Final Score was updated to reflect the more realistic stand in comparison to many newer models released after the initial review: Topping MX3s included.
Topping MX3 is a nice small box packed with many functions. First of all, It’s a D class integrated amplifier. Specs say it can output 20W per channel so you can connect a wide range of passive speakers to it. It also has an integrated DAC chip with all kinds of digital inputs. We have the usual suspects like USB, Coaxial and optical, but there’s also a wireless connection too, hence the antenna on the back. You can also use analog inputs on the back to do so and use this device only as an amplifier. And lastly, we have a SubWoofer out on the back too.
On the front, we have a nice, big, orange display and I like its looks. Beside it, there’s a volume knob that feels nice to use. And lastly, there’s a headphone output in front with a dedicated headphone amplifier. All in all, the whole unit looks very nicely built and finished.
Now, first I tested it as a whole, using its own digital inputs and amp part together as most buyers will probably use it. I hooked the unit to my 3-way AE floor-standers that are not difficult to drive with 90 dB of sensitivity and a nominal impedance of 8 Ohms but they are more than enough resolving to test the absolute limits of this small amp. Let me tell you that I was surprised by the big and punchy sound that was coming out of this tiny unit. The sound was more energetic and lively than I expected it to be. Bass was punchy, vocals clear and prominent, while cymbals sounded a bit harsh at times.
Compared to some more traditional amplifiers (that cost a bit more too) it does lack some fluidity and maturity. However, I can’t take this as a serious fault for a unit this cheap. At this price point, I believe that its power and zest are really strong selling points. If you’re after a more calm and refined presentation you would either need to spend more money or opt to spend this same amount on some vintage amplifier – but that decision has its own set of uncertainties and I never recommend it easily.
Using some more capable DACs connected to its analog input, I’ve come to the conclusion that MX3 is not really benefiting from such pairing. Integrated DAC and amplifier are already a very decent match and you will gain very little pairing MX3 with more expensive DACs. It’s a good all in one device best used as a whole.
Now about headphones output. I hooked my AKG K92 to it and I was reasonably happy with what I heard. You get clear and dynamic sound, the bass is powerful and well-controlled, mids and highs are clean and crisp. There is plenty of power too, so when listening at a really high volume I never notice the sound is never getting strained or compressed. That said, some more headphones oriented devices like Topping NX4 can offer even greater clarity and power. But again, at this price and with this versatile set of features, it’s really hard to complain about what you get with MX3.
In the end, you can’t judge this unit against dedicated components of the same price because they will always do their job better. But when you look at it for what it is – a full integrated amplifier with both digital and analog inputs, Bluetooth and headphone output – it’s hard to file any complaints.