Topping DACs?

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by etane, May 6, 2020.

  1. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    On the topic of random, Chi-Fi, eBay DACs, I just so happen to have a mystery DAC that perhaps I should send you. It may be the worst measuring DAC I've tested yet...well, maybe not S19 bad...and I'd be curious if you think it sounds better than the Topping you're testing. :D
     
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  2. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    Wouldn't that be great? Actually kind of a "quest" to find a hidden chi-fi gem and to see the price rocket up after a few good impressions here. ^^

    Yes, as i said the D90 is not bad, at all, just overpriced. I would like to have heard it with some of amps i am most familiared with. I don't get something though:

    "I don't have a ton of DS DAC experience (Fulla 2, Gungnir DS, ESS 9018 in my LG V30, dual CS43198 in HiBy R5) but this is easily the best I've heard of any of those and is really giving the Onyx a run for its money."

    So you have heard the Onyx or not?! This sentence made me confused.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2020
  3. klyrish

    klyrish Almost "Made"

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    I'm not understanding the confusion regarding the quoted sentence of mine. It was slightly awkward but still just a complex sentence:

    The D90 is giving the Onyx a run for its money.

    I greatly prefer the D90 to the Onyx at the moment and don't know that my opinion will change at this point. Layering and separation are greatly improved. I'm hearing so many stacked vocal layers that I've never heard before in numerous NIN and Enter Shikari songs; clarity through really congested passages is the best I've ever heard; I'm enjoying the tighter, deeper bass of the D90 as well.

    Hearing this DAC through a proper amp has really opened my eyes. These are all still initial impressions but the AKM 4499 is shaping up to be a real gem of a DAC chip.
     
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  4. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    Real dacs have more variety to their sound than chifi. Akm Da Chips are only dominant in budget shit and tacked on conversion. The ad chips are very popular. You only seem to have experience with budget gear... okay, the rest of everything is not like that. Tons of manufacturers still use Cirrus, TI, and ESS. There are still manufacturers using AK4395, AK4399, and AK4621 in better units than almost every AK4490 onwards box. The chip, even though it greatly affects the timbre of the sound in a huge way, doesn’t matter that much to overall sound quality.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2020
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Modi 3 gives Onyx a run for its money if you are into layering and separation, focus, and lower distortion.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2020
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  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    As far as the latest AKM Velvet sound chips, they made the lowest line 4490 and 4493 too good.
     
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  7. klyrish

    klyrish Almost "Made"

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    Maybe. I haven't heard Modi 3, just Modi Multibit.

    All I'm saying is that before you guys all write the D90 off as being more of the same from Topping, you give it a legitimate shot. I'm shocked at how good this DAC sounds and I am by no means a shill for any brand.

    I may be willing to offer my D90 up to the SBAF loaner program to some of the senior level members (and only them because I honestly don't want to be without this DAC for too long at this point) after things calm down in my personal life in the next few weeks. And assuming I'd get back after the tour is done, too, of course.
     
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  8. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    Well the extra specs just don't matter after a certain point. It's like I've heard ES9016S boxes beat up 9018 ones. It's not like these budget hifi or workman pro gear manufacturers are going to spend a ton on parts to eek out every ounce of performance possible from a chip like Bricasti and Dangerous did with the AD1955.
     
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  9. magicscreen

    magicscreen Rando

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    Bricasti is using a stereo ADI 1955 D/A converter in a mono configuration.
    Is this the same as the AD1955?
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    IMG_20200518_223754.jpg
    Top to bottom: Modi 3, Motu UltraLite mk4, Topping D70.

    The UltraLite mk4 is really really good far exceeding expectations for its price considering the many other features (which typically diminish sound quality - the money has to go somewhere). Headphone out is actually good. Amazing what can be done with cheap parts by designers who actually have ears rather than rely on analyzer. HINT: my favorite of the three is the Motu; however, the sound is quite different from the other two AKM449* based DACs. More specifics later this week in the Topping D70 thread.
     
  11. Raimei Templar

    Raimei Templar Almost "Made"

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    Yeah that is a fair point, there is more variety in the higher end stuff, should have been more specific as I was meaning among the more affordable dacs. I see lots of people asking for affordable DAC recommendations and I always feel bad having to mostly recommend AKM dacs as there arent many options in the 300 and under category outside of Chifi.

    I usually end up recommend the Modi or the Geshelli Enog as I think those are a great value, but I personally dont really like the AKM sound. I saw you recommending the Motu m2/4m4 as a good budget dac and I might give that a try as I would like to be able to recommend a dac with a little more exciting sound as a find the AKM dacs to be a bit too soft for my taste. Would be nice to offer some options to people.

    Creative G6 impressed me at its price point but Creatives drivers are such a PITA I am wary of recommending it.

    I also dont think the Chip necessarily is a huge contributor to the sound on its own, but when you are dealing with budget dacs you typically get something that doesnt stray too far from whatever the references design for that chip is. So in that sense its useful to get a general idea of what a dac might sound like. Comparing two cheap dacs of the same chips that didnt massivly screw anything up is the extra hard mode of dac comparison. At least that has been my experience with being in midfi hell for the past few years.
     
  12. crazychile

    crazychile Eastern Iowa's Spiciest Pepper

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    I haven't heard this DAC or any Topping product, but my interpretation from what has been written so far:
    1. Kinda expensive for what it is.
    2. Poorly executed menu / functionality that may trigger the "WTF? Chi-Fi!" siren to go off in your head.
    3. If Schiit made a product like this it would be half the price, made in USA, and easy enough to use that you probably wouldn't need to consult a manual.

    I've been looking for a DSD dac to try that's <$300, is just a DAC, no headphone amp, and is in a more traditional DAC package (non-portable, I/O on the back, uses a traditional power cord) and doesn't sound like crap. I think iFi would be the best suited to make a product like this. Their current stuff doesn't quite fit this description. If they did, they would probably kill a lot of the Topping sales. Just my opinion.
     
  13. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    All those years ago, in the last century, when I finally discovered that I had to buy a sound card from a music shop, not a computer shop, Lynx was for the rich and my half-price-discontinued RME (yes we're both disappointed now with the ADI-2) was expensive for me, I asked the guy in the shop what was his, money-no-object, first choice. He said Motu.

    Well, back then, it was also way off my budget. And they did stuff that bristled with mic pre-amps and stuff and there is no point in paying for functionality that is going to be wasted.

    A decade later, they vehemently did not support Linux: proprietary drivers and hostile refusal to co-operate with open-source community.

    Now... well, I think that, ears not withstanding, I might make just one more audio purchase. Motu, not Topping. Thanks to @Psalmanazar.
     
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  14. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    I hear ya on this. iFi products have always been "eccentric", to pick a word, in form and functionality. I have assumed they do this in an effort for market differentiation but maybe their head designer(s) are just quirky? Also they just design as all manufacturing is chi-contractual as I understand it.
     
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  15. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    Although i understand most of your points i have to recall that iFi is overpriced as well, imo. Every product i have tried (and that i own) of them i thought that it was way more costly than they should. They can, sometimes, be had for good price in 2nd hand though, just needs patience or luck.

    As i said before, if D90 was 500 it would be adequate, maybe 450 because although it's sturdy i don't like those buttons and LCD tbh. They feel cheap as hell for some reason, maybe it's just the design of it, which seems something i could find in ebay's many unknown chinese dacs.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2020
  16. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Topping feels like an AliExpress or eBay special where one-fifth of the remote control buttons don't do anything despite having markings on them, poorly documented features, odd non-intuitive interface design, and pedestrian cookie-cutter chassis. The resultant sound of their gear is random.

    iFi makes gear with the following qualities: 1) tweaker-friendly feature-packed products with intuitive interfaces and concise explanations in the manual of what they do; 2) consistent smart physical designs which facilitate their trans-portability and denote their brand; 3) intentionally chosen parts and design elements (tube types, DA chips, filters, etc.) to provide the sound their designers are trying to achieve.

    Topping is overpriced and poor value.

    iFi charges a premium, because they can. They actually have a clue and fill a niche.
     
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  17. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Topping is using ASR and measurements like some unscrupulous video card manufacturers did back in the day by simply gaming the benchmarks (i.e. maximize whatever the AP555 will measure). They must destroy all others on SINAD at the sacrifice of actual sound quality, usability, build quality etc. This is their entire marketing and product development strategy now.

    Likelihood is that they don’t even listen to their designs or trial them with actual users - they just build it to the chip makers blueprint, and then tweak it until the SINAD/measurements are where it needs to be to put it in the brochure. Then they set the “features” corresponding to the price point they want to hit for each model, along with the cheapest enclosure and other accessories they can source.

    Product done.

    Edit: Topping’s relationship with ASR and their marketing of measurements is allowing them to move upmarket and create products with more features and slight variations, that cost very little to them, but that makes the product seem more “premium” and competitive with mid-fi makers like Schiit and iFi, so they can charge much more. Eventually they will start to enhance their enclosures/accessories as well, again for minimal cost to them, but for a huge uptick in retail price I’m sure.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2020
  18. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    But that's exactly what they are doing and exactly what many would do in their place. They had the "luck" of having a bunch of "insert word" that think that measurements are everything and they are now riding that wave and filling that niche. I bet the D90 would cost significantly less if this had not happened.

    They are also charging this "because they can", the big difference is that even if the sound is good-ish the rest is not. The construction is solid but it doesn't feel premium at all and that's why i compared this product with those ebay chinese dacs.

    Topping is asking a premium price for a non-premium product, imo, and i am not being specific just about the D90.

    PS - some people say (not being specific about a particular place or group) that only sound is important and i disagree. It may be the most important but i am buying a whole experience, when buying a product, and that includes my interactions in all fronts.
     
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  19. crazychile

    crazychile Eastern Iowa's Spiciest Pepper

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    I'm having some Deja Vu regarding the SINAD boner war. Anyone else remember back in the 80's when receiver manufacturers claimed .008% THD (by using negative feedback that killed the music) as opposed to others .08% THD? Yeah that really makes a big difference when a lot of tube amps at the time were around .5% THD, but could actually sound good.
     
  20. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Number of factors. It can be a huge contributor. Chip tends to be a huge contributor when many manufacturers zero in on one and implement their designs in a cookie-cutter way. This is why ten years ago we had a bunch of shitty sounding ESS Sabre based DACs which mostly sounded the same. Some where from ChiFi outfits (remember Yulong!) and others were western-based (remember Resssosssnance). On occasion, there'd be a good ESS Sabre DAC from the likes of Sabre-whisperer Larry Ho (Geekv2 was great, Pulse DAC was poop) or McIntosh ($$$).

    In hindsight, I think there was a lot of room for ESS because their chips necessitated the use of a separate IV (current to voltage) stage. A designer can be very creative with IV stages. The AKM based DACs were and continues to be voltage out. AKM today also seems to have dug themselves into a strong house sound with their Velvet Sound deal. Topping just slaps an opamp after the AKM chips.
     

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