SMSL Sanskrit 10 Mk2: Great little brick

Submitted on: 04 Jun 23

Website Address:

Category: Digital recorders/players

Website Rating:

Author's Description:

After the excellent Loxjie D10 converter, I acquired the next “Chinese” one – the S.M.S.L Sanskrit 10th Mk2.

Although it has nothing to do with it, I noticed that Chinese manufacturers give their companies names that are probably very logical for them but completely illogical for us, at least for me. The Japanese did it differently, mostly – Sony, Kenwood, Pioneer… long ago concluded that the name should be easy to remember and pronounce for Western customers if they want to enter that market.

But the Chinese, obviously, don’t think so – examples are Loxjie (otherwise a subsidiary of SMSL), as well as the aforementioned S.M.S.L. I really couldn’t figure out whether or not there’s a dot after the “L”; everywhere it’s shown as if there isn’t, but I don’t know if that’s just part of the company’s logo or if the “L” is added for no reason. And what does S.M.S.L actually mean? I’ll write it because I found it, but if you ever meet me, don’t ask me – there’s no chance I’ll remember.

So, S.M.S.L stands for Foshan ShuangMuSanLin Electronics and is located in Shenzhen, China. Simple, isn’t it?

The company was founded in 2009, and it somehow seems to me that it has come a long way since then, a decade and a half isn’t much but it’s not little either. I remember a few years ago I wanted to buy one of their older DACs, but I found bad experiences on the Internet and gave up.

The other day I looked at the company’s portfolio and was amazed. In the catalog at the moment they have:

29 DACs (!!!)
19 amplifiers…
12 headphone amplifiers
2 media players

Incredible effort has been made because the DACs differ from each other, it’s not exclusively based on the principle of “here we put one more button, this one has Bluetooth, this one has a screen and this one doesn’t, this one has a remote or even smaller differences” but they differ structurally as well, although there are similarities. So it’s not one DAC in 15 variants, different chips are used, delta sigma and R2R…

I also remember that during the period when I worked for Hi-Files (2006-2012), I didn’t encounter a single Chinese device that didn’t have a clear obvious or hidden flaw. Since then, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge and the Chinese have learned the craft well.

Honestly, I think that today there is a small part of manufacturers on the market who don’t “rip off” customers of HiFi components, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to earn for a new, honest device. It seems to me that Chinese companies remain one of the few that offer a lot for the price of the product and that their devices are very honest. In my opinion, they are now young stars, no longer on the rise, but young, yet mature.

I’ve bored you enough with my thoughts, let me return to the small DAC. Its successor Mk3 is now in play, although Mk2 is still in the official catalog.

Small metal brick made of cast aluminum is crafted perfectly precise and delicate. On the front, there’s only one button, intended for power on/off and selecting the active input. The device displays its status on an LED screen upon startup. There are two mentioned, but only one is active. In S.M.S.L, they came up with the idea to incorporate a gravity sensor, so the display rotates depending on whether the DAC is standing vertically or horizontally. In fact, in some positions, the second display activates. Phenomenal.

Alongside the DAC, simple adhesive silicone feet and a remote control are included for adjusting the active input, volume, display, and filters. It’s simple but very well-made.

Both the component and the remote control are crafted far better than I would expect for this price category – on our market, it was around 130 EUR for a new unit at the time I bought it.

At the back are single-ended outputs (RCA), gold-plated and sturdy, and there are 3 digital inputs – optical, coaxial, and USB, which also serves as the power source at the same time. If optical or RCA inputs are used, then the power is supplied through the second micro USB input. Without going into details, it doesn’t matter whether you connect the power to one or the other USB input, only one doesn’t have a data line, and that’s the difference. When connected to a computer, you won’t be able to use external power, which is a shame. I couldn’t do it.

Inside, there’s an XMOS chip as the USB interface for which the software was developed by the German company Thesycon Systemsoftware. It supports resolutions up to 32 bits and 768 kHz, which is commendable, as well as DSD decoding up to DSD256 and DoP. The DAC chip is based on the very advanced Asahi Kasei AK4493EQ chip, followed by an output based on one operational amplifier. Interestingly, the operational amplifier has no markings on it.

I also noticed Nichicon FW electrolytic capacitors, intended for audio applications. Nice, unlike some hyped Western manufacturers who cram anything and everything just to last until the warranty expires (NAD in many of their devices, Harman/Kardon, etc.).

For 130 EUR, the construction of this device is incredibly good and a great example.


The sound

In practice, the Sanskrit 10th Mk2 proved to be 100% reliable on S/PDIF inputs, while it glitched on the USB input (there was no sound) twice during a month of testing, but I admit I was playing with the audio outputs of the computer and tormenting it. There were no problems in normal operation.

I’ve already mentioned that the build quality is excellent, I could even say exceptional, considering what the buyer gets, but what about the sound?

Well, that’s what I actually liked the most! First, I would say it’s unobtrusive and not sharp, but the details are very good, it seems to me that they surpass the price category of the cheapest DACs up to 150 EUR and even up to 500 EUR. Everything is there: decent dynamics, excellent musicality, uniformity of the soundstage, width. For this money, there are no complaints, and I noticed the consistency of the sound on S/PDIF and USB inputs, so it doesn’t matter which source you use – Sanskrit is just as good via a computer as it is via a CD or media player.

I compared it with my standard source – the Sony HAP-Z1ES server (which costed around 2,000 EUR before prices went crazy, today it’s at least double), using the server as the source of the digital signal via USB connection. The Sanskrit 10th Mk2 performed well – with great micro-details and a good soundstage width. However, when I played the sound directly from the HAP-Z1ES, the PRAT factor was incomparable – the singer’s voice somehow came into focus and became more natural and present, and the bass became much stronger and more impactful. The little Sanskrit is not a worthy replacement for the DAC section of Sony but it’s not intended for that.

With the Yamaha NP-S303, the situation was different: I personally believe that many manufacturers have found cheap solutions for almost perfect transmission of digital audio signals, so they are now focusing on DAC and power supply sections, as well as options. One example is the mentioned NP-S303: great options, modest display, but with a good universal Yamaha MusiCast application, clean but sharp sound that I don’t like. The Sanskrit DAC transforms it into a respectable audio source, providing much of what it lacks. Great synergy for little money – about 280 EUR (used Yamaha and new Sanskrit, you can find used ones a bit cheaper).

The soft sound of the Sanskrit and its very decent musicality contribute to its tolerance for cheaper productions.


For my taste, a great device that not only justifies the price it costs but is completely incredible for that money. Not only is the build quality great: simple construction, precision craftsmanship, quality remote, but the sound is equally fascinating in the price category. If I weren’t obsessed with HiFi, I could live with this DAC in my desktop system. Music for the masses, keep it up! Bravo to S.M.S.L!


Comments are closed.