Saturday 30 January 2021

REVIEW/MEASUREMENTS: SMSL (S.M.S.L.) M100 Mk II Hi-Res DAC (USB, S/PDIF Toslink and Coaxial In, ESS Sabre 9018Q2C, below US$100)


[Disclosure: Over the years, I have measured and reviewed products I have either bought or borrowed from friends. The product discussed in this post was sent to me by Aoshida Audio for an honest review and impressions which I can keep to use. It would only be fair that I provide the free shipping and "lowest price guarantee" links to Aoshida if readers want to purchase this DAC or others discussed. Considering that a major part of my review process is objective in nature and standardized over many years, I trust that much of what I present will remain free of bias. Note that I will be selective of what I agree to measure/review of this nature - accessible and high fidelity products that might be of interest to readers, or more innovative devices will obviously be most appropriate for what I do.]

As you can see in the image above, today let's have a look at another very inexpensive DAC product from S.M.S.L. with high-resolution ability. Over the years, I have reviewed/measured other devices from this company including the SMSL A6 integrated amp, the SMSL iDEA DAC, and more recently I've been enjoying the SMSL SA300 Class-D desktop amplifier. These are examples of "accessible" audio products, well within the price range of basically any music lover, "audiophile" or not.

So it is with this DAC. The S.M.S.L. M100 Mk II currently costs less than US$95, needs little power, and accepts USB/TosLink/Coax S/PDIF inputs. As you can see, it's shaped as a rectangular prism. The size is smaller than the photo might suggest measuring at about 2 1/8" x 2 1/4" x 3 5/8" long, weighing around 0.5lb (250gm). The enclosure is aluminum with shiny plexiglass front panel; the package feel solid. Inside the box is an assortment of printed manuals in English, Chinese and Japanese along with a basic white USB-A to micro-USB cable.

Saturday 23 January 2021

Cable review: Monoprice Stage Right Series XLR - gold plated connectors, 16AWG conductors and differences between Made in China & Made In Vietnam... A few words about cable demos.


Behold... An XLR cable. How exciting. :-)

Although I've discussed speaker cables more recently, it has been ages since I've talked about interconnects. Nothing unusual about that - there's really not much to talk about - they're lengths of wire for low-voltage analogue audio signals! (The exception being AES/EBU digital over XLR cables.)

These days, cables are way past being "mature" products for analogue/digital pure-audio purposes. Of course this doesn't stop companies from trying to differentiate themselves and claiming to have achieved new levels of performance or supposed "significant" improvements in this or that and thus achieving "superior" audio quality.

What I think about "audiophile" cables is no mystery I hope - here's the summary post with various measurements compiled over the years that should cover most questions most might have.

For today's post, let's dive in and talk with some detail about XLR cables and these Monoprice Stage Right Series XLR cables (~US$20/6' length) which have become a standard for me here in the home recently whether for my sound system or for testing. To be clear, this is not a sponsored post and Monoprice did not send me the cables for free. I'll let you know if any product comes through this blog that is not directly purchased or borrowed from friends.

Saturday 16 January 2021

RETRO-MEASURE: Radio Shack / Realistic / Tandy Minimus 7 speakers (early 1980s, Cat. No. 40-2030A)

While the "latest and greatest" gear is always nice to check out, read about and measure, over the years, I've also loved the opportunity to examine some of the vintage, "retro" stuff from back in the day. For example, today we have a pair of all-metal, black, Realistic (Radio Shack / Tandy Corp.) Minimus 7 speakers from the early 1980's.

These were "classics" back in the day, found in many college dorms, restaurants, doctors' offices and available for sale at your friendly neighborhood Radio Shack for >25 years. For some more history, check out this page.

Saturday 9 January 2021

REVIEW / MEASUREMENTS: ELAC Debut 2.0 A4.2 Atmos Speakers

Well, with the pandemic of 2020/2021, one thing that has changed markedly in my family is that we're spending way more time watching movies and miniseries at home this past year. In fact the last movie I watched at the local "cineplex" was 1917 right before the Oscars on February 9, 2020. As such, 2020 has been a year of microwave popcorn, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and the occasional UHD Blu-Ray played on my Oppo UDP-205 with the family on the sofa.

Wanting to use the Energy C100 bookshelf speakers elsewhere (see what I was doing here), I figured it was time to grab a pair of actual "Atmos elevation speakers". Not unexpectedly, the ELAC Debut 2.0 A4.2 Dolby Atmos Add-On Speakers were on sale before Christmas which you see in the image above.

Friday 1 January 2021

MUSINGS: Noise, Jitter, Faith & The Autistic Fantasies of Digital Audiophilia ("For adults only?" Darko/Lavorgna conversation.)

Happy New Year dear audiophiles!

I hope 2021 brings with it many happy returns in the year ahead.

Note that this post will be of a rather critical tone... So if on an auspicious New Years Day you want something a little less confrontational, I suggest coming back another time :-).

Let's address something which I think many well-heeled digital audiophiles will probably have observed being discussed if they read typical "mainstream" audio magazines, online sites, or watch associated videos. It's the simple observation that when it comes to subjective-only reviewers discussing why something (often expensive!) can improve the sound of a digital system, it almost always comes down to 2 factors they want you to be concerned about:

1. Jitter
2. Noise ("electrical", RF/EMI, conducted/induced)