This is a review and detailed measurements of the SMSL SH-8S. It was kindly drop shipped to me from SMSL by ShenzhenAudio. Unfortunately I do not have price or availability. As soon as I find out, I will update the review.
I don't know how many colors the SH-8S comes in. The silver one looks fine but made it hard to read the labels:
As you will see later in the measurements, the XLR output is for convenience and does not produce more power. There are balanced inputs however which I like:
Inclusion of mains power supply is a nice touch as it eliminates desk clutter.
Good to see regulatory certification on the back.
Note that you only have low and high gains. No medium.
SMSL SH-8S Measurements
I configured my unit with XLR input and tested with both 1/4 and XLR outputs. Results were identical. Here is the XLR one:
This is exceptional performance and lands the SH-8S at the top of the chart with its competitors:
This is one quiet unit with superb dynamic range:
As such it should very much be suitable to ultra sensitive IEMs.
Frequency response is ruler flat well beyond what we need for audio:
Performance as stated is exceptional in low gain mode but high gives up a bit of that:
Still, plenty of power available at 300 ohm. To show that there is no difference between output headphone jacks, here is the comparison:
Low gain remains excellent at 32 ohm but high gain slides a bit more competitively:
There is essentially no load dependency other than drop in output voltage as impedance get lower:
Channel balance is excellent for an analog volume control but the unit you buy may be very different:
SMSL SH-8S Headphone Listening Tests
I will make this short: with both my Sennheiser HD-650 and Ether CX headphone, there was a ton of power available even in low gain mode. High gain had ample headroom well beyond what I would dare to play. There was no distortion I could attribute to the amplifier. Excellent performance all around.
We had a DAC race start a couple of years ago to get perfection. We are now well into headphone amplifier perfection gain, with one instrument grade amplifier after another. Each has a different form factor, pricing, and availability though so having options is good. Such is the story of SH-8S. Superb measured and subjective performance.
It is my pleasure to put the SMSL SH-8S on my recommended list.
Note: this is a brand new product. Some headphone amps have had teething issues when released. If you are worried about such things, let others go before you and get some data on reliability.
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.
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