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SMSL IDEA DAC/Amp

SMSL IDEA DAC/Amp

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I have this one, and tbh it's decent, but nothing great (for music at least). It runs hot, like very hot. If you run this guy at line-level (max volume, 2Vrms) alongside an O2 amp driving a Takstar Pro 82 headphone, you can turn the said headphone into a superb gaming headphone. I'm not kidding, it feels like you're using wallhacks or something. The clarity, pinpoint accuracy and imaging is out of this world! But for music, its kinda meh. A Schiit Fulla 2 or Stoner Acoustics UD125 are more enjoyable than this iDEA, imo.
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Gaming is for girls.
satanislove
I quite like girls so it's k
I have one and love it. It's as good as a Dragonfly Red, except better because the noise floor is near non-existent, even on sensitive IEMs.
I'm aware of the USB port issue, and my solution is to never remove the cable. I've been using it for about 6 months like this with no problems.
boolean-julien
same been using it for months
I was looking for an ESS-SABRE-based portable DAC/Amp to drive my low impedance office headphones 32ohm & 45ohm and give me clarity of sound and a little extra gain. I'm not a fan of loud volumes as I listen to music for hours.
The SMSL IDEA portable DAC caught my attention during research as did the identical Sabaj DA2 but I've read 80% of reviewers claim the micro USB port is so flimsy that it won't last even a few months. In the end we're talking $75-$85 (regular price) that can go into the bin or go through the hassle and wait of returning faulty items.
I guess someone needs to incorporate this "phenomenal" SABRE9018Q2C DAC into a portable thumb drive style DAC+Amp with the design and build quality of an Audioquest Dragonfly Black 1.5 and price it at $90 (IT MUST HAVE a soldered USB-A at one end, not a micro USB port) I believe this would be a true winner given what's on the market. I won't spend $200 on a thumb-drive style DAC, sorry Dragonfly Red.
I've decided to not take risks with both SMSL Idea & Sabaj DA2 (awesome products on paper just reviews say they are fragile and have compatibility issues). The Dragonfly Black V1.5 still retails for $120 where I live.
SO I ORDERED a HiFime UAE23HD USB DAC (ES9018K2M+SA9023) for $69 (ex-shipping). It is purposely limited to 24bit 96kHz and does not play DSD in exchange for lower power consumption. Will share my opinion when I get the HIFIme if it's worth its money.
Timewalker
UPDATE: I've just found that the NextDrive Specta actually adopts the ESS Sabre 9018Q2C with a USB A on a cord. Thinking more about it USB A on a braided cable should be durable, the only problem is if the cable breaks you cannot replace it yourself, whereas if USB A is soldered onto the DAC you can buy cables. However, this DAC has great reviews but the cost is $149. @MassDrop this needs to be dropped on your marketplace!
Timewalker
« I won't spend $200 on a thumb-drive style DAC, sorry Dragonfly Red. »: Well in my humble opinion you should, I strongly recommend the Red. With its 2v output, It can drive 150 or 300 ohms headphones like the HD660S/HD58x or HD600/650/6xx easily, and the sound quality is stellar. No it’s not a power beast, but don't Be fooled by its form factor and size. Some have even compared its sound quality to the Mojo, although I don’t agree, nevertheless for 200$ in my opinion you cannot find a better super-portable DAC/amp, which can be powered by your phone or tablet with the proper Apple or Android adaptor with a Lightning/USB connector
Another SMSL IDEA video review (SABAJ DA2) which might help you to answer some mentioned question here. Also includes proper foobar setup for the native DSD playback really working .


https://youtu.be/XUiCICBqM7k
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Yes, I have the Idea, and I'm a little apprehensive every time I remove or plug in the usb cable.
DarrylG
I agree. I also have felt it delicate. But I understand that the design idea was to make it really small and purposely small portable dac/amp unfortunately it doesn't go with a general fragility of micro usb port. Basically as I said the cables you connect it with are more heavier than the DAC itself. But still from my point of view it's understandable and for what you are getting it is worth to give it a bit of extra care and always double check it's plugged well.
This post is about SMSL customer support.
So I bought SMSL Idea from aliexpress 3-4 months back. Although I liked the sound, but got one very irritative issue: the device was often disconnected from my laptop, as aI believe, because of a loose usb cable socket. I wrote reg. the same to the Seller . He asked to make a video proving the issue and promised to forward it to the Manufacturer. I actually was very sceptic about any positive solution but did as he asked. Then in a few days the Seller sent me a tracking number. When I asked for what was that, he replied that the Manufacturer sent me completely new device!
Oleksa
Update: I indeed received completely new devise. It is working very good.
SMSL or Nuforce.....same shit here EVERY day lately. Hey, Massdrop, did you know that there are actually more than these two manufacturers in the audiophile world? And, did you know that many (If not most) make even better products. Do you need someone to help you use Google to find them?
Please, please, please,......ENOUGH from SMSL and Nuforce!!!
Looking to sell a black one of these. Like new, only used a hand full of times. Please let me know if you're interested!
Got two, one black and one red. Both exhibit a massive amount of distortion, and not just "not sounding good," clearly audible and loud static. The left channel frequently cuts out on the red unit as well. Guess it's time to figure out how Massdrop handles defective units....
Rynsin
Last night, a friend and I tried both units through smartphones and laptops and noted the problems above -- however, this morning, both units seem to be working well through a laptop! I'm not sure what changed, but perhaps they were too cold last night.
Either way, the inconsistent behavior is a little troubling. We will see how they perform over the next few days.
You know how the Google Pixel 2 has its DAC for wired headphones located in the USB-C to 3.5mm dongle? Does anyone know if the IDEA can be plugged directly into the Pixel 2, no dongle required?
I've read many comments about both poor dongle quality and poor audio quality from the Pixel 2 and I'm looking for workarounds.
WonderSpinach
The Idea comes with a male USB C to male micro USB cable, so you wouldn't use the dongle.
Bought one from China direct. Not using it much, not because the sound is bad. But it loses connection frequently when I'm commuting to and from work. Furthermore, it's flawed as many online reviews have mentioned, you need to start the app first before plugging in. Else, it's just static. Would say it works fine if one is stationed and not moving much.
Looking at buying this to help a Galaxy S8...my headphones mostly range from about 16-65ohm and I'm not happy at all with the integrated amp/sound of the S8; I have to crank everything to max and even then it's not any good to be honest. Does the SMSL's amp have enough output to give me significant headroom for a 65ohm headphone? I'd like to have a good bit of room left when it comes to max volume levels. And would you say that this thing produces a clean yet fun, engaging sound character that's not cold or sterile?
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I've gotten also Sennheiser HD6XX - and they also sound loud enough - more than I can tolerate.
I bought this on the first drop. I've never been able to get it to successfully pair with my galaxy 8+. It sounds like screeching and distortion noise, occasionally with a faint overlay of the music but mostly not. My sole source is spotify. Have tried every troubleshooting bit and help suggestion i could find. gave up and put it between my pc and a magni3 where it works fine. would be very pleased if anyone knows how to actually fix this on my phone, because i bought it explicitly to use with iem's.
Will this work with iPhone 6s? Centrance wouldnt because it required power the iPhone doesn’t have. This seems like the solution. Thanks for any info
Hey guys, quick question, should i go for this one or for the Sabaj Da3? i would be using the HD 6XX. Thanks a bunch! Edit: and what about the Topping NX2S?
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Interesting, must be pretty new, as it doesn't appear to be available to purchase from SMSL's own site let alone anywhere else. Too bad the input is Micro-USB instead of USB A or USB C though. The specs also don't indicate if the IQ has a gain boost. Doesn't really seem to be feature comparable to the FiiO E17K.
Even when a DAC isn't completely necessary just to power a pair of <=32 ohm headphones, it's easy to appreciate the finer volume control -- especially when you aren't in a particularly noisy environment.
You can even notice a distinctive sound difference with a cheap (extremely overpriced) XQ-10 amp that only has an analog aux-input.
Ok. So I have it for several months already. The devise is very tiny and I cannot believe how it can power up my hard-to-drive headphones sourcing from the laptop's USB. I have AKG-712 Pro and they sound very powerful and exciting with this little thing. My biggest complain is about the cable from the box. Even a small touch can disconnect the devise from the laptop. If it happen then the worst thing is that there is a 50% chance that Windows 10 may refuse to recognize the devise, and nothing will help, only rebooting. Change the stock cable as soon as possible.
To Campfire Andromeda owners, the SMSL IDEA sounds terrible with them.
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This is not "obsessing over impedance". Amp output impedance is an important consideration when using iems with balanced armatures, same as noise floor, flat pass-band, dynamic range, etc.
I'm sure all the amp/dac you listed sound great with the Andros. Which specifically have you tried with the Andro?
dc655321
I've tried it with everything but the Mojo.
I have a new one for sale. Let me know if you are interested.
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What color?
Ttrev
Black.
I've purchased it on September 17, the expected shipping date was 13rd of October. 2 weeks passed since that and still there is no news about the product.
Just received mine today. Upon initial tests it works perfectly with both my MBP 2012 and my Android phone no problem. I was expecting there to be some issues with the Android, but it worked with all apps including Spotify and my music player. No buzzing or hissing that I could tell. Also worked no problem from my MBP, just had to select "SMSL iDea 1.2" in the sound menu in the finder. For reference I have a rooted OnePlus One running 6.0.1 with Viper4Android. This thing is great! I knew I was taking a gamble because of the known Android issues, but I'm really happy I pulled the trigger on it.
Does anyone know if you could use an inline mic with this? Would the audio input signal go back to the phone/computer through this?
HBlackwood
No, the inline mike or any inline controls won't work with this.
just received mine, and it's so tiny! works very well on my macbook pro via usb-c, thought each time when it's disconnected the volume needs to be readjusted. soundstage seems wider, with treble the most obvious differences I can detect - clear and crisp. really good item.
Let me know if anyone is looking to sell their SMSL dac/amp.
so, i bought this in a prior drop with the explicit intent of using it between my galaxy 8+ and my campfire vega headphones. i prefer dongle dac/amps to box ones for mobile. was never able to figure out how to get it to work with android using the usb-c otg cables. it produces an immense screeching/hissing sound with a very subtle undertone of music when i play spotify and have it plugged in.
currently using it out of my pc for more sensitive headphones (iem's) i dont want to plug into my deckard (planars). sounds pretty good with iem's.
Now that another drop is out, I'm hoping that someone can tell me how to figure out to get this thing to play nice with spotify on an android phone.
jersey_boy
I do not have the devise yet, should come in a week, but here is the receipt from https://www.head-fi.org/threads/smsl-idea-portable-dac-amp.851110/page-7. Hope it might help: <<<
In order to prevent the Android and UAPP USB drivers to collide, in Developer Settings I checked the option "Disable USB audio routing":
search
https://cdn.head-fi.org/a/9983119_thumb.png Now UAPP is the only app that streams audio via USB automatically, all the other apps will use exclusively the audio jack or the speaker. It`s not an ideal scenario for all of us, especially if you´re using HibyMusic, which relies on Android's drivers for the task, but at least I managed to get rid of the buzzing 99.9% of the time. The only time it got back was when I turned on and off bit perfect and/or upsample, turning these options off would result in buzzing, All I had to do was to unplug and plug it again, and the noise was gone. The funny thing is now I hit play in Poweramp and the UAPP playback stops, but the sound comes out of the speaker, and vice-versa, if I hit play in UAPP again, Poweramp stops and the sound comes out of the earbuds. Each USB driver does what it´s designed for, and interact with each other seamlessly. No more strange behaviour or buzzing, just pure musical enjoyment. I was listening to some music, and my wife called. UAPP´s playback paused, and could hear perfectly through the speaker. Once I hanged up, music resumed through the earbuds. For me it´s just perfect, as I don´t plan on using the DAC except for music. I for one don´t need any firmware anymore, this did the trick.>>>
jersey_boy
Does anybody know how is this DAC/Amp compares to the following: Audioquest DragonFly black Fiio Q1 Topping NX2S DAC/Amp (Currently dropping as well)
I know the first two (IDEA & DragonFly) doesn't have a built-in battery like the last two so they're smaller and lighter, but other than that I'm not sure how they compare. I'm going to pair the chosen DAC/Amp with the Mee Audio Pinnacle PX, using both a smartphone and a laptop as a source. Listens mainly to rock/light Metal from streaming/MP3 kbps files (no lossless yet unfortunately)
Thanks!
Is it better than Grace Design SDAC
minimi
This is a headphone amplifier as well, although not a powerful one. mostly meant for very sensitive headphones. The other one is a D/A converter only. Really depends on what you want, I think they probably perform pretty similar. The grace design will e a lot harder to use with a laptop though.
Sabaj Da2 looks like exactly the same device and it's available on Amazon for lower price.
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sergeyu
I own the Sabaj Da2 and it is the exact same device. Same PCB, accessories, box, drivers, etc. Just a different shell and branding.
Damikiller37
I didn't want to take even a small risk. How I would know if they changed some small internal components in Sabaj Da2?
I was literally was looking at this hoping that it would drop soon, then i closed the tab and then got a email stating that it was dropped.....
When the stars align massdrop gives you what you want and you have money to spare.
Finally on the way!
Got mine, plugged into a Late 2013 Macbook Pro via USB and listening through ATH-M50x and...the right channel seems a bit lower than the left. I manually adjusted in MIDI settings by bringing down the left channel 1dB, but i shouldn't have to. Anyone else noticed this?
anyone figure out how to get this thing to not screech with spotify/galaxy 8?
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is that an android settings? my source is spotify
jersey_boy
Yea, it might be under settings somewhere. I had a buzz sound on my android until I changed the USB setting to MIDI.
Any update?