This is the official thread for the SMSL SU-9

This thread is for discussion and reviews.

  • USB, toslink, coax, BT 5.0 in, XLR & RCA out
  • ES9038 Pro, 32/768 & DSD 512, MQA, BT up to LDAC
  • Filters and sound coloration settings, remote

:red_circle: Apos Link


Z Reviews


I wonder if they’ll follow up with “SH-9” and “DA-9”. I’m specially curious for the speaker amp, they could implement some very interesting things.

They probably will? I have a smsl da8s and i love how much clean power you get with that amp, though I hate its highly suspect “knob”. Though the sh8 was lacking in power for how much it costs. I’d like to seem them give the sh9 more power.


I just ordered one. Wonder how it compares with the Sonicoz SGD1? Should be here by next Thursday.

Just arrived. So far it’s pretty dope. Using it for DSD. One thing though: MQA through Tidal doesn’t seem to be working. The display still says “44.1” so I am guessing it is not doing the full 2nd and 3rd unfold?

Are you using the Tidal Desktop App (or Roon or Audirvana) to get the 1st unfold? Also do you have the su-9 set in exclusive mode in Tidal?

Also it wouldn’t shock me if MQA was only available via SMSL driver. Are you using the Windows driver for the SU-9 or did you install one from SMSL or XMOS?

Using the Desktop Tidal app, exclusive mode and the XMOS driver. I can get the DAC to say “MQA” but it still says 44.1 under it

Ok, apologies if this is a stupid/insulting question, but…

Not all MQA files are 88.2 or 96+ KHz. Some “Masters”, uh, masters, are only 44.1KHz. They’re 24 bit but only 44.1KHz. Are you sure you’re playing files with greater than 44.1Khz masters? It’s been awhile since I’ve used Tidal but I know they had the 96KHz versions of Led Zeppelin’s catalog if you want to be sure you’re playing a 96KHz file.


I think you’re right about this. When I play 44.1 files through UAPP on my LG V30, it says 176.4 because of the unfold. I assume that the SU-9 only displays the source sample rate. In the case of Led Zeppelin, it correctly states that they are 96kHz Masters. Regardless, the DAC sees that the files are MQA [and these have either the green or blue dot next to it], so I think it is working as intended. Thanks for the input!

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Cool cool. Glad we figured it out. I’m really curious about this unit. I’ve been an SU-8 user for over 2 years and it’s been great. I hope this is a worthy (sorta) successor. Hmm, maybe only 18ish months but in 2020 every month feels like it’s own season…


I was considering grabbing a used SU-8 for my office, but the SU-9 has me tempted. Should I hold off and save a little longer for an SU-9? Has anyone shifted from the SU-8 to SU-9 already?

I upgraded from an SU-8 version 2 to an SU-9. The difference in noise floor was noticeable in my setup (Monolith THX 887, ZMF Aeolus, SMSL DA-8S, Jamo s803), though the SU-8 was still very good.

The onboard MQA decoding is also nice since I stream Tidal most of the time.

If you can wait a bit longer to save up and just buy the SU-9, I think it’s worth it. If you already have an SU-8 version 2 and are considering the upgrade, it really depends on the rest of your setup.


Thanks for the info!
I would be streaming Tidal the majority of the time, with some YouTube, Spotify and actual work videos worked in. I currently have a Benchmark DAC3 on loan (was originally testing it for my 2 channel system). The DAC3 it will be heading back to it’s owner in a couple of weeks which is why I’m on the hunt for my own DAC for this room now.

My system will be DAC (USB via laptop), balanced connection via Zu Mission cables into Arcam rHead with Hifiman 4XX. Pretty simple set up for work really. Might look at other headphones in the future, might not. TBD.

Getting a used SU-8 has an obvious price advantage, but the MQA is a pretty big feature of the SU-9. I also like that multiple reviewers have referred to it as warm, as I’m generally drawn to a darker/warmer sound.

I do know is after brining the headphone amp in here with an external DAC, I can’t go back to running straight off the laptop. So I’ll likely pull the trigger semi quickly so I don’t have a gap without a DAC in here.

Woe is me-- just got an email from Apos listing the “SMSL-9 Ensemble”. Basically it’s the SU-9 DAC and the SH-9 Amp with a pair of headphones and interconnect cable thrown in for no extra charge. 4 choices of hp are listed.
Decision time-- do I return the Topping for the stack plus? Put another way: are the 2 SMSL components better individually than the Topping?
I already have a pair of Sundaras so this allows me to get another pair that have a different sound profile. I was already starting down that road anyways.
One weird thing is the first of the 4 headphones offered are the Meze Empyreans. Typo?

The headphones included in that deal are extra. If you select a set the price goes up.

I cannot yet confirm with my own ears but my guess is there is very little difference in sound between the Topping stack and the SMSL stack. Both sets have the same measurement-focused goal and use similar amplifier topology. If there are audible differences they will be very small and likely only come down to personal preference.

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Thanks for the info- good to know. The only significant difference I see is power output for the hp amp. Right now I just have fairly easy to drive Sundaras but if I were to get some thing in the 300-600 ohm range I wonder if the Topping would be enough. Waiting for my balanced cable to arrive so I haven’t seen how that output does yet.

I had an SMSL SP200 for awhile. It’s built around the same THX888 amp design. It had plenty of power to handle my 600 ohm DT880. It wasn’t the best sonic match, IMO, but the power shouldn’t be an issue.

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Dug around and found the output for the SP 200 and SMSL-9 are exactly the same. From the balanced output 440 mW at 300 ohms and 220 mW at 600.
The Topping unbalanced output has 115 mW at 300 ohm. No listing for 600 ohm on Apos but I assume it’s 62ish.
I admit I’m just poking my nose down the audiophile rabbit hole-- is that a significant difference? I may not even be looking at the right specs…
Would 62 mW be capable of letting a nice pair 600ohm headphones shine?