As some of you might know I have a long line of reviewed Topping D/A converters. Some of them I liked – D10, D30, and NX4, but some of them not so much – D50 and DX3 pro. The ones I didn’t like sounded too dry and overly analytical. To be perfectly honest, I was not that eager on testing D50 with Bluetooth and remote – because that’s exactly how D50s looked in my eyes. But you, my viewers and readers, asked for it repeatedly so I finally succumbed. I’m glad that I did.
D50s is yet again centered around a pair of ESS SABRE ES9038Q2M chips, each of DAC’s is used for one channel. While 2nd generation XMOS USB XU208 is used as a USB receiver. The spec sheet is impressive and you can see it at the bottom of the page. Basically it supports all the formats and resolutions you could ever need. One can argue that there’s no MQA support, but MQA is not a format, rather a compression algorithm that is yet to prove it’s here to stay.
BUILD, DESIGN AND FUNCTIONALITY
There’s little to talk about from the outside. What was true for D50 is also true here – it’s a beautifully finished unit that you can get in matt black or silver. Chassis is made of a machined piece of aluminum, it feels sturdy and it’s heavier than its size would suggest. It simply looks premium and stylish. I really liked it for the first time around and nothing has changed this time.
Things that are changed are all for the good. First of all, there’s a Bluetooth receiver this time so you can play music directly from your phone. Secondly, Topping added the remote control so you can control your unit without getting from the couch. I especially liked it because I do most of my listening in a living room setup and I’m not a big fan of getting up to change input, filter, etc. Lastly, the sound changed too but we’ll get to that later.
On the back, we get a usual trio of digital inputs: USB, coaxial and optical. Besides that, there’s a pair of gelded RCA as line-out and a 5V power supply connector. D50s can not be powered through a signal USB input like some other models. Oddly enough, Topping will provide you with a cable for a power supply but no actual power brick in the box. That means you’ll have to get a 5 V brick yourself. I tried it with one of those as well as with a higher quality linear power supply.
As no factory power brick was supplied I used my own handmade linear power supply to juice it up. D50s hooked to my room setup immediately proved to be very resolving DAC. I was listening to a simple acoustic song (Jacob Collier – Time To Rest Your Weary Head). Guitar strings sounded positively edgy and more energetic than with most other DACs. Jacob’s voice was also present, crisp and clear. There was no harsh and grainy feel I remember was a part of the original D50.
I moved on to different songs and more energetic ones too. D50s kept sounding very crisp and resolving, making me excited to try it with just one more song. Bass notes are deep and weighty but well-controlled and can reveal a good amount of texture. Vocals sound clean and clear, but they also have body and presence. That is the part where D50s really distinguishes itself from D50 – midrange. It manages to connect crispiness with full-bodiness. The higher spectrum continues in the same fashion. Cymbals and bells sound clean and provide nice, long, tone decay. Yes, they sound sharp but not too harsh or tiring, which used to happen with D50.
The soundstage is respectably wide and instruments are clearly separated from each other. Sheer clarity and energy is also helping them sound really present. D50s in general favors very energetic and upfront type of sound. If you’re looking for a warm, soft and laid back, better look elsewhere. But if you like your sound alive and kicking, grabbing your attention, it’s what it does best. Listening to AC/DC I really started tapping my foot in the rhythm very quickly. Most other DACs I listened to recently didn’t make me do that.
Filters and Power Supply
Topping offers 7 different digital filters and I tried all of them. Differences were not big by any means but can definitely be observed. If you prefer a bit sharper sound, you will find it with filters 1, 4 and 6 (4 being my favorite in the group). If you prefer a slightly toned-down approach, try filters 2, 3, 5 and 7. I ended using filter 5 but you should all find which one you prefer by yourself. Don’t worry if you can’t always distinguish them. For example, filters 2 and 3 are very, very similar.
Lastly, I managed to find a small 5 V wall brick and tried to use it instead of my linear power supply. D50s did react to that negatively. Sound clearly lost some of its crispness and byte. It was still very good and its overall lively character didn’t change. But if your system is resolving enough, and you want to hear everything D50s can do, it can only do that with a low noise power supply.
This part will be short because, honestly, I don’t have much price appropriate competition at hand. First of all, D50s is a clear step-up from D50 that sounded dry and grainy. No such problems here, D50s balances things out and sounds more natural. If you’re coming from a really good but cheaper product, like Schiit Modi 3 or Loxjie D10, you should notice improvements. There’s increased precision, energy and presence of sound with D50s that neither of these great two DACs can match. iFi Zen DAC is closer but still sounds softer. It doesn’t resolve details as good as D50s, nor does it sound that alive and energetic.
As you may have already guessed, I really like D50s. It’s a whole package the way its predecessor D50 never was, and it can justify its own price the way D50 never could. It is a clear step up in sound quality from models costing around 100 bucks no matter how great they are. If you don’t mind the upfront type of sound and if the rest of your system justify such purchase, Topping D50s has my recommendation.
|TOPPING D50S – CHARACTERISTICS|
Size: 119 x 110 x 26 mm
THD+N @A-weighting: <0.0003%@1kHz ; <0.0004%@10-20kHz