SMSL was founded in 2009, the company is specialized in audio DAC, headphone amplifiers, and power amplifiers. We, at SoundImports, recently added many new SMSL products to our stock. You can see them all on our SMSL brand page. While some of these new products may appear to be similar on paper, a closer study reveals that they have specific traits that distinguished them.
When purchasing a desktop audio stack, it is usually important to match the synergy, tonality, and performance of audio decoders and amplifiers in order to achieve the highest possible performance within your budget and your audio output. To assist you to find the appropriate stack for your speaker systems, SMSL compiled two high-quality desktop stacks that include the latest and most reliable HiFi DACs, headphone amplifiers, and power amplifiers!
In this blog we will be looking at two stacks: the SMSL 9 stack and their xO200 audio stack series.
SMSL has been working on their 2-channel systems and the SMSL DA-9 is a Bluetooth 5.0 digital Class-D amplifier designed to be stacked with the SMSL SU-9 DAC, theSMSL SD-9 Streamer, and the SMSL SH-9 Headphone Amplifier. All components were released between 2020 and 2021 and therefore on the latest technological standard.
SMSL's second stack is their xO200 audio stack series. This stack accommodates an integrated amplifier with the same characteristics and a Class-D designation. TheSMSL AO200 is designed to be stacked with the SMSL DO200 DAC and the SMSL HO200 Headphone Amplifier/Preamplifier.
1. SMSL 9 Stack
This stack includes four pieces:
- one player/streamer (SMSL SD-9),
- a DAC (SMSL SU-9),
- a Headphone amplifier (SMSL SH-9),
- and the power amplifier (SMSL DA-9).
The complete set can be purchased at SoundImports for € 1.649,80*.
Picture 1. SMSL 9 Stack.
SMSL SD-9 Streamer/Player
SMSL SD-9 is your one-stop solution for all your HiFi musical needs as the device supports playback for most audio file formats in the industry. It supports APE, WAV, WMA, FLAC, DSF, DFF, AIFF, M4A, AAC, OFF, MP2, MP3, and many more. Just plug in your HDD, your PC, or even connect your network drive using WiFi and enjoy. There are multiple methods to feed the audio signal to the SD-9 Network Music Player. It supports Wireless & Wired NAS, USB Hard Disk, USB PC connection, USB Smartphone Connection, Bluetooth, and DLNA. Users can fully control the playback on the SD-9 using their smartphone with the help of the HiBy Link application.SD-9 features multiple output ports to feed output to the HiFi audio DAC in your chain.
It supports Optical, Coaxial, I²S, AES/EBU, USB signal output that users can use to connect theSD-9 to their preferred choice of high-performance DAC.
Picture 2. SMSL SD-9 back interface.
- Power connector 100-240V 50-60Hz
- Ethernet RJ45
- USB-A input (USB Host)
- Optical Toslink output
- USB-B input (USB Audio)
- AES/EBU output
- Coaxial output
- I²S LVDS output via HDMI
- Bluetooth antenna
- Slot Micro SD
One thing that is important to mention would be the fact that the I²S input (n.8 in the picture above) was originally designed for internal use on a circuit board and not for outside connection. The usage of an HDMI cable for transmission is coincidental, it was used because the plugs, sockets, and cables are ubiquitous.
I²S (Inter-IC Sound) is an interface designed specifically for direct communication between ICs (on a circuit board) in the audio sector, and it is now becoming more prominent in the high-end DAC interfaces. Even if it isn't visible, this interface is built into most devices (DACs, CD players, and so on). However, in this case, I²S with LVDS (a worldwide industry standard for the transmission of Inter-IC communication over short cable lengths) is utilized, which is converted in the transmitter and receiver correspondingly.
Picture 3. I²S schema.
Look at the manual in order to make sure your cable is compatible. This also applies to the SMSL AO200.
SMSL SU-9 Audio DAC
The SMSL SU-9 is a desktop pure DAC featuring an ESS SABRE9038Pro chipset, with BT5.0 UAT and MQA capability. The SMSL SU-9 is a high-quality DAC with a wide range of inputs and outputs that would complement any desktop arrangement.
The SU-9 has two output options: a pair of RCA single-ended outputs and a couple of XLR outputs. Both of these outputs can be set to line level, which means full output, or controlled via the remote control, allowing the SU-9 DAC to function as a pre-amp for power amplifiers, for example. The SU-9 can decode a variety of lossless formats, including MQA, PCM streams up to 32bit, 768Khz, and native DSD decoding up to DSD512, when used in conjunction with a 2nd generation XMOS USB stage. It also supports full MQA rendering and decoding. DoP64 is available in optical and coaxial formats. For the SU-9, SMSL has chosen to use a single TOTL ES9038PRO DAC chipset version. In comparison to the two internal DAC channels present in the Q2M mobile versions, the ES9038PRO has eight. As a result, the ES9038PRO chipset can be used to create a fully balanced DAC.
The SMSL SU-9 is a model of desktop DAC excellence. We've got a fantastic "instrument grade" DAC on our hands, one that provides absolute transparency to the source beyond any human hearing threshold.
SMSL SH-9 Headphone Amplifier
The SMSL SH-9 is a THX AAA-888 balanced headphone amplifier featuring 2 mono amplification blocks capable of up to 3W into a 32Ω load. The volume control of the SH-9 is substantially superior, allowing for exact volume matching down to the lowest setting. It also comes with remote control and a chassis, making it a great match for the SU-9. With an exceptionally smooth yet linear signal, the noise floor on that THX amp is superb.
Soon after the outstanding SMSL SU-9 DAC, SMSL releases the SH-9 amplifier, which makes sense in some ways, especially for those searching for a visually beautiful compact and stackable system. It also shares the same design aesthetic as the SMSL SA400 Amplifier, but with the crucial SU-9 dimensions. More importantly, SMSL has included a balanced competent THX AAA-888 amplification architecture that is competitively priced. While the SH-9 appears to be unbalanced in terms of different power rates from single-ended inputs, the balanced design is exceptionally good for noise with a THD below 0.00006%.
The SMSL SH-9 joins the ranks of other instrument-grade, high-resolution headphones amplifiers. It pairs well with the SMSL SU-9, its DAC partner. It features a high-contrast, high-resolution display with precise digital volume control. The price is also quite appealing. Because of the display, it appears to have a DAC, however, it does not.
SMSL DA-9 Bluetooth digital amplifier
The SMSL DA-9 is a desktop power amplifier featuring Bluetooth 5.0, aptX decoding, and is capable of up to 90W into 4Ω.
The DA-9 is a two-channel amplifier with a fully balanced circuit that minimizes signal distortion significantly. Each channel has an Infineon Class-D amplifier circuit, which ensures additional reductions in distortion as well as a 92% efficiency, lowering power consumption.
It contains single-ended and balanced analog inputs, as well as a Bluetooth input that allows it to function as a complete source setup when linked to a phone. Although there is only one pair of speaker outputs, there is an option for a subwoofer output, which can provide a much-needed bass boost to a smaller bookshelf speaker. Despite its large number of features, the DA-9 has plenty of power to drive the most moderate-sensitivity speakers. While the DA-9 andSMSL SU-9 look good together, the DA-9 scales up with better upstream gear and will bring out the detail retrieval capability of most speakers while still producing an engaging and entertaining presentation.
TheDA-9 is equipped with a NJRC NJW1194 volume control IC to manage the amount of power it produces. This ensures that the DA-9 has channel balance across the entire volume range, as well as linear power output as the volume range goes up.
The DA-9 was designed to complement the SH-9, SD-9, and SU-9, and it looks great when combined with the three to make a quadruple stack. However, it is also possible to use it as a standalone amplifier.
Because of the stack's modest size, there is limited space within the small frame. SMSL, on the other hand, has stuffed all it can into such a little space.
In order to connect these items, you can find the necessary cables on this page.
2. The xO200 Series Audio Stack
This stack includes three pieces:
The complete set can be purchased at SoundImports for € 1.229,85*
The SMSL xO200 series seeks to create some distinctive and cost-effective audio products based on parameters determined after thorough consideration of market demands. SMSL offers a unique combination of affordability and high-quality construction, as well as useful features, making them attractive selections, particularly for novice audiophiles. For example, the DO200 has more functionality than other DACs at that price point. Keep in mind that DO200 was designed to work flawlessly with AO200, SMSL's amplifier, as well as HO200, a Headphone Amplifier from the same series, to complement DO200 both aesthetically and functionally.
Picture 3. The xO200 Series Audio Stack.
SMSL DO200 Audio DAC
The SMSL DO200 is an MQA and Bluetooth-capable desktop ESS ES9068AS. At its pricing range, the SMSL DO200 MQA Audio DAC is a fantastic performer, with superb detail, separation, and depth. It boasts a lovely screen and a plethora of ports, making it a versatile and appealing device.
There are two outputs at the back: a balanced XLR and a single-ended RCA. The inputs include USB-A for connecting a computer, Coax and Optical Digital, XLR AES/EBU, and HDMI I²S for DSD. There's also a Bluetooth signal input antenna.
It includes a full-featured remote control. A full-view color IPS display with dimming capability is included. The input/output connection terminals have a high-quality gold coating. HI-RES certification was obtained. A linear power supply, a discrete component developed solely for analog circuits, and several low noise power supplies are utilized to improve power efficiency and reduce power consumption.
The DO200 features volume control, which means it has a changeable loudness output, which is a good thing because it has one of the clearest and cleanest signals on the market right now. Normally, when a DAC offers volume control, you'd be concerned about quality loss due to the volume, however, this isn't an issue with the DO200.
Two high-end ESS ES9068AS DAC chips, five high-end OPA1612A dual op-amps, a low-noise power supply, and an XMOS XU-216 chip that allows for 32-bit processing, handling signals up to DSD512 (native), and PCM up to 768KHZ via USB are among the components inside the DO200 DAC.
The SMSL DO200 is an indisputably good value, both in terms of sonic performance and overall build quality and features, and is one of the easiest DACs to suggest right now, especially if you're an MQA fan or aficionado. DO200 is designed for people who like to be practical, with a great box that includes a handy remote and a display, and unless you're a hardcore admirer of very simple DAC designs, DO200 has significantly more bells and whistles than most competitors. Take a moment to consider that there are firms selling DACs for thousands of dollars that lack a Bluetooth LDAC input or a properly functioning USB / I²S interface, and instead rely on Coaxial / Optical for their operation.
It will have a consistent sound regardless of the input you use with DO200, and as long as you have some handy XLR Cables, you should be good to go for years. If you're searching for a practical DAC with a remote, volume control, Coaxial, Optical, USB, I²S, and AES inputs, and a warm and natural sound, go no further than the SMSL DO200.
SMSL HO200 Headphone Amplifier / Preamplifier
SMSL HO200is a fully balanced solid-state desktop headphone amplifier offering up to 3W of output power into a 32ohm load. The three headphone connectors (XLR Balanced, 1/4" Single-Ended, and 4.4mm Balanced) are on the front left, the volume knob is in the center, and four dip switches for Input, Mode selection, Gain, and Power are on the right. A balanced XLR input and pre-out, as well as a Single-Ended RCA input/pre-out, are located on the back, followed by a master power switch and a socket for the detachable power cord.
Aside from the PLFC, the HO200 comes with an ultra-low noise power supply with an SNR of 140dB and a ripple of 1uV. On the HO200, the PLFC implementation has a diminishingly low distortion of only 0.00006 percent or 123dB. The HO200 also has a large dynamic range of up to 140dB as a result of this. High-quality resistors are also included in the HO200, reducing pops caused by switching transients. This ensures that headphones attached to the HO200 are not subjected to transient voltages, which could harm the headphones. The HO200 is a high-performance headphone amplifier with low noise and distortion. When it comes to balanced I/O, though, there is something peculiar about its design. Because the sum of distortion noise is below the threshold of hearing, it is not enough to produce any audible consequences. In addition, there is protection against playing content with a frequency of less than 12 Hz.
It will appeal to all aficionados of transparency and fidelity without sacrificing much musicality or fun, thanks to its great construction and superior sound quality. It should easily count as an end-game headphone amplifier and pre-amplifier for a lot of people who need something reliable, good sounding, and plenty of power without breaking the bank.
Picture 4. SMSL HO200 front interface.
SMSL AO200 Amplifier Bluetooth 5.0 Subwoofer
The SMSL AO200 is a compact power amplifier with a Bluetooth Wireless receiver and up to 90W of output power into a 4Ω load. Despite the relatively small chassis of the AO200, it packs features that most amplifiers double its size don’t have. What’s impressive though, is how SMSL was able to cram all these features while creating a relatively neutral but lively and dynamic Class-D amplifier that can produce loads of detail.
The AO200's specifications sheet reveals that it has the makings of a high-quality stereo integrated amplifier. To achieve channel balance, it has a NJW1194 volume control chip. With ERO audio capacitors and low noise MELF resistors, the remainders of the components are also of high quality.
Aside from these components, the AO200 includes the Infineon MA12070, a high-quality Class-D amplifier chip with two of them built in a full balanced topology inside the chassis.
The MERUS technology in these MA12070 allows the four MOSFETS to generate a PWM signal with three states instead of just two in standard Class-D, smoothing the amplifier's output signal.
Picture 5. SMSL AO200 front and back interface.
- Multifunction knob
- IR Receiver
- Single-ended RCA input
- Bluetooth antenna connector
- Right channel output
- Power supply connector
- Balanced XLR input
- Subwoofer output
- USB-A input
- Left channel output
- Power button
While one may wish it had better Bluetooth codecs and physical connections, the AO200 delivers where it matters. Sound quality and output power are these two factors. The SMSL AO200 Digital Power Amplifier is a powerful amp that may serve as the heart of a cheapvalue-orientedor expensive hi-fi system for your apartment or large bedroom.
In order to connect these items, you can find the necessary cables on this page.
Concluding, we should mention that we are extremely pleased with both the SMSL series and that all three/four devices work well together and can be combined to produce an excellent value-for-money system that covers both headphone and speaker listening. The choice is yours, and with the first stack, you have the possibility of adding the Streamer/Player.
If you are looking for other SMSL stacks we can recommend checking out the SMSL SU-8s + SMSL SH-8s or the VMV series for premium products like the: SMSL VMV A1 + SMSL D1se or the SMSL VMV A2 + SMSL VMV D2.
References and Links
* Prices updated to March 2022. They may vary over time.