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Article: Taking The S.M.S.L. AO200 & Neat IOTA For A Desktop Spin


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11 hours ago, Rexp said:

So the A2+ are harder to beat than you thought?

You are correct.  As a basic desktop speaker they stage well, they are reasonably articulate.  They are electrically flexible.  Get them off the desktop with a stand, and they are even better.  Right now, I have the USB hooked up to the Mac.  The analog in is connected to the pre-amp out on my LYR-3 which has an Allo USBridge Sig and Squeezelite hooked to the multi-bit DAC.  The analog on the LYR-3 in comes from a Teac CD Player.  


The AO-200 fills an interesting niche.  I am using it in my workshop I have the USB hooked to the Windows PC in the shop and the balanced in goes to a Topping D10Bal to a Pi4 running Squeezelite.   I am using the Neat Acoustics speakers until I have to return them.    It really sounds good, using the D10Bal+Pi4 input.  I listen to many podcasts and the BT works well for that.


Oh, the whole system in the house is now Logitech Media Server running on a Pi 4 with a 4 TB SSD.  

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Might I suggest that the use of the AO200 as a desktop amp is limiting a full appreciation of its capabilities?


As a retiree with modest disposable income, I very recently purchased the AO200. I'm using it in my living room system. It definitely punches far above its cost. It's driving my 6ohm, 86db Dynaudio Emit M10 bookshelves just fine in a 600 sq ft living/dining/kitchen area. It's subwoofer output is connected to my Quad subwoofer. I never have to go above midway on the volume. 


Source is a Paradigm PW-Link with ARC room correction software. Qobuz accessed through the Link's Play-Fi software is occasionally a bit glitchy and the optical/toslink connection downconverts all files to 16/44-48 file rates. Nevertheless, a well recorded piece sounds very good indeed. I do plan on replacing the Link but currently, truly affordable equip. with room correction capability is scarce. I now consider that capability a necessity. The ARC made a substantial upgrade in fidelity. 


IMO, the AO200 is a nice blend of transparency and tonality. It doesn't ruthlessly expose bad recordings but makes the difference clear between well recorded and the poorly recorded. I have a Marantz PM6005 Integrated and a Rega Brio (2017 model) both of which have died on me but if memory serves, it beats both those highly rated units in transparency, tonality and in its 'black background'. Midrange is where it shines with bass and treble nearly as good. Dynamics, imaging  and soundstage are fine but not its strong points. Chip amps are definitely improving and the AO uses better quality parts from Japan and Germany and has an upgraded power supply. 


I'm bypassing the PW-Link's poor DAC by outputting the stream through the Link's toslink output to an Eastern Electric Tube DAC Supreme. Which then feeds the Amp.

BTW, banana plugs will fit in the small binding posts but it is a very tight fit. 


I have a bit of a mashup of equipment but the amp is no longer the weak link in this system. I plan to at some point migrate the AO200 into my desktop system but currently I'm a happy camper with it in my living room system. Hopefully, some here may find my perspective on the AO200 worth consideration.

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