Bilbo

Laptop Replacement - SOtM SMS-200 Impressions

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I have recently purchased the SOtM SMS-200 mini network player from Crux Audio as a solution for my digital audio system. 

https://www.cruxaudio.com/sotm-sms-200-mini-network-player-107.html


For the past couple of years I have used an ASUS laptop with an external USB hard drive connected to my DAC via USB.  With the laptop running JRiver and using JRemote on an iPad I was reasonably happy with the sound though I was aware of many other alternatives to get my files from the hard drive to my DAC.  I have read with great interest the thread on "Building the Ideal(ish) Music Server" (a brilliant thread by the way) and other pertinent threads on Mini Macs etc, but my primary objective was to replace the laptop with something better AND keep the system as simple as possible all for a reasonable price.  Due to the rapid development in digital audio I sat on the sidelines in the belief that whatever I bought would be bettered/obsolete within a short time frame but on the release of the SOtm SMS-200 I bit the bullet and purchased one.

 

My setup now consists of the same (self powered) external 3Tb USB hard drive connected to the SMS-200 which outputs via USB to my Auralic Vega DAC.  The SMS-200 connects to my router via ethernet (Cat6) to allow access to the "Eunhasu" operating system on the SMS-200 using any web browser.  ("Eunhasu" is an operating system developed in house by SOtM Audio based on a stripped down Linux core).  The big difference to the Micro Rendu (which was also on my short list) is that the SMS-200 can operate without any other server on the network.  This appealed to me as I didn't want to run any server based system, in line with my preference for simplicity.  The lower price of the SMS-200 was also appealing as all the other alternatives appeared to be more expensive especially when you add in the required software.

 

The SMS-200 can provide a Roon endpoint as well as a HQPlayer renderer, however these both require a separate server to function as well as more software/subscription costs.  The other options are to use it as a Squeezebox/LMS player or MPD/DLNA player.  These two options only require a app loaded on your iPad to control the selected player on the SMS-200 and access the library on the hard drive.  I am using the MPD option with "Soundirok" as the controller/player.  I tried MPaD and Linns' Kinsky but find Soundirok a better interface for my purposes.  I have also tried iPeng using the Squeezebox/LMS option which gives access to Tidal and Spotify etc but I don't use these services so I continue to use Soundirok and MPD.  (I also use a 12V Optima 75AHr AGM battery as the power supply for the SMS-200, external hard drive and Tortuga preamp which sounds better than any LPS I have yet tried).

 

So how does it sound?  Absolutely fantastic!

I could not believe the improvement this little $650 box has brought to my system.  It completely destroys the laptops performance and I have spent far too many nights listening into the wee hours, as I just can't stop listening.  Every facet of the sound has markedly improved including (but not limited to) clarity, detail, dynamics, image, soundstage, timbre and sheer involvement.  Now I was so thoroughly impressed with it that I invited a friend over who uses a highly modified CAPS type PC (with SOtM PCI card) on what anyone would consider a reference quality system.  He was so impressed that he bought one himself.  He reports that it sounds better than his (expensive) CAPS unit and is mightily impressed. 

 

So for those looking for superb sound with simplicity in a digital front end take a very close look at the SOtM SMS-200.  Bang for buck you would be hard pressed to do better.

http://www.sotm-audio.com/sotmwp/english/portfolio-item/sms-200/

 

System Setup: SOtM SMS-200 (+ external hard drive + iPad),  Auralic Vega DAC,  Tortuga LDR Preamp,  Sanders Magtech Power Amp,  Magneplanar 1.7 Speakers,  Rythmik Audio F12SE subwoofers.

 

 

SMS200.JPG

Edited by Bilbo
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Has anyone else got one yet?

If so, what are your impressions?

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hey there @Bilbo yes i recently got the sms-200 with the battery power option as a package deal from Crux, have to say i have the same impressions as you

firstly i just want to say that Kamal @Crux Audio was fantastic, he went above and beyond to get it to me prior to Xmas and has been on hand to help me get it set up exactly how i want it

i have taken the roon ready route through Eunhasu, i subscribe to Tidal so it made sense plus all my own music is now in the roon software, a neat solution for me

as for the sound, agreed, fantastic, a definite upgrade from the Macbook i was using, improved clarity, detail etc etc but i guess what im noticing the most is what seems to be not there, its like there was background distortion that i never noticed was there, is now gone with the sms-200

very impressed so far!!

 

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@muznuts

I thought I was the only one there for a moment.

 

What do you mean when you say "taken the room ready route through Eunhasu"?  I assume you have selected the Roon mode but could you describe your signal path to the DAC in this mode please?

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Have been eyeing these off for a while and now that I have Roon it may be the next purchase.

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1 hour ago, Bilbo said:

@muznuts

I thought I was the only one there for a moment.

 

What do you mean when you say "taken the room ready route through Eunhasu"?  I assume you have selected the Roon mode but could you describe your signal path to the DAC in this mode please?

 

yeah sure, i use the roon ready tab in Eunhasu, then use roon installed on the same device (Macbook), goes WiFi from there through the router/modem which is connected to the sms-200 via ethernet cable, then to my dac

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So the Macbook is running Roon  - got it.

 

When I first got the SMS-200 I ran JRiver on the Laptop and played through the SOtM "Zone".

Minimising the setup to just the external hard drive, the SOtM in MPD, controlled by Soundirok on the iPad gives a better sound to my ears.

I found that less is more when you leave out the Laptop entirely.

Cheers

Edited by Bilbo
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the macbook is now effectively just the controller, my external hard drive with all my music is plugged into the sms-200 combined with Tidal in Roon, everything all in one place

 

i reckon it sounds better every listen i have

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Hi Guys,

Just so I'm clear, could help me understand the advantages of this over something like the Aurelic Aries Mini apart from being Roon ready?

& could you connect this to a PS Audio bridge via Ethernet or is USB the only audio output option? I'm also assuming you use a monitor to access the settings or can you do everything via iPhone, iPad etc?

Cheers
Matthew


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Matty

There is a lot of info and comparisons on Computer Audiophile forums.

People compare it to the full Aries and seem to be pretty close in SQ.

USB is the only output but if you have the bridge then you are better off using that.

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8 minutes ago, mattjtaylor2809 said:

Hi Guys,

Just so I'm clear, could help me understand the advantages of this over something like the Aurelic Aries Mini apart from being Roon ready?

& could you connect this to a PS Audio bridge via Ethernet or is USB the only audio output option? I'm also assuming you use a monitor to access the settings or can you do everything via iPhone, iPad etc?

Cheers
Matthew


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

 

The output is only USB to feed a DAC.

I use an iPad to control my unit but it works with an iPhone as well.

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2 minutes ago, bunno77 said:

USB is the only output but if you have the bridge then you are better off using that.

 

@bunno77

I'm not quite sure what you mean regarding the bridge.

Could you please clarify what you mean. :)

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Hi Guys,

Apologies, I've just bought a PS Audio DirectStream Jnr which has their BridgeII integrated into this DAC & you connect up via an Ethernet cable, not USB.

Its Roon ready & apart from lots of noise on my network (about to trial an optical music converter) it works well & is from all reports better SQ that USB.

I am thinking of going down the NAS route but just wanted to better understand this product & whether it could offer advantages over a NAS &/or my Aries Mini setup?


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Yesterday I sat down with a friend and tested the sound of various bits of my setup attached to the SOtM SMS-200 with some surprising results.

 

1)  Hard Drives - We tested 3 Western Digital drives, the Black, Green & Purple (2Tb).

Without doubt the Purple sounds far superior.  The other drives had less dynamics and sounded like the volume had been turned down a fraction.

This surprised me as the difference was not that hard to tell yet I expected no difference at all.  How big a difference blew me away actually.

 

2)  USB Hard Drive Dock - We compared the sound of the Simplecom in my setup picture to an Astone dual drive dock.

The Astone dock was superior with better soundstage, imaging and a muscular bass presentation.

Having detected this difference it would be good to try a few others to see whether further improvement can be achieved with docking stations.

 

3)  12V Power Supply - Having previously tested a few LPS with the single disk dock I initially used, I found that the battery supply (in my initial post) was better.

The sound was more analogue and it was very smooth overall so I stuck with it.

Swapping over to the Astone dock, we found a (DIY 12V) LPS I had, sounded better than the battery supply with greater dynamics and palpability.

Why one dock would sound better with the battery but a different one sounded better with the LPS had us mystified.

 

4)  Attached USB Hard Drive Vs Network Files - I expected the network files pulled off a SATA drive attached to my main PC/Server would sound better than a USB hard drive attached to the SMS-200.  This seemed to be a preference for many at Computer Audiophile.  My expectations were smashed however as the simple setup of attached hard drive and Soundorik app controlling the SMS-200 sounded better than files pulled off the SATA drive with the PC running JRiver and sending it to the SOtM Zone in JRiver.  The network sourced files sounded a bit dull and the soundstage was slightly compressed. Strangely it also sound more digital.

 

So that's the result of yesterday afternoon's testing and I have settled on the changes as noted above.

Suffice it to say The SMS-200 sounds even better than I thought!

 

 

Edited by Bilbo
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If you have a hard drive attahced to the sotm 200 and leave it on permenantly, can other devices access its music files via the network? E.g wifi, ethernet?

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40 minutes ago, cyberkank said:

If you have a hard drive attahced to the sotm 200 and leave it on permenantly, can other devices access its music files via the network? E.g wifi, ethernet?

Sent from my LG-H990 using Tapatalk
 

 

 

Yes.

The attached drive shows up on the network just like any other drive.

In Windows you can map the drive and play the files from any PC on the network.

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@Bilbo just so im clear on your testing above, is point 1) referring to internal hard drives not portable?

thanks

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Great post, thanks@bilbo


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19 hours ago, Bilbo said:

Yesterday I sat down with a friend and tested the sound of various bits of my setup attached to the SOtM SMS-200 with some surprising results.

 

1)  Hard Drives - We tested 3 Western Digital drives, the Black, Green & Purple (2Tb).

Without doubt the Purple sounds far superior.  The other drives had less dynamics and sounded like the volume had been turned down a fraction.

This surprised me as the difference was not that hard to tell yet I expected no difference at all.  How big a difference blew me away actually.

 

2)  USB Hard Drive Dock - We compared the sound of the Simplecom in my setup picture to an Astone dual drive dock.

The Astone dock was superior with better soundstage, imaging and a muscular bass presentation.

Having detected this difference it would be good to try a few others to see whether further improvement can be achieved with docking stations.

 

3)  12V Power Supply - Having previously tested a few LPS with the single disk dock I initially used, I found that the battery supply (in my initial post) was better.

The sound was more analogue and it was very smooth overall so I stuck with it.

Swapping over to the Astone dock, we found a (DIY 12V) LPS I had, sounded better than the battery supply with greater dynamics and palpability.

Why one dock would sound better with the battery but a different one sounded better with the LPS had us mystified.

 

4)  Attached USB Hard Drive Vs Network Files - I expected the network files pulled off a SATA drive attached to my main PC/Server would sound better than a USB hard drive attached to the SMS-200.  This seemed to be a preference for many at Computer Audiophile.  My expectations were smashed however as the simple setup of attached hard drive and Soundorik app controlling the SMS-200 sounded better than files pulled off the SATA drive with the PC running JRiver and sending it to the SOtM Zone in JRiver.  The network sourced files sounded a bit dull and the soundstage was slightly compressed. Strangely it also sound more digital.

 

So that's the result of yesterday afternoon's testing and I have settled on the changes as noted above.

Suffice it to say The SMS-200 sounds even better than I thought!

 

 

 

 

Are there any particular HDD case you use to attach the HDDs to the SoTm 200 via USB? 

 

Note: NVM: It seems like you recommend the Astone Dual Drive Dock. 

Edited by cyberkank

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Interesting results Bilbo.

 

Have you tried streaming from your PC/server using HQ Player to upsample to DSD? I feel that has a small advantage over directly connected HDD to my Snakeoil machine used as a renderer. 

 

I really must try a SMS-200. They seem like a very elegant product.

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3 hours ago, muznuts said:

@Bilbo just so im clear on your testing above, is point 1) referring to internal hard drives not portable?

thanks

 

It's an external hard drive plugged into the Astone dock with it's own power supply.  (See the picture below).

The picture in the initial post shows the drive in the Simplecom dock next to the SMS-200.

The WD Purple I am using is a 3Tb model:  WD30PURX

 

@cyberkank

The Astone Dual Drive Dock is what I use to clone a backup of the drive to another WD30PURX.  It took a long time to rip all my CD's so I don't want to have to do it again!

The Astone was better than the Simplecom but who knows what else is out there.  Given the difference we detected it would be interesting to see what other docks sound like.

My assumption was that the Simplecom is merely a SATA to USB converter and therefore should have less circuitry and hence sound better.  The Astone has cloning built in plus the second drive slot and so I thought this would add to the circuitry as well as noise.  How wrong I was in my thinking!

 

@a.dent

I haven't tried HQ Player so I can't say but it is held in very high regard by many.  I guess my particular bias is to keep things as simple and cheap as possible and so I have not ventured into HQ Player or Roon for that matter for this reason.  I also get a bit tired of buying the latest version of software when there is no audible benefit.

The other consideration is that I have several recordings in different formats and DSD certainly has a particular sound though I'm not sure it is necessarily better.  I did note that DSD playback reduced a bit of sibilance and so could be perceived to be better.  That all changed with the SMS-200 as there is no sibilance.  Tracks that used to make me cringe slightly when a hard high note was hit (particularly by a female singer) no longer present that way.  In fact when my friend came over to hear the SMS-200 we played Shawn Colvin's track "Killing The Blues" as a test track.  He cranked the volume up more than my normal listening level and I started to get ready to cringe on those high hard notes but to my pleasant surprise it didn't happen.  Further listening demonstrated that the problem of sibilance was generated by using a Laptop as player/renderer. This problem disappeared with the SMS-200 and so did the perceived benefit of converting to DSD for a smoother sound.  Please note that USB cables still make a difference even with the SMS-200 and I still use Curious Cables as they sound the best.

 

 

SMS200_B.JPG

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Thank you for the information. What model is that Astone Dock? I see there are lots of models available on their website. 

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@Bilbo Do you know if putting the Uptone Regen in the chain make any difference to the sound?

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2 hours ago, cyberkank said:

Thank you for the information. What model is that Astone Dock? I see there are lots of models available on their website. 

 

It's the Astone DOC250E.

 

@cyberkank

It makes a small difference but using the laptop it made a big difference such that it was part of my previous setup.

With the SMS-200 the Regen sounds a bit "digital" so that's why it sits to the side unused.

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@Bilbo

I think you've convinced me in trying the SOTM-200 out. I have just ordered the same setup (SMS-200 + battery PSU), will be trying it out soon once it arrived. 

Have also taken your advice on purchasing the WD Purple 3TB + Astone dock. Will be interesting to hear the results. 

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