Topping L30 is the most affordable head-amp in the brand’s lineup and its overall design and dimensions are meant to perfectly match their capable entry-level DAC Topping E30. But does being affordable means making too many compromises? Let’s dig into this review and find out.
Topping L30 is made mostly of aluminum that comes in a black or silver finish. The front panel is black on both versions though and it’s some sort of acrylic glass that looks slick. If I were to nitpick, I’d prefer for the pointer on the volume knob to be a little more visible. Aside from that the unit is built and finished to high standards.
Features and Connectivity
There are two switches, a 6.35 mm headphone jack, and a volume knob in the front. In the back, we find a 15 VAC power connector, a pair of RCA inputs, and a pair of RCA outputs. The volume knob controls the level on both headphones out and RCA output, and this means Topping L30 can be used as a preamp. That said, you can select either headamp or preamp mode, but both outputs can’t be deployed simultaneously.
Topping lets you select a gain level in three steps, meaning you have a choice between -9 dB, 0 dB, and +9 dB. The first one can be useful if you tend to use high sensitive earphones, for example, but most users will probably keep it on 0 or +9 when paired with bigger cans.
The Topping L30 features Ultra-High Performance NFCA modules, using the same NFCA (Nested Feedback Composite Amplifier) module from the brand’s flagship A90. High output current drive capability is supposed to allow L30 to drive low impedance headphones with ease. Output impedance on headphone out is less than 0.1 Ohm. In preamp mode, output impedance is as low as 20 Ohm, which Topping claims to be widely suitable for various devices.
The maximum output power of L30 is a respectable 3.5 W @ 16 Ohm, but only if the unit is fed with 3.0 V on its input. Given that most DACs provide a line signal of around 2.0 V, we’re realistically looking at somewhat lesser numbers. But worry not, there’s still plenty of power to go around.
Topping L30 sounds clean and precise. The bassline is fast and well behaved. It can go deep when needed but it starts and stops quickly. Midbass is again very well controlled if not slightly restrained even, leaving a lot of room for crisp and open midrange. As a result, vocals and instruments are clear, precise, and nimble. Tone texture is revealed to a very satisfying level too. The highest spectrum feels well extended, it’s not only digging plenty of details but also a respectable amount of air from the recording. Listening to This Land Is Your Land by The Avett Brothers in high resolution paints the picture of fine details and husky vocals L30 is capable of.
The soundstage is pleasantly wide and relaxed. Thanks to a healthy clean power, dynamics is respectable too and Topping L30 can sound punchy and exciting when needed.
Tone body and rich timbre, on the other hand, is not something this amp particularly excels at. L30 strikes fast and precise, but the tone also decays rather quickly, making for an exciting but somewhat analytical listen.
JDS Labs Atom – aging budget amp can’t really match the newcomer. L30 offers crisper edges, better drive, and livelier sound overall. Atom built quality also leaves a lot to be desired. I believe the Atom needs a refresh if it wants to stay competitive.
Schiit Magni 3 – is another excellent amp with an equally impressive build. Its sound signature is on the slightly warmer/fuller side, which might suit some listeners better. L30 kicks back by being more revealing and airier in the upper register. If you’re looking to make a neat-looking DAC/AMP stack coming from one brand, Topping has the advantage in form of E30, which is a more capable DAC than Modi 3 is.
(If you’re asking why not compare it to Magni 3+ or Heresy, simply because I haven’t had a chance to try them yet.)
Topping L30 is a well-specced, well-built, and well-sounding product. It’s powerful, incisive, and very lively sounding. I’d steer away from pairing it with overly bright headphones as L30 is somewhat lean sounding itself, but other than that it’s hard to argue this is anything but a very capable entry-level amplifier.
|TOPPING L30 – CHARACTERISTICS|
Output up to 3500 mW ×2 @ 16 Ω and 2400 mW ×2 @ 32 Ω