Pros: High price performance ratio
Clean sounding and quite uncoloured
Easy to pair with various amps due to its neutral characteristics
Several inputs available
Cons: Output power slightly low
SMSL produces a wide range of sources, ranging from budget to high end. For those who are not familiar with SMSL, the full name of it is Foshan ShuangMuSanLin, a manufacturer of audio DAC and various headphone amps with their own R&D team as well as marketing team. This is my first time testing out SMSL’s product. I have the SU-1 with me today which is a DAC only without the amp section.
Packaging is fairly straightforward, cardboard box containing the DAC itself, and also the USB cable. This tiny little device can be powered solely via USB port, so you don’t need any additional power supply. SU-1’s “Heart”, which is the AK4493S is housed within a CNC aluminium alloy housing, this ensures better heat dissipation as well as durability.
Inputs: USB, optical, coaxial
Output level: 2.0Vrms
Dynamic range: 121dB
USB transmission: Asynchronous transmission
USB compatibility: Windows 7/8/8.1/10/11, Mac OS X10.6 and above, Linux
Max bit depth and sampling rate: 32bit/768kHz PCM USBM, 22MHz DSD USB, 24bit/192kHz Optical/Coaxial
Power consumption: <5W
Standby power: <0.1W
Size: 3.7" x 1" x 3" (96 x 27 x 78mm)
IEMs/Headphones/Equipments used for this review
SMSL SU-1 -> EarMen ST-Amp
SMSL SU-1 -> iFi Zen Can
Truthear Zero: Red
Hifiman Edition XS
*SU-1 is sent over by ShenzhenAudio for the purpose of this review. I appreciate the opportunity and support given as always.
My review is solely based on what I hear via my equipment and I never consider my reviews to be objective in any way rather a subjective approach. Do take into consideration that everyone’s ear anatomy is not the same, so the psychoacoustics perception might be different as well, but i believe it will not stray too far. I have used the Angel for several months prior to writing this review.
The SU-1 supports MQA decoding technology, offering high-fidelity in a smaller file size
The SU-1 uses a third-generation XMOS XU-316 processor for a stable and low-latency USB connection
It incorporates an AKM AK4493S DAC chip for decoding PCM 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512 formats.
The housing features an anodized finish with chamfered edges, giving it a premium stealthy look
To my ears, SU-1 sounds rather neutral with a little bit of AKM’s flavour. Depending on the amp that you are pairing it with, it might sound warm or clinical, i am pairing it with EarMen’s ST-Amp, which is rather uncolored with very good dynamics. Timbre sounds natural to my ears.
Soundstage is average, slightly out of the head, with average depth and height, imaging on the other hand is good
Bass is not emphasised, male vocal with low baritone voice sounds a little lacking in terms of texture
Mids are flat and instruments are well articulated with good textures all around
Female vocal does have better texture and sounds sweeter
The treble region is presented in a detailed manner without introducing sibilance
SU-1 has very good dynamic range and it sounds like it is performing at its best when paired with ST-Amp
Listening Impression with various Headphone/IEM
Hifiman Edition XS
Bass is presented with good texture, nice and decent sub bass rumble
Punchy bass with good slams
Mids are a little forward compared to Earmen Angel’s DAC
Good imaging based on my HRTF
Soundstage is good, slightly out of your head while retaining EDXS’s intended tuning
Sounds a little bit more musical overall to my ears when paired with SU-1
Truthear Zero: Red
Bass has good texture,sounds a little fuller
Mids are being brought forward a little bit so Zero: Red doesn’t sound that recessed
Treble remains smooth while still being a little energetic
Soundstage doesn’t really change much, imaging is slightly improved to my ears
Airy presentation and very 3D-ish soundstage
Bass punch a little harder with slightly better extension on the treble, bass sounds fuller overall
Treble has a little bit more extension
Very good synergy overall
AMP Pairing Note
Pairing with the iFi Zen Can seems to made the overall presentation slightly warmer while retaining dynamics, it made the music sounds fuller overall, suitable to pair it with Planar headphones and cool sounding IEMs
Switching the amp to Earmen’s ST-AMP, the sound is very different, in the sense where ST-AMP itself is quite neutral, what it does when paired with SU-1 is that it brings out the dynamics, imaging and separation is very good, technicalities of this pairing is excellent, but in terms of tonality, it is a little on the cool side and slightly lacking in terms of note weight
SU-1 is my first DAC only product, i have tested various dac-amps but none of them are purely DAC. SU-1 in my opinion is well built, sounds good when paired with a good amp, depending on your preference, if you like your sound coloured, you may pair it with iFi’s amp, if you are like me, you like the sound uncolored, you may pair it with Topping’s amp or the one that i’m using it with currently, Earmen’s ST-Amp.
For the price and the features that come alongside with SU-1, I think it is a no-brainer and easy recommendation. If SMSL is able to release another model without the MQA rendering, I believe the cost can be brought down a little, with all that being said, i’d still recommend this dac without any doubt!
If you’re interested in getting this unit, head over to ShenzhenAudio’s store and get one now: