SMSL D400EX DAC Review
Release Date:2023-01-09 Views:6726

This is a review and detailed measurements of the SMSL D400EX balanced DAC based on AKM4499EX chip. It was sent to me by the company and costs US $959.99

The D400EX is quite attractive looking with the flush controls and the grills on the sides:

The latter gives it a high-end look. Alas, I am not a fan of the rotary control. It is very hard to turn, and even harder to push to register a click. Fortunately the standard SMSL remote is included so you don't have to use it. The user interface is easy to navigate (with the remote) and is the same as other newer SMSL DACs.

Note that there is an ES version using ESS DAC chip.

Note: please excuse the mistaken label on the graphs: D400 ES instead of EX. Didn't realize which unit I was testing until I took the review picture. 

SMSL D400EX Measurements
As usual let's start with our dashboard of 1 kHz tone:

I expect superb performance and that is precisely what we get. Playing the silly game of ranking SINAD using decimal point, the D400 EX easily falls in our top 20 best measured DACs:

RCA performance is not far behind:

Noise performance is excellent as you can imagine:

Multitone performance lands in the same bucket:Linearity is perfect:

Jitter over USB is perfect but we have a tiny jitter component on toslink:

It was strange to see the mid-level IMD hump:

Never seen this on non-ESS DACs.

Various filters are offered:

Here is their impact on frequency response:

Using default filter #1, we get very nice wideband response for distortion+noise:

The D400 EX performs at top of the class as expected. Price is up there and for that, you get a nicer looking case. Two minor misses are the rotary control functionality and rise in IMD distortion at mid-levels.

I am going to put the SMSL D400 EX on my recommendation list.

P.S. Sorry, I forgot to put the golfing panther on the picture of the unit.