Topping delivers a true audiophile listening experience from this powerful, compact pairing.
Every journey has its ups and downs, its twists and turns, and it’s often said that the journey has more value to us than the destination. And so it is with the audiophile’s journey. For all the talk of ‘endgame’ audio components, the truth is that there’s always something new around the corner that can challenge our definition of audible bliss.
That’s all part of the fun: hearing something new in our favorite recordings and finding a closer emotional connection to our music. This is the audiophile’s endless journey.
- »Exceptional resolution helped by plenty of power
- »Punchy, dynamic sound signature
- »Good range of well chosen inputs and outputs
- »Faint whining sound from A30 Pro in standby mode
- »Remote control needed for changing settings while in use
- »A30 Pro volume control feels vague
What came around the corner for me this time was a spectacular DAC and amp combination that lit me up with listening pleasure from the moment I fed it my music. They provided another reminder that Chi-Fi is now able to hold its own against some of the best-known brands in the industry. Before getting to the music, let’s start with the essentials.
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- Company Overview
- Technical Specifications
- A30 Pro & D30 Pro Sound
- Where to Buy
Guangzhou Topping Electronics & Technology was founded in 2008. Placing a high value on R&D, it has invested in the finest professional audio testing equipment available, and uses its expertise to produce, and continually refine, a range of power amplifiers, headphone amplifiers, and DACs.
- Form: Desktop Amp
- Frequency Response: 20Hz-40kHz
- Headphone Output Power: 6,000mW x 2 @ 16Ohms, 5,500mW x 2 @ 32Ohms, 840mW x 2 @ 300Ohms
- THD+N: <0.00008% @ 1kHz
- Inputs: 3-pin XLR Balanced, RCA Single Ended
- PreAmp Outputs: RCA Single Ended, 6.35mm TRS Balanced
- Headphone Outputs: 4 pin XLR Balanced, 4.4mm Balanced, 6.35mm Single Ended
- Dimensions: 17.4 x 13.8 x 4.5cm
- Weight: 870g
- Form: Desktop DAC
- Frequency Response: 20Hz-40kHz
- PCM Decoding: 32Bit/384kHz (USB), 24Bit/192kHz (COAX/Optical)
- DSD Decoding: DSD256 (Native over USB), DSD64 (DoP over COAX/Optical)
- Inputs: USB-B (cable included), Optical, COAX
- Outputs: 3 pin XLR Balanced, RCA Single Ended
- Dimensions: 17.4 x 13.8 x 4.5 cm
- Weight: 740g
- Remote Control: Included
Topping has chosen to keep things simple here. Both the A30 Pro and D30 Pro are protected well enough in simple cardboard boxes, lined with foam, but there’s no great sense of occasion with unboxing these. Of course there’s nothing more important than the equipment inside, so I’ll forgive unexciting packaging if the sound makes up for it.
The RCA jacks on both units come fitted with plastic covers. I’m not a fan of disposable plastics, but in this case they do serve a purpose for the jacks you don’t need, keeping them clean until they’re ready to be used.
In the box
- The amp
- Power cord
- 6.35mm to 3.5mm headphone adapter
- The DAC
- Power cord
- Remote control
- USB cable (USB-A to USB-B)
Both the A30 and D30 Pro are available in silver and black. Dimensions are identical on both, so they stack together perfectly. My test units had the silver finish, a refreshing change from the black components in my own system.
Overall, the design is simple and intuitive. The only time I needed the manual was in the setup of the DAC, which has a few options that are selected via a cryptic menu. Most of these options are also available during normal operation using the included remote control. You’ll want to keep the manual for occasional reference.
Staying with the DAC menu, the D30 Pro can be set up as either a pure DAC, or as a DAC + pre-amplifier (with a variable volume output). There are a range of PCM audio filters, a brightness and timeout setting for the display, and an option to choose which outputs are active.
When used as a pre-amplifier, the D30 Pro is capable of outputting up to 2Vrms over its single ended output, and double that through the XLR output. Both of these are above typical line level, making the DAC suitable for use with a wide range of amplifier and active speaker options.
The one physical dial on the front of this unit works as an attenuator (essentially a volume control) for the line outputs. That same dial can be pressed to select the source input.
The remote control, which has nice clicky buttons, is a helpful inclusion for those sitting further from their equipment. Its most useful functions are muting the sound, selecting the input, and if you like to experiment, changing the PCM audio filters.
Switching to the A30 Pro amplifier, the design is again simple and functional. There are switches for input and gain, XLR, 4.4mm Pentacon and 6.35mm jacks, and a volume control. The switches have a positive feel, although the volume control, which I believe to be an analog potentiometer, feels rather vague as it turns.
The A30 Pro runs warm, and so is covered in vent holes, all over the top and the sides of the unit. This is partly because the AC/DC power supplies are inside both the amp and the DAC. No power bricks here!
Both units have a power switch on the back, as well as an on/off standby control on the front. There’s also a ground lift switch that may help with eliminating ground loops (often resulting in audible hum) depending on your system and home wiring.
One slight disappointment, especially at this price point, was a faint, continuous whine coming from the amp when in standby (off) mode. At first I thought this might be related to the burn-in of a new component, or perhaps just a one-off, but it appears others have noticed it also. The whine stops when the unit is either off at the power switch (on the back), or switched on at the front.
You may not even notice the whine unless your room is otherwise silent, and perhaps Topping will have addressed it by the time you read this.
There is plentiful venting on the amp to keep components cool.
Most of the information I could find about the internals of the Topping units relates to the DAC, and the biggest news here is the DAC chips themselves.
The D30 Pro is a Quad DAC design, which means, you guessed it, there are actually four DAC chips tucked inside: the Cirrus Logic 43198. This is the best performing DAC currently available from that supplier, with high dynamic range, very low distortion, and selectable filters. The use of four of these in the D30 Pro provides a total of eight balanced channels, and the higher output this delivers contributes to the high resolution this DAC delivers.
The XMOS XU208 8-core USB audio interface provides for up to 32bit and 384kHz for PCM files, and up to DSD256 native support. There’s a lot of debate over how far hi-res audio needs to go to provide a great experience, but if you’ve got high-resolution audio files, the D30 Pro will natively play all but the very highest resolution.
The A30 Pro delivers enough power to make headphone drivers dance!
A30 Pro & D30 Pro Sound
For the purposes of this review, and since many customers will choose to do the same, I tested the A30 Pro and D30 Pro together, as a pair. There’s no requirement to pair them up though: using the D30 Pro in Pre-Amp mode with a pair of active speakers, or another amp, would be no issue. Or, of course, the A30 Pro can be paired with virtually any DAC.
The source for most of my testing was a Mac Mini running Roon, connected to an Allo DigiOne network streamer via an Ethernet cable and then into the D30 Pro via COAX. The DAC was connected to the A30 Pro Amp using the balanced XLR interfaces, and for headphones I used my trusty Sennheiser HD650s, connected to the balanced XLR jack.
I’ll just say, straight away, that this combination of equipment and interconnects sounded fantastic. The Topping pair are doing precisely what they should be, converting and amplifying the music, and no more, with the result that I forgot they were there and instead spent multiple listening sessions exploring my music.
It’s often said that you need a fair amount of power to really get the best out of high-impedance headphones, like the Sennheisers at 300 Ohms. After listening to the Topping combo for many, many hours, I can confirm that this is unquestionably true, and the Topping delivers plenty of power, even on medium gain. Enough power to make the drivers dance! I’ve never heard my own headphones sounding so good!
If the frequency response graph on the A30 Pro instruction sheet is to be believed, assessing the amp for tonal character is going to be a challenge. According to Topping it’s essentially flat across the audible range, and my listening showed up nothing to refute their claim.
So much listening fun to be had with this combo.
The standout characteristic I noticed at the low end was the transient attack on electronic kick drums, which showed off the amp’s generous power perfectly. The punchiness was clearly evident on All to Get Her by Plaid. I briefly tried the track on high gain, and was (almost literally) blown away with the kind of sound pressure this amp is capable of producing. Be careful with your ears!
With lesser equipment, things can get out of hand in the midrange, with complex arrangements simply falling apart. Either that, or peaking in such a way that you’re reaching for the volume to turn it down. Not so here.
No matter what I threw at this Topping combo, the mids remained controlled and easier to enjoy than I’m used to. Tracks like Crawling Kingsnake by The Black Keys demonstrated this well, with their bluesy, distorted guitars sounding musical and easy to follow.
Continuing the trend, I found the top end to be perfectly balanced for my taste. Highs were crisp and bright, but never got out of control. Everybody Wants to be Famous by Superorganism has been produced with a lot of compression, like much of modern pop, and has highs that could overwhelm a lot of equipment. Again, no worries here: just more listening pleasure.
Where to Buy
I had so much fun with the Topping A30 Pro / D30 Pro combination. With the best audio equipment, you feel like you’re listening to the music, and not the gear. I’m happy to report that this DAC/amp combo delivers just that: it got out of the way and helped me forget I was researching a review, and so I enjoyed many longer listening sessions than I’ve done in a long time.
Both products reproduced my music superbly well, so there’s no need to buy both if you’re only looking for either a DAC or an amp. Together they make a perfect pairing, especially when a smaller footprint is desirable. There’s certainly no compromise on power, and I’m confident the amp will drive whatever headphones you connect.
The bottom line is this: if you’re in the market for a new DAC and amp, and your budget covers them, the Topping A30 Pro and D30 pro should absolutely be on your shortlist.