SOtM sMS-200ultra Mini Network Player and sPS-500 Power Supply

sMS-200ultra
Device Type: Network Player
Input: RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet, 2 USB 2.0 Ports for external USB storage devices
Output: USB 2.0 High End Audio Grade
Power Requirement: 6.5V ~ 9Vdc (Optional 12Vdc)
External Power Supply: 9V / 2A SMPS supplied with the standard 6.5 ~ 9Vdc model
Dimensions (W x D x H): 48mm X 106mm X 227mm
Weight:1.5 Kg
Price: $1200 with no Master Clock Connection, $1400 With Master Clock Connection Option (Evaluation Unit)

sPS-500 Power Supply
Device Type: Switching-Mode Power Supply
Output: DC copper cable with choice of optional 7N UPOCC copper DC cable or 7N UPOCC silver DC cable
DC Power Output Voltage: Selectable 7Vdc, 9Vdc, 12Vdc, and 19Vdc
Dimensions (H x W x D): 48mm X 106mm X 230mm
Weight: 2 Kg
Price: $500 Includes 30 cm copper DC cable and an AC cord
Choice of optional 7N UPOCC copper DC cable or 7N UPOCC silver DC cable in single cable or Y cable

Availability: Direct / Authorized Dealers
Website: www.sotm-audio.com

The sMS-200ultra Mini Network Player
The Korean audio manufacturer SOtM (Soul of the Music™) has added a new mini network player to their stable of audio devices called the sMS-200ultra. Now some of you are going to ask just how the sMS-200ultra differs from the sMS-200 that I recently reviewed here at AudioStream...

Essentially, the sMS-200ultra is like the sMS-200 with the addition of the sCLK-EX2425 clock board. The tx-USBultra USB enhancement device that I have also reviewed has a sCLK-EX12 board for its internal reference clock. Both the sMs200ultra and the tx-USBultra share a similar black aluminum case that I find to be quite attractive. The sMS-200ultra has 2 LEDs that are found behind the front green indicator bar. The top one indicates network activity while the lower LED displays power. The green indicator bar also serves as a power switch.

The sMS-200ultra offers the following features:

  • Dedicated ARM processor board specifically developed for only audio use
  • Dual Core AMD chip
  • 2 GB 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, DSD512
  • Native DSD Support (only with certain DACs)
  • Software Specifications:
    • Roon Ready Endpoint
    • SqueezeLite
    • MPD/DLNA Audio Renderer
    • HQPlayer NAA
    • Shairport
    • LibreSpot for Spotify
    • MinimServer
    • BubbleUPnP Server
  • Master Clock Connector option to sync the sMS200ultra with an external master clock
  • Front panel power on-off function of indicator bar

I found the Linux OS Eunhasu software to be very stable and easy to use in its most recent versions and identical to that used in the sMS-200. SOtM suggests that one use the Chrome browser when updating the software.

As with the sMS-200, the sMS-200ultra can be used as a server by connecting a USB drive to one of the 2 USB ports provided. It will function as a DLNA renderer.

The purpose of this little computer is to present a less noisy environment to one’s DAC with superior music sound quality as the goal, and hopefully, the ultimate result. The operation of the software for the sMS200ultra and sMS-200 are identical. Please refer to my review of the sMS-200 for operational specifics as I wish to concentrate on the sound quality of the sMS-200ultra and its overall performance in my system.

Associated Components
For the evaluation of the sMS-200ultra and the sPS-500, I used my Asus G701VI laptop running Windows 10 Pro 64 with the AudiophileOptimizer 2.20 beta 5. The Asus G701VI possesses an overclockable Intel Core i7 6820HK processor with 32 GB 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 8 GB 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 grounded with the Synergistic Research High Definition Ground Cable / Grounding Block as was the computer. A G-Technology 20 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 200w linear power supply plugged into a Shunyata Denali 6000T 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-200ultra and the sPS-500 was Roon Server.

I used my Ayre Acoustics QX-5 Twenty for the DAC in this review. 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-200ultra and the sPS-500 were both placed on a Synergistic Tranquility Base with the sPS-500 plugged into a Shunyata Research DPC-6 v2.

USB cables used in this review were Wireworld Platinum Starlight 7 USB 2.0 .5-meter lengths.

The Sonic Experience Using the sMS-200ultra
As with the sMS-200, the sMS-200ultra is sonically sensitive to the power supply used to power it. In fact, I found the sMS-200ultra to be even more sensitive than the sMS-200 in this regard. I initially used my reference power supply for the evaluation; the Sonore Signature Power Supply.

I selected the Roon Ready setting for the sMS-200ultra in Eunhasu with resultant rock-solid connections with my Asus Roon Server Core. The sMA-200ultra handled everything my Ayre QX-5 Twenty was capable of processing including DSD128 and DXD 352.8 files.

I found the sMS-200ultra to be the far more revealing mini network computer when compared to the sMS-200. Fine musical inner details were more easily heard as were high end micro dynamic changes. The sMS-200ultra is superb sounding in its sense of realism and immediacy. As I listened to vocalists, I felt closer to the performer with less of a sense of veiling that was apparent when compared directly to the sMS-200. That says a good deal about the sMS-200ultra as I really liked, and still like, the sMS-200.

The sMS-200ultra can reproduce great rhythmic drive as well as a stunning soundstage that is wide and deep. This mini network computer has a very low distortion signature when used with my Ayre DAC.

I felt that the standard wall wart switching-mode power supply provided by SOtM was musically inadequate for the sMS-200ultra. The sMS-200ultra should be used with a power supply commensurate with the quality of this product. Selection of a fine power supply is paramount for optimum enjoyment of this component, and unsurprisingly, SOtM has a solution in mind with their new sPS-500 Power Supply.

But before we look at the sPS-500, there is one question I am often asked; is a product I am reviewing analog sounding? I felt that the sMS-200ultra enhanced the ability of the Ayre QX-5 Twenty to be analog sounding. Let’s explore this concept a little deeper.

What is Analog?
In Michael Lavorgna’s interview of Charles Hansen, co-founder and Research Director at Ayre Acoustics, Charles stated that he felt that the Ayre QX-5 Twenty came very close to analog sound. But what specifically was he referring to?

Recently, I put my Basis Debut V Vacuum turntable back into use with its Graham Phantom tonearm and Koetsu Jade Platinum cartridge. My vinyl rig had been down for almost 2 years due to home remodeling. I purchased an Ayre P5-xe phono preamp and was delighted with the overall sound I heard from my old vinyl rig.

Many computer audiophiles equate analog sound with a smooth, non-irritating relaxed sound; a sonic quality that early CDs lacked. Many of the DACs I have heard have a smooth dark sound at the top end. But this is not analog-like sound; not when compared to my Basis/Graham/Koetsu vinyl rig.

As I listened to vinyl, I heard detail and micro dynamics at the high end that were simply not perceived with some of the DACs I have previously evaluated. It seems that these DACs were blunting the micro transients. Listening to the Ayre QX-5 Twenty driven by the sMS-200ultra, the high-end darkness I previously referred to was not evident. Also, the overly smooth sound at the high end was also absent. I did find that the QX-5 Twenty was able to reproduce the general type of sound I was hearing with the Basis/Graham/Koetsu setup thanks, in part, to the sMS-200ultra.

sPS-500 Power Supply
The sPS-500 Power Supply is SOtM’s replacement for the mBPS-d2s Intelligent Battery Power Supply that I reviewed back in March. The sPS-500 will be controversial for some audiophiles as it is a Switching-Mode Power Supply (SMPS) design. One very useful feature found in the new sPS-500 is selectable voltage that gives the sPS-500 great versatility. 7Vdc, 9Vdc, 12Vdc and 19Vdc are selectable by the adjustment switch on the back of the unit.

I asked SOtM’s May Park to tell me about their new sPS-500 (edited):

The sPS-500 is not the linear type power supply as you know it. We applied a linear regulator circuit for some part, and included a special power circuit with noise reduction technology that we have designed.

The sPS-500 converts AC power to DC power and then converts this DC power to the desired output voltage. It means that the sPS-500 use two stage power conversion circuits.

In the second stage, we have designed a special noise reduction feature for the noise made from the connected device; no other audio power supply has this feature and design in the market.

The sPS-500 uses high-end audio components and a high-end output connector and so on. We've been spending much time and effort to build a good quality power supply for this price range.

Specifications and Features of the SPS-500 Power Supply
SMPS Design

  • Current Limit: 5A@7Vdc, 9Vdc, and 12Vdc. 3A@19Vdc
  • Maximum Power Output: 50W@100Vac
  • SOtM Filter Design Eliminates Noise Generated by Powered Devices
  • Overcurrent and Overheat Protection Circuits
  • Optional 7N UPOCC copper DC cable or 7N UPOCC silver DC cable
  • Deluxe Output Connector
The case of the sPS-500 is similar in appearance to that of the tx-USBultra and sMS-200ultra creating a fine-looking setup when these components are used together. There is a master AC switch on the back panel as well as a power switch built into the indicator on the front panel.

The sPS-500 comes with a copper DC power cable. I used an upgraded 7N UPOCC silver DC cable for the first part of this evaluation. Your standard DC cables will not function directly with the sPS-500 as SOtM’s DC output connection is not a barrel type. Be sure to provide some good burn-in time for the sPS-500 and the SOtM DC power cables before evaluating them. Out of the box, the sPS-500 sounds bass deficient and a little bright. I found that the sPS-500 and its associated DC cable open up sonically after extended play.

How Does the SPS-500 Sound?
The sPS-500 and the sMS-200ultra mated well together creating a superb sounding combination. The overall clarity of this combination is the best I have heard from the sMS-200ultra. Other power supplies I have on hand; and that includes linear power supplies, did not sound as good powering the sMS-200ultra. Voices and instruments were more focused with a relaxed sound that was not fatiguing. Bass control and dynamics were stunning with a prodigious grip and slam in the bass. The soundstage was the largest I have been able to squeeze out from the sMS-200ultra characterized by a richly layered sonic stage that possessed an open and airy sound.

The Y Cables
SOtM provided 3 of their DC power Y cables for this evaluation that allowed me to simultaneously power an sMS-200ultra and a tx-USBultra from the same sPS-500 power supply. Specifically, SOtM loaned me a standard copper Y cable ($100), a 7N UPOCC copper Y cable ($200), and a 7N UPOCC silver Y cable ($400), all .3 meters in length. The prices are based on concurrent purchase of the Y cable with the sPS-500. The sMS-200ultra and tx-USBultra were both the standard 6.5-9v models. SOtM recommended that I use the 9v setting on the sPS-500 for optimum performance.

The sPS-500 didn’t break a sweat powering the sMS-200ultra and the tx-USBultra simultaneously. The positive sonic attributes I attributed to the sPS-500 driving the sMS-200ultra were not lost using the SOtM Y cables.

While I found the standard copper Y cable to sound pretty good, moving up to the 7N UPOCC copper or the 7N UPOCC silver cables resulted in greater detail, focus, and bass control. The 7N UPOCC copper did sound a bit warmer than the silver cable at the expense of ultimate detail retrieval. In my system, I preferred the 7N UPOCC silver Y cable.

Power Supply Comparisons

The SOtM mBPS-d2s Intelligent Battery Power Supply
The sPS-500 outperforms the SOtM battery power supply in numerous ways. While retaining the excellent midrange sound of the mBPS-d2s, the sPS-500 is far more dynamic sounding especially with deep bass. I found the mBPS-d2s to be polite sounding and far less engaging than the new sPS-500. Overall detail and clarity of the sPS-500 is far superior to that of the mBPS-2ds.

The UpTone Audio UltraCap™ LPS-1
This power supply is a personal favorite of mine given its excellent sound and reasonable price of $395. While the UltraCap™ LPS-1 could match the sPS-500 in dynamic qualities and deep bass response, it did not have the ultimate clarity or midrange ease of the sPS-500 when driving either the sMS-200ultra or the tx-USBultra. I also noticed that the LPS-1 ran quite hot when powering the sMS-200ultra.

The Sonore Signature Series Power Supply (Discontinued)
This has been my reference power supply in terms of sonics, but it is limited to a 7v output. The sound obtained from the sMS-200ultra or the tx-USBultra when driven by the sPS-500 was more revealing and bigger sounding than what I had obtained when using the Sonore Signature Series Power Supply. There seemed to be a synergistic combination of the sPS-500 when paired with either or both of the Ultra series components.

The Music
The sMS-200ultra powered by the sPS-500 did a great job on Polly Gibbons’ new release Is It Me? (DSD128). The British jazz/blues singer’s voice was reproduced with dynamically expressive sound with striking realism and immediacy. Accompanying Polly was a seven-piece horn section that had great dynamic life and detail. Switching back to the sMS-200 resulted in a loss of some of the immediacy I heard as well as a slight contraction of the overall sound. The micro-dynamic liveliness was greater when the album was heard through the sMS-200ultra.

A good feeling of a live concert was heard in Paul Simon’s new release The Concert in Hyde Park (24/48). The 2nd disc featured a Graceland reunion with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, that with Simon’s band, played with an engaging rhythmic drive. The sMS-200ultra / SPS-500 reproduced a lifelike presence in both timbre and dynamics that drew me into the music and had me dancing around the room! The lively, upbeat sound of this album was well reproduced by the SOtM combination.

While the sMS-200 / sPS-500 did a fine job in reproducing the width and depth of an orchestral soundstage, the sMS-200ultra / sPS-500 performed this task even more impressively. The depth was simply outrageous and revealing with the later combination. One fine musical example of this was the Dvorak Violin Concerto with Liza Ferschtman and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra Amsterdam conducted by Mari Venzago (DSD128). A richly layered soundstage with a good sense of bloom around the images was heard with this recording. The violin was expressive and involving; even more so with the sMS-200ultra. Complex orchestral dynamics were quite evident and easy to discern with the sMS-200ultra / sPS-500 combination.

Conclusion
SOtM has a great deal to feel good about with their new sMS-200ultra and sPS-500 Power Supply. This combination surpasses the sonic performance of the excellent sMS-200 and mBPS-d2s Intelligent Battery Power Supply while significantly improving the over-all sound of my Ayre QX-5 Twenty DAC. Add in a tx-USBultra USB enhancement device and you will have a group of components that delivers exceptional improvement to the sound of one’s computer audio system.


Associated Equipment

COMMENTS
DavidZ's picture

Steve, did you do any comparisons with the Ayre QX5-20's own LAN input? -- David

Steven Plaskin's picture
Hi David, Yes, many times! The LAN sounds very good, but I think the sMS-200ultra, tx-USBUltra powered by the sPS-500 sounds better. At least this week:_)
stevebythebay's picture

Don't suppose you put this expensive trifecta up against a microRendu, ultraRendu, or Signature Rendu for grins. This D-D (network - USB) arena is, as you suggest, a fast moving target.

Steven Plaskin's picture

Hey Mr. Steve,

I would be willing to do this if Sonore is also willing!

Steve

Ligetiinspace's picture

Mr. Plaskin --
Great review. It's commendable that you're comparing the different PSU's, and based on my findings with my previous PSU to my sMS-200, the SOtM battery supply mBPS-d2s, I fully agree on your assessment of the sPS-500 - which I bought about a week ago. Do you find the sPS-500 to gain sonically beyond some 200 hours?

Another question: maybe I missed it, but what was your chosen output voltage from the sPS-500 in conjunction with the sMS-200Ultra? I use 12V with my sMS-200 (which I intend to replace with the -Ultra version).

Steven Plaskin's picture

Thanks for the checking the review out.

I haven't heard noticed any improvement to the sound of the sPS-500 after a week.

My sMS-200ultra and tx-USBultra are both the 6.5-9v models. SOtM recommended I use the 9v setting for the sPS-500.

Steven Plaskin's picture
Sorry for the typos-I'm responding from my iPhone.
Simon Chew's picture

Hi Steve,
Thank you for the great review on the SMS-200Ultra.
Can you share with us your insights on SMS-200Ultra vs SMS-200+TXUltra?
The retail value of 200ultra vs 200+TXultra is almost the same, but having a TXultra gives me more flexibility to use with other stuff like UltraRendu...Just wondering if the 200Ultra will top the sound of the 200+TXUltra...

Steven Plaskin's picture

Hi Simon,

I'm not familiar with the 200+txultra. I'll have to ask May at SOtM.

Simon Chew's picture

Hi,
Sorry for the typo, what I meant is the combo : SMS200 with tx-USBultra.
You had done a review of the tx-USBultra with the SMS200. Just wondering what are your views of this combo vs SMS200Ultra on its own.

Steven Plaskin's picture

Good question Simon. The txUSBultra is an impressive component. I guess I would opt for an sMS200 with the txUSBultra as opposed to just an sMS-200ultra.

hajfimannen's picture

Steven, could you develop you thoughts on the contribution made by the txUSB in comparison to the SPS500? Do both add the same type of positive attributes to the musical presentation when added to a 200 Ultra?

Steven Plaskin's picture

The sPS-500 allows the txUSBultra, and for that matter, the sMS-200ultra to do their best sound-wise. I have described in depth what the tx-USBultra and the sMS-200ultra will sound like when added to a system. Think of the sPS-500 as the catalyst that squeezes the most performance from the SOtM components connected to it.

I wish the sMS-200, sMS-200ultra, the txUSBultra, and the sPS-500 had been brought out at the same time so I could have evaluated all of these components in a single review to reduce any confusion for our readers.

I believe that the sMS-200ultra, the tx-USBultra, and the sPS-500 were designed to be a system that possess a degree of synergism that I found quite compelling to include in my computer audio system.

Sleepow's picture

Hi,

I am currently using an eXasound DAC straight from the PC USB (with an iPurifier 2 in between though)
I am wondering if I would benefit more from introducing a sotm 200 ultra and sotm usbultra into the mix, or just an eXasound Playpoint.
The PlayPoint has the advantage of being able to be the room server, but my priority is in sound quality.

Steven Plaskin's picture

I would go with the PlayPoint since exaSound uses a special Linux driver that they won't share with SOtM or Sonore for use with the sMS-200ultra or micro/ultra Rendu.

hajfimannen's picture

If money allow me to buy only one box.
Which set up generates the better sound quality in your opinion?
Computer > txUSB > DAC
or
Computer >200Ultra > DAC

Steven Plaskin's picture

Wow, this is a tough one!

I would go with the sMS-200ultra particularly if you are running Roon. Roon' s RAAT works great with the sMS-200ultra.

austinpop's picture

Hi Steve, I own this SOtM trifecta, and have written about it extensively over on CA. Thanks for your insights into the sPS-500. I particularly appreciate that your compared it to other PSUs like the LPS-1 and the Sonore Signature. Without these comparisons, it's very hard to derive good value from these reviews, so kudos!

I wonder if you've had a chance to evaluate the option of adding a modded switch, that uses an sCLK-EX tap from your sMS-200ultra, in the signal path? I found that to be as significant an SQ gain as the sMS-200ultra and the tX-USBultra.

And then there's the option of setting up your Roon Core server as a network bridge, so you can run a chain like this:
Roon Core (bridged) > Ultra-modded switch > sMS-200ultra > tX-USBultra > DAC

The end result is breathtaking.

Steven Plaskin's picture

I haven't had the opportunity to try these options yet. Something for the future.

Thanks

austinpop's picture

Yes indeed. It's about the journey, not the destination...

Ligetiinspace's picture

austinpop --

Quote: Yes indeed. It's about the journey, not the destination...

That's where I would, in a sense, differ. To begin with, guys like me who're not constantly knee-deep into ever-development of the wonder (and challenge) of harddrive-based music playback may look at the threads over at computeraudiophile.com, roll eyes, and think "will it stop evolving for just a few months or so before the next upgrade is to had to this or that existing product, if not an entirely new product altogether?" And yet, what's happening over there is truly something to cherish (not least yours, poster romaz and others contribution with the SOtM and mR range), because lazy guys like me can pick the fruits of your findings (both with and without monetary shedding), albeit involving at times the "labor" of going through literally hundreds of pages of occasionally hairy tech stuff. To the heavy contributors over there at CA I can easily imagine many of them being much more invested in the "journey" of these endeavors than seeing the momentary light of sonic bliss and musical relaxation (the destination, if you will). Indeed with this in mind I can feel sorry for the ones addressed here, though I guess I shouldn't when so many of you are likely happy about the journey that you're on (one that I share too, though perhaps not as intensely in this singular area).

The sense of a destination (i.e.: goal/destination) however is not less important - indeed I would have it setting the framework as a motivation for all that we do in audio reproduction, if not the simple pleasure of music itself irrespective of reproduction quality. A reference, one of live acoustic sound, tells you something about the requirement on several aspects in choosing and setting up ones stereo (and I'm not saying the people over at CA aren't aware of this), and that has a holistic perspective that sees the importance of certain primary "pillars" that needs to be addresses and achieved in a sufficient measure to emulate live, acoustic sound. These pillars could be dynamic and transient abilities (both micro and macro), frequency range (meaning: ultra-LF), tone/timbre, ease of representation, coherency, and sheer radiation area (meaning: BIG speakers). In other words, a sonic reference and destination (in addition to, most importantly, the simple joy of music itself) can be formulated and articulated, and this, to my mind, would ground the whole endeavor as the meaning of our journey. A friend of mine has a superb sounding setup with a 10+ year DAC (Orpheus) and older PC-based source with these latest findings over at CA are lightyears away from being implemented here, and yet it sounds absolutely gorgeous - indeed authentic/natural, (a)live and unrestricted. The keyword here is care of setup and placement, and living by aforementioned pillars as the holistic approach and goal of it all.

Perhaps a merger of sorts: we are many who're luckily blessed by the hard working guys over a CA, and what comes in the wake of this ping-pong process between them and the manufacturers in the form of new, ever-evolving (and better sounding) products. Hell, you guys (incl. this fine review by Mr. Plaskin) are the reason I'm now on the verge of upgrading to the sMS-200ultra (finally more specifically on-topic), and looking forward to embrace more firmly, among other things, the elusive quality of the analogue imprinting. But please, don't discard the destination. We need it, also to eliminate much of the marketing frenzy that surrounds and too easily affects many of us. The journey is not a means in itself, but needs guidance.

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