SMSL HO200 Review


Sound performances

For this review, my main sources were: EarMen TR-AMP / Cayin iDAC-6 / FiiO M15. Trusted sources from trusted brands that I used extensively for the past weeks, and years now. For headphones, I chose my old Audeze LCD-3, the new FiiO FD7, and the good-but-old Sennheiser HD-800S.

Overall signature

Clearly, SMSL progressed by leaps and bounds in the past years. I found my old SMSL AD18 pretty good as a headphone amplifier, but this one is a league above, in every way.

First comes power. I honestly don’t know who will ever need the high-gain settings. Fed by the Cayin iDAC-6, the SMSL HO200 easily drives the Audeze LCD-3 and Sennheiser HD-800S as if they were measly portable headphones. If xDuoo does the same effect, SMSL sounds more straightforward, almost rigid, but in a good way. It’s kind of like the Burson effect but with more depth and a narrower soundstage.


Then comes accuracy. The amp is the epitome of precision and transparency, at least in this price range. I mostly listen to electro tracks those days, and what I’m seeking are fast transients and decay, good headroom, and hard-kicking lows. Good news, the HO200 gave me all of that and sometimes more. Yes, the soundstage is a bit narrower than I expected it to be, but the depth easily compensates for that. For example, in Infected Mushroom Return to the Sauce, there’s a lot of pan effect, moving back and forth plus ultra-saturated chords. None of that gave the small amp any difficulty and if the sound isn’t “natural”, it surpassed all of my expectations.

But above all, there’s one domain where the SMSL HO200 best any other amp in this price range (and above): detail retrieval. Everything seems effortless and side by side with my Cayin iHA-6, the SMSL didn’t fall short, even if the Cayin seemed a bit more open. However, the detail retrieval capability of the HO200 remained superior and in the long run, the amp seemed more natural, organic, and pleasing. At least to my ears.


Last, but not least, as promised there is absolutely NO noise. Whatever the headphone, as long as your source is able to feed a proper signal, the amp was able to output a noiseless message. Once again, when I plugged my Audeze LCD-X, with just 20%, the sound pressure is already enough to fill 90% of any user need. Above 40%, it gets CRAZY loud, so you should definitely stick to big cans like Audeze, Beyer, or Sennheiser. Lovely in every way.

There is no channel imbalance even at very low volume and everything sounds even. I think the Chord Mojo would do wonders here, but unfortunately, mine didn’t survive the previous lockdown and I still have to change its battery… While listening to Solee – Customer is King, my faithful HD800S continued to amaze me and confirmed my initial impressions: good layering, deep soundstage (even if narrower than the Cayin), and authoritative lows.

Overall, a very nice experience.



The sound signature is absolutely linear, but each frequency range got its own flaws and qualities. A quick overview.

Bass: deep, fast, accurate. The HO200 managed to reach deep notes with ease on my LCD-X and, paired with the EarMen TR-Amp, the device overshadowed the Cayin i-DAC6  in this aspect. Clearly, in this price range, there’s nothing as accurate and “flawless” as this amp. SMSL didn’t put a bass-boost setting, for good reason, and I think this amp would be stellar with a Chord DAC.

Test track : Ylang Ylang – FKJ

Mids: flat and clean. Superb dynamic range combined with a powerful reserve makes for an exquisite medium. As expected, it’s absolutely grain-less/flawless, and compared to my usual amps voices are a bit less natural, but a bit more precise. That said, it’s still wondrous and fed with a High-End DAC, I’m sure you would be able to rival any similarly priced combo with ease.

Test track : Customer is King – Meute

Highs: straight and technical. If everything seems flat to my ears, some might find the SMSL HO200 a bit too conservative, or even lacking in this regard. In fact, the amp will never pierce your ears, no matter the pairing. The HO200 shows excellent control throughout the ranges and treble is no exception whether if it’s a headphone or an IEM. 

Good test track : The Spoils – Massive Attack



Let’s make it short: for the price, the SMSL HO200 is one, if not the best, solid-state headphone amplifier you could get at the moment. Build quality is great, the sound is superb, I/O is complete and either as a headphone amplifier or a pre-amplifier, the device was just darn impressive.

If I had to spot just one flaw, it would be the fact that the amp can get a tad warm, but honestly, that’s just a minor issue. The only challenger that could come to mind for me would be JDS Labs, which may sound a bit more musical. Yet, if you want studio performances, for chi-fi prices, check this one, it’s a sure choice.


Page 1: About the brand

Page 2: Design & Build Quality

Page 3: UI & Usage

Page 4: Specifications



4.7/5 - (8 votes)

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.


  • Reply October 15, 2021


    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


    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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