Packaging and presentation
The SP200 ships in a nice, simple small-ish box proudly wearing the ‘THX’ and ‘Hi-res Audio’ badges, a theme repeated when you open the box to find the same trademarked symbols stamped on the top of the SMSL’s case. By way of accessories, the SP200 is accompanied by an IEC power cord and a brief instruction manual. That’s it.
Build and design
The SP200 is a headphone amplifier, pure and simple. No DAC, no remote, no eq, its job is to make headphones go loud. There’s no bling, no fanfare, and most interestingly, there’s actually not much of it – it’s small. By way of reference, it’s not much bigger than Schiit Audio’s Magni/Modi, and it’s considerably smaller than Drop’s THX 789 AAA.
However, the SP200 does feel fairly hefty and substantial for its size, giving the impression of a well-built and solid device. Desktop users with minimal table-top real estate will be thankful for its diminutive footprint, but I found a couple of instances where thick XLR cables would cause it to rock off all four feet, or drag around on top of other equipment.
The SP200’s chassis is all-aluminium, the main body of the amplifier consists of a single ‘tube’ with no joints, with face/rear plates held on with screws. A universal AC power supply is in-built, meaning that no chunky wall-warts are required, which is another tick in the box of benefits over Drop’s THX amp. Nice.
XLR and single-ended RCA line-level inputs are provided on the rear of the unit, but there are no output or preamp facilities – the SP200 is a headphone-only affair.
The front of the unit features both four-pin balanced XLR and 6.3mm single-ended headphone outputs, a volume knob, and three ‘clicky’ toggle-switches: power, XLR/RCA input selection, and low/high gain. The power indicator light on the front is a fairly bright, lurid blue that’s slightly offensive, but not a deal-breaker.
And there you have it, we’re done the entire tour of the SP200. But there’s one thing we haven’t discussed yet: its shape. Yes, it’s not your eyes, the SP200 isn’t rectangular – it ‘tilts’ slightly to the right, and from front-on, the SP200 is shaped like a parallelogram (yes, I paid attention in primary school geometry). It’s an unusual choice from SMSL, but it does tend to give the SP200 a somewhat quirky and distinctive appearance. However, I could see this offending the design sensibilities of those who’d prefer a more symmetrical layout. I can confirm that it’s possible to stack the SP200 upright, but I wouldn’t recommend it (if you do, pop it on its left with the volume pot at the top – the weight of the power supply makes it more stable that way).
Head over to page 3 to read about the SP200’s performance and sound quality.