The Topping D50 Dac - Review by @prfallon69
The Topping D50 is a stand-alone Dac in Topping’s affordable but well regarded series of Dac’s.
I had been looking for a stand-alone Dac to pair with my Matrix M-Stage HPA3u Amp/Dac. I bought the Matrix unit as an affordable partner to my Sennheiser HD800. The 3u, as I shall now refer to it has plenty of power whilst being able to add a touch of warmth. This would be beneficial to my HD800. The 3u was also getting praise at the time as a good unit to pair with my headphones especially the HD800.
Whilst it is indeed a good Amp/Dac I felt the need for a different Dac to use with my other gear. Hence the purchase of the Topping D50.
In its latest iteration the D50 uses dual ESS SABRE ES9038Q2M dac’s. There are also 3 OPA1612 Opamps in the output stage. These are well regarded Opamps. The D50 has adjustable volume can be used as a Pre-Amp. It can be connected to an Amp or Powered Speakers using the D50 to control the volume.
I will go into further detail later. Suffice to say on receiving it I felt It would be a really capable Dac. For the UK price of £143 I wasn’t to be disappointed.
Review Equipment and Material
Matrix M-Stage HPA3u Amp/Dac. The HPA3u’s specifications are:
Headphone power output: 2800mW @ 33ohms; 420mW @ 300ohms; 210mW @ 600ohms
THD: >0.0003% at 33ohms 90mW
Output Impedance: 0.2ohms
D/A Chip: Texas Instruments DSD1793
Headphones used in my review are the Sennheiser HD58X, HD650 and HD800. I also used my Campfire Andromeda’s. For the purposes of the review though I will be writing about the pairing of the HD800 with my setup.
The source for my music would be my Pioneer XDP-300r DAP. My primary source of listening is through Spotify. With this option unavailable I will listen through some iTunes downloads and a few Albums I have in flac. I am still in the process of transferring my main body of offline music across to my relatively new DAP. My musical tastes are wide and varied with a particular liking for Acoustic music.
Topping D50 Build
The D50 is very solidly built. It is made from a solid Aluminium brick into what Topping refers to as a CNC Unibody. Whatever it’s construction this is one heavy unit for its diminutive dimensions. It weighs in at 480g and it’s dimensions are 11.9cm x 11cm x 2.6cm. I bought my D50 in Silver but there’s also a Black option. There is a very nice but small White OLED screen. This proves easy enough to read and very clear. Alongside the Oled screen is a rather useful finger controlled joystick. There is the obligatory power button. And around the back are the various I/O ports and power socket.
Around the back of the Dac are RCA connects for output to an Amp. Beside these there are input connects for a single COAX cable and S/PDIF. Next is the USB and finally there’s the power socket. Power is input via a provided USB Cable DC5v/1A a plug is not included but your standard USB phone charging plug will suffice. An altogether better option in the long term would be to source your own mains powered solution.
As already alluded to earlier the T50 sports dual ESS SABRE ES9038Q2M dac’s. Along with 3 OPA1612 Opamps in the output stage. The T50 uses second generation XU208 XMOS for the control of the USB interface. For computer users there is software available from Topping for download. Here is a link to Toppings website
Extensive measurements have been taken for this Dac. The most comprehensive I have seen can be found at audiosciencereview.com.
The OLED screen can be set to Auto On/Off as well as Auto Close. Once the power button is pressed to start the Dac the menu can be accessed via an extra press of the power button to reveal a hidden menu. You can move through this quickly and easily with the joystick. The OLED screen gives great clarity and is well implemented. As the Dac can be used as a Pre-Amp there is an adjustable Volume level . There’s also Mute, Screen Brightness and Select Input options too.
Part of the hidden sub-menu is a 7 Mode PCM Filter menu. As usual you can cycle through them via the joystick. The filter modes available are as follows:
Mode 1: Apodizing fast roll-off filter
Mode 2: Minimum phase slow-roll off filter.
Mode 3: Minimum phase fast-roll off filter.
Mode 4: Linear phase slow-roll off filter.
Mode 5: Linear phase fast-roll off filter.
Mode 6: Brick wall filter.
Mode 7: Corrected minimum phase fast-roll off filter.
All of these filter modes make a small change to the sound. Some more so than others. But they’re very subtle. My current favourite being Mode 5 but this is subject to change.
The D50 supports USB DSD64 - DSD512(native) and PCM 16bit/44.4Khz - 32bit/768Khz. Coax and Optical support highest PCM 24bit/192Khz and DOP DSD64.
If you’re using an Apple or Android device it can be connected via the respective USB or Lightning OTG cable. Though be aware that Topping say that not all Android devices are supported so it’s worth looking into if you’re going down that route.
Connecting my Dac to my Amplifier was a straightforward task using a two way RCA cable. I connected my Dap into the Dac via USB and an OTG cable.
The difference in sound via the T50 was apparent from the off. Using my HD800 headphones the sound wasn’t quite as warm as it was before when using the Matrix’s Texas Instruments Chip. There is though more clarity and the improvement in the micro detail is quite pleasing. I don’t detect any excess noise and it doesn’t throw up any unnecessary silibance. Though some might see it as being a little on the bright side as well as a tad analytical. Tonally I feel the D50 gives you an accurate representation of the musical notes.
The notes don’t quite sound as thick as with the TI Dac but I wouldn’t class them as sounding too thin. The Bass is still apparent when playing one of my current favourite tracks Chan Chan by Buena Vista Social Club. You’re never going to get deep rumbling bass from the HD800 but what is there remains intact. The bass remains tight and continues to extend low.
The Mids retain great clarity and imaging is also noteworthy. Voices sound clear and precise. The D50 also adds what I can only describe as a little extra zing in the notes. For example whilst playing a live acoustic track-Wicked Game by Stone Sour, the Guitars sound outstanding and the track has an extra crispness to it. Each pluck and twang of the strings very pleasing to the ear. They have an added weight to them.
The Highs also seem to have acquired an extra edge in comparison to the TI Dac. There isn’t any added Silibance and all the attributes associated with the HD800 remain, such as great Transient Response and Attack. I don’t experience any major changes in the soundstage though I did feel that it improved the feeling of height and airyness.
In comparison to the Texas Instruments Dac in the Matrix M-STAGE HPA3u the Topping D50 Dac offers a cooler more analytical sound. Though this isn’t to its detriment. The TI Dac is warmer and less detailed across the board. It lacks the refinement of the D50. Also the implementation of the D50’s filter modes are a great bonus.
What you get when you purchase the Topping D50 is an up to date chipset well implemented in a great package for a lot less than it big brother the ESS SABRE ES9038PRO.
For headphones such as the HD800 you have to pair it well with both Amp and Dac. I don’t feel like the D50 is necessarily a good pairing for it because the HD800 benefits from a warmer Amp/Dac pairing. If you like the ESS SABRE DAC chipset then the Topping D50 is is definitely more of the same, but with the benefit of it being an upgrade to pre-existing Topping Dac’s. At the £143 I paid for it I can wholeheartedly recommend it.