S.M.S.L SU-9 Full Balanced MQA DAC Review | SHENZHENAUDIO

S.M.S.L SU-9 Full Balanced MQA DAC Review

by SHENZHEN AUDIO on Oct 10, 2020

As an update to the SU-8, the SMSL SU-9 takes up the excellent base of the SU-8 while supporting Bluetooth,promising further improved sound performance and introducing a higher-res colour screen.


The S.M.S.L SU-9  was released on September 30, 2020,priced at $439.99.As an another sub-$500 DAC of S.M.S.L, SU-9 is equipped with the state-of-the-art ESS Sabre ES9038Pro DAC Chip,Combined with a 2nd gen XMOS USB stage the SU-9 is capable of decoding numerous lossless formats that include MQA, PCM streams up to 32bit, 768Khz, and native DSD decoding up to DSD512.


SMSL SU-9 & SH-9


Internal Design

1) Power

As what we have mentioned above, SU-9 uses a good DAC chip, but it will not automatically translate into a good performance without having great components surrounding that DAC chip.


To ensure lower noise from the power supply, SMSL decided to use an ES9311 regulator which is a +3.3V low-noise, low-dropout regulator, designed specifically for DACs eliminating the need for output decoupling capacitors. The result of this should be an ability to produce very clean power, with noise levels being kept as low as 1μV.




2) Clocking

Aside from the power supply, the SU-9 was also designed with Ultra-low phase noise and optimized clock processing circuits to achieve ultra-low clock jitter. This will give the SU-9 an ability to recreate more evenly spaced samples, that will ultimately contribute to a more accurate recreated signal.




External Design

The SU-9 only comes in one black color.The front panel now features a rotary knob that can be pressed for menu navigation, adjust the volume level, or turn the device on and off. And right in the middle of the front fascia, there’s a 1.9 inch TFT LCD display


At the back,there are Toslink Optics, Coaxial and USB in input and unbalanced RCA as well as balanced XLR in output. With the support of Bluetooth 5.0 transmission,it is convenient to broadcast your music remotely, directly from a smartphone.



Videos Compendium

1) SU-9 operation introduces from SHENZHENAUDIO,originally published on Aug.18, 2020




2) Leonardo from MIND THE HEADPHONE  in Portugal, published a review of the SMSL SU-9 DAC on Sept.28, 2020:




3) Andrew from The HEADPHONE SHOW overview of the SMSL SU-9 Balanced DAC, originally published on Oct.3, 2020:

"I think this is exactly the kind of thing that's a little bit more of a value-oriented option for that kind of sound."


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1 comment

  • David Baldock
    Oct 15, 2020 at 18:19

    Nice review – I’ve been seriously considering getting an SU-9.
    One thing to note, though – MQA is not a “lossless format”, it is a lossy codec.
    After inputting a 96-KHz / 24-Bit signal, the MQA encoder reduces it to 17-Bits using noise shaped dither – and the original 24-Bit signal is never recovered, since MQA does not losslessly preserve an original 24-Bit High Resolutionion input. I suppose it could preserve a 16-Bit (CD quality) signal. (Reference: Benchmark Media article – “Is MQA DOA”).


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