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M500 MKIII: Third SMSL attempt


The M500 MKIII DAC/Headphone Amplifier is introduced, the third iteration of the combo device. The previous one, MKII , was released last year.

The device is still built on the ESS ES9038Pro chip, however, the MKII used only 2 channels (which is strange), and the MKIII used all 8. A new CK-03 jitter suppression module was installed instead of the previous CK-02. The USB interface has been upgraded – it is built on the most modern XMOS XU316 platform (the MKII had XU216). The PLFC headphone amplifier circuit has been improved to use 9 OPA1612A op-amps (the MKII only had three).

The output power is increased to 2 x 2 W at 16 ohms with a total harmonic distortion of no worse than -123 dB and a signal-to-noise ratio of more than 133 dB.


The design of the audio path has been changed – the MKIII uses the latest SDAA Audio architecture, a graphical user interface – also a new SDAA UI. The device is fully certified to support MQA and MQA-CD. Finally, another 4.4 mm headphone output was added to the 6.35 mm headphone output, although the amplifier circuit remained asymmetrical.

This practice of supplying conventional headphone amplifiers with balanced outputs has become commonplace among Chinese manufacturers.

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