SMC 7.1 and Volume 8 at Stereophile

You can find an extensive review about our Monitor Controllers Volume 8 and and SMC 7.1 on stereophile.com. Kalman Rubinson tested and compared the devices:

It’s no secret that there are very few analog control options—for volume and input selection, primarily—for multichannel, but that doesn’t mean there are none.”

Recently, SPL introduced an array of new products aimed at getting the German company beyond the pro-sound market and into the homes of tech-savvy audiophiles.”

I found two relevant products, either of which would add a physical volume control to the output of a multichannel DAC.”

The first is the Volume 8, which incorporates SPL’s discrete six-layer potentiometer in a neat black enclosure with an eight-channel balanced input and an eight-channel balanced output: a volume control in a box. The other is the SMC 7.1 Surround Monitor Controller.”

The SMC 7.1 simply adds switching for the headphone output, more inputs and outputs, and the ability to listen independently to any channel or combination of channels.”

I began with the Volume 8 and found that connecting it with the DB25 cables was much easier than I’d expected. When I connected the SMC 7.1, it was even easier… it all went smoothly, and when I powered up, I heard no background noise.”

About the sound of the devices:

Now my system sounded really great. Definitely not as it had long sounded, it now had a refreshing new degree of balance. Gone was the occasional high-frequency glint, though that absence was not accompanied by any disappointment over the loss of treble detail; rather, I was pleased with the enhancement of midrange information and its extension into the upper bass.

The entire soundstage was more continuous than contiguous, and the sweet spot was much bigger.”

I sat a friend in that sweet spot and played him the highly immersive surround version of Willie Nelson’s Night and Day. He was impressed, as I’d expected him to be.”

When I described the piano’s position to my friend, he replied, “Yes, I hear it there, too!” I find it almost incredible that two listeners, sitting 7′ from each other and facing in directions 90° apart, could hear the same soundstage from a system that had been balanced and optimized for only one of those seats.”

I felt completely immersed in the venue and the aura: orchestra and singer were in front of me …”

Conclusion:

I couldn’t choose between the Volume 8 and the SMC 7.1 based on sound, because to me they sounded identical.

I’d opt for the SMC 7.1, if only because it has an additional input for a second multichannel source (eg, an Oppo disc player), a pair of stereo sources, and a volume-controlled headphone output. The studio-style switching options are a bonus …”

 

Find the complete review at Stereophile (English)