Topping DACs?

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Reminds me of when I replaced the wall wart on my ifi phono preamp with an LPS from sBooster that was about 5x the size of the iFi unit and nearly as expensive. It made quite a difference for the better.
 

Ilusndweller

Junior Member
If I were to get one of those really nice power supplies for the Topping D30, Im confident I would prove myself wrong. And I felt so strongly that the B&K dac sounded better than the Toppings.

And in digging out the B&K another experiment was performed. Id been running variable out from the NAD 5300 cd player for about 2-3 weeks when I purchased the Denon POA-2800 amp. The sound has noticeably improved with the addition of the B&K AVP-1030. So sometimes in audio, more is better (and sometimes its not).
 
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Audionut

Next Round Is On Me
So you buying a D70 @JohnVF and doing a solid review?:D....I’m actually debating buying one too. The musical paradise TOTL DAC I’ve been eying with the same chipset is about double so this may be a series contender/value buy.
 

Ilusndweller

Junior Member
Thanks again for this superb summary. Keeping it real and explaining the bigger picture. This is something I need to pay much more attention to looking forward.

They do, but it's actually more detailed than that. In almost all cases, the quality of the power supply (or lack thereof) has more to do with the final sound quality than anything else. The actual DAC chip in use, and even to some extent the analog output stage design, have less to do with influencing the sound than most people care to believe.

Everything runs off the power supply, and even when using digital output (in the case of disc player as transport), or digital input (in the case of a DAC), changes/upgrades made to the power supply are always the biggest bang for the buck and result in the easiest to hear differences. Beefing up the storage capacitance, better filter caps, higher quality voltage regulators, etc. tend to upgrade the sound more than the somewhat smaller differences between DAC chips, or even chip architecture (i.e. multibit "ladder" vs delta-sigma).
So in your example, yes there are differences between coax and Toslink, or for that matter the actual interface cables for such, and there are differences between the transport and DAC sections, and there are always differences between the power supply designs too. Invariably, the unit with the better power supply wins.

Power supply is probably under appreciated in many circles in general, but it is especially ignored for no good reason in "digital" circles. People want to think a particular chip or aspect of the digital board design is responsible for the overall sound when really the single biggest contributor is the power supply.

Various CD players and/or DACs that offer power supply upgrades are great test beds for that, as not everyone is into DIY or tearing apart perfectly good players to modify them.

Instead, with certain brands (for example Naim), you'd simply save up the scratch for the factory external power supply option, ideally if you could find a used one but that was always hard, usually they'd only be paired with the player in a used sale. Shocking difference for the better when using the external power supply, not small or subtle and especially surprising given the player already sounded great in it's stock/standard form.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
So you buying a D70 @JohnVF and doing a solid review?:D....I’m actually debating buying one too. The musical paradise TOTL DAC I’ve been eying with the same chipset is about double so this may be a series contender/value buy.
I'm still thinking about it.... think think think think....

I'm so annoyed that all the comments out there about it are about how well it measures or people caring about minuscule differences in THD between it and whatever else, while seemingly not one owner has actually listened to it in comparison to anything. It's like "photographers" arguing about how well their cameras capture parallel lines, then you look at their actual photos and they're terrible....
 

Audionut

Next Round Is On Me
I'm still thinking about it.... think think think think....

I'm so annoyed that all the comments out there about it are about how well it measures or people caring about minuscule differences in THD between it and whatever else, while seemingly not one owner has actually listened to it in comparison to anything. It's like "photographers" arguing about how well their cameras capture parallel lines, then you look at their actual photos and they're terrible....
Carpe diem!:D

I agree and frankly don't think we are capable of deciphering the difference past a certain measure. Calibration devices obviously can but then again the will not pay for my DAC or listen to it for me.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Thanks again for this superb summary. Keeping it real and explaining the bigger picture. This is something I need to pay much more attention to looking forward.
Ha, and I probably could have just said your B&K AVP's DAC section probably sounds great because it has a solid power supply!

With regard to DACs like the Topping D30, this also ties in with the whole value aspect or perceived value. It's too easy to assign all of the consumer value to cheap Asian manufacturing cost. While that's certainly plenty of the reason Topping (and others) can offer DACs like the D30 at the prices they do, it ignores the fact that they have chosen a very small/inexpensive chassis enclosure (far too small to fit a real power supply) and included a $5 switcher as the external power supply.

The bad news is they've included a shitty power supply, the good news is the external power supply aspect of the design means it's very easy to upgrade/replace it with something better. The link I provided as an example of a decent LPS offered on eBay illustrates the enclosure size thing pretty well, that power supply is far larger than the DAC itself. You could double the size of the D30's enclosure and it still wouldn't come close to having the necessary available real estate to fit a good onboard LPS.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
So you buying a D70 @JohnVF and doing a solid review?:D....I’m actually debating buying one too. The musical paradise TOTL DAC I’ve been eying with the same chipset is about double so this may be a series contender/value buy.
Ok I bought it. Seems it’ll be awhile before it’s in my hands. I will do a comparison between it and an older high end Berkeley Alpha.

And it doesn’t appear to use a wall wart. It’s Topping’s stab at a higher end DAC.
 

Ilusndweller

Junior Member
Cheers to your purchase, my gut feeling says you will be pleasantly surprised and happy with your purchase. I like that you are open minded and dont mind giving Chevy and Ford (or Kia for that matter) a fair shake, despite usually rolling in Rolls and Lambos. :smile:
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Cheers to your purchase, my gut feeling says you will be pleasantly surprised and happy with your purchase. I like that you are open minded and dont mind giving Chevy and Ford (or Kia for that matter) a fair shake, despite usually rolling in Rolls and Lambos. :smile:
Well Chevy pays my bills so I like to give them their due.

I’m curious if passage of time, production scale, chip advancements etc, have brought down the price of truly excellent DACs. Regardless I need another DAC so this looks like an affordable way to have some digital fun. I got it through Drop. My first Drop purchase!
 

airdronian

Junior Member
Well Chevy pays my bills so I like to give them their due.

I’m curious if passage of time, production scale, chip advancements etc, have brought down the price of truly excellent DACs. Regardless I need another DAC so this looks like an affordable way to have some digital fun. I got it through Drop. My first Drop purchase!
Hope you like it. Nice first post btw. ;) Now you can ask them where to get a decent AC cable. That should get some of 'em in a right lather.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Hope you like it. Nice first post btw. ;) Now you can ask them where to get a decent AC cable. That should get some of 'em in a right lather.
Haha. I have 3 DACs, each conveys soundstage differently (though I wouldn’t necessarily pin that on the actual DAC chip). Couldn’t keep my big mouth shut.
 
When I was at Axpona I saw some Project stuff made in the EU. Austria or Czechoslovakia or maybe both. Their USA salesman was a pleasant fellow so we chatted. They displayed some of their wares with the covers off.

So I am sure we have all seen the proper gander about the "ESS Saber 9038" DAC chips. One of their DACs had those and I looked at them.
These chips are practically microscopic. About 1/4 inch by 3/8 and with extremely fine pitch microscopic leads coming out of all four edges.
I thought to myself THAT is the vaunted 9038 chips (there were two) I could barely see them. I later saw them on other boards that were nekkid.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I’m a bit amazed at the attention heaped upon different DAC chips on forums, especially ones like head-fi or that weird audio science one, while almost no attention is given to things like the analog output stage and power supply, as mentioned above. That said, I night this DAC as I’m curious how the new fad DAC chips sound so?

Whatever the case it’s not all that expensive relative to other things in this hobby. I just hope it’s easy enough to disable the volume control as that’s the one outstanding detail that appears to have some confusion around it. I can look up a host of measurements that are absolutely meaningless to me but it seems the measure police haven’t gotten into the part about actually using it :)
 
My guess would be that that DAC chip drives a short circuit board trace to a transistor or op amp. It probably could not source enough current to drive a cable. Of course I could be wrong. Very brave new world we live in.
 

Audionut

Next Round Is On Me
I’m a bit amazed at the attention heaped upon different DAC chips on forums, especially ones like head-fi or that weird audio science one, while almost no attention is given to things like the analog output stage and power supply, as mentioned above. That said, I night this DAC as I’m curious how the new fad DAC chips sound so?

Whatever the case it’s not all that expensive relative to other things in this hobby. I just hope it’s easy enough to disable the volume control as that’s the one outstanding detail that appears to have some confusion around it. I can look up a host of measurements that are absolutely meaningless to me but it seems the measure police haven’t gotten into the part about actually using it :)
The volume control sounds like a great option if you use it as a desktop setup with just an amp and speakers (sans preamp). Having the option to disable it is icing on the cake.
I have to see if I have time to pull the trigger on one today. Can’t wait to hear your impressions on it too!
 

Ilusndweller

Junior Member
The multi-step layering process to make chips is rather insane. So many processing (in layers) techniques and the chips just keep getting smaller and smaller and smaller. The smaller they get, the more critical thermal management (electronic packaging) is. Now, not only are leads a few atoms thick but so are entire chips. A former roomate did a few of the processing steps for the Hubble imager and I know his small part of it took a good number of tries and starting over to be succesful. I didnt make chips, but rather microlenses etched into silicon wafers via reactive ion etching/inductively coupled plasma.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I may end up using it as a pre-DAC so the volume control will be nice. Supposedly it can be disabled, though... but it’s not specifically called out. We shall see!
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
I may end up using it as a pre-DAC so the volume control will be nice. Supposedly it can be disabled, though... but it’s not specifically called out. We shall see!
Generally with a DAC disabling the digital volume control means just turning it all the way up (0 dB setting).

I've seen some that have a settings menu that offers the option to actually disable the volume control, but with a digital control that just means it's set at 0 dB and the rotary encoder is made inoperable, so it wouldn't matter if you accidentally turned the volume knob, it would have no effect.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Generally with a DAC disabling the digital volume control means just turning it all the way up (0 dB setting).

I've seen some that have a settings menu that offers the option to actually disable the volume control, but with a digital control that just means it's set at 0 dB and the rotary encoder is made inoperable, so it wouldn't matter if you accidentally turned the volume knob, it would have no effect.
On both my Berkeley Alpha and BMC it’s a particular level that’s not all the way up. But mostly what I’m concerned about is that both of those DACs revert to a low volume when turned off. I hate adjusting volume to a particular level every time I turn it on.
 
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