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  1. #1
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    SMSL M8 DSD Sabre DAC

    So I've been curious about DSD but haven't been inclined to sunk a lot of scarce bucks into finding out about it, (given I'm very pleased with my non-DSD Schiit Bifrost Multibit).

    My low-ball solution was the SMSL M8 DAC. This tiny device goes for US$250 and features an ESS ES9018 Sabre DAC and the currently popular XMOS asynchronous USB controller; it will play DSD64 and DSD128 as well as up to 24/384 PCM over USB. It has a choice of 3 PCM and 4 DSD high frequency filters. The device is simple in operation and has useful, if extremely tiny, read-out screen.

    There is an extensive thread over at Head Fi on the M8 ... http://www.head-fi.org/t/743990/new-...smsl-9018-xmos

    There is a pretty good, technically oriented review here ... S.M.S.L M8: reach up to 32 bit/384 kHz and DSD64/128 with this compact, yet refined, DAC!

    I have my M8 in house and operating well. So far I have briefly tried PCM up to 25/192 and DSD64 & 128 (thanks to sample files from 2L, HERE).

    This is a decent sounding DAC for the money. Tone and soundstage are very good; resolution & air are good, (but not in the same league as my Bifrost Multibit); dynamic contrast (PRaT) is a bit relaxed. I have been using the provided switching mode 9VDC, 1.5 amp, power supply; when it arrives from China, I'll switch to a 3.3 amp linear power supply which might or might not improve the PRaT. SMSL also has their own, custom linear PS.


    The XMOS driver installed installed easily, more so the drivers often do.

    The big pain in the butt was getting Foobar2000 set up to send native DSD file to the DAC. This is a multi-step process for which I could find no complete, up to date instructions. Consequently it turned to be an hour-long ordeal with lots of trial and error -- if anybody wants to know how to set up Foobar for DSD, I might be able to help.

  2. #2
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    My conclusion vis--vis the SMSL M8 is to say that I have sold on this device. It does what it claims to do and, as far as I know, is the least expensive DAC to do DSD128, however the ultimate sound quality is mediocre at best, even at only US$250.

    As I said in the Gungnir Multibit thread, no DAC is better than its analog section, and in this case much is to be desired. Even my old, $100 SMSL SD1955 is better than the M8.

  3. #3
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    Any comments on DSD vs PCM if you've compared same track in both formats. Of course, I guess only one could always be native, right?

    I don't stream so I don't get into PCM vs DSD much. I have heard a good amount of high end DSD and so far I'm not sold on it being "better", especially PCM that has been converted. I suspect though there has to be a lot of variables in the process between peoples systems.

  4. #4
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody View Post
    Any comments on DSD vs PCM if you've compared same track in both formats. Of course, I guess only one could always be native, right?

    I don't stream so I don't get into PCM vs DSD much. I have heard a good amount of high end DSD and so far I'm not sold on it being "better", especially PCM that has been converted. I suspect though there has to be a lot of variables in the process between peoples systems.
    In fact I don't have much of an opinion on PCM vs. DSD base on the SMSL M8. I did BRIEFLY compare the same music in different formats as downloaded from 2L but I the sounded indistinguishable during my brief listening. Maybe that as due to the mediocrity of the M8's analog section.

    Some people are using HQ Player or other software to convert both PCM and DSD input to DSD256+ and send it on their DSD-capable DAC; they seem to feel DSD, even converted PCM, sounds better. The PS Audio DirectStream and DirectStream Junior models also do this using and programmable FPGA chip; obviously PSA considers this optimal.

    As it stands, I don't have an opinion on PCM vs. DSD. With my new Gungnir Multibit I siding with PCM via Schiit's DSP oversampling plus closed form filtering. My experience is limited with high-end equipment but, IMO, the Schiit Multibits are outstanding, especially with 16/44.1 input which is 97% what I listen to.

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