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Measuring 2.25 inches long and weighing just half an ounce, the SMSL IDOL + is one of the...

SMSL IDOL+ DAC/Sound Card/Headphone Amplifier OTG MICRO USB 192KHZ

Rating:
4.5/5,
  • Measuring 2.25 inches long and weighing just half an ounce, the SMSL IDOL + is one of the smallest DAC/amps around. But don’t be fooled by its slim profile—it has what it takes to power high-impedance headphones with ease, and sampling rate supports 192kHz. Inside, the IDOL + AMP chip uses MAX97220A. Suitable for most earphones. The exterior is aesthetically pleasing and simple, with a volume control and mute botton on the top panel, a 3.5-millimeter headphone out on one end, and on the other, a Micro USB port for connecting to your laptop or mobile device. FEATURES: Selectable input source from computer,andriod phone or iphone by OTG connection,and also ipad. Featured with volume up/down and mute function Ultra-low power consumption. 4,No need driver,fast connection for usage. AMP chip uses MAX97220A.Suitable for most earphones. 6,USB programme uses VT1620A Weight only 11g,very convenient and portable. 8,Sampling rate support up to 192kHz SPECIFICATION: Model Number: Idol + Power InputL: 5v OTG: Support Color: Black Input: Micro USB USB Programme: VT1620A Output 3.5mm 16bit Sampling Rate: 192kHz 24bit Sampling Rate: 96kHz Dynamic range: 97dB SNR: 85dB Product Weight: 11g Headphone AMP IC: MAX97220A Gross Weight: 56g THD+N: 0.025% Product Size: 55*21*8mm

Recent Reviews

  1. peter123
    A excellent ultra compact amp/DAC offering from SMSL
    Written by peter123
    Published Nov 30, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Size, performance, physical volume control, low power drain
    Cons - Lack some power
    This is a review of the SMSL Idol+ DAC/amp combo.
     
    IMG_4512.jpg
     
    The SMSL Idol+ was sent to me for free from SMSL with the help from Shenzhen Audio in exchange for my honest review of it. I’d like to say THANK YOU to Jonny at Shenzhen Audio for letting me check it out.
     
    The SMSL Idol+ is available from multiple sellers on Aliexpress but this is the link to the one I got mine from:
     
    https://www.aliexpress.com/item/SMSL-IDOL-USB-DAC-Sound-Card-Headphone-Amplifier-OTG-MICRO-USB-192KHZ/32729236038.html?spm=2114.01010208.3.43.vUQMGt&ws_ab_test=searchweb0_0,searchweb201602_2,searchweb201603_1&btsid=c640e074-ceb9-47be-8d57-ac699bb18444
     
    I’m not in any way affiliated with SMSL or Shenzhen Audio.
     
    About me:
    I’m a 44 year old music and sound lover that changed my focus from speakers to headphones and IEM’s about five years ago. At that time I realized that it wasn’t realistic for me to have all the different setups that I wanted and still house a family of four children and a wife so my interest turned first to full sized headphones and later also IEM’s.
     
    My preferences are towards full sized open headphones and I believe that also says something about what kind of sound signature I prefer (large soundstage in all directions, balanced and organic sound).
     
    My music preferences are pretty much all over the place (only excluding classical music, jazz and really heavy metal). My all-time favorite band is Depeche Mode although I also listen to a lot of grunge/indie, singer/songwriter/acoustical stuff as well as the typical top 40 music.
     
    I do not use EQ, ever.
     
    I’m a sucker for value for money on most things in life Head-Fi related stuff is no exception.
     
    I tend to value function over form within reasonable limits.
     
    Built and accessories:
    The SMSL Idol+ is a combined USB DAC and headphone amplifier designed to be used with computers, laptops and some Android devices.
     
    As far as I understand it comes in two flavors: silver or black, I’ve got the black one.
     
    The external build of the Idol+ seems simple but also durable. There’s usually not too much to say about these super compact devices but the Idol+  chassis is made of aluminum and it features one USB micro  female connector and  a 3.5mm headphone output. It does also has three physical buttons, which I always prefer on these kind of devices, one mute button and one separate to lowering the volume as well as one to raise it. Unfortunately the mute function doesn’t seem to be compatible with Android but it works as expected with Widows. Under the hood is the, for me, unknown VT1620A DAC chip and MAX97220A headphone amplifier.
     
    My review unit came without retail package so I’m actually not sure what it would look like. The accessories included with my unit were a small micro to micro OTG cable, a regular USB to USB micro cable and a storage case to keep it in when not in use.
     
    IMG_4499.jpg IMG_4500.jpg
     
    IMG_4507.jpg IMG_4509.jpg
     
    Compatibility:
    The Idol+ supports Android devices and is also stated to work with Apple products using a Camera connection kit for them. It runs fine with the third party app USB Audio Player Pro (UAPP) LG G3 phone and several other Android devices I’ve tried it with. It does also work well with steaming services like Spotify and it doesn’t seem to need any external power other than from the source.
     
    The Idol+ support sample rates up to 24bit/96kHz or 16bit/192hHz.  Because of this it’s plug and play with Windows as well as with IOS. When connected to Windows 7 the volume control on the Idol+ takes control over the system volume (it works the same way with Android as well) which is pretty neat and convenient.
     
    Not surprisingly, given its size, the Idol+ is not the most powerful option out there and I’d say that it’s best used combined with IEM’s. It does run a bit hot when pushed hard but nothing alarming. Power drain from the source does also appear to be quite low and although I haven’t clocked it exactly it drain my Z3Compact phone with slightly less 10% per hour of usage when used as music transport only.
     
    The specs:
    Input: Micro USB
    USB Programme: VT1620A
    Output: 3.5mm headphone jack
    Dynamic range: 97dB
    SNR: 85dB
    Channel separation:  85dB
    THD+N: 0.025%
    Sampling Rate: 16bit/192kHz,24bit/96kHz
    Power consumption: 0.1W
    Headphone amp chip: MAX97220A
    AMP power: 64mW(64Ohm@1%THD+N)
    Supply voltage:5V
    Machine weight: 11g
    Total weight: 56g
    Size: 55x21x8mm
     
    Sound:
    I’ve used the Idol+ quite a lot during the last two months and it has played for well over 100 hours.  
     
    I’ve combined it with my LG G3 phone, Sony Xperia Z3Compact and two laptops running Windows 7 and it has worked very well with all combinations.
     
    Demo list:
    Mark Knopfler – Sailing to Philadelphia
    Røyksopp (Feat.Susanne Sundfør) – Save Me
    Ane Brun – These Days
    Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana
    Metallica – Die Die My Darling
    The Peter Malick Group – Immigrant
    Eva Cassidy – Songbird
    Thomas Dybdahl – A Lovestory
    Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why
    Celldweller – Unshakeable
    Jack Johnson – Better Together
    Seinabo Sey – Younger (Kygo remix)
    Dire Straits- So Far Away
    Bjørk - Moon
    Lupe Fiasco - Deliver
    Morrissey – Earth Is the Loneliest Planet
     
    I’ve got to be honest and admit that I find it pretty difficult to describe the sound from DAC’s. To me the sound of headphones and IEM’s are easier to describe than that of amplifiers and DAC’s. Because of this I’ll do a brief description of the overall sound from the SMSL Idol+ and then compare it to a couple of other DAC/amp to highlight the difference and similarities to them.
     
    Listening to the Idol+ without comparing it to others it has got a crisp and clear sound without causing any fatigue. Sub-bass reaches low and I’m not able to hear any significant roll off. I find it to be pretty neutral with no added bass and it doesn’t seem to highlight any certain frequencies. The highs are also crisp and clear with good extension. Dynamics are good as is soundstage width, depth and separation as well. It also delivers a fair amount of transparency and details. All of this together makes for an effortless and easily enjoyable presentation. In short the Idol+ sounds crisp, lean and clean without being super refined.
     
    I find the sound signature of Idol+ to pair very well with every pair of IEM’s I’ve tried it with but its limited power output shows with most full sized headphones. I’ve used it with the Philips Fidelio X2 and it pairs up very well with them when it comes to sound quality and it has just enough power to keep things together on bass heavy complexed tracks as well. It does of course work very well with IEM’s and this would be my recommended area of usage for it.
     
    Comparison:
    Please note that the comments in the comparison section are not in absolute terms but in comparison between subject A and B. This means (as an example) that if subject A is found to be brighter than subject B it does not necessarily mean that subject A is bright sounding in absolute terms. I hope this makes sense.
     
    I this comparison both DAC/amp combos where fed by different Android devices both running USB Audio Player Pro (UAPP) with the exact same settings and I was listening through both my Philips Fidelio X2 headphones and the LZ A4 IEM’s.
     
    I used a splitter/switch box to easily switch between the two units being compared and a simple Android app to volume match them.
     
    Topping NX2 ($39) vs SMSL Idol+:
    Compred to the Idol+ the NX2 has a bit better less textured bass and also more overall bass presence. The Idol+ on the other hand has better clarity and more air in the presentation, the NX2 actually sound closed in and warmer but also a bit more relaxed in comparison. It’s like the NX2 has a bit of vail in the presentation. The NX2 does have more weight to vocals and instruments while the Idol+ is more energetic and spacious sounding.  
     
    The NX2, while still a small unit, is still a lot bigger than the Idol+ (I’d say about ten times bigger) and is connected to the source through a female mini USB port as opposed to the micro USB port used on the Idol+.
     
    Both have a single 3,5mm output but the NX2 does also have a 3,5mm analog input and can therefore be used as an amp only if desired (and it’s a very good amp). They do both have physical volume controls. The NX2 does also have an internal battery and a separate charging port.
     
    None of these runs particularly hot and they both offer a quite limited (and similar) amount of power.
     
    Both of these are very well suited to pair with Android devices due to their low power drain.
     
    Both of them have a slight amount of background hiss that’s audible with very sensitive IEM’s.
     
    The NX2 supports up to 24bit/96kHz sample rate while the Idol+ supports up to 16bit/192kHz or 24bit/96kHz.
     
    In my opinion the Idol+ is the better, although not by a huge margin, performer as a DAC/amp combo between these two. The NX2 is very good used as a pure amplifier though so it’s obviously let down by a weak DAC section.
     
    IMG_4508.jpg
    Size comparison betweeen the SMSL Idol+ and Topping NX2
     
    LG G3 vs SMSL Idol+:
    The Idol+ is made to pair with phones to improve the sound quality so I thought it would be interesting to see how it compares to an OK music phone such as the LG G3 as well. In this comparison I will just be focusing on differences in sound for obvious reasons.
     
    Compared to the Idol+ the LG G3 has a warmer, more congested and dull sounding presentation. The G3 has more bass impact but the sub bass is noticeable more wooly when compared to the Idol+.  The Idol+ has better separation and clarity as well as an overall more distinct presentation. Although the differences here are not very big I do prefer the Idol+ ofer the headphone output on the G3 for long time usage.
     
    Summary:
    The Idol+ is really an amazing little device. It offers a sound quality that outperform most mobile phones (“Audiophile” ones excluded), has physical volume controls, drain very little battery and is extremely small. It does also work “plug and play” with laptops and computers as well as pairs up seamlessly with tablets and smart phones which makes it highly versatile and combined with great build quality and very compact size it’s a great device to use in pretty much any setting such as home, in the office or when travelling. It may not be the most refined sounding or powerful unit out there but for the price these are definitely things I can accept.
     
    To anyone new to Head-Fi and/or struggling with a low quality phone or laptop sound output the SMSL Idol+ would be a great starting point for better sound. 
      H20Fidelity, B9Scrambler and crabdog like this.
    1. DjBobby
      Nice review, thanks for taking the time to review this tiny dac. Just got it, and my impressions regarding NX2 vs idol are pretty much the same as yours. Only difference, idol has digital volume control (lowering bits) and NX2 uses full resolution from and has analogue volume control. 
      DjBobby, Mar 21, 2017

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