On this page, we’re checking out the SMSL SU-6 & SH-6 stack performance.
SMSL SU-6 & SH-6 DAC – AMP Stack Performance
In this section, I’ll be evaluating the stack performance of the SU-6 and the SH-6.
Naturally, the SU-6 and the SH-6 complement each other quite well. They both have a neutral signature with little to no coloration. They are both technically capable units that punch above their price tag by a good margin. Under 400, this combo offers superb accuracy, clarity, and resolution. PRaT-wise it is a good combo as well, the transients feel snappy and the stack handles congestion-prone tracks with ease. The stack does not have the most liquid or polite presentation out there so if you are looking for a warm sounding, musicality-focused combo, this is not it.
The SU-6 & SH-6 combo offers linear, transparent, detailed, and tonally accurate reproduction. The treble is energetic, vivid, and dynamic. The extension and detail of the highs are impressive. Midrange sounds articulate and renders an accurate note weight. The instruments do not feel particularly thin, or thick. Upper mids feel as energetic as the highs, painting the listener a coherent picture. The bass is snappy and clean with plenty of power. Overall, the sound quality of the combo is very impressive, especially for this price.
Moreover, the stack provides excellent imaging with a soundstage that can be labeled as wide. The depth is not the best, especially compared to higher-priced units from SMSL, such as the SU-9 & SH-9 stack, but do not forget that this combo costs three times less. In addition to that, the combo provides a breathy instrument positioning. There is adequate air between the instruments and you can easily track individual instruments even during congested passages.
I was quite skeptical about the LDAC’s performance. Frankly, it sounded too good to be true. I expected a mediocre solution or a so-so implementation. However, that was not the case. Not even close. The stack sounds fantastic using the LDAC codec. I actually had to go back and forth between modes longer than I usually do. The combo offers stable signal stability and a killer sound. I am very satisfied and I recommend you to try this combo, or just the DAC if you are looking for a solid LDAC-enabled unit.
SMSL SU-8s & SH-8s ($588 USD)
The SU-8s features ESS’ ES9068AS premium-tier, full-size DAC. It also has a slightly more advanced audio PCB with balanced capability. You already know that both the SH-6 and SH-8s share the PLFC amplification circuitry and SH-8s features balanced capability over the features of the SH-6. In a single-ended battle, both of the stacks perform superbly. The 8s sound a tad better with a wider and more spacious soundstage and they offer slightly better PRaT compared to the 6s. Switching to balanced boosts the overall clarity and resolution plus, most importantly, the imaging performance. The SU-6 & SH-6 stack can be preferred over the 8s if you don’t plan to use balanced and want to spend less. The 6s are also smaller than the 8s and they’ll take much less space on your desk.
Topping DX3 Pro+ ($199 USD)
The new Topping DX3 Pro+ is quite a device. It packs a punch for 199 USD price tag and utilizes the same DAC as the SU-6. It is an AIO unit and it is similar in size. The feature-set is also similar, DX3 Pro+ features LDAC as well and it is slightly more powerful than the SMSL stack. It can dish out 1.8W into a 16-ohm load whereas the 6s stack can deliver 1.3W. Apart from that, the SMSL stack offers better measurements on paper, however, the real performance is quite similar according to my ears. The DX3 Pro+ has shaper and more attenuated upper mids and lower treble, whereas the SU-6 & SH-6 combo manages to stay neutral throughout the spectrum. Again, a really close match and I think both of them are great units. If I had to decide between them, I would just look at the features and pick the one that meets my needs the most.
Khadas Tone 2 Pro ($199 USD)
The Tone 2 Pro is another good product, however, the 6s have a bit of advantage over the Tone. First of all, the SU-6 & SH-6 combo offer much better controls and UI. It provides easier use and it is much easier to navigate through menus using a remote, rather than a bizarre volume knob/button combo. Apart from that, Khadas is quite portable and you can take it with you anywhere you go. Khadas can be powered through the USB port so it is widely compatible with many devices on the go. As for the sound, the 6s have the upper hand. The combo sounds cleaner, more dynamic, and transparent compared to the Khadas Tone 2 Pro. The Tone 2 Pro feels slightly polite and rounded in comparison. The Tone 2 Pro offers a more compact soundstage whereas the 6s offer wider and slightly more spacious headroom for the user.
SMSL got off to a pretty quick start to the year with this combo. I didn’t think I’d be awarding the first product they launched in 2022, but this industry is full of surprises. The stack offers excellent build quality and stands out in terms of ease of use.
The SU-6 & SH-6 stack offers excellent performance for the money and outperforms its rivals in the sub-300 price bracket, therefore, we found it fair to award the stack with the HFN Recommendation. The stack offers a complete package for those who want to own a solid DAC & AMP combo that can also offer high-quality wireless sound. To the best buy list it goes!
Page 1: SMSL SU-6 Desktop DAC, Packaging & Accessories, Design & Build Quality, Controls & UI, Bluetooth Capability, DAC Performance
Page 2:SMSL SH-6 Desktop AMP, Packaging & Accessories, Design & Build Quality, Power & Controls, AMP Performance
Page 3: SMSL SU-6 & SH-6 DAC & AMP Stack Performance, Comparisons, Last Words