Following the recent Topping A90 giveaway, Apos Audio are happy to announce that they are hosting a new giveaway of the SMSL SU-9 balanced DAC! The SU-9 retails for $429 USD and is the 5th best-measuring DAC (SINAD) on amirm’s Audio Science Review portfolio.
You can enter the giveaway hereand see amirm’s review here. The winner will be chosen by random on Dec 1st. Best of luck to all entrants!
MQA decoding: Yes
DAC: Flagship ES9038PRO DAC
Highest Bitrate Support: 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512
Bluetooth Codecs: LDAC, APTX/ HD, SBC, AAC, 24-bit/192kHz
It’s an exciting time to be shopping for a new headphone amplifier or DAC setup in tome for the upcoming holidays! Following the SU-9, SMSL are proud to announce the SH-9 amplifier to play complement. On the DAC side, Gustard follow up on their successful A18 with the X16, now featuring the latest dual ESS Sabre ES9068S DAC chips, the new flagship (succeeding the 9038 line) for the company with native MQA rendering. Let’s take a first look.
The SH-9 arrives two years after the SH-8 before it. It aims to fix issues with its predecessor and further improve performance in a small, desktop-friendly footprint. Those familiar with the SU-9 that we recently reviewed here, will find a similarly modern design here with similar dimensions for stacking and high-res colour screen enabling smart GUI front and centre. It remains a balanced amplifier design, utilising the renowned AAA-888 amp chips, the most exceptionally measuring and sophisticated design from THX yet. Though independent measurements of the SH-9 are yet to surface as of the post date of this article, earlier designs such as the SMSL SP200 with the same chip have offered reference-grade performance in measurements and a healthy step up from the immensely popular THX-789. It also appears SMSL know how to implement this chip well as the SH-9 looks to offer slightly higher measurable performance at the same price point in addition to offering a more modern design and interface. Expect a review on THL in the coming week!
The SH-9 launches at $289.99 USD. For purchase and specifications, please see the product page on Apos Audio (affiliate). Apos Audio are also including both the SU-9 and SH-9 in a bundle on their ensemble program at a discounted price here.
Gustard X-16 DAC
Gustard is a relatively new name in audio, but have certainly garnered a cult following for their cost-effective implementations of flagship hardware. In particular, their previous model, the A18, was one of the best measuring DACs of all times, implementing AKM’s AK4499 chipset. The X16 is their latest model using two of ESS’ latest flagship DAC chips, the ES9068S. In turn, it offers native MQA rendering and seeks to offer summit-fi performance at a mid-range price. Initial independent measurements suggest this may indeed be the case, as the DAC currently holds the 2nd place on Amirm’s DAC SINAD list with the highest place being occupied by a substantially pricier model. It bundles this performance with an OLED display and modern GUI in addition to BT 5.0 support and wide connectivity options.
The X-16 is available for $499.99 USD. For purchase and specifications please see the product page on Apos Audio (affiliate).
Apos Audio is proud to announce they are now an authorised reseller for Ultimate Ears! If you’ve dabbled in the audio hobby in the past few years, you’d certainly have heard of the Californian company. They’ve had some sensational hits like the UE Reference and UE18+ that remain staple recommendations today. As always, Apos are offering an extended 2-year warranty, free returns and a 30-day lowest price guarantee.
You can browse Apos Audio’s UE collection here and read an excerpt about the company below:
Ultimate Ears has a legendary origin story. Founded in California during the mid-90s by the husband-and-wife team of Jerry and Mindy Harvey, Jerry Harvey was working as the principal sound engineer for Van Halen. Harvey was tasked with creating an earpiece for Alex Van Halen that would filter out unwanted stage noise during live performances and instead concentrate on the desired sounds that the drummer wanted (and needed) in order to play with the band. That initial creation for Van Halen spread by word-of-mouth and eventually became a line of bespoke In-Ear Monitors that would grace the ears of Paul McCartney to Coldplay, or The Rolling Stones to Faith Hill.
The Darkvoice 336SE is an affordable tube amplifier designed to provide clear sound and amplification. It has enough power for high impedance headphones and hot-swappable tube slots to adjust the sound to listener preference. Apos are currently running a sale of the Darkvoice, at just $259.99 USD, making it the cheapest price this AMP has been available for online!
You can read more about the 336SE and treat yourself to one on Apos Audio (affiliate)
Dimensions: 300 x 152 x 280 mm
Impedance: 32 ~ 600 Ohms
Signal-to-noise ratio: > 100 dB
Power handling capacity: 1 W
Distortion: < 2%
Output: 1/4 in (6.3 mm) stereo jack, RCA jack for pre-amp
To celebrate the holiday season, Apos Audio is giving away a Topping A90. This is Topping’s current flagship amplifier retailing for $499 USD, and the 2nd best-measuring AMP (SNR) on amirm’s Audio Science Review portfolio.
You can enter the giveaway hereand see amirm’s review here. Best of luck to all entrants!
Outputs: 4pin XLR, 4.4mm Balanced, 6.35mm Single Ended ports
NFCA Modules (Nested Feedback Composite Amplifier
Ultra-Low Noise of 0.2uV
Dynamic Range of 145dB
Can drive sensitive IEMs to power demanding headphones
Amp and Pre-Amp performance numbers provided in the images
Topping’s high-end DAC, the D70, features dual AK4497 DAC chips and full balanced support. Audio Science Review ranks it as one of the best measuring DACs on the market especially when it comes to noise floor and dynamic range. Apos Audio is currently hosting a sale that brings the price from $499.99 down to $419.99, the lowest price recorded online yet!
You can read more about the D70 and treat yourself to one on Apos Audio (affiliate).
Apos recently announced their ensemble combination deals where buyers can earn savings on bundled products. Apos also curate bundles to provide the best experience. They welcome Hifiman into this collaboration in addition to the extended 2 year warranty, free returns policy and 30-day lowest price match guarantee usually enjoyed from their store.
We’re all likely familiar with Fiio by now. The company has achieved unanimous recognition around the globe for their products that balance features and affordability. The value offered by their source devices, in particular, was reinforced when they adopted THX’s AAA amplifier circuits that boosted efficiency and measurable performance. The Q3 is their latest portable DAC/AMP featuring this innovation. Design-wise, it clearly takes a page out of the Q1 MKII’s book with a similar albeit elongated housing.
At its heart lies an AKM AK4462 DAC chip and XMOS XUF208 usb-decoder that enables file support up to 32-bit, 768kHz alongside DSD512. With an efficient THX amp chip, the Q3 offers a whopping 19hrs of runtime. It also features a flexible 3 outputs up from the Q1 MKII’s dual outputs – with 3.5mm, 2.5mm balanced and 4.4mm balanced too. The effective pure hardware bass-boost makes a return too for those wanting a punchier listening experience.
The Q3 comes in at a reasonable $150 USD and looks to be very fully-featured considering. You can read all about the Q3 and secure pre-order for yourself on Apos Audio. Specs below:
Audio Input: USB Type C
Channel Balance: ≤0.2dB
Battery Capacity: 1800mAh
Charging Time: ≤2 hours
Native DSD Supported: 64/128/256/512
Max sampling rate supported: 32-bit/768kHz
Dimensions:: 4.1 x 2.3 x 0.49” (105 x 59 x 12.5mm)
Topping has been hitting it out of the park with their latest releases that piggybacked on their very impressive NFCA amp modules that enable excellent measurable performance. Most impressively perhaps is that the company has transplanted this technology into their affordable offerings; we recently took a look at the entry-level L30 and found it to be one of the most competitive designs on the market in its price point. What it lacked was balanced output, input flexibility and, to some extent, soundstage expansion.
The new A50s look to address this, the successor to the A50 and, as one would expect, an all-around improvement at the same price point. It brings a higher 143dB SNR as opposed to the A50’s 123dB, and THD of just 0.0007% down from 0.004%. Implementing Topping’s renowned NFCA amp modules as seen on the flagship A90 and more recent L30, the A50s offers 3.5W x2 into a 32-ohm load, leaving plenty of headroom for high-impedance headphones.
In addition, it offers the same 0.1-ohm impedance and < 0.3uVrms noise floor of the L30, promising a black background and linear signature on even the most sensitive low-impedance multi-driver earphones. The A50s is also a balanced design with 4.4mm output in addition to a traditional 1/4″ single-ended output. It doesn’t support XLR in any manifestation, however.
The A50s is shaping up to be another promising offering from the company and will be available soon at $199 USD from Apos Audio. As always, look forward to a full in-depth review on THL soon!
THL welcomes the Apos Ensemble, a new initiative that simplifies the buying process and gives customers savings on bundled orders. Each bundle includes a DAC, AMP and headphone curated by Apos’ audio team to play in harmony together. Furthermore, the pricing represents a good saving over purchasing each product separately.
At present, Apos are offering bundles with the immensely popular Topping 30-series and 90-series devices alongside the SMSL 200-series. Taking a look at the 30-series bundle to highlight the savings buyers can expect, Apos are offering the E30 DAC + L30 Amp with Dan Clark Audio’s renowned Aeon 2 Closed for just $1049.99 representing over a $100 USD discount.
You can view Apos Audio’s full Ensemble range here.