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Review and Measurements of Topping D90 4499DAC

Spocko

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It would be so cool if this had a built in Ethernet Roon Endpoint implementation in it ...
Casey
Then it would be a streamer, like the Matrix Element-i? That Element-i costs $990 and would be near what the D90 would cost if you added ethernet/streaming/headphone features.
Might as well get the Element-i now!
 

Spocko

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Am I the only one who wishes it had a rotary volume control? Poking at buttons to make adjustments is kinda awkward. Not that it's an issue for me - just received my dx7 pro!
Bob
I'm going to agree with you here. I run it as my desktop DAC right now, and whether it's reaching for the remote or the button, I find myself wanting to turn a knob rather than push the button. As silly as this sounds, the user interface is very important to me, and because I'm using the DAC to control the volume as it is connected directly to my amp, I'm finding this button pushing a bit tiresome.
 

Spocko

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Hello Spocko ¿Could you tell us something about its sound or details that you find interesting? Thank´s
OK, so I was very impatient to hear how the D90 sounded (as all of you!) and spent last night listening to the D90, here are my general impressions:

Associated Equipment:
  1. Music/Source: So I bought the D90 as an excuse to acquire overpriced DSD512 "quality" music files, out of curiosity more than anything. Downloaded a few songs from NativeDSD.com (I highly recommend Vanessa Fernandez's Led Zeppelin covers of Kashmir and Whole Lotta Love, amazing recording, perfectly mixed/mastered) to hear the D90 high rez magic. Everything was run off Roon from my PC connected directly to the D90 via USB. I listened to DSD512, FLAC (Qobuz) and CD rips. All Roon DSP/equalizing features were off.
  2. Amplifier: D90 was connected directly via XLR to the March Audio P502 (350W/500W/27A) stereo amplifier. Great "little" amplifier by the way! Controlled the volume via D90.
  3. Speakers: Revel M126Be bookshelf monitors - exceptionally revealing speakers (it came down to the Focal Kanta No.1 or Sopra No.1, and the Revel was their equal in things above 80 Hz). I'm a big fan of well recorded ambient acoustics and reverb so I needed tweeters that can do these sort of recordings justice.
  4. Listening position approximately 8 ft equilateral triangle with speakers, about 4 to 5 feet away from the front and side walls, 8 ft. untreated ceilings. Room size approximately 18' (front wall) x 30'.
Listening Impressions: The D90 did its job (it's hard to review a DAC without also conflating the quality of my speakers and the music mastering too). My objective was to create a simple yet transparent and clean stereo system employing the collective wisdom and best practices learned here on ASR. I want to hear everything that is in the source music file (no I'm not talking about the creator's intent as often times, the creator doesn't even recognize all the music information that's in the recording) and this setup was designed to do that without breaking the bank (yes, I could've gone with Benchmark LA4 + AHB2 for an extra $5,500, but that's an upgrade path of questionable utility for another thread). I've heard the M126Be on a variety of high quality upstream equipment costing between $10,000 and $15,000, both in this room and at well treated dealer showrooms. My test for whether audio equipment works is quite simple: every song has "the best part" you know so well that when you get to this part, you just close your eyes and experience it - does it deliver? Absolutely. I literally have no reason to change the DAC (or the amp) in order to improve what I expected to hear from these exceptional speakers.
Bluetooth: it works well enough. Phone found it, linked it, and I was streaming Qobuz within seconds.
Usability: firmware update was quick and easy from my Windows laptop. The D90 is a simple creature, didn't have to crack open the manual at all - very intuitive, and that's the point of this DAC, just plug-n-play. I love all the optical input options, and that's the strength of the D90, specifically for me, I wanted the AES/EBU input option as I'll be plugging a different digital sources to it including the SHD Studio for Dirac Live tinkering.
Caveat: No volume knob. I thought I could live without a volume knob. The buttons didn't look so bad, right? Maybe I grew up in an era when dials and knobs were comforting in an imperfect analog way. When turning volume up and down depending on the track, I found myself dreading the push button volume control. Topping must source that Element-2 dial from JDS Labs when designing the DX9 Pro next year - I would buy it just for the dial.

TLDR: the D90 did its job allowing me to hear spatial cues in well mixed/mastered acoustic recordings on native DSD512 (yep, listened to Vanessa Fernandez many times over so I could appreciate the mastering quality - this is not to say that it wouldn't have sounded just as good as a FLAC, but that's another comparison for another time). The real question is whether it's worth the premium over the cheaper, more full featured (with volume knob) DX7 Pro? Nevertheless, I suspect my setup is not the target use case for this DAC, but rather if you used it as a dedicated fixed gain DAC into a transparent headphone preamp (Benchmark HPA4) for high res headphone listening, you would get more out of the AKM4499 than my stereo speaker setup that has a much higher noise floor than IEM or headphone listening. The lack of a knob suggests that it would be better suited as a fixed gain straight DAC that could have volume control in a pinch. Or if you were considering a dedicated DAC that performs as well as or better than the Benchmark DAC3, this is a cheaper alternative.
 

Matias

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Caveat: No volume knob. I thought I could live without a volume knob. The buttons didn't look so bad, right? Maybe I grew up in an era when dials and knobs were comforting in an imperfect analog way. When turning volume up and down depending on the track, I found myself dreading the push button volume control.
Maybe add a USB volume control knob connected to the computer?

Examples:
https://www.amazon.com/AIMOS-Multimedia-Controller-Device-Control/dp/B07SZDYPVR/

https://www.amazon.com/DROK-Lossless-Computer-Controller-Adjuster/dp/B01MV411BR/
 
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bequietjk

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Thank you for your impressions @Spocko This helps a ton of us out who are planning to invest in or just audience the D90!

Shame the volume knob isn't there but at least the transparency and flagship success is there!

Cheers!
 

Spocko

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Thank you for your impressions @Spocko This helps a ton of us out who are planning to invest in or just audience the D90!

Shame the volume knob isn't there but at least the transparency and flagship success is there!

Cheers!
Yep, not an issue if it's feeding an integrated amp or preamp. This thing is very very well made, solidly built and not chintzy at all despite its small size. It's quite dense.
 

mmicko

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@WolfX-700
Could you please measure also the RCA output ? I´m thinking about using this DAC with my active speakers (XLR connection) but would need to buy also some HP amplifier and there are many very good performing candidates with RCA input for 100-200USD.
Thank you very much.
 

mmicko

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BTW - I would always prefer to have a perfect DAC without streaming functions or BT but with optical input.
The progress in streaming is going very fast and with optical Input I have always chance to upgrade the network part...
I´m using now the DX7s with Chromecast Audio and this is much better (stable, longer range etc.) than any BT.
 

Rigel

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Thanks Spocko for your impressions.

I also like to hear any detail of a recording. I am looking for neutrality, transparency and resolution in the DAC and the amplifier.

I already placed the order and in a few days, if there are no problems, I will have it at home and compare it with my current equipment.
I was undecided between the DX7 Pro and the D90, I hope I'm not mistaken, although I may never know.
I will comment.
 
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chauct

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Thanks Spocko for the impressions.

May I ask what DAC you have before this acquisition and could you tell them apart? The D50s SINAD is some 20 dB better than the CCA analog out, yet I could not positively ID them. I don't mind paying a bit more for this but would also like to see some improvement sonically.
 

trl

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As long as THD+N and IMD are both below -90dB on both DACs I don't think you can actually spot them in an A/B test.
What do you mean by "improvement"? What your expectations are from a better DAC?
 

Shangri-La

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.... Or if you were considering a dedicated DAC that performs as well as or better than the Benchmark DAC3, this is a cheaper alternative.

That is quite a statement. Really itching to try one myself...
 

gags11

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Would love to see this graph with the USB input. I know jitter is a less of a concern with USB, but just for a comparison, it would be good to see it. Amir had both measurements with the unit he had, and it was informative to see both.
 

Shoaibexpert

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I wanted to know more about the M500 issue that was mentioned in the review Post. Other than reduction of SINAD from say ~118 to ~113 when heated...is there any other issue with the DAC? I'm asking coz I own one! Also is this a common occurrence in all M500 DACs? Must be coz I think it was an ESS chip problem...but do then the more expensive ESS chip based DACs like Matrix Element X etc also show this behavior?

Would it be worthwhile to change the M500 to D90 then?
 

AndyLu

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Thanks Spocko for your impressions.

I also like to hear any detail of a recording. I am looking for neutrality, transparency and resolution in the DAC and the amplifier.

I already placed the order and in a few days, if there are no problems, I will have it at home and compare it with my current equipment.
I was undecided between the DX7 Pro and the D90, I hope I'm not mistaken, although I may never know.
I will comment.

Hi Rigel, I am new on this forum, but I also ordered the D90. Do you already have some comments about what you think of it? There are not much online reviews as yet, so every impression counts :).
 
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