SMSL C100 AKM Mini DAC Review

Equipped with one piece of AKM’s new AK4493S chip, the new SMSL C100 also utilizes the latest 3rd-Generation XMOS XU316 solution supporting PCM 32bit/768kHz and DSD512.

The SMSL C100 mini DAC features a built-in high-performance power filter system, which can achieve the best performance only using the USB interface for the power supply. Besides, there is a new self-developed CK-03 clock processing circuit, reducing clock jitter greatly.

Coming with a new SMSL remote control, the SMSL C100 features an ultra-tiny shape design supporting a variety of placement ways. The C100 is also compatible with windows 7/8/8.1/10/11, Mac OS X10.6 or above, and Linux.

C100 AKM USB DAC has USB, optical fiber, coaxial, Bluetooth input, and RCA output. Besides, the USB input can support up to PCM 32bit/768kHz. With the help of these ports, the C100 decoder can be connected to many audio equipments, such as TV, CD/DVD, mobile phone, PC, etc.

The C100 can receive and decode MQA audio and provide sound at the level of the master recording. It is worth mentioning that SMSL C100 MQA playback does not require the use of special playback software like Tidal or Roon. Using the DAC in exclusive/bit-perfect mode is enough for the C100 to decode the MQA track at full level.

MQA Indicator lights

  • Green: It means streaming or files in MQA format
  • Blue: It means playing the MQA Studio file
  • Magenta: Delivering the final unfolding of the MQA file and displaying the original sample rate.

Features

  • AK4493S Decoding Chip & XMOS 3rd-Gen XU316 USB Solution
  • High-Performance Power Filter System & CK-03 Clock System
  • Advanced MQA Decoding Technology
  • Built-in high-performance power filtering system, so that it can achieve the
    the best performance using only one USB interface for the power supply.
  • Ultra-Tiny Shape Design
  • Anodized CNC aluminum alloy housing.
  • Japan Electronics Association Hi-Res Audio certification.
  • Full-featured remote control.
  • Price: $119

Specs

  • Input: USB / Optical / Coaxial / BT
  • Output Level: 2.0Vrms
  • THD+N: 0.00013%(-117dB)
  • Dynamic range: 121dB
  • SNR: 121dB
  • USB compatibility: Windows 7 / 8 / 8.1 / 10 / 11, Mac OS X10.6 or Later / Linux
  • Sampling rate
    USB: PCM 44.1 ~ 768kHz
    DSD: 2.28224 ~ 22.5792MHz
    Optical/coaxial: 44.1kHz ~ 192kHz
  • Power Consumption:<5W
  • Standby power:<0.1W
  • Size: 77.5x32x95mm (WxHxD)
  • Weight: 190g/0.39lbs

I would like to thank Aoshida Audio for providing me with the review sample of C100 Mini DAC. They have one of the best inventories out there when it comes to desktop DACs and AMPs. You should definitely check them out.

Sound

I hooked up the C100 to my SMSL HO100 AMP. Connected to my Windows PC, streaming or local MQA tracks.

The SMSL C100’s signature is balanced with hints of warmth. It sounds clean, articulate, and dynamic. It has a linear delivery with no particular emphasis on any region. It feels unsaturated and direct, especially with equally capable gear. Sounds defined, clean and clear, carrying a good amount of detail throughout the spectrum. The bass is clean, defined, and has good authority. The texture is natural. The bass hits and recuperates without feeling sluggish and the lows feel dynamic and fast. As for the midrange, the instruments and vocals sound articulate, and dynamic with a good body. The instruments feel natural and do not feel artificial or too linear/clinical. The upper midrange is exciting, extended, and energetic.

Lows

The C100 has decent control and fast attack speed in the bass, it punches firmly and energetically with good definitive power. The bass region has adequate weight and a clean decay, allowing the C100 to kick deep and give proper weight to darker voices, clearly presenting fast percussive instruments even when handling headphones of higher impedance.

The bass response is clean and defined, agile and moderately expansive It is also nicely layered, capturing details of bass instruments nicely. The tuning is versatile with different genres of music and can handle larger ensembles with a fair amount of details captured and layered in the lower register.

Mids

Articulation from the lower register is smooth on C100 are free from coloring. There is just enough presence from the slightly boosted mid-lows for vocals to cut through the mix clearly, while there is good headroom reserved for more instruments for other micro-details to be heard.

The upper mids sound slightly forward which helps bring out more texture and clarity for softer and lighter voices, allowing vocals to sound firmer and more upfront, also boosting the harmonics and distortion effects on guitars. Acoustic instruments on the C100 are swiftly presented as well and sound lighthearted with instrumental tracks.

Treble

Treble transients are eminent with good control and good dynamic range. The tuning empowers sharper voices with stronger penetration power and air, while refining and rounding it with a gentle roll-off that allows exciting treble details to come through without getting harsh. Higher notes on guitars and string instruments are rendered clear and authentic, the treble isn’t too forwarded for boosting clarity and there is a good balance between the bass notes and treble such that instrumentals sound quite unaltered.

I enjoy instrumentals and alternatives with the C100 always sounding smooth and well-defined no matter what gears it is paired with. The treble control is also notable and intense instrumentals still sound dynamic at higher volumes.

Sum-Up

SMSL C100 is a little beast. Sound-wise it punches more than its price. A great technical performance together with a smooth and special delivery. And if you are an MQA user this mini DAC gives you full control without a need for software unfolding. Sadly C100 does not have a headphone AMP stage, so you need to hook it up to an AMP for desktop use. Or you can connect your active speakers directly. If you already have a setup and wanna try AKM’s velvet sound in a cute tiny box, give SMSL C100 a try without breaking the bank.