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.