SMSL M100 MK II is a tiny desktop DAC based on SABRE9018Q2C and it has plenty of I/O for its size. It costs just $93.99
Throughout the years SMSL have gained its very positive reputation, delivering great audio equipment at a much lower price than its competitors.
This review is no different because today I’d like to present to you the second revision of a budget DAC that is not only very good with its performance but also it is one of the smallest desktop DACs you can find. This is the review of SMSL M100 Mk II.
Packaging & Accessories
M100 MK II comes in a relatively small yet very informative package. On the top you’re getting all the informations about the product and the sides are just plain black populated with SMSL logo, trademarks etc.
It is a package styling that was introduced by SMSL a long time ago and it doesn’t look like it’s gonna be dropped anytime soon so you can get used to it because thanks to that you can recognize their products on shelves almost instantly.
Inside the box you’ll find only essentials: manual, warranty card, DAC itself and a Micro USB cable which I’m going to mention again later.
Build quality and design
What can I say about build quality. It’s simply really good. That small cube is made fully out of metal. All of the sides apart from the front are matte. On the top you’re getting the thing that is tightly bonded to high-quality audio… which is of course our beloved Hi-Res Audio sticker.
At the bottom we have small rubber feet and sides of the unit apart from serial number sticker are actually clean. Moving to the back, you’ll find all of the I/O that is very well described and on the opposite side a glass front with product name, flushed multi-operational button as well as tiny blue LED screen.
Functionality & I/O
Let’s start with the I/O because it’ll be much easier to describe all the options that MK100 II hides behind that small power button. At the back of the unit we have three separate inputs: RCA, Optical and Coax.
In terms of powering M100 we have two Micro USB ports and I personally see no sense at all in putting a Micro USB at the back of a device in 2021. That connector had its time, now we all should move on to USB-C for ultimate compatiblity with other devices such as phones, tablets and laptops.
One of the ports is for USB connectivity as well as powering M100 and second one is for your auxiliary power in case your USB ports in PC are noisy. That’s exactly what is happening with my PC, so I’ve plugged M100 to standard phone charger and all that noise was simply gone.
Now to the front so we can describe all the options that power button has.
First up, built in LED light which will tell you if device is turned off (RED), plays DSD (BLUE) or just an ordinary PCM (no light)
Single long press will turn the device on or off. The first thing you’ll see while powering M100 is your sample rate.
First up you’ll find input menu where you can cycle between your 3 available inputs. To go to other menus you have to double press that button. Next up, Digital Filter menu which allows you to change between 3 different DSD Modes. Double press again will take you to DP menu, which is a jitter rejection noise menu. Higher the number, more rejection. Simple.
First M100 had AKM4452 DAC chip. With MK II though SMSL changed it in favor of
ESS SABRE9018Q2C. In terms of paper specs with this specific chip we’re getting:
121dB dynamic range (DNR)
PCM signal up to 32bit/768kHz and native DSD up to DSD512
and for USB Connectivity one of the most popular of modules – XMOS XU208
First up, I’ll honestly say that M100 Mk II is definitely a great option for all these people that would like to start their journey with proper desktop audio. Even for anyone that think DAC does not matter that much in your setup, it is a very affordable option that for such type of a person can be simply their endgame, so they can focus on headphones and amps instead.
Of course we gonna start from the very bottom… which is my favorite part, THE BASS.
M100 definitely holds its ground right here. It’s capable of delivering a lot of texture and details… it does not emphasize bass making it more bloaty. It just outline it so you definitely know it’s there and it’s there to shake your head. From a dynamics standpoint it’s not amazing but it’s enough to hear all the details in it.
We’re approaching mids now and I think we’re here for a damn treat.
M100 has most of the potential here, focusing overall listening experience, concentrating you on vocals and instrument but without boosting any frequency parts so it’s neutral, but this DAC tells you to pay attention to that. Slight favor in female vocals but don’t even think that you’ll hear any harshness. Not in this case. High resolution, great instrument separation and that depth… very extensive. It’s just a very smooth type of sound.
And last but not least, treble. That is a section that where I’m highly sensitive because of being highly invested into Beyerdynamic family with my 770 Pro as well as 1990 Pro. In short, if there’s any sort of harshness or cold tonality, I’ll be the first one to notice it so I can reveal it to entire planet and sadly… I couldn’t hear it at all in this case. It’s not crisp but it is very clean. If your headphones tend to produce some sibilants then M100 can actually make them little more distinctive but overall it’s very accurate and does not throw you into any sort of piercing effect by itself.
We described frequency response but in my opinion that’s not what you should buy this DAC specifically. There’s one thing that M100 does very well and because of that small aspect my list of tested headphones expanded so much because I wanted to check how they’ll behave under such circumstances. I’m talking about staging. I was simply amazed how a DAC, especially one for less than 100 bucks can produce such a huge soundstage in both width and depth. Adding to that very precise imaging, position of instruments as well as separation and layering between specific parts of the song and we’re really getting some amazing results which sometimes can even result in changing your experience with particular headphone by a lot. If I haven’t convinced you to try it by its sound performance, design or small form factor well… That is something you cannot really ignore and I recommend trying M100 to everyone who are looking for that additional stage boost in their audio setup.
SMSL M100 MK II is a lovely tiny desktop DAC. It has its quirks such as still rocking Micro USB but other than that I can’t really point any disadvantages to it. Lot of features and I/O for such a small form factor, under $100 and a listening experience with huge soundstage that’ll make you go through all your shelves and wardrobes just to find every single pair of headphones you ever owned just to try them on it. Can’t recommend it enough.
The SMSL M100 MKII was sent to us in exchange for an honest opinion.
Thanks Aoshida for sending us this device. You can check out all other products they have!
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro, Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro, Campfire Audio Solaris LE, Audeze LCD-3, Oriolus Finschi, Etymotic ER4XR, Anthem Five E2, Hidizs MS2,
Moondrop Blessing 2 Dusk
- Amps – Sony ZX300, JDS Labs Atom, Cayin C9, Earmen TR-Amp