Note: This article is based upon the video "The Legacy Continues _(Z Reviews)_ SMSL SU-8s & SH-8s” made by Z Reviews on his YouTube channel and is printed here in partnership with Z Reviews. The review was originally posted on August 6th, 2021. Edits have been made for clarity and length.
We sent Zeos the SMSL SH-8s desktop amp and SU-8s DAC for review.
“That,” he said, tapping the SH-8s amplifier, “is great. For what it does. For how much it costs.”
Check out the full video below or scroll on for some written highlights.
Zeos begins his review of the SU-8s/SH-8s by testing the noise floor of the stack with the “stethoscope of the audio world,” the Dunu Zen IEMs. He puts the unit on low gain and maxes the volume out. “Not a peep,” he says. On high gain, on the other hand, he hears a little bit of hiss when the volume is maxed. “But the fact that I have to crank it all the way up and I’m only getting a slight background hiss means it’s clean.”
The amplifier is “dirt simple,” he says before touring the unit’s minimal back plate. The DAC, on the other hand, is “slightly more complicated.” Its back plate features a power cable, bluetooth antenna, fiber optic, USB, coax, and RCA and XLR outputs. The menu is quite extensive “for such a relatively entry-level DAC.” It features input selection, output selection, inverted xlr and rca phasing, PCM filters, SPDIF mode, sound color modes, preamp mode, function key, DPLL, a dimmer, and brightness.
He tests the amp with the Drop x Sennheiser 8XX and a pair of Apos Flow Cables. After a few moments of listening, he removes the headphones and taps the amp twice. “That’s great. For what it does. For how much it costs.” In the price range, he says, the amp destroys the competition in terms of power.
“There’s nothing negative to say” he says. “There’s no weird quirks with the amp, except for maybe the volume jumps a little bit from off the bottom.”
He likes the SU-8s and SH-8s so much that he questions why the SU-9 and SH-9, the more expensive SMSL stack, even exists. “They’ve got basically the same inputs and outputs [...] and I don’t think those have more power.”
He likes the SU-8s’ remote control, especially because it allows the SU-8s to be used in home entertainment setups. He recommends that anyone interested in buying a sound bar for their TV buy an SU-8s and powered monitors instead. “You get your [SU-8s] remote, you turn it up, you turn it off and on, you raise the volume up and down [...] you’re done.”
In conclusion, Zeos says that although he’s not “super excited” about the SU-8s and SH-8s, “they work absolutely as well as you think they do.”
Overall, he finds more value in the amplifier than the DAC. The amplifier is clean. “It’s A90 clean. This is starting to compete with anything in the TOPPING range. [...] And for $250, that’s a good buy.” The DAC, on the other hand, he finds a little bit expensive. “$360 is not cheap. [...] If you’re just looking for a pure desktop DAC with a balanced out [and simple features], there are cheaper options.”