Topping DX3 Pro Plus – A Giant Killer DAC/AMP?

Topping DX3 Pro+ Promo

Topping DX3 Pro+

Tested at $199
8.6

Sound quality (Head Amp)

8.0/10

Sound quality (Line Out)

7.0/10

Features

9.0/10

Build

10.0/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Class leading detail retrieval
  • Dynamics
  • Speed

Cons

  • Lean and bright tonality

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.

Topping DX3 Pro+ front
Topping DX3 Pro+ Back

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.

Comparisons

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 DX3 Pro+ and DX5

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.

Pairing

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.

Conclusion

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
XMOS XU208
Bluetooth 5.0: Qualcomm’s QCC5125 Chip

USB In
    PCM: 44.1kHz-768kHz / 16bit-32bit
    DSD (Native): DSD64-DSD512
    DSD (DoP): DSD64-DSD256
COAX / OPT in
    PCM: 44.1kHz-192kHz / 16bit-24bit
    DSD (Native): Not Supported
    DSD (DoP): DSD64
Bluetooth In
    PCM: AAX, SBC, aptX, aptX LL, aptX HD, LDAC
    DSD (Native): Not Supported
    DSD (DoP): Not Supported

THD+N @1kHz (A-wt): <0.00015%
THD @20-200kHz (90kBW): <0.00020%
SNR: 122dB
DNR: 122dB
Output level: 2.1Vrms @0dBFS
Channel balance: 0.3dB
Output impedance: 20Ω

DX3 Pro+ Headphone Amplifier Specs

Output level
    5.5Vpp @G=L
    21.5Vpp @G=H
Noise (A-wt)
    <2.1uVrms @G=L
    <7.0uVrms @G=H
Channel crosstalk @1kHz: -90dB
Gain
   6dB (Vrms/FS) @G=L
    19dB (Vrms/FS) @G=H
Output impedance: <0.1Ω
Output power
    1800mW x2 @32Ω THD+N <0.1%
    900mW x2 @64Ω THD+N <0.1%
    250mW x2 @300Ω THD+N <0.1%
Adapter impedance: > 8Ω
Dimensions: 6.5” x 4.7” x 1.5” (16.5 x 12 x 4 cm)

Official product page

2 thoughts on “Topping DX3 Pro Plus – A Giant Killer DAC/AMP?

  1. Hello, would you prefer to get this or the K5Pro? The K5 Pro is 150$ and the dx3pro+ is 170$. I watched both your reviews but I’m still having a hard time deciding. I’m very new to this hobby.

  2. I think dx3 pro+ mids are great. I have four dx3 pro+ paired with very high quality floor standing speakers and bookshelf speakers. Maybe your LS50 speakers are bright and thin in sound. In my opinion, the headphone amplifier is thin and bright sounding and lacks a decent soundstage. I have many headphone amplifiers under 200 euros, but the best sound with a great soundstage is in my Emotiva PT-100 preamplifiers headphone amplifier.

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