SMSL M100 MKII Review
A great entry level DAC
Pros: – Clean and balanced sound
– Low distortion and noise floor
– Small form factor
– Good build quality
– Extra coaxial and optical inputs
– USB OTG function
– Extra power port
– Digital filters
Cons: – Lack of depth and holography
– Higher frequencies have a digital imprint
– Outdated micro USB ports
– Comes without RCA cable
The SMSL M100 MKII was kindly provided by Aoshida Audio free of charge.
This is my first review of an SMSL product and as always I provide my subjective and honest evaluation of it.
You can find it at Aoshida Audio – https://aoshida-audio.com/products/smsl-m100-mkii?DIST=REA=
This is the second generation of the much acclaimed entry level desktop DAC with the name M100 MKII that retails for $93.99.
The MKII upgraded version adopts a new ESS 9018Q2C DAC chip instead of the older AK4452 plus a separate receiver, the XCore200XU208 aided by 2 ultra-low phase noise clocks.
This new module supports USB OTG function to connect with Android and iOS mobile devices plus S/PDIF coaxial and optical digital inputs, a very useful feature that is not usually available in entry level DAC.
The new version supports up to PCM 768k/32bit and native DSD512 thanks to the exclusive custom driver.
Brand new is the internal circuit that is now deployed into two different PCB boards in a parallel layout in order to minimize the interference between the analog and the digital circuits.
The power supply is upgraded with low dropout voltage regulators and all the internal components are of high quality such as MELF resistors, ceramic capacitors, and gold plated terminals.
This is the first budget DAC to offer such high specifications and noise rejection.
Full technical specifications are available here – https://aoshida-audio.com/products/smsl-m100-mkii?DIST=REA=
This is an oddly shaped rectangular device specifically designed in such a way to accommodate the two parallel PCB boards.
It measures 55x55x93mm and weighs 258gr and it is made of high quality aluminum except from the face plate that is from plexiglass.
In the front face there is a single button that is used to select the inputs, the filters, and to toggle on/off.
A small three digit display of blue color is available to display the sampling rate and the menu options.
The menu option is used to choose between the available inputs and the digital filters.
There are three separate DSD filters and nine DPLL jitter settings to choose from.
At the back we can spot the stereo RCA fixed level line out , the Coaxial and optical digital inputs and two outdated micro USB ports.
The one is used for data/power connection and the other one is an AUX 5V power input to use when the connected device doesn’t have enough power (for example a mobile phone) or when using the S/PDIF inputs.
Since this is the second generation of the product and we are now well into 2021 we would have expected to see USB type C ports.
The unit comes with a small manual and a generic USB cable for PC USB input.
Set up and listening
Set up is pretty straightforward and problem free as the PC drivers are available to download from the SMSL webpage.
The USB OTG function was tested successfully and worked with an extra USB power adapter , the same we used while passing digital signals from the coaxial input.
An option that proved very useful for spinning some old favorite CD’s from our Cambridge Audio CXC CD transport.
We have mostly used our iFi ZEN CAN and Schiit Vali 2+ with various headphones such the Sennheiser HD660S , the HiFiMan Ananda and Drop+ HE5XX.
The M100 MKII is a surprisingly clean and precise sounding DAC without distortion and noise free with great extension to both extremes of the audio spectrum.
Presentation is balanced and flat with good accuracy and ample detail retrieval that while may not touch the depths of higher priced rivals is still very satisfying and you will not be missing much of it.
Details are well integrated into the whole adding a lot to the total sense of reality.
Bass is extended without any roll off and it is well bodied with great levels of clarity and definition while it is tight and controlled.
Layering is good and can handle busy bass passages with ease and without masking the various instruments.
Dynamic behavior is surprisingly well done especially if we consider that this is a low powered device fed from the USB port.
Mid range and higher frequencies are presented with equal clarity and precision – without being sterile – in a full bodied manner that becomes a little bit more lean while reaching higher notes.
Timbre is more or less on the natural side and the M100 is not artificial or cold blooded so music sounds very engaging and enjoyable with all musical genres.
Attentive listeners will spot digital traces here and there at the higher frequencies that are a little grainy and with a slight metallic aftertaste but without a hint of brightness or harshness.
Staging is quite wide with good precision in instruments placing and enough air for everything to breathe without sounding congested.
A very satisfying experience for the price point but the total absence of 3D layering and holography are there to remind us that this is an entry level DAC.
The M100 MKII is not only suitable for headphone listening but can also do a great job with entry level powered monitors and 2 channel systems.
We have noted above but we need to emphasize here again that it is a great option to have the USB OTG function and the coaxial/optical inputs which are very useful and a rarity at this price point.
At the end
Truth to be told we were a little cautious while approaching the M100 MKII but we were proven wrong and quite surprised by the actual level of performance.
The M100 MKII is a great entry level desktop DAC with a precise , clean and very enjoyable sound not short of technical performance and with three different digital inputs with OTG support.
It is a better performer than the actual price might suggest and the only thing that really bothered us was the lack of holography and the outdated micro USB ports.
If you are on a budget and would like to buy a very capable little DAC to listen to your music without missing a lot then this is one serious contender and it is highly recommended.
Full test playlist – http://open.qobuz.com/playlist/5669033
Copyright – Laskis Petros 2021.