SMSL M100

Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
What's up, DAC? SMSL M100 MKII tried, tested, with exclusive audio recordings
Pros: Tiny, elegant, minimalistic, low end warmth
Cons: Listen to my YouTube vid and decide for yourselves whether it beats the headphone out of my Macbook Pro
No.2 product from Aoshida HiFi, with grateful thanks to Yihua, my newest convert to the Subjective mantra, who has supplied me with the little bar of Chinese goodness, the M100 DAC. Available at places like this

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Or this

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Or even from their main store

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I know. I surely have come across SMSL before. But, I'm struggling to remember when I have reviewed any of their stuff. No, having had a quick flick around t'internet, it appears I am a newcomer here. I've seen much but heard little, it would appear. They've been going since 2009, a long time in the Chinese side of the Industry, and specialise in making nice looking bits at fairly attractive prices. The M100 itself is a dinky little thing. It cries out to be part of a cute little stack of components, such as are part of the M series. It's tiny form factor means it'll slot in just about anywhere. It doesn't feed off your smartphone's power if you're using OTG. It needs an independent suply but only needs a side order of Micro USB, so hoping that won't interfere with it's prettiness by having too many cables hanging around. For inputs, the M100 takes Digital only, naturally, and it'll accept coaxial, optical and USB OTG and Asychronous. RCA outputs send the analog result to another speaker or headphone amp to finish off the proceedings.

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The Olympus PCM Recorder sits atop the SMSL, almost dwarfing it
Perhaps what we are aiming for here is the audio lover who has no use for a DAP, everything is on the phone or the laptop or PC and it just needs a bit of help when he or she has time to sit down and really indulge and savour a bit of extra quality. Without breaking the bank. This unit costs roughly the price I paid for my last micro SD card, which was wht I needed for my rather more expensive Astell & Kern AK380 digital audio player. I've put the thing through it's paces, and it's easy enough when you get the hang of things. There is what appears to be a power on switch at the front of the M100. In fact it is also works as a switch between the 3 inputs, all of which are numbered on the rear of the unit. In 1 is USB, 2 is optical (full sized) and 3 is coax. A short press and 1,2 or 3 will show up. Be ready with the volume well down on your amp for when this happens!


The recordings​


I will not over eleborate on the sound quality of the SMSL DAC, because you can have the opportunity to take a listen yourselves. I felt it was a competent little performer, improving on the outputs from Macbook or Smartphone, and I took the opportunity to sample a couple of sound files for you. I have clearly labelled them. They've been recorded on an Olympus digital recorder which I use from time to time for such occasions. Yes, the recordings are lossy, but the loss should be equal amongst all recordings.



Now I hope you've had the chance to listen, perhaps you can revisit a few times and decide for yourself; does it sound better? Truly, such auditions, over less than perfect conditions, are not easy. The Macbook Pro Retina is a pretty good sounding Laptop in it's own right, but perhaps you can tell a difference between part 1 and part 2 of the YouTube upload. I have put a high quality CD Rip of 1 of my own collection, Synthesizer Greatest Vol II, and I hope you like the track. It's a cover version of Vangelis' Theme from Antarctica by a little known chap called Ed Starink...

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Conclusion​


I hope you've enjoyed participating in this review. For once, it's not just been all about me. I'm sure you'd like to know my opinion on the SMSL M100 MKII DAC after all this. However....I'm going to give you all a little while to make up your own minds, and maybe, just maybe, I shall revisit this little write up and put my 2 pennorth in. Until then, you have been charming company, and I look forward to seeing you again, very soon.

BennyKAudio

New Head-Fier
Pros: Small Form Factor
Good Build
Color Choices
Clean and Detailed
Standby Switch
Multiple Inputs
Price to Value
Cons: No Power adapter just cord
What comes in the box?
1 x Micro USB Cable
1 x Hi-Res Sticker (if you’re into that sort of thing)
Warranty and Manual paperwork

Specifications
Model Number – M100,
Color – Black, Blue, Red,
Structure – Aluminum & Glass,
Inputs – 2 X USB, 1X Optical, 1 X Coaxial,
Outputs – RCA,
DAC Chip – AKM 4452,
Amp Output Stage – JRC2114,
Output Level – 2 Vrms,
THD+N – 0.0005%,
Dynamic Range – 114dB,
SNR – 106dB,
USB Compatibility – Windows 7/8/8.1/10, MAC OS X 10.6 later, Linux, Android.
Bit Depth – USB (1 to 32 Bit), Coaxial and Optical (24 Bit),
Sampling Rate – USB (44.1- 768 KHz, DSD 64 - 512), Coaxial and Optical (32 – 192 KHz),
Power Consumption – 1.2 W,
Standby Power – < 0.1 W,
Size – 55 X 55 X 93 (W X H X D),
Weight – 258 g.


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Introduction

When it comes to the name SMSL(Shenzhen ShuangMuSanLin electronics Co.) in the hi-fi community we all know this company very well due to the previous items they have pushed out. Such as the Sanskrit, A8, and M10 just to name a few and if you haven’t checked those out I would definitely give them a look. So what is so awesome about this Budget DAC? Well first off is the price, Currently on Amazon as I write this review the black one is going for $67.99 and the blue one is going for $79.99. I currently have the black one but do wish I got the blue one instead due to its blueish purple hue.

Controls and Display

Before you turn on the unit you are greeted with a dim red light in the center of the power button. Standby? Well hello there little standby light I haven’t seen you in hi-fi gear in a while. There is something about standby lights like this that make me happy that it was implemented in a budget device such as this M100. It’s a greeting of the old days where it smiles at you saying push me to get away from the world. But back to the task at hand and let’s move on.

  • Push button and a 100 reads on display showing you the device name
  • Hold the power to switch it on and off
  • Short press to cycle through the rear inputs, USB-1, Optical-2, and Coaxial-3
  • Viewing Input Sample Rates (44.1-768KHz, DSD 64-512) over USB and (32KHz-192KHz) over Coaxial and Optical

Tested Gear

Tested Sources
  • Windows 10 PC, Surface Pro 6
Tested Amps
  • SMSL SP200, ONKYO TX-NR609, ONKYO TX-NR414
Tested Headphones
  • HiFiMan Sundara, Sennheiser HD650, Fostex Dekoni Blue’s, Tin T2’s

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Build and Design

When it comes to the build and design of this device nothing else I could say other than it is a tiny little device in my eyes. Coming in at a stout 170mm x 80mm x 80mm (W x L x H). About the size of a coke can just in a square format so I would say quite small. When it comes to the materials used it is made very well the front display is glass(Fingerprint magnet but who really touches the display anyways if it’s not a touchscreen?). The chassis is made of either an aluminum or steel case. The inputs and outputs on the back are quality as well no wobble or strange things happening back there. I myself have taken a few pictures of this dac and put it on social media and some of my friends and family all asked “What is that little device?” And when I tell them it’s the dac they are a little shocked because they’ve never seen a design quite like this one. So they definitely got the eye catching idea going in the right direction. The other thing about it is the weight of it, coming in at a little over 9oz or 258g. This little guy I would say feels like a very dense piece of hardware. Whenever I see budget devices like this I often wonder about the internals and if manufacturers cut too many corners to fit it in a chassis this small. Of course they do to be able to fit all the little pieces together. But from what I am hearing and for the price of this little dac it doesn’t seem like they made too many sacrifices.

Power Usage and Best Practices

For this little dac it draws about 250 to 320 milliamps using a 5volt source when on and when it is sitting in standby it draws 10 to 20 milliamps. There are a few ways you can hook this up but from my experience with it for best sound and lowest noise floor there is only one way. One way to hook it up is using the micro usb straight into the source which then you are running power and data through a single cable. I do not advise running it this way as I said earlier the noise floor is heightened and sound quality drops. This would be my last choice if that’s all you had at the time of usage. The second best way to hook this up is using a wall adapter and connecting it to the micro usb to power it and using the Toslink or Coaxial inputs. But the positively best way to make sure you have the lowest noise floor and least amount of EMI(Electromagnetic Interference) and RFI(Radio Frequency Interference) is to use either Toslink or Coaxial inputs and use a battery pack to power the device. When I did this as a basic test it heightened the highs extension a little as well as extended the lows just enough to hear that extra sparkle and that ever so sweet bass. Good segway into the next portion of which you are all here for, HOW DOES IT SOUND?






Sound

When it comes to figuring out how dacs sound it is always a hard thing to judge due to all the other components you can connect it to. But when it comes down to hearing a dac you have to have a good AMP that is transparent as well and have that what you hear is what you get. With this dac it is quite balanced and a very clean sound with good controlled bass but slightly rolled off. This dac does lean a little bit towards the highs, so for some newer listeners and coming audiophiles this dac will sound really good for what it is. But if you do listen at higher volumes this may come to be possibly fatiguing and you may have to give your ears a little rest ever so often. Or you could just turn it down a little for longer listening sessions.

Getting into a little more detail with lower range and bass it is punchy and controlled and it does reach deep with certain headphones and speakers. I would say when it comes to note to note in this range it performs accurately and fast.

With the midrange this dac is a very clear and transparent but also natural sounding without it trying to be something it isn’t. The mids are not pushed forward or recessed; they are what they need to be. Since vocals are more so in this frequency range male and female vocals sound energetic, crispy, and also present a softer side when hearing through speakers or not a good amp. But when the speakers or headphones are driven correctly this little hiccup is not really noticeable.

Highs, Highs, Highs!!!! This is something this dac does very well, never gritty but just enough resolution to fulfill that, “Oooooo it’s so crispy and clear!” feeling inside. The highs have good resolution, a good airyness to them, so basically very good breathing space. Like I said to some ears it may be a little too much if you listen at higher volumes for long periods. But if you listen at a moderate level you will never have a problem, and I myself never had an issue with this listening for 3-4 hour listening sessions on a moderate volume.

This also does soundstage very well when using it on my speaker setup and it’s fairly accurate to be able to place things within the room. It has great all around depth, width, and height, but your mileage may vary depending on speakers and headphones used. Am I done yet? NOPE! It also has very decent instrument separation; clean and good, all the things a dac should be.

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Competition

Well in recent years there have been many many many products that have come out in this space that compete with this little device. But currently at this price of $67.99(Amazon), the closest thing that compares is the Topping D10 $89.99(Amazon). Which in my opinion does have a little bit better extension in the highs than the M100 due to its use of an ESS Sabre dac. But the D10 is a little on the colder side of neutral and the M100 is on the warmer side of neutral. The D10 is also a little bit more analytical and less musical than the M100 sounds. But the D10 only uses USB input, but does have toslink and coaxial output, so it really comes down to usage for these two. But if you wanted to get the new chip and as well as the DAC/Preamp combo you could always save a few more pennies and get the new Topping E30 uses the new AKM4493 chip. But that review and full comparison is for another day.

In Conclusion

You may be asking yourself after that little comparison, “Well what should I get then?!?!” I would say what do you need for outputs and what do you have for inputs. Do you like a more velvety smooth sound or a more analytical sound with less warmth? But as a great start to the audiophile world you can’t really go wrong with the M100 it is a great all-rounder. And if your budget only calls for spending $70 get it! But if you can wait a little bit longer I would skip the D10 and save for the Topping E30 I would go for that one!
Overall for a good sounding dac and super affordable no reason not to grab this one! Do it!

Palash

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Good Build,
Multiple Color Options,
Clean and Detailed Sound,
Multiple Inputs,
Standby Switch,
Price.
Cons: No Power Adapter Included.
Introduction
What is the best sub 99$ Desktop/ Portable DAC? - This is the question; I have seen many budget music lovers asking this time to time. But the answer is not as straight forward as one may think. 99$ is a price point where either a manufacturer has to limit features or a buyer has to compromise to get a fully featured product. Thankfully the situation is now far better and some fully featured, very good sounding DACs are available in the market and a buyer with a tight budget can pick one of them without any hesitations. Shenzhen ShuangMuSanLin electronics Co., LTD or in-short SMSL manufacturing high-end audio equipment from 2009 and very well know in our hi-fi community. Products like SMSL IDEA, Sanskrit, A8, and M10 are already quite popular. SMSL recently came up with their M series of desktop Digital Analog Converters and M100 is theirs under 99$ entry-level offering. I would like to thank DILVSHI HiFi Store for sending me a unit of M100 for this review. Let’s see how M100 performed with all my Headphones and IEMS.

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Specifications
Model Number – M100,
Color – Black, Blue, Red,
Structure – Aluminum & Glass,
Inputs – 2 X USB, 1X Optical, 1 X Coaxial,
Outputs – RCA,
DAC Chip – AKM 4452,
Amp Output Stage – JRC2114,
Output Level – 2 Vrms,
THD+N – 0.0005%,
Dynamic Range – 114dB,
SNR – 106dB,
USB Compatibility – Windows 7/8/8.1/10, MAC OS X 10.6 later, Linux, Android.
Bit Depth – USB (1 to 32 Bit), Coaxial and Optical (24 Bit),
Sampling Rate – USB (44.1- 768 KHz, DSD 64 - 512), Coaxial and Optical (32 – 192 KHz),
Power Consumption – 1.2 W,
Standby Power – < 0.1 W,
Size – 55 X 55 X 93 (W X H X D),
Weight – 258 g.

Controls, Display Instruction, and Led Indicator

Power/ Input Key

  • Hold on to switch power on or off.
  • Press to switch inputs between USB (in 1), Optical (in 2) and Coaxial (in 3).
  • Connect the power cord when pressing the power button, until the screen shows _ _ _.
Display Instructions
  • 100 – Device Name.
  • _ _ _ - No signal or sampling rate exceeds the range of the unit.
  • In 1 – USB, In 2 – Optical, In 3 – Coaxial.
  • 44/48/96/192 – Input digital signal sampling rate.
LED indicator
  • Red – Standby.
  • Blue – DSD.
  • No Light – PCM.
For More Product Information - Here
Buying Link - Here

What’s in the Box?
M100 DAC,
Micro USB Cable,
High Res sticker,
Warranty card/ User Manual.

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Driver
Windows 10 users have to install the driver first to use this device and can feed data to M100 by USB or Optical. To hook up with Android devices first, you have to attach micro USB power cable in the power only port from any 5V 1 amp adapter then proper OTG cable from your Android device to M100’s (Power+ DATA) port. To use the Optical/ Coaxial connection, a separate power source is required and power (5 V 1 Amp) can be provided in any of those two micro USB ports.

Driver link – Here

Tested Sources – Windows 10 PC, Poco F1, Oneplus 6T.
Tested AMP – XRK Class A, Topping NX3S, Magni 3.
Tested Gears – Audio Technica M50x, Sennheiser HD58X, Anew U1, Fearless Audio Crystal Pearl, Fiio Fh5, HE 150 Pro Earbud.
Tested Cables – Audio Quest Pearl RCA cable, AudioQuest Pearl Optical Cable and Lavri silver USB cable.

Presentation, Design & Build Quality
Presentation is simple, M100 comes inside a 170 X 80 X 80 mm (W X L X H) small paper box. The device, USB cable & manual have been packed inside neatly. Everything has been packed securely using good quality foam inside too. SMSL branding and actual device images on top of the box with highlighted features.

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Outer design and build quality are exceptionally good. The entire M series product from SMSL shares a new fresh design which is very eye-catching. Even you can choose your favorite color between blue and black. Anodized aluminum housing and matt finish on it feel really good and the size of M100 is so small that anyone can carry it in his pocket. Front of the device a piece of glass has been applied which looks good but also a fingerprint magnet. Sampling rate display is under that glass and multifunction (On/Stand by, Input mode selection) switch has been placed this side. All input and output connectors have been placed back of the device, good to see that all the connectors are gold plated. M100 is relatively heavy for such a budget DAC, even my Modi 3 is lighter than it. Good thing is that weight and four good quality rubber bumps are helping M100 to hold its ground firmly.

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Whenever I receive a budget device, my first concern is its internals. Manufacturers usually compromise with cheap electronics components to cut down the price further. So I have also started to open the device removing the 4 screws backside but sadly the internal PCBs can’t be fully removed without removing the front glass panel which I don’t want to open and destroy. But the purpose of opening M100 is solved now without opening it fully. I am surprised to see the quality parts used in this small device. PCB is completely clean and no extra flux is there, even each and every resistor is very high in quality. PCB and parts completely matching the images SMSL put in their product page. One more thing I would like to point out that the topology of the PCB, two separate PCB has been used inside M100 instead of a single one. One for power management and another one for audio signal decoding. Both the PCBs are connected with each other using header pins and a good amount of space is also there between them. This type of design is very helpful to reduce electrical and RFI noise inside the DAC. So overall M100 not only looks good but well build and has been designed too.

Input power, Output power, and Noise
Input power draw is very low while playing music, M100 draws only 250 - 300 milliamp current from a 5v source and in its standby mode current draw is 10-20 milliamp. That’s why M100 can be used with any OTG enable portable powered device too. The output power of M100 is 2 Vrms, which is a very good figure for a budget DAC, especially when using a DAC with power speakers. M100’s audio output is very clean and no noise at all. Supplying Data and Power from a single micro USB port is not advised, to achieve the lowest noise. From my experience, M100 with Optical input for data and separate micro USB for power is best.

Sound
Judging the sound of a DAC is quite tough; the overall sound largely depends on the AMP you paring with that DAC. In this review, I am using M100’s direct RCA outputs (RCA to 3.5 female) and RCA to AMP, both connections so that I can easily evaluate the actual sonic characteristics of M100. Sonically M100 is almost balanced with a little lean towards high frequency.

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Lower frequency part of M100 is not overpowered. Bass is punchy and can reach deep; the transition is fast and accurate. The emphasis is more on the sub-bass area than mid-bass. Quality of lower frequency part is good with sufficient quantity. M100 is capable of rendering a good amount of energy, rumble, and texture in the lower frequency part.

The midrange is natural and transparent, no such boost or drop is there. Mid-range is well extended and no harshness is there. A good amount of details can be noticed in this area too. Male and female vocals are crisp energetic. For some users, M100’s midrange could feel like a bit softer side but with a proper external AMP, this softness is hardly noticeable.

Higher frequency part where M100 has drawn my attention with its well controlled and spacious presentation. M100’s higher frequency part is well extended and no such sudden peak is there. Treble part is airy and not fatigue for long listening sessions. The presence of brilliance and sparkle also can be noticed. Personally, I am very much satisfied with M100’s treble extension.

The added soundstage is also very good. The stage is wide and both depth and height relatively prominent. Instrument separation is also clean and good. The detail retrieval of M100 is surprising for its price. M100 has maintained the overall tonal balance over the spectrum and qualifies itself the major aspects of an ideal DAC. Due to this tonal balance when paired with an external AMP, it’s very much easy to create synergy as per users taste.

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Comparison

M100 vs Schiit Modi 3 – Among the budget DAC users Schiit is a well-known name, their DAC/AMP lineup is extended from 99$ to 2500$. In 2019 Schiit launched their third Modi upgrade, Modi 3. Equipped with AK4490 and 5V input, Modi 3 has become a choice of budget audiophiles. Though the official price of Modi 3 is 99$ in the USA, in the outer part of the world it’s around 149$. M100 is marked as 99$ DAC but most of the time it's being sold around 80$ which is way cheaper than Modi 3. Physically Modi 3 and M100 are different, M100 has a smaller footprint than Modi 3. But all inputs and output connectors are the same. The only added benefit of M100 has is its power button, which is very handy when the device is not in use. Modi 3 using next-gen DAC chips AK4490 where M100 is using AK4452 but sonically they are quite identical. After a long side by side testing, I can say Modi 3 is warmer than M100. Mids in Modi 3 a bit recessed but the thing Modi 3 offers over M100 is some extra weight and mass. Modi 3 also sounds a bit fuller. Other than these minor characteristics it's really impossible to choose any of these two a clear winner.


Conclusion

SMSL M100 ticks each and every box to be a perfect budget entry level DAC. The new monolithic design approach and detailed sound are sufficient for it's offered price. Overall M100 is cute, good sounding and affordable.

Aibo

Head-Fier
Pros: Clean and very detailed sound
Build quality
Price
Cons: Lacks fullness and can sound too analytical


Functionality

M100 is just a plane old DAC. No headphone output, volume control or anything else. It has all of the usual inputs: USB, optical and coaxial as well as one line-out with fixed level of 2V. On the front there is just one button that serves for turning it ON and OFF (long press) as well as choosing the input (short press).



Build quality

M100 is a very compact device but it looks great and feels nice in my hands. Personally, I like it more than Sanskrit 10th but I can't say why.

Sound Quality

Sound signature of this one is open and analytical. Bass can go deep enough but it's fast and tidy (more so than on Sasnkirt 10th). Mids are clean and clear but may lack some natural warmth and body. Highs are very detailed and can pull out some tiny atmospheric details and clean sharp edges. It is a quite satisfying sound overall, especially for the price, but it might not suit everybody and it may not be a good source for already bright sounding system. The sound is actually very similar to the one you get with Topping D50.


You can check out my website for more reviews - iiwireviews.com
volly
volly
Really like your reviews my friend, keep up the good work!
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