In this review, we take a close look at the SMSL HO200, a headphone amplifier selling for $399 USD.
Disclaimer: the SMSL H0200 was sent to us, free of charge, by Aoshida-audio in exchange for our honest opinion. You can check their website through this link directly.
As Yagiz said in its D1SE review, “if you don’t know SMSL, you have to get acquainted as soon as possible because you’re missing A LOT”. In fact, since the creation of the company in 2009, Foshan ShuangMuSanLin technology Co., Ltd (or S.M.S.L) has produced countless models, with some great success.
If they cover every genre, from DAC, to power amplifiers and headphone amplifiers, the brand is best known for the excellent price/quality ratio of its products. Some, like the SMSL AD18, are now classics and enter their third or fourth version. Curious? You should be, and if that’s not enough, check our other reviews here.
Personally, I use a few of their products on some setups of mine. The AD18 obviously, but also the A6, an integrated amplifier with ICEPOWER amp modules which fits right under my living-room desk, paired with old B&W speakers.
And now, I’ve got another addition to my collection with the SMSL HO200, a neat headphone amplifier advertised as a “Hi-Res Headphone Amplifier”. Is there more than meets the eye? Let’s see!
The Amp Series
As usual, we’ll get a quick look at SMSL product range. Not all of them, of course, but the most recent one.
SMSL VMV D1SE
The SMSL VMV D1SESMSL VMV D1SE is the brand’s DAC flagship, carrying Sabre 9038Pro chips from ESS and ES9311 Low-noise Regulators from the same manufacturer.
It’s a very potent device with full MQA decoding and DSD512 / PCM768/32bit support, thanks to the latest generation of XMOS USB Controller.
Add to that a Bluetooth controller plus XLR outputs and you get a very versatile DAC, fit for any desktop setup.
Yagiz got a sample for review and did a great review. Here is an excerpt:
SMSL has done a pretty good job with the D1SE, in my opinion.
First and foremost, the device has a pretty musical, effortless, and coherent sound signature. It is a high-fidelity focused, high-quality DAC.
SMSL SH-8s (and SU-8s)
The SMSL SU-8s is a mid-range DAC embedding the ES9068AS chip from ESS and OPA1612 Op-Amps from Texas Instruments.
Like it’s bigger siblings, it fully supports ultra High-Resolution files (758kHz-32bit) and DSD256 thanks to Xmos recent chipsets.
The brand also produced the SH-8s, an amp specially designed for the DAC, so you could get a nice (affordable) combo on your desktop.
Again, Yagiz got both for review and gave them Headfonia seal’s of approval.
The SMSL SU-8s & SH-8s stack performs above my expectations and it is definitely not a stripped version of the SU-9 & SH-9. SMSL designed them from the ground up and they did a great job too.
They outperform their price tag and they deserve the HFN recommendation award, without any doubts. Be sure to try them if you are looking to upgrade your desktop rig. You won’t be disappointed.
The SML SP400 is one of the newest amplifier from the brand. If not a flagship, this one fits just below the new VMV and cost no less than $629 USD, which is pretty high for the brand.
For this price, you get no less than THX AAA-888 chips, the same one found in high-end amps. Add to that an extensive range of options, a very nice screen, a 256-step volume attenuator and you’ll find the device more than up to for the task.
Again, it’s another big hit for the brand, and this amp too was awarded by Yagiz.
The SP400 is an excellent amp and therefore we are rewarding it with the HFN recommendation award. It may be the best THX amp out there with this much amount of power to play with. It can drive nearly anything on the market at the time of this writing and it offers an excellent, hiss-free experience even with sensitive IEMs.
Before the SH-8, came the SMSL SH-9 a better, slightly more expensive, amplifier with THX AAA-888 chips, like the SP400 above.
As you would expect, to enjoy the SH-9 to the fullest it’d be best to get the dedicated DAC – SU-9 – to form a perfect desktop combo.
Again, you get a beautiful device, made of CNC-milled aluminum plates, embedding SMSL latest circuitry and cool features like presets, digital settings and a big screen upfront.
If this device didn’t get Yagiz’s seal, there’s still a lot to love.
Amazing amplifier. The SH-9 is competitive in its price-range, it is very well built and it has unique features such as a screen and a remote. The THX AAA-888 technology (888 represents the pinnacle of THX’s AAA lineup) really helps the numbers and overall performance as the SNR of the device is whopping 137dB.
The review continues on Page Two, after the click HERE or by using the jump below.
Page 2: Design & Build Quality
Page 3: UI & Usage
Page 4: Specifications
Page 5: Sound performances
Looking forward to a review of S.M.S.L. AO200 Amplifier and the soon to be released S.M.S.L. DO200 DAC.
I received my new AO200 amp a few days ago and it’s very impressive. I suspect that SMSL is about to redefine the audiophile budget category.
Thanks for the review. I love my m500 but am seeking a balanced option thay works well with the focal clears. As a 90% electro listener… Curious of your favorite few dacs and amps or combo units or suggestions for the focals. Thanks!