SMSL SU-8 are about $250 with balanced outputs and a remote if those are something needed. The Topping D50 does measure a little better.
Regarding the above DAC (SMSL VMV D1), it got a favorable review from Audio Science Review. Amirm recommended it for balanced output use only.
The SMSL VMV D1 was given a clean bill after a defective board was replaced in test unit provided. Performance from the unbalanced was as to be expected, just about 2-3db shy of the balanced in the SINAD test and jitter results improved in conjunction.
SMSL responded in checking their inventory and did not find a similar issue and have the defective board on return for investigation.
From what has been said about the unit subjectively is comparable to Benchmark DAC3 HGC, which is say resolved and transparent sound.
☝🏻☝🏻 Agreed with respect to the defective board being identified, the replacement of which gave better results on unbalanced outputs. As for other measurements, the SMSL VMV D1 DAC still had the ESS hump in the IMD-volume plot regardless of the board replacement. But even at $900 on discount sites, it’s a bit more than most sub-$500 DAC’s having that chip.
Considering its a full mono implementation of the 9038Pro requiring one chip for each channel, Noratel PSU, Neutrik connectors, an up to date XMOS USB implementation, its a reasonable price and its casing was built with performance over pure aesthetics. It would have been nice if they could have figured out IMD issue as Bencmark had with the DAC3 HGC, but that unit also has an unbalanced issue in both samples. Still, even with that, its performance is still very good.
At the moment, only if the new AKM4499 could have the potential to match this result with a possibility of not IMD issue, and maybe we will see RME or SMSL produce a unit.
I have ordered one of the SMSL units via Massdrop and will run it through a subjective comparison to my NAD M51. That unit had also received a pretty solid result via Stereophile and number of other publications. I do expect a notable difference as the M51 is known to be relaxed and resolved player and the SMSL being a more involved sound. I will be running them through a pre to ensure both have a fair shake as the NAD has a superior digital attenuation system.
I do believe that we do honestly need to see clear measurements that these new far east companies are competent designers. That really should extend to all manufactures since we've seen some odd results from respected brands as well. SMSL does appear to be capable of engineering a high degree of performance.
The SMSL D1 is a reference level DAC when run via with balanced outs. Since my power amp is single ended only, I use the Cardas top of the line clear XLR/RCA adapter.... I preferred the D1 to the IFI IDSD Pro (too sweet and caramel like) and to the Chord Dave (too synthetic and unnatural), after two weeks in home comparison (thanks to Amazon and the D1 dealer in China who allowed for 30 days returns) in my particular set up ... I use it with its preamp out into the amp, but friend runs one as straight dac and its sounds just as tremendous in his very high resolution set up as well. There have been some kinks in its firmware thou, which sometimes are really annoying, but may be later production units have those ironed out. In any event its a tremendous achievement! I ve bought mine at $1300, so at $ 900 its gotta be the biggest value in today hi end audio, as it can compete with any dac at any price IMHO, if your set is revealing enough !
As at least one other person has answered: AUDIO-GD.
Specifically the D-77 model:
The test on different Audio-gd unit had shown some very concerning results with audible effect. That unit was recent and based on the ESS9038 Pro, so either a defect in the unit or refinement in design may be required from Audio-gd.
Only additional tests will determine what is the reality with them, but the moment, I would prefer additional measurements and listening to determine if their products are sound.
Please provide specifics regarding test: What unit, when done, by whom, test procedures, etc.
There has been a plethora of anti-Audio GD trolling in forums recently.
Your post bears a strong resemblance to these posts.
I've owned a couple of Audio-GD DACs and have been astounded by their engineering, cost/quality ratio and nothing but totally impressed by their prompt attention to customers.
I certainly hope so and I have a Pass/Revel setup that should be fair enough display a change in the chain. It has been when I first put the M51 though its paces and found improvement over the Marantz I had and the Wadia it was directly compared to. The sound signature is expected to be different to my current setup and hopefully a step in the direction I purchased the unit for.
Make sure your USB cable is up to the task, as USB cable makes a tremendous differences with the D`1 .... The extra level of dimensionaliity lost with inferior USB cable is akin to using crappy sony receiver as a preamp in the hi end chain.... Also the unit needs at least 400 to 500 hours to break in fully...And needs robust power cable as well.. I Use a legacy cardas golden power cord with it.
Everything you asked in terms of data requested. Understand that a number of companies have resulted in results from all over the spectrum and Amir has shown to be very amicable and willing to further investigate issues with manufactures. This is if they feel the measurements are not respective of the product.
As you wish. I found the secondary commentary of Amir and the general candor of Amir to be respectful. I didn't care for your response as being accusatory, which is entirely unnecessary at that juncture.
I can understand why you may feel not obliged or uncomfortable to engage in open discussion, there are many around that can be challenging and even obtuse at times, but its certainly shouldn't be a cause for complete disengagement since it allows the proverbial troll to succeed when one should not.
I do find their products the be interesting as they subscribe to highly limited use of negative feedback (no feedback in their view), but this is a rather challenging engineering path as many designers would attest. My own Pass stuff is built upon this, but is limited feedback design over none where measured use over excess use.
This obviously impacted the measured results as one might expect. Subjectively, the perceived differences were notably less than one might expect, but isn't surprising considering the excess use of NFB during the distortion wars and its resulting of sterile sound in the past. Still, I have seen controlled use of technique can be beneficial, but each designer has the ability to choose their own topology.
Never the less, a better measured result in conjunction would have been preferable. For the time being, it becomes rather curios.
Musical Paradise just released a tube DAC that you can order with twin 9038pro chips. I have the earlier model with AK4497 and love it with NOS tubes. It even has quick change system for changing out Caps. It's more than 500 bucks but even Dan Wright of Modwright calls it one of the best value DACs he's seen. And it handles DSP.
Just checked out the new Musical Paradise DAC you mentioned.
Equipped the way I'd prefer it comes to $1500 .... BUT IMO it very well may be a contender that will hold its own with the best DACs out there. Thanks for the heads up.
But Ess 9038 pro chip is very difficult to work with, so I don't think the Chinese have the expertise to be able to implement it properly, one of the best decks that's made in the US is using it wyred for sound 10th anniversary dac, and the reviews on it have been phenomenal look it up it's not cheap though it's 4,500 US, but it beats up on decks that are four and five and even more times expensive.
"But Ess 9038 pro chip is very difficult to work with, so I don’t think the Chinese have the expertise to be able to implement it properly"
Are you living on another planet? Every year about 10 times the number of engineers graduate in China than do in the US!
As for the Wyred 4 Sound DAC you speak of, it is a joke at $4500 compared to my $1500 LKS MH-DA004. Based on very similar operating principles the LKS has 2 ESS 9038pro chips, each running in mono and at a temperature yielding better performance, at least twice the power supply, an entirely discrete analog section, an Amanaro USB to I2S board, three femtoclocks, and more. It has been favorably compared to many hyper-expensive units.