Dimensions (W x H x D): 95mm*56mm*9mm
DSD Sampling Frequencies: 2.8224 MHz (DSD64),22.5792 MHz (DSD512),11.2896 MHz (DSD256),5.6448 MHz (DSD128)
D/A Converter: SABRE9018Q2C
USB Compatibility: OSX,Windows 10,Windows 8,Windows 7,Windows 8.1
PCM Word Length: 16-bit,32-bit,24-bit
PCM Sampling Frequencies: 88.2 kHz,48 kHz,705.6 kHz,352.8 kHz,96 kHz,768 kHz,176.4 kHz,192 kHz,44.1 kHz,384 kHz
Model Number: SMSL IQ
Outputs: 3.5 mm,Balanced Out
Inputs: USB Type-A
Brand Name: S.M.S.L
Dynamic range: 125dB
Charge: DC 5V
Frequency response: 10HZ-100kHZ
USB 1.1 mode: Highest support 24bit/96kHZ
USB 2.0mode: Highest support 32bit/768kHZ DSD512
SMSL IQ DAC/Amplifier
SMSL (Shuangmusanlin) IQ is the company’s second-generation DAC/Amplifier. A portable device, the SMSL IQ is designed as a companion for Android smartphones or laptops.
Shenzhen SMSL Electronics Co., Ltd. is an established electronics manufacturer based in Shenzhen, China. Founded in 2009, SMSL specialises in the research and development as well as the production of digital-to-analogue converters (DACs), headphone amplifiers and power amplifiers. The company’s R&D division is led by an experienced team of electronics engineers and owns its manufacturing facility.
Design and Build
Available in black, gold and silver. The SMSL IQ weighs in at just 84g and measures 95mm (L) x 56mm (W) x 9 mm (H) in dimensions. The DAC/Amplifier sports a high precision CNC all-aluminium anodized sandblasted solid matte finished casing coupled with a carbon fibre finished bottom panel in a form factor that caters for better handling and stacking. Aesthetically, I am a bit disappointed by the use of screws to secure the bottom panel to the aluminium case, using adhesives instead would enhance the finishing significantly.
The volume rocker which also acts as a function button is placed horizontally across the front panel together with the Micro USB input jack, the 2.5mm headphone jack as well as the 3.5mm headphone jack.
The top of the device features an OLED screen which will display the volume as well as the audio output at all times. Located below the screen is a LED indicating the charging state of the device (red for charging and blue when it is fully charged), right below it is the Power button. A short press on the power button will temporarily toggle the display to show the power gauge while pressing the volume rocker will enable function toggling between the following:
- Charge (On/Off – to prevent the device from draining the battery of the source device)
- Output (Output selection between 2.5mm (BAL) and 3.5mm (UBAL))
- USB-MO (USB Mode selection between USB 1.1 and USB 2.0)
- PCMFLT (PCM Filter selection between fast, slow and mini)
- DSDFLT (DSD Filter selection between 47 kHz, 50 kHz, 60 kHz and 70 kHz)
- Dimmer (Screen brightness selection between 1 to 8)
When in the respective functions, rocking the volume rock left or right will allow selection toggling with the current function and selection displayed on the OLED screen. While the integration of function mode and selection toggling with the volume rocker is an interesting idea, it is a bit too small often resulting in multiple presses and can be cumbersome to use.
The implementation of a dual ESS SABRE9018Q2C DAC chip configuration coupled with XMOS xCORE-200 XU 208 allows the SMSL IQ to decode audio formats of up to 768 kHz/32-bit resolution PCM as well as native DSD decoding of up to DSD512 in USB 2.0 mode. The ability to decode at such high resolution brings great value to a product, although on some Android phones where USB 2.0 mode is not supported, the IQ will fall back to USB 1.1 mode, decoding audio formats of up to 96 kHz/24-bit resolution PCM. During the review process, I have tested the SMSL IQ on a number of Android devices which include the Huawei P20 Pro, Huawei Mate 20 X, Samsung Note 9, Xiaomi Note Pro as well as FiiO M6 and FiiO M9 confirming compatibility with Android 6.0 and above. Playback on PCs on both Windows and Mac OSX are seamless. However, on Windows, to enable USB 2.0 to support DSD playback, one must download the driver from SMSL.