For whom it may concern, i was reading a lot in the past couple of weeks, trying to decide what DAC from the "entry spend level" DAC's would be the most significant improvement to my audio system. i actually wasn't aware that there was something wrong with my setup until i visited a friend who was running a Teddy DAC, as me being the "musical explorer" of the group, i came with my portable HD and played him some new music over on his system (Luxman Class A amp, Teddy DAC and Marten speakers) to my surprise i was hearing way more details than i used to in my setup, the stage was way bigger and stereo separation was exceptional. even on tracks i felt well-familiar with i was surprised, if not by the added details than by the stereo separation. cutting a long story short - i was blaming my speakers for the lack of performance when my friend commented that for playing MP3 (!!) the most significant change he'd done was the Teddy. having not wanting to spend $1K on a DAC i decided to explore the lower level of devices out there. quick search brought up two main candidates: Topping D30 and SMSL m8a (going to refer to them as D30 and SMSL from now on) ordered both from Amazon for the sake of one of them going back once i set my mind on the other, i received them both early this week. my setup is simple - CDM1NT driven by a recapped, refreshed NAD S300, fed by a DAC connected to a small NUC i5 pc. first impression: D30 - i started with the D30 as it got here couple of hours earlier, connecting it instead of my old MF V-DACii made a huge difference, clicking, knocking, hissing went away and was replaced by an improved stage, greater stereo separation and a sound that was a bit on the bright side from one hand, but maintained nice bass on the other. bass performance are not extremely tight, they are present, not too dominant but on the verge of being. i also blame that a little on the speaker's location though. highs were crisp but not harsh, the CDM1NT are known for their maybe squeaky tweeters, and it looked like the D30 is avoiding falling into this trap. All in all, the sound was very "analog", separation between instruments was ok, and stereo separation was much improved over my MF VDAC unit. SMSL - connecting the SMSL was not a breeze, the driver from SMSL site is lacking a signature, so some OS refuse to sue it and will render the device useless. you can overcome it by "special start" of the OS with "allow unsigned drivers" to be loaded, but i cant say it is something i appreciated a lot. off to the sound of the unit, once i got it to work i used the same tracks to compare the two and these were my initial impressions: Bass - the SMSL is obviously more conservative when handling the bass section, the feel is that it is more moderate, not boomy at all, very controlled, i would almost call it flat. on one hand some may miss it, on the other on some setups it will allow more room for more details on other sections to get noted. on my setup the bass was "just right" on the higher notes - the high section of the SMSL was very crisp, with the combination of the CDM tweeter this was almost too bright to my ears, i could really see how after a long listening i would get fatigue listening to some music genres, having that said, the amount of details with the SMSL was even greater than what the D30 had provided. the unit had a great "attack" performance, making it sound 3D and provided better imaging than the D30. Stereo separation was also better the what the D30 provided and i really liked the crisp and sharp edges it provided in some "softer" music notes. all in all, the sound of the SMSL is very digital, with high separation between instruments, good imaging and wide stage. Second impression and making choices: so i had to make a choice - didn't like the clatter in my living room and the too many options were not providing any help, so i called my wife, to have a pick and help me decide. played her both units using the same track, and vot went constantly to the D30. in her words, the SMSL was just to analytical, creating too much separation within the music that become almost not pleasant to the ear. so a choice made easier - the D30 is staying, and the SMSL will go back, as well as about a 100$ savings. not sure this review is on par with the levels you guys are sued to around here, but should it be able to help anyone who is debating between these two units, i hope it may help.