Newbie here, so if I come off as ill-informed, please excuse my ignorance. I recently received the Focal Clear, and I think it sounds great. To get the most out of it, I ordered the Topping DX3 Pro+ to drive it. I also think it sounds great with the Topping, but to be honest, other than being able to go much louder, I can’t tell the difference between the Topping and the Apple Dongle. But I only have had the Topping for two days, and also maybe I just don’t know what to listen for. I welcome suggestions and thoughts on how to tell the difference and what I should look for when comparing equipment or just that my intuition is correct.
In any event, I think I will keep the Topping because I can also use it to pair over Bluetooth with my LG CX for when I watch movies at night in the bedroom (to my wife’s delight). I also can use it as a separate dac for my power amp that is driving a very good vintage pair of Yamaha NS-1000m.
@DantonIzzo it isn’t all that surprising that the Apple Dongle, which is a very good DAC, and the Topping would sound much the same. It’s been my experience that in order to “improve” on DAC performance you will end up spending a good bit more money.
For now I’d say that you should sit back and enjoy your Clears with this setup.
If you are happy now, just be happy and enjoy the music. If you ‘red pill’ and start buying new audio equipment to either optimize the sound or explore, you may never stop.
As @mgosdin notes, both of your products fall in the “neutral and clean” category. Pretty much everything from Topping, FiiO, and probably most Bluetooth devices fall into that category too. They often sound similar.
If you wish to explore different tone profiles you could try a tube amplifier (there are many variations) and a multibit DAC (e.g., start with iFi, Schiit).
Thanks for the input. I agree with you that I likely will just stick with the setup.
I’m not saying you don’t need an amp, especially if the Apple dongle isn’t getting loud enough. But the Apple dongle is pretty damn good.
There are other factors too such as your content source, the quality of the source, and so forth.
Also, if you do have everything else being equality and good, the differences can be subtle. Volume is usually the most obvious because the power of, most, our mobile devices is significantly lower than the external amps we get.
I stream Amazon Music HD, which can output CD quality and some 24bit/98khz.
One thing you may notice with more power is deeper, more precise bass. Many phones, tablets, and laptops cannot deliver enough electrical current for the best performance. This isn’t much of a problem with the Clear, as it doesn’t require very much power relative to other models.
It’s unlikely that you’ll hear quality differences beyond Amazon HD. It’s fine.
Better sourcing than I use, which is mainly Spotify set to high. I do have some FLAC files, but I cannot remember which ones they were in digitized local library, most is 320kbps.
I’m using the Focal Stellia, which are even easier to drive the Clear. I’m using a FiiO BTR5. It does make them significantly louder. It also adds more clarity, articulation, and, so small degree, expanded sound stage.