My first experience with the HLLY brand was as a result of skylab loaning me the HLLY DMK-IV as documented on: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/468719/review-hlly-dmk-iv-dac-headphone-amp-pre-amp I hope to reciprocate and send this unit in to Rob (skylab) in about a month so he can post his impressions.
Today I received a package and it was a pleasant surprise, it not only included the latest DAC from HLLY the SMK-III but also their AMK-II Pre-Amp. This thread will concentrate on the SMK-III a 24-96 digital to analog converter. The unit is much larger measuring 8-5/8" wide by 11-1/4" deep by 3-1/2" high. The unit accepts digital information via:
The SMK-III outputs analog signal via a pair of RCA's and also via balanced XLR3 outs. The front panel brushed aluminum with black letters and led's in three colors: green for the DAC, yellow for the invert, and red for the headphone amp. The unit is currently being fed via the USB input from an iMac/iTunes using lossless files and the output is via the internal headphone out to a Sennheiser HD580. I hope to start feeding it via an optical input after about 100 hours, then after logging 100 hours using the optical input I will log about 20-30 hours using the coaxial input. I plan on feeding an external headphone amp using the unbalanced analog out for about 100 hours out of the 230 total burn-in (arbitrary number). At the end I plan to do a side by side of the two DAC sections (SMK-III versus DMK-IV) using a Graham Slee SRGII headphone amp and an RS-1, HD580, and a MarkL modded Denon.
Initial impressions are good in that it allows the user to know if he/she can leave with the equipments sound. Although I believe in burn-in I also believe that no amount of burn-in will turn a piece of gear you do not like into one you find superb. I should mention that I have been using the older HLLY DMK-IV for months in my office and have gotten to know its sound quite well. The DMK-IV's DAC is quite nice but the headphone amp section could use some improvements in clarity and detail. The initial impression of the SMK-III is that its headphone out has been improved and significantly, the instruments are much easier to place, clarity/detail has been improved, as well as note start/finish are much easier to hear. But enough of initial impressions, I will let the unit cook and will then post more on it. I will add this unit's top stays cool to the touch, while the DMK-IV gets warm.
For now I leave you with the following pictures, the last one was taken to show that even the large 1/4" Furutech plug fits without any problems.