SOtM sMS-200 Mini Network Player and SOtM mBPS-d2s Intelligent Battery Power Supply

sMS-200
Device Type: Network Player
Input: RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet
Input: 2 USB 2.0 ports for External USB Storage Device
Output: USB 2.0 High End Audio Grade
Power Requirement: 6.5~ 14.5 Volt DC
Dimensions (H x W x D): 53mm X 106mm X 152mm
Weight: 1.5 Kg
Availability: Direct
Price: $450.00 with 9-volt power supply
Website: www.sotm-audio.com

mBPS-d2s
Device Type: Battery Power Supply
Input Recharger Power Supply: SMPS with 5.5mm x 2.5mm DC barrel connector
Output: 6-9 volt DC, 1.5 A
Output Connector: 5.5mm x 2.5mm DC barrel connector
Dimensions (H x W x D): 48mm X 105mm X 150mm
Weight: 1.5 Kg
Availability: Direct
Price: $450.00 with UP-OCC copper DC cable (.3m length) and external 9 volt supply; silver DC cable adds $100
Website: www.sotm-audio.com

The SOtM sMS-200 is SOtM’s 2nd generation mini network player replacing the previous sMS-100 model. The sMS-200 offers the following features:

  • A dedicated ARM processor board specifically developed for audio use only.
  • Dual Core AMD chip
  • 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • Micro SD slot for Linux Operating System
  • Ultra-Low Jitter Clock
  • Ultra-Low Noise Regulator
  • Active Noise Canceller
  • Audio grade USB output port
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports for external USB storage devices
  • Use of Optional WiFi Module (not provided)
  • File Support: 32-bit/384KHz max, DSD64, DSD128, DSD256
  • Native DSD Support (only with certain DACs)
  • Software Specifications:
    • Roon Ready Endpoint
    • SqueezeLite
    • MPD/DLNA Audio Renderer
    • HQPlayer NAA
    • Shairport

SOtM has developed an ARM board for the sMS-200 and their own Linux software called Eunhasu, which means Milky Way in Korean. The sMS-200 has an attractive case with all connections made at the rear of the device. The soft footers add stability to the small sMS-200. There are two LED indicators on the front panel that indicate power and network activity. The rear panel has the Ethernet input, audio-grade USB 2.0 output, 2 USB 2.0 inputs for external USB storage devices, a reset button, a microSD card, and the DC power input. I also noticed at the Ethernet input LEDs that indicate network activity.

But what is the advantage for the audiophile to use a network player like the sMS-200? Given that computers are electrically noisy devices, the mini network player allows another computer or NAS to do the heavy computing, thus allowing a minimalist device to be connected directly to one’s DAC via USB. The hardware and software of the sMS-200 are optimized for audio use only, resulting in a theoretically ideal input source for a USB DAC.

The SOtM sMS-200 comes with its own 9-volt SMPS wall-wart power supply. While this power supply does allow the sMS-200 to properly function, superior sound can be obtained by using a good quality battery or linear power supply.

Setting Up the sMS-200
The sMS-200 is a highly versatile and easy-to-use device that should have a wide appeal. Given that the sMS-200 is a Roon Ready device, it was immediately recognized by my Roon Core when connected to my network. The Eunhasu software allowed me to activate the Roon option and automatically recognized my Ayre Acoustics QX-5 Twenty DAC.

A number of other playback options are available from the excellent software, including Squeezelite, which works with the Logitech Media Server and incorporates services such as Tidal. When a USB storage device is directly connected to the sMS-200, MPD and DLNA support allows it to work as a network server. Further, the sMS-200 can be controlled by DLNA software like Linn’s Kazoo. One could also use JRiver Media Center as a server from another computer on the network. The excellent Signalyst HQPlayer can stream from another computer to the sMS-200 or can be combined with Roon for a superb audio interface. Even Apple’s Shairport can be used to stream 16-bit/48KHz files.

The Eunhasu software allows a number of other options such as updating itself or setting up NAS (Network Assisted Storage). To access the software, one just has to type http://eunhasu/ in a browser or http://eunhasu.local for iOS.

mBPS-d2s Intelligent Battery Power Supply
Features:

  • Dual battery Power Supply
  • Ultra-Low Noise Regulator
  • Automatic Charging to Maintain Battery Power
  • LEDs Indicate Operating Status

While acceptable sound quality can be achieved from the sMS-200 with the supplied SMPS 9v DC source, I highly recommend using a higher quality 9v source. The SOtM mBPS-d2s Intelligent Battery Power Supply has two batteries that allow one battery to provide power while the other battery is being charged. The mBPS-d2S switches between these functions automatically. The battery power supply is fed by an external 9v DC power supply. There are dual LEDs on the front panel to indicate output status, charge status, and low-battery status for each battery. The main unit has an on/off switch that SOtM recommends be turned off when not in use.

The mBPS-d2 offers protection from input overcurrent, output short, battery overvoltage, and battery undervoltage. The SOtM uses a Samsung or LG 18650 Li-ion battery pack with an initial impedance of under 100 mohm.

Associated Components
For the evaluation of the sMS-200 and the mBPS-d2s, I used my Asus G701VI laptop running Windows 10 Pro 64 with the AudiophileOptimizer. The Asus G701VI possesses an over-clockable Intel Core i7 6820HK processor with 32GB DDR4 2400Mhz SDRAM and a very fast PCIe Gen3 X4 NVMe SSD. This laptop has 3 USB 3.0 ports, as well as a Thunderbolt port (USB type- C). An NVIDIA GeoForce GTX1080 with 8GB VRAM processes video. This powerful video processor allows significant CUDA offload processing for the Signalyst HQPlayer. The Asus laptop was plugged into a Shunyata Research Hydra DPC-6 v2 distribution center to firewall the noise generated by this computer from contaminating my AC line.

The Asus was placed on a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base UEF, and both were grounded with the Synergistic Research High Definition Ground Cable / Grounding Block. A G-Technology 16 TB G|RAID Thunderbolt 2 / USB 3 drive was connected to the Asus with an AudioQuest Coffee Thunderbolt cable. The G|RAID Thunderbolt drive was powered by an HDPlex 100w linear power supply plugged into a Shunyata Denali power conditioner. The G|RAID Thunderbolt drive and its HDPlex power supply were placed on a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base.

Music software used for the evaluation of the sMS-200 and the mBPS-d2s was Roon Server.

I used an Ayre Acoustics QX-5 Twenty for the DAC. It was placed on a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base UEF and plugged into a Shunyata Triton v2 / Typhon with a Shunyata Sigma Digital AC cord.

The sMS-200 and the mBPS-d2s were both placed on a Synergistic Tranquility Base with the power supply of the mBPS-d2 plugged into a Shunyata Research DPC-6 v2.

I enjoyed what I heard from the sMS-200 using a .75 meter AudioQuest Diamond USB cable and an AudioQuest RJ/E Ethernet Diamond cable for connection to my network. I also had good results using a .5 meter Wireworld Platinum Starlight 7 USB 2.0 cable for the evaluation of the sMS-200.

Listening to the sMS-200 powered by the mBPS-d2s
The mBPS-d2 that was used for evaluation had the SOtM copper power DC wire for connections to the sMS-200. The sMS-200 booted up very quickly and entering Eunhasu on my iPad Air 2 allowed me to activate Roon. The sMS-200 appeared in Roon Server on my Core Asus computer allowing me to select this as the output device. I was now up and running in a matter of minutes.

The sound quality of this SOtM combination was impressive, with an overall clarity and low noise background that were very apparent. The midrange had a richness and ease that seemed to impart a very natural and unprocessed sound quality to voices and instruments. The overall detail was very good, extending from top to bottom. Bass had good impact and was well defined. I did not hear an overly ripe mid-bass or unnatural warmth to the sound. The soundstage was wide and deep with what I refer to as a “tube-like” bloom and dimensionality. Even though the sMS-200 was very revealing, the overall musical presentation was relaxed. One area that was most impressive was the resolution of micro-transient detail that the Ayre QX-5 Twenty was able to reproduce when using its USB input from the sMS-200.

The Ayre QX-5 Twenty is one of the most revealing DACs I have heard. This DAC has exemplary transient response and superb macro- and micro-dynamic reproduction. The sMS-200 / mBPS-d2 combination allowed the Ayre QX-5 Twenty to shine in terms of its dynamic liveliness.

The overall sonic superiority of the sMS-200 was quite apparent compared to a direct USB connection from my Asus computer to the Ayre DAC. In addition, running AudiophileOptimizer on the Asus Roon Core made a big difference in overall sound quality when driving the sMS-200 through my network.

On the back of the mBPS-d2s is a prominent ground post. I decided to connect it to my Synergistic Research UEF Ground Block. It came as no surprise to me that the use of the Ground Block bumped up the sound quality a notch or two. I heard a wider soundstage and a slightly more open sound to the midrange. The bass definition was also slightly better with the ground connection. May Park from SOtM told me that the ground terminal was designed to improve the sound from the mBPS-d2s and suggested that I try different ground cables to arrive at the best perceived sound for my setup.

The sMS-200 / Ayre QX-5 Twenty combination had no issues playing PCM or DSD over DoP. Unfortunately, I was unable to evaluate the sMS-200’s ability to play native DSD, as the Ayre does not support native DSD.

The sMS-200 has a very wide input voltage range of 6.5 ~ 14.5 Volt DC. The higher voltage is needed if the user desires to plug in an external USB storage device into the sMS-200.

Comparisons of the mBPS-d2s & Other Power Supplies Powering the sMS-200

The UpTone Audio UltraCap™ LPS-1 ($395.00)
Uptone Audio feels that the most important feature of the UltraCap™ LPS-1 is the blockage of AC leakage currents. They also feel that the LPS-1 is superior to battery power supplies due to its speed and ultra-low output impedance over a large bandwidth.

The UltraCap™ LPS-1 set at 7 volts did a great job with sMS-200. I felt that the LPS-1 was more dynamic compared to the mBPS-d2s. Bass transients and deep bass were more realistically reproduced with the LPS-1. The midrange of the LPS-1 had presence that gave it the impression of enhanced clarity. This midrange clarity or presence did have a trace of dryness at times depending on the musical selection.

The mBPS-d2s was a bit more laid back, with less dryness or sheen, in the midrange. When the ground was connected to the Synergistic Research Ground Block, the size of the soundstage was larger than that of the LPS-1. While bass and overall dynamics were very good, they didn’t quite match that heard with the LPS-1. But the midrange of the mBPS-d2s was very engaging, and quite frankly, beautiful to listen to.

The Sonore Signature Series Power Supply ($1399.00)
This expensive, beautifully built power supply spares very little in its use of top-of-the-line components. I reviewed the Signature Series Power Supply in my review of the Sonore microRendu. In that review, I found the Signature Series Power Supply to confirm Sonore’s description:

“Most everything about this power supply is deluxe from the Cardas-Sonore custom DC output cable; custom made footers with Sorbothane isolators, beautiful aluminum case, and many United States sourced parts. The Sonore Signature Power Supply was designed specifically to provide an ultra-low noise and ultra-low impedance supply for the microRendu. The Sonore Signature has a custom ultra-low noise discrete linear regulator, as well as the ability to provide the necessary peak current for the microRendu.”

I found that the Signature Series Power Supply combines the best of both worlds when discussing the midrange sound of this power supply. The midrange purity of the mBPS-d2s and the presence of the UltraCap™ LPS-1 are combined to result in a highly detailed, but “analog” sounding midrange and high end. The Signature Series Power Supply also matches the excellent dynamic sound I heard with the UltraCap™ LPS-1.

In terms of background noise, I found all three power supplies to be indistinguishable from each other.

The Sonore microRendu Audiophile Micro Computer ($640 without power supply)
Both Michael Lavorgna and I were very impressed with the sonic improvements that the microRendu brought to our systems. We found that the microRendu did a fabulous job processing USB audio.

Comparing the sound of the microRendu with the sMS-200 using multiple power supplies, I definitely preferred the sMS-200. The microRendu is not as detailed sounding, or for that matter, as fast sounding as the sMS-200. Both micro- and macro-dynamic changes to the music were more realistically reproduced with the sMS-200. Low bass is better controlled and has greater impact when listening to the sMS-200.

This is not to suggest that the microRendu does not sound good, but if I had to make a choice, I would opt for the sMS-200.

What about USB Enhancement Devices?
The Sonore microRendu has a built-in circuit to regenerate a new USB data signal, which is something the sMS-200 lacks. I find it interesting that SOtM will be offering a product called the tX-USBUltra. SOtM describes the tX-USBUltra as a USB audio signal regenerator combining the SOtM tX-USBhubIN USB audio card with a newly upgraded sCLK-EX clock board. It easily lends itself for use with the sMS-200, but, unfortunately, is not yet available. I was eager to learn whether the UpTone Audio USB REGEN and other USB enhancement devices would make an improvement to what I was hearing with the sMS-200.

The Uptone Audio USB REGEN ($175.00)
For those of you that are not acquainted with the USB REGEN, it is a USB enhancement device that generates a new USB data signal by combining a USB hub chip and an ultra-low noise regulator and low-jitter clock. The USB REGEN also provides a clean 5-volt bus to the DAC. The Ayre QX-5 Twenty that I used in this review does not depend on the 5VBUS from the computer, as it supplies its own power. Both Michael and I have previously reviewed the USB REGEN for AudioStream.

I connected the USB REGEN directly to the Ayre QX-5 Twenty with a Sonore USB Adapter. I also used the UpTone Audio UltraCap™ LPS-1 for the USB REGEN’s power supply and the Sonore DC-4 Power cable to connect the LPS-1 to the REGEN.

I found that the USB REGEN added a small, but easily perceptible improvement to what I was hearing with the sMS-200. I would describe it as improved liquidity to the sound with a lower noise floor. The resolution of low-level information was enhanced with the USB REGEN. It will be interesting to see what improvements the forthcoming tX-USBUltra will offer to the sMS-200.

The iFi Audio Micro iUSB3.0 ($399.00)
I thought it would be fun to try the iFi Audio Micro iUSB3.0 powered by the SOtM mBPS-d2s with the sMS-200 powered by the Sonore Signature Series Power Supply. The iUSB3.0 needs a 9v source, while the Sonore Signature and UltraCap™ LPS-1 can only deliver 7 volts. I obtained the best sonic results with a Wireworld .5m Starlight USB 3.0 cable connected between the sMS-200 and the iUSB3.0. The USB3.0 reclocks and regenerates the USB signal while applying active noise cancellation. I have also previously reviewed the iUSB3.0 and found it to be one of my favorite USB enhancement devices.

Using the Wireworld .5m Platinum Starlight 7 USB cable between the iUSB3.0 and the Ayre QX-5 Twenty, I was able to achieve a liquid and full midrange that sounded positively gorgeous. The bass had more weight than with the previous combinations, yet was punchy, with excellent definition. The soundstage was similar in size to what I had achieved with the USB REGEN.

The Intona Technology USB 2.0 High-Speed Isolator (Industrial Version $348.00)
The Intona Technology USB 2.0 High-Speed Isolator essentially provides galvanic isolation to the USB bus, and re-packets and provides clean power to the USB DAC. Complete isolation of both the data and power lines are achieved, thereby blocking noise from the host computer.

While I liked the Intona when I reviewed it for AudioStream, I found that it didn’t offer much of an improvement to the sound when paired with the sMS-200 and the Ayre QX-5 Twenty. The sound became darker with no improvement in definition or transient detail.

Some of you are going to ask what the point of all of these comparisons was. Many of us have one or more of these USB enhancement devices. I was interested in showing that fine tuning of the sound can be achieved to enhance one’s musical satisfaction. Results are going to vary with whatever particular DAC you are using. But for me, this is the fun of the hobby. For those of us who started the audio hobby with vinyl, it reminds me of trying different cartridges, tonearms, cables, etc. And remember, one can achieve very satisfying results just using the sMS-200 without these add-on devices. But invariably, when discussing USB audio, the question of enhancement devices always comes up.


The Music
The midrange excellence of the SMS-200 when combined with the mBPS-d2s was easily perceived when listening to Julienne Taylor’s When We Are One (96/24). The title was recorded, mixed, and mastered in 96/24, resulting in exemplary sound. Julienne’s voice sounded clear, focused, and rich when heard with the sMS-200 and the mBPS-d2s.

Nathan East’s new recording Reverence (96/24) displayed the ability of the sMS-200 and mBPS-d2s to deliver a lively upbeat sound that was a pleasure to experience. The SOtM combination’s sound was pure and direct with extended treble that did not have a “digital edge.” Voices and instruments were reproduced with good inner detail and resolution. Noah East’s (Nathan’s son) piano rendition of “Over the Rainbow” was engaging, with wonderful reproduction of accompanying instrumental textures.

Conclusion
I feel that the sMS-200 has raised the performance bar of what is possible from a mini network player. When combined with the mBPS-d2s, one can expect engaging musical performances with midrange reproduction that is topnotch. Those of you that own other quality power supplies will find the sMS-200 highly versatile in application given its wide input voltage range. I am happy to report that the audio possibilities available to the computer audiophile have never been better.


Associated Equipment

COMMENTS
Ligetiinspace's picture

This is a thorough, very well-elaborated review. Using the sMS-200 + mBPS-d2s battery PSU myself, and find there's a good deal of inspiration to be drawn from this review in how to further optimize the sound of the sMS-200, and in what context one might assess its potential.

Mr. Plaskin: did you experiment with different playback software and their possible effects on sound quality?

Steven Plaskin's picture

I didn't experiment with different playback software. But I suspect that they would sound different. The review was difficult to do as I had so many comparisons to make. I just didn't want to add another variable.

brucew268's picture

Inquiring minds want to know.

les's picture

Considerably cheaper than the microRendu and better sounding to boot? A downright bargain, then, no?

Thanks for the very thorough review.

ednaz's picture

I had to back up and slow down to keep them all straight.

Unfortunately the two spaces I'm trying to solve for are in a house without ethernet cabling. Every time I see a review of a device like this with only an ethernet connection for streaming, I wonder whether it would work just as well if fed from something like a Netgear wireless to ethernet device.

Steven Plaskin's picture

I use this device an Asus Mediabridge to connect to my WiFi:

ASUS Dual-Band AC1900 Repeater Range Extender Media Bridge Access Point with USB 3.0 (RP-AC68U)

Amazon sells it and more.

This is an example of what you could do. There are others that are less expensive.

tulysses's picture

As info, I've used the Microrendu with a Netgear wireless extender, EX6200, for as long as I have used the Microrendu, and it has worked flawlessly. Never an audio hiccup. Sound quality was so good with the same SOTM battery power supply in this review that I never bothered to look at an alternative setup.

ednaz's picture

I've got a couple options around, including a NetGear unit with four ethernet ports, but didn't know if they performed well enough to keep feeding the streamer. If you were using a bridge, I'm good... that'll let me focus on spending on the DAC and put one of these low cost streamers on it.

Steven Plaskin's picture

In the settings of the product, be sure to set it up as a Mediabridge. This just activates the Ethernet ports and doesn't use the device as a WiFi extender.

snoopy's picture

maybe i'm making a mistake here but i dont think the comparison with the microrendu is fair.if i'm correct the SMS-200 is like a sonic transporter with a kind of MicroRendo. so in this exemple i think the source going thru the MicroRendu was the laptop.it would have been fair with a sonic transporter and MicroRendo no laptop in the way. thanks for all this work

Steven Plaskin's picture

I should amend what I wrote as the sMS-200 can act as a server if a USB drive is attached. The mBPS-d2s battery would have a heck of a time driving the sMS-200 under this situation. The sMS-200 is generally used in a similar fashion as the microRendu.

Steven Plaskin's picture

The sMS-200 is very similar in concept and execution to a microRendu and both were fed on the network from an AudiophileOptimzier Windows 10 64 Pro computer. This allows me to use the HQPlayer for some heavy lifting with DSD conversions for other DACs.

The sMS-200 is not like a SonicTransporter.

mikicasellas's picture

Hello Mr Plaskin,

I just sold my Vega DAC and i am in the hunt...these are my two possible scenarios, could you give a hand here?

SCENARIO #1: I can get a demo T+A DAc8 DSD in $3,100 shipped to Mexico and could sell my mR at $450-500 and my SonicTransporter i5 at $450-500, an get the SOtM sMS-200 instead for 450 + Build a dedicated PC for HQP all files to DSD512. Also i could try the T+A as a preamp and if it succeeds as such i could also sell my Hegel P20.

SCENARIO #2: I can get the HOLO SPRING Level2 for $2019 + SU-1 for $400 all shipped to Mexico, keep my mR and sell my SonicTransporter i5 at $450-500 + Build a dedicated PC for HQP all files to DSD512

Any suggestions?

Thanks so much!!

Miguel

Steven Plaskin's picture

Hi Miguel,

I am sorry to say that I have had limited experience with the HOLO and none with the T+A DACs.

Michael has reviewed both DACs and has a SonicTransporter; something I don't have. Perhaps he can comment on your future purchase.

Given Michael's previous comments on these components, either setup should be excellent sounding.

snoopy's picture

good day Steven

im a bit confused with sms-200, you said it is more or less like a MicroRendu. but let say i dont have a computer can i use the sms-200 with a usb drive directly into a DAC using ROON? OR another way would be using a transporter feeding the sms-200 and then the DAC.not sure where to use it

thanks again for your time

Steven Plaskin's picture

The sMS-200 can be used as a server with external hard drives but it won't run Roon. The SonicTransporter running Roon feeding the sMS-200 over your network would be a better idea.

snoopy's picture

and should i connect the USB drive to the transporter or sms-200?

Thanks again
Charles

Steven Plaskin's picture
Connect the USB drive to the SonicTransporter.
snoopy's picture

Thank you Steven, it would be nice to know how it perform with a proper supply as a server and compare with transporter and Rendu.
i know price wise it's not the same but we are not talking big amount of money here. Maybe another time
Cheers

snoopy's picture

what a mean exaclty is the SMS-200 can work as a server, the MicroRendu can't it needs the transporter. so i feel it is more sensible to it's source. and i think any computer is far from the best source. thanks again Steven for your time

tulysses's picture

As info, Crux Audio, one of two US product sources listed on the main SOtM website, is offering a discount for purchase of the SOtM sMS-200 together with the mBPS-d2s for$780. $120 off the normal $900 total.

https://sotm-usa.com/products/sotm-sms-200-mini-network-player-mbps-d2s-...

Wilson's picture

I'd love to see a video of how this integrates into a hi-fi setup, especially the interface. I'm eager to replace my noisy laptop with an audiophile grade computer, but I'm not sure what all I need to purchase or how one interacts with these computers.

limniscate's picture

I thought the sMS-200 sounded better than the microRendu as well and can't wait for the sMS-200 ultra, sPS-500, and the tX-USB ULtra.

Russ_L's picture

Steve- excellent review but would have been even better if you would have tried the 200 using an iFi wall wart. They have vanishing low noise and only cost $49. Money saved that could be used for Roon.

Russ

Steven Plaskin's picture

Hi Russ,

Michael and I have commented on the iPower in previous reviews. The iPower is most likely better sounding than the D.C. power supply that comes with the sMS-200. I believe that the power supplies discussed in this review are better sounding than the iFi.

But you raised a good point for an affordable upgrade to power the sMS-200.

Thanks

stevebythebay's picture

Though still using a microRendu for my MacMini based Roon server with Berkeley components (Alpha USB D-D box and Ref. 2 DAC), I'm tempted to give this new device a try. As your March review leads me to understand, you've moved on from the microRendu to the sMS-200.

And from what I gather an sMS-200ultra is also in the wings, though I've no clue how this might improve over the current sMS-200.

Any notion what this upcoming "ultra" will do to enhance things? Is this something you'll also be testing in the future?

Steven Plaskin's picture

Hi Steve,

The sMS-200 will add a clock like the one in the tx-USABultra I just reviewed. I will get an sMS-200Ultra as soon as they are released by SOtM ( sometime this month).

I haven't discussed reviewing the sMS-200Ultra with Michael yet, but if I don't review it, I will let you know what I think about the unit.

stevebythebay's picture

I suspect the combination you've reviewed will prove a better sonic solution than the enhanced sMS-200Ultra, or at least a more flexible option.

howardk's picture

Hi Steven,

If using the sMS-200 as a server, can it also directly access Tidal without requiring a computer on the network? If so, how would that be done? I've checked the documentation on the SOtM web site, but it's not always clear.

Thanks

X