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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

SMSL IQ DAC/Amplifier Review

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Goh Beng Yeow
Goh Beng Yeow, the Founder / Editor at Porta-Fi™, is a recipient of the IT Youth Award in Singapore. Twice nominated for EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, Beng Yeow has previously founded startups such as PDALive.com, Coded Pixels Consultants and was a Tech writer for TODAY, a national daily newspaper under MediaCorp. Since 2017, he has been writing, editing and producing commentaries, interviews, news and reviews on Porta-Fi™. In 2019, Beng Yeow was appointed Advisor to LHDC™, the industry's latest low latency and high-definition Bluetooth audio codec.

Sound Quality

To be able to design a portable DAC/Amplifier which is able to decode audio formats of up to 768 kHz/32-bit resolution PCM as well as native DSD decoding of up to DSD512 is a testimonial to the company’s strength in DAC. While the SMSL IQ is not the best of its class, it has an extremely musical and neutral sound signature that bears a slight hint of brightness that is typical of SABRE chip based DACs.

Coherent across the frequencies with a slight roll-off on the low-end, the SMSL IQ’s musicality can be attributed to the clarity, details and resolution it delivers across the spectrum of frequencies. It exhibits a low-end that is full-bodied but rather laid-back at times. It is neither rumbling nor punchy but the detailed decay and depth will leave listeners wanting more.

The mid-range is lush with a high-resolution background, with clarity aiding the layering of the sound ensuring each instrument and vocal a placement that is defined with width and depth, allowing for great sound staging and imaging with no lack of airiness.

Moving towards the high-end, the clarity, details and resolution continue in coherence with the rest of the frequencies, details are crisp and robust while the sparkle and treble extensions did not create any harshness to the overall experience.

In general, the SMSL IQ is well presented from the highs to the lows, delivering great clarity, details and resolution for a DAC/Amplifier of its class, however, it is let down by its lack of power output. With a matching pair of earphones, one can appreciate and enjoy the sound quality that the SMSL IQ is capable of.

Part 1: Introduction, Design and Build
Part 2: Sound Quality
Part 3: Product Specifications
Part 4: Review Ratings, Summary

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  1. Did the IQ work in UAC2 with the Note 9? Ive read that someone had usb 2 with a samsung s8 but your first line says theres no uac2 on android.

    • Hi Brian, officially Android does not have support on UAC2 or UAC3, however top tier manufacturers such as Samsung and Huawei all support UAC2 and in some devices UAC3. Please do check with the respective representatives to confirm compatibility. Thanks.

    • Hi Raymund, no, it does not come with lightning to micro USB cable and is not designed to work with iPhone.

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