SMSL SU-9 Pro brings Sabre 9039MPRO to the masses

SMSL SU-9 Pro front


Tested at $499

Sound quality











  • Transperent and neutral sound
  • Spacious soundstage
  • Great value


  • Nothing at this price

I often think that SMSL produces too many similar models, but again and again, I keep testing them because you never know when a gem like SU-9 pro will turn up and bring a new definition of a good value. With this spoiler up and front, let’s see why I think that about this DAC.

Build and Features

Just like SU-9 and SU-9n that came before it, the SU-9 pro is built out of aluminium, and has a solid feel, a color display, a remote, and quite a rich set of features. We have the usual digital inputs such as USB, optical, and coaxial, but there’s also Bluetooth onboard. Regarding analog outs, we can choose between single-ended RCA and balanced XLR ones. Both of these can be used in a fixed or variable output level mode. Lastly, we see an AC power connector, meaning that the SU-9 pro is powered directly from the wall socket and there’s no need for an AC/DC adapter.

In the front, we find one volume knob that doubles as a button. Every function and setting is accessible this way but provided remote control is sure a more convenient option. Big LCD unit provides you with easily readable information about inputs, volume, and type of files being played. Once you enter the settings, among other things you’ll find an option to dim the display, change digital filters, etc. But one that stands out is Sound color. Here you can choose between No filter, Rich, Tube, and Crystal, all coming in several varieties. Everybody should try these for themselves and find out if they like how they affect the sound.

But the same appearance and similar name are very misleading when it comes to the extent of internal changes. For starters, the main D/A conversion chip has been upgraded to the latest Sabre flagship 9039MPRO. This one is supported by a very powerful XMOS XU-316 signal processor that enables all Hi-Res PCM and DSD formats that you can imagine. The signal is eventually passed through a total of eleven OPA1612A op-amps (instead of three in previous models). Even the decreasingly popular MQA compression support is onboard and fully supported by the hardware.

So what do all of those catchy technologies mean in reality, and how does this DAC actually sound and compare to other models?


Starting with the bassline, it 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 very well-behaved – bold enough to sound physical and present but not spilling into the midrange. This makes all vocals and instruments sound very clear and transparent. Leading tones that are prominent in the mix sound present and energetic. High-frequencies are extended, and very clean. There’s a good sense of air around instruments and this end of the spectrum is generally quite improved and more expressive compared to some previous SMSL models I’ve tested.

Move to the soundstaging and we’re talking about a spacious and layered presentation. If the recording contains backing vocals or instruments deeper into the scene, this DAC will recreate that depth very nicely. Empty space around those, and tiny reverbs are also there so layering is done very skillfully. The soundstage width is as good as it gets at this price point. The same goes for the depth too, with clean and noticeable echoes and reverbs which all join to create what I would call a class-leading imaging.

Finally, talking about dynamics, we can notice some Sabre traits there. This is a lively-sounding DAC with an energetic presentation. Play something rhythmic and I’ll dare you not to tap with your feet. The full but nimble bassline, decent punch, and good dynamics are contagious.


SMSL SU-9 and 9n are now a few years old. They look the same and can probably be found at a decent discount these days. However, the SU-9 pro is such an improvement in every possible way you can imagine. SU-9 pro sounds much richer in terms of tone timbre, yet it manages to be more transparent. It has a bigger soundstage and better dynamics too. So I’ll keep it short and simple – buying these older ones doesn’t make much sense nowadays, SU-9 pro is a superior-sounding DAC.

SMSL M500 MKII is a much better competitor. This one has a warmer and juicer midrange, but slightly tamer high frequencies. I love that about M500 MKII, but I have to say that SU-9 pro offers slightly better detail retrieval and a slightly deeper soundstage. That’s about it. If you have the M500 MKII already, there’s no need to feel left behind, it’s still a great-sounding product. That said, I do find the SU-9 pro to be a modest upgrade and if you’re currently choosing between the two, I would give a small advantage to the newer model. On the other hand, M500 MKII comes with a decent headphone output if you need it, and it can be found heavily discounted these days.

Denafrips Ares II is an R2R construction with a big linear power supply inside the box. This is the one I’ve been using for more than a year at one point and I’m very fond of its full and natural tone timbre. SU-9 pro can roughly match Ares’ full-bodied presentation while improving on its average resolution and dynamics. Ares II has a slightly bloated bass section, less punchy too, and less resolving. Ares II is still the more laid back of the two, more spacious too, and has that effortlessly natural vibe that only R2R can provide. But I would find myself missing the increased clarity, dynamics, and punchiness of the SU-9 Pro. So my personal preference between the two goes towards SMSL SU-9 pro. Cherry on the top is that SMSL is more affordable too.

EarMen Tradutto is a fantastic DAC when it comes to sheer bass weight and punch. SU-9 pro counters that with a more agile bassline, as well as with more extended highs, and more air around the instruments. Tradutto sounds a touch beefier down low but sweeter and darker up top. You might prefer one or the other, and listening to those in isolation you’d probably have a hard time noticing much difference, but I could say that I slightly preferred SU-9 Pro and its more natural sound signature. Given it comes with a lower price tag and with full-sized XLR connectors, I feel that SMSL fully deserves a higher score here.


As I said in the beginning, SMSL tends to produce too many models every year. It’s confusing and frankly a bit annoying to me as a reviewer – I can never catch them all. But I’m sure glad I didn’t skip this particular model because it rocks. Yes, that is my fully professional conclusion that I can stand behind – SMSL SU-9 pro rocks.


DAC chip: ES9039MPRO
Format support: PCM up to 32 bit / 768 kHz, DSD up to DSD512
Inputs: USB, Optical, Coaxial
Bluetooth: Apt-X, Apt-X HD, LDAC, UAT, SBC, AAC
DNR: 124 dB
Line out: RCA, XLR
Power supply: 110/220 V AC
Power Consumption: 10 W
Standby power: < 0.5 W
Size:187.5 X 154 X 40 mm (WxHxD)
Weight: 0.79 kg

Official product page

10 thoughts on “SMSL SU-9 Pro brings Sabre 9039MPRO to the masses

  1. I have enjoyed reading your reviews.
    I am new to high resolution sound, SACD technology.
    I really have no need or desire for “streaming”. Can I use a current model DAC to take the output of my 10 year old CD player and into my pre-amp
    RCA get a cleaner and better sound for my significant CD collection. I would also look for a new current model CD player or transport I have an OPPO model that plays SACD ( occasionally hooked up to my high end 2 channel stereo system) and was blown away by the sound. I hope this question isn’t too simple, I want to experience better sound. SMSL SU-9pro?

  2. Thankyou Srboljub. I have enjoyed your review for SMSL SU-9 Pro . Other older DACS but using dual converter chips , in a similar price range are Cambridge Audio Dacmagic 200M and Eversolo Dac-Z6 . Which of these 3 DACS do you believe is best? I dont really need a headphone amplifier, but I am wanting the best sound possible at this price range.

      I haven’t had a chance to try Dacmagic 200M but I can say that SU-9 Pro sounds equaly good as EverSolo DAC-Z8. So far at that price point my two favorite DACs are SU-9 Pro and Topping E70 velvet.

    1. The SU 9 Pro is definitely improving the sound of my CD’s and music from my laptop and phone. None of the filters seems to make any improvements — so far, I think its best to leave these turned off. I am having an issue with the Sound Color — When I try to use any of these settings eg Rich, Tube etc, there is a crackling sound coming from the speakers. So I leave Sound colour set to Standard. Have you any advice or experience with this issue?

    1. I don’t have any experience with it as it never happened to me. Maybe it’s a software/firmware bug since sound color is done trough the DSP. This might seem basic, but I would try powering it down and unplugging from the AC, than see if it’s still there on the next boot.

    1. Reboot didn’t make a difference. But I have found that as long I use one of the PCM filters and then use the Sound Color feature — then the cracking is no longer an issue.

I also experienced a crackling sound when I set the Sound Color. I use the DAC at a fixed volume, and setting the volume to -3.0 dB, the crackling disappears.

    If decreasing few dB fixes crackling, it means signal was clipping due to digiatl filters caused it to overshoot the 0 dB limit. It probably showed its ugly head with tracks that are mastered hot – close to that 0 dB limit, and needed just a small push to go overboard.

Bonjour Laszlo,

Effectivement je viens également de tester ce DAC , il est effectivement très surprenant avec un son très agreable et une belle spatialité ( j’ai testé le gustard x26 et aussi le dac interne du michi P5 V1 pourtant excellent ; et ces derniers ne me procure pas autant de plaisir que ce petit dernier SMSL ).

J’ai effectivement lors du choix de la coloration du son un crepitement ( fonction “color sound” ceci étant , reste un peu une fonction anecdotique qui n’a pas un réél impact sur le son ).
Je suis en entrée USB via un streamer avec un signal TIDAL MQA et sortie XLR vers le preampli MICHI p5.

En attendant une petite mise à jour pour corriger ce tout petit bug qui ne gene en rien,
je confirme que ce DAC est une véritable prouesse et surtout en rapport à son tarif d’achat , c’est tout bonnement magique.

Good evening,
at the moment, i am using an SMSL SU8 V2, and, for the money, it’s a great sounding dac. With all of your listening experience, do you believe that moving to the SU9 PRO will significantly improve on my present setup, or should i consider the SU10 as another option? Thank you for your time and your excellent, enjoyable, chilled out reviews.

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