Topping DX3 Pro DAC/AMP combo review

Topping DX3 pro image

Topping DX3 Pro

Tested at $249
6.9

Sound (line out)

4.0/10

Sound (headphone out)

7.5/10

Features

9.5/10

Build

9.5/10

Value

4.0/10

Pros

  • Lots of features
  • Powerful headphone amp

Cons

  • Sound over line-out is subpar
  • Sound quality to price ratio

Topping DX3 pro is a device that can perform many things. It’s a DAC, a headphone amp and it has a Bluetooth connection. Today I’ll try to find out how well it can do all these things.

BUILD AND FUNCTIONS

On the outside DX3 pro looks good, it’s a simple but stylish design. There’s a sort of soft-touch finish to its aluminum chases that I really like. On the front, there’s a big orange display with adjustable light intensity and control knob with a nice dotty feel when you turn it. The knob also serves as a button when you press it. You also get a convenient remote, small, and plastic but functional and responsive. 

On the back, there are USB, optical and 2 coaxial inputs as well as Bluetooth antenna. And let me tell you right here that I streamed some music from my phone using it. I expected it to be inferior in sound quality terms but it wasn’t, everything sounded just fine and I couldn’t hear any notable difference compared to wired connections. Music was never interrupted, everything just worked nice and smooth. It’s a job well done on that front.

SOUND

Now let’s talk sound. First I tested it with headphones and I used mostly AKG K92, ISK HP-580, and Samson SR-850, as well as few IEMs. The sound I got was very detailed and open. Dynamics and bass punch were not as pronounced as on Topping NX4 but both were good enough in isolation. DX3 pro sounds pleasantly open, the soundstage is wide, vocals are present and full-bodied while highs have pleasant sparkle. All in all, I’m very happy listening to my AKGs through this little guy. 

Next, I pulled Topping NX4 again and it sounds a bit bolder and more dynamic to my ears, while DX3 sounds more open and velvety. I don’t think there’s a clear winner here if I were to listen to some lively Rock or Pop I would choose NX4, but for some Jazz or some other vocal music, I would prefer DX3 pro sound signature. 

All of the impressions so far were in a low-gain mode which has plenty of power for all of my headphones. But then I switched to the high gain mode just to hear if there is any difference and sound changed quite a lot. I could clearly hear more punch in the bass notes and increased dynamics. Some of that fluid and velvety character was lost, however. For most music genres, movies, and games I preferred this high gain mode, but if I were to listen to, let’s say, Norah Jones, I would switch back to low gain and enjoy her full sandy voice in all of its glory. This is not a bad thing in my opinion because you get two different sound signatures in one box. You can switch them depending on your headphones and preferences.

DAC (line-out) part

Next, I tried it as a pure DAC connected to my Cyrus amp and AE speakers. I tried it in preamp mode with volume controls enabled, then in so-called DAC mode which offers full line out a signal without volume controls. Lastly, I tried different output filters of which we have 6 different flavors. I’m sorry to report that no matter which one I choose, DX3 simply doesn’t sound that great. Sound is thin and flat, lacking drive and kick. Bass extension is not that great and dynamics of the sound is low compared to basically any decent DAC in this or even lower price range, including Topping’s own NX4, D30, and even D10. Yeah, you read that right – D10 is clearly better sounding DAC with more clarity and dynamics than DX3 pro. Of course, D10 does not have a headphone amp, remote, wireless connection…  

Then I went on a spree of double checking all of my cables, drivers, all of the settings… but it is what it is –  the sound is just flat and thin – lacking proper dynamics and body. It’s a kind of sound you get from small SMSL Idea or Sabaj Da2 DACs… but in this price range, you can easily find much better sounding DACs. Both D30 and NX4 sound much fuller and livelier compared to DX3. Not to mention newer competition like iFi Zen DAC or Loxjie D10 that are in a clearly different league whatsoever.

CONCLUSION

Topping DX3 pro is a highly specced device. You get great built and lots of functions, very good headphone output too. I think I might be comfortable recommending it to headphones only listeners that will not use its line out. On the other hand, for the same amount of money, I’d rather go with Schiit Modi + Magni combo. If used as a DAC too – hooked to your amp and speakers, DX3 pro is simply an underwhelming performer.

TOPPING DX3 PRO – CHARACTERISTICS

– 4 output modes: Headphone amp, headphone amp + line out, DAC, preamp
– XMOS XU208 + 2x AK4493 + OPA1612
– USB input supports up to 32bit/768kHz PCM decoding and DSD512 native decoding
– 2x coaxial inputs and 1x optical input support up to 24bit/192kHz PCM decoding
– Bluetooth input supports SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX II, and aptX HD protocols
– Headphone amp output power: 1,000 mW x 2 at 32 ohms, 125 mW x 2 at 300 ohms
– Output impedance: < 0.1 ohm

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