SMSL SU-9 Professional Assessment — Headfonics

Deal Score0
Deal Score0

Our function at present is a evaluate of the SMSL SU-9 Professional, a balanced-designed desktop DAC with BT5.0 LDAC, MQA, and DSD512 decoding functionality. It’s priced at $499.99.

Disclaimer: This pattern was despatched to us for our sincere opinion. Headfonics is an impartial web site with no affiliate hyperlinks or partnerships. We thank Shenzhen Audio and SMSL for his or her assist.

Click on right here to be taught extra about SMSL products that we have now beforehand featured on Headfonics.

Word, that this text follows our newest scoring pointers which you could find in additional element here.

SMSL SU-9 Professional

I don’t thoughts the extra price of the SMSL SU-9 Professional over its earlier variations because the improve to the newer ES9039MPRO is effectively executed. It outperforms DACs beneath its class and compares competitively with equally priced gear.

Slide right here so as to add your rating on the gear!61 Votes



Clean timbre and composed execution.

Makes use of the brand new ESS chip effectively with none related harshness.

Straightforward operation of the full-featured menu choices.


May get uneven with instrument placement and dynamics.

The SMSL SU-9 Professional’s lineage has been just about successful in securing a spot in lots of lovers’ houses by nailing the worth level extra severe patrons are comfy spending as they chase sound high quality.

And simply to recap, we did a evaluate of all earlier iterations from the unique SU-9 launched in 2020 at $439, and the trimmed-down SU-9n choice launched in 2021 at a lighter spend of simply $399.99.

Now, persevering with on its full-year cycle to maintain the mannequin related and forward of the competitors, the SU-9 Professional is at present the most costly model but in comparison with the opposite SU-9 variants.

Nonetheless, earlier than disregarding the newest installment from SMSL as a easy bandwagon to the title, learn on to find simply how a lot has modified within the barely costlier SU-9 Professional which is now tickling the half-thousand bucks ceiling.

SMSL SU-9 Pro Review
Copyright SMSL 2023

Tech Highlights

Once I heard that SMSL got here up with a ‘Professional’ model of the SU-9 line, my ideas instantly flew to the rising variety of ‘Professional’ merchandise on the market. The place the SU-9 Professional strikes is that it holds inside an improve that’s on the present bleeding fringe of digital to analog conversions.

I imagine the SU-9 Professional will get its title from utilizing the newest ES9039MPRO from the DAC chip producer ESS. All earlier generations of the SU-9 line and even the higher-end SU-10 use the older ES9038PRO chip.

Plus, inside is an improve from the XU-216 USB module to the extra fashionable XU-316 from XMOS. {Hardware} jargon apart, end-users can nonetheless reliably anticipate to play 32bit/768kHz PCM and DSD512 with the SU-9 Professional.

For MQA listeners, the complete decoding performance of the SU-9 for USB has been prolonged to the optical and coaxial inputs on the SU-9 Professional for higher flexibility. There’s additionally MQA-CD reserved for the 2 SPDIF inputs.

The analog part of the SU-9 Professional acquired an improve as effectively by way of op-amp depend. The older ones solely acquired three OPA1612A which is now nearly quadrupled at eleven.

SMSL SU-9 Pro Review


Boy does the SU-9 Professional already look acquainted at this level. Already in its third yr utilizing the identical unique mould of the SU-9, the design of the black aluminum alloy chassis has held up fairly effectively.

The design division isn’t sleeping since they up to date the entrance with their newest 1.9-inch absolutely coloured show saved behind a tempered glass panel. Whereas the colour palate used on the display screen isn’t sticking to me, I admire that it appears to be the identical one discovered of their costlier SU-10.

An odd one nonetheless is the three rubber ft SMSL saved utilizing within the SU-9 line. It retains me curious concerning the rationale for this however not less than they’re quick sufficient that you just gained’t bang the rear corners laborious on unintended smacks.

Full however not busy, the rear structure of the SU-9 Professional is clear because the inputs are neatly organized on the left whereas the outputs are separated on the proper. The RCA connectors aren’t color-coded, so test the label every time.

SMSL SU-9 Pro Review
Copyright SMSL 2023


Whereas the SU-9 Professional isn’t an enormous system by any means, SMSL nonetheless put in all the traditional IO I’ve already come to anticipate in a DAC of this caliber. Certain, it isn’t actually shocking because it has the identical rear structure because the earlier generations.

First, we nonetheless have a USB 2.0 socket with no USB-C enter just like the one already featured on the SU-10. Nonetheless, a bunch of different inputs is there like Bluetooth, optical, and coaxial.

The pair of RCA outputs are rated to 2.5Vrms with a 128dB dynamic vary. But when a single-ended connection isn’t sufficient or you’ve got a correctly balanced amplifier or powered monitor to pair, then the 5.2Vrms succesful XLR outputs are prepared with their greater 133dB dynamic vary.

SMSL SU-9 Pro Review


When you’re like me that by no means depart the home with gear nonetheless plugged into the wall, then the SU-9 Professional will begin instantly every time you energy it again on. It doesn’t keep in mind to remain on standby if energy is totally lower off from the grid, however it’s potential to depart it on this state by lengthy urgent the amount knob or utilizing the distant.

Set in USB enter from the manufacturing unit, the full-color show will present the sampling fee beneath the amount setting. Turning the wheel will quickly sweep between -99.5dB and +2.0dB in 0.5dB increments.

To mute the SU-9 Professional, it may be accomplished both by rotating the dial beneath -99.5dB or urgent the mute change on the distant. Since utilizing the distant to show the amount down is far slower, having a devoted mute button is indispensable.

The UI is a large leap coming from the 7-segment shows of cheaper models. And since it’s also utilizing English within the settings menu, there isn’t any have to test the guide every time to cross reference what it means.

Full-featured by way of management and performance, the SU-9 Professional will allow you to tweak not solely the fundamentals like enter and brightness stage. It additionally has extras like a PCM filter, DSD filter, sound coloration, and extra.

SMSL SU-9 Pro Review

Packaging & Equipment

For the third yr, SMSL is retaining the black with white central strip to outwardly current the SU-9 Professional akin to its earlier variations. Not but the primary field, this sleeve has the identical design back and front so the system could also be laid the wrong way up unknowingly.

Since there’s a sleeve, the white field made with the same old materials SMSL is utilizing on their different providing is saved plain. And within the firm’s traditional trend, the within is stuffed with protecting foam with cutouts to carry the system and equipment.

Taking over a lot of the left half is the SU-9 Professional unit wrapped in skinny plastic and with the paper works loosely positioned on prime. To its proper is a devoted cutout for the distant which is true subsequent to the realm holding the IEC cable, USB cable, antenna, and 4 additional rubber ft.

Sound Impressions


Whereas SMSL is slowly rolling out some new DACs with AKM chips, plenty of their lineup nonetheless carries an ESS chip inside. The SU-9 Professional will not be being any totally different having an ES9039MPRO decoder inside so I went in doing the evaluate with a number of assumptions.

To my delight, my first assembly with the newest ESS chip the SU-9 Professional is utilizing isn’t as rudimentary as I anticipated. Having reviewed a number of SMSL DACs already at various worth courses, their sound appears to be steering away from the lifeless signature that chases spec sheet numbers.

So, for me, the SU-9 Professional sounds new for SMSL. Certain, as a DAC it solely touches the sound very subtly, however this allows a deeper enjoyment which in my view might fulfill plenty of lovers for a very long time.

There are two details I like in regards to the SU-9 Professional. Its quick and dynamic bass area in cleaner scenes and management with the higher scales.

With a cohesive tonal steadiness that doesn’t struggle for consideration, the SU-9 Professional isn’t too vivid leaning and has sufficient oomph within the midrange and low-end. Plus, the subtleties of whispery areas whereas not faultless are detailed sufficient avoiding to turn into too grainy or gentle.


Charming like a gracious gentleman but strict the place it counts, that’s how the SU-9 Professional appeared to me. It’s certainly removed from the brittle sound one could affiliate with poorly executed ESS DACs.

And round half the price of the SU-10, this newest decoder from SMSL masterfully executes an analogous taste and will function a substitute if there are price range constraints. There are nonetheless a number of variations between the 2 although as soon as I began drilling down on the main points so look out for what these are in a later part.

By itself, the SU-9 Professional is displaying mild however significant mass to intensify some sides of the low finish like once I observed an extended lingering rumble with sustained notes. However in not being the boring and severe sort when producing enormous rhythms, at instances, it does depart some vague outlines.

The pleasing depth and emphasis gained’t be ruining the steadiness because the climb up will reveal it’s not the one card SMSL has in play. The place the SU-9 Professional impresses is in bringing vocals to the fore avoiding sounding sterile and never shouty.

With a melodic voice carrying a powerful vibrato, dynamics do present management because it comes shy of sibilance when the vitality goes excessive. The delineation of breath can also be flowy as an alternative of dry and tough.

Placing on some classical items, I heard violins with well-tuned and surprisingly filling accuracy. It does forged wider than anticipated although making it tougher to single out.

The intro of an electrical guitar could also be participating and can certainly carry it to your consideration however subtler seems like a snare drum doing a gentle rhythm within the background could get drowned out in consequence.

Staging & Dynamics

On the positives first, the SU-9 Professional has a very good staging presentation that enables the unhurried but exact timbre to carry out as a fantastic package deal. It additionally simply created a holographic soundscape the place a dynamic ensemble is proven with the vitality and relevance of every picture.

However as a lot as I’m liking the SU-9 Professional general, it confirmed weak point in object placement and isolation accuracy of looser beats. Guitars and results which have a fragile property floating within the background are emphasised as an alternative of calmly positioned.                 

Not as dynamic as higher-end DACs however greater than sufficient for the bracket, I observed that cymbals get lower quick within the subtler elements of its dribbling splash. Extra so in a well-recognized tune, sure reside viewers sections are misplaced and never as practical as anticipated.

Click on page 2 below for pairings and our selected comparisons.

Sharing is caring!

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply
Enable registration in settings - general