SMSL AO200 MKII – Affordable Amplifier With Killer Sound

SMSL AO200 MKII front

SMSL AO200 MKII (tested at $249)

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Sound 10
Build 10
Compatibility 10
Features 10
Value 10
  • Informative and Incisive sound
  • Neutral tonality
  • Fantastic value
  • Nothing at this price

SMSL is quickly becoming well known for producing very affordable, yet highly performant audio devices, and integrated amplifier AO200 MKII is one of these. If you dismiss it due to its modest size and price, you’ll be making a mistake. There’s more to this amplifier than meets the eye.

Build and Features

With its small footprint and lightweight design, the AO200 MKII looks and feels more like a desktop product than a fully-grown amplifier meant to drive your living room speakers. The only negative of such a form factor I can think of is that hooking heavyweight HiFi cables might tip this unit off the shelf. But let’s be real here, if you have such cables you’re probably not going to buy this amplifier in the first place. AO200 MKII is a budget model aimed at beginners, or simply audiophiles that didn’t go crazy like some of us did. So do I see any real problems with this small and lightweight form factor? Not really.

Now moving to the connectivity, we find two sets of analog line inputs, a pair of single-ended RCAs, and a pair of balanced XLRs. That’s not all as this amplifier has a digital section too, and you can connect to it through a USB port or by using Bluetooth wireless protocol. Now moving to the outputs, there’s nothing fancy about two pairs of speaker binding posts. What’s much more interesting here is two line-level subwoofer outputs in the form of RCA connectors. Unfortunately, there isn’t any info about the cutoff frequency of the high-pass filter in AO200 MKII. For the previous, and slightly more affordable A300, it was a fixed cutoff set at 100Hz, but it seems that SMSL completely omitted any internal high-pass filter this time around.

SMSL AO200 MKII back
SMSL AO200 MKII front

Now if we move to the front of the unit, you’ll find the SMSL’s usual deal – a volume knob that acts as a button too, and a small display. The last one is not only a fancy way of showing you the current volume level during the operation but it’s also used for browsing the menus. The most interesting feature in there is the ability to choose one of the EQ presets. Typical tone controls that let you alter bass and treble response are also onboard. While audiophile purists may smirk at these, tone controls can be valuable allies when trying to tailor the sound to your preferences without changing any of your components.

Since there are digital inputs on the back, that means that there is an integrated DAC onboard. SMSL doesn’t tell us what variety this chip is, but we’ll talk about its sound soon. Finally, SMSL claims a very high power of 85 Watts into 8 Ohm loads and 160 Watts into 4 Ohms. All those tech specs aside, let’s put it to real use and do some music listening.

Sound (Analog Inputs)

Once the music starts playing, SMSL AO200 MKII proves itself to be a more than capable performer. Its sound signature is very neutral. The bassline is present, well-controlled, and revealing. The bass coming from stringed instruments vibrates and offers that stringy texture as it should. This is not given and most budget amplifiers will simply gloss this texture over and drown it in the sea of warm and rounded bass that’s as slow to stop as it is to start. Not the AO200 MKII whose bassline is firm and nimble. The midrange is once again dead neutral and informative. Plenty of details are revealed in this critical region, nothing is sweetened and warmed, but even more importantly there are no digital nasties to be heard. I won’t talk about the highs for too long because they share the character with the midrange – well-extended and informative, but not tacky in any way. Frequency response from top to bottom is well blended and there are no parts that will protrude over the sound as a whole.

When it comes to dynamics, the AO200 MKII is not capable of pulling big dynamic swings, but I have yet to encounter an integrated near this price that can. On the other hand, a small SMSL is much more skilled when it comes to microdynamics. It presents us with a quick and nimble sound that has no trouble following the speediest of rhythms. Because of this, it sounds lively and resolving at all times.

Finally, if we focus on the soundstage, the AO200 MKII is a very decent performer. All tones are clean and well separated so you can follow even more complex songs with ease. Sure, you can always confuse it with a full-sized classical orchestra, but that kind of music is the most difficult to tackle and no amp in this class would fare any better. Aside from that, small SMSL proved to be a true allrounder which is not too picky about music genres.

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Sound (Digital Inputs)

The Digital section of this SMSL is not on the same level as the amplification section, and that goes for both USB and BT inputs. Internal DAC is just not resolving enough, it suffocates details and sounds congested. It’s OK for non-critical listening or while you save for buying a decent external DAC, but I don’t find it to be a good long-term solution. I will not shave any points from AO200 MKII because of this. Its analog section is the star of the show and good enough to stand on its own. The digital section, however modest, is just a bonus that didn’t even need to exist at all but it’s here for convenience.


SMSL A300 is slightly cheaper at $200 and comes with single-ended inputs only. Aside from that, they use the same amplification modules and offer the same power rating. I’m not sure if the AO200 MKII offers a better power supply section, or if it was achieved some other way, but it does sound slightly better than the A300. The new model is slightly cleaner and crisper sounding. That’s all. The difference is not big by any means, but it’s there and it can be noticed. So if fifty dollars is not a strain on your budget, I would recommend spending them on AO200 MKII.

Topping PA5 was an improvement over the older SMSL DA-9 when it came out. It brought more details and clarity but it was also leaner and more analytically inclined. SMSL AO200 MKII pushes the soundstage a bit closer to the listener, so you might say that PA5 has a deeper soundstage. That said, every tone sounds more present in the room, more palpable, and simply more lifelike with SMSL, while not losing any of the fine details. Finally, I find the AO200 MKII to be the winner and the more enjoyable listen here. It even comes with a lower price tag.

Topping PA7 plus is twice the price but it is a more barebone product, without a remote. That said, PA7 plus does sound even cleaner and smoother. It also offers a deeper soundstage with blacker background. Sonic-wise, Topping is a winner here, but you have to pay more than twice for it and lose some functionality in the process.


SMSL managed to surpass my expectations with their previous small amplifier A300, and AO200 MKII is an evolution of that one. If its price was five hundred or more, I might nitpick about this or that, but at $250 that would be plain rude. Fantastic performer and fantastic value that’s easy to recommend.


Inputs: USB, RCA, XLR, BT
THD+N: 0.004 %
SNR: 106 dB
Channel separation: 85 dB
Input Sensitivity/Input Impedance: 290 mV / 47 kOhm
Output Power: 160 W x 2 (4 Ω) / 85 W x 2 (8 Ω)
Power Consumption: 40 W (Normal Volume)
Standby Power: 0.5 W
Dimensions: 210 X 196 X 41 mm (WxDxH)
Weight: 1.6 kg

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