SMSL D6S Review

SMSL D6S review featured

In this review, I’m looking at the SMSL D6S DAC. The D6S is equipped with an ES9039Q2M DAC chip, Bluetooth 5.1 and MQA support. It’s priced at $199.

Disclaimer: This sample was provided by Shenzhen Audio for an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own, based on my experience with the product.

SMSL D6S Review
Verdict
The SMSL D6S is a banger of a DAC in a small package
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Pros
Transparent uncoloured sound
Excellent dynamic range
Built-in power supply
Small footprint
Cons
Frosted cover blurs display
4.5
Our Score

SMSL D6S

What's in the box
In the Box
  • SMSL D6S
  • Power cable
  • USB cable
  • Bluetooth antenna
  • Remote control
SMSL D6S design

Design

It’s not much different from what we’re used to for budget DACs regarding appearance. However, the floating window/panel we saw on some of SMSL’s higher-end models has trickled down to the D6S.

At the front of the device lies an OLED display adorned with frosted glass, accompanied by the volume knob/button. Frosted glass, a feature relatively underutilized in the audio industry, offers heightened resistance to fingerprints and reflections compared to glossy surfaces. I’ve grown fond of this feature since I bought my Sony NW-ZX300. Regrettably, the execution here falls short, as it renders the underlying symbols with a blurred and fuzzy appearance, causing them to appear out of focus.

On the rear panel, we find RCA outputs, balanced XLR outputs, the Bluetooth antenna, optical input, coaxial input, USB input and AC in.

The settings menu can be accessed via the button on the front of the unit or with the included remote. There aren’t any tone controls but D6S has 6 digital filter settings.

SMSL D6S rear I/O

Internals

On the inside, D6S has an ES9039Q2M DAC chip and 4* OPA1612 op-amps. USB input is handled by XMOS XU-316 and supports up to PCM 32bit/768kHz and DSD512. As for the Bluetooth input, the D6S supports SBC, AAC and both aptX-HD and LDAC for Hi-Res wireless audio.

D6S from behind

Sound

For testing, I was using the D6S with my Feliks Audio Elise and headphones including the Sennheiser HD650 and HarmonicDyne Zeus Elite. I also paired it with the Fosi BT20A Pro and my NHT C3 speakers.

If you’re looking for a DAC with character or a colourful sound signature, this isn’t it. On the other hand, if you looking for reference-level transparency in a budget DAC, look no further than the D6S. This DAC transforms the digital bits into analogue without adding or taking away anything – it just converts them and passes them along down the chain.

The D6S stands out for its exceptional neutrality. It is characterized by a transparent sound signature, which ensures that the music is reproduced faithfully to the original recording without any colouration.

One of the standout features of the SMSL D6S DAC is its extremely low distortion. This clarity enhances the overall presentation, allowing every detail of the music to shine through. If distortion were a villain, the D6S would be its kryptonite.

The D6S also boasts great imaging and it can accurately place different instruments and voices in the stereo field. The wide soundstage, on the other hand, gives a sense of depth and space to the music.

Playing “Trains” by Porcupine Tree through the D6S , the acoustic guitar intro is reproduced with a clarity that captures its nuances. Steven Wilson’s vocals are delivered with a depth and articulation that truly convey the song’s emotional resonance. The dynamic shifts in the song, from the quiet verses to the louder, more intense sections, are handled smoothly, for a balanced and engaging experience. The wide soundstage and detailed separation allow each instrument to shine, from the subtle percussions to the layered guitars.

However, it’s important to note that due to D6S’ transparency, the final sound quality will be largely determined by the downstream components in the audio chain. This includes the amplifier, speakers or headphones, and even the quality of the recording itself. Therefore, the SMSL D6S is a great choice if you’re looking for a reference DAC on a budget.

The 'floating panel' on the D6S

Verdict

In conclusion, the SMSL D6S is a compact and well-constructed DAC that delivers a neutral and transparent sound. Its excellent audio quality, coupled with an affordable price tag of $199, makes it a no-brainer for those seeking a budget reference source. Whether you’re a casual listener or an audiophile, the D6S is a worthy addition to your audio setup.

Specifications
D6S specifications

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