Disclaimer: The SMSL Audio T1 was sent to us free of charge for this review and doesn’t need to be returned. The pictures are taken from the SMSL AUdio website.
Hmmm, the T1 by S.M.S.L audio. I have seen the name around, but I know very little about this S.M.S.L audio. Well, it would seem they are a Chinese company that makes audio gear, DACs, amps and the like. Looking through the lists of their products, I can’t help but notice that, besides having a fairly large selection of products, that most of them are rather inexpensive. In fact, at $350, the DAC/Hybrid tube amp T1, which I am reviewing here, is one of their more expensive products. But, like a high price not being a sure indicator of quality, a low price doesn’t necessarily make something a good value. Let us take a look at this T1, and see where the chips fall.
Well, the SMSL Audio T1 looks vaguely brick like, if bricks were black and made out of aluminum and have a tube sticking out of them, anyway. It is a solid build and looks pretty nice. It doesn’t have the unearthly beauty of the Woo WA7, but it isn’t the bland, forgettable RS 06. The only real issue I have with the build involves the volume knob. It turns smooth and all of that, but you know how, when you turn a knob to one end or the other, it stops when turned as far as it can go? Whatever is supposed to stop it on the T1 doesn’t do a very good job, and you can force it further than it wants to go, without much effort. I could see it happening, if you turn the knob too hard without thinking, and damaging the unit. It might seem like a long shot, but if something can happen, it will at some point.
For the price of $350, the T1 packs in some pretty nice features. It can accept coaxial, optical and USB digital signals (and yes, drivers have to be installed for the USB on PCs), it can be used as a preamp out, a standalone DAC, and a standalone amp. Of course, just because it does everything, doesn’t mean it does them well. How well does it do? We will see in a minute.
One the front of the unit, you have (from left to right) the power button, a DSD light, a ¼ inch headphone out, an output light and an input select button. You will notice that both of the buttons have a small LED light in them. The power button will glow red when the unit is turned off. Holding down the button will make the light flash blue. This is what it does when the unit is turning on. It takes about a minute after hitting the button before you can use the T1. This is normal. Once the unit is on, a quick tap can be used to switch the output mode. When the output light glows blue, the headphone out is activated. Tapping the power button once will make it glow red, which means the T1 is outputting the analogue signal via the RCA outs in back. The input light on the far right glows a different color depending on the input being used: red is for optical, green for USB, blue is for coaxial, white is for analogue.
The specs are as follows:
THD+N DAC out:0.001%
DAC out signal-to-noise ratio: 107 dB
Signal to noise ratio amp:94dB
The USB transmission mode:asynchronous transmission
USB compatibility: Windows 7/8/8.1/10;Mac OSX10.6 above
A deep;USB:16-32 bit 1 bit
Sampling rate.USB PCM:44.1-384kHz
USB DSD:2.8224/5.6448/11.2896/22.5792 MHz
Output power amp:
DAC output level: 2Vrms
The DAC uses the AKM AK4490 chip. Oh, it does DSD.
How it sounds? You’ll know right after the jump to the next page HERE or below.