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SMSL iDEA portable dac+amp

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by Matias, May 27, 2017.
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  1. Matias
    Topic to discuss all things about S.M.S.L iDEA portable DAC + headphone amp (85.99 usd), made by ShuangMuSanLin Electronics Company based in Shenzhen, China.

    Official website:





    SMSL iDEA Hifi portable usb DAC built-in high quality headphone amplifier, uses the latest advanced second generation XMOS USB Audio solution XCore200XU208, supports up to PCM 32bit/768kHz and Native DSD512(22.5792MHZ), which is very advanced in audio range.
    Using ESS SABRE9018Q2C as DAC chip, ultra-high dynamic range and ultra-low THD+N DAC, with built-in high quality headphone amplifier.
    Using ultra-low noise power supply LDO for the best performance.
    Low phase noise and low clock jitter PLL from Silcon Labs.
    Ultra-low power consuption design for most of mobile phones, compatible to work with headphone, amplifier and active speaker
    Featured with function of volume control for DSD files which is the first model can achieve that in this field. Do not have to set volume in computer or phone, volume button in the set itself. Very convenient for users
    High - precision four layer PCB, good condition of electrical performance, Independent current loop for digital and analog circuit without interference, that is priority for high perfermance of the set.

    • 3.5mm headphone jack output
    • Micro USB input jack
    • Dynamic range:121 dB
    • Distortion:0.0011%
    • SNR:108dNB
    • Quantization bit rate: 16bit,24bit,32bit,1bit
    • Sampling Frequency: 44.1kHz,48kHz,88.2kHz,96kHz
    • 176.4kHz,192kHz,352.8kHz,384kHz,705.6kHz,768kHz
    • DSD64,DSD128,DSD256,DSD512
    • Headphone output power
    • 32ohm:35.8mW(THD=0.1%)
    • 64ohm:31.6mW(THD=0.1%)
    • Impedance range:16-300ohm
    • Size:60*16*6mm
    • Weight:9.4g
    • Accessories: short USB A-micro/Micro-Micro/Micro-type-c

    Any impressions on sound quality?
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2019
  2. Leonccyiu
    I am interested in purchasing this DAC myself because of it's ability to accept sample rates up to 768khz and DSD512. While I do not own any music in either format, I have some 352.8khz and some DSD256, but in future I could try using HQplayer for DSD conversion or upconversion to 768khz.

    I don't know if SMSL have any loaners in exchange for a review. Either way because of the low price and small size, I'll probably purchase one soon although since I don't own either dragonfly I wouldn't know how it compares.
    A lot of my music is high res so if the filters are not tuned as well, it's not as much of a problem, and of course on a PC I can you upsampling filters.
  3. Matias
    @Leonccyiu I am not particularly impressed by the high sample rates of the unit but rather on the choice of ESS DAC+amp, regulator and clock. I am very interested on how it will sound. Low power consumption is also a big plus for using on the go.
    I have mine on order and will post my findings ASAP.
  4. Leonccyiu
    Those are some exceptional sample rates that until recently, only expensive DAC's could handle, and the new micro-controller I believe makes it possible while still having low power consumption.

    If you're interested in the choice of ESS DAC=amp, there are other options on the market such as the nextdrive spectra.

    If you mainly listen to redbook, why not the dragonfly black? While the Es9010k2m is slightly older, it's also about the tuning.
    There are so many cheaper options and smaller low power options if you don't require the sample rates of the smsl.

    I'll be interested to hear what you think of the sound of the SMSL idea
  5. niron
    Matias likes this.
  6. blse59
    Just got one of these babys in. Loooove the sound so far. SMSL has drivers for this device here:


    What advantages are there to installing this driver? On my Windows 10 machine it works fine without drivers...
    Leonccyiu likes this.
  7. DjBobby
    SMSL mini dacs.jpg
    I have 3 of SMSL mini dacs: iDol+, X4 and iDEA.
    iDol+ is complete waste of money, sounds thin, grainy and has narrow soundstage. X4 is much, much better although it costs only 2-3 bucks more. It is warmer, more natural and closer in sound to IDEA, although it doesn't support higher resolutions and DSD. iDEA is by far the best product. It sounds like a serious thing, almost comparable to it's big brother M8. The integrated phone amp might be a little bit weak, but is fine on the go with the portables. Once connected to a bigger headphone amp or to the active speakers, you will start appreciating the resolution and sound stage of this tiny dac. For the money it goes on massdrop, it's a real bargain.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2017
  8. blse59
    Ok, I answered my own question. Went ahead and installed the driver. It installs an icon in the system tray. Click on it and it tells you what the current sample rate is which is awesome. So if I play a 96khz file and the tray process shows it's playing in 96khz I can have some peace of mind. And in Foobar, if you have the ASIO plug-in installed, you can select the SMSL iDEA from the list. It's called 'USB DAC ASIO'. I would say this driver adds value. I would definitely recommend installing it.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2017
    Matias likes this.
  9. dc655321
    Just ordered one of these from Amazon. Hope it displays a darker (black!) background than the dragonfly black did for me.
  10. Yogibear91
    just got last one from Amazon UK stock for a bargain of 60 quid could not say no! really looking forward to trying it out! the reviews and specs even made me overlook buying the odac or dragonfly let's hope i made the right decision.
    I'll let you know what I think when it comes.
    wait until zeos pantera reviews it then it will really disappear or double in price lol depending on what he says obviously.
  11. navydragon
    Just received one of these today, and am having problems connecting to my android devices. My LG V20 and Nvidia shield tablet. When connected and trying to play something, i get annoying static noise. Tried un plugging and re plugging several times, seems to hit and miss, can get it to work preperly sometimes without the static noise when i plug it in while music is playing.. Also same thing happens with USB Audio Player pro, static noise. Though through trial and error, if i choose ro upsample to highest rate possible in UAPP, seems to be working fine.
  12. Matias
    Got mine today. Using it on a desktop PC running Windows 10 with Creator's Update. I am running the Idea with Microsoft's native USB Audio 2.0 drivers. That is, I just plugged the Idea in, Windows set it up automatically, and in control panel - audio device properties - advanced I set it to max 32 bit 384000Hz. Working great so far. JRiver MC worked converting PCM to up to DSDx2 on DoP. I probably could go higher rates with drivers but honestly I don't want to bother.

    Sound quality? First impression: fantastic! :o2smile: Clean and clear driving my Audeze LCD-XC up to deafening loud levels (1s for testing only). This is for fun only, main use will be with IEMs. Of course not on par with the big rig but still very good.
    Will listen to it for more hours before giving a more in depth opinion.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
    FlySweep likes this.
  13. wwyjoe
    Got one of these too, and prefer it over Dragonfly Red. i find the iDea has a more enjoyable sound than the DFR, and also dead silent (no hiss) with my Noble Audio Encore customs. The diminutive size is also another plus and the price.. amazing value!

    The only downside is the buzzing noise as reported here.
  14. Matias
    Same issue with Android (Moto X Style). Buzzing sound. If I open an app say YouTube and play the song and then unplug and replug the device then sound comes out but low volume using Xiaomi Piston 3, even max at Android and idea. Annoying.

    I am going to use mostly with my notebook but still would have been nice to have it working on Android.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
  15. beowulf
    That definitely makes me skip them for use with the Andromeda. I need something small and simple (cheap preferably) to connect to a laptop that tends to be noisy, just to power the Andromeda. A very flat noise floor and low output impedance are pretty much the only requirements.
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