In this review, we test the SMSL DO200 MKII which is a dual ES9068AS balanced desktop DAC with DSD512, Bluetooth LDAC, and MQA support. It is priced at $469.
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Note, that this 2-page article follows our latest scoring guidelines which you can find in more detail here.
SMSL DO200 MKII Review
The SMSL DO200 MKII is a great example of a device built with a lot of self-confidence. SMSL probably believe they’ve built the original DO200 too advanced for its time and messing up with its internals for its second generation would be a waste.
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Balanced and engaging sound signature
Expansive imaging performance
Essentially the same DAC as the original DO200
Could use more finesse to keep up with the competition
It is almost impossible now to predict what SMSL has in store next. The Chinese audio manufacturer is notoriously fast in releasing new products and revisiting popular and successful ones for a yearly update.
Remember our review of the SU-9 and M500 MKII DACs? Time does fly fast, and those keeping tabs will know that both the SU-9 and M500 series are already in their third version.
I briefly brought that up simply because in the years that those two unit series progressed and matured, a clear line can be seen on why the newer release should be considered. In having the same expectation with the DO200 MKII, it is quite surprising how little has changed.
Without the original DO200 on hand to listen to alongside this latest revision from SMSL, I cannot comment on what changed in that regard. I can at least share with you if the DO200 MKII has the meat to remain sitting pretty with its newer brothers.
A complete mirror of the DO200’s numbers, it is a first for me to see a DAC from SMSL without the usual performance enhancements on its website.
While some may argue that the figures have become so low that they’re practically inaudible at that point, it is still exciting to know that your shiny new gear is a departure from the previous.
Instead, SMSL likes to bring your attention to the two key changes they installed. One is the newer XU-316 USB module from XMOS, then there’s the improvement of the UI coming from the new full-view IPS display.
I have to say though, while the modifications could be easy to dismiss for those chasing numbers, new buyers will appreciate that they now have access to a DAC that won’t feel out of place with newer members of the SMSL family.
And, with two ES9068AS DAC chips, a THD+N of -122dB, and MQA decoding capability, we have to remember that the DO200 MKII alone is one serious DAC. Add to this that the analog side is still comprised of five dual OPA1612A op-amps and the circuitry is fed with electricity from a discrete power supply for lower noise.
Minus the updated IPS display, everything from the DO200 right down to its 1.2kg weight has been carried over to the DO200 MKII chassis. It will surely look right at home sitting squarely on top of the HO200 headphone amplifier
Everything about the three-piece frame assembly held together by four visible screws in the front and a couple more at the back is positively solid and premium-looking.
Touching the unit itself, there are no sharp edges around but I noticed that the main aluminum chassis in the middle is finished subtly rougher than the front plate where the volume and display are.
The volume knob is done with silver chamfering and is the only way to interface with the unit if the remote is missing. As a crucial part of the experience, I appreciate that it has the right amount of feedback when clicking into place and is very quick to turn with minimal play.
Covered in tempered glass, the new IPS display gorgeously adorns the DO200 MKII. With a responsive UI, clear texts, and variable brightness, reading the information on the screen won’t pose a problem.
For a device that by function commits to converting digital signals, one of the most important advantages one can carry is accessibility with input connections. The DO200 MKII is just that as it follows the same long list of inputs the original DO200 had.
It covers the basics of the price point such as USB-B, Bluetooth, optical, and coaxial inputs for the majority of audio enthusiasts, followed by AES/EBU and I2S input options because why not?
The only omission here when compared to the original DO200 is the extra USB-C input for service and firmware upgrades which used to hide beneath its USB-B input.
Right next to the inputs are the gold-plated output jacks to complete the picture. With two DAC chips inside of the DO200 MKII, it is obvious that with the size and shape of the unit, complementing a pair of single-ended RCA outputs is two full-sized 3-pin XLR for balanced connections.
Pairing the 4Vrms XLR sockets to a compatible amplifier or powered speakers, SMSL made sure that the DO200 MKII remains an impressive companion achieving the same 129dB dynamic range as the DO200. RCA users shouldn’t feel left out since it also measured at a very close 125dB dynamic range.
Briefly turning to the back of the DO200 MKII while first inspecting the unit, I quickly noticed the presence of a proper on-and-off switch which in my book is a plus for safety.
Some may find it inconvenient to always unplug the machine so having this feature means the unit can be completely shut off after a long press of the volume knob or by using the remote has placed it on standby.
Firing up, the DO200 MKII briefly showed the SMSL logo in the center of its vivid display which quickly changed to show the basic set of information the user needed.
Having a digital volume control, what can be read prominently in the center is the volume setting which can be altered from 0dB at the highest going all the way down to -99.5dB in 0.5dB increments.
Once the DAC correctly receives an input connection, which in my case is USB, the DO200 MKII conveniently detects and displays the type of music playing and at what sample rate. This means that there is no extra step to enable MQA decoding as the DAC will tell in the display if an MQA file is fed.
All that so far is still talking about the surface-level controls of the DO200 MKII. Once you’ve become comfortable with it, don’t be shy to dig into the settings menu and see the host of things you can change baked into the system. Yes, there’s a lot.
Having the same UI/UX as the more expensive SU-10, it has the familiar SMSL layout for the settings menu and its sub-sections which makes personalizing the DO200 MKII look easy. If I’m correct the only thing separating the two for whatever reason is that not all settings are parallel on both.
Packaging & Accessories
I don’t know what I was expecting but when the DO200 MKII arrived I was pleased to see a sure-looking bundle trying to impress.
What I mean is that while it is still not yet the modern black design seen in the SU-10, the size, and build of the box won’t let you feel left out noting that even with the smaller footprint of the DO200 MKII inside, the volumetric capacity of both is almost identical.
Continuing with the similarity from another SMSL DAC, the DO200 MKII is also kept in a jacketed presentation which reminded me of the SU-9 Pro. As I mentioned in the SU-9 Pro review, the sheath’s design is the same on two opposing sides which makes it confusing which is the true top.
Once you get inside, if you’ve owned or seen SMSL gear before, there will be no surprises here. Aside from the thick foam lining protecting the items, arranged neatly are the DAC itself, some paperwork, and finally, the accessories included.
And to briefly cover the basic accessories provided, there is a standard power cable, USB cable, Bluetooth antenna, and remote control. But then again, if you’ve seen an SMSL review before, none of the add-ons listed has changed.
Is there anything magical with the DO200 MKII? Having no history with the first release, I went in blind with the review but after using it for quite a while it is the overall honesty placed with a trace of midrange lushness that elevates the experience for me.
The DO200 MKII has a good baseline tonal balance that keeps it cool and if not for some minor hotness in the upper midrange. I’ll leave the tweaking to end-users though since there are built-in sound profiles to tune the DO200 MKII more personally.
I am putting the timbre as the crucial piece to the puzzle since measurements may have wowed owners before but in its current form, the resolution and dynamics leave me a bit wanting.
Not that it should shake into hiding when around similarly priced peers, but asking the DO200 MKII to take on some challenging tracks, does show some lack of delicateness in key areas.
Knowing SMSL, the relaxed and very clean-sounding plucking of the guitar made me realize there may be more to the DO200 MKII. It has a mild sweetness to it that isn’t skewed far from linearity and is just ever so slightly more enjoyable to listen to especially on acoustic tracks.
This is good since I know the DO200 MKII is not a boring number-cruncher machine. So, while it will remind you on occasions of its balanced personality, the midrange at least is careful to not end up thin and hurried.
Expect to hear dry thumping kick drums playing modestly in a duet to the somewhat lush vocal timbre. What could better complete the scene tough is more tightness and texture to delineate properly the bass strings that don’t get enough bite.
Going back, voices aren’t sent too far or too close and it plays well with the rest of the instruments. Females also have a smooth flow that will show skill with vibrato and rougher edges.
Once it picks up to the shoutier portions of the song, I’m sometimes juddered when I hear a peak that is more thinly articulated than the rest. While it is not yet quite sibilant, the change in timbre is what makes it rough.
Listening closely to an isolated electric guitar riff from a busy rock song, the attack is there but the edges tend to gather, consequently crowding the clarity. Horns on the other hand are huge sounding and retain the expected brassy sound.
Staging & Dynamics
Another talent the DO200 MKII has that I’ve been keeping a secret thus far is that it is doing a great job of picking apart naturally staged music. As I was playing some tracks to test, the distinctness of each instrument lets me focus on an object and easily place it in space.
Those who’re looking for a more natural or airy DAC though may find it a bit too exacting since it doesn’t have the same borderless and ethereal qualities my Burson Conductor 3 Reference gives to the same track. It could use a little more relaxation to not make subtle guitars and chimes playing in the background sound too rigid.
Staging width and depth are pretty even and while it is not the farthest should be far enough for most users. I find that the detail enjoys a bit of a boost since far objects don’t need to fight too hard to be heard.