RCA outputs ? I dont need any wireless technologies.
Will be appreciated.
 
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AnalogSteph

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What do you need input wise, just USB? No galvanic isolation required? (The best DAC is no good if there's a ground loop involved.) What sort of sample rates? Need ASIO drivers? USB class compliance?

For starters, the new Topping E50 would fit your budget. It would be decently futureproof, too, with balanced output and enough dynamic range to run a power amp if need be. That said, the E30 would do for you right now as well.
 
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Paul_d

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What do you need input wise, just USB? No galvanic isolation required? (The best DAC is no good if there's a ground loop involved.) What sort of sample rates? Need ASIO drivers? USB class compliance?
Just USB.
I want to connect DAC to PC (win) and with old Harman-Kardon HK680 amplifier (speakers and headphones connected to it), I can use only RCA inputs on HK680.
Maybe in future I can buy some headphones amplifier, but now want try only HK680.

Sorry, I dont know what is galvanic isolation and USB class (but in near future want to upgrade my PC with new mainboard).

If ASIO really avoid windows drivers with all this garbage in it, so yes, I want ASIO (now I'm using it on my old Creative X-Fi gamer but dont know, is it really makes sound better, can't feel it).
Bitrates: FLAC and DSD in hi-res (my card dont support many hi-res (high frequency) flacs).

Is E50 satisfied all my needs ?
 

Roland68

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if I use HiFiMan ANANDA headphones and some mid-range amplifier ?
Don't be angry with me if I say so, but to operate the HiFiMan ANANDA on the HK680 is really to throw pearls in front of the pigs. The Harman amplifier is good, but its headphone amplifier is only an auxiliary solution and absolutely unsuitable for an ANANDA.

The E50 and E30 mentioned by AnalogSteph are already a very good choice. The Magni 3+ or Heresy can be recommended as a headphone amplifier for ANANDA. Full performance and unbeatable sound for the price. Since both have a preamplifier output, you can also drive the HK680's output stage directly via the main-in connection. That might surprise you.
 

Paul_d

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That might surprise you.
No, I can imagine this before. :) Big amps not so good for headphones.
So, I can buy E30 connect to it HK680 and some headphone amplifier for ANANDA and sound will be better in headphones, yes ? One DAC for 2 device ?
 

Roland68

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No, I can imagine this before. :) Big amps not so good for headphones.
This is not because of the large amplifier, but because only $ 3 was spent on the headphone amplifier (if at all). It was only for the specs, he has one!
So, I can buy E30 connect to it HK680 and some headphone amplifier for ANANDA and sound will be better in headphones, yes ? One DAC for 2 device ?
No, you take the E30 DAC and connect to it e.g. the Schiit Magni 3+ or Heresy headphone amplifier.
From the preamp output of the headphone amplifier you go into the main-in connection of the HK680. The volume of the Harman power amplifier is then controlled by the headphone amplifier during DAC operation.
All other devices stay on the Harman.
Of course, this is only possible with a headphone amplifier that also has a preamp output.
 
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