Topping D70 DAC Review and Measurements - Stream of Consciousness

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by purr1n, May 17, 2020.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I'm jumping ahead of myself, but I am not impressed. It's like turning back the clock back to sigma-delta nasties of 2010 (sssshhh, sssshhh, sssshhh). If you want the ultimate expression of the AKM sound, get the RME ADI2. If you want something very close to that kind of sound for x10 less money and don't need the RME's features, get the Modi 3. Topping couldn't do anything with the AKM4497, two of them, which is AKM's second to TOTL chip. This will be one of those stream of consciousness / ongoing reviews because I would like this to be complete. Perhaps my initial impressions were wrong and I can revisit. Current and prior owners can chime in if I am missing something, and readers can make "requests" as usual.

    Topping D70 (x2 AKM4497) with AKM4490 based Modi 3 to the left (both in back)
    IMG_20200516_184830.jpg

    One particular annoyance is that the DAC by default is set to only work from the RCA outputs. Evidently there is a relay that allows the outputs to be toggled from RCA to XLR to RCA+XLR. The front panel interface seems simple enough, but for several minutes I could only get it to toggle sources (AES, SPDIF, USB, IIS), but not toggle the output to XLR. I found this highly annoying as practically every DAC in existence will have both sets of output active. Obviously, the next step was for me to consult the instruction manual. As I am not a retired one-percenter, I really don't have time for this shit. Grrrr.

    Front panel is elegant with SEL, forward, and back buttons.
    IMG_20200517_164911.jpg

    Anyway, if someone can tell me how to do the output select without using the remote, please tell me. I'm assuming Topping put a relay in there to max out THD+N / SINAD and SNR.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2020 at 7:53 PM
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  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    The art of the instruction manual is to get the point, or at least offer a table of contents were I can find the pertinent information. Instead, I was reminded of how well the D70 measures on steady-state sine waves or combination thereof.
    IMG_20200517_163704.jpg

    I would appear that Topping, which a year ago was just a rando manufacturer, now has a marketing shtick, courtesy of the ASR. I'm not sure how these measurements benefit the end-user. Perhaps I can mount these instructions on a picture frame so I can assure myself that I have one of the best measuring DACs in the world, laughing at people who spent $8k on Bricasti or Rockna DACs, knowing that I outwitted them all.

    It wasn't too difficult however to find the pertinent section that would tell me how to toggle the output from RCA to XLR.
    upload_2020-5-17_17-3-39.png

    Ok guys, after reading the manual, can you tell me how to toggle the output from RCA to XLR? Note that we are reminded yet again of the D70s awesome SINAD and SNR! It's like we can escape Topping telling us how much "science" went into the D70.
     
  3. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    Keep pressing the SEL button on the front panel and then connect the power cable, then D70 will go into the setting interface. All settings can be set here.

    Mantra for life in general.
     
  4. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    "In addition, some settings can be set by remote control directly". That's what my wife thinks about what she views as my 'personal settings'.

    Button 5-9 on the remote, which looks like it's in the middle of the volume up-down and input selectors? (or was it a trick question?).
     
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Yeah, it's the middle button on the Amazon Fire TV, I mean Topping D70 remote.
     
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  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    WTH? So I held down the SEL button while I plugged the power cable in. I get the settings menu now. Very intuitive.

    Next step is to figure out which filter mode is which, via measurements, since the manual doesn't explain anything about this. I don't understand why the each filter's FR and ripple wasn't shown on the manual since the manufacturer already went through the effort of providing a host of other measurement plots.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2020
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  7. YMO

    YMO it's not drinking alone if you're on Zoom

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    Manual looks Engrish.
     
  8. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    Well, shit, your supposed to be clairvoyant and anticipate the modes vs filter response. But hey, don't the specs from site (*redacted*) look good? Aren't we great?
     
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    As an aside, I like what iFi did with their filters, offering simple English labels such as "Measure", "Listen", and "Bitperfect". Whether the consumer knows exactly what is going technically on is irrelevant. The point is so that the consumer can related a word to the sound of a filter. Note the below are with 48kHz sampling frequency. The AD conversion is 96kHz, so I didn't want 44.1kHz sampling rate causing any kind of aliasing.

    Mode 1 Filter
    Let's take a look at the six filter modes. Note that most of my listening so far has been with Mode 1. It turns out this is a linear phase filter with a sharp knee.

    Mode 1 Filter Frequency Response
    upload_2020-5-17_19-36-0.png

    Mode 1 Filter Impulse Response
    upload_2020-5-17_19-37-13.png


    Mode 2 Filter
    Mode 2 appears to be a linear phase filter like Mode 1, but with a slow roll-off. We trade off some high-frequency roll-off for less ripple.

    Mode 2 Filter Frequency Response
    upload_2020-5-17_19-39-34.png

    Mode 2 Filter Impulse Response
    upload_2020-5-17_19-38-31.png

    So far, everything appears to be in the order of the AKM4497 datasheet, but we should check just to be sure. It's never a good idea to assume.
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Mode 3
    This is the minimum phase filter. The AKM datasheet calls this the short-delay. This is a bit hint that a minimum phase filter is used. The knee is sharp. There is no pre-ringing, but post ringing is worse than linear phase. Once upon a time, some DAC manufacturers heralded this filter as the next step of realism, because "pre-ringing" doesn't happen in real-life. I always felt minimum phase filters sounded like butt and have always preferred linear phase. In my subjective listening, this filter was the most edgy and difficult to listen to, at least for me. Even from stock HD650s, I could not stand the highs.

    Mode 3 Filter Frequency Response
    upload_2020-5-17_19-57-4.png

    Mode 3 Filter Impulse Response
    upload_2020-5-17_19-55-32.png


    Mode 4
    This is the minimum phase filter or maybe a variant, but definitely with a slow rolloff. The ripple is asymmetrical where these is slightly less pre-ringing to post-ringing.

    Mode 4 Filter Frequency Response
    upload_2020-5-17_19-50-48.png

    Mode 4 Filter Impulse Response
    upload_2020-5-17_19-52-10.png

    If our heads aren't already spinning with the myriad of choices, we have two more to go!
     
  11. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Mode 5
    This one is interesting. It looks like a tweaked variant of the linear phase with ripple behavior somewhere between Mode 1 and Mode 2, but with FR closer to Mode 2.

    Mode 5 Filter Frequency Response
    upload_2020-5-17_20-4-43.png

    Mode 5 Filter Impulse Response
    upload_2020-5-17_20-1-41.png

    Mode 5 vs Mode 2 Filter Frequency Response
    GRN = Mode 5
    YEL = Mode 2
    upload_2020-5-17_20-7-4.png
    As we can see, everything is a tradeoff. There's no free lunch.
     
  12. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Mode 6
    Now, this one is super interesting. It looks like a tweaked variant of Mode 4 minimum phase. The knee of the roll-off extended a bit. As a result, get a little bit more ripple in the impulse response.

    Mode 6 Filter Frequency Response
    upload_2020-5-17_20-9-5.png

    Mode 6 Filter Impulse Response
    upload_2020-5-17_20-9-54.png

    Mode 6 vs Mode 4 Filter Frequency Response
    GRN = Mode 6
    YEL = Mode 4
    upload_2020-5-17_20-14-59.png
     
  13. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    I notice that this thing has not one, but three invalid buttons. This is great. How many DAC makers ever gave a thought to invalids?
     
  14. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    My experience with recent topping remote was ok. With D70 chassis size, they SHOULD put all the buttons on the controller on the front panel. At least UX/UI-wise iFi destroys Topping.

    I am a little surprised that D70 underwhelmed Marv that much, which a little differ from how I felt in the first week with dx3 (early batch; maybe version 1?). I still don't think dx3 does much worse than modi 3. While modi 3 is overall a better product (transient, bass, and macro), dx3 did a tiny better job in layering (note: but nowhere close to modi mb), details, and mid-high texture. Marv's impressions about D70 sound more in line with what are said for later revisions of dx3. I am wondering if Topping does something potentially bad to compensate manufacturing failures. I assumed D70 similar or close to RME akm dacs.

    Another point I am thinking of is if AKM 4497/99 is really superior to lower ends beyond meaningless distortion specs. Hard to verify because matured manufacturers such as CraneSong have never utilized 4497 or 4499. I am just suspecting sins committed not only by Topping but also by AKM.
     
  15. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    It's just cost driven repursing of existing components (like that remote) that are themselves the cheapest of the cheap, whereas iFi actually sits down and designs something and manufactures to a spec. It's not even really designing to a cost, as the cost can always be lower and so the manufacturing and component variability which leads to audible variability...
     
  16. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar was: dingleberry; now: chill + interesting

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    Stop apologizing for crap. There are Yamaha products made around all in one Texas Instruments ICs that kick like a mule and sound fairly normal. They just aren’t going to sell to people with cartoon avatars on the internet buying products based on the latest and greatest parts thinking that the offbrand Chinese product with lower BOM and no R&D can hope to compete.

    There are decent Chinese audio products. They are just as expensive as anything else of their respective quality. Often more so due to third party OEMs, shell Western brands, publicly traded holding companies, and importers all having a hand in the pot. Labor isn’t a big cost with these SMT boards. Look what’s in any current Focusrite compared to comparably priced western products or 90s Focusrite. Total crap from the Scarlets to the ISA and Rednets even if they’re not throw it away bad from the moment you get the real power supply.
     
  17. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    @Psalmanazar No, I am not telling either "Topping is generally worthy" or "AKM is better than non-AKMs".

    My focus is specifically between-AKM 449x comparison. Let's just ignore whether or not we like velvetized sounding for now (not my taste, either, btw). FWIW AKM spec sheet is very friendly: https://www.akm.com/content/dam/doc.../audio-dac/ak4497eq/ak4497eq-en-datasheet.pdf (with quite specific application uses and detailed circuit parameters)

    Thus, I am basically assuming not much variance introduced in outcome quality except some crazy outliers (RME not qualified to this outlier). Non-outlier akm449x sounds more or less similar to me.

    My point is, if D70 w/ akm4497 is evidently dissatisfying (I don't think Marv expected something much better beyond akm 449x limitations from Topping), which sides are attributable (to what extent) to the failure. An ok chip transformed to a bad product? or a bad chip turned to a bad product?
     
  18. bboris77

    bboris77 Wow, I made it this far without being a friend?

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    I am very eager to hear Marv's full opinion on this DAC because I generally agree with his assessment of gear - the Magni 3+ and the Asgard 3 in particular. As I have already stated, I genuinely like the D70's sound despite not really liking the whole relationship between the ASR and Topping. I have tried really hard to find faults with it, but I cannot find anything glaring that is pulling me out of the music experience. It is not anemic-sounding like the D50, it is not picking up RFI and does not have channel imbalance like the D50s, it is not noisy AND boring like the D30.

    I agree it is overpriced, unless you need balanced output, bluetooth, or any of the more exotic input options (AES, IIS). If you don't need any of those, you can get very similar sound by getting the Modi 3 which is 1/5 of the price and is made in the USA. I would love to be able to compare the D70 against another 4497-based DAC from a well-known manufacturer. It would be fascinating to hear the sonic difference that top-notch implementation of a D/S chip can produce.

    I also think it is important to make a distinction between the ASR fanatics who rarely listen to gear and the engineers behind the D70. I found a post on ASR where one of the Topping engineers got in trouble with the followers because he was expressing his subjective opinions on various AKM filters on the DX3 Pro. It is actually a fairly entertaining read as it is obvious that he listens to equipment when designing it, but that gets him beaten down by the measurebators. The title of the post is "Experiments with digital filters and CCIF IMD".
     
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  19. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar was: dingleberry; now: chill + interesting

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    What’s your deal? Why are you using crap? You’re comparing crap to crap. Who gives a shit about crap? What do you want to do next? Drink the water in the Guiyu dump in China where the villagers melt all of your disposable crap over open flames?

    You can make an impeccable product with any modern multibit delta sigma DAC chip. Metric Halo proves it. The only guys using expensive newer chips are compromising everywhere else. It’s not possible to do the r&d to make a new product with the modern AKM and Cirrus release schedules. By the time something good is developed, a new chip will be out. The AD1955 is 20 years old and in some truly unfuckwithable products from Lavry, Dangerous, and Bricasti.

    That Crane Song sounded wide and clear but still soft according to all impressions. Maybe they will something good from the AK4497 in five years. Prism makes punchy as hell hyper detailed products with Cirrus CS4398 chips and it’s consistently great. Maybe Prism will adopt the CS43910 or whatever but their 4398 beats every single other cirrus design. Including the Hilo imo.
     
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  20. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I may have other competitive DACs coming in - not too sure that this moment. But this is what I have to compare to:

    $100 Modi 3: AKM4490
    $600 Motu Ultralite: ESS Sabre - some run of the mill with lot of channels, but same specs at AKM4497
    $500 Topping D70: x2 AKM4497

    IMG_20200518_223754.jpg

    In regards to the D70, under a variety of sources from computer USB (from dedicated USB PCI cards with their own 5V from the power supply) to coax (from Pi2AES) and using various amps Magni 3+ to my custom EC x4-45 with various headphones (Borealis, HD650, Verum, HD800, etc.):
    • Not as resolving as I had hoped for. Microdetail just a hair behind Modi 3. I didn't quite believe this, but I went back and forth several times to check. Yeah, there's fine detail, ambient cues, etc. which is missing relative to the other DACs.
    • Filters do something, the their effects are not major like I've heard on ESS based DACs where it's offered. I eventually settled for Mode 6, after initially starting with Mode 1. Still, among the DACs here, the D70 sounded the grainiest with a bit of that sigma-delta hash (shhh, shh, shhh). The ESS based Motu actually sounded the most fluid. Sharper transients, squarer sound, as expected from Sabre, but not to a nasty extent - think X-Sabre Pro.
    • Thus the Motu Ultralite mk4 had the most evident macro-detail.
    • Both Modi 3 and D70 had an overarching thickness and mushiness (Velvet Sound trademark). However, Modi 3 was less thin and also less mushy at the same time. What I mean by this is that during passages without much low frequency content, vocals, instruments and so forth had more "body" than the D70. And during passages with bass content, the D70 sounded more mushy.
    • Both Modi 3 and D70 exhibited wide-expansive stage. The Motu blew them both out of the way in terms of soundstage depth and instrument localization depth; however imaging was a hair the behind in terms of precise lateral position.
    • The Motu isn't as thick in the lows; however it does have a enveloping warmth. A warmth that's not focused on the upper mids or lower mids, but rather throughout the entire frequency band. Think of the sound an smelly old-school console with transformer coupled inputs and outputs.
    • Finally, the Motu is simply more engaging than the others. Better "PRaT", more contrasty microdynamics, greater immediacy. How do I know this? I still had the headphones on past 1am last night listening to music. As @insidious meme says: "You can tell that Marv likes something if he's still listening. The longer the better the gear. He'll rip those headphones off quickly if he doesn't like the sound."
    • The Motu Ultralite mk4 could just have a different kind of sound that I happen to prefer. Kudos to their engineers for picking the filter that they felt sounded best so I don't have to fart around for hours over two days. If the AKM Velvet Sound is what you want, the logical step up from the Modi 3 is really the RME ADI-2. The Topping D70 isn't horrible but it's a step back from the Schiit Modi 3.
    I'll do a spider-web chart when the time comes.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2020

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