Topping MX3s can take the role of your central desktop audio hub. Need something to connect your PC digitally, you can. Need it to drive your passive speakers, it can. Need it to drive your headphones – no problem. MX3s can do all of that and more. Keep reading to find out how well it does all of those things.
Build and Features
Topping has decided to use the same compact form factor as they did with the original MX3. There are a few cosmetic changes here and there but nothing that would significantly influence the overall usability or looks of the unit. Just as before, the whole unit is made out of aluminum, it feels sturdy and well-assembled. Most of the front is covered with a display that features big and readable orange digits for volume, as well as some basic info about chosen inputs and outputs. One volume knob that doubles as a button is used to control the unit, but there is a small remote control included in the box too. On the left side, we find a 3.5mm headphone output.
In the back, things look more eventful. We can see four ways to connect your music source to this amplifier digitally: USB-C, Optical, Coaxial, and Bluetooth. You can also use one analog source and connect it over the pair of RCAs called AUX IN. Now when it comes to outputs, MX3s features speaker-binding posts and a subwoofer output.
Finally, it’s powered by 26 VDC meaning that there is a power brick sitting outside of the unit. This is a good solution for smaller desktop spaces.
Topping MX3s is a modestly powerful speaker amplifier that can deliver up to 30W into 8-Ohm loads and up to 50W into 4-ohm loads, with 1% of THD (Total Harmonic Distortion). In the specs, Topping will specify up to 62W but with 10% THD, which is in my humble opinion not a way to specify power for a Hi-Fi product. Headphone output can handle up to 700 mW of power into 32-Ohm headphones.
Integrated D/A converter can handle up to 24 bits and 192 kHz over all of its digital inputs. For those of you willing to dig deeper into the tech specs, feel free to look into the table at the end of the review, because now we talk sound.
Sound (Speaker Amplifier)
The good thing about Topping MX3s is that it sounds very balanced. The sound is clean and precise, and detail retrieval is quite OK. There’s a decent amount of bass fullness too, making tones sound healthy. It is a class D amplifier, but it doesn’t sound thin or harsh in any way. If anything, MX3s can sound a bit tame up top when compared to the best amplifiers at this price.
Topping MX3s creates a modest soundstage, but inside it, tones are arranged with good precision. Small jazz bands, blues, country, pop, etc. will sound very clean and well separated through this amp. If you get ambitious and feed it with a bigger orchestra, instruments will be forced to share the same space and will get cramped together.
Finally, as you would expect from an amp that can fit in your hand, it’s fed with only 26V and not much ampers, with 30W of power under its wing – dynamics are once again on the modest side. Don’t expect much of the punch and slam here. This Topping is more about clean and precise sound.
Comparisons (Speaker Amplifiers)
Topping MX3 – The original had a lower price at just $129, but given the huge inflation happening in the last few years, I would argue that the price didn’t go up as much as it looks when going by numbers only. Features and build quality are virtually the same, but the sound has changed. The original MX3 was a lively and edgy-sounding amp, but it lacked smoothness and refinement. MX3s improves on these and brings a much more fluid sound, with no digital sharpness and harshness to speak of. These traits can be put into one sentence but their impact on the overall music listening experience is quite big. Simply put, MX3s sounds much more natural across the board.
SMSL A300 – A favorite budget amplifier of mine that shares the same price, but doesn’t have a headphone output. Compared directly, A300 digs more information and makes all tones sound richer and filled with more details. Highs are more extended, while the soundstage is wider and airer. So I’ll not linger much here, SMSL A300 is simply a better amplifier, and if you don’t need a headphone amplifier in the mix, it has my highest recommendation.
Sound (Headphone Amplifier)
I’m happy to report that the headphone amplifier is done well too. The well-balanced tonality and good clarity mentioned in the previous paragraph are still there. So instead of repeating everything again, I’ll quickly tell you this – if you compare this headphone output to a dedicated Head-Fi device (no speaker amplifier on board), MX3s will not be able to match devices like SMSL C200 or Topping DX3 pro+. SMSL will sound lusher and fuller, and DX3 pro+ more dynamic and more detailed. But as I mentioned before, those are dedicated Head-Fi components of the same price and that was always to be expected. MX3s is more in line with something along the lines of Hidizs XO. They have comparable detail retrieval and soundstage, but MX3s do exhibit a bit more grunt and authority, as you would expect from a bigger and more powerful desktop product. So all things considered, quite a respectful performance.
Internal DAC section
The Integrated D/A converter is quite good and keeps up with the amplification section. Its tonality is well-judged, detail retrieval is good, and there’s just nothing to complain about really. Sure, a really good dedicated DAC like SMSL SU-1 will outperform it with slightly richer and bigger sound, but for the most part integrated solution is good enough. It will not noticeably limit the performance of the amplifier section, and I can recommend using it in this case.
Topping MX3s is a definitive improvement over the original. While the feature set remained the same, the sound clearly matured. Yes, you can find more specialized DAC/head-amp at this price, you can also find a better speaker amplifier at this price, but at just two hundred dollars, this is as good of an all-in-one solution as it gets.