This was posted 7 months 16 days ago, and might be an out-dated deal.

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SMSL SP200 THX AAA-888 Balanced Headphone Amp US$160 + US$15 Delivery (~AU$241) @ Drop


Pretty steep discount on this amplifier (was US$305 delivered).
I'd say this is a very decent alternative to the Drop THX789 deal recently posted.
I hope that the usual audiophile peeps can chime in for thoughts and maybe review on this particular amp :)

Don't forget the $10 off from referral link or new user discount.

Enjoy your day and take care!

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  • A good match with K712 pro?

    • Ok I was being a little gentler before, but the K712 Pro is a terrible buy at current prices. It's a wonky sound, and you can do better via the Audio Technica ATH-R70X or the HIFIMAN Sundara in that price range.

      I still wouldn't buy it at $200-$250. I'm guessing you've bought it at $350 from Amazon UK already though, which leaves you high and dry without a return policy. Get familiar with EQ'ing the K712 to get a decent tonality.

      Audition future headphone purchases where possible before buying, because it's a lot of money to throw down the drain with limited experience or knowledge.

      • +1

        Well. placed order couple days ago as the k612 pro was terrible. And I was using pal's k712 pro (Austria, which I am quite happy with)

        Had no issues yet to return the k612 pro to Amazon so far.

        Audition is pretty hard here in Melbourne I guess. Not many palaces do that and most don't have the the model I was after… Let alone lock down…..

        But I think I will go for the models you mentioned here if the Slovakian 712 pro didn't work out.

        At the end, would this amp be a good buy? Just by itself. Or I would be better off with some soundblaster cards if I use PC?

        • +1

          You'll be able to audition in the next 2-4 weeks, particularly if you're double vaccinated.

          Already recommended the Tempotec Sonata E44 for you as a starting option while you learn about what sound you like. You may want to spring for something like a Schiit Asgard 3 in time.

          This amp is a good landing point between the two, but it is a very dry, analytical sound, and the K712 Pro is also dry bar a bit of warmth.

          • @jasswolf: Thanks Jasswolf… I might try the E44 first.

  • +2

    Unless you're able to go for the Schiit Asgard 3, this is an easy recommend right now at this price for a solid state amp. It'll be a more analytical sound than the Schiit Magni 3+, but it's a better amp overall.

    Just be aware that quality control may be a minor issue, and to test and report issues early to Drop.

    • Any recommendations for a DAC that would stack well with this?

      I'm undecided on whether I will go for one at the moment, but would love some recommendations for consideration.

    • +1

      Thanks for chiming in mate. I really appreciate your opinions in (most of) these audiophile deals :)

  • Really good price, $40 cheaper than the 789. Definitely would have gotten this instead at that price

  • Be noted this 888 has larger noise over 789 at high gain and 887 is the best among them.
    You get what you pay for

    • +1

      That's only going to impact you if you're using low impedance, high sensitivty gear in high gain mode at high gain settings. Would be a very select group of headphones where that's an issue.

      The Monoprice amp is what, double here? Not even in the conversation.

      • Thanks for your good point. Any good suggestion on sub 500 DAC to accompany this?

        • +2

          Soncoz LA-QXD1 and Khadas Tone:2 (via passthrough) measure very well, and have decent chips that won't bring too much of an etch to the sound. Best prices for both are during AliE sales.

          Not really familiarised beyond that, and the ins and outs of how DACs scale is something I've not looked deeply into.

        • +2

          Adding to Jasswolf's fantastic suggestion, Schiit Modius is decent too. If I were to choose, I'd go with this just because I like the aesthetics of Schiit devices better. But with my current budget, Soncoz LA-QXD1 easily.

  • This or Topping L30 for 180ish?

    • This, but I'd be comparing it to the Schiit Magni 3+ for a slightly warmer, smoother, wider sound. The SP200 is probably thrashing both for detail, but these are nuances that matter more to top-tier headphones, of which the only contenders in the sub-$1000 range are things like the Sundara, the HD 6XX, the ATH-R70X, and maybe a handful of offerings from AKG and Audeze.

      Again, this is only really beaten by the Asgard 3 under $400.

    • I'd go with these for future-proofing. L30 sounds great but I'm a bit concerned about the ESD and headphone killing things bonanza, even though they've managed to fix it in the later revision, I'm still a bit worried anyway..

  • -2
  • Thanks OP - was just on the hunt for a beginner headphone amp, interested in getting into the hobby. This seems like a pretty good pricepoint for me to enter at.

    • +1

      No worries! Personally, I'd go with something a bit cheaper than this, but like I mentioned above, this amp is a bit better in terms of future-proofing in case you're looking to upgrade your setup to full balanced later on..

      • Any recommendations for the cheaper options?

        I've been doing some searching recently and a lot of things I've found have come up at similar price points due to being imported from the US anyway or had a massive markup in local Australian stores.

        • +2

          You mean Schiit? Get it delivered direct from them, their fedex shipping is super fast (heck it’d prob be faster than Auspost these days), warranty is easy as. Even after the shipping fees, still ends up cheaper than getting it locally. I’d love to support locals but their steep markup isn’t helping, so…

          As for recommendations, I like the sound signature of Schiit Magni and Modi combo. Otherwise there’s always ifi Zen Dac, all in one device, very good too..

          • @piupiupiu: Yeah, that's exactly where I was looking. I had seen a huge amount of recommendations for those products, but as you say, the markup locally was huge.

        • +1

          What headphones are you pairing with this?

          Below this price, I'd probably just go for a USB-C dongle like the Tempotec Sonata E44, and then you can use that portably with a phone when you upgrade. Premium dongles now offer performance that rivals entry level desktop setups, usually with better DAC chips.

          • @jasswolf: I already own a pair of ATH-M50x but I ordered a pair of DT990 Pro (250 Ohm) the other day because I wanted to try open back. I also have a friend passing their HD600 set on to me as well, so there's a fair range that would get a run with whatever amp & DAC I choose.

            • +1

              @CBrads4: Ah yup, you'll get value out of a better setup, and the 600 will definitely scale with the SP200.

              • @jasswolf: Cool, thanks for the confirmation. I think this one might be a go because my friend said his HD600s have a balanced cable too. I haven't seen many amps in this price range with a balanced output.

                Not sure how much of a difference it makes but it would be interesting to try.

                • +1

                  @CBrads4: It makes almost no difference, but balanced amps tended to have poorer unbalanced outs. People would A/B the two and rave about it, or A/B against a much crappier amp and think it was the balanced output doing it.

                  These days the unbalanced designs tend to be much better, so there's no issue of audible or clean signal, now it's about harmonics (or the absence of them for the headphone to shine) and voltage ramp.

  • Is this mainly for headphone output or can it amplify mic as well?

    how does this differ from Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3 ?

    • +1

      Main headphones output, you’ll need separate interface for mics..

  • Amp/DAC for 6xx?

    Using a FiiO K3, runs them okay but clearly could be better and louder.

    Would this be alright or something better bang for buck around? Able to just buy an AMP and still use the K3 as a dac to save money or nah?

    • +1

      What's the budget? There's always this hyped up Schiit Magni + Modi combo, you're looking at roughly $400ish or less for the combo depending on where you're getting it from.
      I'd keep the Fiio K3 though, had a Fiio E10 before, it was fantastic for mobile use, and I'm pretty sure K3 powerful enough for the 6xx? In my opinion, powerful is not necessarily always about driving it loud enough and all, it's about the quality of certain part of the sound, e.g better treble bass extension etc. And I wouldn't spend too much money on partial upgrade, I'd just save up to get the next big upgrade. This SP200 or a THX789 amp paired with decent balanced DAC would be ideal, but it can get real spendy real soon!

      • +1

        Yeah that's what I keep reading, need to go for a stack/combo for a true upgrade which leads up into that range that I don't really want to spend. Budget is about that 400-500~ range but hard to reconcile spending that for what could be a minor sound upgrade for the price. Just know that there is better sound that can be unlocked with a better dac/amp and it will be an eventual expensive upgrade so trying to figure out the best way to go about it. Just need to learn to be content with the sound. Sometimes feel the K3 could be louder with both the 6xx and dt 990 250ohm but maybe it's better I don't kill my hearing also.

        Hear the 6xx goes really well with tube amps also but then even more $$$.

        Thanks for the reply.

        • +2

          Yeah the Gear Acquisition Syndrome is real with most hobbies haha. I agree with you regarding money vs minor sound upgrade. Diminishing returns I guess, I personally would invest in more cans with different sound signature.

          Tube amp is… Tricky. Unless you're looking to have fun with tube rolling and having nice looking glowy thing on your desk, I'd stick with solid state. Easier to maintain and to deal with, not much pairing issues, decent one can drive anything from IEMs to heavy hitter cans. But then, you've got to try it at least. Again, heaps of $$$ that does not necessarily scale with the sound improvements.

          Oh look into Xduoo MT602 hybrid tube amp. Tubes on preamp (tried Russian Voskhod tubes, does open the stage a bit better than the stock tube), still sounds a bit like solid state on the high end, works with 6XX well. Cheap way to try tube amp.

        • I would recommend doing a bit of research (reading Amir's reviews is a good place to start) to find the cheapest setup that:
          * is transparent
          * has enough power
          * company has a good record for QA/warranty/etc.

          Most of the time everyone over-thinks it and ends up with severe GAS and analysis paralysis.

          There are now a bajillion good solutions out there. e.g.
          * schiit stack
          * THX 789 or SMSL SP200 with any good, transparent DAC.
          * Topping DX3 Pro+ (the new one, haven't seen reviews though)
          * Topping EX5
          etc, etc

          Start here - drill down, read some of the combo dac+amp reviews, some of the DAC reviews and pick a setup that you can understand.

          As for the tube amp thing - they may/may not be a bit overrated - I've got a hybrid tube amp (loxjie P20 upgraded with Russian tubes) and it does mellow out the sound for certain types of music nicely, but I think you can get a plugin for foobar2000 that supposedly has the same effect.

    • +1

      You can use it as a pass-through DAC, yes, but you'll eventually want to upgrade.

      • Yeah the inevitable money sink is fast approaching.

  • Thanks, buying this to replace my Magni 2 Uber

  • Was about to order this last night and noticed that all units will ship with a US plug only. Is there any cause for concern with this amp having a US plug only?

    Will I need to get a new cable/plug locally to ensure that the unit gets the correct voltage?

    • +1

      Shouldn’t be any issue since the power supply is built in, just make sure it’s switched to the 230V before plugging in. You’ll only need to supply the normal Australian PSU Cable, from Jaycar or something if you don’t already have one, or if they didn’t supply one for you in the packaging. Maybe try checking with the support team, they’re relatively speedy in terms of replying to messages.

      • Thanks for the clarification. I didn't realise that the PSU was inside the unit - that makes a whole lot more sense. There shouldn't be any worries there.

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