SMSL iDEA portable dac+amp

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by Matias, May 27, 2017.
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  1. mvneufeld
    You mentioned that you have the M8 and the M8A - how do you like them? I'm thinking of getting the M8 and using the $50 I save to buy a linear power supply (http://bit.ly/2C7Y97v).
     
  2. PlantsmanTX
    That's bad business. I'll remember it for future reference.
     
  3. PlantsmanTX
    I haven't heard them, so I don't know. If you go to the Sabaj website and compare the specs of the D2 to the Da1, which is the same as the SMSL X4, it looks like it may not be any better than what you already have.
     
    Supa Boy likes this.
  4. DjBobby
    You can read my impressions on another thread: Post #216
     
  5. tomscy2000
    I bought an iDEA a couple weeks ago and have been impressed by its value. Compared to other SABRE9018Q2C-based USB DAC/amps (i.e. NextDrive Spectra, Cozoy TAKT Pro), it's the least expensive (discounting the near-identical Sabaj DA2), and seems to perform up to par.

    I just noticed that SMSL have a dual-mono version of the iDEA, called the IQ, that's only visible on the Simplified Chinese version of its website: http://www.smsl-audio.com/cn/productshow.asp?id=142

    Because it uses a balanced topology, the IQ now offers balanced output that accompanies improved power delivery (55 mW vs 35 mW into 32 ohms on unbalanced outputs), lower THD+N, and thus improved SNR & DNR.

    The Silicon Labs multiclock generator for MCLK is now replaced by two discrete TXCOs for 44.1 and 48 kHz multiples. Perhaps it'll be a little better performing in terms of jitter reduction, but I don't know if the change will be noticeably audible.

    Just as a word of note, while the SMSL iDEA and the Sabaj DA2 seem to be identical in terms of PCB layout and parts usage, the Sabaj analog to the SMSL IQ seems to be slightly different.

    This is the Sabaj DA3: http://www.sabaj.com.cn/productshow.asp?id=74

    Not only are the TCXOs used of a different brand, the PCB layout is slightly different. The stated specifications are ever so slightly different as well; the Sabaj has a measured DNR of 125.219 dB, while the SMSL has a measured DNR of 125.559 dB. The Sabaj has a specified power of 56 mW into 32 ohms, while the SMSL, as stated previously has a power of 55 mW. Thus, the stated THD+N for the Sabaj is slightly higher at 0.00038% compared to the SMSL's 0.00033%. Now, these are tiny, tiny differences that ultimately are indiscernible to the human ear, but the differences do suggest a slightly different parts bill. Because the SABRE9018Q2C is an SoC, there's not much tweaking to be done in terms of the sound. Both devices, like the iDEA/DA2 before them, will likely implement a bog-standard symmetric sinc filter. The only differences governing the end result for sound will be determined by how clean the voltage is going into the reference inputs of the SoC, and this factor is governed by PCB layout. I don't know what the real PCB layout of the SABAJ looks like, but from the small snippets,

    On a more obvious note, the Sabaj DA3 seems to be thicker, less wide, and less long than the thinner, wider, and longer SMSL IQ. Overall, IMO, the SMSL is a little better looking. The prices are also different: a quick search on Taobao shows the SMSL is more expensive at ¥750.00 (~$114), while the Sabaj is substantially cheaper at ¥ 549.99 (~$84). Keep in mind that the Taobao prices for the Sabaj DA2 (¥ 368, ~$56) are also cheaper than those of the SMSL iDEA (¥ 468, ~$71).
     
    stalepie, FlySweep, blse59 and 3 others like this.
  6. tomscy2000
    Then again, despite the numerical differences, the THD and DNR plots look identical on superimposition.

    Also, I didn't realize the Sabaj DA3 could do selectable audio filters (normal vs. minimum phase). The SMSL IQ likely does the same.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2017
    Matias likes this.
  7. DjBobby
    Thanks for heads up, very interesting. It's also visible on english version: http://www.smsl-audio.com/productshow.asp?id=142
    Aliexpress has it already: https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?catId=0&initiative_id=SB_20171230042216&SearchText=smsl+iq
     
  8. PlantsmanTX
    Very good information, thanks. The DA3 has been on the market here for a while. It's $99.99 at Amazon and Newegg. I see that the link to the IQ USB audio driver downloads a zip file of the XMOS driver, version 4.38. The driver linked to on the IDEA page is still version 4.11.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2017
  9. tomscy2000
    Thanks for the info. I've been away from all this stuff for a while, so I was a bit jumbled with my information.
     
    PlantsmanTX likes this.
  10. JayNetTech5
    I'm starting to agree with you guys about the built quality of these dac/amps. Something went very wrong with my X4. While I was chatting on discord yesterday I started to get bombarded with occasional loud hissing, like as if somebody kept turning on white noise out of nowhere. Now this morning when I re-booted my computer I heard an intense long and loud buzzing sound through my headphones that nearly deafened me and it kept coming back in bursts every couple of seconds during the boot process.
     
  11. blse59
    Over six months in and I'm still using it. It's permanently attached to the front USB port on my computer and my headphones or speakers always go in it and I never think about it. I've used this more than any external DAC I've owned. :ok_hand:
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
  12. macbug
    I got myself a Sabaj DA1 , works great except my phone insists on reverse charging it, setting it to midi doesn't appear to stick in terms of power draw, still wats up about 100mW. Does anyone know if there is a way to make it draw less power?
     
  13. spongeworthy
    The USB port just completely crapped out on me within a couple months of using it, I think the contacts are faulty since it requires minutes of maneuvering the cable in the right place for it to function
     
  14. JohannLiebert
    I have an SMSL idea and Chord Mojo coming in the next 2 weeks. I don't care much about features, I just need a hiss-free or low hiss device with low output impedance for IEM's( Andromeda, CA Harmony 8.2).
    They both seem to tick the boxes. One for 6x the price though.
     
  15. dc655321

    Would like to hear your impressions of the Mojo vs the iDEA with your Andromeda when you have a chance.

    Never used the Mojo, but was using the iDEA with the Andros for several weeks. It was a hiss-free combo that sounded great (IMO).
    Andros certainly live up to their "bloody sensitive" reputation - 5/6 clicks (out of 20) on the iDEA's volume was plenty loud.
    For comparison, my FLC8S are in the 9-10 click range for similar volume...
     
    stalepie likes this.
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