SMSL SH-9 Amp Reviews Compendium

Compendium Updated February, 24th 2021

As reviews for the SMSL SH-9 THX AAA-888 Balanced Headphone Amp start getting published, we will be reading and compiling them all right here for you, so you can get the latest influencer opinions all in one easy-to-read spot. You can get the link to the original posting in the headline for each article; otherwise, some reviews have been edited for conciseness and clarity. Enjoy!


Audio Science Review’s piece on the SMSL SH-9 Amp, originally posted on Novevember 13th, 2020

"The market for high performance headphone amplifiers has become quite crowded but SH-9 sets itself apart with a gorgeous digital display and volume control.

"A 256-step attenuator using resistor ladder implements volume control which should result in perfect channel matching (see measurement later).

"SMSL SH-9 Measurements

"As usual, we measure the unity gain of the unit with feeding it 4 volts and getting 4 volts out. The low gain mode is 0 dB which makes this task easy:

SMSL SH-9 Measurements.png

"This is superb performance and provably transparent to the source. Ranking is way up there:

best headphone amp.png

"Noise performance is excellent as well:

SMSL SH-9 Measurements SNR.png

"The SMSL SH-9 Joins other instrument grade, ultra-fidelity headphone camp. It mates nicely to its DAC sibling, the SMSL SU-9. It has an attractive, high contrast high resolution display with accurate digital volume control. The cost is also quite attractive. Misses are few which is lower power due to lack of balanced output, soft control buttons, and slow volume control.
"I love differentiation without sacrificing performance which SMSL SH-9 brings. I am happy to put the SH-9 on my recommended list."


Headfonics’s review of the SMSL SH-9, originally posted on November 28th, 2020

"On paper, the SH-9 may seem to have a very similar set of specs with the cheaper SMSL SP200 and it does lack a pre-amp but it does have quite a few excellent things going for it.
"The SH-9 had much better volume control that gives it perfect volume matching down to the lowest setting. It also has a remote control and a chassis that will make it a perfect complement to the SU-9. The noise floor is excellent on that THX amp with an incredibly smooth yet linear signal.
"Most of all, it has excellent power so ideal for a lot of headphone users out there. Even IEMs will work just fine with very little noise.
"With an updated set of features and a refined overall sound, I can see why the SH-9 would make a great amplifier for any desktop, especially ones that are already rocking a SU-9 DAC."


Max Setting’s video review of the SMSL SH-9, originally posted to YouTube on Nov. 30, 2020

"With the SH-9, if you do want a very analytical sounding amplifier and you're willing to live with the somewhat smeared and compressed microdynamics, which is what I said that the SP200 sounds like because THX amps tend to have a little bit of smeared microdynamics in my experience, then this is a very solid pick. I do like it — the SH-9 is a solid pick for a THX amplifier and it gets my recommendation."


Currawong’s video review of the SMSL SH-9, originally posted to YouTube on Nov. 30, 2020.

"It doesn't quite have the clean clear sound, has a little bit more of a kind of warm euphonic sound about it, but overall you can hear the better dynamics out of that kind of amp, even the higher priced THX 789 from Drop has a little bit better dynamics in that regard. It doesn't quite sound quite so flat as some of the AAA amps can sound and I guess because it has a better power supply. You can also buy an external power supply for it (something you can't do from these smaller amps), so in the end if you know you really like it and it really appeals to you to have an amp with excellent measurements, do be warned that it doesn't necessarily translate to excellent performance. There's just a limit to how much performance you can get out of something this small and this is why larger amps have much bigger power supplies. It is just simply you can't beat more comprehensively designed technology."


Soundnews’ video review of the SMSL SH-9, originally posted to YouTube on Nov. 30, 2020.

"As for the conclusions, most of the things I had to say about the Benchmark HPA4 in its dedicated review, can be said about the SMSL SH-9 as well. In terms of value, SH-9 just outperformed the awesome sounding TOPPING A90. It really deserves my highest recommendation, especially if you like undistorted and uncolored sound."

Soundnews’ written review of the SMSL SH-9, originally posted on Dec. 1, 2020

"I can’t complain much about the SMSL SH-9 performance, but I can tell plenty of things I liked about it. It carries the highest performing THX-AAA-888 modules, some of the best relay-controlled volume pots, it offers plenty of power even for the most demanding headphones. Thanks to its noiseless background, it worked equally well with über-sensitive IEMs as well as hard to drive planar-magnetics. Its bright LCD screen and remote control are coming in handy when using it in a bedroom setup. Most things I’ve said about the Benchmark HPA4 in its review, can be said about the SMSL SH-9, it is really that close. In terms of value, SH-9 just outperformed that awesome sounding Topping A90. It really deserves my highest recommendation if you like your music undistorted and uncolored. I will be awarding it our highest Gold Award, as I don’t think you can do better, especially at this price point."


Editor's note: emphases ours.