Country of Origin



Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Denafrips Terminator+ clock-synced to Gaia reclocker, Avatar CD transport, Soundaware D100Pro SD card transport; Preamp: icOn 4Pro SE; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos; Headamp: Kinki Studio; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Aurai Audio Lieutenant, Audio Physic Codex Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D300Ref SD transport; DAC: Denafrips Terminator; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/80Hz hi-low pass;
Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Dyaudio 18S subwoofer; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win7/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: COS Engineering H1; Headphones: Final D-8000; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 150
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: Soundaware A280 SD transport; Integrated amplifiers: Schiit Jotunheim R, Bakoon AMP-13R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model 1, Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Simon Audio AIO; Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120 + Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: €424 delivered to Ireland

One down, one to go. My wife's evergreen iPod Classic finally froze up solid in its Cambridge dock. That had spit out reliable S/PDIF to a pair of Fram Midi 120 active speakers with DSP engine. One down. What Ivette needed was my Soundaware A280 as a basic SD card transport with coaxial output. One to go. I needed to replace that in my bedside headfi. After option surfing, this s.m.s.l deck had my attention. It does micro SD card playback up to 256GB. WiFi and Bluetooth feature too but both could/would turn off with my allergy to WiFi. It even spits out two flavas of I³S though to guarantee any truly universal DAC handshake would take 48 to handle all possible pin permutations. Vitally, it includes no DAC. I already have one. Also, it does all going files formats/rates and sells inside the EU. If you're of my mind, not ordering from Shenzen, eBay, AliExpress & Bros. can be advantageous. Getting this wrong when you need service can be a fitful of fury. Here very few offshore vendors are as ace as Alvin Chee of Vinshine Audio. What's more, former contributor Glen had reviewed two SMSL machines and found much to like.

Of course my own track record with Soundaware's A280A, D100Pro and D300Ref too is ace. I could have simply ordered in one of their smaller models to be guaranteed familiar very excellent company. In the end curiosity over an alternative won out. I bought an SD-9 from Audiophonics. Was that an ace decision or unwarranted risk which backfired?

A day after my anonymous online transaction, I had 'order processed, submitted for shipping' confirmation. That checked off against the 'in stock' status when I paid. Visiting my on-site account, I could retrieve the tracking number for my French Post shipment. Three days later it had arrived at Ireland's Dublin parcel hub. So far everything was tickety-boo. A bank holiday delayed delivery by one day before the post man rang once. Within ten minutes of unpacking and disabling all network settings, I streamed AES/EBU into a Denafrips Terminator off a micro SD card with high-resolution albeit miniature album covers so actual thumb nails. Soundaware won't display the same embedded .jpg art without a network connection. My only surprise was how diminutive the SD-9 is; as wide as my outstretched hand is long so even smaller than my Schiit for the Raal ribbons. The in-set glass cover with color logo was a nice touch. After syncing the remote by pressing its 'B' button, it did all the expected biz. The only thing missing was a lazy shortcut to set repeat/shuffle/loop modes. For those one dives a few menu layers down. Learn. Adapt. Conquer. The initial SD card content scan was very quick and the display showed total number of folder tracks, file format, resolution and associated meta data. It'll be useless from more than one meter away so anticipates desktop or equivalent use. In my intended headfi use, I'd be close enough. From an industrial design and fit'n'finish perspective versus euro spent, s.m.s.l certainly had Soundaware thoroughly beat. My inner accountant was happy.