Get an immersive audio experience with the SMSL DO300 DAC. In this review, we delve into its features and performance to help you decide if it’s the right fit for you.
When it comes to audio, quality matters. Whether you’re an audio enthusiast or simply someone who wants to enjoy their music in the best way possible, having access to high-fidelity audio is essential.
Enter the SMSL DO300 DAC ($549) – a device that promises to deliver a superior listening experience with its new-generation DAC and processing chips. About a year ago, I looked at the previous model, the SMSL DO200 DAC, and I liked its layering and musicality. Because of that, I’m very eager to find out how the new model matches up.
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In this in-depth review, I will explore the features and performance of the SMSL DO300 DAC and examine if it is the right choice for anyone looking for a reliable, mid-priced, high-quality digital audio converter.
SMSL DO300 DAC Review: What’s In The Box
- AC Power Cable
- USB Cable
- Remote Control
- Bluetooth Antenna
- User Manual
- Warranty Card
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 210*185*43MM
- USB Compatibility: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, IOS, Android,osx
- Bluetooth: Yes
- WIFI: No
- D/A Converter: ES9039MSPRO
- DSD Sampling Frequencies: 2.8224 MHz (DSD64),5.6448 MHz (DSD128),11.2896 MHz (DSD256),22.5792 MHz (DSD512)
- PCM Word Length: 16-bit,24-bit,32-bit
- PCM Sampling Frequencies: 44.1 kHz,48 kHz,88.2 kHz,96 kHz,176.4 kHz,192 kHz,384 kHz,705.6 kHz,768 kHz
- Outputs: RCA, Balanced Out, XLR
- Inputs: USB Type-B, Optical (SPDIF), Coaxial
SMSL DO300 DAC Review: Overview of the SMSL DO300 DAC
The SMSL DO300 DAC is a standalone digital-to-analog converter (sold through Aoshida Audio) designed to deliver high-fidelity audio for any digital device. It features a powerful next-gen XMOS XU-316 32-bit processor and a new top-of-the-line 8 Channel ESS ES9039MSPRO DAC chip for an immersive audio experience.
This setup supports PCM up to 32bit/768kHz, DSD up to DSD512, and full MQA hardware decoding to take full advantage of Tidal Masters. The Optical, Coax, and AES (XLR) inputs decode MQA-CD.
Additionally, the DO300 DAC has a newly-developed clock processing circuit designed to greatly reduce clock jitter, along with 11 high-quality dual op amps and a low noise power supply. It also has an excellent range of input/output options, including USB, optical, coax, RCA, and Balanced XLR connections.
Furthermore, it has a configurable HDMI I2S input for native DSD transmission and a Bluetooth 5.0 receiver for wireless input. The Qualcomm Bluetooth chip covers all the major bases for audio codecs, supporting LDAC, APTX/HD, SBC, and AAC.
The DO300 DAC also comes with a dedicated full-function remote control, allowing users to adjust all of the DAC’s settings easily. This DAC has very similar specs to the $799 SMSL D400ES DAC but with a less flashy case and a lower price, which is intriguing.
SMSL DO300 DAC Review: Design and Build Quality
The SMSL DO300 has a simple yet modern layout that follows the same design language as the DO200 that preceded it. It has a solid matte black metal casing with a single machined metal knob in the front, giving it a sophisticated no-nonsense look. Overall, the device is well-built, with all components feeling secure and sturdy.
The front panel also has a color IPS display covered with tempered glass to display audio settings. You can see the DAC input, file type, bit depth, and Volume (for the variable output mode). You can also move through the menu by utilizing the knob on the front panel. The UI on the DO300 isn’t quite as pretty as the one on the DO200, but it has higher resolution, is better laid out, and is easier to read.
Speaking of the menu, the single-knob operation is intuitive, and many valuable settings are contained therein. That includes input switching, output selection, seven digital filter settings (PCM), four DSD filters, and a “Sound Color” setting where you can apply a DSP to change sound characteristics (Rich, Tube, Crystal). As you can see, there are many ways to tweak the sound. Additionally, you can switch between variable/fixed output, set the time before screen dimming, and set screen brightness.
Finally, the DAC comes with all the expected cables and accessories, like a power cord and USB cable, so all you need is a set of RCA or XLR output cables to get up and running. That said, I found the included 3ft. power cord to be short. You must be right next to the outlet to use it.
SMSL DO300 DAC Review: Sound Quality
The SMSL DO300 DAC is designed to provide a high-fidelity audio experience at a reasonable price and delivers. First, I set it up on the desktop with an iFi Zen Can Headphone Amp and a pair of Hifiman Arya (Stealth Ed.) headphones. Next, I played many tracks from TIDAL from my laptop through the USB input, and I have to say the combination sounded really good right off the bat.
Listening to the MQA recording of “Mashup” from Patricia Barber’s “Clique” (24/352.8), I was amazed at the DO300’s detail and separation. This is a track with many things going on, and a lesser DAC will jam it all together. However, the more you sense that you’re listening to a group of musicians engaging in a masterful exercise of interplay and improvisation, the better the DAC is.
That said, the DO300 was good at presenting everything going on in the recording. It excelled at separating all the parts of the performance and giving each one its own space to breathe, even though they were playing on top of one another. I also got a good sense of depth and width, which was nice.
If I had any knock on this DAC, it would be that despite its ability to present a lot of detail and texture, it’s all a bit cold and not as organic as I would have liked. The Bass, the Piano, and the Drums were all very vivid but just a little homogenized. On the other hand, this DAC is so quiet; you really get a chance to hear “into” a recording, which is the hallmark of a good DAC to me.
With this in mind, I have to say the DO300 is a clear improvement over the previous DO200 DAC. It has a lot more nuance, separation, depth, and detail. So it’s definitely worth the upgrade if you have the older model.
Filters and DSP
I’m not a huge fan of DAC filters and DSP, but I will acknowledge the effectiveness of the DO300s options in one regard. That would be their ability to tweak the DAC’s sound to “fit” better with different headphones. There are distinct differences between all the settings, but their usefulness will come down to personal preference. With the Arya headphones, I got some enjoyment from using the “Tube” sound color DSP settings, as it made some of the instruments sound more organic. But that came at the expense of top-end detail. So I’ll say it’s cool to have these options to play around with.
Vs. Hifiman EF400
Comparing it to the Hifiman EF400 ($599), one of my favorite Desktop DACs right now, I found the EF400 to be a little more natural sounding. It was better at making a Bass sound like a Bass, a Piano like a Piano; you get the picture. That said, it wasn’t as quiet as the DO300 and didn’t give me the same “blackness” of background the SMSL did. It also wasn’t quite as detailed.
The Hifiman had a warmer, more romanticized presentation, while the SMSL gave it to me straight (in a good way). They both have good depth and separation, so It’s hard to pick a winner between the two. The DO300 is probably the more refined-sounding choice if you’re looking for a standalone DAC. It gives you more upside if you have a standalone head amp (like the SMSL HO200) you’re looking to use. On the other hand, the EF400 has a pretty good built-in head amp, and it may sound better to some ears that like a warmer DAC.
SMSL DO300 DAC Review: Conclusion
Ultimately, the SMSL DO300 DAC is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a high-quality audio converter at a reasonable price. It’s a powerful device that truly meets its promise to deliver a low-cost, high-fidelity audio experience. The device has a 32-bit DAC chip and advanced audio technology that ensures a clear and accurate sound.
Additionally, this DAC has a wide range of input and output options, allowing users to connect many audio sources. It also has a useful complement of audio settings that can be easily adjusted with the dedicated full-function remote control.
If you’re looking for an affordable, easy-to-use, capable DAC for your desktop, the DO300 DAC is a great option. Highly Recommended!
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I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My hunger for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.