| Headphone Amp | 3000mW | Balanced |
🎧 We are reviewing the SMSL HO100, an affordable headphone amp from SMSL.
Despite the low asking price, the SMSL HO100 is a fully capable headphone amp with plenty features and audiophile specs that have nothing to envy to other amps with two to five times the price tag.
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SMSL HO100 Review
Tests & Scores
The SMSL HO100 include advanced features such as:
- Balanced I/O
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Accessories & Packaging
The SMSL HO100 comes inside a medium sized white packaging with a basic design and build but inside the unit comes well protected with cushiony padding.
Inside the box users will only find the amp itself and the power cable, no further accessories are included.
The SMSL HO100 has a rectangular form factor and a slim profile measuring just 150x128x39mm.
The design of the amp has an elegant and polished aesthetic with a retro feel due to the 3 popping switches with a silver finish.
The unit comes only in black with a metallic, pearled finish that adds up to the classy look – yet this finish seems to pick up fingerprints more easily than the silver metallic finish of other audio devices.
To keep things clean, the brand has incorporated the PSU inside the unit itself, so there will be no cumbersome PSU bricks hanging around with the SMSL HO100.
Operation & Control
The SMSL HO100 is an amp with a simple and straightforward design were users will not have to do much effort to guess how to use it.
Basically, the full control of the amp is done through 3 switches and a rotating knob. The switches have a gratifying toggling click and an evocatively old-fashioned, nostalgic feel.
The knob has one simple function, volume control by a stepless rotational move of 270 degrees (approx.) while the 3 switches have the following use:
• RCA Input/XLR Input
• Low gain/Mid gain/High gain
Literally, this amp has no learning curve; connect, switch, rotate and you have all covered with the SMSL HO100.
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Construction & Build
With a full metal construction, the SMSL HO100 feels immediately rugged when holding in the hands.
Moreover, the brand has left no detail out from the excellent build quality, the volume knob presents a smooth rotating movement that conserves the same tightness and smoothness at any set level while never showing traces of wobbliness.
In addition to this, the switches are also made of metal, do not wobble at all and offer a solid and defined toggling on all power, gain and input adjusters.
Among other things, the bottom of the device comes equipped with rubber feet that do an excellent job keeping the amp in place and avoiding any sliding issues.
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Part of the simplicity of the design of the amp (mentioned in the OC section) translates also over its compatibility with the use of most of the standard input and output audio connections, the SMSL HO100 can easily connect and adapt to nearly any DAC on the market to become a fully working AMP/DAC combo.
The SMSL HO100 is equipped with 2 inputs and 2 outputs.
The front panel of the has a 6.35mm headphone output jack and a 4.4mm balanced headphone outputjack while on the back panel holds users will find:
• XLR balanced input
• RCA unbalanced input
A 4-core XLR balanced headphone out would have been a greedy request at the price point of the SMSL HO100 but it is a pity that there is no 3.5mm unbalanced port but a simple 1/4″ adapter will do the job.
We tested the SMSL HO100 with a beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO 250ohm to see how the amp could handle a headphone with mid-impedance. The HO100 was capable of driving it when being set to its medium gain setting but there will not be too much of overhead to crank up the volume but when setting it to its high gain position, the HO100 had more than enough power to easily drive this beyerdynamic headphone with even plenty of margin to reach deafening volume levels.
We proceeded to apply the same test with a Sennheiser HD650 (300 ohm) and the SMSL showed the same driving capabilities with no power shortage – even more when switching the stock cable with balanced cables.
Moreover, we did some testing with an all-time reputable low impedance in-ear, the Philips Fidelio S2. With this 22ohm earphone, the SMSL HO100 laughed at the test with no single power issue, even in low gain mode.
When testing the 4.4mm balanced jack, the power capabilities of the SMSL HO100 showed an exponential increment, with literally double the power output.
The gain switch levels on the SMSL HO100 were noticeable when going from LOW to MEDIUM (+9.5dB) but switching to the HIGH gain setting showed the most pronounced volume output switch step at +15.5dB from mid gain and +25dB from low gain.
Despite the huge dB gain, the amp remained with an astoundingly low noise at any gain setting; so low that was imperceivable.
Being rated at a whopping 3000mW x2 maximum output power, it is no surprise that the SMSL HO100 performed so well during our power tests – in fact, it is quite impressive that such a tiny amp can deliver so much power, destroying nearly all competitors at the same price range.
The full power specs are the following: 3000mW @16ohm, 1500mW @32 ohm, 200mW @ 300 ohm, 100mW @ 600 ohm.
Analyzing sound nuances, the amp showed a rich, full sound with also a pristinely open soundstage that preserved the audio nature of both the DAC combined and the headphone plugged, showing no coloration nor any distortion.
Proceeding with our measurements the SMSL HO100 showed an impeccably flat frequency response all-across the measured range.
In addition to this, the graphs did not unveil any undesired dips nor spikes, while also no abrupt rolling-off was present.
To verify the performance and capabilities of the HO100, all the test abovementioned were also applied to the device when used in following I/O combinations:
1. XLR balanced input – 6.35mm single-end output
2. XLR balanced input – 4.4mm balanced output
3. RCA input – 6.35mm single-end output
4. RCA input – 4.4mm balanced output
Sound Technical Specifications
Dynamic range: 134dB
Output Noise: 1.3uV
THD+N: -123dB, 0.00006% (1kHz, 32 Ω)
Input Impedance: 47kΩ
Amp output Impedance: Near 0 Ω
Frequency Response: 20Hz – 500kHz(-3dB)
Gain: Low(-9.5dB), Middle(0dB), High(15.5dB)
The SMSL HO100 includes quality audio components like high-quality relays to avoid any pops but the brand does not specifies the op amp used.
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SMSL HO100 Scores
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SMSL HO100 Frequency Response Curve
Below correspond to measurements by the manufacturer
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SMSL HO100 Technical Specifications
|Max output||3000 mW|
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