SMSL C200 DAC/Headphone Amplifier Review

The SMSL C200 is a very small all-in-one DAC and headphone amplifier that can also act as a preamp with RCA line out features. This little box retails at $219 and is sold exclusively at Aoshida Audio, who sent me this product for my take. Readers can find the product at the following unaffiliated link:

The C200 is packed full of features in a nice mini desktop setup that is also easy to carry around if needed to move from location to location. It still requires to be connected to power however. 

The DAC section features the mobile ESS 9038Q2M and has multiple standard ESS filters to choose from in the hardware menu. Inputs to the DAC are surprisingly varied. Users can opt to use USB-C, digital coaxial, or digital toslink for direct DAC inputs. There is also an option for bluetooth with an included screw-on antenna. The Qualcomm bluetooth chip supports up to bluetooth 5.0 and has all the standard codecs up to and including LDAC.

The headphone amp section is centered around a quad-set of Texas Instruments OPA1612A op-amps and provides up to 1.3W at 32 ohm to the headphone outputs. There are both 4.4mm balanced and 1/4 inch single-ended standard jacks available, and since the ratings are given as the same, I imagine they have equal outputs and are there for convenience more so than this actually being a balanced amplifier.

On the rear side, the unit can also act as a preamp. There are both RCA and TRS outputs for hooking this unit up to powered speakers or to another amplifier, and treating this as a DAC and Preamp. The hardware menu has a setting to change from Line Out to Headphone Out and vice-versa to select which mode and output to use.

The C200 also comes with a remote control which is a nice touch for a small desktop amplifier. It can control volume, inputs, filters, gain levels, and a host of other settings in the menu.


The SMSL C200 is a cute little box and has a decent feeling volume knob. The remote control is a nice bonus and makes controlling it quite a bit easier than using the volume knob to sift through the menus. That said, I did actually spend most of my time with the C200 next to me on a desk with my laptop and just joggling around with the volume wheel to change settings and volume to listen with.

I mostly used this product with USB-C input, whether that was directly with my laptop via Roon app, or with my iBasso DX240 digital audio player with USB output. I also tried bluetooth with my phone and had no issues connecting and transmitting LDAC audio to it.

For the most part, I like the size and it works well for a small desk and its also portable enough to take on the road with you, as long as you'll have a power outlet at your destination. Its extremely lightweight, but still has enough features to really make it quite versatile. I carried around my house in a small shoulder bag without a problem.

Sound Impressions

I used the C200 with a few different IEMs and headphones, including the Sennheiser HD600, Hifiman Susvara, Hidition Viento, Empire Ears Odin, and the Salnotes Zero over a few weeks of usage. My primary listening genres range from modern jazz and progressive bluegrass, to alternative rock and new wave music for this review.

I primarily kept the DAC filter set at Filter 6, which is linear, fast roll-off, which is typically the standard filter used on most DACs, however SMSL actually sets minimum phase, fast roll-off as their default filter. 

In my listening periods with this DAC/Amp, I did not really have many complaints to really vent about given the price tag and the abundance of software and hardware options this provides. It's a lot of bang for the buck, and can even get the Susvara headphone to loud volumes even on low-gain mode.

That said, it wasn't the best pairing for the Susvara, which is highly resolving and really gains benefit for comparable sources. I normally use a source system that includes the Holo Audio Spring 3 KTE and Bakoon AMP-13R, which are on an order or two of magnitude higher in costs, and the results are a much more natural and resolving sound than what the C200 provides with the Hifiman Susvara. It's pretty evident listening to how drums hit with natural decay, or how strings vibrate after being stroked. 

But alas, this is a review of the C200, and I don't want to nitpick on how it compares to something on a different scale of price, size, and quality components. The C200 does its job pretty well. It offers a neutral sound that leans a little brighter than other gears I have been using lately. I notice this more on the HD600 or the Hidition Viento, which are my neutral reference headphones and IEM. 

With the Empire Ears Odin, I find it to be a tad blobby. Perhaps this is due to the Odin version I have containing more bass than normal, and in combination with the lower clarity I find with the C200 than my other sources, this wasn't my favorite combination. 

I did enjoy using the C200 with the HD600 quite a bit. I don't know exactly why this is. Maybe it's because I could use just a tad more treble on the HD600, and this provided a little more treble. To compliment this thought, I tried the C200 with my HD580, and I did find some string-heavy bluegrass music to be a little too much at times. 

General Final Notes

Generally speaking, the C200 is a feature-rich audio device that is a good entry level all-in-one unit. It has a quality DAC, and a lot of I/O for all sorts of different devices to be used with it. You can use headphones, speakers, and input from all different types of sources at all at once. 

While it is a little plain looking, I do still think its a good value for all that you get and the sound is quite acceptable for the price. 

View the product ratings on Antdroid's IEM Ranking List and/or Antdroid's Headphone Ranking List