SMSL HO200 Review

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UI and Usage

Connection

As I said before, the SMSL HO200 can work both as a headphone amplifier and a pre-amplifier. Where devices such as the xDuoo TA-26 only get a line-out which works as a pass-through, this amp allows you to control the volume and can be paired with a power amplifier.

I paired the HO200 with my Cayin iDAC-6 and tried the XLR inputs and RCA inputs, and everything worked as intended. At the end of the line, I added a NuPrime STA-9 to see how well it worked as a pre-amp and, unsurprisingly, pretty well. My only advice would be to favor XLR inputs/outputs as long as you can, as there’s a clear difference in terms of sound.

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Thanks to the two inputs/outputs toggle, it’s also very easy to switch between each mode. You have:

  • XLR input -> XLR output (XLR On / Pre On)
  • RCA input -> RCA output (RCA On / Pre On)
  • XLR input -> headphones output (XLR On / HPA On)
  • RCA input -> headphones output (RCA On / HPA On)

Also, whether you use XLR or RCA inputs, you can still output the signal through any port you like.

Everyday Use

As a dedicated desktop solution, the SMSL HO200 is mostly perfect.

The volume knob is smooth, even if a bit too loose, but since you won’t touch that knob inadvertently like on a portable amp, that was not an issue for me. I found the right volume every time and the three gain levels should suit any kind of headphone. 

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Another really cool feature is how this headphone amplifier also works as a pre-amplifier. From a simple toggle, the HO200 can switch between the two different modes: HPA (Headphone Amplifier) or Pre (Pre-amplifier). With this mode, the HO200 can drive a power amplifier or a pair of monitor speakers, especially thanks to those XLR ports, usually found on studio speakers.

As I said previously, I tried various configurations and none give me any issue to set up. Out of curiosity, I also tried to see if you can plug three headphones at the same time (who knows) but unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

During my review, I mostly used the Cayin iDAC-6 as a source for the SMSL HO200, as I’m used to the Cayin iHA-6 + iDAC-6 combo, I already had a reference point.

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Power and drive

It comes as no surprise, the SMSL HO200 is insanely powerful.

I paired it with various headphones and IEMs, ranging from the mighty Sennheiser HD800S, my faithful Audeze LCD-X, or Meze’s mighty Empyrean. None gave the amp a hard time.

If you really need more power… maybe should you check your hearings (!)

On that good word, let’s check the specs.

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The review continues on Page four, after the click HERE or by using the jump below.

Page 1: About the brand

Page 2: Design & Build Quality

Page 4: Specifications

Page 5: Sound performances

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A nerdy guy with a passion for audio and gadgets, he likes to combine his DAC and his swiss knife. Even after more than 10 years of experience, Nanotechnos still collects all gear he gets, even his first MPMAN MP3 player. He likes spreadsheets, technical specs and all this amazing(ly boring) numbers. But most of all, he loves music: electro, classical, dubstep, Debussy : the daily playlist.

2 Comments

  • Reply October 15, 2021

    Geoffrey

    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.

  • Reply October 15, 2021

    Nate

    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!

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