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SMSL SU-9 Balanced DAC Review

Roland68

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Alternatively, of course, the SU-9 and the SH-9 are a great team. The SH-9 really has a lot of power and is also great in terms of sound.
You can then connect both devices to the SU-9 at the same time (HK via chinch and SH-9 symmetric).

The decision shouldn't be too easy ;)
 

Paul_d

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Alternatively, of course, the SU-9 and the SH-9 are a great team. The SH-9 really has a lot of power and is also great in terms of sound.
You can then connect both devices to the SU-9 at the same time (HK via chinch and SH-9 symmetric).

The decision shouldn't be too easy ;)
but its much pricy, yeah ? :)
Ananda dont need much power, even smartphone can play them, but in terms of sound quality, SH-9 noticeable better Shiit Magni?
 
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Roland68

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but its much pricy, yeah ? :)
Anananda dont need much power, even smortphone can play them, but in terms of sound quality, SH-9 noticeable better Shiit Magni?
Personally, I found the SH-9 better, but we're talking about nuances that don't reveal themselves with every track.
All of these small headphone amplifiers such as Schitt Magni 3+ / Heresy, Topping L30, JDS Labs Atom or Sabaj A10H, for example, are all very good. The steps up (in terms of sound) are small and exponentially more expensive.

It occurs to me that the Sabaj A10H would also be very interesting. Good performance, preamp output and a relay based volume control, better than any potentiometer. Sabaj A10h Review (Headphone Amplifier)
https://hifi-express.com/products/sabaj-a10h-desktop-headphone-amplifier

Perhaps also the Sabaj A10d Audio Desktop-DAC AK4997EQ.
It's priced somewhere in between, but the AK4497 is one of the top DAC chips and the Sabaj should also be the cheapest with this chip. In terms of sound, he had convinced a friend with a similar setup.
And they both work with the same remote control.
https://hifi-express.com/products/sabaj-a10d-audio-desktop-dac-ak4997eq
Hifi Express should also send from multiple locations. They are SMSL dealers, but they do not sell SU-9 and SH-9.
 

Paul_d

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It occurs to me that the Sabaj A10H would also be very interesting
Many thanks for answers, I'm really appreciated for this !

How can you rank 3 of these pairs by sound quality:

SMSL SU-9 + SH9
Sabaj A10H + A10D dac
Topping E30 + Shiit Heresy

First one expensive, second one I need to order from amazon, wait and pay extra for delivery (I'm from Ukraine) and third one I can buy now it local but with extra +$100

If Sabaj really designed with better components, its can be a "golden mean" for me, but I dont know how these devices works in longtime use, Its some new and undiscovered pieces for now...

And how about Topping E30 + L30 ? Is it good combo for my Ananda ? I can get this for 270 bucks without any problems and delays... Fast and non-expensive.
 
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Rover

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I finally measured the output of both the new and old units and the third harmonic problem is present only on the old one. At least now I'm sure the replacement unit has the updated firmware.

Hello.Show a photo of the display with the updated firmware number.Many people are interested!
 

Yassdaboss

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Received my su9 last week and today a reset to factory presets. Does this delete the firmware update? Thanks for your help.
 

Raikon_N

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I wish there is something like official firmware upgrade procedure on SU-9 like on the Sabaj D5. The USB tool kit needed is only $9 on Ali. Too bad nobody got a hold of the required files.

Sending the unit overseas back-and-forth at our own expense is quite a bit disappointing. Lucky those who bought theirs from sellers shoulders the shipping expenses.
 

Rover

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I wish there is something like official firmware upgrade procedure on SU-9 like on the Sabaj D5. The USB tool kit needed is only $9 on Ali. Too bad nobody got a hold of the required files.

Sending the unit overseas back-and-forth at our own expense is quite a bit disappointing. Lucky those who bought theirs from sellers shoulders the shipping expenses.
The secrecy is alarming for SMSL.
Why not change the firmware number to a new one and show that the model is updated and without problems?
Why can't a sticker be pasted showing that the model is updated and without problems?
Many people do not want to buy the SU9 just because THERE is NO certainty that an updated model will arrive!!!SMSL no tell the truth.
 

GuyLux

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Does someone knows how the output level is managed ?
-is it by truncature of bits at the input ?
-is it by a volume pot in the output stage, before last OPA ?
Thanks
 

Shoaibexpert

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Time to give back and save people a bunch of money. I recently got curious to so called upgrade my SMSL SU-9 DAC to another perhaps more natural sounding (as described by subjectivists) DAC that as per some members here blew the SU-9 out of the water.

I am talking about the D70S by Topping. I did compare both the units feeding the Topping Pre90 balanced. Both DACs were used in DAC mode (not Pre-amp mode).

While it was a lot more expensive than the SU-9 and for the same measured performance...some people here said it sounded much better and so I researched and researched...many marketing sites saying the SU-9 doesn't fare well in instrument localization, depth, resolution etc. when compared to the D70s. I finally got my hands on a D70S with a return policy and here are my subjective observations after A/Bing them both (not a blind test, but with very familiar music):

The D70S has a different presentation than SU-9 in that the D70S seems to emphasize the bass notes more (it's not a FR tilt as I know). It has a more fuller sound / vocals (mids) and has noticeably tamed treble. In comparison, the SU-9 has a more even or balanced bass presentation (after 3rd harmonic fix) and much smoother and distinct vocal presentation. What I mean by that is that vocals stay dead center floating in air between my KEF R7s, not so much with the D70S which despite having more fuller sounding vocals lacked a bit of that localization ease...which was a theme accross all instruments as well by the way, which were much more easily sketched in space by the SU-9 as the case was with vocals. Here is what I most missed in the D70S...airy highs. Each piano key was easier to discern independently with the SU-9 vs the D70S, perhaps because of the bassy/thick presentation of D70S....which may very well be preferred by some. In Melody Gardot's If you love me (great song btw)...there is quite a bit of air in the highs as are several spacial cues. They were slightly easily noticed via SU-9 VS D70S. Another observation was around the sound stage...now I know DACs don't affect sound stage but I believe the SU-9's airy presentation, lack of extra bass emphasis and more neutral tonality did give the impression of a more holographic presentation...like it has a bigger/wider sound stage as compared to the D70S. To be fair to D70S, it did seem to bring out some of the layerings out a bit easier in busy passages...but maybe be by say 5% more ease....again it's the presentation that maybe at play here.

Different is not always better is what I've learned in this hobby after shelling $$$!

Suffice to say I ain't selling my SU-9 for cheap and shelling out more on the D70S...I presume this same logic can be applied to all SOTA DACs in this price range. They WILL sound nearly the same with different presentation. If I wanted the D70S presentation...I'd add a +1 db shelf at say 100Hz and I would be there, but as I said I liked the SU-9 presentation more.

Hope this helps prospective buyers make an informed purchase decision.

Here is my question the DAC designers/experts at ASR...I compared the boards of the Topping D70S to the SU-9. Obviously there is a lot more going on in the D70S with those Nichicon caps, those accusilicon clocks, that linear PSU, while SU-9 is plain vanilla in comparison with none of those nice things in the chain. Considering the ASR view of DACs sounding the same in case they measure good/implemented well...what is the reason manufacturers invest money in those components. I am asking coz I don't understand what audible difference those components make and does skipping those results in an inferior sounding product.

I believe that in the case of above two DACs, since they are so we'll implemented....the differences I noted in presentation is more to do with the Chips used...AK being more grunty while ESS being more airy and neutral.

By the way, for dedicated headphone users...get the most affordable SOTA DAC you can and be happy...these subtle differences I explained are generally only perceivable when in full blown speaker setup, not so much with headphones.

As always, no shooting the messenger.

Equipment used (very revealing as you can imagine): Tidal HiFi, KEF R7s, SVS SB-3000 subwoofer, IFI Zen Stream to SU-9/D70S via USB to Topping Pre90 to NAD C298 - all balanced, all Mogami cables.

Note: I did face problems with D70S locking to MQA streams and I had to tap the middle of the songs for sound to appear when playing...don't know why but this may be an IFI-Topping compatibility issue...rest of the times it worked fine as well.
 
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