S.M.S.L SH-9 Headphone Amplifier Review

Updates:

  • 3/13/21. Article posted.

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With that…

Who is this Amplifier for? How does it sound? How does it compare with other amps without the THX moniker?

All of these answers and more, comin’ up in this S.M.S.L SH-9 Headphone Amplifier Review!

Greetings Bass Head and Welcome aboard. Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear), all over again, so…

Video Discussion

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At A Glance

Title
S.M.S.L SH-9 Headphone Amplifier THX AAA Technology RCA/XLR Input 6.35MM Balanced Headphone Amplifier
Thumbnail
S.M.S.L SH-9 Headphone Amplifier THX AAA Technology RCA/XLR Input 6.35MM Balanced Headphone Amplifier
Inputs
Balanced x1, Unbalanced x1
Outputs
Balanced x1, Unbalanced x1
Output Power
6W x 2 (16 Ohm), 3W x 2 (32 Ohm), 440mW x 2 (300 Ohm), 220mW x 2 (600 Ohm)
SNR
137dB, A-Weighted
Output Noise
1.9uV, A-Weighted
THD + N
-123dB, 0.00006% (A-Weighted)
THD + N
-117dB, 0.00013% (20-20kHz, 32 Ohm, -3dB)
THD
-125dB, 0.00006% (1kHz, 16 Ohm, -3dB)
Input Impedance
47k Ohm
Output Impedance
Near 0 Ohm
Frequency Response
0.1 Hz - 500kHz (-3dB)
Gain
Low(+0dB), High(+10dB)
Power Supply Voltage/frequency
AC100-240V, 50-60Hz
Power Consumption (EN60065)
24W
Power Consumption in standby mode
<0.1W
Prime
-
Price
$289.99
Details
Title
S.M.S.L SH-9 Headphone Amplifier THX AAA Technology RCA/XLR Input 6.35MM Balanced Headphone Amplifier
Thumbnail
S.M.S.L SH-9 Headphone Amplifier THX AAA Technology RCA/XLR Input 6.35MM Balanced Headphone Amplifier
Inputs
Balanced x1, Unbalanced x1
Outputs
Balanced x1, Unbalanced x1
Output Power
6W x 2 (16 Ohm), 3W x 2 (32 Ohm), 440mW x 2 (300 Ohm), 220mW x 2 (600 Ohm)
SNR
137dB, A-Weighted
Output Noise
1.9uV, A-Weighted
THD + N
-123dB, 0.00006% (A-Weighted)
THD + N
-117dB, 0.00013% (20-20kHz, 32 Ohm, -3dB)
THD
-125dB, 0.00006% (1kHz, 16 Ohm, -3dB)
Input Impedance
47k Ohm
Output Impedance
Near 0 Ohm
Frequency Response
0.1 Hz - 500kHz (-3dB)
Gain
Low(+0dB), High(+10dB)
Power Supply Voltage/frequency
AC100-240V, 50-60Hz
Power Consumption (EN60065)
24W
Power Consumption in standby mode
<0.1W
Prime
-
Price
$289.99
Details

In The Box

S.M.S.L Headphone Amplifier

Power Cable

Start-Up Guide

Warranty Card

Remote (AAA Batteries not included)

S.M.S.L SH-9 Headphone Amplifier Review

Specs & Features

  • Price: Check Apos! | Check Amazon!
  • Inputs: Balanced x1, Unbalanced x1
  • Outputs: Balanced x1, Unbalanced x1
  • Output Power: 6W x 2 @ 16 Ohm, 3W x 2 @ 32 Ohm, 440mW x 2 @ 3oo Ohm, 220mW x 2 @ 600 Ohm
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 137dB, A-Weighted
  • Output Noise: 1.9uV, A-Weighted
  • THD+N: -123dB, 0.00006% (A-Weighted)
  • THD+N: -117dB, 0.00013% (20Hz – 20kHz, 32 Ohm, -3dB)
  • THD: -125dB, 0.00006% (1kHz, 16 Ohm, -3dB)
  • Input Impedance: 47k Ohm
  • Output Impedance: Near 0 Ohm
  • Frequency Response: 0.1 Hz – 500kHz (-3dB)
  • Gain: Low (+0dB), High (+10dB)
  • General
  • Power Supply voltage/frequency: AC100-240V, 50-60Hz
  • Power consumption (EN60065): 24W
  • Power consumption in standby mode: <0.1W
  • Size: 187.5 x 154 x 40 (mm)
  • Packing size: 282 x 232 x 79 (mm)
  • Weight: 790g

Features

  • THX AAA-888 Headphone Amplifier with THX AAA Technology
  • 6 Watts into 16 Ohm, 3 Watts into 32 Ohm Headphones with lowest THD+N
  • 0.1 Hz to 500 kHz (-3dB) Frequency Response
  • SNR>137dB
  • THD<0.00006%
  • Ultra-Compact Design, Perfect for Desktop Systems
  • Balanced Stereo Headphone Output
  • Balanced Stereo Line Input
  • High Precision Resistors for Temperature Stability
  • Pop-less Design with High-Quality Relays
  • High precision and low noise 256 level relay volume control
  • 2 Positions Switchable Gain Control
  • Fully Protected with DC, Over-Voltage, Over-Current, Short-Circuit and Thermal Protection on Headphone Amplifier
  • High-Efficiency Ultra-Low-Noise Power Supply
  • 1.9 inch LCD display

Who is the SH-9 for?

Dubbed the Smissle (by me), this Desktop Amplifier with Bluetooth capability targets the audiophile snob with its balanced XLR headphone input and balanced XLR dual inputs on the back for use with a separate DAC.

S.M.S.L SH-9 Headphone Amplifier Review

You can also use the SH-9 single-ended (unbalanced) with its RCA inputs.

Do keep in mind that this is an Amp only; you will need a separate DAC for it to function. Beginners Guide: What is a USB DAC?

On the front, we’ve got an XLR input for your balanced cables, as well as a single-ended 6.35 mm (1/4″) jack for use with unbalanced connections.

The middle contains the interface, and on the right, there’s the volume potentiometer.

Hold the volume pot in to bring up the menu. It’s a short hold. A long hold turns the unit off. For me, this is a minor nitpick. Sometimes I end up turning the unit off by accident.

Here you can cycle through your input, gain, volume mode, brightness, etc.

To back out, hold the volume pot in again.

I like the minimalist design of the amp. There are large numbers indicating what volume I’m at, an RCA switch (indicating mode), and a gain switch. These are both indicators and are for reference only, they’re not actual switches that can be ticked.

On the back, there’s an AC power jack for the supplied cable, as well as the RCA inputs, and the Balanced XLR inputs.

Build-wise, it feels incredibly robust and solid in your hands, and it’s just about the perfect size for full-time desktop use.

How does this bad boy sound though?

Sound

It’s interesting to note that this amp utilizes what’s known as THX technology. What is THX AAA Technology In Audio & Video?

THX is a way to certify amplifiers that perform at a high level – by reducing distortion to almost nothing while maintaining the cleanest signal possible.

In the case of the SH-9, those qualities ring true, but, does it sound any better than a FiiO K5 Pro; an Amp/DAC that does not utilize THX? I went back and forth extensively trying to discern any differences, and I couldn’t.

Both are very clean sounding, but the K5 Pro may be a tad warmer. This is likely due to its somewhat higher output impedance at 1.2 Ohm. The SH-9 is advertised as close to 0. What is Output Impedance?

The problem for me boils down to Total Harmonic Distortion numbers. We’re talking about a potential difference that comes down to fractions of a percentage.

The S.M.S.L advertises less than 0.00006% vs. 0.004% for the K5 Pro. Looks like a big difference at first glance, but in reality, isn’t when you’re actually listening to music.

I’m bringing this up because THX’s main claim to fame is low distortion and a clean signal.

The truth is that most Amplifiers nowadays already have super low THD – it’s already entirely minuscule if we’re being honest.

The words “THX Technology” stamped on the top of the SH-9 don’t make me want to buy it over any other amp, especially when I can pay less and achieve the same effect.

Even with that said, it can be beneficial to have one simply because of the balanced feature; something I plan to invest in for myself down the road.

Final Word

I like the SH-9 and it feels like it’s priced accurately; something that I think is super important especially with regard to Amps & DACS.

If you are looking for a full-time desktop unit with the THX stamp of approval and balanced functionality, I think this one fits the bill quite nicely.

It doesn’t really stand out against any other Amplifiers I’ve tried, so do keep that in mind before purchase.

 

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this S.M.S.L SH-9 Review & Discussion, and came away with some valuable insight.

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Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

Is this one worth an investment to YOU? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

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Albums

OutKast – Southernplayalisticadillacmusik (1994)
OutKast – ATLiens (1996)
36 – Wave Variations (2020)
36 – Revisionist History (Compilation Works), 2020
Come on feel the Illinoise (2005)
Animal Collective – Crest One (2021)
Animal Collective – Feels (2005)
Animal Collective – Tangerine Reef (2018)
Flor – come out. you’re hiding (2017)
Flor – Ley Lines (2019)
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)
Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam (2007)
Grizzly Bear – Yellow House (2006)
Ravel: Works For 2 Pianos & Duet

 

Photos

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S.M.S.L SH-9 Headphone Amplifier

4.95

Build

5.0/5

Sound

5.0/5

Power Output

5.0/5

Features & Versatility

4.8/5

Value

5.0/5

Pros

  • Clean, neutral sound
  • Heavy and durable
  • Balanced option
  • THX Certified

Cons

  • Sometimes unit shuts off when you press the button in.

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