From the moment Topping announced the new DX3 Pro+, I knew it was going to be an interesting device for me personally. That’s simply because it is the revamp of the original DX3 Pro (without “+”), which was one of the first Topping models that I’ve ever tested. I remember it being praised a lot around the web for having great measurements. I bought it, listened to it, and concluded it sounded very thin, sharp, and tiring. That was one of the lowest sound scores I’ve ever given to a product (full review here). To this date, that video is the one with the lowest like-to-dislike ratio on my YouTube channel. Nonetheless, I’m sticking with what I have said about it. But several years have passed, and Topping devices got better and better with every iteration. So let’s see what this “plus” really means.
Build and Features
Topping DX3 Pro+ looks and feels exactly the same as its predecessor. This is not a bad thing, because its looks and sturdy aluminium finish were some of the best traits of the original. On the back, we find the usual digital inputs: USB, optical, and even two coaxials. Next to those, we can see a set of lineouts in form of RCA sockets. You can choose to control the volume on these outs, so you can use this device as a basic preamplifier if you wish to do so. In the front, we find a volume knob that doubles as a button, a big and easily readable display, and one 3.5mm headphone output. Topping kept it simple here and focused on single-ended outputs, unlike many models that are featuring fake balanced outs these days.
In the heart of the device, there is a well-known Sabre DAC chip ES9038Q2M. That’s a change from the original model that was using AK sourced DAC chip. The amplification section is also revamped and now offers almost twice the power compared to the original. With 1800 mW into 32 Ohm and 250 mW into 300 Ohm loads, nobody should feel wanting for more. XMOS XU208 powered USB input supports up to 768 kHz PCM and DSD512 native. If you’re into wireless, Pro+ supports LDAC, AAC, SBC, APTX, APTX LL, and APTX HD protocols.
Sound (Headphone Out)
I’ve tried a wide range of headphones and IEMs on DX3 Pro+ and I never felt that it was in any way inadequate to drive any of these. Power-hungry headphones had plenty of power and drive, while with sensitive IEMs I didn’t notice any sort of background hiss. So compatibility was never an issue.
The biggest star of the show here is probably how many details from the recording is DX3 Pro+ able to retrieve. The bassline is quick, punchy, and tightly controlled. There’s plenty of kick and energy there, but this extends to the upper regions too. Edges of notes are sharp and energetic, transients are crisp and fast. The same is true for the highest part of the spectrum that’s well-extended and really crisp. In these aspects, Topping DX3 Pro+ and it’s second to none in this price range. The flat and dynamically unengaging sound of the original is no more.
But for all advances that were made, DX3 Pro+ is still an analytical-sounding device. This is especially noticeable in the midrange which lacks fullness and body. Add a very forward and prominent upper midrange region to the mix and we have a lean and sharp-sounding midrange on our hands. Because of this, most vocals sound thin and artificial to my ears. Likewise, acoustic instruments lack body and tone richness. This overall thinness and lack of natural tone timbre is not something I personally enjoy. But let’s say you listen to electronic music only. Then you might not care for that trait much, and DX3 Pro+ will provide a very dynamic and engaging sound like no other device at this price point I’ve tested so far could.
Sound (DAC Out)
I won’t spend your time here as DAC outs have the same general tonality as the headphone output. But while the headphone amplification section stands out with high power and great drive compared to similarly priced devices, DAC out doesn’t have much going for it. It’s simply another highly detailed, analytical, sharp, thin-sounding DAC.
Topping DX3 Pro – The original was one of the thinnest and dynamically flattest sounding devices that I’ve heard. Pro+ may look the same but it is sonically vastly improved. For starters, the bassline has much more weight and slam, so everything sounds fuller and punchier through this version. Sound in general is cleaner and crisper, with more energy, faster transients, and better separation. What hasn’t changed is the thin and analytical tonality of the midrange.
SMSL C200 – Costs roughly the same and offers a similar set of features. Sure, TRS and 4.4 mm connections are there, but C200 is not a truly balanced design so we can call these fake balanced connectors. Those don’t add true value to the device. That said, C200 is a warmer-sounding device. Its upper bass and midrange are clearly fuller sounding, but softer on the edges too. C200 doesn’t resolve details with the same precision and speed as DX3 Pro+ but offers a more natural tonality instead. With greater drive, dynamics, and bass control, DX3 Pro+ might be more rewarding for electronic music. If you’re more about acoustic recordings, however, C200 should win your heart with a fuller tonality and richer tone timbre. I know I preferred it for my own music taste.
Topping DX5 – I found many comments on the web about DX3 Pro+ being the DX5 in the smaller package and without balanced connections. Once you have them both directly compared, you’ll quickly find that’s not the case. While DX3 Pro+ can match the bigger brother in terms of high-frequency detail retrieval, and bassline grunt – DX5 sounds richer in the midrange. You know, the part of the spectrum where vocals and most instruments reside. DX5 offers a noticeably more vibrant midrange, with better tone timbre and more obvious tone decay. This makes for a much more natural and wholesome sound making the DX5 a clear winner.
DX3 Pro+ is a seriously powerful device and it will drive anything you connect to it with ease. A much bigger question is what kind of tonality in headphones is paired well with this device. I would say that anything sounding really full, bass and midbass heavy, might be a good match. Avoid cans with thin and analytical sound because DX3 Pro+ can only emphasize that character. Avoid any model with a forward and aggressive upper section because your ears will probably not appreciate the result. So let’s say you own Hifiman or Beyerdynamic- then I would avoid this DAC/AMP. But if you own something like AudioQuest NightHawk maybe, then I feel that DX3 Pro+ would be worth a try, and might just be the kick this kind of headphones needs.
Topping DX3 Pro+ is a clearly better device than the original from a few years ago. It kept its great build but with substantially improved sonics. However, one thing hasn’t changed that much – this is still a very analytical-sounding device that will not be to everyone’s taste and requires some extra care with pairing.
|TOPPING DX3 – CHARACTERISTICS
ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip
THD+N @1kHz (A-wt): <0.00015%
DX3 Pro+ Headphone Amplifier Specs