SMSL SU-9 DAC - Is it a budget alternative fit for an audiophile ?


So I have this problem where even though I'm content with what I have, I still like to try out products that look appealing to me.  I was super curious about these near state of the art DACs coming out of China--Topping, Gustard, SMSL, and so on.  Amplifying my interest is the fantastic measurements that this unit, the SMSL SU-9 puts out coupled with its price (<$500).  

Just 10 years ago something that measured this well would be thousands.  And, this DAC uses the ESS 9038Pro chip.  

Now, big DISCLAIMER-- I don't buy, keep and enjoy product based on measurements alone.  It must sound good. 

I've only been running the SU-9 for a couple hours so it's early to say how I really feel.  I can confidently say that I thought this little guy might embarrass himself.  But, not that's not the case.  The sound is pretty great.  There's nothing harsh going on, no digital haze/hash, and it's musical--I'm tapping my toes. 

Again, it's too soon to really review this DAC--yet I will say I think that I have the answer to my question above--this is a great DAC and it's nothing to scoff at.  All I know is it sounds great. 

What a wonderful time to be an audiophile!  

PS. I have no affiliation with any hifi company, including SMSL.  


Previewjbhiller
The SU-9 is amazing for the price.  I find it a little brittle sounding and prefer the Ares II DAC but the SU-9 is more fully featured for 30% less money.  It is a solid recommendation for any audiophile unwilling to spend 2-3x more at a minimum.  
Hey Pinwa,  yes, that is my thought exactly.  I'm about 5 albums into it now.  It's a glorious little cracking DAC.  I think it is a touch brittle.  It's definition, noise floor, transients, and general sound of instruments is super--top notch really.  
Well, I don't think that I need much longer with the unit to tell that it's a pretty good piece of equipment and still not for me. Here's what I found.

Pros
  • Price 
  • Glorious sound at low volume levels
  • Quiet
  • Grain free sound
  • Hyper detailed
  • Bass is wonderfully proportional, defined, and integrated

Cons
  • Sound quality was not as good as volumes increase
  • The picture into the recording (while accurate and nuanced) feels tight, constrained, and narrow
  • Midrange feels slightly light and high end is not that extended

It feels unfair to be so critical a this price.  Great DAC.  Giant killer?  No. 

i reviewed the su-9 for my headphone blog (audioreviews.org) and came away damn impressed--as per jbhiller, great bass control and great at low volumes; also a great sounding preamp and bluetooth streamer. my only quiblles, literally, were that it only has three legs and it doesn't have a headphone amp (tho there is a matching amp). i thought it certainly held its own against the chord mojo, which also hits well above its weight. a no brainer at the $$$.
This Dac needs 200 hours of break in and does change its character with time.  
The sound is pretty great. 
Compared to what?  What other DAC(s) are you using?

@soix 

Doge Audio 7 Tube DAC
NAD M51
Denefrips Ares