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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.