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Red, black, blue & balanced: SMSL’s M300 DAC

  • DACs. On paper, we might favour one over the other because of its decoder chip. SMSL’s M300 (US$250/โ‚ฌ250) runs a single instance of Asahi Kasei’s top-tier AK4497 D/C converter. Excited? Maybe. But careful now: as with many other DACs coming to market, we know nothing (yet) about the M300’s analogue output stage or power supply — two additional factors that determine a DAC’s sound quality and two reasons why the ‘Sabre sound’ is a fiction of forums.

    We might also be drawn to SMSL’s DAC because of its fully-featured connectivity. Digital inputs are three in number: TOSLINK, coaxial and (micro)USB that doubles as a power input. The USB receiver chip is, according to SMSL, a second-generation XMOS XCore200 Xu208, which supports PCM up to 768kHz and DSD512. Native DSD support is also part of the deal.

    On analogue outputs, both single-ended RCA and balanced XLR are included, with the latter far from common at the M300’s high-end-humble asking price.

    However, SMSL will likely seal the deal with prospective buyers because the M300 doesn’t only come in a plain black finish. Options exist for red and blue. Splashes of colour like this are rarely seen in the world of high-end audio. That SMSL brings such visual flair to entry-level D/A converters whilst adding a 1.5″ IPS display to its tempered glass front panel (that indicates the active input with a line drawing and returns sample rate input info) is without precedent at two hundred and fifty bucks.

    China’s SMSL clearly understand that many hi-fi enthusiasts don’t only choose their hi-fi hardware based on sound quality but also on the way it looks. More power to them.

    Further information: SMSL

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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