Under the bent sheet-metal hood one sees a C-core not toroidal power transformer shielded by a metal bracket; a small power inlet board with mains fuse and small inductor; a green mother board; a digital input board on standoffs; and for the headphone amp, a smaller floating board with four transistors which duplicates what's beneath it for double-decker dual mono action.

The digital input board shown at left sports an XMOS USB transceiver, single clock and a large-scale Bluetooth integrated chip receiver associated with the antenna mount. (The XMOS firmware is compliant with Windows up to 8.1 32/64 whilst the Bluetooth receiver includes aptX). This very solidly mounted board obscures a Cirrus Logic 8416czz digital interface receiver chip and ESS Sabre 9018S DAC on the main board below. There the XLR and RCA outputs are controlled by JRC-27F/005-S(555) relays because the preouts can be defeated with a push button on the face plate. Fronting the relays are two Texas Instruments NE5532p opamps which themselves are controlled by NJW1194 resistor-ladder volume control chips from JRC. With opamps built around high intrinsic feedback, we're reminded that this machine does not belong to the no NFB range of Soulnote.

Concession to audiophile obsession with pointy footers is made with three threaded inserts on the belly, two in front, one in the back. Those can take the included spikes to bypass the standard four rubberized footers, something the owner's manual recommends for improved sonics (the manual is in English, Deutsch, Français, Italiano, Suomi and Polski). Also included in the delivery were a power cord, USB cable and long Soulnote system remote with thick silvery metal front. To clock some break-in time, I set up the SD300 on my work desk fed via Toslink off my Questyle QP1R powered 24/7 from a Belkin dock. Forza-recabled Sennheiser HD800 were the load. With instant proof of life, all was peachy.

Here we see the live display confirming input selection, sample rate and data format. This temporarily changes to numerical volume as you make changes between 00-60. With a blue power LED, orange pre-out defeat and red display, it's all a bit of a mixed colour message. To compensate, there is multistage display dim and off. With the display extinguished, not even volume adjustments or input switching revive it. Off really does mean off.