Sundara and SMSL SH-9... Did something break?

So a few weeks ago I bought a HifiMan Sundara and while it performed fairly well on my Loxjie P20, I found it lacking volume in the quieter songs.

So I decided to invest in a more powerful amp, both because the P20 doesn’t have enough power and I read and heard plannars don’t do so well with tubes. The SH-9 looked like a great candidate.
It’s not.

I’m on high gain at 85 and it’s more quiet than the P20. So I decide to crank it up but past 90 it just sounds horrible. Popping and crackling like an dragster exhaust. It’s terrible! And even at 99 it just kinda matches the P20.

What am I doing wrong? Am I deaf and did I reach max volume on the Sundara’s and is that just too quiet? Is the amp broken? Do Sundara’s need more than 3W @ 32 ohm?

I had (still own, just not currently using) an SP200 (should be similar to the SH-9) and it had no problem driving the Sundara. Do you have another headphone to test with? Do you have another cable to test (might want to reseat the cable into the Sundaras)?

I only own one set of Sundaracables but they work fine in the P20 so… I don’t think it’s them.
I have some cheapass Senheisserbuds but no real headphones to test it with.

Sounds like you might have a bad amp. Sorry man =(.

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Which output are you using for each amp, and on the P20, are you having to turn the volume all the way up? What’s your source?

So yes, the P20 is all the way open.
And source? Like…; Tidal and FLAC files on a windows 10 PC? :man_shrugging:

Sorry, are you using a DAC, running direct from phone, computer, etc?

Straight from PC. i’m thinking of getting a DAC.

Make sure you’ve maxed your Windows system volume and control with the amp. A DAC helps, but doesn’t necessarily add volume range to the amp. Both of those amps should have plenty of juice for the Sundara.

My windows is up to 100.
I think it may be DAC related? It sounds better and louder out of my phone (phone->SH9->Sundara)?

And the application volume as well? It would seem your computer is putting out less than line level voltage (~2V)

Something is wierd.

Unless you are running a 4-pin XLR to TRS adapter, I would say it is broken.

Yeah. Foobar and Tidal are at max.
Is there a way to test that? My motherboard is not that old… 3 years maybe? MSI as well so reputable brand, but it doesn’t have the fancy adio features.

No. I’m running 3.5 to RCA between my PC and the AMP and the the included 5.25 to 3.5 adapter to the Sundara’s included 3.5 to double 2.5 cable

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You are definitely going to get an improvement if you include a dedicated DAC in the setup. Currently your setup will be using the onboard DAC of your PC (or phone) and having great equipment like the SH-9 and Sundara need that final step. Even something like the Topping D10s will be enough to see a big improvement in the sound you get.

Also note that the headphone out (3.5mm) of both the PC and Phone is not the same as a proper Line-Out which you get from a DAC. As someone mentioned, it won’t be doing the full 2.0V that a proper DAC would, and the SH-9 will benefit greatly from this.

DAC arrived today, i’ll be posting an update as soon as I’m home! (unlees DAC’s too need burn-in?)

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Can you share if the DAC helped? I plan to drive SH9 from a mac to power Sundara.


It’s very clear to me now that the DAC in my PC was the problem here.
It must be picking up a ton of electrical noise from the components around it (mid-range ASUS motherboard from 2018-2019) and the amp must be like “oh look. Details! AMPLIFY!!” and well… You know. All I can hear is the SATA bus talking to the CPU instead of Arctic Monkeys on my headphones :stuck_out_tongue:

Alos short review on the SU-8. It’s €200. Free delivery. Balanced. Has a remote and is clean. Like. Perfect… You know. Nuf said.

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Thanks fro the feedback, I have a Macbook they say the DAC is decent, also doesn’t have any powerful hardware to generate much noise, so I’ll get the SH-9 now and get a balanced DAC later, SU-8 or Soncoz la-qxd1.

Benefit of the SU-8 is it using the same remote as the SH-9 :stuck_out_tongue: