DO200 MKII is yet another midrange DAC from SMSL. Truth be told here, SMSL has been on a spree, releasing more DACs than I wish to keep a record of. On a positive note, all of these were among the best midrange DACs I’ve tried. That’s why I keep testing new models, comparing them to the most relevant competitors, and sharing my findings with you. So let’s find out what SMSL has in store for us this time.
SMSL packed a lot of stuff into the DO200 MKII. Starting with digital inputs, we got all the usual suspects: USB, optical, and coaxial. Bluetooth is also on board and so is an I2S which is not that common at this price range. When it comes to the output section, we get both single-ended RCAs and balanced XLRs. Output can be set to either fixed or variable value levels.
The heart of the DAC consists of two Sabre ES9068AS chips. Sabre’s solution on a chip was also used to filter and stabilize the power supply. The signal processor has been updated to the latest XMOS XU316 version and MQA is on board too if you care for it which I don’t believe you should at his point while the MQA organization is on flimsy feet. And that would be it, I don’t want to copy-paste every single technical detail from the manufacturer’s page. You can read all of it on the official product webpage for yourself if you wish so. Here, I’ll be talking about what matters the most – the end result.
As usual, SMSL provides a rich user experience. DO200 MKII has a small IPS display and a remote, and more importantly, it lets you tweak a lot of things. Among those are choosing a digital filter, using DSP to alter the sound color, changing DPLL (jitter suppression level), setting the display’s brightness, and even choosing the time after which it will automatically turn off. I got it set to only 5 seconds cause I like my displays dark unless I really need them. Anyways, this DAC’s UI is both rich and user-friendly – great job.
In line with SMSLs of late, DO200 MKII sounds full-bodied and punchy. The bassline is weighty and voluminous, but not slow or sluggish by any means. There’s a respectable amount of agility there, punch too, and it really adds to the excitement in every song. Move up the frequency spectrum and the midbass is still very lush sounding, but masterfully tuned to add just the right amount of warmth and fullness to the midrange. This makes every vocal sound very lush and physically palpable. It matters not if we’re talking about male or female ones, they feel very present in the room. Leading instruments that are prominent in the mix are handled the same way too. Leading guitars sound present, big, and simply lush. The piano is presently full too, while drums have all the mass and energy that I could wish for. High frequencies are presented in a tamer and darker manner. They never dominate the recording and cymbal crush never feels really big and splashy as with some other DACs. Those high-end details are clean and crisp but without much brilliance and richness that some DACs offer. They do their job well but let the bass, midbass, and midrange lead the way in impressing you with their warm and full tuning.
Move to the soundstaging and we’re talking about the focused and dense presentation. When recording contains backing vocals or instruments deeper into the scene, this DAC will recreate that depth quite nicely. Empty space around those, and tiny reverbs are also there so layering is done skillfully. Soundstage width on the other hand is not that pronounced, and this is more of a well-separated but focused and dense presentation. Lower-end reverbs and echoes can be observed nicely, but there isn’t much air and openness to talk about. This kind of full and somewhat dark tonality makes it a very easy listen.
Finally, if we talk about dynamics, this is not a flat-sounding DAC. There’s enough drive and punch to make this an engaging listening experience.
SMSL M500 MKII was released a year ago. It costs roughly the same but has a slightly different set of features that includes a headphone output but omits I2S. Sound-wise, they share many qualities, starting with a very similar level of detail retrieval. However, M500 MKII is more extended up top and feels more open. Also, M500 MKII has a slightly more forward sound, so leading vocals and instruments feel a bit closer to you while leading tone edges are somewhat more energetic. That would be it, pretty comparable sound quality in my book but with slight presentation differences. If I had to choose one, my vote would still go to M500 MKII, but it boils down to personal preference more than anything else.
Topping E70 Velvet is not yet reviewed here, but it has been on my YouTube channel. Once again, the price is basically the same and so is the feature set. That said, I feel that E70 velvet kicked things up a notch compared to this SMSL. Topping’s contender can dig more inner tone texture and air from the recording, while not sacrificing any of the tone richness and fullness. The difference is not huge by any means but I feel that E70 velvet is a better deal right now.
SMSL SU-9 Pro sounds almost the same as E70 velvet, and it has also been reviewed only on my YouTube channel so far. You can basically copy-paste everything I said in the previous paragraph about E70 velvet – more inner tone texture and air. Once again, I consider this one a slightly better-sounding DAC.
SMSL DO200 MKII is a fine DAC on its own and a good value too. However, I can’t feel too hyped about it because it doesn’t really manage to surpass M500 MKII that came before it at the same price. Even more, between the time I did a video review on this model and now, SMSL has already released two slightly better-sounding models in the form of SU-9 Pro and DO300. So you can find better options at this price nowadays, but if you manage to fetch one at a decent discount, let’s say around $300 to $350, you would be fetching a very decent DAC.
|SMSL DO200 MKII – CHARACTERISTICS