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S.M.S.L SMSL DO100 – DAC Done Well

S.M.S.L SMSL DO100 – DAC Done Well

S.M.S.L SMSL DO100 is a DAC priced at 284 USD, with DSD support, Type-C USB Input, LDAC Bluetooth, and Hi-Res JAS certification, and will be compared with Khadas Tone2 PRO (250 USD), allo Audio Revolution DAC (260 USD), and Pro-Ject DAC BOX DS (430 USD). 

 

Introduction

S.M.S.L is a company partner with Topping, both sold through AOSHIDA, a store from China offering outstanding price / performance ratio for their products. Most of their products including DACs and AMPs, and sometimes DAC/AMP combos. If you like products with high price / performance ratio, you should check out Aoshida, who is also highly acclaimed by Sound Science and measurements blogs, happily being positively reviewed by me too in general. SMSL DO100 is their entry-level DAC, although I did review their DO200 too, even in video, and liked it quite a bit. 

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Aoshida Audio or SMSL. I’d like to thank Aoshida Audio for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with SMSL DO100. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it. The purpose of this review is to help those interested in SMSL DO100 find their next music companion. 

 

Product Link

Official Link: https://aoshida-audio.com/products/smsl-do100

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3uHRlaL

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/3P5TTHR

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3ID4Iia

 

Build Quality/Aesthetics/Features

S.M.S.L. SMSL DO100 is a really smooth and sleek looking DAC, with a glass display, and a volume wheel on the right side. The volume wheel is digital, so it can turn indefinitely, and it can be pressed to act as a button. The display is one of those old-school fashioned displays with a large font, but it is just what the unit needs so that things are visible easily. The DAC itself has a rich input selection, including a Coaxial input, USB input, which is in type-C, optical input and an antenna. With a physical size of just 150 x 128 x 39 mm, the unit is smaller than my drawing tabled and keyboard, and is short enough to be tucked away beneath my monitor / TV. 

Somehow SMSL are now the ones who push engineering and technological evolution more than other brands, because this is the first more desktop-style DAC that has a type-C input, and I’m happy to see it. The standard has better design and a more reliable connection than the old type-A designs. The DAC also has Bluetooth, which can go as high as LDAC and aptX HD. There’s also support for SBC and AAC. 

The DAC is a dual ESS ES9038Q2M pair, which can be found on some really expensive high-end DACs too. The pre part is supported by 4 PPA1612 OP-AMPs. All of this supports PCM rates as high as 32 bit / 768 kHz, and DSD as high as DSD512 native. The power design is a unique built-in switching power supply, which once again is surprising, as it allows DO100 to have just one cattle plug and process everything internally. 

The output is in both RCA and XLR modes, and as you’d expect, the XLR output sounds a bit better. DO100 comes with a remote, which works fairly well, and provides access to the unit from far away. The DAC has a preamp function, allowing for volume control at all times. The unit gets fairly hot during usage, which is surprising given that its power consumption is rated at a mere 5 watts. 

The digital volume goes from 0 to 99, in increments of 1 dB, but it can feel acceleration, so if you turn the wheel really fast you can go very quickly from 99 to 50, for example, in just a few clicks. There are PCM filters, DPLL, USB mode, and brightness level in the settings.  Everything works fairly well, the unit is never sluggish and I noticed no problems while using it with my PC computer. The bluetooth strength is good, no additional noise could be detected while using it in bluetooth mode, and I can generally recommend DO100 for all its technical functions. 

 

Sound Quality 

We need to mention that DO100 has one of the lowest THD+N ratings we’ve seen on a DAC at this price point, having 0.00008% (-121dB) of THD or Total Harmonic Distortion, being literally outstanding. It also supports LDAC inputs, which can have a bitrate as high as 990 kbps if you configure your smartphone for quality, which basically means that it can receive almost flac levels of signals via bluetooth. The dynamic range is also really good, with 127dB for XLR and 125 dB for RCA. Signal To noise ratio is also rated high, at 126 dB for XLR and 125 dB for RCA, so it is no surprise that DO100 is extremely linear, clean and has no particular coloration, being honest and rather transparent. It feels like SMSL designed DO100 to power systems with detail, resolution and a clean performance rather than emphasize on specific frequencies, strongly increasing the versatility and how easy it is to implement DO100 in a new system. 

Speaking of the systems used, I paired SMSL DO100 with multiple headphone amplifiers, including SMSL HO100, but also Rebel AMP, Violectric HPA V340, and even used it as a DAC for Cyrus One Cast. The systems powered from those setups were mainly headphones, including Sendy Audio Peacock, Audeze LCD-5, HIFIMAN Arya Stealth, and Sennheiser HD660S, but also NHT C3 Speakers when using DO100 as a DAC for Cyrus One Cast

The bass of DO100 is clean, detailed and has good authority, but it’s clearly a neutral, linear and clean bass with no particular warmth or emphasis. Stronger songs with a lot of lows are passed through fiercely, with all their lows and blows intact, while music with lower amounts of lows is passed through lightly, with no over emphasis on what was supposed to be the sound. After getting accustomed to and falling in love with warmer signatures, it is refreshing to see a good technical performance, with outstanding detail and definition as we have on DO100. If you’re listening to a lot of metal, EDM or Pop, it’ll feel super detailed and clean, while if you go for slower music such as jazz, you’ll want to pair DO100 with an AMP that has a longer decay and a heavier bass. 

The transition from bass to mids is linear and smooth, with once again, neutral and linear presentation of the midrange. The detail of DO100 is really good for the price point, and it has a slight emphasis in the upper midrange, but which is still fairly controlled. It’ll sound really transparent on every listen, which draws my attention to its honest and precise staging. DO100 seems to emphasize a bit on drums and cymbals, giving them a wider presentation with a stronger touch than what would be pure linear. SMSL DO100 also has good stereo imaging, which makes music from Deep Purple and Iron Maiden / Metallica really enjoyable. 

The treble of DO100 is clean, emotional, but not overly dramatic. With a stronger treble extension, DO100 is brighter in tuning than Topping E30, for example, but it is safely bright, having a smoother texture, while cymbal crashes are airy and there’s a good sense of width between instruments. The instrument separation is good as well, all while DO100 is able to keep up with more dynamic and punchy tracks too. 

I noticed that if you go from RCA to XLR, the sound is a bit better on DO100, even if using just their HO100 Headphone Amplifier, and I also noticed that DO100 has a lower amount of refinement and becomes slightly more grainy if using the Bluetooth input, having a shoutier midrange and a reduced cymbal presentation, even if we’re talking about using exactly the same headphones and songs. 

 

Comparisons

S.M.S.L SMSL DO100 vs Pro-Ject DAC BOX DS (284 USD vs 430 USD) – We have a rather high difference in price between DO100 and DAC Box DS, but the usage is clearly better on DO100, which has a remote, better inputs, and even a bluetooth input with LDAC support. The overall sound is more detailed on DO100, with better impact, more resolution, better instrument separation, a larger soundstage and it is far more revealing than the sound of DAC Box DS. by comparison, DAC BOx DS is smoother. If you have a system you feel is too revealing, you can add a DAC BOX DS to smooth it down, but for most folks DO100 will be the better choice here, and easily so. 

S.M.S.L SMSL DO100 vs allo Audio Revolution DAC (284 USD vs 260 USD) – Two DACs, both good in quality, both from rather reputable sellers, revolution and DO100 are both fairly good. Both come with remotes, but I prefer the one that DO100 comes with, it is more practical, and although both use switching power supplies, allo using their nirvana SMPS, both are about the same size. The display of DO100 is larger and easier to read. It is quicker to adjust the volume on DO100, and it has better overall aesthetics, being more sleek and elegant. In terms of sound, Revolution DAC is slightly more detailed, but also brighter and more shouty, with more overall treble brightness, and a bit more grain. DO100 is more linear, more natural and smoother, it has a slightly better instrument separation, and generally feels better made, where Revolution DAC feels more industrial in both outer aspects and usage. 

S.M.S.L SMSL DO100 vs Khadas Tone2 PRO (284 USD vs 250 USD) – The comparison here may feel slightly unfair as Tone2 PRO is less pricey, but at the same time, Tone2 PRO has more features, such as headphone output. DO100 has some bonuses too, like Bluetooth LDAC input, and if we’re stacking them against each other as DACs, they are pretty equal, with DO100 having a more transparent sound, slightly better detail, and having more inputs, where Tone2 PRO has the headphone AMP part included. Trick here is that the volume wheel is much more practical on DO100, and it comes with a remote, being more ideal for a desktop setup, while Tone2 PRO is more of a high quality portable headphone AMP with type-C input. Both are good products, but if you have a system I’d recommend DO100, it is the only of the two to have XLR outputs, while if you’re just mainly using headphones and want to stay on a lower budget, Tone2 PRO is still a good purchase. 

 

Value and Conclusion

Speaking of the price / performance ratio, it is outstanding, and SMSL has proven once again that they can deliver one of the best performances in the audio hood, at a price that’s closer to that of a mini product, like the good old Topping E30, than a serious DAC. But it manages to give it all to us, SMSL DO100 has all the bells and whistles needed, it can easily replace your need for a FiiO BTA30 in a system, as it has the bluetooth functionality, and it also has excellent sonic performance. 

Even the package is nice, as it comes with a fully working remote, and the power cable necessary to use, plus it has all the inputs you could need, the USB one being in type-C, something I wish we’ll see more of from other companies as well. 

At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a very detailed, clean and fun sounding DAC with excellent performance, outstanding build quality, low noise floor, and both a Balanced XLR output, and a single ended RCA output, plus Bluetooth LDAC support, S.M.S.L SMSL DO100 is fully recommended and an excellent purchase at this date.  

 

Product Link

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3uHRlaL

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/3P5TTHR

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3ID4Iia

 

Technical Specifications

  • DAC: 2 x ES9038Q2M
  • OP-AMPs: 4 x OPA 1612
  • Input: USB/Optical/Coaxial/Bluetooth
  • Output Amplitude: 4.0Vrms (XLR), 2.0Vrms (RCA)
  • THD+N: 0.00008% (-121dB)
  • Output Impedance: 100W
  • USB Transmission: USB1.1, USB2.0
  • Playback: 32bit/768kHz PCM, Native DSD512
  • Bluetooth 5.0: LDAC/aptX-HD/aptX/SBC/AAC
  • Size: 150x128x39mm (WxDxH)
  • Weight: 560g



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Full Playlist used for this review

We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature.  PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality are all revealed by those songs. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music!

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_cjBXGmwSHSdGcwuc_bKbBDGHL4QvYBu

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1 Comment

  1. […] USB input. It will be compared to other high-quality DAC/AMPs, including Aune X1S GT (349 USD), SMSL DO100 + SMSL HO1000 Stack (284 USD + 149 USD), Questyle M15 (250 USD) and xDuoo MT-602 Tube Headphone AMP […]

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