Topping L30 Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Marvey, Jun 28, 2021.

  1. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Yes, this is the very Topping amp that supposedly destroys headphones. Can anyone let me know if I got one that that has the fixes? I did made sure to take anti-static precautions. In a nutshell, the L30 is among a handful of amps that measure spectacularly, so I decided to buy one and try it out for myself. Do I feel the L30 is absolutely transparent from a subjective point of view? Nope, absolutely not. I actually think it's a rather colored amp that commits both sins of commission and sins of omission. But enough of this for now. The reason people want to buy this is because they think subjective impressions are full of crap and want to see the SINAD numbers. Of this, I will happily bring such numbers to you and more.

    DSC01031.JPG

    upload_2021-6-29_16-42-36.png
    Unity gain is used, unless not available, of which it will be stated otherwise.
     
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  2. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Here's a fancy screenshot from the APx555. 1kHz test signal into 300-ohms. I have an outboard PCB with switches where I can toggle between 300 ohms, 32 ohms, or no load (which would be the AP's 100 kohm). Note that the input signal is 775 mVrms and output is 762.9 mVrms which is just under 0dBu. The unity gain setting was used.

    upload_2021-6-28_20-49-12.png

    That's darn clean. Note that the only thing sticking out is the second harmonic. That's it. Maybe a blip on the third. Too hard to say. Higher order distortion is basically nil.
     
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  3. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Hey Marv, would it make sense to maybe have in the title of each chart that it’s measured from the AP? Like maybe “APx555 THD”, or some clear mention of it somewhere else so others will perceive it as apples to apples with ASR?
     
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  4. Gracchus Janus

    Gracchus Janus Rando

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    Universe is conspiring against me from you getting this amp just after I decided to risk my skin going for a hyped Youtube product. I look forward to hearing your impressions on it after the SINAD meme. I must admit it is the best chifi amp that I've gotten to this day, and the first to make my Little Dot MKIII feel a bit outdated on the 650s (after 10 years of continuous amp swaps, most entry chifis).

    About the fixed units: look on the abhorrent white sticker on the side with the serial number. The first four numbers should be above 2012, which was when the revision kicked in and they added a proper static ground to the chassis (you can see it by unscrewing the back plate). Mine for example is a 2102+, so well beyond the blower units.
     
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  5. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    I couldn't find a serial number on the side of the chassis. Only two stickers, one with QC and another with Hires. Here is a photo of the board. I didn't see anything grounding the board to the chassis after opening the back plate.

    DSC01287.JPG

    Nope. Let people figure it out.
     
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  6. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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  7. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    The Topping L30 isn't bad sounding in the outright sense. However like all other monolithic device amps with a massive amount of global negative feedback - what Topping has successfully marketed as NCFA (Nested Composite Feedback Amplifier) - it's on the insipid side. It most certainly doesn't sound like the other (the bad) Chi-Fi stuff. There's no weaksauce kind of sound. It's not harsh sounding. It's just flat and boring.

    The tonal signature is dark. There's some warmth and the highs sound muted. PRAT is non-existent. So is fine detail. The stage is small and compressed. Transients are smeared. Basically, the phrase I would use is "boxed into pleasant and forgiving" . It's not objectionable. Well maybe I should say it could objectionable if one thought real music and real sounds were always heard through the lens of pleasant and forgiving. High gain isn't any better than low gain. Another troubling aspect is that the L30 tends to make every DAC I run through it sound the same, moreso than other super low THD designs such as the Drop THX789. The differences are mainly with tonal signature, but everything else: transients, headstage, microdetail, dynamics - they are all more or less the same among four DACs I've tried so far. The L30 really imparts its own sound. To be honest, it sounds low fidelity. Unobjectionable low fidelity. Perfect in every way, just that I really don't want to listen to it. This is what we with 100db of global negative feedback.

    DSC01544.JPG
    I gave it a better volume knob. I cannot stand those shallow disc type volume knobs.
     
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  8. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Whoa. WTF. I am by no means an expert with the soldering iron (getting better at it), but that looks like shit for a very simple solder. (Did Amir call this out?) I'm also not certain that this fix will do much when 40k volts of static electricity hits it. I think I'll be OK. We don't keep the house super cool and south Texas is humid all year round.

    I'll run a few more measurements tomorrow. FLIR too. This thing gets hot.
     
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  9. bboris77

    bboris77 Friend

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    To play the Devil's advocate here - do you think you would be able to pick out the L30 in a blind test against the Magni 3+?

    it would be fascinating to try and figure out whether those sound characteristics that you describe are still prominent in a blind test. If they are, then the objective becomes to figure out a way to measure those differences.
     
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  10. Gracchus Janus

    Gracchus Janus Rando

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    Mine isn't so bad, but you can tell by the level of flux left that this is something done posthaste:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    In regards to it's sound, my results depended on the Headphone I used. With the Senn 650 the lower end became more controlled and punchier than the Loxjie D30s, but that may be due to the Loxjie not having that much power (31 mW @ 300 ohm); with a more efficient headphone like the THX00 I found the inverse to be true, to my surprise: the L30 should output more than 1W per channel while matching the Fostex, but I still find the Loxjie internal amp more engaging, with more subbass rumble and sparklier highs.

    Against my LD MKIII the L30 still show better driver control with more blackness than the OTL, but this one still shows more lower presence, probably due to the better damping factor. In separation my L30 shows a clear win against the LD, but falls on its face when it comes to headroom and depth: that IMO is the worst shortcoming of this amp, it let's you wet your feet with some 3D imaging but leaves you completely hanging when you focus on it.*

    On vinyl (SL1200 through Schiit Mani on mid gain and a AT Vm95ML) it shows the same story: better separation and blackness than the LD, worse soundstage depth and presence. With the THX00 in the other hand, I strangely found it too harsh on the high regions, transients reminded me of the pain I had with a poor damped/amped Dt [email protected], making me switch to the old integrated amp section of my Pioneer receiver, which mellows everything quite a bit.

    And for iem usage: it just falls shorts, unfortunately. Sure, it has that "2021 power certified™" that is the current trend of the industry (if you doubt that ask yourself the raison d'être of the Topping A30 Pro), but it still has a low hum even on -9db gain. My gainless D30 wipes the floor with it in that regard.

    In summary I can't lie to myself and tell you I didn't like the amp, because I did. I can see the why all of Marvs criticisms and agree to most of them (for instance, I much prefer high gain to the other settings, even on the X00). Living in NA I wouldn't recommend this against iFi offerings or Schiits, as I haven't when an american friend asked me if he should get it. But for restricted markets like mine, it still is one of the best entries I heard.

    *A small worthy note is that I'm still using the D30 as a DAC, and its AKM chip implementation, although the best one I've seen in entry chifi, specially when compared my old K5 pro, is still VERY upfront, nothing alike the Khadas Tone 2, for example.
     
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  11. mocenigo

    mocenigo Acquaintance

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    Some L30s of the first generation have blown, and in few cases they brought headphones with them. Now they are completely fixed. If you have a serial number that begins with 2012 or 21xx it is a good one. It does not take much to know if you got a fixed one, you just need to be able to read and to use a search engine.
     
  12. mocenigo

    mocenigo Acquaintance

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    If there is no pin other board that makes contact with the back plate then it is not fixed. Where did you buy it? If you got it second hand you have been defrauded, I fear.
     
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  13. mocenigo

    mocenigo Acquaintance

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    Wow, it is completely different from my experience: dynamic without exhaggeration, very linear, not dark at all, extremely detailed, I could say that transients are ok, not overstated.

    Are you sure you are not just imagining it because you know it has a "lot of negative feedback"?
     
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  14. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    Before he answers, if you told us what amps you are comparing the L30 to in order to come to this conclusion, that would be helpful.
     
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  15. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Even simpler for you to have read the next few posts in this thread.
     
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  16. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    I could never find a serial number on my unit - :shrug:

    Marv - I wish there was a happy middle ground knob between the stock L30 knob and the IEMagni knob. I want length and girth :) The L30 knob was a bit too shallow, but I liked how much easier it was (for me) to fine tune my listening level. I wish I had more to grab on to though.
     
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  17. Elnrik

    Elnrik Super Friendly

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    Are you sure you are not just imagining this because you know it has good SINAD?
     
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  18. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    I would prefer direct contact with the manufacturer - a statement or response from the manufacturer - instead of relying on the Internets. It's just the way I am, especially since expensive headphones could be at risk.

    Between Magni 3+, yes almost certainly. You know I've been willing to do double-blind tests. The thing is, there will always be an argument that Magni 3+ doesn't measure well enough. I think a better test may be against the Drop THX One, Heresy, or Atom.

    We'll know soon enough. Blind testing octopus is ready.
    PXL_20210629_195148079.jpg

    I would say that I know because I actually do blind tests unlike people who sit in their chairs all day looking at measurements to throw shade at people who have been exposed to a lot more gear and have been doing gear measurements specific to personal audio for over a decade now.

    I'm also not here to convince you otherwise. This is why the measurements are posted in this thread. If you believe in the Temple of SINAD, or the Temple of Three Sines (depending upon what headphone you use), then by all means. I do not care what you believe. I simply provide the means for you to make your own decision.

    Also, I've been through all this myself. I started out in the hobby right after my kids were born. I didn't have much money then so I put together DIY opamp chip amps on a breadboard. They sounded great. Measured great (at least for the opamps available back then). Until I found better sounding discrete and tube designs. I never looked back.
     
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  19. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    I purchased this second-hand on eBay since I refuse to pay retail for this. As I mentioned, the headphone explosions are of little concern because by habit I tend to ground myself (touching a metal surface first) and also because I live in a humid environment, with non-carpeted bare floors, using minimal AC.

    However, I suspect something amiss. It would seem that some unscrupulous dealers, instead of returning these "liable" units back to the manufacturer, dumped them on the grey market. I would have hoped that Topping made an honest effort to recall the affect units.
     
  20. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Well as mentioned, it's not bad. Until you compare with something better. For a $150 one can do a lot worse! You are correct, outside of NA, the choice is much more restricted. People who live in NA and/or have been able to make headphone meets are very spoiled and have much higher expectations. This is the basis of SBAF.
     
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