In this review we’re taking a look at the new SMSL SP200 THX 888 headphone amplifier from Chinese manufacturer SMSL, featuring the latest THX 888 amplification technology. It’s currently on sale for $289.99 by online distributor Apos Audio, who we must thank for arranging the evaluation sample used for today’s review.
Note: We received the SP200 free of charge in exchange for our honest evaluation. As always, our words, opinions, and conclusions are our own.
THX is an acronym that’s probably more familiar with movie-goers than personal audio enthusiasts. You might recognise it as that really loud sound that comes on before films (which is technically called the ‘Deep Note’), but it actually stands for “Tomlinson Holman’s eXperiment”. Holman invented THX while he was working on the development of Return Of the Jedi for George Lucas’ Lucasfilm studios to ensure that theatres would be able to be certified to reproduce the film’s audio to the correct standards. THX has since become a company in its own right, creating audio technology and certification for a range of applications, and it’s currently owned by gaming hardware company Razer Inc.
THX has made waves in recent years in the field of personal audio, first with the release of the Drop.com (formerly MassDrop) THX AAA 789 headphone amplifier, reviewed here on Headfonia by guest reviewer HiFi Chica. The combination of low distortion, huge amounts of transparent power and a $400 USD price tag set new standards for performance, measurement and value. To break-down the acronyms even further, AAA stands for ‘Achromatic Audio Amplifier’, THX’s patented amplifier technology which uses feed-forward error correction topology that substantially reduces levels of distortion found in regular amplification circuits. AAA technology allows an amplifier to increase its maximum output power to improve dynamic range as well as sound pressure level. THX claim this can reduce harmonic, intermodulation, as well as crossover distortion by as much as 40dB.
The Drop 789 amplifier has since been joined by newcomers to the market also packing THX amplification technology, namely Monoprice’s Monolith Desktop amplifier, and the subject of today’s review – the SP200 from SMSL. Or, to call it by its formal name…the SMSL SP200 THX AAA-888 Headphone Amplifier. Catchy, huh? We’ll roll with ‘SP200’ from here on in.
SMSL Audio or Shenszhen ShuangMuSanlin Electronics Co. LTD isn’t a newcomer on the market and I’m sure many have you have heard about them and their products before. Founded in 2009, they are located in Shenzhen and produce DACs, headphone ampliﬁers and desktop amps. We have reviewed many of their products before, which you can check out here.
You can find SMSL’s dedicated web page for the SP200 right here.
The SP200’s launch caught our attention here at Headfonia and we think it’s worth reviewing for our readers, because as on paper it appears to be even more of a price to performance contender than its THX predecessors. It’s currently on sale for $289.99, it features the newer THX AAA 888 Amplifier module, it has a substantially smaller footprint than most desktop amplifiers, and its specifications are frankly impressive for any amplifier, let alone one of its price:
- Output Power:
- 6W x 2 (16ohm)
- 3W x 2 (32ohm)
- 440mW x 2 (300ohm)
- 220mW x 2 (600ohm)
- SNR: 130dB, A-Weighted
- Output Noise: 2.8uV, A-Weighted
- THD+N: -122dB, 0.00007% (1kHz, 32ohm)
- THD+N: -117dB, 0.00013% (20 – 20kHz, 32ohm, -3dB)
- THD: -125dB, 0.00006% (1kHz, 16ohm, -3dB)
- Output Impedance: Near 0ohm
- Frequency Response: 0.1Hz – 500kHz(-3dB)
- Gain: Low(+6dB), High(+18dB)
- Power Supply Voltage/Frequency: AC100-240V, 50-60 Hz
- Power Consumption (EN60065): 24W
- Power Consumption in Standby Mode: < 0.1W
- Size: 160 x 149 x 73 mm
- Weight: 772g
The quick translation: this is one incredibly powerful amplifier, with vanishingly low distortion that’s beyond the range of human hearing.
So, have SMSL gone and made every other amplifier on the market immediately redundant? As you and I both know, while they’re incredibly useful, measurements are only part of the equation, and can’t tell you what something sounds like with a range of different gear. And more importantly – they can’t tell you what it’s like to live with. Could the SP200 be the only amp you’ll ever need? Let’s read on and find out.
Head over to page 2 to hear about the SP200’s build quality and features.