Topping D70 Pro Sabre is the direct descendent of the very popular D70s that I reviewed some two years ago. A lot happened on the market between now and then, many new models appeared and D70s was not my go-to recommendation for some time now. Today, D70 Pro Sabre has a chance to change that. But just before we continue with the review, I noticed that the price took a hike from $649 to $699. Given how big the inflation was these last few years, I consider such a small price bump to be a good thing actually.
Build and Features
D70 Pro Sabre is built up to the high standards that I expect from Topping, but the overall design is fully new this time around. The display is moved to the left, it’s colored this time and easily readable. It’s also utilized well, for example, you can choose three different skins that will be displayed during the music playback: normal info, VU meter, or FFT graf. UI is completely redesigned and richer than before, it’s called Aurora UI and this is the first model ever to utilize it. Menus and commands are very intuitive and I didn’t feel a need to look at the user manual even once, which is something you definitely needed to do to change advanced settings with previous models. Among other settings, you can choose between several digital filters and three sound colors: default, valve, and transistor.
Inside the device, we find a flagship Sabre DAC chip ES9039SPRO, and Topping didn’t disclose much about the rest of the design. Because of that, the signal processor and output stage design are not familiar at this point. But Topping is proudly boasting a fantastic set of measurements, which is now commonly associated with the brand.
Digital inputs include USB, Optical, Coaxial, AES, and Bluetooth if you wish to connect wirelessly. Some of you might notice that I2S is absent even though it was featured on the D70s. A cost-saving measure so the price doesn’t follow inflation fully? Possibly. When it comes to analog outputs, we have both single-ended RCAs and balanced XLRs onboard. There’s a choice of two different output levels: standard 2V/4V or elevated 2.5V/5V. Volume attenuation is on board too so you can connect this DAC directly to the power amp that doesn’t have its own volume control. The remote control is provided too, it’s small, plastic, and needs to be aimed directly at the device but it’s functional and very useful.
Lastly, the power inlet is a full-sized IEC that will accept 110/220 V AC, depending on the region you’re in. This means that the whole power supply is located inside of the box, so no need, and no way really, to purchase aftermarket power supplies as a way to upgrade your sound.
Just like one would expect from a Topping’s DAC based around a Sabre chip, E70 Pro Sabre sounds pristinely clean. Tone clarity is exceptional from top to bottom. The bassline is fast, precise, and nimble but never lacking in depth or mass. This also extends to the midbass which is neat and tidy, yet bold enough to lend pleasant boldness to any tone when needed. Because of this, vocals sound pleasantly full and realistic, but without added warmth or bloom. The same is true for any instrument, every tone is crisp, with a very clean and energetic leading edge. The highest frequencies are well extended, once again crisp, but not overcooked or artificially elevated. This DAC walks a fine line between sounding crisp and fast, but having enough boldness and smoothness so that it never steps into dry or analytical. To my ears, this is as neutral tonality as it gets.
Play something lively and dynamic, and the D70 Pro Sabre will show you it’s very capable of keeping up with fast pace rhythms and dynamic changes. In fact, during my comparisons, no other DAC of this price was able to fully match its quick nature.
Lastly, even though you might not expect it from a Delta Sigma DAC of this price, the soundstage is actually quite decent, and only R2R designs like Denafirps Ares II are capable of sounding noticeably more spacious but falling short in several other aspects that come easily to D70 Pro Sabre. That said, this Topping is more than capable of developing a reasonably wide soundstage, putting instruments and vocals in front of a dark background in their exact spots, and separating them with skill.
To put it simply, Topping D70 Pro Sabre sounds really good, and even though I don’t have the D70s for a direct comparison, I can say with confidence that this is a better-sounding device. But I sure had many other models of a similar price to compare it with.
Topping E70 Velvet is more affordable at $449 and offers a very similar set of features but without a new color display and UI. That aside, when compared directly, D70 Pro Sabre pulls ahead as a cleaner-sounding device with slightly higher detail retrieval, darker background, and increased speed and dynamics. The difference is not really big in absolute terms, but it’s noticeable when both DACs are put in a transparent system. Topping is obviously aware of this and D70 Pro Sabre is priced accordingly.
Now if you’re wondering about the comparison with SMSL SU-9 Pro, that one is on the exact same level of transparency as E70 velvet, so that comparison would have the exact same description as this one.
Musician Draco is an R2R design priced at $50 more. It’s much more spartan when it comes to features, and doesn’t include remote, volume control, or much else. Sound-wise, once NOS mode is engaged, Draco sounds ever so slightly more natural when it comes to the midrange and high frequencies. Someone would say closer to analog sources. Vocals are rendered with a bit richer tone timbre, but the difference is very small in reality and one needs to listen critically to notice it. D70 Pro Sabre counters with slightly better microdynamics, and more energetic edges. So softer and more natural, or edgier and with more bite – that’s the choice that only you can make because these two DACs are so closely matched that it’s very hard to choose objectively.
SMSL SU-10 is slightly pricier and with a similar feature set. SMSL’s champion sounds warmer in the bassline and through the midbass and lower midrange. This adds some warmth and pleasant roundness to all tones. SU-10 also sounds slightly more spacious and just a touch richer when it comes to tone timbre. Because of this, I preferred it for vocals, acoustic music, jazz, etc. Since those are my favorite music genres, my preference leaned towards SMSL most of the time. Topping on the other hand offers slightly more focused sound and greater dynamics, which might be attractive for fast-paced and energetic music genres, where’s soundtaging and tone timbre are not that important.
Chord Mojo 2 is a very specific DAC with a different set of features. I’m not going to go into that here, but keep it short and about their sound differences instead. Not unlike the last comparison with SMSL SU-10, Chord Mojo 2 presents fuller tonality with richer tone timbre, and I would choose it before D70 Pro Sabre for the same genres that I chose SMSL for. But once again, Topping offers slightly better focus, bassline control, and noticeably better dynamics than Mojo 2. So if you often listen to fast-paced, energetic music, Topping might be a better choice for you.
Topping D90LE is a DAC that I don’t have with me anymore so this one was not a direct comparison like the others. That said, I can say with certainty that D70 Pro Sabre fully matches the capabilities of the pricier but older D90LE. In some aspects, like bassline control and midrange clarity, it even feels like a slight upgrade. But that’s all I can say without a direct comparison, using only other DACs as points of reference.
Topping D70 Pro Sabre represents Topping at its best. First of all, it feels like the best-sounding DAC that this brand produced so far. It’s without a doubt the best-looking one, with the most advanced and intuitive user interface too. Price-wise and performance-wise It slots just above E70 velvet and makes pricier D90SE and D90LE redundant at this point. More importantly, it’s one of the best DACs that $699 can buy you at the moment, no matter the brand, and that has to be reflected in its scores.
|TOPPING D70 PRO SABRE – CHARACTERISTICS
DAC chip: Sabre ES9039SPRO