Topping D50 review – monolithic beauty

Topping D50 review main picture

Topping D50

Tested at $249
7.4

Sound

6.5/10

Features

9.0/10

Build

10.0/10

Value

4.0/10

Pros

  • Sturdy and stylish build
  • Detailed sound

Cons

  • Tends to sound harsh and edgy
  • Pricey for its sound

When Topping D50 arrived at my door I was really excited to try it out because I liked its older and more affordable cousin D30. So without farther ado, let’s jump into the review.

BUILD AND LOOKS

First of all, I want to talk about build quality. D50 is made of one solid piece of aluminum carved by the CNC machine to shape it into this small but very thick and heavy box. It’s incredibly heavy for its size, it feels like holding a rock and I like it. Lastly, it’s beautifully finished with a matt finish and rounded edges. All of the above ads to the premium feel of this unit.

CONNECTIONS AND FUNCTIONALITY

On the back, there are all the usual connections: USB, coaxial and optical inputs, line-out over a pair of RCAs and finally power supply jack. Odd thing is that in the box you receive power cable only. On its other end, there’s a good old USB-B port and you are supposed to buy 5V brick by yourself. It’s a minor thing but might irritate some buyers. It’s a $200+ unit that comes without a power supply, while D30 has one at half the price. Anyway, I used 2 Amps wall warts lying around my house, tried several of them and all worked fine.

In the front, there’s a small white OLED display with some useful information. Except for the power button, everything else is controlled by a four-way stick. There’s a volume control too so you can also use it as a preamp if you choose. One step is just 0.5 dBs so you get very fine control over the volume level. 

The last thing worth mentioning is that D50 supports all of the PCM and DSD formats you could ever need. Whatever you plan to play through it, you’re covered. 

SOUND

On paper, D50 looks tempting with two modern Sabre chips, each for one stereo channel, but does it really deliver? I hooked it to my room setup and listened for some time. The first thing that comes to my mind is detailed and analytical. Now let’s go about it in a usual frequency spectrum manner. Bass is deep and very well controlled too – it’s fast, it slams, it never goes out of control and I can only praise that. Mid tones are fine and detailed but a little bit dry and analytical sounding. Switching back to other DACs and then back to D50 I can’t shake the feeling that upper bass and lower mids should have a little bit more meat to them. In terms of clarity and energy, it’s all good though. Finally, highs are again very detailed, fast, and clean but definitely leaning at the sharp and analytical side of things. I was listening to all kinds of music and D50 just kept its sound signature – well-controlled, detailed, and analytical.

When compared to its older brother, the first thing you notice is D30 doesn’t sound as detailed and analytical. With it, you do lose a little bit of that sharpness D50 provides, but you get a little bit juicer sound in the upper bass and lower mids which is very pleasant for longer listening. Depending on your preferences and the rest of your system you might find yourself preferring one over the other.

UPDATE (for the written review on December 2019)

Nowadays there is strong competition in this price range. Even some more affordable DACs that might be less impressive on paper can prove to be worthy competition. First of all, Schiit Modi 3 can offer the same amount of details but in a thicker and more natural way. Loxjie D10 is another stellar device with similarly analytical sound signature, volume control, and even a headphone out at a lower price point. iFi Zen Dac can offer equally great build but with fuller and more fluid sound…

In terms of built quality and looks, Topping D50 looks as premium as it gets and I love it. It also offers volume control so it can be used as a preamp. But speaking in terms of sound quality only – doesn’t really justify the asking price. I’m waiting for a revised D50s unit as I write this. Hopefully, Topping can punch back and get back in the game.

UPDATE 2: Topping did punch back, read about it here: https://iiwireviews.com/topping-d50s-a-welcome-refresh  

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