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GUTB
238
Jan 4, 2017
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Can't really recommend this. It's a bog-standard Sabre / XMOS DAC.

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No transformer, just a wall brick. Simplistic output stage. Looks like TCXO next to the Sabre chip in the center, which are good but pretty common now. Unbalanced design, the stated SNR is almost certainly false and just repeating the reference level of the Sabre specs; Sabre designs are capable of extremely low noise levels...in a hardware balanced configuration.
I guess it uses Nichicon caps...even if they're tiny lol. Unusally, the XMOS controller is integrated into the board. Sabre can handle up to DSD-512, but with the el-cheapo XMOS you are stuck with DSD-128 max, and DoP only. Besides, 9028 and 9038 were released last year, so why get a 9018 design? It's probably better than a Modi for example but there is nothing unique about this.
Jan 4, 2017
imaher
73
Jan 4, 2017
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What DAC would you recommend for a PC user that's better than the CEntrance DACPort Slim? The Slim is really buggy for me no matter what I use it for (MediaMonkey or in games) and happens to disconnect itself every 20 minutes.
Jan 4, 2017
GUTB
238
Jan 4, 2017
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If you are really tight on a budget search eBay for "finished DAC". There's plenty of Chinese DIY based DACs with much better components than this thing for roughly the same price range. Get a unit with a Amanero board if you can, better than XMOS. There's a million 9018 DACs, but see if you can land a 4495/4490/4497 DAC. Two transformers are best. If you can swing $800 get a Gustard X20 Pro it uses the new and better 9028 chip is balanced, has I2S and with an external USB to I2S bridge will give you sound quality so high compared to what you have now you won't believe it.
No matter what, get a Jitterbug for a large improvement regardless what DAC you get.
Jan 4, 2017
cgouy
23
Jan 5, 2017
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Have you tested this DAC? How about some comparisons to other DACs around this price point that isn't a DIY?
Jan 5, 2017
Bagszi
9
Jan 5, 2017
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I read this review which was very glowing about this DAC - http://www.musicservertips.com/product-reviews/smsl-m8-dac/
Jan 5, 2017
GUTB
238
Jan 5, 2017
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Not at that price range, they all suck to be honest. I bought a $300 eBay DIY unit that was better than my $150 Modi 2 Uber. My Gustard X20 (non Pro) obliterated those other two -- clarity dynamic control, etc. Just on a different planet.
To get your DAC playback to a level I have mine at I won't lie, you're looking at bare minimum $1500 and a lot of setting up a dedicated music server and audio ciruit, learning about power isolation ground loops power noise and so on. But getting a balanced DAC with a high quality output circuit with a USB isolator is the first and largest step in the journey.
Jan 5, 2017
cgouy
23
Jan 5, 2017
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Well, some people may only have a budget of say $200 for a DAC and may rather buy from a legitimate vendor, rather than a DIY. You cannot tell people that you cannot recommend this DAC unless you know that their budget can stretch out a lot further. Have you actually demoed this DAC? Either way, you cannot compare it to the Gustard, as it is a completely different price category.
Jan 5, 2017
Uzuzu
1429
Jan 5, 2017
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He also can't claim the Gustard is objectively better, saying the differences in distortion and ability to tell the difference (If amp matched) would mean one had higher quality sound than the other. Most of the time you can notice, but not easily over 300 dollars, and most of the time it is simply slight differences in presentation rather than overall detail. Also some cheap dacs that are less resolving still sound better than more resolving dacs (subjective opinion, I know). Like the ODAC. I've heard better dacs, heard better detail but the damned ODAC just sounds SOO good to me and I don't know why.
TLDR I haven't heard this amp but also agree it isn't the best buy, and hear it sounds "cold."
Jan 5, 2017
indi_guy
165
Jan 6, 2017
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Lol...Don't mind him. All his rant it about how a $800-$1500 DAC is 'so' better than a $175 DAC. Duh! Talk about balanced and dual transformers and then hike the price to $800 and as if 9028 vs 9018 would matter so much. All these people talk about these days is equipments and how 9028 vs 9018 has 'night and day' difference. Then cables and so on and on. It's never ending tomfoolery. At $200 you can find pretty good DACs like Modi/O-DAC/Fulla2/Xduoo X-05 etc, if you extend you budget a little then Mojo/Ifi iDSD etc but remember beyond this price point the difference is 5-10% max so spend wisely. Nowadays AKM is very popular and you will find them in most of these. I won't buy SMSL coz of poor quality and non-existent after sales and given SMSL quality you would most likely need it. P.S> I haven't heard the M8 but a person I know and who has several such high class audio equipments had one and according to him. It's good sounding unit but sound is quite dry and analytical. Edit: Add Modi multibit to the list at $250
Jan 6, 2017
Uzuzu
1429
Jan 7, 2017
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Agreed, and I really can vouch for the ODAC. Not the most resolving of DACs there is, but it's damn good, sounds wide but not too wide nor too narrow, with a perfect 3D soundstage, good bass and an overall very natural presentation. Can't speak for the Fulla or the xduoo though.
Jan 7, 2017
macmike
14
Jan 8, 2017
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Saying "[with] XMOS you are stuck with DSD-128 max" is false. According to XMOS own documentation, DSD-256 support can be added via software: https://www.xmos.com/download/private/AN00103%3A-Enabling-DSD256-in-the-USB-Audio-2.0-Device-Reference-Design-Software%281.0.2rc1%29.pdf
Jan 8, 2017
macmike
14
Jan 8, 2017
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Yup. With DACs you often get what you pay for -- up to a point . I did a bunch of research and from a value for money perspective, I narrowed my choices to the SMSL M8, Topping D30, Modi 2 Uber/Multibit, and ODAC Rev.B.
I ended up getting the ODAC Rev.B and am really happy with it, though the price point of the M8 makes it a heck of a value for a DSD capable, Sabre equipped DAC.
Jan 8, 2017
SptTablo
19
Jan 9, 2017
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It seems like you are quite knowledgeable in this field.
Would this be better than ifi Nano iDSD?
That's what I am currently using and I was thinking of maybe upgrading to Micro iDAC2 or even iDSD.
Thanks for your time in advance!
Jan 9, 2017
GUTB
238
Jan 9, 2017
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.....lol. I'm done with educating people here on DACs and audio equipment in general. Mainly because you guys just don't want to hear it.
Jan 9, 2017
cgouy
23
Jan 9, 2017
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Assuming that you have tested this DAC on a familiar rig, I don't have a problem with the claim that higher end, more expensive DACs, that have better implementation and components are better (I'm neither for or against that argument as I don't have experience with high end DACs yet). I have an issue however with the statement that this unit cannot be recommended, without stating other better alternatives around a similar price point. Not everyone has a budget of $800 - $1500.
Jan 9, 2017
GUTB
238
Jan 9, 2017
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The thing is, people on Massdrop don't want to hear anything that suggests inexpensive gear is clearly inferior to higher end gear. So, when I try to explain the technicalities and educate people in general on DACs, circuits, engineering, technology, etc, I just hit a brick wall. People just don't want to hear it, they want to hear about how their tiny DACs with itty-bitty chip amp stages (read: cheap) is just as good, or 90% of, DACs costing many times more.
My DAC costs $800. It's a Gustard X20U, and I fully intend to replace it when the higher-end products come out such as the Holo Audio DSD-only ladder DAC, the Gustard 9038 product, T+A 8 DSD DAC, etc and so on. Getting my DAC to sound the way it does now is what cost over $1,500:
Lessloss Original AC cable - $600 Audio Sensibility Statement SE XLR - $300 LKS I2S bridge + 5V Linear PSU - $430 Furutech GTX-D NFC(R) AC receptacle - $260 Supra USB cable - $60 AudioQuest Jitterbug - $50 Fanless / clean power audio PC components - $400
That's over 2k. I say bare minimum $1,500 because you could get equivalent results (probably) by spending a little less. Each one of those products was purchased for a specific reason and role in improving audio quality.
Jan 9, 2017
macmike
14
Jan 10, 2017
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I looked into the ifi Nano and it's slightly different product in that it's both a DAC and amp with the benefit of being battery powered for use on the go. The M8 is does not have an amp nor does it have the option to run on battery.
I'm not sure that I'd consider the M8 an upgrade over the ifi Nano in any notable way. The iDAC2 looks like a better unit on paper. If in doubt, you can always buy and try units from places that offer a liberal return policy, do A/B tests, and let your ears decide.
Jan 10, 2017
macmike
14
Jan 10, 2017
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I don't think anyone's arguing that more expensive is typically better, but to be fair, most folks considering the M8 likely DON'T have $1500 to spend on a DAC. I think a lot of folks here are trying to find something that offers great value for money, so perhaps you could tailor your advice accordingly.
Jan 10, 2017
indi_guy
165
Jan 10, 2017
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Add another DAC to the list that's pretty popular with 9018 chip...Audio-GD NFB-11 sold at $250(shipping maybe extra). Built and quality is far better than M8. It has in-built amp too.
Jan 10, 2017
zrstr
0
Jan 10, 2017
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I've heard a lot of good things about the NFB-11, but I'm seeing it as $305? With shipping to the US at $34.50, so it's almost double the money of the M8 in this drop.
Jan 10, 2017
SptTablo
19
Jan 11, 2017
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Thank you for your reply. I will definitely take a look into places that offer liberal return policy.
Jan 11, 2017
indi_guy
165
Jan 11, 2017
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Hmmm...you are right. But with the increased popularity some folks would sell them too. Since it's a desktop DAC+AMP going for this unit at a little discount would be wiser. SMSL quality scares me, I am not familiar with circuits and can't repair them on my own. A friend has a Sanskrit which he loved but now lying dead.
Jan 11, 2017
GUTB
238
Jan 12, 2017
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No, you're right. I was comparing it with real DACs with real output stages in which managing noise becomes much more problematic. Tiny, baby ICs like this will excel in noise measurements. For example, a real output stage:

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Note the use of FETs and the capacitors to supply them.
Here is a baby output stage:

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I can't even make them out...maybe little op-amps?
Jan 12, 2017
indi_guy
165
Jan 12, 2017
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Man, are you still trying to be rational with him. He is a loaded with pocket load of money that 'audiophile' companies would be happy to siphon away. If you like your DAC just enjoy the music, that's what matters. Cheers!
Jan 12, 2017
Doge91
35
Jan 12, 2017
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Is this guy seriously trying to compare 180$ dac with 800$ dac, then whines how the 180$ is inferior in every way? Duh?
Jan 12, 2017
Jimster480
393
Mar 2, 2017
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The way I see it you wasted a ton of money on nonsense to believe inside of your head so that you can say your audio sounds better. I would like to see your blind A/B test your setup vs a ODAC or this M8 or a Fulla 2 when its volume matched.
Because many A/B Tests have shown very poor results in testing which DAC is which. And show that basically when it comes to audio and the quality is good the minute details are often in your head vs actual.
Just because you blew tons of money on pointless non-upgrades doesn't mean that this isn't a good DAC. Go check headfi because the reviews are pretty raving.
Mar 2, 2017
GUTB
238
Mar 3, 2017
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I would ABSOLUTELY ace a blind test between a difference of quality so huge that exists between entry-level junk like the ODAC and full differential Sabre real output stage DAC like the X20. Are you totally insane? Or just another student who's never heard high quality audio once in their lives?
Mar 3, 2017
Jimster480
393
Mar 3, 2017
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Okay sure, just another delusional audiophile who thinks his platinum god-tier cables make everything sound "so much more clear". You would probably fail an A/B test with your DAC and a Realtek lmao
Mar 3, 2017
GUTB
238
Mar 3, 2017
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Okay, so a have-nothing student on a class warfare kick.
Mar 3, 2017
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