SMSL iDEA portable dac+amp

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by Matias, May 27, 2017.
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  1. MD Alimur Rahman
    Thank you so much for your information and i was eagerly waited for such response from you as i'm going to use it with my zs5 V1 as well..
    going to order now..thanks .
  2. hakuzen
    i'm going to measure iDEA (just arrived my replacement unit) output when paired to ZS5 v1, to check if it has enough power to reach a decent sound level with minimal distortion, in next hours. so you could hold on a bit
    MD Alimur Rahman likes this.
  3. MD Alimur Rahman
    that would be great..yes i can hold...thanks for your support..
  4. Damikiller37
    Volumes I tested at:
    Windows Volume 100%
    Spotify Volume 100%
    Sabaj Da2 Volume 14/22(? That's what I counted)

    Phone/Spotify Volume 100%
    Sabaj Da2 Volume 14/22(? That's what I counted)

    In both situation it sounds crystal clear no distortion even though it is starting to get painfully loud. I do have to say the Sabaj makes the ZS5s sing beautifully. Since I can't get Viper4Android to work through the USB I just turned it off and compared it straight through my phone (HTC One M8) then through the Sabaj.

    As you can see above the Sabaj gets enough power from my phone to drive the ZS5s hence why I say 14 is pretty much the highest comfortable volume I would listen to for a few minutes. I feel like the Sabaj tapers off the highs a little making them more comfortable at high volume yet I personally still think the highs are a little much sometimes. It also makes the bass warmer. The whole range just feels enhanced. Obviously take this with a grain of salt since I'm comparing it to my phone and your experience might differ.

    Songs tested with (All on Spotify):
    Radiohead - Lucky (Remastered)
    Petit Biscuit - Gravitation
    Foo Fighters - Run
    Metrik - We Got It S.P.Y Remix
    Dimmi - No One Can
    Liam Gallagher - For What It's Worth
    Frank Sinatra/Luis Miguel - Come Fly With Me (Duets 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
    Alt-J - 3WW
    Gesaffelstein - Viol
  5. MD Alimur Rahman
    Thanks for the input...very detail and clear..
  6. hakuzen
    Some samples of sources (no coupling caps, low output impedance) power pairing with KZ ZS5 v1

    (note: voltage and current are RMS; dB are SPL, except in graphs)
    reminding ZS5 v1 and ZS6 impedance and sensitivity..
    ZS5 v1 (4.8Ω @ 1kHz). sensitivity: ~122 dB/V (99 dB/mW).
    ZS6 (14.3Ω @ 1kHz). sensitivity: ~127 dB/V (109 dB/mW).

    Benjie S5
    Volume steps: 30
    ZS5 v1: maximum volume setting with "low" distortion: 10 / 25mV / 5.20mA / 90dB peak :heavy_multiplication_x:
    ZS6: maximum volume setting with "low" distortion: 15 / 78mV / 5.38mA / 105dB peak . :heavy_minus_sign:

    JDS Labs C5D (USB DAC+amp / amp)
    ZS5 v1: maximum volume setting with "low" distortion: 117mV / 24.4mA / 103dB peak :heavy_minus_sign:
    ZS6: :heavy_check_mark:

    (USB DAC+amp)
    Volume steps: ~20 (2.5dB/step, except first steps) .
    ZS5 v1: maximum volume setting with "low" distortion: ~14 / 257mV / 53.6mA / 110dB peak :heavy_check_mark:
    ZS6: maximum volume setting with "low" distortion: ~17 / 618mV / 43.2mA / 123dB peak :heavy_check_mark:

    xDuoo X3
    (DAP, rockbox)
    ZS5 v1: maximum volume setting with "low" distortion: ~75% / 310mV / 64.6mA / 112dB peak :heavy_check_mark:
    ZS6: :heavy_check_mark:

    Considering this info, many sources provide enough power with low distortion to drive ZS5 v1.
    The only ones which can't drive them properly are cheap DAPs like Benjie, or many smartphones, or weak amplifiers (and they are just fair with ZS6).
    JDS Labs C5D can reach acceptable sound level (~103dB peak, let's say 90dB), but not enough if you like very loud volume.
    SMSL iDEA / Sabaj Da2, and XDuoo X3, don't have any problem to drive ZS5 v1.
  7. DJRSP
    You sort of spoke on it here. Its the fact that IDEA volume has to be at Max, and the iPhone volume has to be at about 65-70% before hearing any real output.
    If I hit volume up on the iPhone to get it from 70-80%, the volume gets very loud, and than if I hit it 2 more times to take it from 80 to 100%, obviously the volume is extremely loud and unmanageable.
    What i'm trying to say is that I really don't hear anything unless the volume is past 70% on the iPhone.

    Now I know the IDEA is not defective because when I run through this same exercise with my macbook pro or Windows PC, I don't have to max out my volume on either device, and can adjust the volume minimally on either the IDEA or the PC and still hear a comfortable volume output.

    With the iPhone however, the volume is so quiet until I get to the last 4 clicks, and there is basically only one volume setting that is comfortable (60%) where I can listen comfortably.
    This ruins the point of having a DAC for me. I have the Kinera H3's coming in soon and was looking forward to using the IDEA to power them, but if its going to be a pain in the ass than I might as well return it.

    Is there some software/firmware upgrading/downgrading that you did to solve any of these issues?
    Or did you not have this issue
  8. DjBobby
    Are you talking about line out or using it with a headphones? Also through which app? I'll repeat the same settings/conditions and let you know the results I get.
  9. DJRSP
    Using it with headphones.
    iPhone App I am testing with are spotify/youtube (both with volume at max)

    on macbook , using spotify
  10. TrantaLocked
    Just coming back to update my static noise problems with the SMSL idea. It seems source has main part in the matter, as I get occasional static popping noises with my desktop but not my laptop. Not sure if software or hardware problem or a combination of the two. Just know that this doesn't happen with any of my other dacs, so even though it isn't guaranteed it still is kinda bad it even happens with my desktop every now and then. Sometimes it doesn't even happen for an entire session with my desktop so I don't really know what to say about what's causing the issue.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2017
  11. DjBobby
    When you first connect iDea, it's volume level is automatically set around middle, from there you can go up and down. If you are using it for line out to connect it to active speakers or a preamp, you have to max the volume, to get stable 2V output. This is valid for any other dac with volume control using as line out.

    If you are using it for the headphones out, then you have to turn the volume on the source to max, and control the loudness on iDea. It means using it with Spotify on iPhone, you have to max iPhone volume and than you have 20 steps to control on iDea itself. The same is valid for using it with laptop, desktop etc. Now if I understood you well, you tried to max the volume on iDea and wanted to control it through iPhone, which is not good idea. You are right, in this case you have to hit the volume almost to 70% to hear anything, and than it jumps suddenly to very loud. This is true with every dac used this way with iPhone, I can confirm that it also happens with plenty of my other dacs.
    Now your question is, but why does it not happen when using it with a Macbook or PC? Because Macbook or PC output the signal with 24 or 32 bits, iPhone with only 16 bits.
    16 bit audio: 65,536 possible levels
    24 bit audio: 16,777,216 possible levels
    32 bit audio: 4,294,967,296 possible levels

    In my case I am using Tidal on MacBook Pro, the signal is upscaled to 32 bits and then fed to the dac.
    So, the problem is not in the dac itself, but in iPhone's 16 bits limited output. You will get more or less same results with any external dac.
    Long story short: when using iPhone with an external dac, alway max the volume on the iPhone, and control it on the iDea. I hope this helps.
    Broquen and DJRSP like this.
  12. pkkaou
    Ordered Sabaj DA2 , I will update the result here , pair with Xiaomi Mi6.
    PlantsmanTX likes this.
  13. DJRSP
    Ahhhh now that makes sense /\ ,

    Well in that case, everything is working and it will just be an adjustment period from my pre-external DAC days. I was approaching the external all wrong .
    From now on i'll keep this iPhone at max and step up and down using the iDEA volume controls.
    I just received my 1More Triple Driver Lightning from massdrop which I thought would render the iDEA useless but the sound it provides is cleaner than the lightning only headphone i have tried.

    In any case, here's the rig.Used some 3m velcro to keep things intact
    Thanks for your help on this

    . IMG_0308.JPG
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2017
    PlantsmanTX likes this.
  14. Ders Olmaz
    hi guys i have a question for you. i need a dac amp to use with phone with tidal/spotify. can you suggest smslidea, topping nx2s or sabaj da3? do you think which one i prefer.
    and i read da2 and idea is same so why there is difference price which one to choose?
    thank you
  15. DjBobby
    Topping has it's own battery power, smsl and idea will draw the power from your phone. Topping has more power to drive some higher impedance headphones, but the dac section is very mediocre. Narrow soundstage, loss of micro-details. I don't have Sabaj, but I guess it's rebranded SMSL iIDEA. Sabre chip in both of them is a way more resolving than TI's PCM5101A in Topping's NX2s.
    Ders Olmaz likes this.
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